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Summer 2000

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Alumni Affairs
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Class Notes



People and Projects

Hometown proud
You can’t tell a library by its atrium
Housing shepherd says au revoir to Skidmore flock
Job satisfaction
Metaphors, similes, and honors
Armada of one
Young scientist studies aging

Hometown proud

You’re surfing the World Wide Web and you happen upon a site whose stated purpose is to lure you to a community located only three hours from Boston and Montreal; it has a strong commitment to historic preservation, a college nearby, and, what’s more, spring water with bragging rights. Saratoga Springs? Further scrolling reveals that New York City is six hours away and Vermont’s Green Mountains are to the west. OK, not Spa City, but what place is this that has “the best public spring water to be found anywhere”?

The town is Haverhill, N.H., and the development-seeking Web-site creator is native Haverhillian Edith Celley ’49. Actually, Celley’s from one of the town’s seven villages, Haverhill Corner (population 450 when the summer folks arrive), whose well-preserved homes earned it a spot on the National Register of Historic Districts.

Celley explored the world after graduation, but when she returned home 30 years ago, she found “the Corner” a very good place to remain. Living in her family’s historic house, she was saddened to see the buildings where she had attended school fall into disuse—she felt, she says, “a personal sense of abandonment.” Saving them seemed natural and important to her.

Today she’s president of Haverhill Heritage Inc., a nonprofit whose mission is “to support and implement property development which helps preserve and/or complement the town’s rich heritage.” The organization is focusing on the restoration and reuse of two school buildings as condominiums or apartments and another as a regional cultural center. Haverhill Academy, one of the 19th-century brick buildings, is of special interest: it was Celley’s high school and it’s where she envisions living in retirement. Is she just sitting back and waiting for it to happen? No way. Celley’s out there on the Web, selling the world on the finer points of “the Corner.”—ACH

You can’t tell a library by its atrium

 Upon entering the new $137 million Main Library back in April 1996, the San Francisco Chronicle said, “The feeling is of books, books, books and light, light, light everywhere.” Indeed, 32 miles of books and a rotunda bathed in natural light from a multistory atrium gave that impression. The new library—built to replace Old Main, damaged in the 1989 earthquake—was heralded as “the most advanced public library in the nation. The thoroughness and attention to detail with which architects and librarians have joined with library users and community leaders to think through every detail is astonishing.”

Even more astonishing was the grumbling and grousing that began immediately. Some patrons couldn’t find the books they wanted, others found the building’s layout too confusing, and three years later there was no longer enough room to shelve the current collection. Even the most tolerant bibliophile lost patience.

The 1999 post-occupancy evaluation (POE) by a group of outside experts determined that “the pent up frustration with the building was justified.” The consultant team included Florence Henn Mason ’68, one of “two library consultants with extensive professional credentials.” A former librarian with a Ph.D. in library and information management, Dallas-based Mason is a self-employed library management consultant.

After sifting through collected data, Mason and her teammates agreed that the building was a grand public space but “failed to fulfill the typical library functions of a large central city library. The staff experiences major problems providing public services and the public has difficulty accessing those services.” They recommended $28 million in fixes to convert New Main into a working library. For example, because “the building envelope is fixed by its location, expansion can only occur,” they advised, “by reconfiguring the interior floors or by using floor configurations for different purposes.”

Following a public airing of the POE this spring, the owner and principal of F. Mason and Associates was off to Tuscany for a walking tour with her husband. She’d done her job; it was now up to San Francisco city officials to prioritize her recommendations and find ways to fund them. —ACH

Housing shepherd says au revoir to Skidmore flock

 For the past 17 years, the participants in Skidmore’s program in France found more than a foreign culture upon disembarking at Orly airport—they found a substitute mom. Skidmore’s Paris-based housing coordinator Molly Koebel Delaunay ’74 did what their at-home moms do: she listened, advised, comforted, encouraged, and when necessary she pushed so that students could live their experience abroad to the fullest.

Finding an agreeable living situation for each student was Delaunay’s forte. Before making a housing assignment, she’d survey her list of host families—those who over time had provided the best opportunities for daily use of colloquial French and exposure to French customs—for the right match. Melissa Arentshorst ’01, one of the past year’s 38 students who benefited from Delaunay’s care and counseling, says she was most impressed by “Molly’s knowledge of the host families; she even knew obscure things like how long a host sister had been dating her boyfriend.”

Sometimes, however, the adjustment was difficult or the match unsatisfactory. That’s when “mom” came to the rescue. Daughter Fanny Delaunay ’99 has childhood memories of sharing her mother with Skidmore students. “She was on call 24 hours a day, rain or shine.” More often than not, she recalled, “students would phone the minute we sat down for dinner and my mom would disappear to talk to them.”

Paris-program students in need of TLC will be dialing a different number come fall 2000. Delaunay has stepped down so she can assist husband François (whom she met during her junior year abroad) with his biscuiteries in Brittany, where they’ll sell not only cookies but also jam, tablecloths, and Quimper. The only way to replace Delaunay, says Arentshorst, is to find a housing coordinator who also answers to “friend, mother, travel agent, and counselor.” —ACH

Job satisfaction

 Does working like hell pay off? Ask Jenn Thomas ’84 and husband Jeff Rossi, the owners of Studio Sgobbare in Pawtucket, R.I., where they have been making ergonomic, hand-blown glasses in vibrant eye-catching colors since 1996. Thomas and Rossi built their studio from scratch and named it “sgobbare,” which in idiomatic Italian means to “work like hell.” Reflecting back on the naming decision, Thomas says, “We urge everybody everywhere to exercise caution when naming their business—there is such a thing as a self-fulfilling prophecy.” While they do work long hard hours, she adds, “We blow glass because more than anything else, we love color and glass is an incredible vehicle for clear, brilliant color . . . you can practically taste it—candy for the eye.”

Ever eager to expand on the process, Thomas says, “We are constantly fascinated, challenged, and sometimes brought to what seems like the brink of our wits by this incredible material and process. But most of all we blow glass because it’s fun. When we make a piece, it’s like we got away with something. Presto, change-o, voilà: it’s a kind of magic that makes us feel good. If and when somebody likes what we make, that makes us feel even better.” —ACH

Metaphors, similes, and honors

Andrew (Snyder) HaLevi ’88I love you guys, and I get up every morning because I love to come to Burke High School,” Andrew (Snyder) HaLevi ’88 told his 130 sophomore English students at an assembly convened in March to celebrate his selection as one of five finalists for South Carolina’s top teaching honor. He’d already been named Charleston County’s Teacher of the Year but as a state finalist he received $10,000, some of which he said he was planning to give to the band at Burke. With a master’s in education from Harvard, HaLevi first taught reading in rural Mississippi before moving to Charleston and joining the Burke faculty five years ago.

Ever the teacher, HaLevi couldn’t resist reinforcing a recent English lesson at the assembly. According to the Charleston Post and Courier, he said, “You may think that metaphors, similes, and symbolism are only found in literature, but that’s not true. Burke High School for many years has been a symbol of what’s wrong in education. But that’s changing. You guys symbolize the new Burke High School, the new Charleston County.” He called his students “stars” and said that the best days of his life had been shared with them.

And a star he remains in his pupils’ eyes, not in the least diminished when the top honor did go to an English teacher—but not theirs.

In April, when the winner was given the $25,000 prize and keys to a new BMW Z3 roadster for a year, HaLevi was grateful for one problem he didn’t have to face. When first nominated he’d quipped, “I wouldn’t know what to do with a car like that. I drive a 1987 Buick Park Avenue.” —ACH

Armada of one

OpSail 2000—the parade of tall ships and military vessels that navigated the waterways around New York City on the Fourth of July—was billed as the biggest, the best, the boldest gathering of seagoing vessels anytime, anywhere. The superlatives got the attention of lots of folks, including those who took to the water themselves in 30,000 private spectator boats to view the nautical extravaganza.

Other lovers of barks, frigates, and schooners, however, if given the choice of whitecaps off the shores Staten Island or Maine’s Cranberry Islands, might have opted for the latter, where the nearest boat is just a speck on the vast horizon. And if that’s your preference, meet Julie Gibbons Keblinsky ’94 and husband Steven, licensed captains, who man the windjammer Rachel B. Jackson.

Their 67-foot gaff-rigged topsail schooner, a working replica of an 1890s coastal schooner, carries 2,500 square feet of canvas under full sail. The Rachel B.’s mahogany planking, oak frames, pine decks, brass fittings, and exotic-wood cabinetry are examples of “workmanship of days gone by,” say the Keblinskys.

They earn a living year-round offering day sails, boat-and-breakfast overnights, and occasional specialty cruises on the Rachel B. In the summer months they sail out of their home port at Southwest Harbor on Maine’s Mount Desert Island; come fall, the trips originate from Boston; and during the winter, the Rachel B. docks at Fort Pierce, Fla. When the days get longer and northern climes warmer, it’s back “downeast” for all aboard, and the circuit begins anew. —ACH

Young scientist studies aging

She may well be the first Skidmore graduate to win a National Science Foundation fellowship, but she’s also surely one of the youngest. Brooke Miller ’99 learned in April that she was one of 850 graduate students awarded a three-year NSF graduate research fellowship, which consists of yearly stipends and cost-of-education allowances. Miller entered the competition while studying neuroscience at Mt. Sinai Graduate School of the Biological Sciences but will use the fellowship, one of only 30 awarded in her field, for doctoral studies at Northwestern University’s Neuroscience Institute. For the lay reader, she described her proposed project as “observing brain changes during the rat version of menopause.” Her hypothesis, she says, is that reproductive senescence is due to changes in NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor levels in the hypothalamus.

“NSF graduate fellows are promising young mathematicians, scientists, and engineers who are expected to pursue lifelong careers marked by significant contributions to research, education, and industry,” said an NSF representative. And to emphasize the prestige associated with the highly competitive fellowship, the representative continued, “Eighteen former fellows have won Nobel Prizes. Historically, the recipients have completed their Ph.D.s at a higher rate, moved on to top-notch departments, and won more postdoctoral appointments, research grants, honors, and awards.”

Honors and awards will be nothing new for Miller. A Skidmore biology-psychology interdepartmental major, who graduated magna cum laude, she started gathering kudos as an undergraduate, including advanced work as a Keck Scholar and election to Phi Beta Kappa. —ACH


© 2000 Skidmore College