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campus scene

On the map Who used travel maps and why
Staying after school
...for hip-hop dancing
What the faculty are up to
Three of a kind Goldberg jazz group on campus
Time capsule 1940 mementos unearthed
What's that you're eating Smorgasbord of food ecology
On exhibit Drawings at the Tang
Hardly Retiring Retirees Brown, DeSieno, Graves, Narasimhan
Books Faculty and alumni authors
Sportswrap Thoroughbred highlights


Hardly retiring retirees

The 2006 season will be coach Tim Brown’s last at Skidmore, where he developed one of the country’s most successful intercollegiate golf programs. Brown, who came to the college in 1980, also served as athletics director for twenty-two years and department chair for seventeen. Two years ago he was inducted into Skidmore’s Athletics Hall of Fame. He “set the standard for the next generation of coaches with his commitment to integrity and fair play,” athletics director Gail Cummings-Danson said recently. “Of his many accomplishments, perhaps his greatest is the inspiration and dedication he has afforded so many students.”

During Brown’s tenure, Skidmore golfers finished in the top ten in 95 percent of their intercollegiate tournaments, won the NCAA Division III national championships nineteen years running, and earned numerous All-American and All-America Scholar awards. Brown himself has received sixteen coach-of-the-year awards and was named to the Golf Coaches Association of America Hall of Fame. He coached the US team against Japan in 1995 and was tournament director for the inaugural Palmer Cup in 1997. He’s also been president of the GCAA, Upstate Collegiate Athletic Association (which he co-founded), Saratoga Springs YMCA, and Saratoga Golf and Polo Club.

Other highlights of his career included hosting the 1996 NCAA championship at Saratoga’s state park—the same year the Thoroughbreds were voted national champs by the GCAA and Golfweek magazine.

He’ll miss the day-to-day contact with students and co-workers at Skidmore—“It’s been a great part of my life,” Brown says—but he’s looking forward to traveling with his wife to visit their three sons, and spending winters in Florida. He’s also counting on “playing golf at every new course” he can (along with favorites across the US—and maybe in the UK) and catching up with his former golf protégés.

Twenty-two years ago, shortly after he came to Skidmore, computer science professor Bob DeSieno was examining the impact of computers on college campuses. He was asking questions like, “How should we use computers in our traditional disciplines?” and “How do we remind students of the continuing need for human judgment in the presence of powerful machines?” In a Scope article DeSieno noted that the college was installing thirty-two microcomputers, and fifteen professors had even purchased their own. “There’s a sense that this machine is ever more with us,” he observed. Before long, DeSieno (who, in a previous life, taught college-level chemistry) was directing Skidmore’s Computing Across the Curriculum project.

In the last two decades he has chaired the department of mathematics and computer science and taught courses including “Global Security in an Age of Invention,” “Flame and Fallout: The History of Nuclear Weapons,” and (one of his favorites) “The Role of Science and Technology in National Security.” Many graduates have told him how much they valued his classes and have continued the conversations they began years ago. It’s gratifying, DeSieno says, to know his students learned to “think carefully about what they read and heard” and “understood that the world is a complex place, that most choices have more than one consequence, and that consequences often have more than one cause.”

Some of the most memorable Skidmore moments for DeSieno include hearing Richard Dawkins’s lecture about memes, and organizing a campus “town meeting” on nuclear disarmament that brought big-name scholars McGeorge Bundy, Richard Garwin, and Janne Nolan to the college.
There’s one thing DiSieno says he’s most looking forward to in retirement: “Using time as the spirit moves me.” He and his wife like to travel, he adds, “and there is much we’ve not seen. The world is a fascinating place, and I shall continue to be an observer.”

Searching through thousands of slides and deciding which ones would be digitized and catalogued was all in a day’s work for associate professor Jane Graves, Skidmore’s visual-resources and arts librarian. She also catalogued musical scores, DVDs, and books acquired by various departments across campus. Graves, who came to Skidmore in 1970, provided library instruction for a variety of classes and advised a handful of students each year as well.

Now that she’s retired she’s busy renovating a house in Ithaca, N.Y. She’s also continuing her longtime interest and expertise in birdwatching. For several years Graves was the Saratoga Bird Count compiler, responsible for collecting the number of bird species (as well as the number of individual birds seen by participants in the Christmas bird count) and forwarding that information to the National Audubon Society.

After twenty-six years at Skidmore, chemistry professor Vasantha Narasimhan is still impressed by the “healthy sense of ‘unity in diversity’” in the campus community, which “made me feel at home here,” she says. Her students—ranging from nonscience majors to those conducting independent chemistry research—exhibited an “openness and respect” she appreciated.
Narasimhan’s love of chemistry means she enjoys teaching the subject at all levels. “It’s rewarding when liberal-studies students tell me they understand the significance of science literacy for a healthy society,” she says. “It’s rewarding when organic-chemistry students feel engaged enough to pursue it further. It’s rewarding when biochemistry students admire with awe the interplay of basic chemical, physical, biological, and mathematical principles in understanding how the human body lives and performs. And it’s rewarding when I see research students’ eyes light up with the excitement of discovery.”

She’s been especially gratified, Narasimhan adds, when students “on the verge of dropping out of the sciences have thanked me for turning their lives around—not only through my courses but also with my pep talks and advice outside of class.” There’s also a certain pride that comes in hearing from her former students about “the great strides they are making as research scientists, health professionals, and CEOs of corporations.”

Besides traveling with her husband, Narasimhan plans to complete two major writing projects when she retires: “a cookbook of authentic Indian recipes that use local ingredients (vegetarian cooking is one of my favorite hobbies); and a lab manual for the food chemistry course I developed for nonscience majors.” A founding member of the Hindu Temple in Loudonville, N.Y., she also plans to step up her volunteer work with service organizations and interfaith discussion groups in the Capital District. —MTS