Promise Land

NOTE: Eleven Kalamazoo Promise students matriculated to Kalamazoo College last month (September 2015), members of the class of 2019. Kalamazoo College announced its prospective students’ eligibility for the Promise Scholarship in June of 2014, and this year’s group represents the first at K. K was one of 15 private colleges in the Michigan Colleges Alliance newly Promise eligible. The addition of the 15 MCA member institutions to the 43 Michigan public colleges and universities increases the number of Promise eligible schools to 58 throughout the state. For KPS students who enroll at Kalamazoo College the tuition and fees are fully and jointly funded by the Kalamazoo Promise and by K. The Kalamazoo Promise funds at the level of the undergraduate average tuition and fees for the College of Literature, Science and Arts at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor). K covers any difference between that amount and the amount of its yearly tuition and fees.

For Robert Gorman ’94, M.D., the city of Kalamazoo could be The Promise Land.

The Gorman family including Bryn, Jenn, Harper, Rob and Evan Gorman

The Gorman family may one day include Promise Scholarship beneficiaries who attend Kalamazoo College. From left: Bryn, Jenn, Harper, Rob and Evan Gorman. The photo was taken by Becky Anderson Photography, and Becky Olson Anderson is a K grad (class of 1997).

Nearly 25 years ago, a “promise” (in the form of a scholarship) made by F.W. and Elsie Heyl sent the Loy Norrix High School and Kalamazoo Area Mathematics and Science Center graduate to Kalamazoo College tuition free as a Heyl scholarship recipient.

Fifteen years later, another promise brought him back to Kalamazoo from New Mexico.

In 2005, a group of local philanthropists announced The Kalamazoo Promise, at the time a one-of-a-kind scholarship program that covers 100 percent of the tuition and fees to any Michigan public university or college for every student who attends a Kalamazoo Public School (KPS) from kindergarten to 12th grade (with a sliding scale based on the length of enrollment applying to all other eligible students). Since its inception, the scholarship program (guaranteed in perpetuity) has invested 55 million dollars in more than 3,300 KPS graduates.

It was the actions and generosity of those anonymous donors that would play a role in bringing Gorman and his wife, Jenn, back to his hometown.

“The idea that a community has citizens and benefactors who care so much for it that they would create something like The Promise is incredible,” Gorman says. “That just doesn’t happen everywhere. This place is special.”

The promise that brought him home recently got even more promising.

Beginning with the high school graduating class of 2015, KPS students may use The Promise scholarship to attend Kalamazoo College as well as any one of the other 14 Michigan College Alliance (MCA) liberal arts colleges and universities. The announcement between The Kalamazoo Promise and the MCA was made in June.

“This partnership truly is a winning proposition for all,” says Bob Bartlett, chief executive officer of the MCA. “Promise scholars will benefit from increased college choice throughout the state, and the MCA colleges and universities will be enriched by having these deserving students on their campuses.”

Bob Jorth, executive director of The Kalamazoo Promise, agrees. The addition of Kalamazoo College, specifically, he says, now gives students three distinctly different local choices for higher education. More than 65 percent of Promise scholars attend Western Michigan University or Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

“It’s about giving KPS students more choices and finding the right fit for them,” Jorth says. “We’re extremely happy to have a third ‘neighborhood’ choice for our students. Since the beginning, Kalamazoo College has been a great supporter of The Promise. We’re thrilled to have them on board.”

For K, says the College’s Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Eric Staab, the new partnership is about supporting the community that has supported it for more than 180 years.

“First and foremost, it’s about being a good neighbor,” Staab says. “We wanted to be good stewards and to be a part of this amazing opportunity for KPS students.”

Gorman appreciates the College’s investment in the community and hopes more KPS students will consider K when applying to college.

“I think kids who grow up in Kalamazoo often dismiss K and other local institutions out of a sheer desire to leave town and try something new,” he says. “I would argue that the moment you step on campus you see Kalamazoo College, the city of Kalamazoo, and, indeed, the world, in a completely different way.”

Gorman, who works as an orthopedic surgeon at Bronson HealthCare Midwest in Kalamazoo, and his wife, Jenn, now have three young daughters, Harper, Evan, and Bryn. Their oldest child is in first grade at a Kalamazoo elementary school.

“I grew up in the city of Kalamazoo and was a KPS kid for all of my schooling,” Gorman explains. “When I moved back to town, it was important for me to make my home in the city, to support the local public schools, to contribute to the tax base, and to socially and financially invest in the city.”

As long as Gorman and his wife continue to reside in Kalamazoo, all three of their children would be eligible for The Promise.

Currently, The Kalamazoo Promise donors fund 100 percent of the tuition and fees to any one of the 43 public universities, colleges, and community colleges in the state.

As part of the new agreement with the MCA, full tuition and fees to the MCA schools will be jointly funded by The Kalamazoo Promise and the MCA member institution. The Kalamazoo Promise will fund at the level of the undergraduate tuition and fees for the College of Literature, Science and the Arts at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor—currently the most expensive public school funded by The Kalamazoo Promise.

The MCA member institution will cover the difference between that amount and its yearly tuition and fees. That means Kalamazoo College is investing more than $26,000 a year in a student attending K on The Kalamazoo Promise based on current tuition rates. The costs incurred by the College will not be passed along to other students or affect any financial aid awards.

“It really makes a statement that K, a place that can literally open doors leading to anywhere in the world, is committed to the idea that everyone deserves a chance to have that opportunity, especially young students and families in its backyard,” Gorman says.

The Kalamazoo Promise provides more information at its website [].

Postscript: Like Gorman, author Erin (Miller) Dominianni ’95 lives in Kalamazoo and has children attending Kalamazoo Public Schools. She is thrilled that her children could be in the K classes of 2020 and 2025 respectively, thanks to The Kalamazoo Promise donors.

Prize Inspiration

They arrived as friendly competitors. They left as collaborators and comrades. And that was kind of the point.

Inspiring one another and working together was the spirit of the 2015 Global Prize event.

Inspiring one another and working together was the spirit of the 2015 Global Prize event.

It’s only been two short years since the inaugural Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership Global Prize competition in the fall of 2013, but the event is fast becoming a sought after platform for grassroots social justice organizations from the United States and around the world to showcase their work and learn from like-minded organizers.

For a weekend this past October, 10 finalists from five counties, including the United States, gathered at the ACSJL on the Kalamazoo College campus to present their projects to a panel of judges comprised of social justice advocates from the local K community and leaders in the movement, each vying for the $25,000 Global Prize. Almost 90 social justice organizations submitted their projects to be considered as a finalist.

Projects ranged from a Ugandan group working to empower youth and reunite them with their tribal pasts by using elements of modern, popular arts and culture, to a Chicago-based organization trying to expose the darker sides of the foster care system, to a grassroots effort in India seeking to protect the language and way of life of indigenous people from the steady march of technology and industrial-based progress.

But there could be only one winner, and Familia: Trans Queer Liberation, the only national LGBTQ Latino organization that focuses on racial justice through a trans and queer lens, took home the prize of $25,000. For Jorge Gutierrez, national coordinator with the Los Angeles-based organization, the award was less about the money than the exposure and cooperation seen at the biennial global prize event.

“These spaces are needed – global or not – to showcase the work that’s being done,” says Gutierrez. “There are big obstacles in front of groups like those who attended the competition. They don’t have the big name connections or access to millions in funding or staff with the grant writing skills that many large, non-profits do. Events like the Global Competition level the field.

“The weekend provided a platform where everyone could be seen – even small, grassroots groups like ours – and showcase the fact that important work is being done by social organizations that are not in the headlines.”

Of course, the money helps, he says.

Jorge Gutierrez and Jennicet Gutierrez accept the ACSJL Global Prize on behalf of Familia.

Jorge Gutierrez and Jennicet Gutierrez accept the ACSJL Global Prize on behalf of Familia.

The prize money means that Familia will be able to hire more fulltime staff and broaden their reach in to the communities they serve, while at the same time leveraging the award as a means to raise more funding.

“These types of events are vitally important for grassroots social justice groups, which often do not have a fundraising department or dedicated staff tasked with drumming up money,” Gutierrez says.

Two organizations won an Audience Choice Award of $2,500 each: Mujeres Lucha y Derechos Para Todas A.C. (MULYD, “Women, Struggle, and Rights for Everyone”), a Mexican-based organization that works to educate and empower indigenous women about health and reproductive rights; and the Association of Injured Workers & Ex-Workers of General Motors Colmotores (ASOTRECOL), a group working to draw attention to the plight of employees injured at a GM plant in Colombia.

In an example of the cooperative spirit nurtured at the conference, Gutierrez – who had become close with representatives of MULYD during the weekend – announced that Familia would donate $5,000 of its prize to the organization.

“We were inspired by their work,” he said. “We have been helped by the award, and in a way, it’s our responsibility to help others, too.”

Frank Hammer is the lead organizer with ASOTRECOL, a group of injured GM workers who for years have lived in tents outside the U.S. embassy in Bogotá to shed light on the unfair treatment of workers at the auto plant there. Some have sustained work-related nerve damage; others suffer with spinal, hand or shoulder injuries. The workers have undertaken four hunger strikes, some even sewing their mouths shut with needle and thread to protest GM’s treatment of workers at the plant. Some hunger strikers endured several months without food.

“The Audience Award helped stabilize our financial needs and sustain the direct actions of the guys in tents,” Hammer says. “It’s so hard for us to keep fighting. We have so much gratitude for the award we received. The guys in Colombia are ecstatic.

“Such a unique event,” he adds. “It’s our version of the Oscars. It’s not a competition against each other, but rather a competition to excel. Even if there was not a dime to be won, we would still have attended. It was such an elevating event. It was award enough to be around so many inspiring people.”

In many ways, that was the main point: the value of the cooperative spirit that emerged from the weekend, as well as the wellspring of mutual inspiration.

“It’s less about the money and more about the visibility. It’s about giving social justice advocates a platform for their work and to celebrate them,” says Lisa Brock, academic director of the ACSJL. “There is an energizing atmosphere at the competition. It’s a special event where like-minded people gather  to learn from one another. Opportunities for collaborating emerge organically.

“The quality of the groups and their work is what we value at the Center. They get exposure, and the Center is better known in the social justice community.”


irectoryArtIn the fall the Alumni Association Executive Board (AAEB) announced several improvements to the Alumni Directory.

You can now more easily: CONNECT and COMMUNICATE with classmates and friends; FIND K alumni in your area (with map view!) by searching a variety of criteria; MAKE new business connections; BE a resource to Hornet students and other alumni; and DOWNLOAD electronic contact cards to update your personal address books.

WOW! With that array of capabilities it’s not surprising that AAEB members are early adopters of the directory. Here are some of the ways some of us have used it.

I recently used the name search to find the email addresses of my former interns and download their contact cards to add right into my address book. I wanted to share some business news with them since they were a major part of building my company. But I only had their old student email addresses, outdated since their graduation. Finding their current addresses was no problem, thanks to the alumni directory.

AAEB President Alexandra (Foley) Altman ’97 spoke to a K faculty member with plans to attend a seminar in Philadelphia. Betcha former majors in that professor’s department would love to chat! So Alexandra used the directory to locate such alumni living in the Philly area and to invite them to a casual get together with the professor at her hotel.

AAEB Secretary Kirsten Browne Bradford ’92 used the new map feature to find fellow alums that studied in France and/or ran cross country—first step of a planned meet-up in the Detroit area. Kirsten wanted to find people who share a specific K experience (or two) to reminisce and make new friends.

Other AAEB members have searched for alumni to network in their field when moving to a new area. Some have applied the messaging feature to send personal invitations for Hornet Happy Hours. One member used the directory to connect with an old K roommate.

Great uses depend on great info. The Alumni Directory is as good as the information in it. Please take a moment to update your own directory entry. It’s as easy as 1-2-3.

1. Go to the directory at and log in to your account. You can click on the “Forgot ID/Password” link if you need to retrieve your login information.

2. Select the “Update Profile” link to edit or add to the information in your profile. You can even sync your profile with LinkedIn to quickly update your information, and you can choose the level of information you share with others.

3. Click on the “Update” button at the bottom of the screen to ensure that your updates are saved.

Whenever you change locations or jobs, be sure to go back into the system and update your profile with the new information. You can even use your update visit as an opportunity to do a search of your own.

And keep the AAEB in mind. We would love to know how you have used the directory to make connections. Is there anything else we can do to make connecting with other alumni (and students) easier? Send us your story or suggestions. In the meantime, we hope you will use the directory to expand your K connections—by networking, catching up with old friends, classmates, or team members, or making yourself available to mentor students.

Tributes to an Artist

Marcia Wood inspects Prospect before final finishing.

Marcia Wood inspects Prospect before final finishing.

The late Marcia Wood ’55 served Kalamazoo College as a professor in the art department from 1965 to 1998. She also was a renowned and award winning artist whose works appear throughout the country. Two exhibitions this year (one ongoing and the second to include a silent auction) commemorate her extraordinary career. Proceeds from the silent auction will support the Marcia J. Wood Scholarship Fund at Kalamazoo College.

Wood’s friend and former colleague, David Curl, who served as a visiting professor of Art at Kalamazoo College from 1989-2000, is sponsoring a website——that includes the photos of her works, including those that have been donated for auction by the Wood family.

“Marcia touched and inspired many lives through her original work and 40-year career,” said Curl. “She conceived and executed sixteen large-scale public art sculptures that were installed in four states, as well as literally countless paintings and smaller sculptures. Her style was conceptually and symbolically representational, but reflected the abstract expressionism of the times.” One of her large-scale installations, Prospect, was commissioned to celebrate the College’s 1983 sesquicentennial and is located in front of the Light Fine Arts Building. In 1980 Wood received the Florence J. Lucasse Fellowship for Excellence in Scholarship, the highest award bestowed by the College’s faculty honoring contributions in creative work. In 1997 Wood was honored with the Governor’s Art Award from the Concerned Citizens for the Arts in Michigan.

A memorial exhibition of her work, Scaled Up: Sculpture by Marcia Wood, continues through December 31, 2016, at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.

A second exhibition, Marcia Wood: Monuments and Miniatures, will occur in the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo EPIC Center Gallery from May 5 through May 26, 2017. Says Curl: “The May exhibition will feature legacy work—smaller sculptures, maquettes, and early paintings—offered only on this Website that have been generously donated by the Wood family for sale by silent auction entirely for benefit of the Marcia J. Wood Scholarship Fund at Kalamazoo College.”



Prices, according to Curl, are not expected to approach “gallery” levels; only to reflect the maximum that each buyer is willing to commit to the scholarship fund. Online bidding will end as of the close of the EPIC Center exhibit on May 26, 2017, but bids entered by the exhibit opening on May 5, 2017 will be posted during the exhibition to encourage further bids from gallery visitors. “This silent auction of some of her lesser known work,” Curl says, “is a rare opportunity to continue Marcia’s legacy through contributing to her scholarship fund, and a last chance to acquire for your own collection a unique artifact of art history.”

This website is sponsored and supported solely by Curl, as agent for the Wood family, and is not connected directly to the College, to the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, The Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, or to any other entity. All proceeds from online and gallery sales will go entirely to the Marcia J. Wood Scholarship Fund at Kalamazoo College. By bidding, you agree that your contact information will be used only for communication about your bid, to notify you if you submit a winning bid by close of this online auction at midnight Friday, May 26, 2017, and to arrange for payment and for pick-up or shipment of your purchase(s).

“I’m grateful to all who browse these few remaining items from her legacy work,” says Curl, “and to all those who purchase one in her honor, and attend her exhibitions!”

Frontier Brothers

Perhaps it was something about Stetson Chapel.

When Robert Sewell, Sr. and Rowene Pionke were married there (October 30, 1948) they hoped the children they planned to have would fulfill their own dreams of graduating from Kalamazoo College.

Dreams come true. Robert Jr. and his younger brother Richard graduated from K. They also discovered careers in Alaska, where their parents eventually moved—a second dream-come-true for their fisherman father.

Robert Sr. retired in the 1980s, left Kalamazoo to visit Rich in Anchorage (and fish for anything with fins) and never looked back. The boys’ mother also embraced the northern lifestyle and found work there. The two now are buried at Ft. Richardson, after a number of happy years in Alaska near their sons.

Richard Sewell ’78  

Rich Sewell in 1982, with Anchorage in the background

Rich Sewell in 1982, with Anchorage in the background.

“I had wanted a small liberal arts college in the Midwest, without a lot of religious affiliation, in a small urban area,” Rich says.  “I’d taken tennis lessons and played on the Stowe Stadium courts from the time I was six years old, and Robert, who is two years older than I, was enrolled at K.”

Rich credits K for preparing him to explore options, seize opportunities, and adapt to circumstances that might otherwise have defeated him.

He appreciated the variety of opportunities at K. “I took hockey ice skating at WMU through a contract they had with K,” he says.

“I worked with hand ringing and we got involved in fund raising to buy the tower bells for Stetson Chapel,” he adds, recalling his parents’ ties to the place they were married.

And Rich found the professors and classes special.

Professor [Lawrence] Barrett taught freshman English and helped me learn to write, and he encouraged me to say what I was thinking,” Rich says. “It was near the end of Dr. Barrett’s career but he was still enthused about helping freshmen.”

During summers Rich worked at the Eckrich meat packing company.

“I was paid well,” he recalls. “With that and my scholarships and grants, I was able to pay my own way. I realize students today can hardly do that.”

After graduation Rich was hired at the South Central Michigan Regional Planning Commission in Kalamazoo. In July 1981, when his job was eliminated because of funding cuts, Rich left for Alaska. He figured he’d stay a few years and then return to Michigan or explore elsewhere. Instead, the economics major sunk his roots in Alaska.

He was hired as regional economist for the department of planning in Anchorage, where in late 1984 he predicted an economic crash.

“I’d been a foreign exchange student from Plainwell High School to Santiago, Chile, in 1973, and I’d seen things go bad there,” Rich says.

“City officials wanted me to revise my forecast. When I refused, I was out of a job.

“In 1987 there was a major economic downturn, forerunner of the national housing crash when 50 percent of Alaskan housing value was lost,” Rich recalls. His predictions had come true, though they cost him his job, but his K experiences had prepared him for change.

After losing the Anchorage position Rich reoriented himself by driving back roads through Germany, Greece, Yugoslavia, Italy, France, and other European countries.

“His K experiences had prepared him for change.”

“At K I had learned to be adaptable to trying different things and figuring things out,” he said. “Travel gave me time to think and reminded me I was supposed to be always learning new things,” he said. “I visited museums, reread Homer’s Odyssey and followed the route the hero took. And I learned there was an opportunity for seafood exports in Europe.”

Rich returned to Alaska, took a French course at the University of Alaska, and started a seafood company that processed and exported salmon to Europe, Asia, and Hawaii.

When the Valdez oil spill occurred, salmon took a hit. So Rich, who had done research about blue crabs during one of his off-campus experiences at K, reviewed what he had learned and obtained a grant through the Alaska Technology System to learn about the live king crab market. He switched to shipping king crab and returned to school for marketing and management classes. That led to the offer of a fellowship in the business school, and he enrolled in a master’s program.

“That proved to be a creative way to move forward with my business and do something productive,” Rich said.

When Alaska law declared that only six companies could buy crab in the Bering Sea, Rich found himself again out of business. He went to work for the Alaska Department of Transportation (2004) where he continues to be employed.

His first assignment was a posting at the isolated borough of Bethel.

“I was a foreigner there,” Rich said. “Some people still speak only Yupik. I needed a translator, so I took a class at the University and learned the Eskimo language.”

Rich has worked for government agencies, owned and operated his own seafood companies, and ridden the ups-and-downs of a volatile economy, oil spills, and unpredictable government regulations. The survival skills he needed, he says, he learned at K.

About 10 years ago Rich met Ellen Provost, a physician who is now director of epidemiology for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. The couple recently celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary.

“Now I have a stepdaughter, Rachel, and a baby granddaughter, Addison,” Rich says.

“Many people come and go to and from Alaska. To avoid that phenomenon, my solution was to encourage my family to move here.”

Robert Sewell ’75 

Robert Sewell hitchhiking in 1972 near Empire, Michigan

K student Robert Sewell hitchhiking in 1972 near Empire, Michigan. The photo was taken by friend and fellow K student Shana (Goldiamond) Aucsmith ’74.

Rich’s older brother Robert was a student at K when Rich enrolled.

After his first year at K he volunteered at the National Institutes of Health (Bethesda, Maryland) as a volunteer for phase I safety studies of new medicines.

When he returned to the College, he did an independent study internship at the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital, working as a research technician in a study of aggressive behavior. As a result of that experience he became increasingly intrigued by behavior analysis.

Robert eventually transferred to Western Michigan University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree (major in psychology and a minor in chemistry). He continued his education at WMU with a master’s degree (1982) and doctorate (1985), each with an emphasis on behavior analysis.

He visited Rich in Alaska in 1983; and two years later accepted a position as a professor of psychology at the University of Alaska in Anchorage. Like his brother he planned to stay only a few years, but also like his brother he has remained in the “last frontier” for more than 30 years.

Today Robert manages Alaska’s SHARP program, an effort he conceived and initiated in 2007. The State agency, a division of Alaska’s Health and Social Services, provides direct financial incentives for health professionals.

“We need to encourage people to come to Alaska and stay,” Robert said.

Robert has stayed. “Michigan was my home,” he said, “but I love the magnificent scenery, the people, and the native culture here.” He and his wife Olga and his 17-year old son, Luke, live on Douglas Island near Juneau. His stepdaughter, Lauren, is a registered nurse who works in oncology in Portland, Oregon.

The brothers remember the occasion when they were lab partners during a biology class at K. In a sense, says Rich, he and Robert continue to collaborate. Both now are on the Board of Directors for the Alaska State Employees Association. And their adopted home is now, simply, home. Their forbears are buried here.

On the Soccer Sidelines Somewhere

Thirteen years after calling it a career at Kalamazoo College, former Kalamazoo College men’s soccer coach (and professor of German language literature) Hardy Fuchs ’68 is still calling shots on soccer sidelines.

Hardy Fuchs with five of his soccer players

Hardy with some of his current players, much younger than his K coaching days.

This time however, the players are a little smaller and a lot younger.

The 73-year-old former chair of the German department now volunteers his time teaching 8-year-old boys the basics of the game of soccer on a grassy, unlined field in the shadows of K’s campus—meeting Monday nights throughout the summer.

“It’s tougher than coaching college players,” laughs Fuchs, who led the Hornets to 12 MIAA championships and a record of 343-137-36 during his 32-year career. “I get a lot of satisfaction out of it. Their world view is magical and their outlook on life is beautiful. They are so eager to learn.”

At each practice, the 1988 NCAA Great Lakes Regional Coach of the Year works on passing, dribbling and shooting with his aspiring soccer stars. He relies on the college playbook that helped take the Hornets to six NCAA III Tournament appearances for drills and activities.

“I simplify what I used to do for decades with the college players,” he says. “You have to reduce and adjust. What you think is simple isn’t necessarily simple in the eyes of an 8-year-old. Passing with the inside of your foot, for example, isn’t natural. Feet weren’t made to shoot and pass.”

“What you think is simple isn’t necessarily simple.”

And because it’s not natural, Fuchs not only takes the time to explain but also to demonstrate—taking to the field just like he did for more than three decades—to show the kids how it’s done.

“He makes it fun for the boys because you can see that he’s truly having fun himself,” says Sarah Willey, whose son Sam attends the summer soccer sessions. “Coach Hardy’s love for soccer is infectious. My son can’t wait to come to practice.”

Tracy Hausman, mom to 8-year-old Carter, agrees.

“With Coach Hardy, it doesn’t look like work,” she says. “He shows the kids that the game should be fun—that it’s okay to just play.”

Hausman, a volunteer soccer coach for her son’s team, met Fuchs last spring when his young granddaughter was on her team. He reached out to her and offered his assistance.

“He told me he had a ‘little bit of experience coaching soccer,’” Hausman laughs.

The young coach jumped at the opportunity to work with the legendary Fuchs, and they worked together at the weekly practices and Friday night games.

“The kids weren’t the only ones learning,” Hausman recalls. “I learned so much about how to be a better coach.”

When the season ended, Fuchs agreed to hold summer training sessions for Hausman’s team and anyone else who was looking to learn more about soccer.

And more they have certainly learned.

“From week to week, you can see that they have a better understanding of the game,” Fuchs says.

He won’t, however, take all of the credit.

“You cannot coach a team or a player,” he asserts. “You know that learning goes on, and you can be a part of it, but you can’t teach them. They must teach themselves. I see my function as a coach to be their shortcut to get-ting to the next level. I’m going to help them take the next step.”

Helping the kids get to the next level isn’t the only thing Fuchs is trying accomplish. He’s also teaching them a little bit about his own culture and his native country. Each practice session ends with Fuchs leading the boys in a traditional German soccer chant: “Zicke, Zacke, Zicke, Zacke, Hoi, Hoi, Hoi!”

The lively chant reinforces Fuchs’ goals of fun, camaraderie and sportsmanship.

And as long as he’s still having fun, you can bet you’ll continue to find Fuchs on the soccer sidelines somewhere.

Jewish Life at K

When Associate Professor of Religion and History Jeffrey Haus came to Kalamazoo College nearly a decade ago, the Jewish Studies program was almost non-existent.

Associate Professor Jeffrey Haus with students

Associate Professor Jeffrey Haus with students.

With just a handful of classes that focused on Jewish faith, culture, and history, Haus got to work building a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary curriculum from the ground up. Today, he directs a Jewish Studies program that boasts 14 classes, ranging from beginning and intermediate Hebrew language courses to “Women in Judaism” to the “American Jewish Experience.”

“I’d like to say it’s all been my doing,” jokes Haus, who came to K from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. “But you can’t start a program if nobody cares. The College made a commitment to support the program; the administration made a commitment, too. There’s an openness on the campus to Jewish students.

“It’s indicative of how K has changed over years and become more diverse. The Jewish Studies program is part of that change for the better.”

It’s hard to pin-down exactly how many Jewish students there are at K, Haus says. The College does not ask students their religious affiliation and doesn’t keep track of such information. But his best estimate puts the number somewhere between 100 and 150 students.

It’s a demographic that has more opportunities than ever before on campus to celebrate their faith, engage with other Jewish students, and feel a sense of inclusiveness.

“I have heard from Jewish alumni from the ’70s and ’80s who said when they were students here, they didn’t feel out of place, but there was no real organized Jewish life.” says Haus. “It’s different when you know you have a critical mass of Jewish students to support one another and create some cohesion.”

The history of Jews is a history of extraordinary communal creativity ….

During the 2013-14 academic year, six students (Jewish and non-Jewish) signed up for the Jewish Studies concentration. As the program continues to grow, its deepening reach bodes well for the College in many ways. In addition to increasing awareness of and appreciation for the Jewish history and traditions, the concentration’s courses provide an arena for discussing issues of identity, power, and social justice.

“Jewish Studies,” says Haus, can therefore “serve as a nexus where K students can connect different parts of a liberal arts education. Studying Jewish history and religion, they can apply lessons learned from other subjects.”

In addition, the College’s curricular emphasis on social justice increases the relevance of Jewish Studies courses. “Social justice, human rights, and the relationships between majorities and minorities are central themes in Jewish history, religion, and culture,” Haus says. “Jewish communities the world over have always been committed to caring for the less fortunate. The history of Jews is therefore a history of extraordinary communal creativity in areas such as education, economics, and charity.”

Currently, there are two study abroad sites in Israel for K students—one at the Rothberg International School at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the other at the Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva, located in the Negev, a starkly beautiful desert region in the south of the nation. Both sites have their advantages, Haus says, but the Be’er Sheva site might provide a bit more authentic experience—and a better deal.

“Jerusalem is where the action is, but it’s also more expensive, and there are more limits when it comes to course offerings,” says Haus. “There are also many more Anglophones in Jerusalem, and you can get by just speaking English. In Be’er Sheva, you have a little more diverse course offerings and it’s a bit more cost effective. There are also more chances to use and learn Hebrew and hang out with Israelis. You can get by with English, but you need to use Hebrew.

“I think that no matter how many Jews there are on campus, there’s never been a better time to be a Jewish student at K,” adds Haus. “Between the strong support from the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, strong support from the administration, and growing number of Jewish activities on campus, as well as this program, it’s leaps and bounds better than what was seen here decades ago. It’s great to have that in a liberal arts setting.”

Jewish students looking for a sense of belonging have traditionally become a part of the Jewish Student Organization, which is open to Jewish and non-Jewish students and has been on campus for decades.

Claire DeWitt

Claire DeWitt ’14 prepares for the Passover Seder.

Claire De Witt ’14 is deeply rooted in K’s Jewish student culture and community. The East Lansing native and double major (history and religion with a concentration in Jewish Studies) is the president of the JSO.

About 10 to 15 students are part of the JSO each year, De Witt says, and they are involved with organizing campus-wide events for Jewish and non-Jewish students, faculty, and staff. Many events center around Jewish holidays, when traditional meals are prepared, such as baking hamentashen for Purim. Other activities include building a sukkah on campus for Sukkot and donating trees to Israel for Tu Bishvat.

The biggest event the JSO organizes is a Passover Seder, with a full dinner and service put on by student members. About 60 K community members annually attend the Seder, De Witt says, a time when JSO members can educate other College members about the Jewish faith.

“I enjoy JSO because of the community I am able to cultivate through our events and weekly meetings,” says De Witt. “We are a close-knit group that enjoys movie nights and cooking events together throughout the year.  As a Jewish student I truly appreciate having a safe space to gather, celebrate, and share the cultural heritage with which I so strongly identify.”

JSO isn’t the only group that has become a support network for students of the faith.

“Even six years ago, you didn’t have an option about what kind of Jewish student you wanted to be on campus. Today we have Jews from many different traditions,” says K Chaplain and Director of Religious Life Elizabeth Hakken Candido ’00. “There is more diversity among Jews. JSO used to be the primary vehicle for support, and in the past there was a feeling that if you were Jewish, you needed to be involved with JSO. There is enough room now to not have to be in JSO, if you don’t want to, and still feel supported.”

Madeleine Weisner and Jennifer Tarnoff feel that sense of belonging. The two seniors will graduate in June and have seen the campus become more inclusive and supportive of those who share their faith.

Several days a week, you can find Weisner, from Minneapolis, and Tarnoff, from Chicago, in the basement of Stetson Chapel in a cozy, albeit cramped, space called “The Cavern.” It’s a safe spot for sharing stories, hanging out and sampling free cookies and tea, or picking up “George,” the Cavern’s communal acoustic guitar. Although not tied to any particular religious tradition, there is an element of faith that permeates the space.

Currently, there are eight Jewish student chaplains, the most ever, Hakken Candido says. Student chaplains are the primary volunteers who help organize activities for the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life. Haus recalls that when he arrived at the College there were no Jewish students in those roles.

Tarnoff is a student chaplain, while Weisner works a paying job as a chapel intern.

“My dad wanted me to look at big state schools that had Hillels (a well-known Jewish campus organization),” Tarnoff says. “But I wanted to find a school that could continue the community feeling I had growing up Jewish. There were many other things that trumped going to a big school. There’s a lot of Jews at K. There’s definitely a community here.”

All too often, the Jewish high holiday of Yom Kippur occurs during orientation and move-in week. Although there is not an official College policy for them to do so, many professors and teaching staff will let Jewish students out of classes to attend services if they wish to, Hakken Candido says, and her office works with JSO to provide free rides to the synagogue of their choice. There are two synagogues in Kalamazoo—the Congregation of Moses, affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; and Temple B’nai Israel, a Reform temple. Similar efforts are made for Rosh Hashanah, which also takes place in the early part of fall term.

The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life also hosts a “Break the Fast” dinner after Yom Kippur for new and returning Jewish students. The event is a great opportunity for freshman Jewish students to meet their older counterparts on campus, develop connections, and find out about Jewish life at K right at the beginning of the year.

“I didn’t grow up perhaps as religious as Jennifer. I didn’t really seek it out,” Weisner says. “But as my college life went on, I looked into my faith more. Having the college support me meant that I had room to grow in my own spirituality.”