Around the Horn of Hornet Sports

Think a pandemic adversely affects athletic recruiting? Surprisingly, not so much, given a value like K. Thirteen Hornet head coaches joined Athletic Director Becky Hall to gather with alumni for a virtual round table on the state of sports at K when the pandemic has canceled or postponed all contests and practices. Nevertheless, many of these coaches are enjoying their best recruiting efforts ever. In part that is due to the fact that all K coaches share a dedication to the entirety of the student-athlete experience at Kalamazoo College. The coaches reference several elements of that experience, including outstanding academics, study abroad, the football team’s career development workshops, playing for legends (some of whom played for previous K legends), close coach-and-athlete communication that no pandemic can weaken, new facilities, getting to know student athletes outside one’s sport, community service, and supportive advising. “I am large,” wrote the poet Walt Whitman, “I contain multitudes!” K coaches respect and encourage the “multitudes” in every student athlete. That’s the reason for Hornet athletic excellence and the source of Hornet sports’ immunity to the ill effects of a pandemic.

What Was Burr Up To?

That is the question. Except, contends Professor of History James Lewis, it isn’t. There’s insufficient material for historians (or novelists and playwrights) to ever know the minds and motives of the principals in the so-called Burr Conspiracy. On the other hand, there is something that is knowable: the way Americans of the time used stories to make sense of the event. In 1807 Aaron Burr was tried (and acquitted) for supposedly trying to divide the United States into two countries. His actions in the run-up to his arrest and trial are shrouded in impenetrable mystery. “Just what was he up to?” has been the question for decades. Because it’s unknowable it uncovers much less about the early years of a fledgling republic than does a new set of questions posed by Lewis in his recent book, specifically: Why were so many Americans so worried? How did they arrive at the certainty that they knew his guilt, or innocence? In what ways are the crisis and the certainty related? Lewis’s painstaking exploration of contemporary source materials provide answers to these better questions. The way Americans of the time used stories about the conspiracy story says much about their hopes and anxieties, particularly about the very means of “American.” Could Americans be a unified people living together under this nascent republic? Lewis’s book is titled “The Burr Conspiracy: Uncovering the Story of an Early American Crisis.” Note the nuance: not uncovering the crisis; instead uncovering the stories told to make sense of contemporary fears, both conscious and subconscious.

LISTEN to a podcast on The Burr Conspiracy featuring James. E Lewis, Jr.

Forward Progress

Kalamazoo College President Jorge Gonzalez used a conversation with Midwest alumni to emphasize a fact as beautiful as it is vital: In these challenging times K is moving forward because of the entire K community. These days that community is different…and the same. Different in the matter of diversity: this year’s first-year class (2024), for example, includes 36 percent domestic students of color; 30 percent students from low-income families; and 25 percent students who are the first in their families to attend college. And yet the same in the matter of motivation: the class of 2024 (384 strong and the most diverse in K’s history) cites these reasons for choosing K: study abroad, academic reputation, and outstanding professors who teach small classes. Sound familiar? They are the very reasons students have chosen K for decades. Nor is diversity an end. Rather, it is an indispensable condition for the goal of inclusion. Gonzalez defines inclusion as the effort to make K a place where every student feels the institution belongs to them—not guests, family members! And he shares his plan to get there. In this time of pandemic, climate change, and the persistent ill effects of systemic racism on all, it requires the entire K community to move K forward. Example: the story of Marco, class of 2019 who matriculated to K from Tijuana, Mexico, and is currently a graduate student in the department of entomology at Kansas State University. The trajectory of his undergraduate education depended on, among others, K alumni and their largesse on behalf of the way financial aid opens doors; a very special K biology professor who understands the nuance of inclusion when it comes to opening the doors of summer research apprenticeships; and a K alumnus in KSU’s entomology department who opened his door to Marco and his Senior Individualized Project.

Mead the Bløm

Allergic to gluten?!! What’s a brewer to do? Make mead and cider, decided Lauren Bloom ’07 and her partner, Matt Ritchey. They pulled up stakes from their successful, Chicago-based brewery and headed east (to Ann Arbor) to open Bløm, a cidery and session meadery. Lauren shares their fascinating mead-making story in this virtual tour. Meads (technically, honey wines) are a diverse lot, more so given the creative fermentations of Matt and Lauren. Their meads might feature hops, rhubarb, ginger, currant, even sumac—all Michigan-sourced, as are the fundamentals of mead and cider—honey and apples, respectively. Yeast makes mead from honey, so a good mead means keeping yeast happy, a task that can take a macabre and cannibalistic turn. Lauren will explain.

Read: “If You Seek a Pleasant Michigan Brew, Look About You” by Jeff Palmer ’76, LuxEsto
Watch: PBS Tastemakers featuring Bløm Meadworks

Couch Kahoot!

How do you teach (and learn) virtually WHILE preserving (as much as possible) the educational values that make K K? Put another way what does virtual learning feel like? Jeff Bartz, the Kurt D. Kaufman Professor and Chair of Chemistry, does more than lecture on this question. In this interactive presentation he gives you the experience of online learning by making you part of a real-time experimental group of surrogate Physical Chemistry and Introductory Chemistry undergraduate students. Feel the challenge (and ingenuity) of translating K when professors and students cannot be in the same room or lab. Hint: It takes a virtual village in Kahoot, and then some.


View the Chemistry handout that was used during the presentation by Professor Bartz.

The Traitor’s Wife: An Innocent? or a Co-Conspirator?

That question is crucial, says Professor of History Charlene Boyer-Lewis ’87, to a deeper understanding of the American revolutionary war era, a time of instability for much more than politics. Exactly what role did Margaret Shippen Arnold—wife of notorious traitor Benedict Arnold—play in the plot to deliver West Point to the British Army? Turns out a very active one, notwithstanding the many decades of her presumed innocence. A role active enough to be worthy of a post-war annuity of 500 pounds—for espionage services rendered at great personal risk. Boyer-Lewis contends that a revision of Margaret’s role from the margin of this spy story to its center more accurately illuminates the cultural upheaval that was part of the revolutionary era, a tumult that included a fluidity of identity that was eroding the rigidity and constraint of weakening gender roles. Like Margaret, many women of the era were strong actors who made political choices separate of their husbands. Margaret’s story shows the war transpired in households as much as on battlefields. The spy plot’s crisis of exposure reveals a capable woman who, in a “performance without faking,” exploits a gendered thinking that her leading role in the story is in the very process of revolutionizing.

WATCH the Smithsonian Channel’s episode of American Hidden Stories: Mrs. Benedict Arnold, featuring Dr. Boyer Lewis.
LISTEN to the podcast: Another Badly Behaving Woman featuring Dr. Boyer Lewis.

Gender, Sex, and the LDS

Taylor Petrey, ThD talks (and takes some fascinating audience questions) about the beliefs, teachings, and political actions of the Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) relative to homosexuality, feminism, and so-called family values. The Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Assistant Professor of Religion recently published a book—Tabernacles of Clay: Gender and Sexuality in Modern Mormonism—which takes a historical approach to LDS positions on gender and sexuality, and talks more broadly on gender and sexuality in right-wing religion generally. His research brings nuance, complexity and some surprises, positing, for example, that, contrary to popular misperception, LDS believes that gender is socially constructed (as opposed to naturally fixed) with boundaries so fragile they require significant church—and societal—support. Also contrary to popular misperception, LDS teachings regarding gender and sexuality have changed over time much more than most people think.

Going For It…and Staying With It

Brooklyn (NY)-based entrepreneur Peter Rothstein ’14, the 2019 Kalamazoo College Young Alumni Award Winner, shares his higher-ed story of trading a stronger brand for a deeper connection. The latter (a.k.a. Kalamazoo College) provides support and develops confidence in ways so that both endure a lifetime. As co-founder of the spiced beverage company DONA, Peter has used that support and confidence to meet the daily unexpected challenges of growing a new business. Don’t miss this story, and stay to the end…it’s as unforgettable as it is inspirational.


Read more about Peter Rothstein ’14 and his selection in the 2019 edition of 30 Under 30, Forbes’ annual list of 600 young visionaries from 20 industries.

Are you interested in hosting a K Talk in your city? Fill out the Hornet Host Event Form.

Remembrance of Grace

Even five-and-a-half decades after the class of 2019 experienced his spellbinding 12-minute commencement address, economist, teacher, author, and liberal arts advocate Kenneth G. Elzinga ’63 hopes those young women and men will, like him, be animated by a remembrance of great teachers. All Kalamazoo College graduates, he contends, share a wonderful heritage of the liberal arts, which is a gift to be cherished. And one expression of that reverence is humility. Do you know the name of the person who takes out your trash? A person with a liberal arts education should and is perhaps more likely to. Kalamazoo College and the liberal arts is a place and way of learning that extends grace—that unmerited favor, the “’Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.’” And grace should inspire a life of love and servant leadership. This short speech captures the heritage, the hope, and the meaning of a K education: past, present, and future.​ Audio Button


Molecule Maker, Mind Shaper

Chemistry drives the natural world. Put another way, life is a dance of molecules. Chemists seek to understand the dance by elucidating molecular structures and making new ones. One of the five major fields of chemistry is inorganic chemistry, the study of elements exclusive of hydrocarbons and their derivatives and the field wherein Tom Smith, the D.H. Heyl Professor of Chemistry Emeritus, has spent four decades with students and fellow chemists across the planet, teaching, advising, supervising Senior Individualized Projects, conducting research and inspiring the research journeys of others. Tom specializes in transition metals, a small group within the Periodic Table of Elements. In his delightful and lay-accessible retirement lecture (“Reflections on Teaching and Research in Inorganic Chemistry: From Small Molecules to Crystals to Metalloproteins”) Tom describes the enthusiasm, clarity of thought, creativity, and collaboration that inspired him as a chemistry student and that distinguished his 40 years of pedagogy and research. Above all, all he did in the classroom and in the lab involved students, from project conception through the subsequent synthesis and purification of compounds and measurement. And he did all this in the wider context of the liberal arts.