Author Archive for: ‘John Syme ’85’

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Springing Forward with Classical Public Radio WDAV: Spring Membership Drive 2014

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I always like to volunteer for WDAV‘s fund drives, even though I tend to get nervous for the first few minutes. It’s a faster paced thing than, I don’t know, blogging.

Clickable.

“I was told there would be training!” I barked this morning at my pal Rodger Clark, the station’s director of development and corporate support. Rodger was running the laptop—nearly as authoritative a position as “guy with clipboard” in days of yore. He also knows me well enough to know when to smile and roll his eyes, which he now did.

I wanted training this year because the script is slightly different this time around—wisely so, the better to safeguard donors’ personal information—and that took me a minute to get used to. I don’t like change, at first. Another reason I often get nervous at the fund drive is that, inexplicably, I always feel like the first time I answer a WDAV call-center phone that I’m being broadcast live on the radio. Not.

So anyway, after my first call, I was fine. The ambient music soothed my savage breast, and soon I was joshing with my fellow volunteers and staffers, taking calls for the cause. I was even moved to make my own annual WDAV donation on the spot, in an amount this year entitling me to a premium gift CD. (One year, I only was able to offer up a heartfelt jar of loose change. The announcer rattled it on the air with heartfelt thanks, but no CD.)

This morning, caught up in the moment, I dedicated my contribution and the CD of English choral music to my dad Sam, who is one of the world’s biggest, baddest, old-school, choral-music anglophiles. And how fitting that the guest announcer who read Dad’s name on the air was Charlotte Symphony Orchestra Music Director Christopher Warren-Green, a British conductor, violinist and onetime chorister himself. Dad was thrilled.

All too soon, my call-center shift was over. On the way out, I grabbed a great plate of food (okay, two plates), courtesy of Toast restaurant here in Davidson, one of many generous community partners who support WDAV in many ways.

You can, too: Click or call now, operators are standing by!

Bonus note: The English choral music CD in question is Treasures of Christchurch: The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, Stephen Darlington. WDAV is proud to be a media sponsor for that choir’s visit to Charlotte on April 4 and to Davidson on April 5.

Alumni Mailbag: England in the 30s, Victory Ships Across the Sea

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Dean Rusk’s senior yearbook entry. Click to read full post.

• A Good Year for Archives—The Around the D blog over at the College Archives is having a banner year for donations, College Archivist Jan Blodget reports. Recently, the late Dean Rusk ’31—Davidson Rhodes Scholar, U.S. Secretary of State for JFK and LBJ, and namesake for the college’s Dean Rusk International Studies Program—spoke through donated letters of his youth to a Davidson professor on topics ranging from ethics and Guy Fawkes Day to more sinister German political rumblings of the day. Read “Dear Dr. Vowles.”

The “Great Bear” that brought Benno Straumann to America in 1962.

The Times Are Ever A-Changin’Benno Straumann responded to our previous post, “Then and Now: Remembering Davidson as a Study Abroad Destination,” about the 1962-63 Richardson Scholars 50th reunion held last fall in a converted fisherman’s hut on the Island of Oeland in the Baltic Sea: “[F]ond memories and (for me at least) a challenging academic environment (I came straight from a farm in England where I had been practicing  English and boarded the former Victory Ship USS Costa Rica, converted to an emigrant/charter ship by the Dutch named SS Groote Beerin Southampton)…. scrapped shortly after our sailing to New York. In came the Jet Age…. I simply loved the ship and its passengers, Americans returning from abroad and Europeans going to the US, with nine days of unforgettable sailing. Cheers, Benno.”

Robert Flowers ’10

• Friends in High PlacesRobert Flowers ’10, with whom I road-tripped with a small group to Hilton Head for an ethics conference when he was a student, has been named the first full-time chaplain of Andrew College in Cuthbert, Ga. A recent graduate of Duke Divinity School, Robert served as a ministerial intern in Guatemala and El Salvador, and worked most recently as a Chaplain Intern at the Alliance Medical Ministry in Raleigh, N.C. Congratulations, Robert, on your journey thus far!

Then and Now: Remembering Davidson As a Study Abroad Destination

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Neither time nor distance could keep the affinity of Davidson’s Richardson Scholars Class of 1963–64 at bay when the idea of a 50th reunion sprang to their minds. Richardson Scholars were international students who came to campus for one year of study, in the early days of Davidson’s international focus. Today that focus finds a strong home in the Dean Rusk International Studies Program.

Last fall’s Richardson Scholars reunion was a co-production, wrote erstwhile Richardson Scholar Benno Straumann. “Everybody did a little, beginning in Kyoto and Paris and spreading through the web, creative, a bit chaotic, very productive, but without any definite ‘leadership.’”

The momentous event was held at Richardson classmate Jonas Lonnroth’s converted fisherman’s hut on the Island of Oeland in the Baltic Sea.

“All attended except Simon Henson and Karl-Heinz Hauer, who died in a traffic accident in 2006, as well as Joon Yoo from Korea, whom we could not locate,” Straumann wrote.

l-r: Gunnar, Alan, Koichi, Serge, Romir, Benoit, Jonas, Paul (sitting), Benno. Click to enlarge.

• Gunnar Skagestad (Norway), after military training with Russian studies, entered the diplomatic service, currently as ambassador of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

• Alan Arthurs (England) studied chemistry, worked for Imperial Chemical Industries, then worked on fair employment practices.

• Koichi Komatsu (Japan) studied chemistry, taught and did research at Kyoto University.

• Serge Ricard (France) studied history, specialized in the post Civil War period and published widely, particularly on Theodore Roosevelt

• Romir Chatterjee (India, now U.S.) studied economics, had an energy consultancy firm, and then returned to teaching in academia.

• Benoit Nzengu (Congo, now France), the first black student at Davidson, studied medicine, became a surgeon in Reims, France, and now regularly substitutes in surgeries in central France.

• Jonas Lonnroth (Sweden) trained and worked as a medical doctor, worked in Stockholm, then turned real estate developer in Stockholm, now lives in Belgium (near Waterloo!), and has a splendid holiday location on the Island of Oeland in the Baltic Sea, to which he invited us all as a gracious host.

• Paul van den Berg (Netherlands) trained as an architect, became a theater set designer and also taught the subject.

• Benno Straumann (Switzerland) studied English and history, taught English, history and political science, and did political work for the Swiss Social Democratic Party.

• Eric Heinz (Argentina, now U.S.) Studied mathematics in the U.S., stayed and taught maths, and did not make it into the reunion picture due to his participation in the Washington triathlon as a 70-plus contender.

Congratulations to these pioneering Richardson Scholars and all internationals who have since enriched the campus life of Davidson—notably today’s Alvarez Scholars—on the eve of celebrating the 50th anniversary of Davidson’s own study abroad program in the coming year!

It’s a Great Day to Be a Wildcat in Deodorant Advertising Land—or Not?

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“Get me rewrite!”

Updated 2/19:

Check out this bonus content of behind-the-scenes footage of Steph working with John Legend.

Also, a note: we’ve reported the funny typo through the iSpot web site that posted it to the Degree account page there. No response yet. Maybe it’s a bot that doesn’t care. Now that’s depressing…. Wonder what James Barrat ’83 thinks?

Original post:

Wildcats Go Pit to Pit in Advertising Manproducts—This just in: Former Wildcat hoopster and current Golden State Warrrior Steph Curry bares it, kinda, in this TV ad for Degree deodorant, a direct competitor to the Old Spice brand whose  “Believe in Your Smellf” campaign is the brainchild of Britton Taylor ’98. So far, Britton’s one up on the proofreaders at Degree, whose video page at the time of this posting contained the following “d*#n-you-autocorrect” line:

Stephen Curry is always pushing himself to go faster and harder, just like Degree is driven to make the best antidepressant around.

John W. Kuykendall ’59 on the Honor Code: “An Experiment in Trust Continues”

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President Emeritus John W. Kuykendall ’59 often glances down at the red spirit bracelet that he, like many Davidsonians, wears on his wrist in support of The Davidson Trust.

“‘Davidson trusted me.’ That’s not a bad way to start and end my day!” Kuykendall told a nearly standing-room-only 900 Room at Common Hour on Thursday. The Davidson Trust is the college’s commitment to meet 100 percent of demonstrated financial need of accepted students through a combination of grants and campus employment, without relying on loans, in support of the college’s longstanding commitment to need-blind admission.

Kuykendall stood before us to talk about other aspects of trust as well, he said, commending the broad, essential definition of the word that includes honor and civility and personal commitment. Specifically, he was there to talk about Davidson’s Honor Code, in an Honor Council Speaker Series talk that was part of the “Ten Days of Trust” events leading up to the annual, student-led Dinner at Davidson fundraiser tonight. His talk, “An Experiment in Trust Continues,” was an update of a 2009 iteration, “An Experiment in Trust.”

“If you quote from your own work without attribution, is it plagiarism?” he wondered aloud, to knowing, appreciative laughter.

Davidson’s Honor Code is not unique in letter, but is certainly so in spirit and in particularity, said Kuykendall, who was president of the student body when the Honor Council came into being. He recalled some of the conversations of that time, when the student body leaders who applied and also protected the Honor Code saw a need to separate the legislative and judicial functions of their work. There was also no insignificant discussion then of the proper roles of forgiveness and grace and redemption and reconciliation, he said, all aspects of the Reformed Tradition on which Davidson itself was founded. From those discussions, the Honor Council in more or less its current form was born.

Kuykendall is an orator of the foremost ranks, whose expressive cadences translate well into his own written word but perhaps less so to others’. So I encourage you to make time, take time or otherwise shake out some time to stop, look and listen (above) to his most recent thoughts on this quintessentially Davidson topic.

“We may be swimming against the tide,” he said, the sad note in his voice undergirded by quiet defiance as he related some latest statistics on cheating in high school. “At Davidson, your word is your bond, and your work must be your own. Welcome to ‘the bubble,’ so they say. Weal or woe—and let’s hope it’s weal—you are in the middle of it…. But I don’t like ‘the Davidson bubble.’ Davidson is not a bubble. It is a crucible.”

Kuykendall further encouraged listeners to read President Carol Quillen’s recent article on The Huffington Post, “Trust’s Legacy: Davidson’s Honor Code.”

I will add to that a link to alma mater’s bedrock Statement of Purpose. I still have the paper copy that came with my letter of employment in 2001. It is good to read it regularly, just as it’s good to read and hear the current thoughts of both Kuykendall and Quillen on trust, on honor, on what Davidson means in the world today.

I say thank you to them both, in the same spirit that every person in the 900 Room yesterday stood when Kuykendall was finished. It was an ovation for a speech well-delivered, yes, but it was more than that. It was a matter of honor, alive, here, now, unique in spirit and in particularity.

 

 

Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era

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Click to visit Barrat’s website.

UPDATED 1/30: TONIGHT’S PRESENTATION WILL BE IN CHAMBERS BUILDING’S LILLY FAMILY GALLERY ON THE GROUND FLOOR, RATHER THAN IN HANCE AUDITORIUM.

Updated: 1/29/14:

Per James Barrat ’83 at lunchtime in the Baltimore airport (no delays expected en route to Davidson): fresh talking points for tomorrow’s campus presentations and Charlotte Talks, WFAE at 9 a.m.!

Google’s New A.I. Ethics Board Might Save Humanity From Extinction in the Huffington Post

Updated 1/28/14:

Google has now bought its ninth robotics firm in a year, and that’s just the tip of a titanic iceberg.

Click to enlarge.

This Thursday, Jan. 30, come hear James Barrat ’83, author and filmmaker, talk about his book Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era, as well as his take on the value of his liberal arts education in his (much!) broader documentary filmmaking career. See campus calendar for details or click poster at left. Also, members of the campus community can check Inside Davidson announcements for opportunities to share a roundtable meal with James and students, Thursday lunch or Friday breakfast.

And tune in to “Charlotte Talks” on WFAE Thursday at 9 a.m. to hear Barrat live with Davidson’s own Dr. Raghu Ramanujan and Dr. Mary Lou Maher of UNC Charlotte.

Original post, 10/2/13:

Some days it’s hard work being a humanist—or any other kind of human— in a STEM, STEM, STEM world. Already today, I have balked at Excel, pitched a fit at Verizon, and narrowly avoided a nasty Blair Witch Project reaction to a dizzying series of administrative Prezis marked “ACTION REQUIRED.” So I am trying to be easy with myself for being a bit behind in my reading.

I also admit to no small trepidation in getting to the next book on my list: Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era, by James Barrat ’83.

Wait, what?

Clickable

Yes, the title is much. But having interviewed Barrat some years back for the Davidson Journal about his rock-solid career as a globe-trotting documentarian, I knew him to be a thoughtful, reasonable sort not prone to needless hyperbole. So I called him up.

He spoke of the high-tech “intelligence explosion” bearing us ceaselessly into the future.

“Computers can do recursive operations at lightning speed,” he said. “About the time we realize we’ve got something that’s the level of humans, it will be past us.”

Oh, dear. He proceeded to tick off a disconcerting list of possibilities and potentialities.

“Whatever is created,” he said, “will know our history of becoming addicted to our technologies. Its first appearance could be an app. Then it could slip whatever restraints it might have and become autonomous.”

I peeked into the book last night. In it, Barrat offers reassurance of his continuing commitment to thoroughness of inquiry: “My profession rewards critical thinking,” he writes in the foreword. “A documentary filmmaker has to be on the lookout for stories too good to be true. You could waste months or years making a documentary about a hoax, or participate in perpetrating one.”

Click to visit website

Recommended reading! From Barrat’s website:

Our Final Invention explores how the pursuit of Artificial Intelligence challenges our existence with machines that won’t love us or hate us, but whose indifference could spell our doom. Until now, intelligence has been constrained by the physical limits of its human hosts. What will happen when the brakes come off the most powerful force in the universe?

 

 

MLK Day and Davidson: Time to Reflect

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John Gadsby Chapman depicts Pocahontas, wearing white, being baptized Rebecca by Anglican minister Alexander Whiteaker in Jamestown, Virginia; this event is believed to have taken place in 1613 or 1614. (Wikimedia Commons)

Yesterday I attended “MLK Seminar Series: Racial Framing in Disney Films and Social Media.”  Joshua Arthur ’12, Tommy Chaisuesomboon ’17, Elizabeth Lackey ’17, Craig Stevens ’17, Joi Stevens ’17 and Zach Zapatero ’17 examined how racial framing is perpetuated in Disney children’s films, as well as in social media.

Kids do see color, so it’s important to talk to them early, they said. I recalled Uncle Remus and his story about the tarbaby, from a long-ago kids’ movie matinee at Thruway Shopping Center in Winston-Salem. What a fun story for six-year-olds of any background—and at the same time what potentially harmful stereotypes if left unexplored for their fullest inventory of meaning. I’m grateful for a strong sense of exploration of context and fairness that I gained from family, from schoolteachers, and, notably, from my own—ongoing!—Davidson education.

Pocahontas, Walt Disney Pictures, 1995

Tough questions are the stock in trade for fully exploring life, so kudos to these students for bringing some tough ones forward in a room packed with interested students, faculty, staff and community members.

How much of Disney’s treatment of skin color and race is conscious? How much is unconscious? Where is the line?  How have such lines shifted and changed, and not changed, over the years? Where do colorism and sexism meet in film? In other, emerging media? Important questions all, ones that will never be definitively answered.

But worth a second thought. And a third, and fourth….

They’re Ba-a-a-ack! Spring Semester 2014: The Inundation Commences

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Students have arrived for the start of spring semester, and a full calendar beckons, academically and beyond.

Rob Hagerty ’15: Blue skies ahead!

“It’s the end of my laziness,” Rob Hagerty ’15 of Chevy Chase, Md., says with equal parts wistfulness and anticipation. “It’s the end of boredom on the one hand and the beginning of being inundated!” As a hall counselor, he’s enjoying the excitement of freshmen on his hall as they shuffle rooms, start a fresh class schedule, and in a few cases lament hometown-honey breakups over winter break. Rob is struck by the cohesion of Davidson’s ever-evolving freshman hall experience: “The guys are having a good time getting reconnected. They have a very real sense of camaraderie. There are not many cliques that I see, and there’s nobody who seems like the odd man out. People are doing their own little things, but they’re having fun together.”

Belk First East: Think, think, think.

A full campus calendar helps with that. Herewith, a sampling of just a few imminent highlights open to the public:

• On Friday, the popular “Musical Interludes” series kicks off the season with the first of many free Friday lunchtime concerts in Tyler-Tallman Hall at 12:30 p.m.

• Next Tuesday, an 11 a.m. lecture in Tyler-Tallman, “Public Dissonance,” takes a look at music through the lens of gender and sexuality studies.

• Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., Artist Associate in Piano Cynthia Lawing offers a concert in Tyler-Tallman.

• In athletics, hoops and other sports are in full swing. Black Out Belk on Thursday at 7 p.m. as  the men’s basketball team takes on Elon. On Saturday starting at 1 p.m., Wildcat swimmers take on Gardner-Webb at the Baker Sports Complex Cannon Pool.

• Davidson celebrates Martin Luther King Day on Monday with a full range of activities, highlighted on Tuesday at 11 a.m. in Duke Family Performance Hall with a talk by Benjamin T. Jealous, immediate past president and CEO of the NAACP.

• On Jan. 30, James Barrat ’83 will speak about his documentary film career at 11 a.m. in Lilly Gallery and at 7 p.m. in Hance Auditorium about his wave-making new book Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era. Check out his press page.

A few more teaser topics from January: Wrestling, tennis, Sochi, lunar new year, an Ai Weiwei exhibit, Dorothy Allison, the Reduced Shakespeare Company…. February and beyond: “Identifying Trust” with President Emeritus John Kuykendall ’59, violinist Jamie Laval, Aquila Theatre Company in Fahrenheit 451, “The History of the Universe from Beginning to End” with physics Nobel Laureate John Mather, “Dragnet Nation,” sustainable art, “Mr. Marmalade,” spring liederabend, Providence Gap

Bookmark the Davidson College calendar, and prepare to be “inundated” with good stuff!

 

Charlotte: Lunching and Learning with Prof. Chris Alexander

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Lunching and learning was the order of the day at Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte on Tuesday.

The Charlotte Chapter of the Alumni Association hosted alumni, parents and friends of the college to hear a talk, “The Arab Spring After Three Years,” by Chris Alexander, the John and Ruth McGee Director of the Dean Rusk International Studies Program. As Professor of Political Science, his research and teaching focus on the Middle East and North Africa, and he has written extensively about politics in Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. He also consults for U.S. government agencies that work in the region.

Clarifying meaningful perspectives in such a sprawling and evolving topic over a workday lunch is a tall order, but Alexander delivered with a potent mix of learned insight, blunt assessment and telling metaphor. A lively Q&A afterward stood testament to his audience’s engagement.

“The Arab Spring was not as revolutionary as we thought it was at the time. It was not organized and structured well enough to be revolutionary, and that’s why it succeeded in toppling only a very small number of rulers. In the aftermath, politics in the region have become more polarized between secularists and Islamists,” Alexander said, noting that while secularists had the passion of the moment, Islamists had the organization and experience of many decades. “This is going to be an evolution, not a revolution, as we look to support economic growth and a political landscape that involves more than one well-organized player.”

Box lunches by Something Classic Catering (Jill Sypult Marcus ’86) included the best pasta salad I’ve ever had, along with my choice of entrée, roast beef sandwich. Also, the chocolate chip cookies were outstanding.

Charlotte chapter president Jamie Kiser ’86 said the college is looking forward to more such opportunities to become a more regular participant in intellectual and cultural life in Charlotte. Count me in.

 

 

 

Update from Dan Keller ’12, Interim Director of Free Clinic of Our Towns

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One of the personal perks of writing for Davidson is the opportunity for follow-up friendships with story subjects.

“Still life with bendy shoulder and dog (dearly departed),” photo Bill Giduz, 2010

Take Dan Keller ’12. During the time I was interviewing him a couple of months ago about his pre-med, post-grad, surgical internship in Germany with a Davidson parent—the kind of opportunity, I would suggest, that can only happen at a place like Davidson—it happened that I also needed a ride to the auto shop in Mooresville to pick up my 1967 Mercury Comet Caliente convertible, late of alumni cross-country road trip fame and currently undergoing a bit of midlife structural renovation, not unlike my own pending rotator cuff surgery, ouch.

Anyway, Dan was happy to conduct part of our interview rolling up I-77, and I was happy to take him to lunch the following week in appreciation for the lift. And voilà, a transgenerational alumni friendship. So, I was also happy to learn he’ll be with us for awhile yet before medical school, as interim director of the Free Clinic of Our Towns at Davidson’s Ada Jenkins Center. Listen:

A little background, the Free Clinic of Our Towns (FCOOT) at Ada Jenkins has been operating since 2003, serving uninsured patients in Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson, Mooresville and Troutman. The clinic is open one night a week, first come, first served. We have all types of volunteer providers—medical doctors (internal medicine, family practice, ER docs, psychiatrists), nurse practicioners, physician assistants, physical therapists, chiropractors and nurses.

Through our network connections and the generosity of local agencies/individuals, we are able to provide quality healthcare for free (or discounted rates, e.g., MRIs). Kay Newsom (who is an angel) has been the Medical Clinic Manager for the past seven years, and has announced her retirement, effective Jan. 1, 2014. Kay and I have worked together in a variety of capacities over the last couple years—I’ve been volunteering at the clinic since 2010, and we worked together frequently while I was at the N.C. Association of Free Clinics (NCAFC). Given my clinic background and familiarity with FCOOT in particular, she decided I should take her place.

My role is strictly interim—maybe 7 months?… with medical school hopefully starting next fall—but an interim role actually works quite nicely with the transition stage the clinic is in: it allows us to determine whether the future, long-term clinic manager needs to have a nursing background (like Kay), or just needs to be familiar with the free clinic world (like me). My specific responsibilities range from volunteer coordination (students and providers) to grant securement… but I’m likely to focus most of my efforts on quality improvement, since that’s what I trained in with NCAFC. The free clinic world is becoming increasingly outcome-driven, so tracking and reporting health data (blood pressures, blood sugar, etc) is necessary for staying relevant (and funded)….

Read “Dan Keller ’12 Says Yes to Medical School After German Surgical Internship.”

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