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Alumni and Development News
People and Projects
Snow forts 101
Abdominal pectoralis ?
Napping on nickels
Indian dancer takes next step
You can see that this is not a matter of sitting cold in front of a microphone and reading,” says Largo, Fla., resident Mildred Myers Atkinson ’32 as she outlines what’s involved in recording texts for visually impaired students. She ought to know. Atkinson’s been taping textbooks for some twenty years on topics ranging from elementary reading to marine biology, with keyboarding (“We used to call it typing!”) and poetry often part of the mix.
Atkinson joined the Pinellas Braille Group when she was newly widowed and found that golf and bridge didn’t take up all her time. “I wanted something that ‘made a difference,’ not only to me but to others.” That making-a-difference attitude is nothing new: she earned a Skidmore nursing degree and spent twenty-four years as a school nurse.
Responding to an ad for volunteers, Atkinson was told she had an acceptable voice for the “narrator” role in the two-person teams that work on books. Her partner, the “monitor,” would run the recording equipment. During the training course, she recalls great emphasis was placed on proper and consistent pronunciation. “We looked up almost all words with more than two syllables.” With pronunciation mastered, trainees then focused on expression; Atkinson remembers one reader who could make even a table of contents sound interesting.
Eventually Atkinson ran the recording studio: she assigned books, planned how different parts—including maps, graphs, and footnotes—should be handled, and reviewed tapes for errors.
Atkinson and her fellow volunteers (engineers, housewives, a piano tuner, a retired priest) pride themselves on doing a professional job. So professional that, according to the Florida Instructional Materials Center for the Visually Impaired, groups such as Pinellas save the state board of education tens of thousands of dollars each year.
In the long run though, nonagenarian Atkinson must admit she has been doing something for herself as well. Rewarding as the work is, it’s more than that—“It keeps the mind active!”—ACH
Snow forts 101
If you get out a map of Vermont and stick a pin in the center of the state, chances are you’ve poked a hole in the vicinity of Williamstown, a rural town of 3,000 residents located between two ridges of the Green Mountains. It’s such a great place to grow up that local school kids have adopted the motto “Bully for Billtown.”
With its scenic vistas of rolling farmland and distant mountains, grownups like it too, and one of them, outdoor educator Rebecca Martin Watson ’60 makes Williamstown her home. Of course, outdoor education in northern New England means several months of playing/working in the snow, but that’s no hardship for Watson. “The beautiful Vermont winter with fresh snow almost every day enables me to enjoy an abundance of skiing and snowshoeing,” she says.
Watson, who holds an M.A.T. from Harvard and an Ed.M. from Vermont, is on the staff of Lotus Lake Discovery Center. Located on her 350-acre farm, the center provides programs in adventure learning and environmental education in collaboration with area schools, community organizations, and businesses. She reports that the bountiful snow of the past season was perfect for teaching groups of school children about tracking, ice safety, and building Quonset huts out of snow.
Besides being a teacher of nature studies both winter and summer, Watson also runs a bed-and-breakfast at the farm and hosts meetings for the Philanthropic Educational Organization.—ACH
Scallops, oysters, clams. . . .you probably know how you want your favorite restaurant to prepare them. But do you know that in their formative stage, these bivalves are called “spat” by aquaculturists?
SPAT is also the apt acronym for an initiative organized by Suffolk County’s Cornell Cooperative Extension educational system for residents of Southold on New York’s Long Island. According to CCE’s development and public affairs staff member Mary Foster Morgan ’73, Southold Project in Aquaculture Training “is a unique community-based initiative in aquaculture training and a shellfish restoration project.” In training master shellfish gardeners to take an active role in culturing, planting, and monitoring the seed stage of clams, oysters, and scallops, SPAT expects to restore life and commerce to the area’s creeks and bays.
Eutrophication of Long Island waters contributed to the depletion of the shellfish for which the region was known and can be traced to such variable events as the 1938 hurricane and 1985’s “brown tide,” with overfishing, pollution, and disease all making algae more bountiful and the water murkier. Bringing the shellfish back may revive a marine industry, but, of more importance to ecologists and local folks, the increased numbers of shelled critters, which feed themselves by filtering algae, will improve water quality and clarity.
Morgan reports an enthusiastic response to SPAT, with over 100 local residents signing up in the first month.
And no doubt Morgan, also the author of an online wine column (Longislandwinecountry.com), could readily suggest the perfect Long Island Chardonnay to accompany your next order of coquilles St.-Jacques.—ACH
Abdominal pectoralis ?
So far she’s gotten very different reactions: from good friends, the upbeat “Oh, my God, that’s so perfect for you!” And from others, the quizzical, “Oh…really?”
After nearly a decade as crew coach and phys ed professor at Wellesley College, Abigail Peck ’78 felt burned out and ready for the next chapter in her life. So Peck—a member of Skidmore’s first-ever crew, a two-time United States Olympian (1984, 1988), and a five-time national crew competitor—asked herself, “What do I like to do?”
And she thought, “What I like best about coaching is the opportunity to provide personal attention. And personal training is all about individual attention.” A year later, the Natick, Mass., trainer is pumped: “I love personal training so much that I would still do it even if I wasn’t paid [about $75 an hour]. I especially love the excitement when my clients experience breakthroughs.”
Peck’s clients run the gamut from performance-oriented Division I athletes to breast cancer survivors for whom exercise is a powerful lifeline. Depending on their goals, she might meet clients just twice to set up a program or as often as three times a week for those who need the push. “I get people to tune in to themselves, to pay attention to how they feel when they’re done,” says Peck. “Once you get over that initial phase of getting fit, which is usually uncomfortable, it’s an upward spiral. You do more, you feel better.”
Peck, who has a master’s in exercise and sports science and a certificate from the National Strength and Conditioning Association, is decidedly low-profile when it comes to her new venture. Not only does she not have e-mail or a Web site, but her business has no name—unless, as suggested by a friend, she calls it Abdominal Pectoralis. —PM
Napping on nickels
Whereas junkyards elicit a NIMBY reaction in most people, artist John Swing ’84 is the exception. A former Manhattanite, he told an AP reporter this spring that having a junkyard across from his studio in the hamlet of Brookline, Vt., is “heaven.” Keep in mind, he’s the sculptor-welder who builds works from car windshields, cut-up soda machines, bowling pins, and other questionable treasures culled from city and rural eyesores.
His latest medium is another matter, and there’s no question that NIMBYs one and all have a high regard for it. “People love money,” says Swing, whose most recent works are made from pennies and nickels. He began with chairs fashioned from pennies but found the welding properties of nickel more to his liking. After creating a couch form from Fiberglas and sanding it to perfection, he began the process of welding 6,400 nickels ($320) to its surface. “I think this is a beautiful object,” Swing told the reporter, “the shape is something I’m really proud of.”
Although Swing thinks the 100-pound couch could go anywhere—a train station, a house, an office—he’d prefer to see it placed in a museum collection. He hopes the price tag of $18,000 will discourage people from putting it out of doors. As for napping on it, the creator thought it might work, “if you were tired enough.”—ACH
Indian dancer takes next step
This tale of gossamer saris and intricate steps has its beginning at Skidmore and keeps weaving itself back to where it began. It starts in the early 1950s with the arrival of Professor of Oriental Culture Yu-kuang Chu, who helps establish an Asian studies program, the first of the college’s half-dozen interdisciplinary programs.
The story continues with the appointment of dance instructor Isabel Brown in 1969. Having spent a postcollege year in India, she offers Indian dance on an independent-study basis, eventually developing a course in Bharata Natyam, the classical dance form of South India.
Enter Bevin Wilson (Stark) ’88, a Cape Codder and dance student since the age of 5, who enrolls in Brown’s dance appreciation class and is so drawn to the music and movement of Bharata Natyam that she takes “Dance of Shiva” with Brown the next semester. As Brown, now an associate professor, recalls, “that was the beginning of what was to become Bevin’s life passion.”
Fast forward to last April, when Stark returned to campus as guest lecturer/teacher for the dance and Asian studies programs. And well prepared she was for such an assignment. After graduation, Stark went to India for a four-year diploma course at Kalakshetra, the internationally known school of Bharata Natyam in Madras. Kalakshetra’s interdisciplinary program includes Hindu mythology, Sanskrit, Tamil, and Carnatic music.
Now settled in Chatham, Mass., Stark begins another chapter in her life this fall, when she and Brown revert to their mentor-student roles. Stark will begin work on a graduate degree—putting the practice of Indian dance into a cultural-sociological framework—via Skidmore’s nonresidential Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program, and faculty advisor Brown will be right there, guiding Stark in the right direction. —ACH
Long Island Business News has named Jed Morey ’94 one of forty movers and shakers —all under the age of 40—in its second annual salute to “the people who will be shaping and directing the future of Long Island.” A panel of business and community leaders selected winners from 200 nominations on the basis of both professional accomplishments and community service.
At age 24, they noted, Morey became “the youngest broadcasting company president in the United States.” As president of the Morey Organization, founded by his father, he is the power behind an entertainment enterprise that includes radio stations WLIR-FM, WDRE-FM, and WXXP-FM, as well as the Vanderbilt, a catering hall and concert venue in Plainview that he rescued and refurbished in grand style. Morey, who was at the time of the award vice-president and president-elect of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Long Island, chaired a fundraising event at the Vanderbilt that raised $130,000 for the organization.
Morey, who majored in business and minored in music at Skidmore, worked as general manager of Jarad Broadcasting’s facility in Albany before heading to Long Island.
In just a few short years, he’s clearly made a mark there.—KG
Say you’re a local band and you want to promote your music on the Web. Where do you start? Or maybe your organization has a Web site that publishes articles, reviews, and listings. You think a little pizzazz might draw more visitors. Where do you find it?
Drum roll, please. A single solution is at hand for both parties and it’s called Klipmart. Harkening back to the archaic definition for “mart”—the coming together of people to buy and sell—Klipmart Corporation is an online business-to-business marketplace for the exchange and distribution of promotional multimedia. Klipmart’s system allows publishers to incorporate audio and video clips on their sites, while letting providers, like that local band or a movie studio, distribute their audio and video clips to a vast network of high-traffic sites.
And speaking of networks, the brains behind this enterprising venture belong to a network of young Skidmore graduates. Klipmart was founded in 1999 by music major Jesse Blockton ’96 (now president), who quickly brought three other recent grads into the fold. The management team is composed of Chris Young ’96 (chief executive officer), who holds an M.B.A. from Rensselaer, business major Maria Klink ’97 (chief marketing officer), and computer science major Tristan Amzallag ’98 (chief technology officer). With the addition of Paul Oliver (sales director), who is the spouse of Jennie McGuire ’96, the team launched its site in September 2000. On that occasion CEO Young said, “Offering publishers the ability to complement their articles with multimedia in real time and at an affordable price has been the key to the market’s early adoption of Klipmart. We are excited. . .and plan to aggressively continue publisher acquisition.” —ACH