Monthly Archive for: ‘April, 2014’

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Dean Rusk International Studies Program: Dracula in Romania, Malaria in Africa, Memories in France


It can be tough to choose from among the many offerings on the Davidson campus calendar, but it’s always worth poking around there. Recently, I gravitated toward a couple of talks sponsored by the college’s Dean Rusk International Studies Program, a result of that office’s partnership with the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting’s Campus Consortium.

Cox in front of “Dracula’s” Bran Castle in Romania

• Dracula tourism in Romania pique your interest? Jonathan Cox ’14 had the topic covered in a recent afternoon presentation in the Dean Rusk International Studies Program’s student lounge. Cox, who grew up in Romania, among other places, detailed a spirited (but not bloody—yet?) debate in that country about the desirability of basing tourism on a literary myth that originated in Yorkshire, England. Cox’s work was funded with an Abernethy Grant, he said, and he has an article under contract with Verge Magazine: Travel With Purpose. Working title: “Dracula Tourism and Its Reluctant Stakeholders: Romania’s Love-Hate Relationship with Its Hometown Vampires.” Cox also has received funding through Dean Rusk for India-based work through the Pulitzer Center that got picked up by The New York Times and beyond.


• A few days after Cox’s presentation, New York-based science journalist Amy Maxmen graced the same space. She writes about medicine, health, neuroscience and evolution for outlets that include NatureThe ScientistScience NewsPsychology TodayCell and the Lancet. She gave students a globe-trotting reporter’s-eye view as a preview for her talk that night, “Tracking Malaria in Africa.” How did a Harvard Ph.D. in evolutionary biology go from marine biology to freelance international journalism? Jealousy, she said, of the reporters who used to come interview her: “They waltzed in and learned all the cool stuff, then waltzed back out again.” Maxmen said she learned on the journalism job by sharpening her “beginner’s mind” skills, learning to ask and re-ask questions, and always paying attention to crucial cultural differences when abroad. No better message to deliver at Davidson, where approximately 80 percent of the student body study, travel, work or perform service in another country.

Pi Delta Phi inductees, April 16, 2014. Click to enlarge.

• On a personal note, moi-même was one of those study abroad students 30 years ago, when the French Junior Year Abroad program was in Montpellier on the Mediterranean coast, where I still regularly visit my “French family.” Talk about lifelong learning! The French study abroad program, now based in Tours, turns 50 next year, pioneer that it was in 1964 for Davidson study abroad programs to follow in other farflung locales.

Moi-meme, 1984ish, home from JYA France with a new sense of hair stylin’.

I was reminded of all this yesterday as I accepted honorary membership in Pi Delta Phi Société d’Honneur Française, alongside a cadre of proud students of French whose esprit de corps and joie de vivre harked me back to my own school days as a French major. At that time, it should be disclosed, I was not inducted into any honor societies, French or otherwise, but I was proud to be among these students yesterday.

La nostalgie? Mais oui! I have already checked my frequent flyer point balances and begun daydreaming of my next trip. Vive la France!

The Big Read: Fahrenheit 451 Discussions at Summit on Campus and North Regional Library


Fahrenheit 451, the classic Ray Bradbury tale of a bleak, dystopian future seen from the vantage point of early post-World War II America, hit home for me—I who make a toner-stained living putting words together on paper or a reasonably pixellated facsimile thereof—when I saw a fascinating Aquila Theatre Company production on campus in January, courtesy of Davidson’s Artist Series.

Again now, as I join readers countywide gearing up for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library’s “Big Read,” a weeklong series of events and discussions around the book April 13-19, I am struck by the enduring relevance and power of this book’s messages. Long after the Heartbleed bug is history, we’ll be talking about Fahrenheit 451‘s enduring themes of freedom and censorship, television and reading, technology and humanity, figurative fires and true love of literature….

Opportunities of note to be involved in the Big Read:

Summit Coffee on Campus, Tues., April 15, 5–6:15 p.m.—Daybook Davidson, a community ambassador for the Big Read, is placing “house” copies of Fahrenheit 451 at Summit Coffee’s campus location, courtesy of the public library’s Ellen Giduz. Drop in for a cuppa and curl up with a good, old-fashioned book—or, go on, read it digitally and ironically. Either way, it’s a quick read as well as engrossing. Then, plan to come on down to Summit Coffee on campus for informal, semi-guided discussion from 5 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. on Tuesday, April 15. All are welcome! For more information, call John at 704-894-2523.

• North Regional Library, Huntersville, Thurs., April 17, 6–7:30 p.m.—Davidson’s own Leland M. Park Director of the Library Jill Gremmels will co-host one of The Big Read‘s four big regional talks on the book. There will be many additional events at libraries throughout the county, including several at the Davidson Public Library.

Reptile Day 10 a.m.–1 p.m., Saturday, April 12!


Reptile Day is 10 a.m.–1 p.m. Saturday morning in the Blanche Knox Parker Garden between Dana and Watson science buildings (next to Davidson College Presbyterian Church). Special guest on Saturday: Carmelita the 16-foot python—come one, come all!

“I’m okay with this, nothing to it.” With Brie Bowerman ’17 (photo Robert Abare)

If you love reptiles, you may have already marked your calendar. Now, I don’t not love reptiles, but to help drum up my own excitement for Reptile Day I scheduled a visit with the event’s outreach coordinator Brielle Bowerman ’17. Well: Excitement is not a word that does justice to holding a great big Eastern King Snake, feeling its soft, cool, underbelly scales glide along your neck as it flicks its forked tongue in your face to say hi. I’m glad I did it. That means more people will have a chance to do it on Saturday, since I do not feel a need to do it again.

“Hello to you, too!” (photo Robert Abare)

If snakes aren’t your thing, there will be other “herps” on hand Saturday from the herpetology lab. There will also be visiting herps from other entities in the region both institutional and individual. Herps include snakes, turtles, alligators, frogs and lizards, oh my.




Max Polley: A Passion for Things We Should All Care About


I attended today’s memorial service for Professor Emeritus of Religion Max Eugene Polley.

True to form, Max had made sure the scripture cited was clearly labeled Hebrew or Greek, that the theology was solid, that the resurrection was proclaimed. He did this through his son Vance Polley ’79, a Presbyterian minister.

Vance Polley made clear that his “words of remembrance” were just that, and not a formal homily. Homilies, his dad Max felt strongly, should adhere to strict guidelines of scriptural context and theological purity, as noted above. Vance, in his turn, felt strongly that he needed a little more rhetorical room than that to speak of his dad’s passion for Davidson, for the Presbyterian Church, for the Davidson Community Players, for his family and his friends assembled.

Max Eugene Polley, 1928-2014

We learned that the word “theater” means “a place of seeing.” We learned something of Max’s take on the personal side of his own life’s work from the hymnal: “The God of Abraham Praise,” “Be Thou My Vision,” and “For All the Saints.” We learned that Max tested his Humanities lectures at the family dinner table in the 1960s.

For that last, I am personally grateful: Max had gotten pretty darn good at Humes by the time he convinced me, his callow freshman advisee, not to drop it after fall term 1981. “So broad!” I complained. “Just so!” he countered. He told me to stick with it one more term and see, knowing full well that I would be past any realistic point of no return by then. For that auspicious guidance I have remained grateful, as I am grateful for both the breadth and depth he brought to my Davidson education, still ongoing, and for the many learned and good-natured chuckles we shared since 1981.

And I am especially grateful for the phrasing Vance Polley used in remembering his father’s passions for his community, his college, his church, his beloved theatrical stage: “He wasn’t just passionate about things he cared about. He was passionate about lifting up things we should all care about.”

Thank you, Max, for sharing your “place of seeing.”