Friday, June 29, 2007

C.V. Starr Center Embarks on 'A Chesapeake Journey: from Slavery to Freedom'

Chestertown, MD, June 29, 2007 — The story of slavery in America and the story of the Chesapeake Bay region have been intertwined since the beginning: from the first North American shipload of Africans in chains, to the heroic achievements of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, to Nat Turner and one of the largest slave uprisings in American history, the Chesapeake provided the regional stage for a national saga. From enslavement to liberation to hard-fought civil rights, it is a saga that continued through to the all-too-recent past, and still echoes in our national life, constantly and on multiple levels, today.

On a quest to explore this vital thread of history, Washington College's C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience is embarking this July on "A Chesapeake Journey: From Slavery to Freedom." Traveling by roadway and waterway, circumnavigating the entire Bay region, "A Chesapeake Journey" will visit various Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., sites that shed light on the history of American slavery and the African-American struggle. Along the route, the itinerant party of Washington College faculty, staff, students and other area participants will be joined by prominent historians whose lectures will enhance the exploration of historic locales, tying them in with the larger themes. Living history presentations and discussions with a variety of experts on African-American history will round out the week-long tour. Interested members of the public can follow the Chesapeake Journey trip at the program's website, which includes a full itinerary and a blog that will chronicle the trip day-by-day in words and pictures.

A summer institute funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Teaching American History Program, "A Chesapeake Journey" is a capstone offering of the four-year Washington's Legacy program. Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the C.V. Starr Center, will lead the institute along with Alexa Cawley, Assistant Professor of History at Delaware State University. Historical issues that will be explored include the arrival of the first Africans in America, the development of the Chesapeake plantation culture, the experience of free blacks during the colonial and antebellum periods, the rise of the abolitionist movement and Underground Railroad, the life stories of such figures as Frederick Douglass, African-American participation in the Revolution and Civil War, and current attempts to memorialize slavery and freedom.

"A Chesapeake Journey" begins on Sunday, July 8, in Chestertown at Custom House, home of the C.V. Starr Center, for introductions and an overview of the planned itinerary. From Chestertown the group will travel to the birthplace of Frederick Douglass, then on to the plantation where he lived briefly as a child, a mansion that has remained in the same family for 11 generations. In Easton, historian Ira Berlin will present a lecture and discussion providing an overview of slavery in the Chesapeake. A Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, Berlin is the author of several books on slavery, including Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in Mainland North America and Generations of Captivity: A History of Slaves in the United States.

On July 9, the route heads southward and across the mouth of Chesapeake Bay to Hampton, Va., for a visit to the site where the first enslaved Africans set foot in the American colonies. On July 10, the travelers will spend the entire day at Colonial Williamsburg, where they will participate in a storytelling workshop and view living history demonstrations that shed light on the inherent contradiction of owning slaves during the struggle for independence from Britain.

At Yorktown, the party will board the charter boat North Star on July 11 and head up the Bay. While underway, there will be a discussion of the routes over both water and land that slaves followed when escaping from bondage. Historian T. Stephen Williams will accompany the voyage and discuss resistance to slavery, including abolitionism and the Underground Railroad. The story will be told of the schooner Pearl, a vessel that carried escaping slaves over these very waters in 1848.

The North Star will put in at St. Mary's City, the site of Maryland's first capital, built upon the success of tobacco cultivation. The region served as the cradle of a new and distinctly American culture, blending elements of Africa, Europe and the New World. On July 12, "A Chesapeake Journey" will feature a day of hands-on programming, beginning with an examination of artifacts unearthed by St. Mary's City archaeologists and discussion about bringing archaeology and artifacts into the classroom.

From St. Mary's City, the journey route wends its way to Sotterley, an excellent example of a Tidewater plantation. The group will learn about the generations of the white owners and enslaved men, women and children who interacted on this site during its long history. The group will explore both the 1703 mansion and a rare 1830s slave house, while learning about Sotterly's innovative approaches to teaching history by using site-specific primary sources, archaeological excavations and the landscape.

From Sotterley, it will be on to Alexandria, Va., one one of the nation's largest export markets for the sale of slaves to the Deep South. Here the traveling party will spend the next two nights. There will be a late-afternoon walking tour of some of the many significant African-American sites in the area, including the remains of a slave market.

July 13 will be spent at George Washington's Mount Vernon, with an exploration of the controversy surrounding Washington's ownership of more than 300 slaves. Renowned author Henry Wiencek will set the stage at Alexandria's Lyceum with a lecture on the paradoxes, both individual and national, embodied in Washington's relationship with slavery. Once at Mount Vernon, the group will learn about slave life on the plantation and the relationship between the Washington family and members of its enslaved work force. Staff members engaged in interpreting this history, as well as a direct descendant of Washington slaves, will meet with the group.

The journey concludes on July 14 with a visit to Frederick Douglass's home in Washington, D.C., and a talk by American University's Edward C. Smith, an expert on Douglass's life and legacy. Smith will discuss the crucial role Douglass played during and after the Civil War. A stop at the Freedman's Memorial in Lincoln Park—dedicated in April 1876 with an oration by Douglass himself—will provide participants with an enduring image of the task before them: helping others to understand and challenge the legacies of slavery that still form part of the national landscape.

Established in 2000 with a grant from the New York-based Starr Foundation, the C.V. Starr Center draws on the special historical strengths of Washington College and colonial Chestertown to explore the early republic, the rise of democracy, and the manifold ways in which the founding era continues to shape American culture, through innovative educational programs, scholarship and public outreach. In addition to the Presidential Fellows Program, the Starr Center also offers a range of special programs and extracurricular opportunities to Washington College students, including the Comegys Bight Fellowships and Frederick Douglass Fellowships, as well as weekend road trips and summer programs. For more information, visit

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Heather Spurrier Joins Washington College Development Team

Chestertown, MD, June 21, 2007 — Washington College is pleased to announce the appointment of Heather Spurrier as Associate Director of Development for Major and Planned Giving.

A graduate of Washington College (Class of 2000), Spurrier also has a J.D. (2003) from the University of Maryland School of Law. She is returning to Chestertown by way of the Rockville-based law firm Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker, P.A. As an associate of the firm, she worked on estate planning and administration as well as commercial litigation.

Previously, Spurrier was the Everett Intern at Ashoka, an Arlington, Virginia-based global association of entrepreneurs developing solutions to urgent social problems. There she formulated a step-by-step legal process for implementing shared parks in urban areas, created policy recommendations for city leaders to develop community green space, and encouraged and motivated community members toward that same goal.

"We are all very pleased that Heather has joined the advancement team," said Jeffrey Appel, Director of Development Programs at Washington College. "Her legal background and the fact that she's an alumna of the college make her a perfect fit for this vital role. In addition, she brings a new and exciting perspective to our gift planning program."

Since graduating from Washington College, Spurrier has remained an involved alumna, serving as Alumnae Relations Advisor and Chapter Relations Advisor to Alpha Omicron Pi, and as the Class of 2000 Agent. She also has been a fundraising participant for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a fundraising organizer for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

"I am excited to once again be a part of the Washington College community," said Spurrier, "and I look forward to working with alumni and friends of the College."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Historian Jill Ogline Appointed Associate Director of C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience

Chestertown, MD, June 12, 2007 — Washington College is pleased to announce that Jill Ogline has been appointed Associate Director of the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience.

Established in 2000 with a grant from the New York-based Starr Foundation, the C.V. Starr Center draws on the special historical strengths of Washington College and colonial Chestertown to explore the early republic, the rise of democracy, and the manifold ways in which the founding era continues to shape American culture, through innovative educational programs, scholarship and public outreach.

Ogline, who received her Ph.D. in History this spring from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, served as coordinator of the University of Massachusetts History Institute, a program that trains K-12 teachers in creative approaches to history education.

She also has worked extensively for the National Park Service at Independence National Historical Park and Gettysburg National Military Park, as well as contributing significantly to the National Park Service's Civic Engagement Initiative, an effort to make the parks' interpretation of history more responsive to the interests and concerns of a diverse public.

Ogline helped create the National Historic Landmarks Program's Sites of Conscience Project, which encourages stewards of historic properties to make their sites centers of civic dialogue. She has served as a historical interpreter at Independence Hall and as project coordinator at the Walden Woods Project, where she assisted in the creation of an interdisciplinary "Thoreau and Conscience" program.

Ogline's scholarly work has covered a broad span of American history. Her dissertation examines the contentious battle over school integration in Prince Edward County, Va., in the 1950s and 1960s, incorporating documentary evidence, oral history and a look at continuing repercussions in the community. Ogline also has published eloquent articles on topics of early American history, such as a powerful essay for The Public Historian on the discovery of George Washington's slave quarters (used during his presidency) under the site of the Liberty Bell pavilion in Philadelphia.

Ogline graduated summa cum laude in History from Taylor University in 2001, and spent an undergraduate semester studying history at Keble College, Oxford University.

"After she visited Chestertown this spring and met with students, faculty, and staff, it became clear that Jill Ogline was the standout in an outstanding group of more than 60 applicants nationwide for this newly created position," said Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the C.V. Starr Center. "She is a brilliant historian who, rather than choosing to follow a traditional professorial career, wishes to engage broader audiences through public-history programs and writing. Jill has a quiet but strong conviction that history matters because it can teach us to be better people and better citizens, with a more generous and nuanced understanding of ourselves and of one another."

Ogline will play a key role in some new Starr Center initiatives, including a merit scholarship program for high school students interested in history, and an expanded program of writing fellowships, which will bring nationally distinguished historians to Chestertown for yearlong residencies, during which they will write, lecture and teach at the College. Next month, she will help to lead the special Starr Center travel program "A Chesapeake Journey: From Slavery to Freedom," which will take a group of Washington College students and Maryland teachers on a trip around the Chesapeake Bay and through more than two centuries of American history, addressing the roots of slavery and its lasting impact on our society.

"The Starr Center's commitment to bringing history to life for Washington College students and the greater public excites me to no end," said Ogline. "When we understand the past as a living presence in our own time—a force subtly yet profoundly shaping the present—we are better equipped to engage responsibly with the world around us."

Friday, June 1, 2007

Christalyn Janee Frison Named 2007 Recipient of Vincent Hynson Scholarship at Washington College

Chestertown, MD, June 1, 2007 — Christalyn Janee Frison—a Kent County High School senior from Still Pond and daughter of the Rev. Leon and Karen A. Frison—has been selected as the second recipient of the Kent County Vincent Hynson '87 Scholarship Award.

Established last year in honor of the late Rev. Vincent Hynson, a Washington College alumnus and community leader who passed away in 2004, the scholarship will meet 100 percent of Frison's annual educational expenses—tuition, room, board and book costs—not met by federal and state need-based grants.

The Hynson Scholarship is offered to an entering freshman who is a graduate of a secondary school in Kent County, who demonstrates financial need, and whose achievements and aspirations most closely emulate the values of Hynson, who led an exemplary life as a teacher, coach, pastor and leader in the Kent County community.

Hynson, a graduate of Kent County High School, attended Washington College as a non-traditional student, receiving a degree in history in 1987.

Washington College President Baird Tipson was instrumental in creating the scholarship, donating $10,000 out of his own salary to initiate the award, and increasing that support this year. The scholarship also is supported by a lead gift from the Indian Point Foundation and gifts from some 500 community members.

"Being selected as the Vincent Hynson Scholar is a tremendous blessing to me and my family," said Frison upon learning that she had been awarded the scholarship. "Vincent Hynson was actually a distant cousin and close family friend, so it's flattering to be considered a reflection of his values. I hope that I can continue to be even a shadow of the role model that he was."

"I've had the honor of knowing Christa and her entire family for the last 10 years," said Julie Gerding, Frison's high school counselor. "In addition to having a great sense of humor and amazing personality, she has contributed so much to her school, the community and her church. She embraces the true spirit of what Vincent Hynson stood for, and Vincent would be happy knowing that Christa received this scholarship in his name."

Archaeologist John Seidel Appointed Director of Washington College's Center for the Environment and Society

Chestertown, MD, June 1, 2007 — Washington College has announced the appointment of John L. Seidel, associate professor of anthropology and environmental studies, as director of the college's Center for the Environment and Society (CES).

Located in the historic Custom House along the Chester River, the Center supports interdisciplinary research and education, exemplary stewardship of natural and cultural resources, and the integration of ecological and social values.

Seidel, who has taught at Washington College since 1998, has been serving as the Center's interim director during the nationwide search for a new director following the retirement of CES head Michael Chiarappa in 2006. As he now becomes the Center's official director, Seidel concomitantly assumes the Lammot duPont Copeland Professorship.

"John's tenure as Interim Director of the Center for the Environment and Society convinced me that he represented precisely that blend of academic accomplishment, administrative skill and thoughtful vision that the Center most needed," said Washington College President Baird Tipson. "I am delighted that he will continue to lead the Center in the years ahead."

"John Seidel has put together a record at Washington College of superb teaching, innovative programming, successful grant-writing and interdisciplinary research," said Christopher Ames, Provost and Dean of the College. "His diverse talents will serve us well as we develop the Center for Environment and Society into a locus for creating and promoting socially aware solutions to environmental challenges."

Since his arrival at Washington College, Seidel has worked to expand course offerings in environmental studies and has taught courses in environmental archaeology, world prehistory and history, maritime and underwater archaeology, historic preservation and resource management.

With grant support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and other donors, Seidel helped to introduce a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) program at the college for research, teaching, resource management and facilities management.

In addition to spearheading multiple CES environmental initiatives, Seidel also regularly teaches summer field schools in archaeology and directs a variety of research projects out of the Washington College Public Archaeology Laboratory, located on the ground floor of Custom House.

Recent archaeological investigations include digs at the Harriet Tubman birthplace, the 18th-century Hermitage estate, the Poplar Grove slave quarters, the Custom House and the Charles Sumner Post G.A.R. Lodge.

In collaboration with Eastern Shore Heritage, Seidel organized a team to develop a heritage tourism management plan for Kent, Queen Anne's, Caroline and Talbot counties, which now have gained official state recognition as a Certified Heritage Area.

"I couldn't be happier with this appointment and am very excited by the prospects in front of the Center," said Seidel upon learning the news of his appointment as CES Director. "We have the great good fortune to be situated on the nation's largest estuary, an unparalleled natural laboratory. It is a wonderful place to study, and also a wonderful place to live. We all recognize, however, that the Chesapeake is under growing pressures from development and a host of other threats. The Center is uniquely situated to help shape responses to these pressures in productive and effective ways."

Seidel received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1987, and holds a B.A. from Drew University as well as master's degrees in anthropology and American civilization from the University of Pennsylvania. He has taught archaeology at Rutgers University and at the University of Maryland. He joined the faculty of Washington College to develop the regional program in environmental archaeology and was awarded tenure in 2002.

Prior to joining the faculty of Washington College, Seidel worked in the private sector as an underwater archaeologist for R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates, one of the largest cultural resource management firms in the nation.

His academic research has included classical archaeology in the Near East, investigations of the ancient Maya in Guatemala, surveys of shipwrecks in the Dry Tortugas and Biscayne, Florida, and work on a variety of Eastern U.S. sites dating from the 19th century to 12,000 years ago.

His current research continues to focus on the relationships between humans and their environments in the Chesapeake Bay region and the development of an environmental model for archaeological site locations on the Eastern Shore. The work provides vital information on both natural resources (oyster bars, bottom types, etc.) and cultural resources (shipwrecks, old wharves, fish weirs, inundated terrestrial sites, etc.) to planners and resource managers.

Seidel resides in Chestertown with his wife Liz, who is also an archaeologist and oversees the Washington College Public Archaeology Laboratory.

"John Seidel has the skill to develop local environment solutions with global applicability," said Dean Ames. "That talent will allow the Center to work closely with the Chesapeake Bay and surrounding communities and still have a broader environmental impact."

"I'm convinced that the approaches we develop here in the Chesapeake have a much wider application to coastal zones throughout the rest of the world, areas that are under increasing stress," Seidel remarked. "Washington College has a long tradition of exploring our environment, a tradition that stretches back to our founding. I'm delighted to have an opportunity to continue on that course, and over the next few months I think you'll see some interesting new developments."