• Happy Terquasquicentennial Birthday, Davidson College!


    The first classes were held on this happily hallowed campus 175 years ago today!

    Hear from Davidsonians past and present in these wonderful audio clips created by WDAV [updated: download podcasts here], and visit historical “Around the D” and “Daybook” posts to celebrate our terquasquicentennial. More to come after the official campus birthday party next week!

  • “Sweet Caroline!” Your Monday Morning Dose of Wildcat Spirit


    I’m not even going to make fun of the Internet brand “Twitvid.” Really. See?

    This Twitvid clip of men’s basketball coach Bob McKillop & Cie speaks for itself.

    And lest anyone in the midst of Madness forget that hoops is not the only sport at which Davidson excels nationally—it is one of 21 Division I sports at Davidson—consider “Drew Onken Wins Spot in NCAA Swimming Championships“: “Onken is the first Davidson swimmer to be invited to the men’s championship meet and the second Wildcat swimmer to participate in the NCAA Championships, joining Lindsey Martin ’11…. ‘It is a remarkable testament to Drew’s commitment and ability, and to the culture that he and his teammates – past and present – have established here at Davidson,’ said Coach John Young.” Onken will travel to Washington state next week to compete.

    It’s a great day—and a great couple of weeks—to be a Wildcat! Check it out on Twitvid. Heh, heh.

  • Anna Van Hollen ’12 Publishes in The Atlantic


    I’m working on a profile story about Anna Van Hollen ’12, who won Davidson’s Smith Scholarship this year. So I emailed her today during students’ spring break to get a copy of her resume for reference, as she already has quite a chronology of accomplishments. Chalk up another one: Anna reported by reply mail that The Atlantic bought her article, “The Green Intifada: How Palestinians Resist Occupation by Planting Trees,” based on work she did for The Pulitzer Center with grant funding from Davidson’s Dean Rusk International Studies Program. Congratulations, Anna!

  • Time Well Spent, Literally: Poet Edward Hirsch to Deliver Joel O. Conarroe Lecture on Tuesday, March 13!


    Even though I’d studied poetry off and on along my educational way up to and including here at Davidson College, poetry as a literary form continued to hold an aura of inaccessibility for me well into adulthood.

    I was just too literal, too impatient, I thought.

    Well, too impatient, probably that much was true. Reading, studying, truly mining good poetry for its full potential does require an investment of time. But how can one be too “literal”—too “to the letter”—for poetry? Poetry, for pity’s sakes, where each word, each letter, each space carries infinite intention and allows for unlimited inference?

    Edward Hirsch

    Edward Hirsch’s How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry was instrumental in my shift in attitude toward poetry about a decade ago. I didn’t even know who he was at the time, just some critic maybe, but remember thinking while reading his prose about poetry, “This guy is a poet himself.” Neat.

    And now I’ll get to hear him and meet Hirsch in person, right here at Davidson.

    Hirsch, award-winning poet, literary critic, MacArthur Fellow and president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, will present Davidson College’s annual Conarroe Lecture at 8 p.m., Tuesday, March 13, in the Duke Family Performance Hall in Knobloch Campus Center. The lecture is free and open to the public; tickets are required. Free tickets are available for pickup at the box office in Knobloch Campus Center, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mon.–Fri., (beginning Monday, Mar. 12) or by contacting Jessica Olson at jeolson@davidson.edu or 704-894-2106.

    The Conarroe Lecture is named for Joel O. Conarroe, Davidson Class of 1965 and president of the Guggenheim Foundation from 1985 to 2002. The lectureship has brought a host of luminaries to the Davidson stage alongside the irrepressible Conarroe himself since its founding in 2003. These include Joyce Carol Oates, Michael Cunningham, Salman Rushdie, Michael Chabon, Michael Ondaatje, Margaret Atwood, Annie Proulx, Russell Banks and W.S. Merwin.

    Hirsch’s presentation “Reading Poetry, Poetry Reading” will focus on ideas discussed in his 2000 bestseller How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry. Hirsch will discuss the particular nature of reading poetry—how it works, what it entails, and the intimacy it establishes through language.

    Hirsch will also read some of his own works including poems from his book The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems.

    “Two principles of Ed Hirsch’s work impress me the most,” said Professor and Chair of English Zoran Kuzmanovich. “He has always insisted that poetry is a calling, not a career, and that good poetry is written from the body as well as the mind.

    “The words of the well-written poem feel right because they bear the traces of the world that entered the poet’s sensibility in invoking only those precise words and not some other ones. Poetry transcribes the way the world felt to the poet. In so doing, it preserves both the world and the poet. In practice, these principles translate into Hirsch’s willingness to risk the immediacy of emotions in his poems. Just read the jubilant celebration of human love in ‘A New Theology,’ the fragility of our sense of self in ‘To My Shadow’ or the tangible mourning in the poem ‘On the Anniversary of Joseph Brodsky’s Death.’

    “The undisguised emotion is not just emotion for its own sake. For example, the Brodsky poem mourns Joseph Brodsky, the great exiled Russian poet who became an American one. But there is also the witty layer of the poem moving beyond personal mourning to meditate on the situation of the poet [excerpt]:

    At the dimly lit Museum of the Far North

    The subject was the poet’s internal exile,

    Metaphysics versus History, and the fateful

    Struggle between Poetry and Time,

    A Cold War that will never end.”



  • WDAV in the Home $tretch! Call Now, Operators Are Standing By


    Will bark for kibble. Will not-bark for donations to WDAV.

    Dodger and I got in the habit of stopping in to see our friends at WDAV next door to our office on Main Street, when facilities in our own building were under renovation recently. We still do drop by of an afternoon, to say boo and see who’s around. It’s even more fun when the place is hopping with WDAV’s great fund drive volunteers, and even more fun than that when local eateries are supporting those volunteers with delectable comestibles, as they are right now. This effort is all in the name of the invigorating, erudite and uplifting classical music programming that 30+ years of professional dedication bring to a radio or streaming device near each of us 24/7 with absolutely no effort or commitment on our part demanded—only asked very, very nicely once in awhile, with prizes. That’s a pretty good deal, to support. I’m sayin’.

  • “Go, ’Cats!” Wildcats v. Catamounts: MRRROOWWWRRR!


    Even a sometime sports fan like myself can’t help but get pumped by a game like the Wildcats’ last night. But I must defer to a fellow writer to do the thing justice.

    My collegial College Relations colleague and departmental poet laureate James Hogan is a Western Carolina University Catamount alumnus, and he loves him some Davidson Wildcat action none the less for it. James was happily, disconcertingly, giddily, gloriously torn and divided going into the game. Not enough to pull a Steph Curry and sew two T-shirts together, but enough to wear a Davidson tie and a WCU pin. I simply could not imagine how he felt during the game itself. So, I asked him. Here’s what he had to show and tell. You are there! Enjoy, again….

    I have to say this first: I’ve never seen a basketball game in my life like the one I witnessed first-hand in Asheville last night. Davidson versus Western Carolina, Wildcats versus Catamounts. In my case, Employer versus Alma Mater.

    I’ve worked here at Davidson for four years now—just as much time as I spent in Cullowhee. “Must be hard for you,” people said to me yesterday, ribbing me about who I’d pull for when it came down to it. “Isn’t this a win-win?” others asked. Well, it was and it wasn’t.

    I love Western, probably the same way so many love Davidson. They were the dark horse of this SoCon tournament, and last night they rode in with a purple-clad cavalry the likes of which I’ve never seen before.

    But as soon as the tip-off was past, and I watched Clint and Jake and J.P. and De’Mon and Chris and Nik and all the rest of the gang push forward, I suddenly realized this wasn’t a win-win. I was pulling for Davidson, period. It was a guttural response. I couldn’t help jumping out of my seat and pumping my fists in the air with every shot or Wildcat rebound.

    I’ve sat down with Davidson alumni hundreds of times, and on occasion people ask what it’s like as a non-alumnus working at their alma mater. I’ve always replied that it was like marrying into a big, wonderful family. I am not a blood relative, but these days I’m almost kin. I know all the family traditions. I can call the names of the crazy uncles. And I know the family song.

    I’ve never seen a game like last night’s. Everybody—Wildcats, Catamounts, fans, referees—was running on fumes as the second overtime wound down. But even in such exhaustion, I’ve never felt more honored to pull for Davidson. Looking around the arena at other ’Cats fans, I knew that this was my family now. This felt so good.  (So good! So good!)

    It’s time to go dancing again.

  • Asheville, NC, March 4: Inheritance of Hope Founder Kristen Milligan ’95 to Speak


    There will be lots of Wildcat hope in Asheville this weekend—and not all of it will be on the men’s and women’s SoCon Tournament basketball courts.

    When Kristin Milligan ’95 was diagnosed with a rare terminal illness in 2003, she and her family formulated a response of hope. Kristen is co-founder of Inheritance of Hope, a non-profit whose motto is “Every family deserves a legacy.” It grew out of the needs of Kristen and her husband Deric and their young kids Ashlea, Luke and Rebecca for tools to deal with the serious situation in a constructive way. Inheritance of Hope began selling Kristen’s books, and in August 2008 hosted its first all-expenses-paid Legacy Retreat in Lake George, New York. The organization  continues to expand its offerings to young families facing the life-threatening illness of a parent.

    Kristen Milligan ’95

    “This Sunday,” says the Inheritance of Hope news story, “Kristen will speak at Skyland United Methodist Church in Asheville, NC on Sunday, March 4.  Service times are 8:30am and 11:00am.  If you are in the area, take advantage of this opportunity to hear Kristen share her story!”

    Skyland United Methodist Church
    1984 Hendersonville Road
    Asheville, NC 28803
  • 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 DavidsonNews.net 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…

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