Monthly Archive for: ‘February, 2012’

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It’s a Small World, After All/Hey, I Know That Guy!


Dodger with Comet in Little Rock, Summer 2009

I saw that Gordon and Rebecca’s three-legged dog hauling it down the sidewalk in Davidson the other day, and when I saw him again in this afternoon, I thought, “Hey, I know that dog! Awwww. Neat. Et cetera.” I’m a sucker for a dog story.

Then, I looked at the byline, Vic Fleming. Why, I know that guy, too! Heck, my dog knows that guy. Vic is Davidson ’73, a Little Rock judge, writer, and nationally recognized crossword puzzle-creator extraordinaire. Dodger and I visited Vic on our cross-country road trip in ye olde Comet in 2009. Small world.

Valentine’s Day with President Carol Quillen


"Phil Spitbite," 1995, Spitbite etching of Phillip Glass, Davidson College Permanent Collection and currently hanging over the mantel in the President's Home

President Carol Quillen continues to deepen her Q&A’s of, by, and for Davidson College, on campus and off.

For instance, this correspondent was fortunate to attend a “Solar Celebration” dinner at five o’clock in the evening of Monday, February 13 with program at 7 o’clock, in honor of the recent solar panel installations on Baker Sports Complex. A good time was had by all, enjoying collard-stuffed-mushroom canapés (delish!) and dinner in the President’s Parlor and a “powerful” solar panel slideshow (get it? powerful? solar?) by Director of Facilities Management David Holthouser later in the 900 Room. At the latter event, Quillen snatched the microphone free from its lectern shackle with aplomb, as is her custom, and dove into the Q&A convo with gusto, alongside Holthouser and President Emeritus Tom Ross.

Next morning, at Common Hour on Valentine’s Day, Quillen invited the entire staff of Davidson College to the Lilly Family Gallery to help continue refining the careful thought processes she has fostered in her leadership of the college since Aug. 1. The questions concerned who we are, what we do, the difference we make, and where we want to end up. The big question running through it all was about what we do—or don’t—need to change, grow, or evolve about Davidson.

Quillen opened with the mother of all questions: “Are these the right questions?”

“There’s huge consensus about what should never change about Davidson,” she continued, citing the Honor Code [Quote of the Day: "The Honor Code forms the basis of this community. If you don't want that, do not come here."], Division I sports, our residential campus, the low faculty-student ratio, and our focus on leadership and service in the college’s Statement of Purpose as a primary manifestation of our strong Reformed Tradition heritage.

So: If we succeed in carrying this leadership and service focus forward in a way that best fits current and future students and young alumni who are “transitioning to impact” in an increasingly globalized and technology-driven world, then what will Davidson look like in 10 years? Think how the student body and the world have changed since 1837… 1937… 1960… 2000…. Likewise, Quillen said, the college’s curriculum and atmosphere have changed to meet the student body, to wit: Latin American studies and Environmental Science majors, neuroscience and computational biology concentrations, the addition of Mandarin and Arabic language courses, expanded offerings through Career Services….

“What’s next for Davidson?” Quillen asked. Before individual tables went all “granular” on specifics, a few broad areas for examination surfaced in the general talkback: affordability and access; bottom-line concerns for families as well as for the institution; staff productivity and what that means for a people-and-ideas-based business like Davidson; the role of technology and training; the Davidson staff’s role in student life and in the broader community; how best to cross departmental lines in community just as the college strives to do in its curriculum; Davidson’s evolving role in the local and regional communities; and Davidson’s attractiveness as a place of employment as well as a place of matriculation.

What’s next for Davidson, indeed? To help her lead the way toward best answers, Quillen collected a page of notes from upwards of a dozen tables filled with the sharpest, kindest, flat-out best fellow staff members I have ever worked with anywhere—and a big ditto kudos for faculty, students, alumni, parents, trustees and the many, many friends Davidson counts. As we all move into and through the everchanging answers to the everchanging question of what’s next, that’s good company!



The Best of Times (But Will There Be Cake?)


Did you see The New York Times Magazine‘s feature on England’s Dickens World on Sunday? “The World of Charles Dickens, Complete with Pizza Hut.” And for dessert, a slice of Miss Haversham’s wedding cake….

Nothing much really happens if you just click this image. For full effect, you have to use your imagination.

If you can’t (or won’t) go to Dickens World, you can celebrate the celebrated Victorian author’s 200th birthday right here at home, with a lively interlude of learning and awe at the “Charles Dickens’ 200th Anniversary Exhibit,” on display in the Rare Book Room of Davidson’s E.H. Little Library, free and open to the public Mon.-Fri., 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., through Feb. 29. The display includes copies of Dickens’ works, including first editions of both David Copperfield and Pickwick Papers, as well as a copy of David Copperfield autographed by illustrator John Austen.

The real treat for me in a trip to the Rare Book Room is simply being in the inner sanctum of the room itself, bolstered by the expertise of archival guides. The “RBR” is a grand and impressive study of a space—sort of a 1974 Presbyterian version of Lord Grantham’s library in Downton Abbey—and it never fails to unfold magical perspectives for me. Time itself takes on the unhurried (at least in my imagination) allure of old in the RBR, its books imbued with the artisanal care that humankind has offered to its most important  words since time immemorial. Or at least from Gutenberg down through the 20th century and beyond until very, very recently—a week ago last Friday, I think it was, on Twitter.

One of the RBR’s oldest books is a 1492 Venetian edition of Seneca. Think about that. In 1492 Venice, Seneca was already a hallowed classic, a century before Shakespeare.

“Like, Columbus 1492?” a student always asks Sharon Byrd, special collections outreach librarian. Yes, like Columbus 1492, she’ll respond with the patience of, well, a librarian.

An encyclopedic knowledge of the RBR’s contents resides in the files of Sharon’s head. “You’ll have to interrupt me or I won’t stop,” she quips. On the shelves over the Dickens display are two centuries’ worth of Gentleman’s Magazine dating to the 1730s. (“Sort of The New Yorker of its day—or, I should say, its centuries.”) In a curio cabinet around the corner there is a Sèvres bisque porcelain bust of Débussy, a Japanese firebird/phoenix-rising plate, and a black marble and malachite inkstand that would be at home on Dumbledore’s desk.

Older than the oldest actual book in the place is written Gregorian chant from 1250, Sharon shares. “And for the oldest thing with writing on it, we have cuneiforms from 2350 BCE.”

The day last week that I was there, Sharon had out for academic class study the recently restored 1821 Bible of Omar ibn Sayyid. It is a storied Bible, unique in all the world, a singular product of the confluence of two continents tied by slavery, two religions tied by language, a lineage of history that made its way to the Rare Book Room by way of the N.C. governor’s office in 1871. Tidbit: Printed by a woman, a rarity in its day, the book’s recent restoration was also accomplished by a woman.

You never know what you’ll find when you step into the Rare Book Room of E.H. Little Library, but whatever your great expectations, you can be assured of the best of times…

Play Ball! A Mash-Up of Thoughts About the Big Game


On court and field, mat and pool, Wildcat Div I athletics programs are a vital part of Davidson's take on the liberal arts experience.

While I was listening to Monday morning-after coverage of the Super Bowl, my editorial ear did a double take when Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn described his decisive interception at the start of the fourth quarter thusly: “I just tried to box him (Gronk) out and play basketball.”

Basketball? At the Super Bowl?

Yes, indeed, it turns out. And why not? Playing one game on the field by drawing on the tactics of another game in our heads is something we all do all the time, even if we don’t think about it as consciously as Blackburn. Critical thinking, analytical reasoning, effective writing, and that.

Robert Fulghum put it another way in “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” his famous list of basic rules of the game expanded into a lifetime of lessons: “1. Share everything.  2. Play fair.  3. Don’t hit people.  4. Put things back where you found them.  5. Clean up your own mess.  6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.  7. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.  8. Wash your hands before you eat.  9. Flush….”

The principles of most games tend to be relatively few and simple. It’s the plays and players that are infinitely, exasperatingly, exhilaratingly complex. Of course, now we’re way beyond just sports. Take the “playing field” of today’s job markets…. please!

But seriously, I was thinking about such things last night while reading That Used to Be Us by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum, a book I got for Christmas (hi, Mom!) and highly recommend. In it, the authors examine types of work by broad category. The first category, “nonroutine high-skilled work,” fits perfectly with the liberal arts milieu in which I live and work, and so it, like Blackburn’s basketball reference, caught my ear.

“Nonroutine high-skilled work is generally the province of engineers, programmers, designers, financiers, senior executives, stock and bond traders, accountants, performers, athletes, scientists, doctors, lawyers, artists, authors, college professors, architects, contractors, chefs, specialized journalists, editors, sophisticated machine-tool operators, and innovators… the merger of globalization and the IT revolution has made those who do (these jobs) even more productive,” the authors write.

They go on to detail how this category of workers leverage globalization and IT to get ahead, by thinking critically and broadly and deeply, and then being able to apply more than one system of thought to a given problem.

Those kinds of abilities in thought and action are, indeed, at the very heart of a Davidson liberal arts education.

And at the heart, it must be said, of any good kindergarten, elementary school, middle school or high school. Which brings me to my final semi-sequitur of the day, a check-in link for your reference, to the Charlotte Teachers Institute, a strong partnership between Davidson, UNC Charlotte and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools—of just the type Friedman and Mandelbaum advocate as part of the solution to America’s education problems.

Play ball!


All Hail, O Davidson! From Facebook to Capitol Hill, Davidson News Cycles On


From class notes to Google alerts, Facebook to campus memos, the sources of news that cross the Daybook Davidson desk are various and sundry. A few samples are below. (And for those who, like me, are gravitating toward a curatorial approach to Facebook, you can “like” Daybook’s Facebook here.)

Show Him the Time-Tested Monetary System Standard—Davidson parent James Grant is “absolutely at the top of his game,” inside Davidson sources say, and a recent interview in MarketWatch lends credence to the view. Grant, publisher of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer and legendary Wall Street contrarian, has drawn the attention of presidential candidates recently for his views on the gold standard. MarketWatch senior columnist Brett Arends lauds Grant as “an ‘old-fashioned’ holdover who is ahead of his time.” Back to the future gold standard, anyone?

Blaw, Blaw, Blaw—Veteran investigative reporter and editor Allen Pusey ’70 has been named editor and publisher of the American Bar Association (ABA) Journal, the flagship publication of the ABA and the world’s most widely circulated legal periodical. Their Web site has a tab marked “BLAWGS.” Get it? ABA? Blawgs? Heh. Congratulations, Allen!

President Carol Quillen: Click for full story and video

Moving-On-Up News in the Academy—Davidson Dean of Faculty Clark Ross sent a memo: “I write to inform you that our ’90 graduate, Douglas A. Hicks has been named the provost at Colgate University. Those of us who know Doug and taught him will not be surprised…. I just spoke with Doug, who in his characteristic fine manner, spoke so highly of Davidson’s having so positively influenced him.”

Bridging the “Privilege Gap”—Today’s big news was Davidson President Carol Quillen’s testimony about The Davidson Trust this morning on Capitol Hill before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Yes, health, education, labor and pensions is a lot for one committee to say grace over, so we’re sure they appreciated Quillen’s characteristic precision as she detailed in under five minutes why The Davidson Trust is a vital part of the Davidson equation and worthy of the committee’s consideration in the broader picture of national financial aid policy. Quillen may have even coined a phrase in detailing the Davidson College community’s commitment to bridging the “privilege gap.” Good coin, good realm.