Fall 2023

Burke Library study nook

Burke Library a Space of Creation

From its meandering bookcases featuring faculty and student publications to TECH Lab where 3D printers, VR/AR equipment, and production booths buzz with activity, the newly renovated Burke Library offers a space to create.

Alex opens a gift

From Us to You, Unwrap the Hamilton Gift Guide

Introducing the Hamilton Gift Guide, your source for exploring and purchasing products and services offered by members of the College community. Take a minute to browse and meet just a few of our featured entrepreneurs and their wares.

Rev. Samuel Kirkland Desk silhouette

The Tales a Desk Could Tell

Like the College itself, the Rev. Samuel Kirkland’s desk has an interesting history. Trace its path from the early 1800s to its new home on permanent display in the renovated Burke Library.

Dewayne Martin ’24

Dewayne Martin Aims to Change Lives

Dewayne Martin ’24, Hamilton’s second Truman Scholar, is committed to making lives better, starting with the people in his hometown of Miami. Meet him and read about the career of Frederick Nelson ’80, our first Truman Scholar.

Research & Discovery

Brianna Burke

Heal the Land and Understand

Introducing Brianna Burke, visiting associate professor of environmental studies and the first faculty fellow hired as part of the College’s new interdisciplinary initiative focused on Native and Indigenous studies.

reforestation detail

Topics of Conversation

Hamilton offers more than 30 courses a year as part of its Environmental Studies Program (some cross-listed in other academic departments), plus several dozen others throughout the curriculum that address issues ranging from renewable energy to regenerative agriculture to climate change.


Andrea Townsend

Is Brain Fog Limited to Humans?

As Associate Professor of Biology Andrea Townsend was investigating how infectious disease affects the problem-solving performance of American crows, she was surprised to discover how few studies compared the effects of disease on cognition in other species.

Zhuoyi Wang

Lights, Camera, Sensitivity?

Professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures Zhuoyi Wang raises some challenging questions about cross-cultural filmmaking based on Disney's two versions of Mulan (1998 and 2020). See a short animated video of his analysis.

Martine Guyot-Bender

No One-Track Sabbatical

Professor Martine Guyot-Bender is coming off a semester of research in Cambodia and France, where she studied both contemporary emerging Cambodian film and the cultural history of the railroad in France, a combination of topics that — illuminating as it was — reminded her largely of how much there is to learn.


Alumni and faculty members who would like to have their books considered for this listing should contact Stacey Himmelberger, editor of Hamilton magazine. This list is updated periodically with books appearing alphabetically on the date of entry.

Unwavering: The Wives Who Fought to Ensure No Man is Left Behind
Written by Judy Silverstein Gray K’78 and Taylor Baldwin Kiland
Permuted Press, 2023

Written by Judy Silverstein Gray K’78 and Taylor Baldwin Kiland, Unwavering: The Wives Who Fought to Ensure No Man is Left Behind (Permuted Press, 2023) tells of the relentless advocacy of Vietnam War-era POW/MIA wives, whose persistence outlasted repeated warnings from the U.S. government to “keep quiet.” These women waged their battle behind the scenes amidst the backdrop of cultural, social, and economic upheaval — a time when women could not obtain a credit card without their husband’s signature. Despite the stonewalling they encountered, the women persisted, taking their case to the Paris Peace Accords and world leaders there. Testifying before Congress, they moved to the frontlines of diplomacy and made the POW/MIA issue central to peace negotiations. Ultimately these women changed policy so “no man is left behind.”

Gray, a former correspondent for The Tampa Tribune and author of five books on military topics, is a retired Coast Guard chief petty officer and the third generation in her family to serve the U.S. armed forces. She links her longtime interest in history and storytelling to her Kirkland classes, internships, faculty, and friends: “They encouraged and inspired me, breathing life into the narratives of innovators and unlikely trailblazers. I’m grateful it became a lifelong fascination.”

Following is an excerpt from the book.

Into the Jungle
July 1973

The signing of the Paris Peace Accords on January 27, 1973, and the subsequent live television coverage of the release of the longest-held group of POWs in the nation’s history six months ago lifted the collective mood in America. It was a celebratory moment for the nation, after an endless war. The returning POWs were feted with homecoming parades, lifetime passes to Major League Baseball games, free cars and vacations, keys issued by the mayors of their hometowns, and a celebrity-studded White House dinner. In contrast, other Vietnam veterans were greeted at American airports with derision, accused of being “baby killers,” spit on by fellow citizens. Americans did not seem to care about their service and sacrifices. The POWs are seemingly the only heroes of this unpopular and divisive war.

While the returned POWs and their wives revel in the lavish celebration, the wives of the missing were only able to watch the White House gala on television. They were not invited to Mrs. Nixon’s tea nor the president’s star-studded dinner in May. Pat Mearns purses her lips, “It hurt like hell.”

What about the missing men? They have not been accounted for, including Marian Shelton’s husband, Air Force Capt. Charles Shelton, missing since 1965. Who is searching for him now that the United States has withdrawn all troops from Southeast Asia? Marian is.

In a small plane above Laos, she drinks in the peaceful scene below. Surveying the patchwork of muddy brown and beige rice paddies, she notices the landscape seems covered by a thin, glistening layer of moisture. In the distance, lush hillsides glimmer. As the aircraft glides northeast, hills give way to mountains — dense and dark, and the vast paddies shrink into tiny squares carved into the mountainsides.

The little plane is heading toward Sam Neua, a provincial town in northeastern Laos near the North Vietnam border. This is where Charles Shelton disappeared eight years ago. She believes he might still be alive, here.

Marian has spent the last six weeks in Southeast Asia on a pilgrimage to find out. She is going to the spot where Charles vanished. The odyssey has led her to faraway places she never expected to see while growing up in rural Kentucky: Tokyo, Taipei, Phnom Penh, Saigon, Bangkok, and Vientiane. VIVA, the organization behind the wildly successful POW and MIA bracelet campaign, is sponsoring her trip. Gloria Coppin, the wealthy Los Angeles socialite chair of VIVA’s national advisory committee since 1966, planned the route. The goal is to meet with as many Communist party heads as possible. The fate of Marian’s missing husband lies somewhere in these jungles.

She is not alone. Trailing her every move is a reporter from a Louisville, Kentucky, newspaper, and Edgar Buell, an agricultural advisor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. Marian hopes Buell can help her dig up something, anything, about what happened to her husband. Buell has been living among the Laotian people since 1961 and has become a fierce ally of the Hmong highlanders, resistance fighters backed by the CIA in their battle against the Communist Pathet Lao. Buell, who the Hmong call “Uncle Pop,” is also working closely with the CIA’s airline, Air America, which ferries supplies to the Hmong. He may be just the right person to uncover facts about the husband who disappeared on his 33rd birthday in April 1965.

The day he vanished, Charles was flying covert photo reconnaissance missions over the mountainous jungles of Laos. Marian was managing the home front on U.S. Air Force Base Kadena on the Japanese island of Okinawa, raising the couple’s five rambunctious young children. She was blissfully unaware of the risks associated with the Laotian missions her husband flew. Known for her naiveté, she questioned little. That is, until her husband went missing.

Growing up, it was best not to ask too many questions until Marian’s father sobered up. The family home in Owensboro, Kentucky, a small, predominantly white town nearly one hundred miles southwest of Louisville, was tense. Marian Vollman was the youngest of seven children — six girls and one boy — born to Carl and Mary Catherine Vollman, both Catholic. Carl was a sheet metal worker and Mary Catherine a homemaker. They lived in a small house, where the girls shared bedrooms and menstrual cycles. Owensboro was notoriously the site of the last public hanging in the United States when a young Black man convicted of raping an old white woman was executed in 1936, in front of 15,000 spectators. Besides that gruesome milestone, the town had little of note: it produced furniture, cars, and electric bulbs, and processed tobacco. After high school, most kids went to work at one of the local manufacturing plants and settled down. Marian was the rare resident who left.

Marian was just thirteen when she fell in love with Charles Shelton. The couple met on a tennis court. Their attraction was instant. A hillbilly who lived outside town in a home with no plumbing, Charles was also one of seven children. Unlike Marian, he was a Southern Baptist. Not particularly tall, his trim and sturdy frame — like a tree stump, some said — was topped with sandy blond hair, green eyes, a square jaw, and an easygoing and reassuring smile. Also blonde and green-eyed, with an almost cherubic smile, Marian could have been his sister. She was seventeen and pregnant when she married Charles, soon after graduating from high school. The first in his family to attend college, Charles was leaving Owensboro for the University of Evansville. Then, he would train to be an officer and an aviator in the U.S. Air Force. The life of a military wife was much more exciting and adventurous than a future in Owensboro.

Marian had lost her only brother, Buddy, during World War II. A Navy sailor, he died when his ship was sunk in the Pacific. His remains were never recovered. Marian claimed meeting and marrying Charles helped her get over the loss. But had she considered the risks of Charles’s chosen career?

The couple embraced itinerant military life. More than a decade later, after tours in Germany, South Carolina, Colorado, and Texas, Charles was a seasoned aviator, on his second deployment to Southeast Asia, rotating in and out of Udorn, Thailand, every thirty days.

Captain Shelton spent Easter of 1965 with his family in Okinawa. Nine days later he was flying the lead plane on an aerial mission, a single-seater RF-101C “Voodoo” reconnaissance jet that held up to six cameras in its nose and could fly at low altitudes. The assignment: to capture photos of the Communist Pathet Lao headquarters. Not an easy task, as they were warehoused in a jumble of massive caves near Sam Neua. Passing over the target, Charles descended to 3,000 feet. As he was lining up to snap his first shot, he was hit by ground fire.

Back on Okinawa, Marian was sipping a cocktail at the squadron commander’s home expecting Charles to walk in the door to celebrate his birthday. While the adults drank, the kids were sent to play in a bedroom where nine-year-old Johnny Shelton and eight-year-old Michael were transfixed by an extensive and colorful vinyl album collection. Wandering toward the living room, ostensibly to find the bathroom, Johnny caught a glimpse of his mother, surrounded by guests, crying and shaking in her flowery mu-mu. Johnny’s eyes widened as he watched them try to comfort his mother.

Captain Shelton was forced to eject from his plane. His wing man saw a good “chute” and an F-105 pilot rushing to assist with the rescue spied Shelton on a steep, sloping hill about thirty to forty yards from his parachute, which was caught in a tree. Search and rescue (SAR) helicopters picked up an intermittent signal from his beeper — a device worn by air crews that emits an electronic signal to rescuers. However, the signal was weak, the weather was bad, and the sun was sinking. Those factors made it difficult to pinpoint his exact location. SAR crews vowed to return in the morning when the weather improved.

Johnny ran to tell his four siblings that their dad’s plane had been shot down. Twelve-year-old Lea Ann, the oldest of the five Shelton children, did not believe him. “I told him to git out! And then he came back in and was telling me some more. ... So, I thought there must be something to this story. I went into the front room where Mama was, to get her word on it. I couldn’t even get to her. She was covered up with people, handing her drinks. And pills.” Everyone was consoling Marian, but no one thought to console her children.

A team was expected to rescue Charles before midnight Okinawa time, Marian was told. She believed it. She had to. She could not face the prospect of another family member lost in war.

SAR helicopter crews searched for several days. But Captain Shelton seemed to have been swallowed up by the jungles of Laos. He was never heard from again.

Hmong guerilla fighters working with the CIA reported that Charles was captured by the Pathet Lao and held in a warren of caves near Sam Neua. But the American ambassador to Laos, William Sullivan, was reticent to authorize rescue attempts. Sullivan was running a clandestine war for President Johnson in this nation he called a “landlocked, lousy little place.” And, while he was concerned about the American captives, he did not want to strain his meager search and rescue resources. Even less did he want to expose the covert war he was running, he admitted. “... I am consciously jeopardizing entire Air America [CIA] operation in this country and am risking severe embarrassment to both U.S. and Lao governments.”

Embarrassing the U.S. and Lao governments is of no concern now, in August of 1973. Marian wants answers. She is not afraid to speak out. Neither a diplomat nor an intelligence professional, she is serving in both roles. Stepping out of the small plane, Marian and her companions visit one of many small villages where Buell and USAID provide food and medical support to refugees. Then, they board a helicopter that whisks them to an even more remote location, the mountain valley of Houayxay, where Buell wants Marian to meet families who have emigrated from Sam Neua, the last place where her husband was seen alive.

Thick white clouds hang over the mountaintops as the Americans walk through the village. Banana trees droop over muddy roads as ducks wander aimlessly. Marian and Buell drop onto straw mats around a table at a village home, where they are served a hot corn whiskey, called “lau lau.” Marian proffers her hosts a picture of Charles. Buell interprets. The women draw blanks. No one recognizes her husband, but they have seen Americans in the caves of Sam Neua as recently as last year. Do not give up searching, one woman tells Marian. If Charles is alive, he will be in those caves. Marian hands her a POW bracelet inscribed with her husband’s name.

The meeting produces no leads but Marian refuses to give in to disappointment. “This has been the best thing on the whole trip,” Marian admits. “Just to get up here and see what’s happening. I knew Charles went down in a jungle, yet I had no idea what kind of jungle it was. I can see why they can’t get him out.”

Seeing Infrared

Using a digital camera that's been modified to capture infrared light, Hamilton graphic designer Kevin Waldron snapped these images of campus scenes.

Show Up

Evan Smith ’87
2023 Baccalaureate speaker and honorary degree recipient

Evan Smith ’87 offered the following address to the Class of ’23 at the Baccalaureate ceremony last spring. Co-founder of The Texas Tribune, where he served as CEO from 2009 to 2022, Smith is a senior adviser at Emerson Collective, which advises local news nonprofits throughout the country and advocates for strengthening democracy by informing communities. He had previously spent nearly 18 years at Texas Monthly as the magazine’s president and editor-in-chief.

It’s an honor and a trip to be here. I first arrived on this campus 40 years ago as a nameless, aimless graduate of a big public high school in the suburbs of New York. Based only on the picture of me in the freshman facebook — feathered hair parted down the middle, mid-pubescent mustache, Police concert T-shirt — you would not have pegged me then as the person who’d be giving this speech today. I certainly wouldn’t have. But you know, Hamilton made me into who I am, just as it’s made you into who you’ll become. You may not know it yet, but trust me. It’s happened.

Let me say a few words about, in my case, the becoming. I was a political junkie growing up — the kind of kid who read Time magazine when everyone else was reading Sports Illustrated. When I couldn’t fall asleep, instead of counting sheep, I’d try to recite the names of the 100 U.S. senators. By the time I got to Jesse Helms, I was usually drifting off. So when I registered for classes my first semester as a first-year student here, I took everything in the Government Department I could get my grubby mitts on. I literally mainlined government classes. This continued in my second semester and for the entire next year — after all, there was no requirement that I take boring subjects like science, so why not? As I’ve learned to say in Texas: Dance with the girl that brung you.

My junior year, when all my friends were in Barcelona studying architecture or Florence studying art, I went on Hamilton’s Washington, D.C., program to work on the uppermost floor of a congressional office building signing letters with a signing machine and in the basement of the Federal Election Commission doing God knows what. The nation’s capital. My dream come true. Except I hated it. This was the most miserable place, and these were the most miserable people I ever could have imagined. I couldn’t wait to get back to Clinton. And when I did, I was heartsick. I’d always wanted a career in politics. It was too late to switch my major. I whined and moaned to everyone who would listen.

One of those who did was Lea Haber [’87, P’24], who is now a Hamilton trustee. She was on the Washington program with me, and she was the incoming editor of The Spectator. After I told her about my sinking spell, she took pity on me and offered me a column in the newspaper — if I didn’t want to work in politics anymore, at least I could write about it. I accepted, and I liked doing it, and I was launched. I’m happy to say that, as a result of that pivot, I’ve been a journalist for the last 36 years. She is responsible.

But I also have to give credit to a few other people on this campus at that time: the late Misty Gerner, the late Fred Wagner, the late Sid Wertimer, Gene Tobin, Frank Anechiarico [’71], and Ted Eismeier — professors who gave me confidence, taught me to write, taught me to think critically, and made me appreciate that there was a world beyond my front door. As hard as it is to fathom, it was in this tiny community that I expanded my world view and my horizons — which is what every excellent institution of higher education should do.

This weekend is when we celebrate your own version of life-changing progress. Let’s acknowledge what you 500 amazing people, you graduates, have done: You’ve moved from start to finish, from talking about it to actually doing it. You’ve accomplished something truly significant against a back-drop of truly unbelievable events.

The majority of you entered as first-year students in 2019, the fall before everything shut down. For more than two years you endured a public health emergency the likes of which we haven’t seen for a century — maybe ever. Your freshman and sophomore years an economic down-turn put millions of Americans out of work — perhaps members of your own family. At the end of your freshman year, George Floyd was murdered; the resulting reckoning over systemic racism continues to this day. In your sophomore year we had a hot mess of a presidential election followed by an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that put our democracy at risk — it remains at risk two years later. I could go on.

Seriously, the firehose of catastrophe and calamity has been turned up to the highest setting during the time you’ve been on this campus. And yet here you are. You had plenty of excuses to hit pause.

You had any number of reasons to be derailed. But you didn’t and you weren’t. You stuck with it. Way to persevere. Way to be resilient. I don’t think we can say that often enough to the Class of ’23.

Having graduated, all of you on Monday get to join the ranks of those of us trying our best to make sense of an often confusing, increasingly cruel, and dynamically changing world. What’s the word I’ve heard my own kids, who are not much older than you, use to describe this? Adulting. Adulting is your reward for making it to the other side.

Actually, we’re the ones being rewarded. The rest of us. Your presence in all our lives — as colleagues, neighbors, friends — translates into fresh eyes, boundless energy, and another set of hands deployed to solve the problems created by the generations that came before you.

God, we’ve screwed things up, haven’t we? Screwed up the environment. Screwed up equity. Screwed up the economy. Screwed up voting.

I’m galled by many things but particularly about the way we’ve made partisanship a virtue and compromise a vice, as if talking to someone who disagrees with you is a fate worse than death. The way we’ve let the misinformation virus out of the test tube — giving oxygen and airtime to ridiculous conspiracy theories — so that when we’re battling an actual virus, people don’t know who to trust or what to believe. The way we’ve created a generation of low-information and no-information Americans who either choose not to participate in public life or, God love ’em, do anyway. The way we’ve politicized the simplest things: Public Health. Renewable Energy. Sports.

We’ve lost our way, and we’ve lost our minds. We make everything about what’s good for us individually when it ought to be about what’s good for all of us — the common good. The answer to every question is not subject, verb, liberty, and nor is it subject, verb, grievance. We’ve become too hard and too soft all at once. We have to get over that and get over ourselves and re-center. We have to promote and elevate the value of something larger — the value of community. It’s on you and yours to succeed where me and mine have failed.

What will it take? It’s helpful to remember that the blessings of citizenship come with obligations and responsibilities. Civic participation and civic engagement. Kindness, compassion, charity. Honesty. Decency. Morality. Fairness. Cheerfulness and equanimity — an even keel — when things don’t go your way. Humility when things do. Perspective. If the last couple of years taught us anything, it’s to take pleasure in small victories, to be grateful for what’s working in your life, and to be forgiving of others and of yourself.

Perhaps the biggest obligation and responsibility is that you acknowledge reality — that you accept the world you’re living in. Another way we’ve screwed up is we’ve allowed people to live in an alternate universe that exists only in their heads, one in which truth is subjective. The late Pat Moynihan, the longtime U.S. senator from this state, admonished us that we’re entitled to our own opinions but not our own facts. He must be spinning in his grave. The 2020 election was not stolen. The pandemic was not a hoax. Climate change is real. There: I said it. Now you can tell your kids that your baccalaureate speaker was a woke lunatic from the fake news media.

In fact, what I am is someone who believes in telling it like it is. We need more of that. We need more facts, reality, and truth. We need more good information to push out the bad.

But who’ll provide it? This is my sweet spot, and here’s my spiel. Since 2008, a quarter of the nation’s newspapers have shut down. By 2025, it will be a third. Seventy million of us in this country — one-fifth of us — have no local news source or one about to topple over. Many of those 70 million are people of color. The majority live in counties where the median household income is below the national average. We live in two Americas: one informed, one not. No wonder voter turnout is low and polarization is off the charts. No wonder conspiracy theories are out of control.

Making matters worse, we live in the United States of Confirmation Bias. We put ear buds in our ears as we make our way through our day to keep the outside world out. We self-exile. We curate our cable channels and our social media feeds and our satellite radio dials so the only voices we hear are ones already in our heads. We can go a lifetime without encountering a point of view different from our own.

This is what’s killing us. It’s the poison coursing through all of our veins. Believe me when I tell you that robust, reliable, credible, nonpartisan, nonprofit news — journalism in the public interest — is the antidote. This is how I spend my every waking minute these days: Trying to strengthen the news ecosystem, that antidote, from coast to coast and border to border and, in the process, strengthen our democracy. Any of you who want to join me, put up a hand.

I’m conscious of the time. You and your families need to get down to the Rok. There’s a Utica Club with your name on it. But before I go, I want to do what everyone who’s ever been up here has done, and that’s offer some advice on the way out the door. The hack here is that these two bits are lifted from other people — with credit, of course.

The first I’m going to borrow from Glen Powell, the actor who played Hangman in Top Gun: Maverick. You probably were not expecting that. He was the commencement speaker two weekends ago when my son graduated from the University of Texas. Glen, who is not just a Texan but more importantly an Austinite, told the assembled students that when you go to a party at someone’s house, bring queso. Very on brand. But also very deep. You can take that to mean carry delicious melted cheese with you wherever you go, but I choose to believe it was metaphorical queso. It was about being courteous and showing gratitude — about not taking anyone or anything for granted. About not showing up to life empty-handed. Sidebar to this: Glen also said always write thank-you notes. I think in that case he actually meant write thank-you notes. But it’s basically the same point.

The other bit of advice is from someone you’ve never heard of. It was the summer of 2000. I was in the office of my boss, Greg Curtis, at Texas Monthly. Greg had been the magazine’s editor for 19 years and was retiring. I’d been his deputy for many years and in a few weeks would succeed him. What wisdom did he have for me as I took on this awesome job?

What I couldn’t help thinking about at the time was the peaceful transition of power in this country every four or eight years. Hilarious, right? The outgoing president writes a handwritten note and leaves in it the drawer of the resolute desk in the Oval Office. What I was essentially asking Greg was, what would you write in that note?

He was a man of few words, but even by that standard his answer was cryptically brief. “Show up,” he said.

At first I didn’t get it. Show up? You mean like, come to work? After a beat or two I understood where he was coming from. He meant, show up, be present, don’t waste a day or a minute or an hour. If you’re gonna take the job, do the job. Arrive at the office every day like a batter in the on-deck circle, in uniform, swinging a bat with a donut, waiting for your turn at the plate. Be eager to get in the game. And when you’re in the game, play your heart out. Show up.

I’ve always tried to do that. I’ve always tried be as present I can be in every meeting, at every event, in every interview. In this speech. It’s a sign of my seriousness and my commitment, and in my experience it’s almost always noticed.

From Greg to me, from me to you, that’s my message to the stout and stalwart members of the Class of ’23: Show up. We need your attention and curiosity and creativity. We need your enthusiasm and idealism and pragmatism. We need you to tell us which things are lit and which are mid. You’re the ones we’ve been waiting for. More importantly, you’re the ones you’ve been waiting for. The solution to all of our problems, the enabler of all of our aspirations, the answer to all of our prayers … is you. You got this.

Glade & Glen: Fall 2023

Glade & Glen

Find stories, class notes, photos, and memorial biographies for your class year and beyond.


Contact Name

Stacey Himmelberger P’15,’22

Editor, Hamilton magazine

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