Archives

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.

Joel Hutson ’02

Joel was quoted in the July 15, 2015, issue of the popular science magazine Scientific American about dinosaur research that he and his wife published in the March 2015 issue of Journal of Zoology. Their research illustrates how dinosaurs may have made the transition from two-legged to four-legged mobility. Their journal article is titled “Inferring the prevalence and function of finger hyperextension in Archosauria from finger-joint range of motion in the American alligator.” Joel said: “I was inspired to study dinosaurs because of Jeff Wilson ’91 who was featured in Kalamazoo College news when I was a biology student at K.” Wilson is a paleontologist at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and has visited the K campus to speak to students and faculty about his work. Joel said he hopes also to “inspire a future generation of paleontologists at Kalamazoo College.”

Elizabeth (Ryder) Napier ’72

lizabethNapierElizabeth, a professor of English and American literatures at Middlebury College, has written and published the book Defoe’s Major Fiction: Accounting for the Self (University of Delaware Press). According to the publisher, “The book focuses on the pervasive concern with narrativity and self-construction that marks Defoe’s first-person fictional narratives. Defoe’s fictions focus obsessively and elaborately on the act of storytelling—not only in his creation of idiosyncratic voices preoccupied with the telling (and often the concealing) of their own life stories but also in his narrators’ repeated adversion to other, untold stories that compete for attention with their own.” At K Elizabeth majored in English and studied abroad in Bonn, Germany. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia.

Michael Winkelman ’91

Michael has published a new book: A Cognitive Approach to John Donne’s Songs and Sonnets, part of publisher Palgrave Macmillan’s series titled “Cognitive Studies in Literature and Performance.” Investigations into brain function have led to recent remarkable discoveries with profound implications for interpreting literature. Donne, who wrote in the 17th century, was a contemporary of Shakespeare and one of the first Metaphysical poets. He later became a famous cleric many of whose meditations are cited today. For example, “Meditation XVII” from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions includes the famous prose passage that begins “No man is an island” and concludes with “And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.” Donne’s probing insights, expressed in his unique Metaphysical style, make his amorous verse a ripe subject for cognitive analysis. Winkelman’s study applies recent breakthroughs from neuroscience and evolutionary psychology in order to deepen the understanding of Donne’s songs and sonnets. By applying findings from neurolinguistics to Donne’s work, Winkelman presents a test case for the cognitive interpretation of verse and, more broadly, advances the case of New Humanism.

Heather Booth ’00

Heather submitted a class note and photo that explained the somewhat delayed timing of her latest publication. “About five years ago, I signed a contract for my second book on librarianship for teens,” Heather wrote. “Shortly thereafter, we learned we were expecting our second child. Only one of the projects could be put on hold, so at long last, The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services has been published by ALA Editions. This collection of essays and instructions on teen librarianship is a part of ALA’s long standing and well respected ‘Whole Library Handbook’ series. The project that could not be put on hold, Thora Violet, is now four-and-a-half years old, made of pure joy, and a great friend to her elder sister Julia, who is six. Also this spring, Paul and I bought our forever home, and are enjoying the sense of community here in Westmont, Illinois.” Thora Violet and her mom are pictured with mom’s new book.

In Print (Alumni Publications)

Thanksgiving: As Close to Grace as I Dare Venture: A Collection of Incidental Verse

by David Kessler ’70

Since early colonial days, North American communities have stopped for days of prayer and thanksgiving. Grateful for mercies received and sobered by harrowing conflicts, people have paused for a day to reflect upon life’s bounties and tragedies. In its current incarnation, however, it is sometimes a shallow splurge of food and football. Only vestiges of this initial community tradition of thoughtful reflection can sometimes be found. David Kessler ’70 has compiled (At last! And we’re happy for it!) his efforts to revive the tradition of thoughtful reflection and contemplation of our role and responsibilities in today’s troubling and often violent world. The history major wrote these pieces year by year over the decades, and each “grace” speaks to a moment in our nation’s passage through many elections, crises, disasters, and even triumphs. High moral purpose is balanced by a spirit of playfulness and an appreciation of the myriad beauties of our planet and universe. “Most classmates and close friends are aware that I compose an annual Thanksgiving Grace,” David wrote. “Thanks to the good offices and hard work of my wife Nancy Mennel, this volume of the collected verse dating back to 1984 has now been published.

“Having been educated with the idea that ’gracious living’ was a desideratum and indeed the ’end’ of learning, I am only slightly surprised to have found myself wrapped up in the Grace business on a lifelong basis. It does seem especially puzzling, considering my Jewish/Humanist upbringing! But as a ceaseless Melville fan, I find myself perpetually chasing after mystery and meaning and I suspect there is plenty of that for all of us, whatever our beliefs, to ponder. Just what does that famous motto mean for us anyway? Wasn’t sure then, still not sure now. Oh well, I hope in any event that readers will find the collected verse evocative.”

 

A Widow’s Guide to Healing: Gentle Support and Advice for the First Five Years

by Kristin Meekhof ’98

Kristin was 33 years old when her husband of four years died of advanced adrenal cancer, just eight weeks after he was diagnosed.

Kristin soon realized what most widows come to find—at the very moment you are stripped of your life partner and left numb and grieving, you must make crucial decisions that will affect the rest of your life. Finances, family alliances, estates, legal matters, sudden single parenthood, career changes—widows are in no mental state to grapple with these challenges and yet they must. They need a blueprint that spells out exactly what to do. Kristin’s book takes takes those who have lost their spouse through the practical challenges of widowhood while providing comfort and advice from more than 100 other widows, ages 25 to 80, who were interviewed by Meekhof and her coauthor James Windell. Features include coping with the first few weeks, the range and nature of emotions, matters of law and legal exigencies, functioning as a solo parent, financial concerns, and career guidance.

A Widow’s Guide to Healing highlights a sisterhood of women from a wide range of backgrounds who reassure other widows they are not alone and they can reclaim something they thought might be lost forever: hope.

“This is a very valuable and practical guide for any woman who has lost her husband to an untimely death,” wrote Deepak Chopra.

“I’m proud of Kristin Meekhof,” wrote Maria Shriver. “[She] has written this inspiring and insightful book to help guide widows through their grief. This book is by an Architect of Change, for all of us who must deal with grief.”

Kristin earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology at K and completed the Master in Social Work program at the University of Michigan. She works as a clinical social worker and is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, MariaShriver.com, Women That Soar, and other media outlets.

Tess Killpack ’06

Tess represents one of several K-Plan roots to a recent fruition of egg-and-bird science. A research paper recently published in the Journal of Experimental Biology sheds new light on the stunning metamorphosis that occurs at or near hatching in many birds. The paper has a mighty title: “Development of endothermy and concomitant increases in cardiac and skeletal muscle mitochondrial respiration in the precocial Pekin duck,” and, it turns out, some very deep Kalamazoo College connections. “Most of the work was done in the lab of Ed Dzialowski ’93,” wrote Paul Sotherland, professor emeritus of biology (and, like Ed, a listed coauthor of the paper). He added, “The storyline all got started WAY back when Tess discovered, in her Senior Individualized Project, the dramatic (think: Grinch-like…hah!) cardiac growth in chickens, a discovery illustrated nicely in Figure 4 of the paper (and acknowledged with the highlighted citation on page one of the paper).” The title of Tess’s SIP was “A change of heart in birds: cardiac response to the onset of endothermy.” According to Paul, Tess’s was not the only SIP “root” that nourished the Experimental Biology paper. “A SIP done by Alan (Skip) Faber ’14 contributed as well,” said Paul,”which is acknowledged by his coauthorship of the paper.” Ed is an associate professor in the department of biological sciences at the University of North Texas. Tess is an instructor in the biological sciences laboratory at Wellesley College. Skip is beginning his second year of dental school at the University of Michigan.

Paul Blowers ’95

Paul has been named chief information officer of Plante Moran, a public accounting and business advisory firm. In his new role, he will be responsible for the information technology that supports Plante Moran’s enterprise goals. Blowers has IT leadership experience in strategy, architecture, solution delivery and operations. Prior to joining Plante Moran, he worked for Kelly Services as chief architect and senior director of enterprise architecture and business solutions. At K, Blowers majored in psychology and was a stand-out member of the Hornet swim team, earning Division III All-American honors. Blowers is the co-author of the textbook, e-Commerce in Virtual Worlds.

Love Will Steer Me True: A Mother and Daughter’s Conversations on Life, Love, and God

Love Will Steer Me True: A Mother and Daughter’s Conversations on Life, Love, and God

by Jane (Hudson) Knuth ’80 and Ellen Knuth

Letting go of her daughter, Ellen, was a 6,000-mile proposition for alumna Jane Knuth. Ellen, a recent college graduate and eager to get a grip on the adventure of life, was on her way to a remote part of Japan to teach English.

It wasn’t so much that Jane was afraid of the long distance. She feared more that her daughter might hit a bump or two in her life path, perhaps even a crisis, and not have a Christian church nearby. Jane’s faith is important to her, and she had worked lifelong to share and cultivate that importance in her daughter. The nearest Christian church was two hours away from Ellen’s new residence. Ellen wasn’t worried. Her concerns centered more on her new job and life in another country than the one in which she had been raised.

Love Will Steer Me True: A Mother and Daughter’s Conversations on Life, Love, and God is a collaborative book by Jane and Ellen. It is Jane’s third book and Ellen’s first. (Thrift Stone Saints: Meeting Jesus 25 Cents at a Time and Thrift Store Graces: Finding God’s Gifts in the Midst of a Mess are collections of stories from Jane’s volunteer work in a Kalamazoo thrift store.) Chapters lean heavily to Ellen’s story, with Jane mostly writing in response to her daughter’s musings.

The two keep in touch often by calling each other over the Internet, using Skype. “I’ll call you in your morning,” becomes their mantra. They trade stories of teaching, because Jane finds herself teaching eighth-graders in Kalamazoo, an unexpected job. Ellen’s work with Japanese children teaches her cultural differences and common universalities among children.

When Ellen writes of religion, she explores the beliefs she finds in Japan. She discovers a statue near the school where she teaches, nearly obscured by trash and weeds. It is a jizo, a Japanese figure of divinity, offering protection in the Buddhist tradition. This one appears to be a protector of children, and during the months Ellen teaches at the school, she tends the jizo, cleaning the statue and filling its offering cup with water (rather than the traditional sake, since alcohol is not allowed on school grounds). While her faith remains important to her, she expresses it effortlessly through a variety of other faiths.

The shared story takes an unexpected turn in 2011, when a tsunami crashes against the shores of Japan, leaving a path of destruction. In the tsunami’s wake follows a nuclear disaster, and while Jane at home prays for her daughter’s protection, Ellen joins a group of volunteers and heads into the fray.

Love Will Steer Me True is less a conversation than a daughter’s story reflected on her mother’s heart. Both reach a higher level of respect for the other in the process. Both gain new facets to their individual journeys of faith. Both learn to let go, and in letting go, strengthen their bonds.

Guardian angels and jizos work side by side, it appears. During parental visits to Japan, mother and daughter meet as equals, and in Jane’s willingness to abide by local culture and faith traditions, the reader becomes witness to the blending of two worlds. Jane gives a string of a thousand folded cranes to the Japanese she meets, their symbol of hope.

After five years of teaching in Japan, Ellen has returned to the United States. She works as a manager for a company in Clinton Township, Michigan, that specializes in study abroad and international internships. Jane lives with her husband, alumnus Dean Knuth ’78, in Portage, Michigan, and continues to volunteer at the thrift store as well as write a monthly column for The Good News, the newspaper of the Diocese of Kalamazoo. (Reviewed by Zinta Aistars)