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campus scene


Sovereignty after the Soviets
Prof. Kate Graney on Russian federalism
Expert opinion: Home audio with Jill  Linz
Faculty farewells Linke, Mensing, Partha, Miller
Art, work, and chance Raffle-ticket creativity
Plugging into "Unplugged" Dorms compete to save energy
Teammates from abroad Sports as universal language
Kids of Survival on view Vandals or Van Goghs?
Faculty honored with endowed chairs Anzalone, Brueggemann, Leavitt, O'Brien, Pfitzer, Sattler
Scholarly smorgasbord Talking ecophobia, Crackberries, and Eros
Sportswrap Winter sports highlights


Faculty farewells

Four artist-scholars, who influenced and inspired hundreds of Skidmore students, are ending their academic careers in May.

When Richard Linke joined Skidmore’s art department in 1976, all photography was of the “wet” variety—films and prints were developed using chemical baths and rinses—and most was black and white because color was expensive. Nevertheless Linke's photography courses were always enormously popular. In addition to teaching and advising, mounting exhibitions, and shooting photos for Skidmore publications, Linke spent thousands of hours over the years maintaining Skidmore’s darkroom facilities.

But the digital revolution was in the offing, and Linke saw it coming. He organized a symposium on the use of computers in art in 1985, and that same year he created a system for NASA to convert video from spacecraft into high-resolution digital stills. He began working in digital photography himself in 1994 and transformed Skidmore’s darkroom into a computer lab in 2000.

Linke’s photos have been published and acclaimed in national and regional galleries, in magazines and newspapers, and on television. He also built his ex­pertise in the digital restoration of historic photographs. Art professor John Cunningham recalls how Linke and his students created the digital lab largely themselves: “Richard is completely committed to his discipline of photography. He is extraordi­narily knowledgeable, and I, for one, will miss him.”

After nearly 40 years as a photographer and academic, Linke plans to pursue other work, in­cluding photo restorations and book and DVD projects.“I am delighted that my teaching career ended with being able to introduce students to the world of digital photography,” he says. “I enjoyed the challenge of re­training myself, building a state-of-the-art computer lab, and bringing my students into the 21st century. Few academics get the opportunity to experience such a dynamic revolution in their chosen field.” —PD

Margo Mensing didn’t start out to be an artist. She earned a BA in English and an MA in history and became a schoolteacher. As an artist, “I came in the back door, as many women did in the late 1960s,” she says. She was 43 years old when she started grad school; by 1987 she had an MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago.

Mensing has taught and lectured, written for catalogues and periodicals, and exhibited her work widely. Since joining Skidmore 12 years ago, she has taught foundation courses like “Visual Concepts,” as well as fiber courses from weaving to fabric printing. She says, “I was also able to do some unusual work,” such as collaborating with faculty in music, physics, and dance in the Tang Museum show A Very Liquid Heaven and in interdisciplinary performances like Satie/Cage Tango.

For Kenne Dibner ’05, an English major who racked up enough Mensing classes for a studio-art minor, “Margo was a very special kind of teacher, really invested in cultivating the artist in her students.” Mensing also exposed students to a variety of important art and ideas, says Daniel Byers ’03, from “the ethics of craftsmanship to the pleasure of conceptual art.”

Mensing says, “I don’t consider myself primarily an embroiderer or a weaver or a knitter. The idea for a project always comes before the choice of a medium.” She has used vintage shirt collars stitched into curtains, for an in­stallation held in the “Collar City” of Troy, N.Y., and she punched out thousands of paper dots from security envelopes with patterned linings, to paste into large-scale mosaics.
While sad to leave Skidmore, Men­sing is looking forward to “a life that’s a little slower, and fuller in different ways,” and a schedule that leaves her more time for the many former students with whom she keeps in touch. —BM

In 34 years at Skidmore, artist David Miller achieved several firsts, including being the first faculty member to have a solo exhibition at Skidmore’s Tang Museum and launching the tradition of the juried student art show.

A skilled multitasker, Miller taught, directed the Schick Art Gallery, and produced award-winning art. His abstract paintings and drawings—which “embody complex, often paradoxical feelings within a single work,” according to critic John Yau—have been widely exhibited, sometimes in two-person shows with Skid­more ceramist Regis Brodie, who preceded him as the recipient of the Ella Van Dyke Tuthill ’32 Chair in Studio Art.

Miller’s first teaching post, at Pittsburgh’s Shady Side Academy, helped him avoid being drafted during the Vietnam War, but he later enlisted in the Army Reserves and served six years as a general’s aide. Returning to Shady Side, he saw five of his students enter the Rhode Island School of Design and two enter Harvard. Miller says successes like these were high points in his career, along with “the Skidmore students I have helped send to graduate school—their letters and visits have been wonderful.”

When Miller started Skidmore’s juried student art show, now in its 33rd year, his goal was to introduce students to the competitive art world, because, he says, “I knew they’d be facing similar situations once they were on their own.” The event re­mains a favorite among the roughly 275 exhibitions that Miller oversaw at Skidmore, including some 100 shows that he curated.

Since retiring, Miller has been no less busy. He’s agreed to participate in three group shows in the Northeast, and he plans to approach galleries in New York City, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. On a recent vacation, he worked on 14 drawings, upholding his goal of continuing to paint or draw at least one work every day while traveling. He still attends Schick Gallery openings and other Skidmore activities. As he says, “Skidmore was and continues to be a huge part of my life.” —AW

Rajagopal Parthasarathy—better known as Partha—has published award- winning translations, anthologies, and original poetry while pouring “a lot of energy into class preparation, papers, meetings with students. I enjoy teaching very much.”

Since coming to Skidmore’s English department in 1986, Partha has taught literature in translation, sharing masterpieces originally written in seven of the 22 languages of India. He has also taught poetry, encouraging his students to memorize and recite poems aloud. His own poems, he has said, “speak to the re­demptive power of language to help us bear our isolation in an indifferent world.”

Educated in India, England, and the US, Partha spent several years as a literary editor with Oxford University Press in New Delhi and as a member of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. His first book of poems, Rough Passage, earned him the London Magazine accolade of “one of the most gifted of contemporary India poets,” and his trans­lation of the fifth-century Old Tamil epic The Tale of an Anklet won the Ramanujan Book Prize from the Association for Asian Studies.

His work has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces, and the Penguin New Writing in India. His Ten Twentieth-Century Indian Poets remains the most widely used anthology of modern Indian poetry in English. The depth and color of his translations fascinated sophomore English major Sarina Sheth: “Partha would give us the Sanskrit or Tamil version in a rough literal translation, then show us two or three other translations, then his own, and bring up roots of words in Latin and in Sanskrit and compare them.”

Partha plans to stay in touch with Skidmore and with the area libraries where he enjoys leading book discussions. He’s finishing The Earliest Tamil Poems, One Hundred Poems from the Sanskrit, and A House Divided (his new­est book of his own poetry), and looking forward to “all that time to write!” —BM