Archives

Brett Blaauw ’05

Brett co-authored a paper that appeared in the Journal of Applied Ecology. According to paper’s other co-author, Rufus Isaacs, theirs is the first paper that demonstrates an economic advantage for farmers when they create wild bee habitat next to cultivated fields. The two entomologists planted marginal land surrounding blueberry fields with a mix of native perennial wildflowers. Even though the fields were pollinated by honey bees trucked in for the purpose, Brett discovered that, after a period of two years, the rising population of wild bees increased blueberry yields by 10 to 20 percent. That increase more than offset the costs of making the marginal land attractive to wild bee populations. Brett was the lead author on the paper. The K biology major completed his Ph.D. at Michigan State University under Isaacs and is now working at Rutgers University.

Drew Brockington ’04

The publisher Little, Brown has acquired rights Drew’s Cat-Stronauts: Mission Moon, a graphic novel aimed at chapter book readers. The story follows the space adventures of a team of cat astronauts as they race to the moon to solve a global energy crisis. Cat-Stronauts is Drew’s debut as an illustrator, and it’s the first of a four-book deal. It will publish in spring of 2017. Drew earned his B.A. at K in art and art history, and he studied abroad in Rome, Italy.

Jeannie Light ’63

Jeannie has published a new book, Beautiful on the Mountain, which released on June 1 from Tyndale Momentum. The book is based on her experiences as a lay missioner in Graves Mill, Virginia, but the story starts further back than that. Jeannie was born into a storytelling family. Her grandmother passed down stories she had heard from her own mother and father, frontier missionaries in southern Michigan. Her grandfather told stories, too, and so did her mother and father. With that bloodline, Jeannie’s desire to be a writer seemed natural, and she pursued that goal by earning a bachelor’s in English literature (with an emphasis on creative writing) at K. During her senior year she was a student teacher for a college freshman English class and worked as a freelance journalist. She wrote an award-winning novel based on family stories about fur traders and American Indians in Michigan’s St. Joseph River valley in the early years of the nineteenth century.

Jeannie attended the University of Virginia on a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, receiving her M.A. in English literature. She worked as a journalist, taught English at the University of Maine and for the University of Virginia extension program, and ran a farm in Madison County, Virginia. In 1977 she decided to operate a sheep farm on her mountain land in Graves Mill, Virginia, adjoining Shenandoah National Park. To her surprise, the deacons of the inactive Baptist church in the hamlet asked her to help them re-open its doors and revive the congregation. She had never intended to be a preacher or missionary, but when she moved to the mountain community, she found herself living stories very similar to those she had heard as a child. Beautiful on the Mountain is the narrative of her first three years in this beautiful, austere setting. The Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia licensed Jeannie as a lay missioner in 1983. Graves Chapel eventually opened a thrift shop and ministered to those at or below the poverty level, 60 percent of the county’s residents at the time. Though Jeannie remained a laywoman, she was elected president of the county ministerial association, and the chapel offered silent retreats for the local clergy. After fifteen years in the mountains, she resigned and worked with artist and sculptor Walter Slaughter. She self-published two books of meditations, Are You Coming?: Meditations on the Passion and Gethsemane, both illustrated with Walter’s art.

In 1985 Jeannie became a member of Truro Anglican Church (Fairfax, Va.) and since her resignation from Graves Chapel, she has ministered at Truro in various capacities as a layperson, including leading bimonthly services at the Fairfax Nursing Center and teaching a Bible study. She lives in Louisa, Virginia. Jeannie’s work at Graves Chapel was featured in Kalamazoo College Quarterly in the summer of 1991.

New Zealand Honey and an Episcopal Childhood

Cliff Van Eaton ’72 has written one honey of a book…about honey!

Manuka: The Biography of an Extraordinary Honey, is the ‘rags-to-riches’ tale of how a piece of scientific serendipity turned an unwanted honey into a ground-breaking medicine. Manuka honey is a product unique to New Zealand and valued for its antibiotic effects. Cliff’s book chronicles the science behind the discovery of those effects.

It was named a finalist in the 2015 Royal Society of New Zealand Book Prize. The Royal Society of New Zealand is modeled on the original Royal Society in England, the oldest continuing academy of sciences in the world. An important function of the Society is the sharing of science-based ideas in the overall New Zealand community, and the Book Prize is a way of celebrating the efforts of writers and publishers in that regard. The competition is held every two years, and is open to all books by New Zealand authors that “communicate scientific concepts in an interesting and readable way for a general audience.” Love those science writers with a lay audience in mind.

Cliff is a well-known writer on beekeeping subjects and is co-author of two books on bee diseases. For more than 30 years he worked as a beekeeper adviser in New Zealand, and has also assisted beekeepers in countries as diverse as the Solomon Islands, Uruguay, and Vietnam.

 

On his way home for dinner, the narrator of Jim Todd’s (class of 1958) memoir, The Key, stops to watch the demolition of the Episcopal Church building that was his church home growing up. At first the razing of a spiritual “home” troubles him and also prompts a vivid recollection of a single choir season–the fall-to-spring of the narrator’s 12th year. The flashback of those nine months in the life of “Joey”–the narrator’s younger self–and his two close friends, Danny and Kenny (the “three inseparables”), occupy the ensuing 13 chapters of the book. The church-and-choir related hijinks of these three (who move through the narrative like a Tom Sawyer and his gang) include a frog funeral at church that inspires the start of acolyte training, a school-boy crush on a department store holiday season harpist, a water war with Baptist youth choir members that escalates into something more serious, a spitball attack on the choir director, the sabotage of a presentation by the girl (and fellow choir member) Joey likes but doesn’t know he likes, and the changing of Joey’s voice–a sad casualty of maturation that necessitates his “fall from grace” as the choir’s soprano soloist (first row) to the hinterland of alto background (second row).

Jim has written a book about the importance of fun, the inevitability of impermanence and change (Joey’s voice, the nature of friendships, the relocation of a church), and, most importantly, what endures in the face of such impermanence. The book’s final chapter snaps the reverie of the adult narrator into the present. The dump trucks are back filling the church building’s former foundation. And yet the evanescent last images of Joseph’s flashback call to life the profound changes he experienced in church late that choir season of long ago. That memory confirms for him the key of what matters and what never changes. The narrator finds himself less troubled by the scene at which he stopped. Joseph is a church leader at its new home. He starts his car to continue his way home, taking “the key” and the essence of his old church building with him.

Caroline (Orosz) Robbins ’07

Caroline (Carly) recently published her first novel, Devil Music. She has also published a series of free Web comics to accompany the novel. Both works are entirely self-published. Carly earned an M.F.A. (poetry) from Sarah Lawrence College. Her poetry has been published in Wavelength Journal and SpoutMagazine. An article on Carly and her work will appear in the Fall issue of LuxEsto.

Gail Griffin, Professor Emerita of English

Gail joined two other Kalamazoo writers in a recent issue of the journal Quarter Past Eight. It was the first time that longtime colleagues and fellow writers Gail and Di Seuss ’78 appeared in print together. Di is Writer-in-Residence and a professor in the English department. The two colleagues were joined in print by Hadley Moore ’99, a short story of whose appeared in that issue of the journal. Di’s piece won the journal’s Short Prose Contest. Gail’s two pieces were both finalists.

In other “English” news, Gail may have retired, but she keeps a close eye on K graduates in the arts. She sent us the following note:

Lisa Kron ’83 is almost sure to win the Tony Award for the book associated with the Broadway hit Fun Home, and possibly share the Tony for lyrics as well. Joe Tracz ’04 was just nominated for a Lucille Lortel Award (off-Broadway) for the musical The Lightning Thief. David France ’81, of course, received an Oscar nomination for his documentary film How to Survive a Plague, and it’s being turned into a series on F/X. It’s interesting to me that Lisa was a theatre arts major, Joe an English major, and David a political science major. And then there’s Jordan Klepper ’01 (a math major!) of The Daily Show fame and Steven Yeun ’05 (psychology) who plays Glen on the The Walking Dead. What a crop of media stars from K! And the breadth of their liberal arts journeys is incredible.”

Helene (Baker) Dunbar ’87

John, Keira, and Helene Dunbar

Helene experienced a crazy year in 2013. First she sold two young adult contemporary books, the first of which, These Gentle Wounds, was published by Flux on May 8 of this year. Then, in December 2013, she and her husband, John, brought their daughter Keira home from Bulgaria. Helene still lives in Nashville, works in marketing, and assumes that 2014 will probably be just at frantic.

Sharon Stohrer ’77

Sharon is delighted to announce publication of her new book, The Performer’s Companion. Bringing a wealth of experience in performance anxiety coaching to bear on the subject, Sharon has written an essential text for both instrumentalists and singers. The book approaches building performance confidence and overcoming stage fright from many angles: physical preparation, mental strategies, nurturing the artist within, optimum practicing, backstage tips, and the benefit of body work, especially the Alexander Technique.