Author Archive for: ‘John Syme ’85’

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Last Lunch In Loco with Parentis + Common Reading: VIETNAMERICA by GB Tran


Freshpersons are swarming campus as I type, fledging in their newfound sassy, awkward freedoms as their parentis leave them in loco after a last lunch on Chambers Lawn and a hearty “shoo” from the Dean of Students Office. Next up for the weekend, all manner of Orientation activities aimed at computing, communing, leading, serving, competing, cheering, reading…

This year’s common reading is the graphic novel Vietnamerica by GB Tran, who will be on campus in September (I get to pick him up from the airport!). For details and to participate in the common reading via the onlines, click Davidson College Book Club. But first, see if you can spot you or yours in the luncheon candids below. Enjoy, and welcome home, Davidson College Class of 2016!

’Tis the Season: Davidson in Washington 2012, and Vice Versa


As the Class of 2016 prepares to thunder toward campus tomorrow, and the Democratic National Convention prepares to thunder toward the Greater Davidson Metropolitan Area Sept. 2-6, it is worth noting one of the strongest perennial links between Davidson College and the nation’s capital, the department of political  Davidson in Washington summer program. This year, Charles A. Dana Professor of Political Science the inimitable Lou Ortmayer directed the trip. His reputation for staying in close touch with former students preceded him, and students on the 2012 trip benefited.

“Every one of our guest speakers this year was an alumnus,” Lou said proudly when I swung by his office for details. “I’ve been here a long time [1977], and there are a lot of interesting Davidson people in D.C. doing interesting things.”

Talking with Lou is like drinking from the firehose of Davidson alumni connections in Washington.  Here are a few, the list of guest alumni speakers on “Topics in U.S. National Security” from whom current Davidson students learned while in D.C. on their internships on Capitol Hill, at the Department of State, at think tanks and political action committees.

Laura Malenas ’93, foreign service officer at State, stationed in Muscat, Oman; Chris Hallett ’05, foreign service officer at State, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Eric Rosenbach ’95, deputy assistant secretary for cyber policy, Departement of Defense; Matt Pettit ’08, desk officer for Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia, Department of State; Capt. Jane Campbell ’87, U.S. Navy/Department of Defense spokesperson; Ken Krieg ’83, former Undersecretary of Defense; Mark Sandy ’87, OMB/The White House; and Bryce Jones ’11 (Georgetown U.), Jamie Watson ’11 (medical think tank) and Mike Jusewicz ’10 (Defense) on “Preparing for Washington.”

Washington and Davidson are preparing for each other, too. Heads up: Keep an eye on the Davidson homepage news tab in the next day or so for breaking news on two big campus events during DNC days….

Deep Breath + Desiderata = Happy Weekend!


I started this blog more than two years ago in the hope, among others, that it would help me keep better abreast of what I call my “Fodder Folder,” the place I stash all manner of Davidson and Davidson-related stories that cross my desk.

Alas. I can’t outsmart the Internets, nor even keep up with its ever-gaping maw for fresh content. Suffice to say that the Davidson stories and links that make it onto this pixellated page represent only the smallest smattering of super stories our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends are doing and being and living in this big, fine world. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it’s still beautiful, as Max Ehrman said so well in his 1927 prose poem Desiderata.

This Friday afternoon, as I clear the decks and my desk to make room for a week of vacation before school starts (freshmen arrive Aug. 22!), join me for a deep breath and a re-reading of Desiderata. And happy weekend!


Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.


Main Street Buzz in Davidson: Recalcitrant Queen Gives Up Crib in Nick of Time


Split gnarly tree with stinky towel and tubular bee condo.

Last Friday, a sweet story fell very nearly right onto my college newsroom desk in the Julia Johnston on Main Street in Davidson, no Internet research or crafty phone calls required. A microburst-style (helluva) storm that came roaring across Lake Norman around six that evening split a big ol’ gnarly tree (Arboricus gnarlicus) wide open in the backyard, exposing a beehive inside. Take that, Buzzfeed!

Quick as a wink, the Eco House students next door sprang into action, with help from beekeeping experts from around campus.

For the bees’ welfare, the good folks in Groundskeeping agreed to leave the part of the tree still standing up for a week or so to allow for relocation efforts. Come to think of it, bee relocation was also in the interest of Groundskeeping, too. A win-win!

Tubular bee condo in early stages of inspection as a potential new hive: “We’re just looking.”

The hive was in the traditional Winnie-the-Pooh style of the Time Immemorial Era. Soon, an early 21st-century, Hurricane Katrina-mobile-home hive was rigged of paper tubing and hung directly next to it, according to proper beekeeping protocol.

At first, nothing much happened.

Then, yesterday morning, Dodger and I noticed that it stank. At lunchtime that day, my pal Mike Goode of the Davidson Outdoors was out there to inspect the property. Mike explained that the smell was a repellent to encourage the bees to move before… well, timber-r-r-r! Now, it was all dependent on the queen. “Hey, girl, hey,” I thought, “time to bounce!”

Mike explained that it was clear from the traffic in and out of the tree that the old girl was still in the old hive. But at five o’clock, Dodger and I noticed that traffic into the tree hive had stopped and the bottom of the tube hive swarmed with a thick carpet of bees. The hive has now been relocated by Mike and Keyne Cheshire of Classics, who, I learned today, teaches about classical beekeeping as a classroom agriculture topic and has presented on the subject professionally.

Stay tuned. What beekeeping secrets can we learn from the ancient Greeks and Romans? Will the hive survive? Next Daybook Davidson.


“Get a Room!” Mannequins Find Lost Laundry: An Update


The latest on the Main Street mannequins:

“Clothed mannequin with wig/Dog with bicycle,” flip-phone on plate glass, by John Syme, 2012.

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