President Stewart announces retirement
President Joan Hinde Stewart has announced that she will retire in June 2016 after 13 years at Hamilton’s helm. The College has formed a Search Committee to find and recommend her successor to the Board of Trustees. Heading the committee are Chairman of the Board Steve Sadove ’73, P’07,’10,’13 and Charter Trustee Bob Delaney ’79.
When Stewart announced her intention to retire, Sadove acknowledged that the trustees knew that day would come but had hoped it wouldn’t be for many years. Stewart, a perfect fit for Hamilton, is a strong leader who oversaw a period of tremendous growth at the College, Sadove says. For her part, Stewart says that serving one of the finest colleges in the country is an “enormous privilege.” The years she and her husband, Philip, have been at Hamilton have been among the happiest and most fulfilling of their lives, she adds.
Stewart informed the trustees of her decision to step down at their quarterly meeting in December. She is the 19th president of the College and the eighth-longest-serving in its history. The College has created a presidential search website to provide updates about the process.
Social innovators take global stage
Not only was Sharif Shrestha ’17 honored at the annual Clinton Global Initiative University for an economic-development project in his native Nepal, he also had a quick conversation with Chelsea Clinton. He heard a panel discussion that included President Bill Clinton and the Russian activist punk band Pussy Riot, and he was inspired by the words of Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general. There was a lot to take in. “It was interesting to see the whole mix of people,” says Shrestha, one of four Hamilton students selected to attend the event for students, scholars, leaders and experts to discuss pressing global issues.
Another Hamilton student was singled out from among the more than 1,100 student participants. Tsion Tesfaye ’16 earned recognition for a youth leadership and social-innovation training program she founded and oversaw in her home in Ethiopia. The other Hamilton students who attended were Ryan Ong ’16 and Jose Vazquez ’15, whose project Disclosure Group aims to support and create awareness of LGBT homeless youths in New York City.
Bill Clinton founded the Global Initiative University, which is modeled after the Clinton Global Initiative, to “engage the next generation of leaders on college campuses around the world.” The program looks for students who have developed concrete plans of action to address global issues. Thanks to support from the Levitt Public Affairs Center, social innovation has been an integral part of the four Hamilton students’ college experience. Two College funds covered the cost of the students’ travel to the initiative, which took place in March at the University of Miami.
At the event, the Resolution Project, a partner of the Clinton Global Initiative University, awarded Shrestha $4,000 as well as mentoring support for his project. Only 23 projects received funding. Shrestha and a partner are creating a worker’s cooperative to grow, harvest and sell rare medicinal herbs in the village of Mude. Derek Jones, the Irma M. and Robert D. Morris Professor of Economics and an expert in co-ops, is guiding their work.
When Tesfaye was recognized for her Youth for Ethiopia project, University of Miami President Donna Shalala, who was secretary of health and human services under Bill Clinton, praised the project in detail. “I remember her emphasizing Youth for Ethiopia’s potential to have a big impact on Ethiopia,” Tesfaye says. She was one of 26 students whose work was highlighted in that way. The entire Clinton event, she says, was inspirational and motivational — she met two social innovators with whom she’d like to collaborate. “One is working in youth software training in Nigeria, and the other one inspires youth to pursue careers in education in Kenya,” Tesfaye says.
Senior’s last bucket worth more than two points
Joseph Lin ’15 pushed hard to improve his game during his first three years on the Hamilton basketball team, and his stats climbed. The guard was having an all-league senior year heading into a Feb. 7 game against Bates, a must-win for the Continentals to have a chance at post-season play. “More than anything I wanted to make the playoffs. I really wanted to win that game,” says Lin, the team’s leading scorer.
Six or seven minutes in, he got a steal and a fast break. As he drove the ball to the basket, another player hit him. Lin landed hard and then struggled to stand. After Lin tried twice to return to the game, his coach reluctantly took him out. Still, his teammates nearly pulled it off. Hamilton lost 73-71. Lin soon learned he had fractured the top of his right tibia. His season and his Hamilton basketball career were over. Or would have been if Coach Adam Stockwell hadn’t devised a plan to give Lin one last shot.
Stockwell hated to see the year end in frustration for a player who’d showed so much determination and had come so far. But before he proceeded, he turned to Assistant Coach Jeff VanGorder for a reality check. “Sometimes I get ideas, and they are just crazy. And then I talked with Jon Hind [’80], our director of athletics, and they were both supportive,” Stockwell says. The plan: Let Lin play long enough to make a single basket on senior day, Feb. 14, against Connecticut. At that point Hamilton and Connecticut were out of the playoffs, so the game would have no post-season consequences. Lin would shoot unimpeded, Connecticut would do the same, and then the “real” game would commence. Stockwell approached Connecticut Coach Tom Satran, who agreed to the unorthodox request. “I think both of us realized there are bigger things than just winning one game at the end of the season,” Stockwell says.
It was up to Lin to decide. There was a potential downside. Lin was the league leader in assists on a per-game average, but a player from a rival team was right behind him. If Lin made an appearance in the Connecticut game, he would get no assists, and his stats could dip. “But in the end I didn’t care,” Lin says. “I just wanted to do that because I thought it would be really special. And it was.”
His entire family — mom, dad and two older brothers — were at that game, which didn’t happen often. The Lins live in California and brother Jeremy plays for the L.A. Lakers, which keeps him occupied during the Hamilton basketball season. As it happened, Jeremy had a break from the NBA the weekend of the Hamilton-Connecticut game. He positioned himself practically on the court to shoot video of his little brother. Lin’s prearranged layup had the cheering crowd on its feet. Later, when Lin watched a video of the moment, he saw even Connecticut players standing and clapping. “I mean, I’ve never experienced something like that in my life. It was better than I had expected with people standing up and cheering and clapping until I crutched all the way back to our bench,” Lin says.
The coach’s idea played out perfectly. As a bonus, Hamilton won 83-74. Lin’s stats for the season stayed high enough for him to lead the conference with 6.4 assists per game. He was named to the second team of the NESCAC men’s basketball All-Conference team.
Now that he has graduated with an economics degree, Lin wants to play basketball in Taiwan. Sometimes he still thinks about his early end to the Continentals’ season. “I’ve come to terms with it, but I definitely still think about it sometimes, like, ‘Man, I wish we made the playoffs,’ or ‘Man, I wish I could have played the last three games of the season.’ I feel like things could have been different,” he says. See Lin's final Hamilton basket.
Kirkland (likely) visited here
If Samuel Kirkland were to stroll campus today, he’d encounter only one building still standing where he last saw it — a modest timber-framed dwelling at 60 College Hill Road known as the 1793 House. Last fall, it didn’t look as though the house would survive much further into the 21st century. The College was discussing tearing it down until Assistant Professor of Anthropology Nathan Goodale and his students documented its historical value, and 10 members of the History Department made a case for its preservation.
The point about Kirkland’s familiarity with 60 College Hill comes from a report by Goodale and students Nicholas Anastasi ’15 and Carolyn Mitchell ’16. The house is one of the two oldest buildings on campus. “Kirkland Cottage is about the same age — it may even be a couple of years older — but it was built at the bottom of the Hill and moved up. This house is still on its original foundation,” Goodale says. The researchers examined documents from the College archives and the local historical society, excavated the building and grounds, and scrutinized the structure from cellar to second floor to date it back to the 18th century.
Goodale and his students couldn’t prove that 60 College Hill Road was built in 1793, as its name and relatively recent records indicate, but they came close. The team found records to show the Rev. Robert Porter, a principal of Kirkland’s Hamilton-Oneida Academy, purchased the house in 1803. “The problem is that once you get back that far, there’s not much preserved,” Goodale says. “So the fact that we have a whole building from the time period is pretty significant.”
He had his introduction to archaeology class, plus independent study students Anastasi and Mitchell, dig into the history of the house at the request of College officers. Karen Leach, vice president for administration and finance, asked Goodale if he would research the building as he and students had done for a house at 13 College Hill Road. The College made the decision to raze that decrepit structure, but not before its history was well documented. Not every old structure can be saved, Goodale says, but 60 College Hill Road is of considerable historical significance. Some members of the History Department agreed, based on a letter they wrote that was published in The Spectator. Kirkland himself likely would have been a guest in the home when Porter owned it, they wrote in their case for preservation.
The dwelling embodies more Hamilton history than its connection to the College founder. It has changed owners many times over two-plus centuries. In 1805, Porter sold the house, which is sometimes described as a cottage, to Charles and Elizabeth Anderson. They built a larger house next door, and their family lived in both dwellings into the 20th century. In 1916, Thomas and Annie Cackett bought the house, which turned over again in 1954 to Hamilton Professor Robert “Bobo” Rudd. When Rudd owned it, writer Alex Haley rented one of its apartments while he was a writer-in-residence in the late 1960s. A couple of other owners came and went before the College bought it for faculty housing in 2000.
Over the decades the house was sectioned into three apartments, and the original building has undergone a couple of additions, so its footprint has changed. But original architectural features survive, for instance at least five big original corner posts, a central cooking hearth and beehive oven and raised-penal and flat-bead paneled doors, some with their original hardware. Given all the reasons for preserving the history, the College now plans to hold on to the building and consider possible uses for a structure that contributes to the historical fabric of the Hill and of Hamilton. “I hope determining the next phase of 60 College Hill Road will be a community-wide endeavor with support from students, faculty, staff, administration and alumni,” Goodale says.
Why I Teach...
The path Lisa Trivedi took to becoming a historian and college professor came as a surprise to many who gathered last fall in the Fillius Events Barn. She described how her father had immigrated to the U.S. from India to pursue an education. Together with Trivedi’s mother, a native of eastern Montana, the couple often welcomed members of his large extended family into their small home — sometimes as many as five or six at a time — as they, too, prepared for new lives in America. Throughout her childhood, Trivedi found herself translating, not only between languages but also cultures.
“What I found in history was a way of pursuing something that I had come to naturally in the context in which I grew up,” she says. “Translating between cultures was something I became good at and eventually it became very important to me because it enabled me to find my place both in America and in India, even as I remained outside both cultures.”
Trivedi was just one of several Hamilton professors who shared their stories of “Why I Teach” in a monthly Community Lunch series sponsored by the Chaplaincy. Here are a few other excerpts:
There are two reasons, really. The first is sheer ego: Since I was 6, I’ve gotten thrills from — and been good at — public performance. I enjoy being on stage. The second is more subtle, but much more powerful: Teaching is a way to connect with people, to share ways of looking at the world and to jointly create something beautiful (like a senior thesis or even a life). All the rest is just preliminary work.
— Dan Chambliss, the Eugene M. Tobin Distinguished Professor of Sociology
I teach in and about prisons because I believe that mass incarceration is the most pressing civil and human rights issue of our time. I teach in and about prisons because one in three black babies born in America will someday be locked behind bars. I teach because Michael Brown and Eric Garner and Tamir Rice were murdered because people who are easy to cage are also easy to kill. And I teach because while I believe that expiating white guilt about a race-based mass-incarceration is a pointless exercise in collective white self-indulgence, I also believe that explicating collective responsibility is as absolute a necessity today as the necessity that Dr. King acted on in traveling to Birmingham and to Selma, Alabama, in 1963.
— Doran Larson, professor of English and creative writing
Arriving in Botswana, fresh out of school, master’s degree in hand and bursting with idealism, I was a complete disaster in the classroom my first semester. But it wasn’t an unmitigated disaster, because I realized that teaching was what I wanted to do for the rest of my career. I realized that it was exhilarating to be surrounded by students who were full of energy and wit, always changing and growing and surprising, always challenging me to see things from a new perspective and to find new ways of connecting with them … [Later] I taught for a couple of years at the University of Ottawa, a large state school. During lectures, I was up on a stage in a cavernous auditorium, with a microphone, writing on an overhead projector with light glaring into my eyes. I couldn’t see most of my students; I didn’t know their names. Classes were all lecture, with zero interaction. I held regular office hours, but almost nobody came. I hated it … [At Hamilton] in small classes, students and professors are invested in a shared endeavor. We know each other’s names, we make eye contact; students know I will call on them, and I know students will call on me. We have both have a responsibility to commit to mastering the material in the course.”
— Sally Cockburn, professor of mathematics
I teach to generate awareness of the physical realities of the worlds in which we live. I teach college students particularly because it is a crucial time of life, in which many decisions and experiences occur that will ripple out through the remainder of people’s lives. With my teaching I aim to foster creative and compassionate citizenship.
— Brent Plate, visiting associate professor of religious studies
Finding commonality between peoples with different religions, ways of life, priorities and customs. Choosing understanding in spite of confusion and sometimes seemingly irreconcilable conflict. Identifying commonalities that make it possible for us to realize that we are more the same than we are different. Yes, I loved understanding why things had happened as they had, though I confess I have never liked memorizing dates. But, even more I loved history for the discovery of what could have been and yet may still be. … I teach Indian history because having come to understand India as I have, I love it. Let me be clear, I don’t love an ideal India; I love India on its own terms and as it is. Its joy and despair. Its beauty and brutality. And its extraordinary diversity. I teach Indian history simply because I want others to understand India and to love it, too.
— Lisa Trivedi, associate professor of history
Why do I teach? Because it makes me happy; it allows me to live a life of wellbeing, a flourishing life. What is a flourishing life? A life that is predominately emotionally positive, a life of psychic affirmation, of psychic flourishing, to borrow Daniel Haybron’s words. In common language and by my lights, a flourishing life is a life of pleasure, purpose and provisions.
Teaching philosophy is a great source of pleasure for me. I love to be in the classroom. Teaching also provides me with a sense of purpose, of meaning. To paraphrase Susan Wolf, we derive purpose from doing what we love and especially so when what we love is bigger than ourselves, when it fulfills us. Philosophy, at its roots, is the radical critique of all things existing. Done properly, it forces one to think outside the box, to come at issues sideways on, to learn to flip among different perspectives. It especially challenges one to question one’s own perspective and especially the assumptions of which we are unaware. I find both pleasure and purpose in working with students, especially first-generation college students like myself, helping them find their way.
Teaching also provides me with the provisions to lead a good life. I have traveled all over the world to attend conferences and to give papers. I have met many wonderful and interesting people. I have been allowed to develop my craft, to hone my skills, to master my craft. I have lived a life far beyond anything I could have reasonably expected when I was young. I am grateful for that. My life is infused with what Aristotle called “moral luck.” Lots of people work hard, work long and receive little by way of compensation. To paraphrase Thoreau, they are caught in a system that offers them little more than lives of quiet desperation. I know because I come from a farming community of folks like that who had none of the privileges that I have now. They taught me to work hard and long and to find pleasure and purpose in mastering one’s craft.
It pleases me that Hamilton gives such a large percentage of its budget to student scholarships and especially to first-generation students. It pleases me that we are need-blind in the acceptance of students. It pleases me that we have programs like HEOP and POSSE and the College Scholars Program. To live a life of pleasure, purpose and provisions, a life of privilege, that is reserved for the fortunate few. I am among that fortunate few. It makes me happy to know that I can extend that opportunity to others and that they too may flourish through their efforts and a good helping of moral luck.
— Rick Werner, the John Stewart Kennedy Professor of Philosophy
Teaching is fun! I’ve been able to share knowledge about an exciting field with wonderful students, and in our collaborative research we have learned together. I was fortunate to learn, in my first year on the faculty, that Hamilton students appreciate classes that are rigorous and informative, and that has guided my teaching throughout my career. It is a privilege to work with young people at an important time in their lives. As a bonus, I sometimes hear from them years later, and that is always an unexpected reward.
— Doug Weldon, the Stone Professor of Psychology and director, Neuroscience Program
I relish the moments where, as a teacher, I see the proverbial “light bulb” turn on — the “a-ha” moments, the spark of understanding. We have all been there as students, the moment that something finally “clicks,” when we have been wrestling with a question, and we finally see a way out. As a teacher, this is a great reward.