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Christine Hahn, Associate Professor of Art History

22July2010 Evergood Mural, Kalamazoo CollegeChristine published an article, “Maintaining Problematic Art: A Case Study of Philip Evergood’s The Bridge of Life (1942) at Kalamazoo College.” The article appeared in Public Art Dialogue (6:1, 116-130) on May 27, 2016.

The piece is particularly interesting for any alumni familiar with the mural (see above) in Old Welles Hall. It covers the history of controversy inspired by the work since it’s unveiling (1942), including specific calls (in 1966 and in 2010) for some redress for iconography deemed offensive to and by some individuals and groups. Detailing the call-and-response to the criticism voiced in 2010, Christina ultimately suggests “that problematic public art has the unique potential to produce positive social change by staying in place.”

The article reveals much about K’s history, including Evergood’s time on campus as an artist and a teacher as well as his bona fides as an ardent social radical. Christina also introduces (from Lewis Hyde, author of Common as Air) a concept of “freedom of listening.” In his book Hyde cites Benjamin Franklin’s creation of a lecture hall where “people were free to give lectures on whatever they wanted.” In that space (Christina quotes Hyde): “Individual speakers present singular views; individual listeners entertain plurality…. The hall was thus built to serve the eighteenth-century idea of replacing the partial self with a plural or public self, one who is host to many voices, even those otherwise at odds with the singular being you thought you were when you first walked in the door….If we take free listening to be the true end of free speech, then freedom itself takes on a different aspect…intelligence arises in the common world, where many voices can be heard; it belongs to collectivity, not privacy, and is available especially to those who can master the difficult art of plural listening.”

Christina invokes Hyde’s notion of “agonistic listening amongst equals in conflict” (a notion that is at the heart of the academy and a direct contrast to “antagonism, where opponents try to silence or destroy the other”) to describe College and student responses to the controversy implicit and explicit in the work, particularly the responses that took place or were considered between 2010 and 2015. She writes: “The building Benjamin Franklin built that embraced such agonistic pluralism eventually became the Philadelphia Academy, which in turn became the University of Pennsylvania. This transformation of space, built to house agonistic conflict among equals, is a particularly fitting symbol of how physical space can potentially create a space for inquiry, conflict and debate. This type of site is necessary and important. Indeed, as Lewis Hyde argues, it is agonistic spaces such as these that are the foundations of democracy.”

The presence of the mural, Christina continues, has provided the intellectual and emotive space for agonistic listening, “has allowed these twenty-first-century conversations on race, class dynamics and elite educations to take place….[M]aintaining problematic public art in an agonistic space helps keep our understanding of the past and our vision of the future firmly in view.” A fascinating article, well worth the time to read it.

Richard Means ’52

Richard died on February 15, 2014. He was a beloved professor emeritus of sociology at the College who first arrived on campus as an undergraduate student in 1948, when he transferred from the University of Toledo. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. At K he won the Hodge Prize in philosophy and was president of the student body. He was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He and fellow K graduate, Joyce Allen, married in 1953.

Richard earned a bachelor’s degree in divinity from Colgate Rochester Divinity School (1956) and an M.A. and Ph.D. (sociology) from Cornell University (1959 and 1964, respectively). He served as a chaplain at Cornell (1956-59) and was ordained as an Associate Minster of the First Congregational Church (1957). He returned to K in 1961, where he received tenure (1964) and was promoted to full professor (1972). He retired from K in 1993, having served the College for 32 years.

Among the qualities that made him exceptional, wrote his colleague and friend, Dean of the Chapel Robert Dewey, on the occasion of Mean’s 25th service anniversary with the College, were his “command of a discipline, intellectual curiosity beyond that discipline, stimulating conversation, collegial support, a sense of humor, a broad range of interests and an impressive knowledge of each, a passionate concern for the vitality and quality of the College and for the problems confronting society, the nation, and the world.” His research and teaching interests were broad and deep and included the family, criminology, mental health institutions, the sociology of religion, race relations, alcohol and drug abuse, the environment, and social gerontology. Citing the breadth of his colleague’s intellectual interests Dean Dewey likened Richard to “a man in a conning tower rotating his periscope across the wide horizon to see and grasp what he finds there.” Richard wrote numerous journal articles on various topics in sociology and religion, and he was the author of the book The Ethical Imperative: The Value Crisis in America, which was used in college classes at Grinnell and Carleton, among others.

After he retired from K, Richard served as interim minster of the First Congregational Church of Kalamazoo. He then served as interim minster of the First Congregational Church of Coloma, Michigan.

He is survived by Joyce, his wife of 60 years, their three children, three grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.

Tom Rice, Professor of Art

Tom had a solo exhibition titled “Monuments to the Ephemeral” at the Firehouse Art center in Longmont, Colorado. The exhibit opened April 22 and ran through May 25. The exhibit comprised several large ink drawings on transparent plastic that explore ideas related to the effects of climate change on the environment. Tom wrote, “As early as the 19th century, American landscape painters of the Hudson River Valley School realized that the natural resources of the Americas were under assault by industrialization. Their work idealized the pristine landscape of the Americas in order to preserve and glorify its grandeur. My work references these paintings with a renewed alarm at the effect of climate change and the fragility of the environment. Monuments to the Ephemeral speaks to environmental concerns through the futile attempt to immortalize disappearing geological features in images that are even more fragile and ephemeral. Comprised of transparent plastic and ink, these drawings have a fairly short life span. In the gallery, they hang loosely against the wall and sway with any gentle breeze caused by the movement of our human bodies. To personalize the drawings, each piece also includes an excerpt from a love letter. Like the environment, love is ephemeral and can be nurtured or easily destroyed. Both subjects confront issues associated with loss.”

Jessica Hoffman ’13

Last October Jessica was accepted into Western Michigan University’s graduate program for counseling psychology. Jessica is a first generation college student who now is the first in her family to attend graduate school. “Her time at K was a  key chapter in this story,” wrote her friend and mentor, John Fink, professor emeritus of mathematics and computer science. At K Jessica majored in French and studied abroad in Claremont-Ferrand, France.

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.”

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.