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K River Anthology

-Tucky-Derby-Photo

Down the stretch at the K-Tucky Derby

Rose Kennedy and the K-Tucky Derby live on the same Kalamazoo College website—Story Zoo—separated by a decade or so, both upstream and downstream time’s river.

Every homecoming Story Zoo is open on the Quad or in the Upjohn Library recording studio, a chance for alumni, faculty, staff and students to share a K story that matters to them. Perhaps better than any other medium, the stories in aggregate articulate the joy and struggle, the grace and disorder, and the “serious quirky” that makes K what it is.

Some stories will move you, like the paean of David Kessler ’70 (An Arresting Exam) to the courage of former president Weimer K. Hicks. It changed David’s life.

Some are downright poetic, like the extended metaphor (coat-to-cape) of Pam Brown Gavin ’74 (10 Best for the Clueless).

Forgot what it was like the first Saturday in May at Angell Field? Let class-of-1985 friends Elizabeth (Fiore) Vogel and Carolyn Dadabay remind you of K-Tucky Derby. See if you can spot Carolyn in the video.

What punishments and penalties marked your K day or era? In the late 1950s being “campused” was the sentence for “late minutes.” Head Proctor Karen (Lake) DeVos ’59 met some good friends in “lock up.” And big changes were coming (French Influence to K: “Lighten up!”), originating from foreign study in France.

Some stories solve longstanding mysteries. The Student Observation Bureau. Remember? Well, it didn’t last long, but it sure caused quite a stir. Where, exactly, did it originate? Rachel Robinson ’85 finally reveals that secret (S.O.B.–Old Rules, New Prank).

So take some time and time travel—through the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, the aughts, the 10s and more. You’ll discover memories of great professors like Chen and Doc Stowe, Nelda Balch, T.J. Smith, Karyn Boatwright and Mickey McDonald, among others. You’ll recall small but vital details of the elements of the K-Plan: foreign study, career service, civic engagement and the SIP. Great parties (Beach Party) and enduring relationships (A Lifetime of Friendship).

Most stories are one to three minutes. There is one however, that is longer (about seven minutes), and it is worth the time: David Easterbrook’s (class of 1969) moving story about the delivery of a 20-year-old message from a Masai elder to the Kennedy family (When You See Rose Kennedy in the Market). In this day of social media and shortened attention span, please don’t miss the beauty of David’s “longer” lyric.

Whether your K story is the memory of an unforgettable moment, or the trajectory of your career, we want to hear it.  All alumni, students, faculty and staff are invited to contribute to the Story Zoo. Individual or group stories are welcome! Nor must you wait for homecoming or commencement. Feel free to record your own video, upload it to the video-sharing site of your choice (e.g. Vine or YouTube), and send us the URL.

The next campus recording is scheduled for Saturday, October 15, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the fire circle next to Stetson Chapel. All alumni, students, faculty and staff are invited to stop by the Cavern Fire Circle to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and to record your favorite K memory.

Gracious Stumbling

Barbara Heming

Barbara Heming’s liberal arts journey has been widely varied. Just now she writes mystery novels and serves as a tour guide at one of the homes of artist Georgia O’Keeffe.

Kalamazoo College students learn how to live graciously in different ways. For Barbara Heming ’66, gracious living has meant “stumbling” into new dreams and new opportunities—then going after them diligently and confidently.

After a career in higher education, Barbara has most recently focused her work on writing novels, a lifelong dream. Death Wins the Crown, her first, is also the initial offering in a series she plans to write. Her road to becoming a novelist has its origin at K.

It seemed to Barbara that she heard about K all her life from her father, Arthur Heming, a chemistry major who graduated from the College in 1937. After he earned a doctorate (University of Wisconsin) in biochemistry, he worked for Johnson & Johnson. His work there took him and his family to São Paulo, Brazil, and later to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where Barbara was born.

The family returned to the United States when Barbara was three and settled in the Philadelphia area. During the ensuing years, Barbara forgot all the Spanish she had learned, but she never lost her alma latina.

At K she went to Madrid for study abroad and fell so much in love with the people, culture, language and literature that she took every Spanish class she could fit into her schedule, even though her major was religion. After graduation, she lived in Spain for three months and then took a secretarial position in Washington, D.C. She worked just a couple blocks from the White House. Her interest in Spanish continued, and she took night classes at the American University. Later, she became a full-time student at AU and earned a master’s degree in Spanish language and literature.

At first, she felt she had to catch up to the other students who had majored in Spanish as undergrads. So she immersed herself so deeply in her studies that by the end of the second semester she was far ahead of her classmates.

The liberal arts … help you adapt to the many circumstances you confront in life.

“Intellectual life is important to me, and that attracted me to K in the first place,” she said. “At K you hit the ground running for 10 weeks without excuses and without late papers. You figure out how to get your work done. As a result, I learned that if I decide to do something, I’m going to do it.”

Her next “something” was to teach at the college level. She earned a Ph.D. (State University of New York at Stony Brook) in Hispanic Languages and Literature.  Her dissertation focused on the experience of five Spanish writers exiled because of the Spanish Civil War. Although these writers were known for other genres, in exile each turned to the theatre.

“Theatre was a way of communication that was more present,” said Barbara. “Their work performed in front of an audience gave it a more communal expression.”

Barbara taught at Ohio State University (Columbus), Westminster College (New Wilmington, Pa.), and Thiel College (Greenville, Pa.). During her time at Thiel she encouraged study abroad and enabled two group trips—one to Honduras and one to Peru.

“I really credited all my success to K,” said Barbara. “It was there that I got a sense that the world is large and that great people live everywhere. I also learned how to explore the world in ways that are not imbued in other college study abroad programs.”

Barbara has lived in five different states. Her approach to any new environment is to look around, figure out the culture, discover what was available, and how she could make a contribution.

“I believe strongly in the liberal arts because they help you adapt to the many circumstances you confront in life. My education at K prepared me to be able to do many different things.”

Teaching was good for Barbara, but she felt the urge to try other things as well. At one point she went to the Worchester (Mass.) Center for Crafts to learn weaving, and she ran a weaving business for a few years before returning to teaching.

During a six-month sabbatical from Thiel College, she lived on a small agricultural town in Peru. She also accompanied a doctor from the local health clinic on home visits to assess and schedule patients for a visiting U.S. surgical team.

“That experience was life-changing,” said Barbara.

After Peru, she felt a need to be in a more spiritual environment and eventually joined the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, a religious community in northwestern Pennsylvania. She stayed with the community for five years and then left to become a lay minister in an Hispanic congregation in Canton, Ohio.

Then Barbara began to feel an attraction to New Mexico. She ended up living near Abiquiu, at tiny town about 50 miles north of Santa Fe. Barbara became a tour guide at the home studio of celebrated artist Georgia O’Keeffe, who lived in Abiquiu for almost 40 years.

“The yearning to go to New Mexico was a mystery to me,” said Barbara. “And the most logical action would have been a job-and house-finding visit, but something about that course didn’t seem right. So, I just moved there.”

Georgia O’Keeffe has long been an inspiration to Barbara, and working at one of her homes has been a special treat.

“Miss O’Keeffe was a woman of her time. Her dedication to her art—as well as her willingness to structure her life in service of that art through sacrifice and in the way she lived—speaks most deeply to me.”

Barbara’s calling to New Mexico was also the start of her new “career” as a novelist. She began by writing fiction and some poetry, but it was the mystery novel that captivated her the most.

“I always liked reading mysteries,” she said, “and wondered what it would be like to write one.”

Barbara Heming at a book signing

Our mystery writer at a book signing.

To prepare herself, she took an online class in fiction writing through Writer’s Digest and learned the elements of making a whodunit. She came up with the idea for Death Wins the Crown, sat down, plotted it out, created character profiles, and started writing.

“There are lots of online opportunities out there for writers,” she said, “which would never have been possible 15 to 20 years ago. You can be connected with writers from all over the world to share your work and have it critiqued. You can also join a writers community.”

Barbara used Skype to converse with a novelist from the United Kingdom, who critiqued her work and even visited her in New Mexico.

Barbara finds writing totally absorbing.  She likes to write all day for a period of days. She especially enjoys having the freedom to write fiction, a bit different from those academic papers she used to write.

“You are in a different world as a fiction writer,” she said.

She’d be hard pressed to decide what she loves best: the process of writing or the good story that emerges. “Through fiction I’m better able to explore deeper levels of truth—and communicate those ideas to readers—than would be possible through other genres. A good story draws readers into its world and allows them to experience a different reality. Hopefully, they will be open to ideas that they might resist if presented in nonfiction.

“Through the structure of the mystery in Death Wins the Crown,” she added. “I explore the exploitation of young people in our society—girls and young women through beauty pageants and young men through sports, especially college football—and the tragedies that result.”

Barbara is using the new media available to both publish and promote her book, which sidesteps the time and expense of going through agents and publishers.

“Self-publishing used to be considered a vanity press. Today’s technology has made publishing more accessible and more democratic,” she said. “It still takes a lot to produce a novel and get it out there.”

The New York Times best seller list is not on her bucket list.

“My goal is to tell a good story and provide something readers can take away from their reading,” she said. “I want to add something to the larger conversation.”

Barbara has written the first draft of her next novel, which is set in New Mexico and deals with the themes of family secrets, the nature of betrayal, and the meaning of home.

And her next mystery novel is unfolding. “I’m not sure yet what will emerge, but its setting is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, and its working title is Death Rocks and Rolls.

Just where did this itch to write originate? “From K,” she says.

“The common thread in my life has been to respond to whatever drew me to a place or an action,” said Barbara.  “That’s my way of gracious living.”

Find out more about Barbara’s work on her website.

Long Use

Classmates (2009) Jerrod Howlett (left) and Brad Flaugher made a K catch during a recent trip to Key West.

Classmates (2009) Jerrod Howlett (left) and Brad Flaugher made a catch during a recent trip to Key West.

One of the most frequently lauded characteristics of a Kalamazoo College education is the longevity of its usefulness.  “More in four, more in a lifetime” is a promise and reality for many K alums whose strong academic foundations and the personal networks created at K have paid dividends decades after leaving the Arcadian Hill.

But what about K’s value in those first few years after receiving a diploma? For an ever-expanding group of recent grads, like classmates (2009) Brad Flaugher and Will Dickson, Kalamazoo connections have been invaluable from day one. In addition to being classmates, the two share an undergraduate major (economics and business) and study abroad program (London, England).

The Worst of Times

In 2010, after earning his master’s degree in economic history at the London School of Economics (LSE), Brad planned to return stateside and find a job in finance.  Unfortunately, the timing was not fortuitous. Facing the gale force headwinds of the worst American financial crisis since the Great Depression, Brad wanted to land in an industry that simply wasn’t hiring.  According to Will, the market was “absolutely atrocious . . . probably the worst time ever for new hires.”

Luckily for Brad, Will had just the opportunity that Brad needed—his own.  After beating the odds himself in 2009 to secure a job with the Minneapolis-based hedge fund Walleye Trading, Will opted to pursue a graduate degree in accounting at the University of Texas.  Upon his departure from Walleye, Will recommended his classmate to take his place.

Will remembers “[Walleye] was a good opportunity for me, but to be honest, Brad was probably better suited for the position,” given his background in computer science. Because of Will’s endorsement and his own acumen in a competitive interview process, Brad was hired at Walleye as an options trader and programmer.

Paying it Forward

Brad later left Walleye. No worries, his K professional networking tree has continued to grow. Former classmates have become colleagues, and other K grads have turned to him for assistance in finding early breaks in their careers.

In 2014, while working to launch Redcurrent, a Twin Cities tech start-up, Brad reached out to computer science major Colin Alworth ’07, wondering if his fellow K graduate would join Redcurrent as a software developer.  There was a “full-circle” dynamic at work here: years earlier, just before Brad decided on graduate school at LSE, Colin had offered him a job as a developer. At Redcurrent Brad was happy to return the favor and bring a talented K grad on board.  Colin, who studied abroad in Madrid, continues to work at Redcurrent today.

Meanwhile Andrew Mickus ’12 (an interdisciplinary studies major who studied abroad in Caceres, Spain) credits Brad with helping him secure an internship at a London hedge fund, an experience that served as a catalyst for Andrew securing a position as a financial modeler at Fannie Mae.  “Brad had an amazing willingness to ‘pay it forward,’” writes Andrew.  “And he totally let me crash on his couch for at least a week in London.”

Now a senior engineer for AuDigent, an analytics-based digital advertising company, Brad works closely with another K grad, classmate and computer science major Jerrod Howlett ’09, who works for Google, Inc. Among other responsibilities, Brad purchases advertising for AuDigent’s music-industry clients, and “Jerrod makes me look good,” Brad laughs.  “It’s great having an ‘inside guy’ at Google.”

A Much More Helpful Community

Reflecting on the significant role of K connections in the first few years of his career, Brad suggests that “it’s kind of crazy” how it’s unfolded. It’s not “that alumni just swoop in” with jobs gifted from on high. Instead, Brad feels he has organically developed fantastic career connections through his K network. “It’s turned out pretty well for me,” he says.

And Will, who currently works as a managing director of an investment firm in Detroit, is effusive in his praise for K alumni and their willingness to go the extra mile for their fellow Hornets.  “With [the University of] Texas there’s a huge network everywhere, but no one returns calls or emails. With K it’s a much smaller community, but it’s a much more helpful community.”

NOTE: The College’s Center for Career and Professional Development provides alumni various ways to network with each other and with students. And the Alumni Directory is a great tool for alumni to keep in touch. Check out the directory and update your profile.

Memories, Mistakes and Memos

During summer 2014 rising senior Andrea Johnson completed her third legal internship—this one at the United States Bankruptcy Court in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her reflections on her experience explore the relationship between doubts, misgivings, mistakes, professional and personal growth, and the freedom to fail.

Matthew Harte, Patricia Francis, Jeffery Hopkins, Andrea Johnson and Richard Jones

The staff of Judge Jeffery Hopkins at the United States Bankruptcy Court (Cincinnati, Ohio) included (l-r): Matthew Harte ’07, Patricia Francis, Hopkins, Andrea Johnson ’15 and Richard Jones.

From the very first day at this internship I made mistakes, and mistakes made me—though the truth of that second part took some convincing.

During my initial introduction to my supervisor, Matthew Harte ’07, I learned I had parked in the wrong parking lot. I feared I had made an embarrassment of myself as a directionally-challenged intern. It was not the first impression I had hoped to make. Matthew said it was a non-issue, though I felt like I had failed already, and it was only the first day.

Every endeavor I had undertaken in my life, from athletics to academics, had stressed that failure was not an option, nor could it be accommodated. Failure was a lacklack of preparation or lack of will power or lack of both. It was the opposite of success in a polarized world—the (very) “wrong” road diametrically opposed to the one-and-only “right” path.

And, I believed, in order to prevent failure, one had to always be anticipating how one’s present choices and decisions would impact the future. In that way, one’s present and future are inextricably—and linearly— linked. Thus, foresight is essential to forego failure and continue moving forward toward future goals.

So, on this first day, nothing could have been more overwhelming to me than what I was told: mistakes were essential; mistakes were expected. What? It seemed counterintuitive to make mistakes since I wanted to make a good impression. I did not have to reflect long on my first mistake (the parking lot) when I made my second: I got lost returning to my apartment.

The perfectionist in me was rebelling against this notion of mistake-making. I am probably a typical K student in that way. Accepting the notion that failure is necessary is quite difficult for me.  Even more challenging is trying to unlearn my constant need to know how every experience will affect my future. Failure is expected? Failure is normal? Were there “right” and “wrong” ways to fail? If so, then I wanted to fail properly.

“I made mistakes, and mistakes made me…”

In the first week, I made my third “mistake”: wearing pink in the courtroom. That neutral colors in such a setting is more of an implied rather than explicit rule in no way mitigated my embarrassment. I stood out like a pink jelly bean in a sea of black and grey. Interestingly, this mistake fueled my interest in understanding gendered appearance within the legal field. My Senior Individualized Project—“‘Forsake the Self or Forsake the Law:’ A Study of Women Lawyers and Subtle Gender Inequity in the Legal Field”—built off of some of my experiences, such as clothing expectations for women lawyers and other observations at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. While none of these small mistakes jeopardized my learning experiences, they forced me to reevaluate my definitions of failure and allow myself more room to grow.

After a few weeks I became accustomed to the basics of bankruptcy law and felt comfortable in my environment. The security guards recognized me by name. Judge Hopkins’ staff checked on my progress, and they were always willing to answer my questions. I could find cases and use Westlaw without major problems, and I knew the general schedule of the court. Basically, I felt comfortable enough to make microscopic mistakes.

However, when Matthew handed me a copy of a current case and requested I write a summary memo, I panicked—even though this exercise, like so many other rewarding experiences at the court, gave me the freedom to make mistakes. I could learn without the pressure of a “grade” or judgment. And yet I still didn’t feel at ease. Instead I looked for anything that could act as a guide or an example because I did not want to fail or disappoint people I respected. Ironically, the “right” way to do this assignment was to “fail” repeatedly, accept constructive criticism, and correct my mistakes. And, in doing so, I would be introduced to proper legal research, thinking, and judicial decision making.

In the two weeks that I researched and drafted that first memo, I had to confront my own expectations and accept that my first and subsequent drafts were not going to be perfect. After plunging me headfirst into the depths of legal research and writing, Matthew and Judge Hopkins spent a lot of time on the extensive editing process, teaching me the “treading water” phase of legal research and writing. I started to become more comfortable with the discomfort of not having a structured path to follow.

After at least four drafts, my initial memo was hardly my own, but that did not matter because I had completed my assignment and had kept my head above water. About a week later Matthew gave me a new memo assignment for a different judge. This memo became my main project for the remaining three weeks of the internship. Even though the topic was more complicated, the assignment was exponentially easier to complete because I had accepted that I would make mistakes.  I crafted a stronger initial draft, one that I was proud to call my own. My final memo assignment taught me more about myself and the law through the countless drafts, checking Westlaw hundreds of times, working constructively with my supervisor and the Judge, and finally reaching a finished product worthy enough to be used as a decision of the court.

Researching and writing legal memos helped me confront my own fear of failure and making mistakes. I also had many other memories that made this internship both professionally and personally rewarding. From Judge Perlman’s rendition of “I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo,” to stimulating conversations with women lawyers interested in my thesis topic, to running for coffee and Grater’s Ice Cream with Matthew and discussing our different K experiences, I learned and laughed more in six weeks than I ever thought possible.

By the end of the internship, the city of Cincinnati and the bankruptcy court felt like home. Through this experience, I had come to define “home” as a place where one is challenged, has room to grow and, most importantly, to make mistakes. The people at the court—Patricia Francis, Richard Jones, Matthew Harte and Judge Jeffery Hopkins—made my experience extraordinary because of their instructive and patient explanations and their insights about law and life. They helped make a welcoming and comfortable environment where I could thrive. I made many mistakes at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and the mistakes made me…more competent, more confident, and “more free” to make more mistakes in the future.

The Road Less Traveled…

Something about the K-Plan inspires the desire to start a journey, and, according to John Hitchcock ’78, develops the wherewithal to make it work. Things like planning, leadership, and adaptability. John shares the story of such a journey. He graduated with a major in psychology and did his foreign study in Aix-en-Provence, France. Today John is vice president and managing director for Energy Intelligence Group in New York. Mentioned in the story are Leo Hurley ’78 and the late Kate Plaisier ’77. Leo majored in health sciences and did his foreign study in Caen, France. He is an epidemiologist for Kaiser Permanente in northern California. Kate earned her B.A. in biology. She passed away on August 29, 2012.

John Hitchcock and his 19-year-old daughter, Anna, in Colorado in March 2015. John’’’’s love of outdoor adventure has persisted long after his K days.

John Hitchcock and his 19-year-old daughter, Anna, in Colorado in March 2015. John’s love of outdoor adventure has persisted long after his K days.

To invite 20 students on a seven-day ski trek along the northern edge of the Upper Peninsula, you need SNOW. Snow is non-negotiable. It’s also not controllable. Even as a sophomore two terms away from a course in experimental design I knew what an uncontrollable variable could do to you. Tarps, food, fuel for stoves, sleeping bags, boots that fit, skis that glide—all those could be reliably assembled and accounted for. Not snow. Not even in late December in Michigan’s most remote wilderness; not even in 1975, decades before global warming had cast its existential pall.  An end-of-fall-quarter cross-country ski expedition would be nothing without snow.

Thanksgiving came and went without a meaningful accumulation of snow in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The four of us who had organized the trip prepared to refund to 16 trusting souls the $80 they’d each paid for this first-of-its-kind finish to the fall quarter. And then, the weekend before final exams, a storm crossing Lake Superior brought a half-foot of snow—enough to turn the century-old logging roads that were the national park’s entry points into skiable paths.

We became intimate with the weather reports after developing an intense appreciation for what could be learned over the telephone; at first from daily calls from our dorm room phone to the recorded voice of the Upper Peninsula Michigan Bell weather lady, and, later, from more desperate conversations with state troopers stationed in Munising, the only town bordering the Pictured Rocks preserve.

Some of the life skills learned in Kalamazoo’s mid-1970s foray into wilderness education (the origins of today’s LandSea program) were imparted even before we reached the wilderness. “Working the phones” was one. These lessons in rotary technology would later contribute to my career as a journalist covering Iran from outside Iran, China and Indonesia from Tokyo, and Margaret Thatcher’s rise and fall at a careful distance from the sharp edges of her blue handbag. Phone work could uncover so much.

In true K fashion, some of our lessons were learned on the road. We drove the 405 miles to Pictured Rocks the night after finals in a school van and three private cars, led by freshman Kate Plaisier’s Volkswagen Beetle. Her car would become as important to our journey as the Lunar Module had been to the Apollo 11 moon mission six years earlier. At times it seemed as cramped.

By the middle of the morning after finals we had reached a store near an eastern entrance to the park. The mounds of snow described by the weather lady and troopers six days earlier had sagged. The sky was an unbroken gray, the temperature a degree or two above freezing. We drained the store of its coffee and drove the final 20 minutes to the trailhead we had picked to be our base camp.  As uninspiring as the weather was, our site, by contrast, buzzed. The 20 of us divided into our carefully chosen patrols of 10. Tarps were set up. Fires lit, cooking areas organized. Skis were laid out. A gentle mist set in.

Many of us had never skied before, much less winter-camped.  The open area at the trailhead, cleared by loggers and forest fires decades before and now rimmed by white pines, became our practice ground. Northwest of base camp, a three-day ski away,  awaited our destination: the sandstone cliffs and dunes that dropped more than 200 feet into Lake Superior, to be reached via two separate routes through stands of birch, hemlock and beech, winding past marshes, streams and waterfalls.

The mist continued overnight, but under the tarps life was dry and still. Besides, sleep lost from finals week and the previous night’s drive left no one awake to complain. But by morning the snow had disappeared. The drizzle, the mud, the above-freezing (though barely) temperatures were more than an inconvenience. They threatened our plan, which had been to send the patrols on their separate ways after breakfast. We considered carrying the skis and doing the first day’s trek in boots. The forecast was for colder weather, which would eventually bring the comfort of dry snow. But what if the forecast continued to be unreliable?

Lunch came and went, and still it rained. I don’t recall anyone from either patrol upset. They all seemed to think it was an improvement over finals. My leader-mates and I were less at peace: we’d lose daylight in four hours. One leaky boot, one irreversibly cold foot and we’d be forced to evacuate in the dark, and to where? If there was to be a Plan B, better to search for it now.  Leo Hurley and I volunteered to head off with Kate Plaisier in her Beetle to visit the state police post an hour’s drive to the west.

The troopers couldn’t have been more amused by our muddy, wet-woolly selves. They also couldn’t have been more helpful. Could they make a call to a church or a school where our soggy band could put up for the night? Three hours later the 20 of us were camped in the Munising High School gym, cooking Sunday supper on the parquet floor. There we slept until students filed in for a Monday morning assembly.

Ski trail in Munising, Michigan, near Pictured Rocks National Preserve.

Ski trail in Munising, Michigan, near Pictured Rocks National Preserve.

Overnight, rain had turned to snow—perhaps no more than an inch, but it was falling at an encouraging pace. We broke our gym-camp and were ready to return to the woods. Except for a single leaky boot. It belonged to a sophomore who had been bravely mum the day before. She was already shivering despite our night indoors. Her toes were numb.

Weeks before, planning the trip over a meal in the dining hall, we had figured 10 percent of the trip budget would be adequate for an emergency reserve.  I pulled the 10- and 20-dollar bills of our reserve fund from the plastic sandwich bag buried at the bottom of my pack. Marquette, a university town two hours by car to the west, offered a hospital and an airport. Off we went.

Leo, whose career would be in medical research, and Kate, who would specialize in adolescent psychiatry, proved great company in a medical evacuation. For our shivering skier there was nothing a round of hugs and a ticket home to Kalamazoo couldn’t cure. We walked her onto the runway and reassured her as she boarded that all would be well. Back at base camp, the two patrols would be off on a trek in fresh snow. Yes, we had lost a day’s skiing to the weather, but we’d make up for it with an early pre-dawn departure the next morning. Our “wounded” comrade, in turn, had a good story to tell. Everyone wins.

The plane lifted off. The storm stiffened. Leo, Kate and I drove the two hours back to base camp. The snow had drifted over the narrow roads. The Beetle, propelled by its rear-mounted engine, ploughed on. We reached camp well after nightfall and dinner with a plan to wake up in the middle of the night to ski.

The cloudless midnight sky gave us our first look at the Upper Peninsula in winter wonder. I remember a full moon, but the night could as easily have been lit by the stars alone. The trails were unbroken and glowed magically. For an hour or more the three of us skied in silence through the forest. The way emptied into a small clearing. We paused, still without speaking. A quarter of an hour went by. An owl, backlit by the moon or the Milky Way, flew in from the right, dipped into the snow at mid-field, and lifted a rabbit into the sky.

Snow was abundant for the remainder of the trip. We reached Lake Superior as planned. I remember being so frightened by its wind and waves that I turned back immediately. The woods, by contrast, were peaceful. No toes were lost. Maybe it was the diet of gorp, mac-and-cheese and hot chocolate. Maybe it was the regular breaks for under-the-armpit foot-warmings. We returned home two days before Christmas Eve.

Nearly 40 Christmases later I’m left with a fine wilderness education, one that includes phone skills (which are now digital), an eagerness to take up nature’s invitation to come out (often) and play, and a confidence in what small groups can overcome—not to mention a favorite story.

LEED-Like Leaders

When Kalamazoo College officials went searching for LEED certification for the Fitness and Wellness Center, they looked to the students who will use it.

Ogden Wright, Paul Manstrom and Michelle Sugimoto stand at the Fitness and Wellness Center construction site

Among those responsible for the very best sustainability measure of the new fitness center are LEED evaluators Ogden Wright, Paul Manstrom and Michelle Sugimoto.

After plans for the center were announced in 2014, the Kalamazoo College Climate Action Network, a student-organized group that advocates for sustainable and effective measures to address climate change, looked for ways to ensure the new construction was environmentally friendly. One idea was to have the addition LEED-certified.

K’s Sustainability Advisory Committee, which included faculty, staff and students, agreed, but suggested a modification of the idea. Rather than paying for LEED certification, then perhaps the College should instead hire two student LEED-equivalent auditors, training them in the design, energy and sustainability criteria that inform LEED. The College gave the green light to that idea and will divert the estimated $50,000 cost of formal certification to fund the student auditing project.

Junior Michelle Sugimoto and senior Ogden Wright were chosen from a dozen applicants. They have met with designers and builders every few weeks since late last summer. The actual cost of their training and stipends will be a fraction of the cost of LEED certification. The savings will be invested in a 12 kilowatt solar panel array installation on campus that will offset 5 percent of the new fitness center’s energy costs.

The new, $8.65 million center (29,000 square feet) will feature cardio and weight rooms, multi-purpose fitness areas and racquetball and squash courts. The scheduled opening is July 31.

Collaborating with the project’s design and construction teams, Sugimoto and Wright have been evaluating several factors to assess the LEED-like certification potential of the building. Among others, those factors include water and energy efficiency, proximity to public transportation and air quality.

Associate Vice President for Facilities Management Paul Manstrom, who is advising the students, says their work is another example of K’s commitment to provide students experiences with profoundly relevant real-world applications.

“It’s a case of the administration sharing a challenge with students and saying, ‘Join us,’” he says. “While we are using LEED standards to audit the construction of the building,” Manstrom adds, “there’s really no template for what we are calling a student-audited LEED simulation. We’re being creative and designing the process as we go through it.

“Buildings constitute a large part of the amount of waste produced in the United States each year. Putting the money up front saves the College money in the long run, while at the same time giving these students an incredible learning experience.”

The U.S. Green Buildings Council sets the standards for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Building projects earn points from certifiers based on the type and degree of sustainable practices integrated into a structure, from LED lights to insulation to the use of alternative forms of energy, and many others.

LEED-certified buildings are resource efficient, use less water and energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Around 1.85 million square feet are being certified daily, according to the Council. Two other buildings on K’s campus are LEED certified: the Hicks Student Center, with a Silver designation, and the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, which is expected to reach Gold-level certification soon.

“It’s one thing to complain about climate change, it’s another thing to try to change it,” says Wright, a native of Kingston, Jamaica. He participates in K’s 3/2 Engineering Program, a dual degree program where three years of core classes are taken at the College before a student transfers to an accredited engineering school for higher level courses. He currently studies Civil Engineering at Western Michigan University.

Having worked in Facilities Management last summer, Wright applied for the auditor position “because I wasn’t ready to throw away my ties to K,” he says. “It keeps me around here, keeps me grounded in the College, and we’re providing a service for K.”

In return, the students gain vital experience.  LEED is the new trend in building, and helps us understand how we are going to treat our environment, planet and people around us,” says Wright. He and Sugimoto are qualified to do the work.

“It helps that we’re physicists,” Wright says. “We know what’s meant by Kilowatt hours, BTUs, R-Factors (the measure of insulation’s ability to resist heat going through it).“

“And we’re not just on our own,” Sugimoto adds. “The designers and builders work with us as colleagues. I think the coolest thing is that the students here are always willing to take on a challenge and engage with the administration on it, and that the administration is willing to support real actions on the ground.”

The students will write a report for the Board of Trustees and the College community. The fruits of their work will be concrete and long lived. Says Manstrom: “The real story of what they did—duplicating the process used by LEED certifiers—will be in the building. We’ll have an idea of what our certification would be even without the official designation.”

From Crayon to Key Art

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Kendra assesses the value of an art piece after initial examination, which includes noting the artwork’s measurements, condition, signatures and inscriptions.

Imagine being in the art scene of New York City—and leaving it to return to be an art appraiser in Kalamazoo.

Sound crazy? Not for Kendra Eberts ’07.

“There are hundreds of art appraisers and thousands of galleries in New York,” said Kendra. “But there are more opportunities here in Kalamazoo and southwest Michigan where there are hardly any other art appraisers.”

After graduation, Kendra went to the Sotheby’s Institute of Art in New York where she obtained a master’s degree in American Fine and Decorative Art (accredited through the University of Manchester in England) and a Certificate in Appraisal Studies in Fine and Decorative Arts from New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

“My first job in an auction house was at the New York location of London’s Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions,” she said. “It was a smaller auction house, which gave me the opportunity to work in most aspects of the business.” That versatility led to new opportunities.

“Last summer, I assisted an appraiser from Florida who was conducting an estate appraisal for her client’s summer home in Northern Michigan. She hired me in part because I could catalogue and research the client’s book collection.”

Working in the arts in New York during the recession was difficult. Many of her grad school classmates moved away and settled for work outside the field.  Not Kendra. She worked as a part-time registrar for the contemporary art gallery of Rick Wester, cataloging artwork for the gallery’s inventory. She also pieced together part-time jobs and internships with private art dealers and the International Center of Photography.

How does she explain her fierce persistence?

“When I was 4 years old, I sat down with an assortment of crayons and carefully designed and created a business plan for an art gallery and café,” she said. “‘Art by Eberts’ would exhibit my own artwork and that of my friends, while ‘Kendra’s Kafé’ would feature my grandmother’s homemade pies and my mother’s strong coffee.”

Soon after that crayoned plan Kendra began taking art classes at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (KIA), and her family would visit art museums whenever they traveled. In high school she fell in love with the medium of photography, and came to K knowing she wanted to major in art and art history. She interned at the KIA and at the Water Street Gallery in Douglas, Michigan. Before her study abroad in Clermont-Ferrand in France, she pursued a summer study at Sotheby’s in London in 2005. That experience was important.

“I felt I had found my place that summer in London,” she said. “I learned how the historical significance of art played a role in its economic market, and that people actually did for a living what I wanted to do.  It was through K’s encouragement to go outside my comfort zone that I was able to navigate my major. Professor Billie Fisher helped me a lot.”

The summer study played a role in her Senior Individualized Project, Edward Steichen’s Influence on the Value of Photography.

“In 2006 there was a major sale of photographs through Sotheby’s.  Steichen’s photograph ‘The Pond – Moonlight’ sold for $2.9 million, the highest price paid to date for a vintage photograph.  For my SIP I assessed Steichen’s biographical and artistic background, the complicated process he used to create the photograph, and the reasons collectors considered it to be ‘museum quality.’  I also drew upon my economics minor to calculate Steichen’s recent market performance through statistical regression models.”

Kendra has since learned that appraisal methodology is complex interplay of multiple factors, only one of which is the overall economic climate of the art market. Her aptitude for combining art and business has roots in her family. Kendra’s mother is a professional singer music teacher. Her father is an economist and president at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. Her aunt is an art curator and assistant museum director. She has cousins who are fine artists and performing artists and a grandmother who was an artist and teacher.

In 2012 Kendra took what could be considered an intermediate step in her crayoned business plan. She established Key Art Group. Her duties include establishing the value of fine art, furniture and decorative items for insurance and IRS-related purposes. She also provides collectors market evaluations and collection management services.  And she offers artists business services such as managing inventory, marketing and guidance on gallery relationships.

Kendra plans to fulfill her dream to own a gallery, and she hopes to locate it in Kalamazoo.  “This community prides itself on supporting the arts and that’s why I love living here,” said Kendra. She expresses that love in action. Last year she helped organize a sale of artwork by students and faculty of the KIA art school. She writes about art in Kalamazoo on her blog, Collective Sightings. And she’s a member of the Art Committee for Bronson Methodist Hospital and facilitates the hospital’s annual employee art show.

“It was great to see a variety of works that people created,” she says. “Showcasing employees’ talents promotes workplace engagement, and employees were excited to see what their colleagues created.”

Let’s hope Kalamazoo sees the “Art by Eberts” gallery and “Kendra’s Kafé” sooner rather than later.  Until then, says Kendra: “I’d plan to create more awareness—and more conversation—about the local art scene.”

Key K Asian Studies Architect Reflects on a Three-Decade Project

Thirty years, Madeline Chu counts. The professor of Chinese language and literature sums up her years at Kalamazoo College with three milestones reached. Her initial decade, beginning in 1988, she says, was dedicated to bringing China to K. The next 10 years helped build K’s international reputation by bringing K to China. And her final decade was dedicated to reinforcing the program she had established.

Madeline Chu

Madeline Chu was born in China, in the Shaanxi Province, “where the Terracotta Army was found,” she says. “I grew up in Taiwan—elementary school, high school, college, marriage, children. We came to the United States in 1970, and my husband and I continued our studies at the University of Arizona.” There Chu earned her master’s and doctorate degrees in Chinese language and literature.  And there her path happened to cross that of Tim Light.

At the time Light was the university’s new director of the Chinese program, and Chu was completing her Ph.D. Ten years later, when Light was provost at K and had already started the Japanese program, “he contacted me and some other people,” says Chu, “and shared with us his idea of inaugurating a Chinese program at Kalamazoo College.”

Chu was intrigued. There was something to be said about starting a new program, she thought. And, Light told her, it was an endowed chair, one of only five such positions in Asian Studies nationwide.

“He told me I could arrange the program however I liked,” Chu says. She had been offered two other positions elsewhere, but Chu pinned her destiny on Kalamazoo College.

“At that time,” she says, “Asian Studies programs in general tended to pay too little attention to language and cultural studies. I wanted to change that, and the arrangement of the language division at K was conducive to such change.”

In the beginning there was minimal understanding about China at K, but Chu’s position allowed her to grow that understanding. She led a faculty group for a China trip, and established an annual China forum on campus and involved faculty of different disciplines. A “China interest group” and intellectual resource network was built. China became visible on campus.

First mission accomplished. Over the next decade, Chu worked to build K’s reputation for its excellence in Asian studies. She became director of K’s Chinese program, the Center for Asian Studies, the East Asian Studies program, and the International and Area Studies program. She also took on the role of board member (and, later, president) of the ASIANetwork, executive director of the Chinese Language Teachers Association, and the coordinator of the Summer Intensive Chinese Language Program at the University of Michigan.

“Colleagues in the academic field of Asian studies started to know Kalamazoo College better, and I became known as “Madeline Chu from Kalamazoo,” with the rhyming email address “Chu-at-Ka-Zoo-Dot-ee-dee-you (chu@kzoo.edu),”  Chu says.

Many ASIANetwork colleges consider K’s Asian studies a role model in program building and curriculum arrangement.  “In 2001, K received a $2 million grant from the Freeman Foundation to fund a second position to teach Japanese and a second position to teach Chinese, expanding our Asian studies program,” says Chu. This grant also supported a lecture series and study tours open to the K community and the greater Kalamazoo community.

The Freeman grant and many other external grants have supported the second faculty position in Chinese for almost two decades. Starting next year, there will be two tenure-track positions in K’s Chinese program, “thanks to the vision and support of two wonderful provosts, Tim Light and Mickey McDonald,” Chu adds.

“The program is in good shape, and will be in the excellent hands of my colleague for the past seven years, Yue Hong.” Chu says, taking a long, satisfied breath. “It’s a good time to leave.”

Chu is not one to put up her feet, however. In her retirement, she plans to finish writing a college-level textbook, Mastering Chinese. The textbook maps out aural strategies in listening and interacting and associates learned materials with real-life situations. More importantly, it pays due attention to, and takes advantage of, the semantic utilities of Chinese characters in word construction, vocabulary building, sentence formation and discourse configuration.

“I’ve used K students as guinea pigs for this method, and it’s worked,” says Chu. “It’s intensive, but it’s the best way to build reading and writing as well as listening and speaking competence in Chinese.” As Chu muses about her students over her many years at she smiles. “Our students are intelligent, and some of the nicest, happiest, most decent young people. I’m going to miss them.”

Chu was awarded the Walton Lifetime Achievement Award by the Chinese Language Teachers Association in 2000. In 2001-02, she received the Florence J. Lucasse Lectureship Award at Kalamazoo College.

Being There

There’s no business like show business. And Kalamazoo College’s Department of Theatre Arts just showed the acting world it means business.

K theatre arts majors Grace Gilmore ’15 and Lindsay Worthington ’17 recently returned from competing at the 47th annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Grace Gilmore and Lindsay Worthington

Grace Gilmore ’15 (left) and Lindsay Worthington ’17

The pair beat out thousands of other student artists from across the country to present their work at the week-long, all- expenses-paid festival in the nation’s capital. Only 125 students were invited to attend.

Gilmore, a theatre arts major and religion minor, was one of only eight students in the country competing for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. Worthington, a theatre arts and music double major, traveled to Washington, D.C. to showcase her talents in Sound Design Excellence.

Both categories featured KCACTF students from much larger colleges and universities, several of whom were graduate students enrolled in Masters of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) theatre programs and other specialized acting classes.

“Grace and Lindsay are extraordinary,” says Professor of Theatre Arts Lanny Potts. “They are recognized as the best-of-the-best in the nation in their fields. It’s rare for students from any small program and liberal arts college to achieve this sort of recognition.”

Gilmore spent the week at the Festival immersed in classes that focused on everything from stage combat to situation comedy. She worked alongside professional actors, met with casting directors, and had the opportunity to network with peers from across the nation and in the Washington, D.C. theatre community.

In addition, she went behind the scenes and toured the Arena Stage, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, and the world-famous Shakespeare Theatre Company.

“Just being there was so surreal,” says Gilmore. “It was an unbelievable experience.”

For the 21-year-old, whose first acting role was as a jester in a middle school play, performing on the Kennedy Center stage in front of peers, directors, New York-based casting agents (and even her parents!) was the high point of the week.

Her parents, K alums Sherry (Christy) and Jim Gilmore, class of 1983, were both theatre arts majors.

“You could say theatre is in my blood,” Grace says.

Worthington, meanwhile, experienced her own festival highlights. In her master class she worked alongside professional lighting designer (and six-time Tony award nominee) Beverly Emmon as well as award-winning composer, sound designer, and audio artist Obadiah Eaves.

Emmon and Eaves critiqued the students’ work, offering their feedback, suggestions, and ideas. And the students got the chance to share meals and free time with the two professionals.

“It really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Worthington says. “We were able to ask them questions about their careers and really get to know them.”

The Road to Nationals
Started in 1969 by Roger L. Stevens, the Kennedy Center’s founding chairman, KCACTF is a national theatre program working to improve the quality of college theatre in the United States. Comprised of 18,000 students from more than 600 academic institutions in eight different regions, KCACTF gives theatre departments and student artists the opportunity to showcase their work and receive outside assessment.

Earlier this year, KCACTF officials visited K and critiqued the work of the students in the theatre department. Gilmore and Worthington, along with 13 others K students, were nominated to attend the KCACTF Region III in Milwaukee. Three additional K students attended as part of their senior class seminar, and two others participated for professional growth and networking. The group joined 2,000 other theatre students from Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin for the weekend competition.

“They are recognized as the best-of-the-best in the nation in their fields.”

Gilmore, nominated for her performance in Romeo and Juliet, beat out 274 students for the prestigious Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Award. Of the 16 finalists who competed in the final round of the competition, 13 of the 16 were post-undergraduates working on their M.F.A.

“I was absolutely shocked. We went into it clearly as underdogs,” Gilmore says. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would win. No one from K has ever won. When they said my name, I couldn’t believe it.”

She received a scholarship and an invitation to attend the National Festival.

Worthington was the only student nominated to attend the regional competition for her work on TWO (!) different entries in sound design. Her submission for Peer Gynt ended up taking top honors in Milwaukee—giving her a ticket to the National Festival, which turned out to also be an unplanned, but very welcome, trip home for this Bethesda, Maryland, native.

Neither Grace nor Lindsay took top honors at the National Festival, but they returned to Kalamazoo with a playbill full of experiences, contacts, job and internship opportunities, and memories to last a lifetime.

“I didn’t go into it thinking I would win,” says Worthington, who was awarded the Williamstown Theatre Festival Internship for Sound Design. “I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much had I been stressed about the competition. Just being there, to me, felt like winning.”