Archives

Péter Érdi, the Luce Professor of Complex System Studies

Péter has been named editor-in-chief of Cognitive Systems Research, a journal that covers the study of cognitive systems and processes both natural (organic) and artificial (robotic). Péter has taught at K since 2002 in the departments of physics and psychology. He also directs the College’s Center for Complex System Studies. Additionally, he is co-director of the Budapest Semester in Cognitive Science, a study abroad program mostly, but not exclusively, for North American students, including students from K. Péter was head of the department of biophysics at the KFKI Research Institute for Particle and Nuclear Physics in Budapest from 1993 to 2011. He has degrees in chemistry and chemical cybernetics.

Terry Nelson, former assistant professor of psychology

Terry died on November 14, 2016. He grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota and earned his B.A. from Hamline University. He earned his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Minnesota (1968) and then taught in the psychology department at K from 1968 to 1972. Terry returned to the Twin Cities where he began a private practice in psychology. He is survived by his wife, Connie, four sons and nine grandchildren.

Alice Lynette (Spath) Blanchard

Alice, who went by her middle name of Lynette, died on March 13, 2014. She taught flute for 30 years at Kalamazoo College. At an early age, she became a flutist with the Kalamazoo Junior Symphony Orchestra, rapidly advancing to first chair. She graduated from the School of Music at the University of Michigan in 1943. During her college summers she taught flute at the renowned Interlochen Music Camp. In 1943 she married Raywood Helmer Blanchard, who after his military service as a pilot in the Army Air Corps, enjoyed a career as an international patent attorney. Lynette served as principle flutist with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra for 25 years. When the couple retired to McAllen, Texas, she was the first chair flutist and president of the McAllen Town Band. She was an avid golfer and active in the Methodist Church. You could find her playing the piano for her Sunday school class on any Sunday when she wasn’t fishing with her son in Rockport, Texas.

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.”

Siu-Lan Tan, Professor of Psychology

NYU/Steinhardt is celebrating its 125th anniversary by inviting speakers from around the world to participate in year-round events. One of those speakers will be Siu-Lan. In March she will give a short talk titled “Why Movies Move Us: The Psychology and Neuroscience of Film Music.” She also will be one of a four-member panel that will discuss the topic with the audience. In addition to Siu-Lan (a psychologist), the panel includes a film composer, a neuroscientist and a music theorist.

Gerald Poggi, assistant professor of classics

Gerald Poggi (left) in Cairo, Egypt

Gerald Poggi (left) in Cairo, Egypt

Jerry died unexpectedly of an apparent heart attack on September 28, 2016, in Cairo, Egypt. He taught in the classics department at Kalamazoo College from 1966 to 1970.

Jerry was born in New York City and attended Regis High School in Manhattan. He graduated from Iona College (New Rochelle, New York) and accepted a fellowship in Latin and Greek from the University of Chicago in 1965 where he earned a master’s degree.

After his four years teaching at K he returned to the University of Chicago to work in administration. He and his partner, Bill (who died in 1992), left Chicago and went to the West Coast where Jerry entered the corporate world as an executive with Hughes Aircraft. Jerry also earned a Ph.D in comparative literature from the University of Southern California.

Jerry and Bill moved to Milwaukee where Jerry worked with Miller Brewing. His last position was with the State of Maryland  as a personnel director. He retired at the age of 62 and moved to Cairo, visiting the United States for several months each year. Jerry is survived by his partner, Ashraf, and his brother, Gregory, who is a professor at the University of Michigan.

Jon Reeves, Director of Technical Theatre

Jon, who in addition to his duties as K’s director of technical theatre serves as Dalton Theatre manager, was honored with a 2015 Community Medal of Arts Award by the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo. The award recognizes “an artist who is a leader in their field, has a significant body of creative activity, who has received local and/or national acclaim, and has impacted our community through art.” Congratulations, Jon!

 

Max Cherem ’04, the Marlene Crandell Francis Assistant Professor of Philosophy

Max  is one of four persons in the country honored with the prestigious Humanities Writ Large Visiting Faculty Fellowship for the 2015-16 academic year. He is spending this year as a research resident at Duke University and working in the Kenan Institute for Ethics. His work focuses on human rights, specifically the ethical challenges created by “externalized” state border controls: policies that try to prevent migrant arrival by projecting or outsourcing a nation’s authority over migration beyond its regular territorial borders. He gave an interview at the Kenan Institute explaining his research. Max earned his bachelor’s degree at K in philosophy and studied abroad in Nepal.

Conrad Hilberry, Professor Emeritus of English

Conrad HillberryIn a speech he gave in 1987, Professor Emeritus of English Conrad Hilberry said,”When I think of poems that I am especially drawn to, I find they often have a silence, a mystery at the center.”

Today Con is that silence, a life now part of a “mystery at the center” into which words will penetrate insufficiently at best, the way sunlight beneath the surface of a deep ocean shimmers a few meters at most then disappears.

Con died on January 11, 2017. Several weeks previous, his daughter, Jane, wrote that her father had written to her that he planned to “make his exit” after Christmas but wasn’t sure he could endure that long. He endured and then died from complications of cancer and pneumonia. He was 88 years old.

Con earned his B.A. at Oberlin College, his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin. Attracted to “the promise of a college that was willing to try things,” Con was recruited to Kalamazoo College by Larry Barrett, a colleague in the English department and later a dear friend. Con started his career at K in 1962, the first full year of the bold and quirky curriculum called the K-Plan. He retired in 1998. In between, countless students of all majors and liberal arts inclinations fondly recall his literature and writing classes and especially his poetry courses. He wrote 11 volumes of poetry. His latest, Until the Full Moon Has Its Say, he wrote in his mid-eighties, and many of its poems are villanelles, a demanding form Con seemed to execute with ease. Like his friend and colleague Larry Barrett, whom he eulogized in 2002, Con was “in business right to the end.”

His prolificity as a poet sometimes obscured the fact that he was a marvelous writer of prose, author of the genre-bending creative nonfiction piece, Luke Karamazov, and countless essays and chapel talks, often on poets such as John Donne and Galway Kinnell, two he particularly loved, though there are many many more. Con loved to illustrate with poems the ideas he articulated in his prose as if to remind us that poetry (as he once said) can be a brief and invigorating elevation from the “lowly ground” of our inward selves–not that such ground is bereft of beauty and mystery, only that our souls seek a glimpse of something abundant beyond our own inwardness. Con often found that abundance, “a pool of meaning,” in the ordinary.

He was a remarkable teacher, entirely and joyfully at home in the “arches and vaults” of the liberal arts, created when the seemingly separate disciplines lean together and conjoin. He continually sought inspiration for his own work (both his teaching and his poetry) in the subject matters of his colleagues and friends in biology, mathematics, religion, philosophy, physics and psychology, to name just a few. Often he’d audit courses in different departments as grist for his imagination, for example John Spencer’s seminar on Alfred North Whitehead and David Evans’s class on ethology. What he learned in those classes found its way into his poems, intentionally or not. Most of all he loved K students, and the effect on them of the K-Plan: their genius, he wrote, “for combining academic work and off-campus experience in just the way to allow themselves the most dramatic growth.”

In 1995, three years before his retirement, he began teaching night classes in poetry at the Stryker Center. These he continued for some 15 years, and many of his ex-students and members of the greater Kalamazoo community attended. Con helped poets make and publish their poems, and the list of these writers is impressive, including, among others, Susan Blackwell Ramsey, Corey Marks, Gail McMurray Martin, Marie Bahlke, Kit Almy, Gail Griffin, Rob Dunn, Hedy Habra, Marion Boyer, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Jane Hilberry, Amy Newday, and his lifelong student and friend, Pulitzer Prize finalist Diane Seuss. His beloved wife of 60 years, Marion, who died on April 8, 2008, often joined him in these classes.

In an essay he wrote on Galway Kinnell, Con described the opposition between poems and the notion of the final word. Comments on poems we perceive as “right on certain points and wrong on others,” he said. “But no one sees [those comments, even if they are the author’s] as the last word, equivalent to the poem itself. We always assume there is more to be said as the complexities of the poem take different configurations from other readers….Whenever a reading is taken as final, the poem is diminished.”

He managed his classes like that, starting things off, then sitting back to listen and provide space for students’ voices–for that peculiar confluence of text and the texture of readers’ lives, from which arises meaning. “I just need to choose the right books,” he once said. “Then the students notice things about the poems, and they teach each other.”

He was a poet and teacher of the people, deeply involved in the city of Kalamazoo’s Poetry on Buses program during its heyday. Often, with fellow poets (and friends) Herb Scott and John Woods (English professors at neighboring Western Michigan University) among others, Con would bring poetry into public middle schools, somehow managing to engage that always potentially intractable audience into the “best poems,” which Con considered an ineffable harmony of vividness (which the junior high students loved) and wholeness (where, often, the work began). He served as an editor of the Third Coast anthologies of Michigan poets and seemed to be a friend to every writer therein.

In his teaching prime Con’s presence was unforgettable, especially his red hair and ready smile. His limp and the rattle of his bike always suggested some past accident that had had no effect on his love of biking steep grades, celebrating gravity. And why not celebrate the force that holds us in what he called our “borrowed dust” for our short while on earth–the best, the only place for love.

In his last chapel talk (2001), using a line from a poem by Stanley Kunitz, Con said, “I have walked through many lives, some of them my own.” Indeed, Con contained multitudes.

Near the end, when Con was in the hospital, before he came home for hospice care, he said to his daughter, Jane, “I still have some talents left.  One of them is sleeping.  Another one is laughing.”

So like Con: able to sort by scent the smoke of sleep and laughter. He was, to the very end, the poet of the ordinary’s miracle.