Monthly Archive for: ‘October, 2010’

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Pepper Gift Highlights a Fine Arts Season


One of the many advantages of working in the news office at Davidson is that I get to see some things first. On Monday, for instance, I drew the lucky assignment to photograph an art opening. Not the wine and cheese kind of art opening. The bubble wrap and packing tape kind: actually opening the art, fresh off the loading dock. Wow.

Auguste Rodin’s statue “Jean d’Aire” (bottom row, third picture from left), a gift of the Pepper family, stood sentinel over a “Christmas morning” atmosphere on Monday at the Van Every/Smith Galleries.

Arts patron Jim Pepper ’65, of Miami, Florida, recently boxed and shipped to the college 34 pieces from his collection. To spice things up, Pepper did not send an inventory listing ahead. Instead, members of the department got a series of happy surprises as each gift’s wrapping was removed. Ooohs and ahhhs abounded, mine included, as I rolled around on the cool marble floor of the Belk Visual Arts Center’s vaulting, skylit atrium, trying to get the best shot. (I’m no professional paparazzo, but I had borrowed a killer camera set on auto mode from campus newsguy Bill Giduz ’74, who has taught me that if you take enough pictures, something will be decent.)

Pepper’s fine art donations ran an eclectic and multi-dimensional gamut, from Kandinsky and Hofman to Mapplethorpe and meso-American. There was even an ancient Hellenistic amphora that clearly had spent a millenium or more under salt water before entering Pepper’s collection via Sotheby’s in 1995. This list of artistic largesse goes on; the works are still being examined and catalogued even as I type. Pepper’s generous gesture—like his family’s previous donation of Auguste Rodin’s statue Jean d’Aire, on permanent display in the atrium—is just one reason the college’s Van Every/Smith Galleries in the Belk Visual Arts Center are an inviting place to visit for campus denizens, lake locals, and anybody else passing by.

But wait! That’s not all! It’s theatre season at the college, too, and the Theatre Department has gems in production or about to be. Pride and Prejudice opened this week, directed by Ann Marie Costa, and Jack Beasley is directing Galileo, opening Nov. 17. Jack is my upstairs neighbor, and if his creative commentaries on the evening news are any indication, then his take on the current events of the Roman Inquisition ought to be a real treat.

Also in arts, the Music Department page has a full slate of fall and holiday concerts lined up. First, treat yourself to some Halloween tricks of the musical trade in “Horrors! Music Professor Neil Lerner Studies Why—and How—Music Makes Us Scream.”

For ongoing, indepth news of the arts at the college, in the region, and even farther afield, check out Davidson College Friends of the Arts!

Wildcats in France: “Vivent les Chats Sauvages!”


[CORRECTION: The news link below has been repaired, thanks to astute reader and star colleague Meg Kimmel ’77, currently appearing at Duke Family Performance Hall as Lady Catherine in Pride and Prejudice. Thanks, Meg!]

The mind-expanding magic of study abroad is on my mind, having interviewed, in the last 24 hours, two of Davidson’s students who studied last summer in Damascus, Syria. There, the college is working hard to dot i’s and cross t’s on a proposal for a standing Davidson College semester program. More on that story as it develops. Meantime, as a French major myself who studied in Montpellier, France for my junior year, I was particularly enchanté to see this link appear in this morning’s e-mail from Associate Professor of French Carole Kruger, program director of Davidson in Tours, and dittoed in the afternoon by Professor of French Homer Sutton, clickable:

Click for full story and video. Cliquez pour article et vidéo.

“That’s our Luke Jenkins ’12 in the photo,” writes Carole. “He’s the Lucas who is quoted at the top of the piece with Caroline Fisher.  I am not sure the NR reporter understood just how many of his subjects were from our program… These thoughtful young men and women are terrific ambassadors for our country, and do Davidson College proud. Bonne lecture, Carole”

Purple Shirt Day? That’s So Gay!


Today, college students, faculty, and staff across the land are wearing purple in a show of support and acceptance for gay youth. Gay as I am, I’ve never been much of an activist, but today I am wearing my one (sort of) purple shirt for a singular and most personal of reasons: I know what it means to be young and confused about my sexuality (not to mention everything else), to the point of despair. I went through just such a rough period once (okay, twice) while I was a Davidson student. I am grateful for the people who listened to me then, even though I wasn’t able then to use all my words for the feelings I had.

For many if not most young people, I would submit this: being confused—or at least curious and unsure—about your sexuality is part of your job description as a young person. We soi-disant “grownups” aren’t doing you any favors by insisting on labels like gay, straight, and everything in between. That’s a topic for another day and another forum. Today, I just want to say this one thing to that one kid, anywhere, who is home staring at the ceiling feeling wrong or bad or a mistake because you might be “gay”: Been there, done that. Surprise! You are *not* wrong or bad or a mistake, and you are not alone. Get up. Take strength where you find it. Be yourself. Somebody somewhere already knows you and already loves you. Go find them.



I just love this short film on Richard Landon Blackwelder, who many alumni and others will remember well, and who is still a happy fixture in our town. Thanks to Rachel Stewart ’86 and  Jennifer Bangley Foster ’92 at WDAV for the heads up via Facebook!


Maple Soy Salmon En Papillote and Other Alumni News


• I was all sad when former associate alumni director Nikki Sawyer Moore ’03 left our collegial company to go to culinary school down the road at Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte. Now I’m all glad, because I’ve seen her back on our campus a time or two since she started her own business, Food Love and her blog, Minced, and I’m thinking there might be some goodies in it for me. Not that I’m hinting. This morning, Nikki was on a local morning show fixing scrumptiousness en papillote. Check it out:

• In other foodie news, Julie Ruble, ’06 is getting some nice attention for her mouth-watering food blog, I’ll Bite. “I won a recipe contest to be the 2010 Nature’s Pride Bread Ambassador to the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival… in San Francisco!! Save me a seat on the trolley!” Julie reports.

• Alex Hoyt ’09 is busy researching stories over at The Atlantic Monthly, where he also recently had his own story published, “20 Years After Germany Reunified: The Ruins of a Soviet-Sized Family Home.” Of his own Grosspapa‘s 15th-century manor house and its accompanying village, school, and church, Hoyt writes, “If you can imagine an antebellum plantation turned into a communist co-op, then converted to slum tenements, and finally abandoned to the cat ladies of Grey Gardens, you have a good idea of what has happened to these once-prosperous estates in the years after World War II.”

Click for Atlantic article.

• Katherine Eastland, meanwhile, has made the leap from Davidson Reader to The Weekly Standard as assistant editor and illustrator. Her journalistic lineage is duly noted in her bio thusly: “Her drawings appear in the Books & Arts section and can be viewed at her website.  In 2008 she graduated from Davidson College, where she was the founding editor of the Davidson Reader.”

Flannery O'Connor by Katherine Eastland ’08. Click for Katie's Web site.

Stability, Reform and John P. “Doodle” Wally


I learned a great deal about Tunisia recently, whilst writing a homepage story about Chris Alexander’s new book Tunisia: Stability and Reform in the Modern Maghreb.

At last check, Chris has the longest title on campus: Associate Dean for International Programs, McGee Director of the Dean Rusk International Studies Program and Associate Professor of Political Science. His personal and professional style, mercifully, is otherwise direct, down-to-earth, elegantly plainspoken and filled with common-sensical good humor. [Full disclosure: Dodger and I sometimes stop off for refreshment chez Alexander on our way home from running in the Erwin Lodge woods; I’m known by Chris’s wife Carol Higham, also an author, and their younguns Nell and Malcolm, as “the Looney Toons man.”] In rifling the pages of Chris’s book, I not only learned about Tunisia. I also was reminded of what it means to live and work at Davidson College. Here’s his acknowledgments page (click to enlarge).

Go, Doodle! Go, Doodle!

Thanks, John and Kristin!


From religion professor to Davidson president my senior year to president emeritus to religion professor to professor emeritus to dogsitting friend and summertime blackberry cobbler maker extraordinaire, John Kuykendall ’59 has been a happy presence in my life for more than half of it. When I see him or Missy round the corner, my heart gladdens. It gladdens triple-time now, as one of Davidson’s finest first couples step back into that role of servant leadership, same place, different time.

From unbeknownst childhood neighbor in Winston-Salem to Davidson classmate to fellow alumna to divisional vice president during my first five years as a college staffer to trustee to lunch buddy and cute-shoed laughter therapist extraordinaire, Kristin Hills Bradberry ’85 has likewise been a happy presence in my life for more than half of it even though she is younger than I am by 247 days, which she never lets me forget. That makes me the big brother, the way I see things, so there.

John and Kristin, I salute you today. I even wore my Davidson tie, which I don’t often wear because I don’t often wear ties, and I have on my Davidson ring, too. With a full heart and mind, I offer my thanks alongside the thanks of many, many others for your stepping up to help us move from present strong leadership, through your interim leadership, into future strong leadership for this place we all love.

I could get a better picture, but it would take more time and since you're kind of the bosses of me again now, I'm going to do something besides play with PhotoBooth, k?

Studies Say: Stupid Is As Stupid Does


[Updated link on uninterrupted time, “The Most Valuable Commodity” by Claire Wolfe at, added here 10/19/10.]

Here are a couple of current links about what you are doing right this minute of your life of the mind. Are you “all in” or just clicking around? Commit to reading—really reading, all the way through— “Is Email Making You Stupid?” by Joe Robinson in the Huffington Post and “Linked In With: a Writer Who Questions the Wisdom of Teaching With Technology” by Marc Parry in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Both are worth it. Click on Curly as needed.

Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!

Thank you, teachers!


Miss Truluck taught me grammar in third grade at Whitaker Elementary School in Winston-Salem. Mrs. Chanson taught me to diagram sentences in fifth grade at Porter-Gaud in Charleston. Mr. Feffer, who smoked a pipe, tried with middling success to teach me geometry in ninth grade at The Asheville School. Mrs. Lewis across the hall had better luck teaching me about Shakespeare’s use of humor in The Merchant of Venice, if only by virtue of her arch reply to me when I allowed I didn’t find it all that funny. “Well, pity on you,” quoth she, which we 14-year-olds found muchly hilarious back in the dorm. “Pity on you,” we would holler at the slightest provocation, in between loogie contests and smoking in the janitor’s closet. At Eastside High in Greenville, S.C. in 12th grade, Miss Varney had an RX-7, candy apple red, that she would get in and out of.

But I digress. Point is, we remember our teachers. Davidson has many fine ones who taught me, too. I won’t name names, since they’re now my colleagues, and that would be weird. Davidson also turns out many fine teachers every spring: witness the place of honor Chris Burton ’08 claims on the homepage, thanks to alert reader Elizabeth Mills, professor of English over in ye olde Chambers. And take a moment to remember your own best and brightest teachers. Is there anything more important? Really?


National Coming Out Day, Under the American Flag


In light of grim national news about gay students in America, it was heartening to see Davidson’s Gay-Straight Alliance gathering the strength of the entire campus community today around the idea not just of tolerance, or even acceptance, but celebration in diversity. I spent 10 minutes chatting and taking pictures of (right of the table, l-r) Hailey Szymczak ’11, William Koster ’12, and Claire Ittner ’13, who were on duty at a GSA banner-signing by the flagpole. A broad cross-section of the student body stopped to lend support to the cause. Only one said no outright. Mohammed Egal ’13 was nearly late to class, but he made time to wield a Sharpie® and summed up, “If you’re open-minded, you’ll sign this.” I did, too, with a different rainbow color for every letter in my name. Ta da! I didn’t have time to get all the students’ names for photo IDs, but the fifth photo in the group is my erstwhile schoolmate, collegial buddy and College Chaplain Rob Spach ’84. The banner will hang in the Union in time for Wednesday’s Barbequeer at 4:30, a free dinner for all sponsored by GSA. Live out loud, everybody, whoever you are!

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