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Reunion Weekend: It’s About Time, It’s About Space, It’s About… Class!


Reunion Weekend is all about what Davidson alumni have in common: A wonderful place in a wonder-filled time of our lives. And what a time and place Reunion Weekend is, for coming back and sharing present love and laughter about past moments sublime and intervals hilarious, good food and drink and late-night moments reminiscing about that time…. well, you remember.

One of Reunion’s richest offerings in recent years, “Back to School,” has also helped me see our commonalities (and our particularities) more universally as well. Here are three examples from recent Alumni Reunion 2014 “Back to School” classes (“All the rigor, none of the tests!”):

• William Ferris ’64 gave a multimedia tour of his book The Storied South. Ferris’s friend, the late Eudora Welty, graces the cover of his book of interviews with scholars, writers, musicians, photographers and painters from his own long career, storied in itself from Ole Miss to Chapel Hill. The book includes a companion CD of original interviews and a DVD of original film. Ferris’s Reunion Weekend class was so popular, he gave it again the next hour to overflow “students”!

As old-school as the presentation felt in all the best ways, it also brought the best of technology to bear in a suitably fully wired Chambers classroom, too.  “Technology moves the concept of what a book is to a whole new level. It gives a whole new meaning to the classroom, too. I backed into this (interest in music) in a non-academic way, learning to play guitar in the basement of the KA house here—and a lot of people never forgave me,” he said to laughter.

Ferris, a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, said the liberal arts perspective is as important as ever. “You build that in the classroom. There are very few places that do that as well as and on the scale of Davidson.”

• Laura McCarthy ’94 offered an entrepreneurial look at her personal and professional passion: teaching yoga to homeless, incarcerated and/or addicted men in the Charlotte region. With a history degree, a fine arts degree and a working artist’s studio, McCarthy said she came to a place in life of lines blurred with underlying purpose, where yoga and critical analysis of demographic numbers on incarceration and addiction led her to begin offering yoga for male populations in trouble.

“Being entrepreneurial has gone viral,” said the whiteboard behind her, a quote President Carol Quillen had recently used in her Huffington Post blog. McCarthy’s yoga business Svaraj has gone viral, recently gaining official non-profit IRS status and currently offering yoga at some eight different settings per week.

“Body and breath will tell you where your mind is functioning from; below the level of the mind is the objective functioning of neurology,” McCarthy said. She repeated an acronym familiar in her work with Swaraj, which means “self-rule.” “SOBER stands for Stop, Observe, Breath, Expand, Respond…. One of my favorite days was when I came in for the weekly class, and one of the prisoners in recovery said to me, ‘That breathing s— really works, Laura!”

Sheri Reynolds ’89

• Sheri Reynolds ’89, a successful author early and often since graduation, had a packed house rolling on the floor—literally, we ran out of chairs—at the ribald passages she read from her latest book, The Homespun Wisdom of Myrtle T. Cribb. Why, it even came with a parental warning (the class, not the book)!

It’s notable that the three classes I attended were offered by different vintages and varietals of Davidson alumni, yet I had something in common with each. For instance, my mom and Bill Ferris share the native state of Mississippi, and he knew my grandfather. As for Laura, like her I’m a yogi, too, and I asked her to go to a local yoga class with me the next day. And Sheri? Oh, Sheri, you tell it, in the words of your  1995 essay of campus observances from the vantage point of the Old Well—where nearly all of us have sat, and many will again on Reunion Weekends to come:

“I didn’t know music or the woman singing. I didn’t sketch, know much about Euclid or birds. But I knew about brick, and I knew about ivy, and I knew they made a marvelous combination for the Davidson community—a foundation so secure, but a willingness to grow into ourselves, a willingness to open and thrive. And I’d listen to those church bells chiming into the night, each not separate at first, as we are, but coming together to count the time. At Davidson, we can be different, and we can still be magically joined. We can grow like ivy from the same strong roots, sprouting off anywhere as we circle the fountain, harmony in a thousand shades of green.”


One Day Challenge TODAY: All In For Davidson!


Any reason is a good reason to support Davidson: It’s the same as it ever was, it’s different than it ever was, and none of it is cheap.

Today’s one-day challenge, All in for Davidson, is a chance to focus each of our unique glimmers of gratitude through Davidson’s stellar annual-giving participation rate for the whole alumni body, as well as through the college’s bottom line:

“Help us reach 500 gifts by noon Wednesday and The Fund for Davidson will receive an additional $100,000 from a group of alumni and parent challengers!” says the All in for Davidson page. [This just in: Word up the line is that new challenge money is appearing for a next round, soon to be announced. Stay tuned to the All in for Davidson page for the latest updates!]

My own appreciation for what Davidson offered me as a student—all of it—has only grown in the post-graduate time I spent away from the bosom of alma mater. And it’s grown even more after my return to the green, green grass of home as a staffer in 2001. Why, today I have gratitude in areas where I didn’t even used to have areas!

So, what’s at the heart of your own Davidson experience, as it shows up in your life today? Visit the “All in for Davidson” page linked above, call the one-day-challenge “celebrity call center” at 704-894-GIVE, visit the college’s social media hub, or tweet using hashtag #allinfordavidson to share in the conversation and the challenge. Happy All in For Davidson Day!

Words Matter, and Student Translators Have “Mercy”


“Lovers of world literature,” invoked the end-of-semester calendar announcement, “consider attending Polyglossia, a public reading of works translated by members of the Davidson College seminar ‘Theory and Practice of Literary Translation.’… Refreshments will be provided.”

Words, I thought to myself, matter. Ditto refreshments. That night, the happy babble of scholarly polyglossia filled the Carolina Inn, as students and professors in evening attire mingled over champagne, sparkling cider and hors d’oeuvres. The air conditioner finally caught up with the crowd about the time seats were taken. Perfect.

“Everyone in this room is guilty sometimes of forgetting that we are perpetually at the mercy of translators—always!” said Associate Professor and Chair of Classics Keyne Cheshire, who co-taught the class with Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies Caroline Beschea-Fache.

The Polyglossia chapbook cover, produced by students and Sharon Broome at Central Services. Click to enlarge.

Just think about that: In any language, we are indeed at the mercy, at some point, of some translator, somewhere. This night in the Carolina Inn, six Davidson students rose to offer some details of just how.

They worked from across a diverse range of traditions: a wartime radio address delivered by De Gaulle from London; a previously untranslated 1992 Gamoneda poem from Spain; a page of idiosyncratic screenplay from the recent French blockbuster The Intouchables; a ribald Roman comedy by Plautus from the first century B.C.E.; an ambiguous Greek ode by Sappho six centuries before Plautus; and a feminist revolutionary’s poem in Chinese about an early 1900s visit to Japan.

Just as telling as the original readings and translations were the students’ commentary on their projects, collected in a handsome chapbook. A sampling:

• “To complicate matters, cárdenas does not correspond directly to any color in English…. And while I believe that ‘purplish lilies’ is the best option, it still is far from perfect. Alas.” —Peter Bowman ’16, on Antonio Gamoneda’s “Book of the Cold”

• “Rather than carrying over de Gaulle’s repetition as it appears in French (which reads clumsily in the word-for-word English translation), I employed a more conventional form of Anglicized repetition common to oration.” Taylor MacDonald ’15, on de Gaulle’s “Appel du 18 juin”

• “In addition to subtitling-specific obstacles, translation of this scene poses the problem of cultural differences in humor….Translating slang was the second major hurdle.” —Anita Richardson ’16 on The Intouchables

• “The colloquial language, frequent expletives, and improper grammar in my translation echo Plautus’ lowbrow language.” —Bri Lazenvnick ’15 on Casina

• “I learned to understand that there is no literal translation in Chinese, or at least not for Qiu Jin’s classical, elevated, symbol-ridden verse.” —Jessie Li ’15 on “Thoughts During a Visit to Japan”

• “Sappho’s verses once filled nine books, but today, only one complete poem exists…. These verses, beautifully arranged according to a strict Sapphic meter and the melodic sounds of their words, were also once sung, but the music is gone as well. Instead of counting these facts as true losses, I took them as opportunities to play with the words themselves.” —India M. Watkins ’15 on Sappho’s “Fragment 31”

Yes, words matter, and, indeed, we are perpetually at the mercy of translators. Thanks for the thoughtful take on that reality!


Perspective for Exams: Twenty-Four Hours Solo Camping


Over coffee the week before exams, Elizabeth Welliver ’16 mentioned a Davidson Outdoors trip she was helping organize for the next day, for eight students each to spend 24 hours in solitude at campsites in the woods near the college. The week before exams, right? Wow. Kudos! Here’s what one of them had to say upon his return:

I am Santiago Navia, a first-year from Colombia, and Elizabeth told me you were interested in hearing about our experience during the Solo trip last weekend.


I wanted to clear my mind and discover what thoughts were wandering about my head without me noticing. Finals is a busy time of the year, so I though in order to compensate the stress that they provoke, I would relax and enjoy the peace that nature can provide.


I thought constantly about humans and their place in nature. We are but one species and a part of nature itself, but we have developed a sense of superiority that provides us with the justification for our exploitation of our planet. Even if we think of ourselves as at the top of the food chain, we are really on the bottom of nature’s priority since no species depend on our existence to survive. Remembering that we are a part of nature is key so that we can live in harmony with it rather than in constant war against it.


Hope this helps!




Kind of puts exams in perspective, doesn’t it?

Pictures of Happy Students with Happy Dogs


Sometimes you just need to sit on the floor and play with a dog. Or dogs, in the case of the growing tradition of a “Puppy Extravaganza” at exam time! I was glad to be there getting jostled with my trusty point-and-shoot. Click pics to enlarge.

MLK Day and Davidson: Time to Reflect

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


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!


Preach! Preston Davis ’06 Joins High Point University


Rev. Preston, clickable.

A livelier nut, in all the best ways, I do not know than the Rev. Preston Davis ’06.

From his crazy (we have pictures) post-grad days as a Davidson Fellow to occasional campus sightings since, Preston’s just one of those people you’re glad to see coming.

And that’s just who you want in a college chaplain’s office (for example, see Davidson’s College Chaplain Rob Spach ’84—really, go see him; you’ll feel better about everything, I promise!) So now Preston is in the chaplain’s office at High Point University.

Congratulations to Preston—and to HPU!

Space Chat Do-Over: 4:55 p.m., MONDAY, APRIL 22!


Technical difficulties have never kept NASA down for long, and the good folks in Houston were gracious and quick to reschedule last Friday’s event after a glitch prevented astronaut Tom Marshburn ’82 from hearing his fellow Davidsonians assembled in ye olde 900 Room. We’re on for this coming Monday afternoon!

Astronaut Tom Marshburn ’82

Davidson College will host a live NASA downlink from the International Space Station (ISS) between 4:15 and 5:30 p.m., Monday, April 22, in the C. Shaw Smith 900 Room of the Alvarez College Union. This is rescheduled from a previous event that had technical difficulties. Attendees will have the opportunity to question alumnus Astronaut Thomas Marshburn, M.D. ’82, about his experiences aboard the ISS, 230 miles above Earth.

The event is free and open to the public but seating is limited. Doors will close at 4:45 p.m. and the half-hour question and answer session will begin at approximately 4:55 p.m. The session will be simulcast to an overflow area outside of the 900 Room as well as online at

Marshburn is currently on his second space flight. He completed his first flight in July 2009 on Space Shuttle Endeavour. Just three-and-a-half months ago he launched again aboard Soyuz TMA-07M from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. He is serving as flight engineer for Expedition 35, and will return to Earth in May.

Marshburn also served as a flight surgeon at Johnson Space Center, co-chair of medical operations for the Shuttle/Mir Space Program, NASA representative to the Harvard/MIT Smart Medical Systems Team of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, and lead flight surgeon and medical operations lead for Expedition 7 to the ISS.

Marshburn earned a bachelor’s degree from Davidson College as a physics major, and earned master’s degrees from the University of Virginia and University of Texas Medical Branch, and his medical degree from Wake Forest University.

Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,900 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.



NASA homepage

Expedition 35 Mission Summary

Current and archival Marshburn coverage on Daybook Davidson

Marshburn article in Davidson Journal



THIS WEEK—Soul of a People: David A. Taylor ’83 Discussion Forum


Reminder that later this week, David A. Taylor ’83 will answer your questions online, beginning Wednesday. Visit the Davidson College Online Book Club to learn more!


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