Class Notes    About Scope    Editor's Mailbox    Back Issues    Skidmore Home



Spring 2000

- - - - - - - - - -

Contents

On Campus

Sports

People

Alumni Affairs
and Development

Class Notes

 

 
 

People and Projects

Vanilla beans percolate in the Berkshire hills
The mind-body-spirit connection
A good fit: Skidmore and the Peace Corps
Twentieth-century commentaries
Open on Sundays
Vigor, power, beauty
Terra cotta trio
Like improv actors, pro wrestlers tell stories
Our man in Latin America
Go, Tigers!


Vanilla beans percolate in the Berkshire hills

When Charles Baldwin & Sons of West Stockbridge, Mass., celebrated its 110th anniversary recently, Elaine Baldwin Moffatt ’44 reported that state senators and representatives attended the event. What she didn’t mention was the five-page feature story on Baldwin flavor extracts in the October 1999 issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine.

Moffatt, a fourth-generation Baldwin, and her five children (including Melissa Moffatt Ferrara ’83) trace their roots back to Henry Baldwin, proprietor of a general store on the bank of the Williams River. It was Henry’s son Charles who decided to focus the family’s energies on the extract business and set about to meet the early-20th-century craving for sarsaparilla. Other flavorings were extracted from almonds, anise, lemons, oranges, raspberries, spearmint, and black walnuts. Since the 1920s, however, the wonderfully aromatic vanilla extract has been the bread and butter of their business, which Moffatt’s husband, Dick, ran from 1958 to 1992. And what worked then works now. Seventy-five-year-old equipment is still in use and the founder’s edict is followed to the letter: “Never tamper with the recipe or use inferior beans.”

Never mind that the best vanilla beans—the seed pods of tropical orchids—come from Madagascar and are the world’s most expensive. Once a shipment arrives at the Baldwin general store, the chopped beans are relegated to the basement for the first step in the process: five days of percolating with ethyl alcohol and water in Henry Baldwin’s heated copper still. A few steps later, 25 gallons of solution are carried back upstairs to be aged in original oak casks before bottling and the affixing of the black-and-gold label (unchanged since the 1940s).

Marketing and modernization, however, are in the wind, made possible by the purchase of a 100-gallon still, which will increase production capability by 400 percent. And next? What do you suppose Moffatt’s great grandfather would

The mind-body-spirit connection

Thrice-retired public-health nurse Joan Kirwan Schroeder ’48 has embarked on a volunteer endeavor that she is contagiously enthusiastic about. She is developing a parish nursing ministry at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Ridgewood, N.J. At first skeptical of what she says was “a new concept to her,” she attended a college course on parish nursing and came away “impressed.”

The formalization of the concept is relatively recent, but advocates of parish nursing (a specialty recognized by the American Nurses Association) cite references for physical and spiritual healing in the New Testament and point out that churches have been promoting health and wholeness for centuries through worship, education, music, sharing, and caring. The parish nursing program in the United States began when a hospital chaplain noticed that changes in the health-care delivery system frequently placed nurses in the role of decoding medicine into a more understandable language based on faith and healing. Although parish nursing ministries were first embraced by Lutheran congregations in the Midwest, the concept is growing within many denominations.

So, how does one define parish nurses? Most simply, they are registered nurses who are committed to helping individuals and families meet their whole-health needs. Although not providing hands-on care, the parish nurse utilizes health education and spiritual guidance to foster holistic health—physical, psychological, and spiritual.

Schroeder, who sees the homebound and chronically ill in her Roman Catholic parish as initial benefactors of her program, says the potential is limitless, and she’d like to compare notes with other Skidmore nursing grads involved in parish nursing.

A good fit: Skidmore and the Peace Corps

We are at the bottom of the list and that’s usually bad news, but the good news is that for the first time Skidmore College has been officially recognized as an institution with a noteworthy number of Peace Corps volunteers currently serving overseas. So, there we are—with 14 corps members signed up for two-year stints—sharing 10th place with Williams, Colby, and Linfield Colleges on the small-colleges and universities list. Leading the big schools is the University of Wisconsin at Madison with 117 volunteers. (On the historical list, 3,061 graduates of the University of California at Berkeley have joined the Peace Corps since 1961.)

Skidmore alumni serving as Peace Corps volunteers (as of November 1999) included Michael Ackerman, UWW ’99, Micronesia; Susan Bergson ’98, Ivory Coast; Simone Bonneville ’99, Russia; Judith Serbe Hunger ’63, Poland; Mary Ann Kutny ’97, Dominican Republic; Lisa Leigh ’98, Zimbabwe; Ian MacDonald ’94, Namibia; J. Skyelar MacLeod ’99, Eastern Caribbean; Sarah McElroy ’97, Ivory Coast; Evelyn Mosquea ’99, Belize; John Myers ’98, Bolivia; Yira Pimental ’99, Honduras; and Sandra Schaefer Shultz ’60, Honduras. Their majors at Skidmore included nursing, business, social work, English, Spanish, and Russian.

These Skidmore graduates and the more than 7,000 Peace Corps volunteers currently serving in 78 countries teach at the primary and secondary levels, work to fight hunger and bring clean water to communities, and help start new businesses and stop the spread of AIDS.

Twentieth-century commentaries

Organized and chaired by Ellen Rein Goldin ’61, the 15th annual Literary Symposium and Scholarship Fund Benefit at Westchester Community College in Valhalla, N.Y., this past November followed the event’s tradition of featuring contemporary writers whose works are provocative and timely. Addressing the theme “Anchoring the Century” were anchor and managing editor of NBC’s Nightly News Tom Brokaw; Palo Alto, Calif., neurosurgeon Frances Conley; and Skidmore’s Quadracci Professor of Social Responsibility Tom Lewis. Lester Crystal, executive producer of NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, moderated the event, which gave special recognition to guest of honor Seymour Topping, former managing editor of the New York Times and administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes. By way of prodding the audience to think about the future while considering the past, the panelists discussed among other topics communism, sexual harassment, student violence, racism, and lack of tolerance. Brokaw, Conley, Lewis, and Topping, all authors of recently published books, participated in a book signing following the discussion.

Open on Sundays

At a Chinese-style banquet held in a Chinatown restaurant in September, the New York City advocacy group Coalition for Asian American Children and Families presented its first Caring for Children Awards to four Asian American physicians. Among the awardees was Elaine Choy Lee ’71, a pediatrician in practice for over 15 years and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. In part her citation read, “Dr. Lee is known for welcoming low-income families, always being very accessible to help concerned parents, and opening her office on Sundays, the only day off for many families in Chinatown.”

Lee, the mother of two sons, was raised in Chinatown herself; she taught high-school science before earning a medical degree. In addition to her private practice, she is on the attending staff of Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and teaches pediatrics at Columbia University.

As part of CAC&F’s commitment to improve the quality of life for Asian American children in New York City, the group challenges the “model minority” stereotype that often masks basic needs of the community. The coalition says the city’s Asian American children, 96 percent of whom are immigrants or children of immigrants, often live in families struggling with language barriers, social isolation, and stress due to poverty.

Vigor, power, beauty

Melissa Thodos Johnston '84Those aficionados of the performing arts who fear they’ll feel stranded in an artistic wasteland if they can’t live/work on the East or West Coast haven’t been paying attention to what’s happening in Chicago. Home base for exceptional dance companies that represent the entire spectrum of dance, the “windy city” is the premier spot in the Midwest to see dance. Sharing the spotlight with the likes of Joffrey Ballet of Chicago and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is the contemporary dance company Melissa Thodos & Dancers, founded in 1993 and playing to sold-out houses this winter. Unless current plans go awry, the company, which tours nationally and internationally, will visit Skidmore in spring 2001.

Artistic director and choreographer Melissa Thodos Johnston ’84 has combined her extensive classical and modern dance background with her gymnastics training to create a style of dance that is fast-paced, highly athletic, and physically demanding. Some of Thodos’s dances—like her signature work “Reaching There,” in which she performs a solo on a wheel—are enhanced by the use of unexpected props. Other pieces like “Opa” are accompanied by Greek music and tell of her roots. Her 20-year dance career includes an eight-year stint with the Chicago Repertory Dance Ensemble.

“I’ve always enjoyed movement and athletics,” Johnston, a Chicago-area native, told an interviewer this winter. “My parents saw that I was very kinetic as a child and that I had a lot of energy that I expressed through movement. I think they looked at me and said ‘there’s a match—dance is a match for this child.’ ”

Terra cotta trio

Jill Kovachick '81Winter weather in Saratoga Springs didn’t slow the construction of a four-story brick building on the west side of Broadway in the middle of the city’s award-winning downtown; in fact, by early spring it was sporting its crowning glory. Plaques proclaiming it the Roohan Building (named for a local family of realtors and real-estate developers) were mortared into place in March. To the public, it seemed to just happen.

Not so, according to Jill Fishon-Kovachick ’81, one of the trio of Skidmore-connected ceramic artists who created the custom sign; the commission, she told the Saratogian, “was a large challenge.” Hired by the developer, Fishon-Kovachick in turn enlisted the expertise of Darren Prodger ’93 and Special Programs visiting instructor Doug Klein, who have a fledgling ceramics business called Saratoga Clayworks. Using the same Selkirk-quarry clay found in the bricks of the building’s facade, they painstakingly molded the durable but stretch-resistant clay into individual letters, each on its own 19-by-15-inch panel,which was then fired in 1,950-degree kilns at Skidmore. Glitches and setbacks—warping, shrinking, cracking—were the norm in the laborious process and it often took several days to complete one panel. “The ceramic industry is not an exact science,” observes Klein.

With the obstacles behind them, all three get a big kick when they walk along Broadway, look up at their work, and think, with deserved satisfaction, “We did that.”

Like improv actors, pro wrestlers tell stories

Matt Hyson '92Growing up scrawny and vertically challenged in Lincoln, R.I., Matt Hyson [’92] hardly qualified as the neighborhood bully,” begins a Providence Journal story about a Skidmore English major who went from academia to an elementary classroom and then to a wrestling ring—yup, that’s professional wrestling, currently at its peak of popularity. Never mind Hyson’s slight build (he’s 5’7”, 150 lbs.) and accommodating manner: as one half of the Extreme Championship Wrestling World Tag Team duo, he was known to go into a rage, crash through burning tables, and pummel men twice his size, the Journal reported. Getting into a character that fans react to is what distinguishes successful wrestlers, and Hyson’s fearless Little Spike Dudley has soared to superstardom. “To have five, six thousand people chanting your name is unbelievable,” he says. “What a rush.”

While teaching third grade in San Francisco, Hyson, a high-school athlete and a lifelong fan of pro wrestling, attended wrestling school thinking he’d have to settle for refereeing. Instead, he made his professional debut as a wrestler in 1994, and by 1997 it was a full-time career. “It takes one year alone to learn the physical moves, and seven to 10 to feel comfortable in the ring,” he says. He finds the mental challenges most difficult: “There are very, very few dumb wrestlers. Telling a story and communicating it is like improv acting. There are a million things you have to be conscious of.”

“Considering the fierce hold pro wrestling has over today’s youth,” and “with its revolving storylines and comic acting,” the Journal reporter concluded, there may be some logic in having a former third-grade teacher and literature major “up on the turnbuckle.”

Our man in Latin America

In print and on the air, Buenos Aires-based journalist Travis Lea ’94 is covering subjects as diverse as the Argentine herbal drink yerba maté and Argentina’s $4.5 billion debt to the International Monetary Fund. Lea-watchers have seen articles in the alternative press (In These Times) and have heard him on Pacifica Network News, Marketplace, and Voice of America. Although Lea studied French and Italian as an undergraduate, he’s been learning Spanish, he says, “mostly on my own through travels—Cuba, Haiti, and Venezuela--and through classes here and there.” Now, semi-permanently settled in a loft in Buenos Aires, Lea plans to continue his study of the language, explaining that it is “a huge advantage over many reporters to be comfortable interviewing in several languages.”

Go, Tigers!

Taunton Tigers, that is. The Somerset, England, pro basketball team scored big this season with American recruit David Burch ’99. He made his debut in October, contributing 21 points to the Tigers’ win over the Mid Sussex Magic and, according to team press reports, making his presence known with “an awesome ‘dunk.’ ”

Burch has racked up plenty of points and rebounds since then. In December he posted what was then a season-best 34 points in one game, and by January he was reported to be “adjusted to the English game and starting to dominate the offensive end.” “English basketball is different,” says Burch, explaining that it’s more than the rules and the set-up of the court. “It’s a different style. There’s more one-on-one.”

The Tigers stepped up this year to the first division of the English National Basketball League; there is one level of professional play higher than that. “Basketball is developing over here,” says Burch. “It’s not as big as in America, but it’s a growing sport.”

American players—each team is allowed only two—play major roles. After their 91-82 win over the Magic in February, the Tigers reported that “American power forward Dave Burch was again in dominant form as he not only scored a massive 32 points but also dominated the boards with 16 rebounds.” Consistently in double figures, Burch bested his earlier season record with a 40-point game in February.

Burch studied graphic design at Skidmore, but he made his mark at the College with his artistry on the basketball court. Skidmore’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder, he was ranked 33rd nationally in scoring with an average of 21 points per game.

Sounds like he may be on his way to breaking a few records on the other side of the pond.

 


© 2000 Skidmore College