Who, What, When
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Retiring faculty Dick Hihn and Kris Szymborski
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Books Faculty and alumni authors
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On exhibit Now at Skidmore's Schick Art Gallery and Tang Museum
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It’s that time of year when some of Skidmore’s best say good-bye to teaching and hello to retirement after many years of service to the college. A tip of the hat to longtimers Dick Hihn and Kris Szymborski.
Since coming to Skidmore in 1981 pianist and senior artist-in-residence Dick Hihn has taught classes in piano, keyboard skills, and rudiments of music and served as music department chair. But what he’s enjoyed most, he says, is the one-on-one piano instruction. “I have enjoyed the luxury of getting to know many students better than I might if I were teaching a large class.”
Hihn, who has maintained a private piano studio for a quarter century, has long been active in the New York State Music Teachers Association as an adjudicator, and over the years appeared frequently in concert around the Capital District and beyond, as a soloist, chamber music performer, and duo-pianist—including with Skidmore president emeritus David Porter. He is particularly fond of nineteenth- and twentieth-century American music, including the works of George Crumb and Charles Ives.
Described by colleague Tom Denny as “the consummate team player, an island of calm integrity and rationality, and someone fully committed to his colleagues, his students, and the whole college,” Hihn was pleased to be on campus for the first Filene Music Scholarship competition and its twenty-fifth anniversary, attended by dozens of music alumni in 2007. “The Filene program has supported students in so many ways and helped bring in a wide array of guest artists for concerts, master classes, and private lessons,” Hihn says. He’s sorry to leave Skidmore before the new Zankel Music Center is built, “especially having invested so much time into helping plan for it,” but he intends to “visit it frequently once it becomes a reality!”
He and his wife, Joanne (also a pianist), have been avid hikers and backpackers for more than thirty-five years, covering terrain in several US states, the Yukon, and Europe. And they have no intention of letting up; in fact, they are heading for the Dolomites in Italy this summer. Visiting their two sons, delving into some unread books, and serving as president of the NYSMTA are also in the works for Hihn. As for the piano? Dupuytren’s contracture, a thickening of tissue in the hand, has plagued him for several years, but he says, “I will continue to practice, and perform, to the extent that my hands allow.”
Associate professor and science librarian since 1985, Kris Szymborski taught in Liberal Studies and UWW, including its prison program at Comstock. But the most memorable, he says, was a class on the rise and fall of communism in eastern Europe—“at exactly the time when it was falling.” Szymborski came to Skidmore as a political refugee from Poland, having left there in the fall of 1981, just five weeks before martial law was declared. “In 1989, during my fourth year here, Poland liberated herself from communism and I could freely visit my home country—which
I have been doing on a regular basis ever since,” he says.
He’s authored several books published in Warsaw, including the 1999 Poprawka z Natury (Nature Revisited), a collection of thirty-two essays, sketches, and columns presenting “various aspects of human nature—such as happiness, ethics, intelligence, emotional intelligence—from the perspective of evolutionary psychology,” as well as “scientific commentaries” on events ranging from the O. J. Simpson trial to President Clinton’s romantic/legal/political ordeal to the cloning of Dolly the sheep.
Szymborski, whose daughter Kasia graduated from Skidmore in 1985, has enjoyed the camaraderie at Skidmore. “I have been exceptionally lucky to have found a group of equally curious colleagues from many departments (we used to call ourselves the Renaissance Group), who collectively engaged in organized dilletantism, spending many an hour debating subjects the majority of us knew next to nothing about,” he says. “As a result,
I turned from a lapsed physicist, historian of science, and science librarian into an amateur evolutionary psychologist. It was definitely fun.”
Biologist Bernie Possidente says Szymborski “has brought tremendous intellectual diversity to Skidmore with his knowledge and experience in science, politics, journalism, and history. He is in a unique position to translate between disciplines, and this has been
a cornerstone of his service to students and faculty and of his contributions to the larger community.”
Szymborski guesses he will not miss much about Skidmore, considering he lives just two miles from campus and expects to be “a frequent visitor.” He plans to continue writing and says,
“My first big project (knock the wood) is a book (in Polish) about something I call ‘evolutionary political psychology.’ I hope to complete it by the end of 2008.” —MTS