Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Poet Arnold, "Quiet In Tone ... Gem-Hard In Observation," February 15

Chestertown, MD, January 31, 2007 — Elizabeth Arnold, a poet praised for her "work of glorious affirmation," will present a reading at Washington College's Sophie Kerr Room on Thursday, February 15, at 4:30 p.m.

Arnold teaches in the M.F.A. programs at the University of Maryland and Warren Wilson College. Her poems and essays have appeared in Slate, TriQuarterly, Chicago Review and a host of other publications. She is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, and was a 2003 Puschcart Prize Nominee in poetry. Her first book, The Reef, documented the poet's struggle with cancer. "Arnold's poetry, much more mature than most writers' first books, links lyrics, slight narratives, and a bit of satire into a work of glorious affirmation," wrote the Florida Times-Union. "The book is a splendid read."

The influential poetry/arts journal Agni likewise praised the work: "For this commitment to both autobiographical honesty and aesthetic risk, The Reef should be valuable to anyone who has been waiting for where contemporary American poetry is going."

Arnold's new volume of poetry, Civilization, also has been receiving positive reviews. Open Books: A Poem Emporium noted, "Spare in language and quiet in tone, Ms. Arnold's poems are nonetheless gem-hard in observation and reasoning."

The Feb. 15 poetry reading is sponsored by the Sophie Kerr Committee, which works to carry on the legacy of the late Sophie Kerr, a writer from Denton, Md., whose generosity has done so much to enrich Washington College's literary culture. When she died in 1965, Kerr left the bulk of her estate to the College, specifying that one half of the income from her bequest be awarded every year to the senior showing the most "ability and promise for future fulfillment in the field of literary endeavor" and the other half be used to bring visiting writers to campus, to fund scholarships, and to help defray the costs of student publications.

Admission to the reading is free and open to the public. The Sophie Kerr Room is in Miller Library. For more information, call 410/778-2800.

Channeling Thelonious: 'Blue Monk' At Washington College, February 13

Chestertown, MD, January 31, 2007 — It will be an afternoon of jazz, poetry and drama as award-winning playwright Robert Earl Price reads excerpts from "Blue Monk," his play about jazz pianist Thelonious Monk, at Washington College's Casey Academic Center Forum on Tuesday, February 13, at 4:30 p.m.

Price's evocation of the immortal jazz giant known as the "Genius of Modern Music" will be accompanied, appropriately enough, by the Washington College Jazz Combo, under the direction of Ken Schweitzer.

Monk (1917-1982) recently received a posthumous Pulitzer Prize "for a body of distinguished and innovative musical composition that has had a significant and enduring impact on the evolution of jazz." While he has been dubbed "the High Priest of Bebop," Monk's unique style was considered too avant-garde even for many of his fellow cutting-edge bop musicians in the 1940s, not to mention the listening public at large. But by the late 1950s, tastes were catching up with Monk's complex, sophisticated musical phraseology, and his fame and fortunes were on the rise. By 1964 he was on the cover of Time magazine. Many of Monk's compositions—"Round Midnight," "52nd Street Theme," "Blue Monk" and others—are among the most oft-recorded standards in the jazz canon. In 1993 he was honored with a posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

It's hard to imagine a more apt playwright to tap into the Monk mystique than Robert Earl Price, who has tackled similar subjects—the tragic jazz icon Charlie Parker, the legend-shrouded bluesman Robert Johnson—in some of his other theatrical productions. When "Blue Monk" was produced in Johannesburg, it was so well received that it ended up as one of five plays nominated for South Africa's National Theater Award. (Price's Charlie Parker opus, "Yardbird's Vamp," likewise enjoyed overseas success, playing to standing-room-only crowds for the duration of its Berlin run.)

Price, a graduate of the American Film Institute, was a protégé of the Oscar-winning director Jan Kadar and Pulitzer/Emmy winner Alex Haley. Price was the script consultant for the Peabody Award-winning production of "The Boy King" (the story of Dr. Martin Luther King's youth) and a principal writer on the CBS/Alex Haley series "Palmerstown, U.S.A." Price's many awards include the American Film Institute's William Wyler Award for screenwriting and a Cultural Olympics Commission for theater.

Currently playwright in residence at Atlanta's famed 7 Stages Theatre, Price also is a poet of some note, with four collections of verse—Bloodlines, Blood Elegy, Blues Blood and Wise Blood—published to date. His poems also have appeared in scores of journals and magazines. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for poetry, a Broadside Press Award, a Bronze Jubilee Award, and dozens of other poetry prizes and notices.

"Blue Monk" is being presented by the Washington College Drama Department, the Black Studies Program, and the Dean of the College. Norman James Theatre is in William Smith Hall. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, call 410-778-7888.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Washington College Joins Distinguished Ranks As Part of Presidential Fellowship Program

Chestertown, MD, January 26, 2007 — Washington College joins a distinguished roster of American colleges and universities, including Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, thanks to its first-time-ever inclusion in a prestigious national program.

The Presidential Fellows Program is an annual institute presented by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for the Study of the Presidency (CSP), and open to one student from each of 85 leading American colleges and universities. And now, Washington College's C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience is pleased to announce a special opportunity for WC students to participate in the Fellowship.

"We are honored and delighted to welcome Washington College to our Presidential Fellows Program, especially in light of the institution's historic ties with our greatest President," said Dr. David M. Abshire, President and CEO of the CSP. "The C.V. Starr Center performs an important public service by bringing to life the history of our early Republic. The CSP looks forward to engaging a new Fellow in the study of the American presidency."

Thanks to a generous gift from Robert W. and Louisa C. Duemling, one Washington College student will be able to participate in this program free of charge for each of the next three academic years.

The Duemlings are longtime friends and benefactors of the College. Robert Duemling is former U.S. Ambassador to Suriname and former Director of the National Building Museum. In addition to having taught in Washington College's Department of Art, he is a Board of Visitors and Governors member emeritus and is Chairman of the Starr Center's Advisory Board.

"Our motivation in sponsoring the Fellowship was to create a connection with another institution that shares the interests of the College," said Ambassador Duemling. "With its historical ties to George Washington, and with the Starr Center's focus on the Founding Era's continued relevance today, the College has a natural harmony with the Center for the Study of the Presidency. This new connection also serves to give students from Washington College the opportunity to meet interesting and like-minded students from all over the country."

"Participation in the Presidential Fellows Program will be an extraordinary opportunity for talented Washington College Students," said Washington College President Baird Tipson. "We are delighted to begin a formal association with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and hope that our C. V. Starr Center may engage in other collaborative activities with the CSP in the future. I would like to extend special thanks to Bob and Louisa Duemling and to David Abshire, our Fall 2006 Convocation Speaker, for enabling our students to take part in this exciting venture."

Applications for WC's inaugural 2007-8 Fellowship are due by February 19, 2007 (details below).

For more than 35 years, CSP Fellows have been coming to Washington, D.C., to learn about leadership and governance, to share their outstanding research and scholarship, to develop as future leaders of character, and to be inspired to careers in public service. The Presidential Fellows Program is a non-resident, part-time, year-long opportunity to study the U.S. presidency, the public policymaking process, and the Chief Executive's relations with Congress, allies, the media, and the American public.

"The Presidential Fellows Program will offer Washington College students an experience that—perhaps second only to a job in the White House—provides a close-up, insider's view of the U.S. presidency," said Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the Starr Center. "Our undergraduates will be taking their place among the best and brightest from America's leading colleges and universities. It is an extraordinary opportunity, and we are grateful to the Duemlings, to Dr. Abshire, and to the Center for the Study of the Presidency for making it possible."

Since its inception, the program has developed leadership and scholarship skills in more than 1,000 students, providing three of the 32 Rhodes Scholars in 2006 as well as numerous Fulbright, Gates, Marshall, and other Scholarship and Fellowship winners. Alumni of the Fellows Program are Capitol Hill and White House staffers, award-winning journalists, CEOs of corporations and non-profit organizations, senior military leaders, and university deans and vice-presidents.

Fellows come to Washington, D.C., on several occasions during the year for personal briefings by policymakers, journalists, and leading scholars, for networking opportunities, and for a chance to learn firsthand about the policymaking process.

The Fellowship requires that each student research, write, and present an original paper on an issue of the modern presidency. Students have online access to the CSP's award-winningPresidential Studies Quarterly and are eligible to participate in two essay contests and compete for publication in an annual anthology.

The 2007-8 fellowship is open to all members of the current sophomore and junior classes (i.e., you will need to be a WC junior or senior when you take part next year). Students from any academic major are welcome to apply.

Applicants should submit a two- to three-page statement describing their interest in the program and relevant past activities (academic and non-academic). The cover sheet should include the applicant's full name, class year, and both campus and home addresses. You should also submit two examples of your Washington College course work, preferably research papers. The winner will be selected by a committee of WC faculty from several departments.

Applications are due to the Starr Center's mailbox in William Smith Hall by 5 p.m. on February 19. For further information, please contact Jenifer Endicott at the Starr Center:, 410-810-7161.

Monday, January 22, 2007

What Happened To The Maya? Dr. Seidel Explores The Latest Evidence, January 26

Chestertown, MD, January 22, 2007 — It is one of the world's great archaeological mysteries—not to mention the springboard for much speculation and poetic license in the recent Mel Gibson movie "Apocalypto." What really did happen to Mayan civilization? What caused this sophisticated, thriving network of city-states to collapse so quickly? Archaeologist Dr. John L. Seidel will explore the most recent evidence when he presents "Apocalypse: Environment and the Collapse of the Maya" at Washington College's Litrenta Lecture Hall this Friday, January 26, at 4:30 p.m.

The ancient Maya flourished in Central America for more than 2,000 years, beginning around 1200 B.C. Known for their spectacular art, sculpture and building skills, they lived in densely packed cities throughout Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador. Today these sites are covered by dense rain forest, with pyramids and temples emerging from the top of the verdant canopy.

Apocalyptic events seem to have overtaken the Classic Maya at about 800-900 A.D. Many of their cities were abandoned, populations crashed and the civilization collapsed. What happened to these impressively accomplished people? How is it that one of the world's great civilizations came to such an abrupt end?

Dr. John L. Seidel, Interim Director of Washington College's Center for the Environment & Society, is a specialist in Mayan studies. He recently returned from his latest Central American sojourn, visiting ancient ruins and delivering lectures on Mayan archaeology.

Litrenta Lecture Hall is in the John S. Toll Science Center. Admission to "Apocalypse: Environment and the Collapse of the Maya" is free and open to the public. For more information, call 410-810-7161.

"Shattered Dreams" and a Portrayal of Dr. King at Washington College, January 30

Chestertown, MD, January 22, 2007 — What would Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. think of the state of race relations in America today? A dramatic one-man stage presentation explores this intriguing hypothetical question in "Shattered Dreams: What Would Dr. King Say Today?" Leon Williams will portray Dr. King at Washington College's Hynson Lounge on Tuesday, January 30, at 7:30 p.m.

Williams is the Director of Intercultural Programs at Buena Vista University in Iowa. He tours the country offering a variety of programs that address race issues on today's college campuses. He is noted for having a talent for taking the sensitive issues of race, diversity and multiculturalism and injecting them with humor, love and passion. He speaks to students about issues of oppression, interracial dating, racism, discrimination and black-on-black crime, among other issues. His programs are interactive, involving the use of music, activities and audience discussion.

In addition to touring campuses and serving as Director of Cultural Programs at his university, Williams is involved in his community as a volunteer for a local food pantry, Habitat for Humanity, a teen theater group and the Special Olympics. He has written and directed several plays, coordinated racism panels, and lectured in the History & Political Science Department at Ohio Northern University.

"Shattered Dreams: What Would Dr. King Say Today?" is being presented by the Washington College Office of Multicultural Affairs, the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, Black Studies Program, the Campus Events and Visitors Committee, the Goldstein Program in Public Affairs, the Rose O'Neill Literary House, Student Activities and the Student Government Association Diversity Committee. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, call 410-810-7457.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Poet Campion to Present Reading at Washington College, January 30

Chestertown, MD, January 19, 2007 — He has been hailed as a poet with an "extraordinary ear and imagination," one who "was born to make music out of consonants and vowels." He is Peter Campion, a rising talent on the American poetry scene, and he will present a reading from his works at Washington College on Tuesday, January 30, at 4:30 p.m. The reading will be in the Sophie Kerr Room at Miller Library.

Campion, an assistant professor of English at Washington College, has held a George Starbuck Lectureship at Boston University, as well as a Wallace Stegner Fellowship and Jones Lecturership at Stanford University. His poetry and prose have appeared recently in Agenda, ArtNews, the Boston Globe, Modern Painters, Parnassus, Poetry, the San Francisco Chronicle, Slate, Sculpture, The Yale Review and elsewhere.

Other People, Campion's debut collection of verse, was published by the University of Chicago Press.

Prolific poet/critic Robert Pinsky enthused, "Like a young athlete who has learned to apply extravagant gifts beyond mere virtuosity, Peter Campion brings his extraordinary ear and imagination to large subjects. Born to make music out of consonants and vowels, he can sustain that music through a range from ecstatic outcry to whispered conversation. ... This is a thrilling first book."

The reading is sponsored by the Sophie Kerr Committee, which works to carry on the legacy of the late Sophie Kerr, a writer from Denton, Md., whose generosity has done so much to enrich Washington College's literary culture. When she died in 1965, Kerr left the bulk of her estate to the College, specifying that one half of the income from her bequest be awarded every year to the senior showing the most "ability and promise for future fulfillment in the field of literary endeavor" and the other half be used to bring visiting writers to campus, to fund scholarships, and to help defray the costs of student publications.

Admission to Campion's Tuesday poetry reading is free and open to the public. For more information, call 410-778-2800.

Washington College's Oldest Alumna Dies at 102

Chestertown, MD, January 19, 2007 — An educator, a lifelong community activist and a pioneer in the field of elder affairs, Rebecca Neal Owens '25 passed away January 7, 2007, in Port Charlotte, Florida, at the age of 102.

She is remembered as spirited and independent, with a lively intellect and strong will. Even well into her 90s, Neal Owens was still driving her own car and was active in the organization she helped found, the Charlotte County Council on Aging.

Owens moved to Florida in 1975 from New Jersey, after retiring as director of the City of Newark's Office of Elder Affairs. She was appointed to the Charlotte County Advisory Council on Aging in 1977 by the County Commission. She was elected chairwoman and remained the council's driving force for many years.

Under her leadership, the council launched the Retired Senior Volunteer Program and a congregate meals program—which now operates out of the Rebecca Neal Owens Center in Punta Gorda. A handyman service and a transportation program are also part of the services Owens brought to the senior population there.

A history major at Washington College, Neal Owens went on to teach and later earned a master's degree. In retirement, she redirected her energies toward community service and became an advocate for the aging, frequently appearing before state and national legislators on behalf of the elderly. In recognition of her work as a volunteer in elder affairs for more than 30 years, she was recently an honored guest at the 45th annual meeting of the AARP Charlotte Chapter.

She last visited campus in 2000, returning for her 75th Class Reunion and taking the position of honor at the head of the Commencement processional. She had been the first female president of Alumni Council. According to Owens, "Attendance had been awful until they installed me as president. Then, all of a sudden members didn't miss a meeting. The men were afraid of what I might do."

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Dynamic Duo (Guitar Duo, That Is) to Wow the Crowd at Washington College, January 27

Chestertown, MD, January 18, 2007 — Newman & Oltman, a guitar duo hailed by the New York Times as "fresh, hot and headed for fame," will perform at Washington College's Norman James Theatre on Saturday, January 27, at 8 p.m.

Increasingly recognized as one of America's foremost instrumental ensembles, Newman & Oltman have been featured in People magazine, on "Larry King Live" and on National Public Radio. Michael Newman and Laura Oltman's concert tours have taken them from the Queen Elizabeth 2 to Carnegie Hall, from Rome to Seoul, from London to Tahiti—in all, to 49 states, to Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, Canada, the Caribbean and the South Pacific.

Newman & Oltman's CDs have garnered widespread praise. The Washington Post declared their music "a revelation to hear." Billboard crowned a Newman & Oltman recording with the coveted "Critics' Choice" honorific. "A triumph on all accounts," said Soundboard. "The pair's Vulcan-mind-meld delivery is downright astonishing," raved Guitar Player. The New York Daily News described one of the duo's discs as "doubtless the greatest guitar record yet made."

Acclaimed as innovators in the chamber music field, Newman & Oltman have collaborated with such diverse artists as Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt (Angela's Ashes), "Riverdance" violin sensation Eileen Ivers, the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops, Marvin Hamlisch, and various others from the classical, folk, Celtic, and world-music spheres.

Norman James Theatre is located in William Smith Hall. Reservations are strongly recommended for the January 27 performance, presented as part of the Washington College 2006-2007 concert series. Admission is $15 for adults, $5 for students and youth 18 and under. For tickets and more information, call 410-778-7839.

WC Literary House Director Shenk Presents "What I See"

Chestertown, MD, January 18, 2007 — Have you ever stopped to ponder that there are fringe benefits to nearsightedness, that there are, ironically, insights to be derived from a blurred view? This intriguing premise is explored in "What I See: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Astigmatism," a new essay from acclaimed author Joshua Wolf Shenk. Shenk, Director of the Rose O'Neill Literary House, will present the work in a reading at Washington College on Thursday, January 25, at 4:30 p.m. The reading is being presented jointly by the Sophie Kerr Committee and O'Neill House.

Shenk is the author of Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness, a New York Times Notable Book of 2005. In addition to the coveted New York Times accolade, Lincoln's Melancholy was named one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post, the St. Louis Post-Dispatchand the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and won citations from the Abraham Lincoln Institute and the National Mental Health Association. In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews hailed Shenk's book as "a significant contribution to the study of Lincoln ... an inspirational tale."

In his thought-provoking new essay, Shenk describes how he came not only to accept his nearsightedness, but rather to value it. He philosophizes about "learning to appreciate the way I see the world without my glasses, with my vision uncorrected." About five years ago he found himself in a situation that involved being deprived of his spectacles for several hours. Frustration and disorientation gave way to acceptance and, ultimately, gratitude for an alternative perspective. "I was amazed at the depth and oddities of seeing the world that way," said Shenk. His "uncorrected" vision, he came to realize, "had its own positive value."

In addition to authoring Lincoln's Melancholy, Shenk has contributed to The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's Magazine, The Economist, and many other journals. Before joining Washington College in July 2006, he taught creative writing at the New School University and New York University. Shenk's other honors include a Rosalynn Carter Fellowship in Mental Health Journalism from the Carter Center, a Fellowship in Nonfiction Literature from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and a scholarship at the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference.

Along with his role as Director of the Rose O'Neill Literary House, Shenk is also a lecturer in the Washington College English Department, focusing on creative nonfiction.

"What I See" will be presented in the Sophie Kerr Room at Miller Library. Admission is free and open to the public. A reception will follow at O'Neill House. For more information, call 410-778-2800.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Clay Selected As 2007 Recipient of Frederick Douglass Fellowship

Chestertown, MD, January 11, 2007 — Elizabeth Clay, a Washington College junior from Bethesda, Md., has been awarded the school's prestigious 2007 Frederick Douglass Fellowship.

Now in its third year, the Frederick Douglass Fellowship supports work in African-American studies and related areas. The fellowship, which provides an annual grant of up to $1500 to a Washington College sophomore or junior and a $500 honorarium to a faculty mentor paired with the student, is administered through the College's C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience.

"The members of the Douglass Fellowship selection committee were very impressed with Elizabeth's proposal to continue her ongoing research into the activities of the federal Freedmen's Bureau in Kent County after the Civil War," said Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the Starr Center. "It's a great example of how students at Washington College can study local history to shed new light on important chapters of our national story."

Clay's initial investigations into the topic resulted in the publication of her piece "Black Patriots on the Eastern Shore" in the anthology Here on the Chester: Washington College Remembers Old Chestertown (Literary House Press, 2006). "Her work has already demonstrated the rich and untapped potential of the National Archives' holdings in illuminating the experiences of local African-Americans as they made the difficult transition from slavery to freedom," Goodheart said. "Her research is truly taking her into unexplored historical territory."

"I am very honored to have been chosen for the fellowship," said Clay. "I'm looking forward to doing the research and hopefully being able to contribute something worthwhile about the subject."

As she continues to delve into a hitherto largely overlooked chapter of the region's past, Clay's efforts will be guided by her chosen faculty mentor, Dr. Carol Wilson, Associate Professor of History. Dr. Wilson, who also serves as Director of the Gender Studies program, is the author of Freedom at Risk: The Kidnapping of Free Blacks in America, 1780-1865(University Press of Kentucky, 1994), and, forthcoming in 2007 from Rutgers University Press,The Two Lives of Sally Miller: A Case of Mistaken Racial Identity in Antebellum New Orleans.

"Kent County's African-American history has been coming to light in recent years, in part because of the work of Washington College students like Elizabeth Clay," said Dr. Wilson. "What we're beginning to see is a much more nuanced picture than most people probably were aware of—not just slaves toiling endlessly on plantations, but also slaves escaping, free blacks owning land and running businesses, people forming their own viable communities. What African-Americans did after the end of slavery is one of the less-studied subjects in this region. By examining the Freedmen's Bureau records, Elizabeth's research is helping to create a vibrant picture of Kent's postwar black community."

The Douglass Fellowship was established through a generous gift from Maurice Meslans and Margaret Holyfield of St. Louis. Topics pertaining to—in the words of the donors—other "minority American" fields (Asian-American studies, gay and lesbian studies, Latino studies, etc.) also are considered.

The author, activist and diplomat Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), for whom the fellowship was named, was born in Talbot County, Md., about 30 miles south of Washington College, and retained a deep attachment to the Eastern Shore until the end of his life.

"I think the Douglass Fellowship is important because it gives students the opportunity to look into subjects in African-American history that otherwise might not be explored," said Clay. "And I am excited to be a part of it!"