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People and Projects

Busy hands

In her studio in Woodstock, Vt., Barbara Stroock Kaufman ’40 is ever busy making art. It’s her source of energy, she says; “I just fall apart if I’m not doing it.”

Her sculptures—many of which “live” in gardens or function as fountains or bird baths—are so popular that Kaufman sometimes has trouble collecting enough of them for an exhibit. Commissioned works have appeared in gallery shows throughout New England and Canada and have traveled coast to coast; her sculptures have also been on view at the Cincinnati and Philadelphia Museums of Art. Recently granddaughter Stacey Gerrish ’87 produced a book titled Zaza (Gerrish’s childhood nickname for Kaufman), featuring over 100 photos of the sculptor’s work (see Books column).

Kaufman, who says she’s “always been very influenced by the art of India, China, and especially Indonesia,” has created “a long parade of female forms,” Gerrish notes—“most of them in graceful, ornamented gowns, some with elaborate hairdos or hats or crowns.” (Kaufman herself—tall and lean with “gray hair swept up in a knot” and wrists modeling “a host of silver bangles”—is, arguably, as striking as her sculptures.)

Kaufman’s “basic training” in art came from Harry Wickey, who taught her first to sketch and then to sculpt (he himself went on to become curator of the reknowned Storm King Art Museum). At Skidmore Kaufman studied art history and continued sculpting—working in bronze and plaster—but she left after three years to get married.

She and her husband raised a family and ran an apple orchard in New York State; they later moved to Vermont, where Kaufman began sculpting clay. She also began a long-term collaboration with Tariki, the New Hampshire studio of ceramicist Jack O’Leary, who died in the 1980s. Now run by O’Leary’s two sons, Tariki still prepares Kaufman’s clay and does the firing and glazing of her finished sculptures. Her work represents “the wonderful dance between the human and the natural worlds,” suggests Eric O’Leary, and “brings us richly and rewardingly close to things we do not have to fear.” —MTS

Intercultural point of view

Linda Hennessey ’76 remembers her mom helping au pairs learn about American culture through the YWCA. Now Hennessey helps acculturate international students—and also share their cultures with Americans—in Philadelphia.

A former corporate executive and entrepreneur, Hennessey is VP for programs and development at International House Philadelphia. An independent, nonprofit organization, IHP is home to about 400 students from sixty countries who attend the city’s colleges and universities. (Founded in 1910, it’s one of twenty-two International Houses around the world—in London, Paris, Taipei, New York City, Chicago, and Berkeley, to name a few.) Along with the rich residential experience that comes from sharing space with a wide mix of people, IHP offers advice and training to assist residents in adjusting to, and even taking leadership in, American society—for example, some students need assurances that here it’s allowable, and in fact desirable, to question professors and engage in classroom debates.

But the cultural exchange works both ways, says Hennessey: “We try to bring the world to the Philadelphia community.” IHP presents myriad cultural programs that are open to the public, from films and lectures to holiday celebrations and social events coordinated by the students.

After she majored in history at Skidmore, Hennessey earned a master’s in European history at Columbia. She also holds an MBA from City University of New York and a certificate in baking and pastry from the Culinary Institute of America. She was a VP for Cigna insurance and then owner of a chocolate-making company, before joining IHP in 2003.

One of the best rewards of her current work, she says, is experiencing cultural diversity. “I’ve worked in corporate America, which preaches diversity; but I’ve not worked for a really diverse company. Here I live absolutely true diversity, with all its benefits, daily,” she explains. “We have Indian and Pakistani students living in the same suite, and the only time they fight is when there are soccer games,” she laughs. —AW, SR


On the fast

Speed. Cars. Neal Heffron ’86 has been into both for most of his life. In high school he won his first timed race driving a Ford Fiesta at Limerock Park in Connecticut. Since then he’s raced throughout America and Canada, driving BMWs, a Porsche 911, spec Miatas—pretty much everything from go-carts to Ferraris.

It’s a sport that requires concentration so intense that 250,000 fans (as there were in a support race he ran for the Montreal Grand Prix Formula 1 event) can’t be even a momentary distraction. “When you’re out there driving you can’t think of anything else. It clears your mind of any soporiferous thoughts,” says Heffron, whose day job is VP of sales for the Cambridge, Mass.-based E.L.I. Incorporated, which sells new and refurbished high-end computer equipment.

Heffron owns a red Ferrari 360 GT and has raced in club and professional races for about ten years. He’s been known to give his winnings to a favorite cause: the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In February he ran a BMW 330CI in the three-hour Grand-Am Cup Street Stock Series, a pre-race for the prestigious Rolex 24 at Daytona.

An endurance racer, he does much of his training in go-carts. He plays Ping-Pong and tennis to practice hand-eye coordination and runs five miles a day. But his endurance has been tested even when he’s sitting stock-still. At a race in Florida a few years back, Heffron had been driving for two hours, suited up in NOMEX underwear, a three-layer fireproof suit, and a helmet. “The air temp at the track was 110 degrees, and the ambient in the car was 150. I was about to come in for gas, water, and a driver change when a competitor’s car burst into flames. We were all red-flagged and forced to sit in our cars for forty-five minutes before resuming the race.”

Heffron admits to at least a small addiction to speed but says in a race “you get •velocitized’—150 feels like 45.” Decelerating to highway speeds for a pit stop “feels like a crawl.” This is not to say he’s fearless. “What scares me the most,” he admits, “is wrecking the car and ruining the race for the rest of the team.” But, comparatively speaking, driving fast—for him—is a safe sport; last year, he says, “I broke my shoulder and was laid up for four months—from skiing.” —MTS

Lunch at Mao's

Last winter, when two groups of expat teachers met for lunch at Chairman Mao’s, a restaurant in the Chinese city of Jishou, Judith Serbe Hunger ’63 (who lives in Maine) and Misty Lettieri Haley ’68 (near Seattle) were just a tad surprised to discover their common Skidmore past.

The pair was at Jishou University, teaching English as a second language. While consuming “very spicy Hunanese veggies and tofu,” Hunger reports, the teachers discussed Chinese culture, their students, and the presidential race back home. When the younger set (two-thirds were recent college grads) began swapping info about where they went to school, the over-fifty contingent figured they’d do the same. Besides the Skidmore connection, Haley and Hunger discovered they’d also both served in the Peace Corps—Haley in Thailand, Hunger in Poland.

Beyond their “continuing sense of adventure,” what brought them to a remote corner of southern China was a desire to “experience the Chinese as individuals and the details of daily living not available to the casual traveler,” Hunger says. Haley’s return to Asia after several decades was a good opportunity “to catch up with all the incredible changes there.” For Hunger, “the plunge into Chinese culture was a challenge, to see how different it could be from living in a foreign but Western-related country.”

The Skidmore pair “agreed that living in an Eastern culture presents challenges—squat toilets, garbage-strewn streets, rats in the alleyways, no coffee/butter/cheese. Less tangible issues have to do with becoming accustomed—or inured—to stares, the daily •Hello!’ from schoolchildren, the incessant noise of honking taxis, and syrupy (or, conversely, martial or patriotic) music blared from community loudspeakers.” But Haley and Hunger acknowledge that “the rewards of teaching make up for these discomforts. “
In June Haley and Hunger met for lunch at Mao’s one last time before returning home to family in their respective corners of the US. —MTS

Water cure

When water therapist Mary Hiers Carrillo ’83 gets in the pool to give a swimming lesson, her one-on-one approach delivers satisfying results. Two of her most remarkable swimmers are ten-year-old Parker and seventeen-year-old Westy.
Parker is recovering from spinal surgery to remove two discs, which left him “paralyzed in the rear end,” according to Carrillo. Westy is a bit stiff and often requires an hourlong massage before he gets in the water. But after some gentle coaxing, Carrillo’s charges tend to limber up enough to enjoy their lessons and show improvement.

Parker is a basset hound. Westy is a golden retriever. And Carrillo, a certified animal care specialist, is owner of Good Dog Aquatic Fitness, a canine hydrotherapy practice that opened a year ago in North Andover, Mass. The 2,000-square-foot garage Carrillo leases with husband Luis (a physical therapist who, among other things, is certified by the Red Cross in pet first aid) accommodates an indoor pool, an agility course, a massage area, and—soon to come—an underwater treadmill.

For dogs as for humans, the buoyant environment of hydrotherapy “reduces strain on the joints while strengthening muscles and improving overall cardiovascular endurance,” Carrillo says. Most of the canines she sees are recuperating from old-age–related surgeries to fix bum knees, backs, and hips. Some are recovering from trauma, such as a car crash. Good Dog also offers a maintenance program for “aging dogs with arthritis, athletic agility dogs, and dogs that have completed rehabilitation but are continuing with hydrotherapy for fun and fitness.”

Not all dogs are swimmers, Carrillo points out. Some require “a lot of positive reinforcement to lure them in to the pool and cheer them on. They all instinctively have an idea of what to do in the water, but some will let their bottoms sink and swim vertically.” The splashing can be a bit much. But she stays nearby to help the dogs, who wear life jackets.

More and more “guardians” (as Carrillo calls animal-loving humans) are seeking alternative therapies for their four-legged companions—including acupuncture, massage, and homeopathy. “It’s all about improving the dog’s quality of life,” she says. “To see a dog like Parker trotting about on all fours, with a spring in his step, is truly why we are doing this.” —MTS

Sacred art?

Many artists strive to uncover the sacred in everyday life. For painter Brian Petroski ’99 that’s not been hard to do. He wakes up every morning in a 119-year-old former Catholic church he shares with fellow artist and architect Travis Kline (and a pet iguana named Frederick, a golden retriever called Gelato, and a baby python).

The 14,000-square-foot Romanesque cathedral, which sits just outside Saratoga Springs in the Revolutionary War–era town of Victory, was the perfect solution for the artists, both of whom had grown frustrated working in cramped apartments. While scouting for suitable studio space last year, Petroski spotted a for-sale sign on the former Notre Dame Visitation Church, which had been closed for almost fifteen years. “Both of us thought, •Wouldn’t that be a great space?’”

Petroski—influenced by the work of Salvador Dali, Jackson Pollack, and Jean-Claude Gaugy—has his lush abstract oil and acrylic images of women and undersea life hanging in a living area at the front of the church. The richly hued, sensuous forms are inspired by time he spent in San Diego and Key West painting, bartending, and snorkeling through coral reefs. (Downhill skiing, another passion, is also represented.)

His studio is in the basement for now, and he uses the church’s cavernous nave to host a dodge-ball league he recently formed (“about twenty-five people showed up for the last game”). But Petroski and architect Kline are in the process of getting a zoning variance and grant money to transform the space—with its vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, and gothic ornamentation—into a multipurpose site for gallery exhibitions, live music events, and community gatherings. “There is no venue like this in the area,” Petroski says. “And the time is right.”

The pets, meanwhile, seem content to slither and roam around upstairs, where the choir once sang.