Author Archives: Zinta Aistars

About Zinta Aistars

Associate Director Alumni Relations

Earth Words

“. . . we go to poetry … so that we might more fully inhabit our lives and the world in which we live them, and that if we more fully inhabit these things, we might be less apt to destroy both.”  – Christian Wiman, poet

Gabriella Donofrio ’13 (left) and Alice Bowe ’13 sort and plant lettuces at Harvest of Joy Farm in Shelbyville, MI.

Amy Newday plants seeds in soil (she runs her own farm), and she plants seeds in students (she directs K’s Writing Center and teaches classes in the English department). Some seeds grow green crops. Others grow green poetry.

Newday recently completed a winter term course called “Ecopoetry,” and is currently teaching a spring term senior Capstone class called “CSA (community-supported agriculture) and Sustainability.” The two courses are an integral part of Kalamazoo College’s ongoing creation of a Center for Environmental Stewardship, teaching students about the impact of human life on their world.

“I feel a strong call to be of service to the earth and the non-human beings we share it with,” says Newday. “As I get older and get to know myself better and as our ecological crises worsen, this call becomes stronger. What I was curious to explore with my students in the ecopoetry course was—what does poetry have to do with ecological crises? Can poetry be a vehicle for transforming our relationships with the ecosystems in which we dwell?”

A farmer and a poet, Newday grew up on dairy farm in Shelbyville, Michigan. Her “Ecopoetry” course drew thirteen students, all of whom participated in a reading on campus to draw their class to a close. Each student read a poem from the textbook that had especially moved or inspired them.

Emily Sklar ’15 was one of those students, a biology major with an interest in ecological issues. “I love biology, although I’m not quite sure yet what I will do with it,” Sklar says. “I also love being outdoors, and I’m concerned about the environment, so I’ve been wondering how to combine all that. Science comes short on the ethical and moral aspect of ecological issues, so that’s why I took the poetry course. Poetry gives me another way to understand what’s around me, and the course has given me a blend of language that builds collaboration between scientists and poets.”

“Ecopoetry” is a relatively new term, if not quite a genre in its own right, Newday explains. “Writing about daffodils is no longer enough. Critics beat up poets like Mary Oliver for being what they call a ‘nature poet,’ writing about birds and trees. Writing about birds and trees is important, but ecopoetry includes the bulldozer that knocks the tree down and destroys the bird.”

Poetry can help us imagine possibilities … possible solutions to ecological crises.

Three main groupings of poetry compose the new genre, Newday says. As defined by Ann Fisher-Wirth and Laura Gray-Street, the editors Newday’s class textbook, The Ecopoetry Anthology, poetry that explores nature and the meaning of life falls into the first group. A second group includes environmental poetry with a more political slant that may address social justice issues and is often related to specific events. The third group includes poetry about ecology, often in more experimental forms.

“In this course we explored how the language of poetry has shaped and reflected changing perceptions of nature, ecology, and humanity over the past two centuries,” Newday says. “We looked at what poetry can contribute to current cultural and cross-cultural conversations about environmental justice and sustainability.”

Students at the reading in March read favorite poets they had studied, such as, yes, Mary Oliver, and also Alicia Suskin Ostriker, Ralph Black, G. E. Patterson, Deborah Miranda, Tony Hoagland, Robert Duncan, Lucille Clifton, Lola Haskins, Sandra Beasley, and Linda Hogan. Some students also read their own work.

“I’m not a big reader,” Sklar admits. “But I fell in love with this poetry. What I had hoped would happen, happened. The facts in science are great, but poetry gives us a way to connect to people who aren’t scientists.”

The ecopoetry course, Sklar adds, helped her to solidify an idea for her Senior Individualized Project that she’d been mulling over for about a year. Her interest in nature, biology, ecology, and human responses to all three came together in a plan to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. Along with a K alumna, Margaux Reckard ‘13, Sklar began 2,200-mile adventure a few days after the poetry course concluded (see “Where the TinyTent AT?” in this issue of BeLight).

“Poetry can help us question,” Newday says. “We are losing all kinds of diversity in our world, and cultures and languages are being lost along with biodiversity. Languages each give us a unique way to see the world and add perspective. Poetry can help us imagine possibilities … possible solutions to ecological crises.”

Harvest of Joy farmer John Edgerton (left) discusses with students (l-r) Chandler Smith ’13, Caroline Michniak ’13, and Alicia Pettys ’13 different techniques for organic and sustainable planting.

In her senior Capstone course, “CSA and Sustainability,” Newday digs even deeper into building connections between students and the earth. Along with textbooks, she hands them trowels, hoes, shovels and watering cans. She takes her students to her own CSA operation, Harvest of Joy Farm, where she and partner John Edgerton practice sustainable and organic methods of farming.

The Capstone course, Newday says, offers students the opportunity to explore and experience food systems, agriculture, community building, education, economics, business, and food justice as an alternative to the mainstream food economy. If that sounds like it’s dealing with a great many topics—it is, and that’s the everyday life of a farmer.

Part of the course will take place in the traditional campus classroom, and for at least three hours each week students will work on the farm. They will help plan the CSA business, prepare the soil for planting and then plant a wide assortment of seeds and plants, maintain compost and learn about permaculture, and maintain and harvest the garden. Students will also experience the business aspects of running a CSA, the marketing and selling of vegetables to community members, and the relationships built between farmer and community members.

The course will also involve an ongoing blog of farm activities, and a student-generated on-campus collaborative project. Students will participate in discussions about their experiences and observations working on the farm.

In informational sessions held prior to the beginning of the course, Newday and Edgerton met with students interested in learning more information before making a decision to enroll.

“I was surprised how much I loved running a CSA,” Newday says to the students gathered to hear about the course. “The relationships we developed through the CSA were very rewarding. There’s an instant gratification when you give good food to people, and you see how excited they are to receive it, taste it, and share it.”

The concept of a CSA, Newday tells the students, is not the traditional business model of trading cash for product. “A CSA offers people the opportunity to invest in the kind of world they want to live in.”

The Harvest of Joy Farm is in its fourth year. At the beginning of last summer’s (2013) growing season, 45 members paid for 28 shares and half-shares in the operation, which provided the funds to cover the costs of farming. In return, shareholders receive vegetables and fruits each week during harvest.

“The course will help students to better understand the economics of farming, especially on a small scale, and to consider how small farms fit into the larger agricultural economy, in the United States and across the world,” says Newday. “Along with learning about sustainable agricultural practices, students will learn how to critically consider what it means to make environmentally, socially, and ethically sound food choices.”

To learn more about the Kalamazoo College Capstone CSA experience, read student blog entries, and view photos, visit kzoocsa.blogspot.com.  To learn more about Harvest of Joy Farm, LLC, visit harvestofjoyfarm.wordpress.com.

Gracious Stumbling

Barbara Heming’s liberal arts journey has been widely varied. Just now she writes mystery novels and serves as a tour guide at one of the homes of artist Georgia O'Keeffe.

Kalamazoo College students learn how to live graciously in different ways. For Barbara Heming ’66, gracious living has meant “stumbling” into new dreams and new opportunities—then going after them diligently and confidently.

After a career in higher education, Barbara has most recently focused her work on writing novels, a lifelong dream. Death Wins the Crown, her first, is also the initial offering in a series she plans to write. Her road to becoming a novelist has its origin at K.

It seemed to Barbara that she heard about K all her life from her father, Arthur Heming, a chemistry major who graduated from the College in 1937. After he earned a doctorate (University of Wisconsin) in biochemistry, he worked for Johnson & Johnson. His work there took him and his family to São Paulo, Brazil, and later to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where Barbara was born.

The family returned to the United States when Barbara was three and settled in the Philadelphia area. During the ensuing years, Barbara forgot all the Spanish she had learned, but she never lost her alma latina.

At K she went to Madrid for study abroad and fell so much in love with the people, culture, language and literature that she took every Spanish class she could fit into her schedule, even though her major was religion. After graduation, she lived in Spain for three months and then took a secretarial position in Washington, D.C. She worked just a couple blocks from the White House. Her interest in Spanish continued, and she took night classes at the American University. Later, she became a full-time student at AU and earned a master’s degree in Spanish language and literature.

At first, she felt she had to catch up to the other students who had majored in Spanish as undergrads. So she immersed herself so deeply in her studies that by the end of the second semester she was far ahead of her classmates.

The liberal arts … help you adapt to the many circumstances you confront in life.

“Intellectual life is important to me, and that attracted me to K in the first place,” she said. “At K you hit the ground running for 10 weeks without excuses and without late papers. You figure out how to get your work done. As a result, I learned that if I decide to do something, I’m going to do it.”

Her next “something” was to teach at the college level. She earned a Ph.D. (State University of New York at Stony Brook) in Hispanic Languages and Literature.  Her dissertation focused on the experience of five Spanish writers exiled because of the Spanish Civil War. Although these writers were known for other genres, in exile each turned to the theatre.

“Theatre was a way of communication that was more present,” said Barbara. “Their work performed in front of an audience gave it a more communal expression.”

Barbara taught at Ohio State University (Columbus), Westminster College (New Wilmington, Pa.), and Thiel College (Greenville, Pa.). During her time at Thiel she encouraged study abroad and enabled two group trips—one to Honduras and one to Peru.

“I really credited all my success to K,” said Barbara. “It was there that I got a sense that the world is large and that great people live everywhere. I also learned how to explore the world in ways that are not imbued in other college study abroad programs.”

Barbara has lived in five different states. Her approach to any new environment is to look around, figure out the culture, discover what was available, and how she could make a contribution.

“I believe strongly in the liberal arts because they help you adapt to the many circumstances you confront in life. My education at K prepared me to be able to do many different things.”

Teaching was good for Barbara, but she felt the urge to try other things as well. At one point she went to the Worchester (Mass.) Center for Crafts to learn weaving, and she ran a weaving business for a few years before returning to teaching.

During a six-month sabbatical from Thiel College, she lived on a small agricultural town in Peru. She also accompanied a doctor from the local health clinic on home visits to assess and schedule patients for a visiting U.S. surgical team.

“That experience was life-changing,” said Barbara.

After Peru, she felt a need to be in a more spiritual environment and eventually joined the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, a religious community in northwestern Pennsylvania. She stayed with the community for five years and then left to become a lay minister in an Hispanic congregation in Canton, Ohio.

Then Barbara began to feel an attraction to New Mexico. She ended up living near Abiquiu, at tiny town about 50 miles north of Santa Fe. Barbara became a tour guide at the home studio of celebrated artist Georgia O’Keeffe, who lived in Abiquiu for almost 40 years.

“The yearning to go to New Mexico was a mystery to me,” said Barbara. “And the most logical action would have been a job-and house-finding visit, but something about that course didn’t seem right. So, I just moved there.”

Georgia O’Keeffe has long been an inspiration to Barbara, and working at one of her homes has been a special treat.

“Miss O’Keeffe was a woman of her time. Her dedication to her art—as well as her willingness to structure her life in service of that art through sacrifice and in the way she lived—speaks most deeply to me.”

Barbara’s calling to New Mexico was also the start of her new “career” as a novelist. She began by writing fiction and some poetry, but it was the mystery novel that captivated her the most.

“I always liked reading mysteries,” she said, “and wondered what it would be like to write one.”

Our mystery writer at a book signing.

To prepare herself, she took an online class in fiction writing through Writer’s Digest and learned the elements of making a whodunit. She came up with the idea for Death Wins the Crown, sat down, plotted it out, created character profiles, and started writing.

“There are lots of online opportunities out there for writers,” she said, “which would never have been possible 15 to 20 years ago. You can be connected with writers from all over the world to share your work and have it critiqued. You can also join a writers community.”

Barbara used Skype to converse with a novelist from the United Kingdom, who critiqued her work and even visited her in New Mexico.

Barbara finds writing totally absorbing.  She likes to write all day for a period of days. She especially enjoys having the freedom to write fiction, a bit different from those academic papers she used to write.

“You are in a different world as a fiction writer,” she said.

She’d be hard pressed to decide what she loves best: the process of writing or the good story that emerges. “Through fiction I’m better able to explore deeper levels of truth—and communicate those ideas to readers—than would be possible through other genres. A good story draws readers into its world and allows them to experience a different reality. Hopefully, they will be open to ideas that they might resist if presented in nonfiction.

“Through the structure of the mystery in Death Wins the Crown,” she added. “I explore the exploitation of young people in our society—girls and young women through beauty pageants and young men through sports, especially college football—and the tragedies that result.”

Barbara is using the new media available to both publish and promote her book, which sidesteps the time and expense of going through agents and publishers.

“Self-publishing used to be considered a vanity press. Today’s technology has made publishing more accessible and more democratic,” she said. “It still takes a lot to produce a novel and get it out there.”

The New York Times best seller list is not on her bucket list.

“My goal is to tell a good story and provide something readers can take away from their reading,” she said. “I want to add something to the larger conversation.”

Barbara has written the first draft of her next novel, which is set in New Mexico and deals with the themes of family secrets, the nature of betrayal, and the meaning of home.

And her next mystery novel is unfolding. “I’m not sure yet what will emerge, but its setting is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, and its working title is Death Rocks and Rolls.

Just where did this itch to write originate? “From K,” she says.

“The common thread in my life has been to respond to whatever drew me to a place or an action,” said Barbara.  “That’s my way of gracious living.”

Find out more about Barbara’s work on her website.

Where the TinyTent AT?

Hundreds of miles in, with thousands more to go—one would think these two women would be nicknamed Blisters and Wails. Instead, Emily Sklar ’15 and Margaux Reckard ’13 are known along the trail as Giggles and Chuckles, respectively.

Hikin’ Hornets Emily Sklar ’15 (left) and Margaux Reckard ‘13.

The two laughing hikers are at this very moment somewhere along the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail, hiking from Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine on an adventure that began on March 24. The adventures of Giggles and Chuckles are being recorded, step by step and with vivid photography, on their blog, Where the tinytent AT?

“My SIP [senior individualized project] is an exploration of the relationship between humans and their natural environment on the Appalachian Trail,” wrote Emily, a.k.a. Giggles, in early April, from a point near Springer Mountain, about 164 miles into the hike.  She is a biology major with an interest in ecological issues, and she started thinking about hiking the Trail while on her LandSea expedition at the beginning of her freshman year. Her interest in nature, biology, and ecology came together in her SIP plan.

My SIP will explore what people gain from their experiences on the trail.

“I am conducting interviews along our hike to discuss individuals’ experiences, and what people gain from their experience on the trail,” Emily said. “The trip thus far has been really interesting. I’ve met a lot of people. Everyone has a different story and comes from a different place. Folks come from different geographic regions, levels of fitness, and experience levels.”

Emily Sklar ’15 encounters a wild pony in Grayson Highlands, a portion of the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail hike she is doing for her Senior Individualized Project.

New friends (and SIP subjects) include hikers with such trail names as The Captain, Grandpa Chops, Roadrunner, Hearsay, LAF and Slim.

Emily added: “I’ve really enjoyed a lot of the company that we’ve found at the camps, although the sites very over crowded our first week. There were around 20 tents a night at each campsite. The groups are beginning to thin now because folks either leave the trail or move at different speeds.”

The two hikers have at this point hiked through the state of Georgia, and yes, there have been blisters, and rain, and frustrations along with the laughter.

“The biggest frustration that we’ve met so far has not been the rain,” said Emily. “We’ve felt like we have something to prove, being women out here. A lot of folks in camp haven’t taken us too seriously, but as soon as they learn that we’re some of the most experienced hikers out here, that changes a bit. All in all, we’re happy. We’re a little bit sore from the recent increase in mileage, but we’re having a lot of fun, making a lot of friends, staying dry (for the most part), and laughing frequently. “

As the weeks go on, the miles accumulate, and the blisters heal into calluses, the two write on their blog that they are feeling stronger. The goal of reaching Katahdin in Maine, wrote Margaux, “feels more and more possible.”

Follow their adventures and view the photos of Giggles and Chuckles at Where the tinytent AT?

Fine Arts Connector

By the end of her freshman year at Kalamazoo College, Susan Schroeder Larson ’63 was 18 years old and preparing to cross the ocean to study in France. It was 1960. Her summer study abroad was under the Light Scholarship Program, a precursor to the K-Plan.

Susan Schroeder and David Larson in 1966.

“It was during my sophomore year at K that we all began to hear about this wonderful new program on the horizon,” recalls Larson. When the K-Plan was implemented the following year, I began to imagine exciting possibilities for a senior quarter off campus, what is now called the Senior Individualized Project, or SIP.”

Susan was an English major, minoring in French, but she also had a strong presence in theatre arts, catching the eye of Nelda Balch, theatre professor and namesake for the Nelda K. Balch Playhouse.

Even as the K-Plan was developing, Larson’s years at K followed the guidelines of learning that went deeper and broader, including several on- and off-campus experiential learning experiences and jobs.

Larson worked in alumni relations, where “I learned about fundraising and friend-raising.” She worked in the dean’s office, typing speeches. “That was a good job, working for Dr. Lloyd Averill for two years. Working with him was enlightening and influential later in life. I worked for the Dean of Women, and in the summer, I worked in the financial office. I got to know President Hicks’ secretary, and once when I was too busy to get a paper typed up, she typed it up for me. It pays to have friends in high places!”

Larson laughs, but it’s all part of her K experience, she says: people who care about each other, professors and staff who nurture students in their education and are ready to lend a helping hand.

Nelda Balch was one such nurturing professor for Susan. She saw acting talent in Susan and encouraged the young woman to work on developing it.

“I never considered changing my major to theatre arts,” Susan admits. “But I enjoyed being a part of theatre. I tried out for the part of Anne Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor in my freshman year, and I got the part. I had no idea what I was doing. Not a clue. I didn’t know much about Shakespeare, either, but oh, I had a good time!”

Susan laughs. “I was hooked on theatre from then on. I played an innocent girl—because I was. I didn’t know what cuckolding meant until after the play was done. We trusted Mrs. Balch and just did as we were told.”

Balch encouraged Susan to pursue theatre arts and suggested studying the Theatre of the Absurd in New York for her SIP.  Susan went west instead of east and during the winter quarter studied Elizabethan drama at the University of Chicago. While immensely enjoying her time on stage, she wasn’t convinced she had the makings of the great actress Balch seemed to see in her.

“I think she may have been disappointed in my career choices,” Larson says. “I taught English and French in Chicago and earned my master’s in English at the University of Chicago.”

Other fond memories of her years at K return.

A liberal arts program opens everything up to you.

“Dr. Richard Stavig was my advisor and also the head of the study abroad program when I went to France in 1960. Not only was he a gifted teacher of American literature, he was also a trusted friend who ‘socialized’ us by inviting a group of about six students for monthly Sunday suppers in his home where after dinner we discussed various topics—some heavy, some light, usually values-laden. That experience of seeing our professors as people was important at K. I remember going to the homes of Dr. Walter Waring, Dr. Lester Start, Dr. Paul Collins, and Dr. Lloyd Averill for similar events. It was an enriching experience.”

In her sophomore year Susan served as the business manager for the yearbook, The Boiling Pot, and the following year was made editor.  “Being the editor was a formative experience that helped me develop organizational and leadership skills. I still enjoy all aspects of creating publications, from gathering ideas to writing to editing to graphic design.”

And then there was that other K College student—the junior who worked as a lab assistant in Susan’s freshman zoology class. He took his duties very seriously, never smiling. She wasn’t at all sure she liked him. Probably not. Then again …

Susan says: “The team of lab assistants would prepare an exam with stations in the lab then dramatically unlock the doors and let us in to move from station to station answering questions about each specimen. As a non-scientist, I found this process intimidating. Now David [Larson ’61] jokes that he taught me everything I know about the anatomy of the frog, but I blamed the C I got in that class (my first ever) on the impossible exams he and his team gave.”

The two did not meet again in any meaningful way while at Kalamazoo College, but chance, or destiny, wasn’t letting go that easy. They met again far off campus, at the entrance to a park on Lake Michigan in Chicago. It was a sunny summer day in 1965. David was then in his third year at medical school at the University of Chicago.

Susan smiles. “And the rest is history,” she says. They married in 1967.

Kalamazoo College laid the groundwork for Larson’s life, on professional as well as personal levels. David went on to become a physician, and Susan taught in two Chicago high schools.

“I was initially assigned to a school on the far south side.  I was there two years and during that time started a drama club. The students produced a play attended by the whole community.”  Then Susan requested a move to Hyde Park, the neighborhood where she lived.  “It was a tumultuous time, the mid-‘60s. Gang warfare and the construction of a new high school caused the enrollment to drop precipitously and the few remaining white students to leave. The year 1968 was particularly challenging with the death of Dr. King, announced during a school day.  School closed and riots erupted throughout Chicago.  That summer David and I witnessed the demonstrations in Grant Park around the Democratic Convention downtown.  A year later I left Hyde Park High for the birth of our daughter Jennifer. “

The young family moved to Albuquerque for David to complete his internal medicine residency, while Susan taught English in several Indian pueblos around Albuquerque. Their son Samuel was born in New Mexico. When the residency concluded, the Larsons moved to the mountains of western North Carolina, a rural area where there was a great need for a well-trained internist.  Penland School of Crafts was nearby as well, a magnet for Susan to develop her skills.

“David started his practice while I searched for my own identity,” says Susan. “I wanted to be more than Dr. Larson’s wife.”

When her brother-in-law invited her to come along to a local arts council meeting, something stirred in Susan. This was the world of the arts, a world Susan had grown to love in her years at K, and she wanted to be involved again. Before long, she was elected as the first president and then the first executive director of the Toe River Arts Council.

“Theatre came back into my life, as well as all the performing arts,” says Susan. “For 12 years, I ran the nonprofit arts council, raised funds, organized classes, and sponsored performing arts events —from dance to bluegrass to theatre to storytelling. Our main thrust was to bring the arts into schools, and so I started the Mountain Arts Program. It began in two counties and eventually spread over 17 counties.”

Her subsequent community involvements span the arts, education, human services, and health care. Susan sat (and sits) on many boards, and her efforts were noticed and well appreciated. She earned The President’s Award from the North Carolina Association of Arts Councils, the Governor’s Award for Yancey County Volunteer in Education, was a participant in Leadership North Carolina, and earned certificates of appreciation for fundraising from various organizations and academic institutions. She served four terms on the board of the famed Penland School of Crafts and is currently on their development committee.

The Larsons left the mountains for the Piedmont in 1991, where David became a faculty member at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Susan became the Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. “I was there more than 15 years, raising money for the university. I loved being in academia and even dabbled in the sciences, both as part of my job and in the classes I took to earn a Masters in Liberal Studies.  I especially liked the access the university gave me to the arts, the Weatherspoon Art Museum, excellent theatre, and music. I think people see me as a fundraiser, but in my heart, I feel like I am a connector of people, causes, ideas, and the arts.”

Susan and David in a recent photo.

Retirement came a little more than five years ago, but keeping up with Susan continues to be a challenge. The Larsons have moved back to Spruce Pine, North Carolina, where they live on 75 wooded acres.

“It’s beautiful, but frankly, I’m not an outdoors person,” Susan laughs. “David wanted to be in the country, but I live in these connections that I make, and in making things happen in the community. If something isn’t happening that I think should happen, well, I try to make it happen. That’s what Kalamazoo College did for me. I am a lifelong learner. I’m still learning. A liberal arts program is so varied. It opens everything up to you.

“I find myself organizing events in the way that Mrs. Balch did back at K,” Larson continues. “I modeled programs after some we had at K.”

For example, Larson says, when she wanted to help organize a mentorship program at UNC-Greensboro, she contacted Pam Sotherland, program data manager at K’s Center for Career Development, to help her develop the program on the model used at K to connect alumni mentors with current students.

“It makes a nice circle,” Larson says thoughtfully. “Maybe Mrs. Balch would have been proud of me, after all.”

Blazer and Believer

It’s late afternoon, and De’Angelo Glaze mills about the Richardson Room Café in the Hicks Center, slapping high fives, giving hugs, laughing so hard his eyes close. A faux rabbit fur bomber cap frames a boyish face that can’t stop smiling. He seems to know everyone, and everyone seems very happy to know him.

De’Angelo played two years of football for the Hornets, and his program photo, though appropriately serious and fierce, belies the senior’s friendly and caring spirit.

In a way, he’s been wrapped up warmly here, swaddled in the comforting ebb and flow of college life—playing football for the Hornets, focusing on academics, surrounded by caring friends, professors, coaches, teammates.

It’s a far cry from the life in which Glaze, age 21, was steeped in the years growing up in a tough neighborhood just north of 8 Mile Road, a neighborhood where there is a predetermined path for many young men, one that doesn’t include study abroad and late night study groups.

In 2009, his cousin was shot dead over a dice game. Sometimes, while hanging out on porches in his Royal Oak Township neighborhood, De’Angelo would hear the crackle of gunfire break apart the night. Many of his peers—the ones with talent, potential, intelligence – would choose a life bound to the streets, he says, a future concerned with hustling, dealing drugs, pushing the edges of life, and flirting with an early end to it all.

Glaze blazed his own trail.

“It’s become clearer to me recently that we shouldn’t have to choose between these two paths because it’s a false choice,” he says. “No one really wants to choose a road that leads to crime, to possibly being killed. But for many it’s all they know. I wanted something different.”

Rarely does one get out alone. There’s almost always an encouraging believer, a loyal and loving friend or relative who sees something in us and pushes us to see it, too, to imagine ourselves in a better spot.

For Glaze, a business major, that encouraging believer was his mother.  That Glaze would go to college was a foregone conclusion in her eyes, he says. The way out— the way to making a better life—was through education. He will be the first in his family to graduate from college.

“I didn’t see anyone do this. It was trial and error. I didn’t have any one in front of me,” he says. “I had to pave my own way. But people pushed me because they saw something in me. My mom always said, ‘Education is the key.’”

Not everyone was so involved. One afternoon, Glaze was sitting on his front porch with a few friends when his father drove by. He stopped the car, rolled down the window and shouted to his 13-year-old son, a boy with whom he had scarcely been involved.

“He said, ‘They won’t give me a blood (paternity) test for you. You’re not my son,’” Glaze says. “Then he drove away. I don’t remember what I felt at the time. I was in shock. It rattled me.”

Still, he sloughed it off, tried to stay strong, for himself and for his mother and little sister. He’d need to.

A few years later, his mother developed an ovarian cyst, and had to quit her fulltime job at an auto parts manufacturer to focus on her treatment. The loss of income meant that the family lost nearly everything except their house. She found part-time work at Target, but it was barely enough.

For a year, the family fought a monthly battle to keep the gas on. The house routinely had no heat or hot water. To get to sleep that winter, they huddled under mountains of blankets in rooms warmed with space heaters. Pinching pennies, they would store bulk food in a chest freezer in the basement. It was a dark year, the lights turned off whenever they could be. But something burned bright in him, a fire to keep going.

“I had to be the man of the house,” Glaze says. “I had to take care of my mom and sister. I learned a lot at a young age, I guess.”

That Christmas, his mother told her kids that there wouldn’t be many gifts. Times were simply too thin.

“Right then I said, ‘Don’t buy me any gifts.’ I still say that. I’ll take care of my own responsibilities. My motivation in almost everything I do is so my mom doesn’t have to work hard ever again. She sacrificed for me. She gave up a lot so that I could have what I have. Getting a job, making some money for her, that will make me feel like I’m playing my role.”

Glaze was developing a maturity seen in few teens, but he was still a high school kid, still needed the outlets through which the pulse of youth surges. In sports, he found his spark.

At Ferndale High School, he was a multi-letter athlete: an all-state shot-putter, MVP of the boy’s track team, captain of the football team. His talents on the gridiron caught the attention of Jamie Zorbo, head coach of the Hornets football team, who recruited Glaze.

His college choices came down to Michigan State University and K. He saw himself succeeding at either institution, and in the throes of trying to decide talked it over with a calculus teacher.

Having an opportunity like I did shouldn’t come down to luck.

“She told me, you can have relationships at school anywhere. It’s the ones you develop with other athletes that will last forever,” Glaze says. “The next hour I finished my application to K.”

He toiled in the trenches, on both the offensive and defensive line, for two years. Then he decided football wasn’t for him anymore.

“My time with football had passed,” he says. “It was taxing more than fun. It was time to move on from it.”

And Glaze made the most of the time he gained after leaving the sport. If anything, life might have gotten busier.

He became a resident assistant, became involved in a host of student activity groups, and spent spring term 2013 on study abroad in Bonn, Germany, an experience that taught him “a sense of being adaptable to any situation, of being able to be independent in a different culture with different people.”

“In many ways, De’Angelo represents the liberating power of the liberal arts,” says Sarah B. Westfall, vice president for student development and dean of students “He’s an intelligent, bright, curious, enthusiastic young man who has the freedom to make a range of choices and think broadly about who he is and what his life can be. All of that is exactly what a superb liberal arts education helps a person do. It’s about freedom.”

De’Angelo Glaze (right) and friends (l-r), Alex Dietrich ’15 and Cameron Goodall ’15, took time to display some Hornet pride during study abroad in Europe.

His K educational experience has also been about friendships based on reciprocal love and a deep desire to serve. For four years, Glaze has been deeply connected to K in part through friendships with students from Los Angeles. Many students from LA attend K as Posse Scholars, a scholarship program that supports public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential often overlooked by traditional college selection processes. Each year during winter quarter the Posse Foundation-Los Angeles convenes a “working retreat” of all the K Posse Scholars and their invited guests. The latter include fellow K students, faculty, staff, and, every year he’s been here, De’Angelo Glaze—a testament to the depth and breadth of his friendships on campus.

Serving others is important to Glaze. “De’Angelo, or any other student from a challenging background, adds unique perspectives to class discussions,” says Amy MacMillan, the L. Lee Stryker Assistant Professor of Business Management, who has had business majors in several classes. “There is a desire in many of these students to give back.  I’m moved by how much I see this desire in De’Angelo. He is an excellent example of the social justice spirit that makes K so special.”

Glaze has seen different sides of the education system, from the resource-thin environment of an urban school system to a college like K, where students are free to focus on developing their potential because their needs are consistently met.

“Education is the only way out,” he says. “Supposedly everyone has equal rights, but that’s not so as far as opportunities. Your background has a heavy influence on that.

“I feel like there are an endless amount of opportunities because I went to K. I can talk to different kinds of people, adapt to different situations, learn from others who are not like me. Going to school here awakened me to a lot of hidden abilities. But I know that in a way I’m lucky. And having an opportunity like I did shouldn’t come down to luck. It should be a right for anyone who has talent, ability and a desire to work hard.”

When Glaze graduates this June, his mother and sister will, of course, be in attendance. And when he looks out to see them, in some ways, he says, he will be looking back as much as forward, thinking about challenges met, sacrifices made.

“It will be an emotional day full of tears of joy,” he says. “There will be a sense of accomplishment, I’m sure. But it really will be about knowing that this is the beginning of where my life’s heading. It’ll be a day when I can say that I came a long way, but have a lot further to go.”

Forgotten Lunches, 30 Years Apart

Most, but not all, Kalamazoo College students go on study abroad. Most, but not all, do an internship. On the other hand, everyone who graduates does a Senior Individualized Project.

Therefore, the fact that Diane Dupuis ’80 and Fiona Carey ’14 did a SIP is more “Dog Bites Man” than vice versa. But when you consider that Dupuis is Carey’s mother, and that they both studied French and completed SIPs that were both based on translating literature in their second language, things start to get a bit more “Man Bites Dog.”

And the similarities don’t end there.

SIP students and supervisor (l-r): Diane Dupuis ’80, Fiona Carey ’14, Professor Kathleen (White) Smith.

Both women studied abroad in French-speaking nations—Dupuis in Caen, France, and Carey in Dakar, Senegal—and both persuaded Professor of Romance Languages and Literature Kathleen White Smith to serve as their SIP advisor, albeit some 34 years apart.

“One needs to know French very well to create a literal translation that reads well,” Smith says. “Diane and Fiona are both extremely proficient in French.”

In the fall of 1979, Dupuis translated Le ravissement de Lol V. Stein by Marguerite Duras, first published in France in 1964. Duras grew up in French Indochina, creating a literary perspective and voice unique from other French writers of the time, Dupuis says.

“There was an otherness to her voice that set her apart,” she says. “I really responded to her style.”

Carey, meanwhile, translated the first act of the three-act play Béatrice du Congo by Bernard Dadié, published in 1970, a work she first encountered in a francophone African literature class at K. Here, too, there are serendipitous similarities between the choices of mother and daughter. Significant themes in both works revolve around colonial imperialism, religion, and native peoples trying to maintain or resurrect traditional ways of living upended by foreign influences.

“I was amazed that our SIPs were almost the same,” Dupuis says. “I wondered why I didn’t think about this sooner. It seemed almost inevitable that we would pursue the same kind of project.”

Both women love language—French in particular. Carey well remembers a trip the family took to France when she was in high school, particularly the admiration she felt for her mother as they walked around towns in Normandy and she heard her mom’s French language skills reawaken.

Dupuis often read French to Carey and her younger brother when they were kids growing up, teaching them how to make the sounds of the words. But she never pushed her children to learn the language, Carey says. It just kind of happened.

“I attribute my love for language to her love for language,” she says. “I knew my mom translated a novel, but I didn’t really think about it until the end of this winter. It’s funny that it worked out this way!”

When it comes to pathways to higher education, the similarities fade. Dupuis, the daughter of two Detroit Public Schools teachers, was intrigued with medicine. In the mid-1970s, some universities were offering six-year programs that, when completed, earned a student a bachelor’s and medical degree, a sort of fast-track to the medical profession.

She applied to these programs at the University of Michigan, Boston University and Northwestern University, among others. Kalamazoo College—where she’d been accepted—was her “traditional-track” top choice, she says, adding, “If I didn’t get into one of those specialized programs, I at least knew I wanted to go to the best school in Michigan, with an excellent rate of med-school acceptances.”

She got interviews at all the universities she applied to, was placed on waiting lists for a few of them, and got rejections from a few others. K was still there, the doors wide open.

“I didn’t like the waiting list idea,” Dupuis says. “K let me know they wanted me.”

She had a passion for science, enrolling in the pre-med curriculum, but it soon became apparent that the rigidity and competitiveness of the traditional pre-med and medical-school trajectory of 35 years ago did not square with Dupuis’s vision of health and healing.  “These days we have terms for what I wanted to explore: integrative or holistic medicine, and alternative and complementary therapies,” Dupuis explains. “Back then, those concepts were generally labeled as ‘snake oil.’  I wasn’t comfortable with the narrow combativeness of the mainstream.”

So Dupuis started down a compelling new path, double-majoring in English and French, diving into creative writing, writing for the Index, serving on the yearbook staff, editing the Cauldron, and helping out in the library’s A.M. Todd Rare Book Room.

Words became her passion. She took an internship on the editorial team at the Chicago publishing house Nelson-Hall, which, at that time, was administered in part by a K graduate. That experience led to a nearly two-decade career in book publishing, taking a job in 1980 at the Detroit-based Gale Research Company and spearheading her own imprint—Visible Ink Press—which she launched and led.

Now, after ten years in nonprofit administration at Interlochen Center for the Arts, Dupuis serves as Charitable Giving Specialist for the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, near her home in northwestern Michigan’s Benzie County.

Thinking back to the six months she spent in Caen, Dupuis remembers being routinely mistaken for a native, her last name a fairly common “nom de famille” in France. Then French natives would start talking a mile a minute. She had to try to keep up, and it was hard. The experience has stayed with her.

How can I be always learning to be a gracious presence in the world?

“K was a place where you really could pursue what intrigued you. Things felt possible there. I had gone to Italy when on study abroad, and when I came back I had a strong desire to learn Italian. So Dr. Henry Cohen in the Romance Language department made it happen—just because I asked. Our intellectual curiosity was valued there. The K- Plan is so forward-looking, such a wonderful way to find your place in the world.”

For Carey, things were a bit more streamlined when it came to searching for schools. She applied to Bowdoin, Swarthmore, Dartmouth, MIT, Middlebury, and Kalamazoo College. In the end, says Carey, who majored in theatre at Interlochen Arts Academy, K was a pretty easy choice—thanks in part to her mother’s experience.

“K was always on my radar because of my mom,” Carey says. “I think particularly the study abroad the College offers was mouthwateringly cool, and I love Michigan. I wanted that small, liberal arts experience. The choice to go to school here was pretty easy.”

Graduating this June, Carey has been busy on campus, serving as a Student Chaplain volunteer and spending substantial time and talent on Festival Playhouse theatre productions, including Kahani, a theatre project that toured in India in July, 2012. Carey has always been fascinated with the intersection of culture and the arts, and with art’s potential for creating intercultural dialogue.

It was Carey’s time in Dakar, Senegal’s capital city, that really woke her to the uniqueness of the K experience, as well as her own love for learning foreign languages and navigating between cultures. Dupuis helped out, too.

“Mom’s multicultural awareness and appreciation for other cultures helped shape mine,” Carey says. “She transferred that to my brother and me. I’m very grateful for that.”

The openness and hospitality she experienced while in the West African metropolis astounded her as she learned from teachers, host family, friends, and strangers in a constant flow of culture shock and warm welcome. Carey was able to participate in a give-and-take that was different from give-and-take at home.

“It’s said that you are never more from your home country than you are when you’re abroad,” Carey says. “I experienced a heightened awareness of the importance of generosity. I carry that with me. There’s the saying at K that’s inscribed in the wall of Trowbridge Hall:  “The end of learning is gracious living.” To me, that has a lot to do with responsibility, with respect on a deep level—how can I be always learning to be a gracious presence in the world? I definitely felt myself asking that question in Dakar and growing in that way.”

This September, Carey will start a job teaching English to middle- and high-schoolers on the Caribbean island of Martinique.

So, who’s the better translator? The answers are diplomatic.

“I don’t know,” Dupuis says, “I haven’t seen Fiona’s SIP yet. She’s working with idioms I am probably not familiar with. Fiona is a gifted writer in English, which is just as essential.”

Says Carey, “My mom’s probably been exposed to more French text than I have. She’s got more experience. She just has such a nuanced sensibility with language in general—she’s a really great writer.”

Either way, it matters little. What’s most important? Dupuis has a good answer: “I have always told my kids to pay attention to the things that, when you are doing them, make you forget what you had for lunch, or even whether you had lunch.

“K is a place where you can lose yourself in so many explorations that help you realize your full potential.”

Sound Check

Playing to a packed venue in downtown Kalamazoo, the indie rock band “Lasso”—featuring Andy Catlin ’09 on keyboards—finishes the final chords of its set to rousing applause. But before Catlin can catch his breath and greet his friends in the audience (including a contingent of Kalamazoo College alumni who are staples at his concerts) he jumps back onstage to perform with “The Go Rounds,” another popular Kalamazoo-area rock band.

Andy Catlin ’09 - Photo by Steven Michael Holmes.

Catlin has been writing, performing, and recording music in southwest Michigan for the better part of a decade. Lasso has released five full-length albums since its 2010 debut. It’s fifth, “Golden Lasso,” was released this spring.

In 2011, Catlin and a business partner, Ben Lau, established Double Phelix Recording Collective, a 2,500-sq. ft. recording studio and performance space located in the River’s Edge neighborhood on the eastern edge of downtown Kalamazoo. Musicians pay monthly dues for studio time to rehearse and record their own music. Most end up helping other musicians with their projects. Lasso and The Go Rounds are among a dozen music groups that currently belong to the Collective.

Double Phelix services include audio production, engineering, mixing and mastering; music and sound for film, TV, and radio; location recording; instrument repair and rental; and more.

Catlin books bands’ gigs, schedules studio time in Double Phelix’s 100-year old converted barn space (conveniently located near a bevy of downtown Kalamazoo coffee houses and brew pubs), and oversees every aspect of recording and production. A multi-instrumentalist, he often sits in as a session musician when needed, especially during the once-a-month evenings of music he organizes for member bands dubbed “Double Phelix Showcases.”

He also promotes the studio through the weekly release of an original song from a Double Phelix member band. With singles released via “Double Phelix Bandcamp” and other social media sites, the studio enjoys a consistent web presence.

Out of breath yet? Not Catlin. In addition to all the aforementioned, he helped launch a nonprofit organization that encourages school kids to make their own music.

During his time at K, Catlin took a partial-credit course in recording technology from part-time K music instructor and acclaimed Kalamazoo-based sound engineer John Stites.

“Although my focus was always more on the music than engineering, John became a huge advocate of me being able to play and produce,” says Catlin.

Instruments of Choice
Catlin remembers first being obsessed with music as a fifth-grader learning to play the clarinet—and falling asleep with it at night.

“It was all clarinet, all the time” he smiled.

He then became interested in the trombone, tuba, guitar, piano/keyboards, “and percussion instruments of all kinds.”

After his parents gave him a four-track cassette recorder for Christmas (he was 14), Catlin began “reading every book I could possibly find about recording.”

He also became interested in the stories behind popular music studios and the wider musical cultures from which they emerged, eventually basing certain aspects of Double Phelix’s business model on successful elements of the Motown experience in Detroit and Muscle Shoals in Alabama.

Catlin began making connections in the music industry during his senior year at K when he became full-time booking agent for the now defunct Kalamazoo music venue The Strutt, at the corner of Academy and W. Michigan (now home to Rupert’s brewpub and music club). Within two years Catlin had booked more than 700 acts and was central to the transformation of the small-time coffee house and bar into a venue that featured national touring acts.

“The Strutt was an incredible meeting place for Michigan musicians. I soon started to record, produce, and advocate on behalf of a wide body of musicians. This was the genesis of Double Phelix.”

Andy Catlin ’09 in Double Phelix - Photo by Steven Michael Holmes.

Although the studio possesses industry standard digital recording capabilities, Catlin says “we are passionate about analog sound and vintage instruments.” Thus his instrument of choice many days is a Tascam ATR 6016 one-inch tape-recorder he purchased in 2012. It’s the premiere method for recording music by his other bands. In 2013, he used it to record nationally renowned bass player Dominic Davis, perhaps best recognized for his collaboration with “White Stripes” front man Jack White, named one of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time by Rolling Stone.

Music in the Key of K
A person must possess an intense work ethic in order to juggle musician’s schedules, organize complex musical arrangements, oversee recording, mixing, and mastering efforts, and then market the final product.

Catlin said he found his at K.

“I think the K work ethic seeped into how I approach music,” said the Grand Rapids native who majored in religious studies. “K was the place where I went from being a talented musician, to becoming a total musical being. I developed so much while I was there.”

He also credits K’s liberal arts for helping to develop his jack-of-all-trades capability at Double Phelix.

“The campus is a playground of creativity,” he said.

For his Senior Individualized Project Catlin composed and recorded a 40-minute musical composition for strings, drums, guitars, and electronics.

“My SIP laid the groundwork for me to create and sustain a professional music studio.”

K was where I became a total musical being.

During the summer of 2013, Catlin drew again from his K heritage when he helped solidify a partnership between Double Phelix, the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, Communities in Schools of Kalamazoo, and the Dan Schmidt Gift of Music Fund. The collaboration set in motion an innovative after-school music education program for Kalamazoo Public School middle school students. Each participating student writes, rehearses, records, and publicly performs his or her own original song.

“K is such a huge advocate of community service, so it’s incredibly fun and rewarding to follow up with that kind of work now.”

He is optimistic about what comes next as he approaches the five-year anniversary of his June 2009 commencement. And he’s eager to keep his K connection strong.

“I continue to meet and network with the K community. I’ve played some shows on campus and continue to get support. I’m open to any collaboration that the College sees fit! We’ll at least be rocking here in ‘Kzoo’ for a few more years, maybe longer!”

Rock on, Andy!

Read more about Andy Catlin and Double Phelix in the Kalamazoo Gazette (Dec. 26, 2012).
Download Double Phelix music at doublephelix.bandcamp.com.
Follow the fun at doublephelix.tumblr.com.

Oyster Wars with Camera Cutlass

Editor’s Note: Try on this image: if author David Hammond ’73 were a recipe, its ingredients are the liberal arts—mostly literature and writing (he was an English major, after all), but also heaping measures of food and travel (in Strasbourg, France, and beyond, to be specific), enough science to understand the effect of nuanced environmental differences on organisms in seemingly close proximity, a taste for history (in chronicles such as The Oyster Wars of Chesapeake Bay), and an appreciation of the ebb and flow of economic-environmental influences. I hope readers enjoy, as much as we did, the following piece–product of a curiosity refined by an education in the liberal arts. And not just any such education. Like oysters, a liberal arts education can have important variations, even in close proximity. Cheers to David Hammond, and to the K way of doing a liberal arts education.

Pleasure House Oyster … none better! Photo by David Hammond ’73.

In a recent Chicago Sun-Timesoyster guide”, I mentioned, with a hint of disbelief, that “some oyster enthusiasts even claim to detect subtle flavor differences between bivalves grown on different sides of the same bay.”

That claim once seemed to me somewhat unbelievable. I’m not scoffing any more.

A few hours after landing in Richmond, Virginia, I went to an oyster tasting that involved sampling the same breed of oyster grown in multiple locations all around Chesapeake Bay, north and south.

What I discovered in this pan-Bay sampling was that flavor variations in oysters from different parts of this bay are, indeed, clearly palpable.

It just makes sense: oysters cultivated closer to the Atlantic Ocean are saltier, and those further north and deeper up into the bay, closer to freshwater rivers, are sweeter. Similarly, oysters cultivated near moving waters tend to be somewhat cleaner tasting than those in beds where water moves more slowly.

Flavor differences, it turns out, are readily discernible, even in oysters that live a few miles apart. Historically, the oysters from Chesapeake Bay were known for being some of the finest in the world.

Faded Glory
According to John R. Wennersten, in his highly entertaining The Oyster Wars of Chesapeake Bay, there was a time in the late nineteenth century when Chesapeake Bay provided 40 percent of the world’s oysters!

Many poachers were shot by the guns of the Oyster Navy.

Throughout the past century or so, the oyster industry in Chesapeake Bay, much like that in the Gulf Coast, has waxed and waned, building up and then slipping down due to a variety of causes.

By the late twentieth century, the glory days of Chesapeake Bay oyster production had faded, due in part to fertilizer run-off that caused vast algal blooms that made life difficult for oysters. A little algae is just fine; oysters like it; too much algae crowds out the tasty creatures. Given the chance to increase and multiply, relieved of the burden of trying to live in heavily polluted water, oysters actually filter the water and make it cleaner.

Today, with regulations in place to reduce run-off, farmers are moving back into the Chesapeake area in a continuing effort to satisfy the perennial taste for oysters. Oysters are amazingly resilient creatures, and even though their numbers in Chesapeake Bay have dwindled over the years, the industry is undergoing a rebirth, with new oyster farms cropping up all over the bay.

Pleasure House oysters: Bringing Back the Old Ways
I had my first Pleasure House oysters at a restaurant called Terrapin in Virginia Beach. The oysters were much bigger than I’d usually prefer an oyster to be, but each was stunningly delicious, with briny, balanced flavors and beautifully firm flesh. Terrapin is one of only three restaurants that serve Pleasure House oysters; production at this oyster farm is understandably low.

Pleasure House oysters is one of many farms that have reclaimed their place around Chesapeake Bay. In response to the increasing demand for oysters, companies that had previously gone under are coming back to life, and new companies are starting up; some are doing their best to bring back the old ways of oyster farming.

At the Pleasure House oyster farm, cages are pulled up and the oysters sorted and tumbled by hand. This totally manual approach might seem like a gimmick, but Pleasure House oysters were perhaps the finest oysters I’ve ever eaten.

You cannot get oysters any fresher than this. Photo by David Hammond ’73.

We went out on a Pleasure House oyster boat with Chris Ludford, whose regular job is serving as the area’s fireboat captain. When he’s not keeping the bay area from going up in smoke, he works his oyster beds on the Lynnhaven River, cultivating and harvesting oysters by hand. We pulled up next to a patch of marsh grass where Ludford had his cages.

The fresh-from-the-water oysters were glistening jewels of deliciousness, brimming with briny liquor and dense with layers of flavor. Somewhat fleshy, their texture was excellent.

“We’re in a perfect location here,” said Ludford, “a few miles from the ocean, so we get a lot of fresh salt water washing through.”

The Lynnhaven River has been yielding oysters for centuries. Local legend has it that shortly after landing in the New World, the first European settlers sat down with the indigenous residents to enjoy fire-roasted oysters.

Shoot Photos, Not Guns
In The Oyster Wars of Chesapeake Bay, Wennersten relates many tales of pirates—some local, others coming down from Maryland—who raided oyster beds all over this area. To combat such pilferage, an Oyster Navy launched in the late nineteenth century. There were frequent pitched gun battles between this local law enforcement agency and oyster pirates. Much blood was shed. Many poachers were shot by the guns of the Oyster Navy.

Finally in 1959, a colorful local character named Berkeley Muse was out pilfering oysters with some good ole boys when he was shot and killed by the Oyster Navy. Beloved by the community, he was immortalized (more or less) in a song (I found it on iTunes) by Calico Jack & Janie Meneely:

Potomac was as good a place as any man could choose
Till the Oyster Navy came and shot down Berkeley Muse

With the death of Muse, and ensuing public outrage, the Oyster Navy was throttled back.

Predictably, the pirating of oysters continues.

“Every Fourth of July,” Ludford told me, “we have people coming in and trying to poach our oysters. It’s traditional for people to have some oysters and beer, and I guess some folks just can’t afford them. Last year on the Fourth, I got a call from a buddy who told me there were pirates in my oyster beds. I jumped in my boat and went out there. They took off, but I shot a picture of the license on their boat with my brand new iPhone.”

Police eventually caught the malefactors and their loot: a passel of Pleasure House oysters. No blood was shed.

Slurping unbelievably fresh Lynnhaven River oysters in the sun, with the wind blowing off the nearby Atlantic, it was easy to see why the oyster was one powerful food. Indigenous people, English settlers, red-blooded American boys, for all of them, oysters hold an enduring allure.

Self-Authored Pathways

Judsen Schneider ’03 remembers sitting in a coffee shop in Nashville, Tennessee, sketching out rough ideas with his friend to form a firm that would bridge the widening divide between clinicians and the growing number of genetic tests that might give them answers, options, and hope.

Gillian Hooker ’00 and Judsen Schneider ’03, fellow K graduates and colleagues at NextGxDx.

That was four years ago. Today, NextGxDx—founded in 2012 by Mark Harris, Schneider’s friend—is the only online marketplace for genetic testing. Think of a site like Orbitz, but instead of airfares and rental car rates, you can search for tests relating to hereditary colon cancer or cystic fibrosis.

“We are bringing a level of transparency to the genetic testing industry that has not yet been seen,” says Schneider, scientific director for the Nashville-based startup. “It (testing) is exploding as precision medicine becomes more and more common. Genetics plays a key role in that.”

It’s been more than 10 years since scientists completed the genome sequence, and since then, the pace of research into cracking the mysteries, subtleties, and complexities of our human genome has skyrocketed. As more is learned about our genes, a greater number of tests are emerging to help us understand—and possibly even treat—rare diseases and conditions. More than 16,000 of them are available, developed for more than 3,000 diseases, about 2,000 of which have diagnostic genetic tests available for use in a clinical setting, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“To understand the genome is to understand how life works,” Schneider says. “The genome is like a complex computer. It can function like any computer, but encodes its own development, its own software. Understanding how genes work unlocks how diseases work, health works, human behavior works. Still, we barely understand it. The human genome has been sequenced but a lot is still not known about how it works. To be able to help shape how genes interact with health care is really interesting.”

Schneider, a Nashville native, earned a Ph.D. in cell and developmental biology at Vanderbilt University. But as much as he was bitten by the biology bug at K, the real reason he trekked north for his undergraduate experience was to swim, he says.

“Initially, it was the caliber of the swim team that attracted me. I was looking for a college where I could swim,” he says. “Of course, I received a great biology education. I looked at Division I to Division III schools. K had the best fit.”

When it came time to study abroad, Schneider looked south, spending a quarter in the Costa Rican capital, San Jose. It was there that he saw how economic development can empower individuals and communities, a lesson that represents a significant chapter in his NextGxDx story. A quote from retired men’s swim coach Bob Kent stays with him.

At K the message was ‘It’s better to create your own path.

“Coach Kent fostered a really awesome environment. He would always say, ‘you can do a lot, but how much effort are you willing to give?’” Schneider says. “So I study a language for two quarters and then get dropped into Central America. It was a fantastic way to prove to myself that I could take on challenges and succeed. K does a good job preparing its students for any scenario, and more than other schools gives them confidence to explore many challenging situations that might produce a lot of fear in people.”

NextGxDx has been steadily growing, he says, so much so that more hiring had to be done to keep pace with the growth, to diversify and broaden the scope of services the company provides. The most recent addition? Gillian Hooker ’00, an expert in genetic counseling with a Ph.D. (Yale University) and a long list of impressive academic and scholarly accomplishments, including time at the National Institutes of Health, Georgetown University and Johns Hopkins University.

Hooker is a Kalamazoo native and Heyl Scholar. She didn’t knew Schneider even though their tenures at K overlapped. “It made me smile when I found out we both went to K.”

Having a doctoral degree in molecular, cellular and developmental biology means she has the scientific expertise to contribute to a whole range of genetic questions. It was the genetic counseling aspect that drew Schneider to hire her, he says. But it sure didn’t hurt that she went to K.

“The fact that Gillian attended K did play a role in her hire, from the standpoint that I have a deep understanding of what a K degree means,” Schneider says. “It was more the soft skills that K helps you develop—such as critical thinking, problem solving, and the ability to confidently take creative risks—that were important for the particular role.”

There is a softer side to the data-driven science of genetics. It’s the component that takes into account how people internalize the data that come from the tests, what they do with it, how they process the results, or if testing should be done at all. In some ways, it’s as important as the results themselves, Hooker says. There are always emotions behind the hard realities of a disease, and the clinicians and other medical personnel who administer the tests need to know how to communicate with their clients.

“I think a lot about the testing decisions people make and how the results of genetic tests impact their decision-making going forward,” she says. “A lot of their personal values go into that. It’s helpful to have that perspective and think practically how this plays out in the clinic.

“Sometimes it’s the desire to know if you are predisposed to have a disease. Other times it’s about not having answers as to why their child is sick. We call it a ‘Diagnostic Odyssey.’ Developmental disabilities. Developmental problems. Going from specialist to specialist, performing test after test and getting nowhere. It could be as simple as a clinician who didn’t know the right test exists. We throw open the gates. It can be heart-wrenching, but empowering, too.”

It’s never easy. Not in a field that deals with diseases, conditions, and syndromes that adversely affect quality of life, sometimes significantly. Schneider and Hooker are doing their part to shed light upon the confusion that has surrounded these maladies for so long.

Hooker’s Senior Individualized Project—an internship at Pfizer with Ann (Burt) Berger ’71, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at the pharmaceutical giant—was in many ways a defining experience for her, one that confirmed that the K academic culture in which she’d been immersed was a unique one.

“It was the ability to develop my own plan. It really had an impact,” she says. “To be autonomous, to take chances with it, be creative with it. That’s very empowering. I came to the realization that life and work can be more fun when you forge your own path. Others look for a path before them to walk down. At K that was not the case. The message was always: ‘It’s always better if you create your own path.’”

Long Road and Theatre Mirror

Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College celebrates its Golden Anniversary this academic year and, in tribute, BeLight will publish short profiles of some FP alumni—two each in this year’s three issues of the e-magazine. May features Lisa Kron ’83 and Joe Hamlin ’02.

The Long Road

That beautiful thrust stage at K is still one of my favorite stages.

When Lisa Kron was nominated in 2008 for a Tony for her play, Well, the applause could be heard on the Kalamazoo College campus. Kron’s plays have walked the boards on and off Broadway, and Kalamazoo College was the first college to stage Well, a play about Kron’s experiences attending a predominantly African-American elementary school as a girl with a Jewish heritage. During that staging, Kron spoke to K students as well as to students from Western Michigan University about her career as an actress and playwright, illustrating once again how theatre at K incorporates every discipline into a liberal arts education, going Well beyond simply staging a play. Kron credits her experience at K, both on and off campus, to her success in theatre. The playwright/actor lives in New York City and is a member of the Class of 1983, though she notes she’s “still missing a science requirement, so no degree. But I did finish my SIP!”

Lisa Kron '83 - Photo by Joan Marcus.

K-PLAN
Major:  Theater
Study Abroad
:  London.  “Loved it!!!”
SIP:
  Lecture/Performance on the dearth of roles for women in theater called “There’s Nothing Like a Dame.”
Key K Experience
:  “GLCA Philadelphia Urban Semester – LOVED!”

First Job in Theatre/TV
ANTA Company National Tour – Auditioned while representing K at the regional ACTF.

Big break
“Hmm.  I don’t think there generally are big breaks. For me, as for many if not most people, it’s a long road, through many different landscapes.”

Screen Credits
“My work on the screen resembles my work at K–limited to bit parts. Some Law and Order.  A couple of films, most notably, my turn as a waitress in the final scene in the first Sex In the City movie.”

Awards
Playwriting fellowships from the Lortel and Guggenheim Foundations, Sundance Theater Lab, the Lark Play Development Center, and the MacDowell Colony.

The Cal Arts/Alpert Award, a Helen Merrill Award, grants from the Creative Capital Foundation and New York Foundation for the Arts.

A three-year playwriting residency through the American Voices New Play Initiative at Arena Stage.

Obie, Bessie, GLAAD, L.A. Drama-logue, and Lilly Awards.

Nominations for Tony, Drama Desk, Lortel, Outer Critics Circle, and Susan Smith Blackburn Awards.

Recent Projects
Fun Home, a musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel, with lyrics by Lisa Kron, music by Jeanine Tesori, directed by Sam Gold. Fun Home premiered at the Public Theater October 2013.

Also appeared in the return of Foundry Theater’s acclaimed production of Good Person of Szechuan, directed by Lear de Bessonet, starring Taylor Mac, at the Public Theater, October 2013.

On Kalamazoo College
“Lowry Marshall changed my life.  I still draw on my theater studies in London. And that beautiful thrust stage at K is still one of my favorite stages.”

Theatre Mirror
Joe Hamlin ’02 is the man behind the production, making what theatre goers see on stage possible. He has worked on hundreds of plays, including Broadway-bound productions, and it’s a passion that was fostered on the stages at K. Hamlin is technical director at the Center Theatre Group in California, overseeing The Ahmanson Theatre, the Mark Taper Forum, and the Kirk Douglas Theatre. He is also production manager for The Ahmanson Theatre. He studied theatre with Ed Menta and Lanny Potts, and earned a master’s in technical design and production from Yale School of Drama.

Hamlin is passing it forward: Lee O’Reilly, a K grad and current student at the Yale School of Drama, worked with Hamlin last summer during a 12-week assistantship in technical directing.

Joe Hamlin '02 - Photo by Bones Malone.

K-Plan
Major: Theatre with a concentration in the classics.
Study Abroad:
Athens, Greece
SIP:
“After Genocide: A Three Week Journey Through Croatia”
Kalamazoo College Theater Experience:
Dr. Faustus; Marat Sade; Twilight

First Job in Theatre
Assistant technical director, Northern Stage in White River Junction, Vermont

Big Break
“I did summer stock work in my first theatre job in Massachusetts, and then the previous technical director was fired. The job became mine—it was a crazy time, the hardest time of my life, but it was also wonderful.”

Production Credits
Joe has worked on hundreds of shows. He’s particularly proud of: Clybourne Park at the Mark Taper Forum; End of the Rainbow at the Ahmanson Theatre; and The Second City’s A Christmas Carol Twist Your Dickens! at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.

Awards
U.S. Institute of Theatre Technology’s “The Golden Hammer Award” (usitt.org)

Recent Projects
Recent shows on which Hamlin worked as the production manager: The Sunshine Boys, a revival of the Neil Simon play, starring Danny DeVito and Judd Hirsch; and Harmony, a musical revival by Barry Manilow.

On Kalamazoo College
“I planned to go into political science, not theatre, when I first came to K, but as time went on, I realized I was finding myself in theatre. A lot of exciting things were going on there. It was a great environment, and the people became like family. Lanny Potts was a great mentor to me.”