Fallcoming 2012: It couldn’t rain on our parade

While the dedication of the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art may have been the main exhibit at Fallcoming 2012, it was hardly the only show in town. Under somber skies but flaming foliage, more than 1,500 visitors gathered to attend more than 50 events and activities over the long Oct. 4-7 weekend:

  • Musical entertainment included the annual world-class jazz concert, led by Dick Hyman H’02 and Bucky Pizzarelli H’03; a performance by the band Filligar, which features Casey Gibson ’09 on keyboards; and a Chapel hoedown featuring all five of the College’s distinguished a cappella groups, from the oldest (the Buffers, founded 1950) to the newest (Duelly Noted, founded 2008) and including Special K, Tumbling After and the Hamiltones
  • Those looking to revisit the classroom — with no grade at stake this time — could sit in on a variety of courses, join Terrance MacMullan ’94, professor at Eastern Washington University, for a discussion of racism and “The Habit of Whiteness,” or gather with Burke Library Director of Special Collections Christian Goodwillie for a presentation on the College’s world-class collection of imprints, manuscripts, ephemera and visual materials from American communal societies such as the Shakers.
  • Or they could take a few notes from Professor of English Emeritus Austin Briggs, who returned to the Hill to lecture on Hamilton’s most renowned (and controversial) poet, Ezra Pound, Class of 1905. The title of his presentation captured Briggs’ own deep and personal ambivalence toward Pound, as well as the Briggsian humor that engaged students for half a century: “My Fascist/Traitor/Lunatic/Anti-Semite/Genius Poet.”
  • Numbers your game? Fallcoming visitors were among the first to see the College’s new Quantitative & Symbolic Reasoning Center, which offered an open house in its new digs in Christian Johnson. Moving up from its previous location in a small classroom setting, the center offers peer tutoring in the sciences, mathematics, statistics and some philosophy courses.
  • Sports? You couldn’t round a corner or cross a quad without being tackled, spiked or red-carded. Football, volleyball, crew, cross country, alumni soccer — despite the iffy weather, Continentals competed — and, if they didn’t always win on the scoreboard, the College’s players and programs won the hearts of returning alumni at every venue.
  • And, of course, alumni looking to meet and chat with students — and vice versa — gathered for the annual Helen and Doane Comstock ’27 Memorial Luncheon celebrating student scholarships. It was one of many Fallcoming opportunities to network, to share great food and memories, to worship together and to renew the ties that make the Hill home. As one student tweeted during the weekend, “This place looks good even in the rain, right?”

Collector-author John Freyer ’95: You want a piece of me?

John Freyer '95Don’t try to tell John Freyer ’95 it’s all “just stuff” or that “you can’t take it with you.” He knows it — but he also knows that the objects we own and treasure shape our identities in fundamental ways.

He has explored both sides of that equation, first as a lifelong student of odd and kitschy items such as kidney-shaped ashtrays, brown doughnut-shaped telephones and Jesus nightlights, and then as the creator of a 2002 book and project titled All My Life for Sale — in which Freyer systematically divested himself of everything he owned on eBay. It was, he notes, a time of revelation, an emotional tug-of-war and a problem of “daunting logistics.”

The assistant professor of photography at the University of Iowa School of Art and Art History visited the Chapel in September to discuss it all — a revealing and often hilarious postscript to the College’s 2012 Common Read, Sherry Turkle’s Evocative Objects. Turkle writes about the deeper philosophical significance of the things with which we surround ourselves, and Freyer is not afraid to plumb such depths as well. But more often, he wonders if Bill in Illinois — his very first buyer — is burning his toast now that he has Freyer’s old toaster. Freyer found, he says, that he “was more interested in the people who bought things from me than I was in the objects I was selling.”

Katy Smith '13 in Antarctica
Katy Smith ’13 shows off her Hamilton pride after a hike to the top of a glacier on Antarctica’s Anvers Island.

In October, Hill students study on seven continents

The fall semester not only boasted a blue moon on Aug. 31; it also featured a phenomenon just as rare at a college of Hamilton’s size: For a few weeks in October, Hamilton had students pursuing research and study on all seven continents. In addition to the usual six, which are standard destinations for those studying abroad and off campus, a Hamilton contingent led by Eugene Domack, the J.W. Johnson Family Professor of Environmental Studies, conducted an 18-day cruise to Antarctica.

Sailing on the LM Gould, the group — including Deanna D’Amato Nappi ’15, Katy Smith ’13, Garrett Akie ’12 and Amelia Shevenell ’96, an assistant pro­fessor in the College of Marine ­Science at the University of South Florida — collected and analyzed ocean floor sediment core samples from the western drainage of the Bruce Plateau Ice Dome. They also installed a cGPS station, the seventh of its kind on the Antarctic Peninsula and a part of the cGPS network established by the LARISSA (LARsen Ice Shelf System, Antarctica) project. The stations transmit data that help researchers analyze ice mass on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Honors for On the Hill; copies still available

On the Hill: A Bicentennial History of Hamilton College, written by Publius Virgilius Rogers Professor of American History Maurice Isserman, is now the winner of three major awards. Most recently, On the Hill — published in 2011 to mark the 200th anniversary of the chartering of the College — received the Arline Custer Memorial Award from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference. The Custer Award recognizes the best books created using archival sources; On the Hill was researched primarily in and through the Hamilton College Archives.

On the Hill previously was honored by the University and College Designers Association with the national Award of Excellence and by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education with the national Gold Award, with other Hamilton activities and publications as part of the “Year-Long Special Events” category.
The book follows the origins of Hamilton College and its interaction with local, regional and national history. It details the College’s inception by the Rev. Samuel Kirkland in 1793, to its state charter in 1812, and through two centuries to its status as a leading modern liberal arts college. Isserman also follows many of the faculty members and students who have lived and worked at Hamilton and helped create its vibrant community.

While it has sold more than 1,000 copies, On the Hill remains available at the campus Bookstore for the holidays and beyond. The richly illustrated 388-page volume can be ordered online at

In May, Isserman and his former student Walter Cronkite IV ’11 will publish Cronkite’s War. The collection of World War II letters home from Walter Cronkite, Jr. — then a United Press war correspondent and later the iconic CBS news anchor — will be published by National Geographic Press, with commentary by Isserman and recollections of his celebrated grandfather from Walter Cronkite IV.

Hill has $275 million impact on region

A new economic analysis by the Center for Governmental Research finds that Hamilton College generated $275 million in economic activity in the Mohawk Valley during 2011. Overall, the more than 100 independent colleges and universities in New York State contributed $63.2 billion to the state’s economy last year — a 16.4 percent increase in two years.

With total payroll exceeding $23.1 billion for 373,800 direct, indirect and induced jobs, New York’s independent colleges and universities provide a major source of jobs in all regions of the state, according to the study.

“In a labor market struggling to recover from the Great Recession, both young people and established workers know that they must invest more in their personal ‘capital’ — the education and training they bring to the marketplace,” says CGR’s chief researcher officer, Kent Gardner, who led the study. “New York’s independent colleges and universities have expanded to fill that need. This is good for the economy directly — as it ­provides employment for skilled professionals — and indirectly, as this enhances the capacity of New York’s workforce to confront the challenges of the 21st century.”

The study was released at an Oct. 16 Independent Higher Education Forum planned by Hamilton and other regional schools. The program featured a Community Partners Fair and a panel discussion that included Mary McLean Evans ’82, assistant vice president and executive director of the Career Center: “Think Globally, Hire Locally: A Dialogue about Working with Campuses to Attract and Retain Talent.”

— Contributing: Vige Barrie, Holly Foster, Adam Pfander ’16, Cecelie Pikus ’13

Fitness Center exercise equipment
REVIVAL OF THE FITTEST: Hamilton’s Charlean and Wayland Blood Fitness and Dance Center was back in action Oct. 15 after a brief shutdown during Fall Break to replace 50 pieces of exercise equipment, most of which dated to the opening of the Fitness Center

By The Numbers

The Class of 2016

  • Applications: 5,107, Hamilton’s second-largest applicant pool on record and the third to surpass the 5,000 mark
  • Applications for Early Decision (binding, Hamilton top choice): 641, a record
  • Number accepted: 1,389, a 27% acceptance rate, tying last year’s record for selectivity, compared with 29% in 2010 and 30% in 2009
  • Number enrolled: 470, joined by 14 transfer students this fall and 49 additional first-year students in January
  • Average SATs: critical reading and math, 1374, highest since 2009’s record 1377; writing, 691, also highest since 2009’s 691
  • Number of valedictorians and salutatorians: 25 (from the 41% of the class attending high schools that rank)
  • Percent of ethnically diverse and international students: 31%, Hamilton’s most diverse class on record; 25% identify as black/African-American, Asian-American, native American, Hispanic/Latino or multiracial, compared with 20% last year; 6% are international citizens, compared with 5% last year.
  • Geographical balance: 33 states and 21 countries are represented by the Class of 2016, compared with 33 states and 19 countries last year; 30% of class members are from New York, matching the previous two years’ classes.
  • Percent from first generation in family to attend college: 15%, compared with 13% last year
  • Percent who had a parent, grandparent or sibling attend Hamilton: 12%

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