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Summer 2003

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Centennial spotlight

On campus

Faculty focus

Arts on view




Class notes


people & projects

Fly girl
One school of thought
All dolled up
From SPN to XPN
Nashville nighties
War lawyer
Mix master
Making a big production

Fly girl

What do Skidmore and the Wright brothers have in common? The year 1903, for starters—that’s when the Wrights first flew their airplane at Kitty Hawk, N.C., and it’s the same year Skidmore was founded. Leontine Jameson Davis ’50, grandniece of the Wright brothers, is a human link to both historic developments.
     Although her Uncle Wilbur died before she was born, Davis has vivid memories of “Uncle Orv.” “He was a little scary, imposing,” she told the Dayton [Ohio] Daily News. “But he always had a twinkle in his eye.” And Orville’s practical jokes, she notes, were family legend. For instance, “We had another uncle who loved mashed potatoes, and Uncle Orv came up with an invention to make the potato dish move automatically to his plate at family dinners.”
     When Davis was growing up, she’d tell friends that her uncles were the Wright brothers. “Most of the time they’d say, ‘Oh, yeah, sure they are,” she recalls. Her mother, Leontine Wright Jameson, often told the tale of being the first child in the United States to fly. “She wrote to uncle Orville in 1911 after seeing a notice of a little French girl being taken up on a flight in Europe,” Davis reports. “She told him she wanted to fly, too. Uncle Orv was the pilot, and my mother sat next to him in the plane…I don’t think she liked it.” Apparently the turbulent trip convinced her mother to stay on the ground, and she didn’t fly again for three decades.
     Davis, who was a Skidmore sophomore when Orville Wright died, once kept a propeller from her uncle’s plane in a guest-room closet. She still has a few pieces of Wright brothers memorabilia at her home in Eden Prairie, Minn.—including the famous 1903 “First Flight” photo from Kitty Hawk, signed by various family members. She also has her Uncle Orville’s rolltop desk, which he used in his laboratory at the Wright Airplane Co. “My father inherited it after Orville died,” she says. “My grandchildren call it ‘Gramp’s desk,’ but to me, it’s Uncle Orv’s.” —AW

One school of thought

Do kids ever really like school? In Ohio Christine Sumner Neville ’66 claims there’s at least one place that students can’t wait to get to in the morning and don’t want to leave in the afternoon: the Academy of Greater Cincinnati, for gifted children in kindergarten through ninth grade. The way Neville tells it, they relish this place the way most ordinary children dig school vacations. And as head of school, she can attest to the power of a place where “the teachers are strong, respect—for oneself, others, and the environment—is the foundation, and the children are engaged in learning.”
     “I have been in so many different school situations where doing what students and teachers need is not the priority,” Neville states. “Fed up with public education after many years as a teacher and fifteen years as a high-school principal,” she turned her energies to private education for gifted children. In 1985 she founded the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted at Mary Baldwin College in Maryland; she also served as head of school at Cincinnati’s Schilling School for Gifted Children.
     Her academy, now two years old, addresses “the undeniable special needs of highly gifted children”—including those who are learning-disabled—which are rarely met in traditional schools, public or private, Neville says. These students need “high-level, challenging coursework,” she explains, “but most of them also need a personal development plan that provides opportunity and encouragement for their specific interests and strengths.”
     The academy’s expansive curriculum emphasizes foreign language and the fine and performing arts. Special classes include rocketry, digital multimedia, American Sign Language, yoga, photography, and aesthetics. Says Neville, “We expect mastery of our children” while encouraging them to explore areas they haven’t thought about before. At Neville’s school, students are passionate about learning and love being with intellectual peers and teachers who share that passion. “It is a joy to see how they bloom in our environment,” Neville says. “Any child who can feel normal in his or her own skin learns with a much more open mind.” —MTS

All dolled up

Gail Wilson ’72 runs a successful cottage industry, producing and selling dolls. It’s seventh heaven, she says, living in a country setting “where everything—my family [including daughter Hannah Duggan ’99], the gardens, the house, the business, my animals—are all part of the same energy.”
     Wilson confesses she was “never really into dolls.” Then something happened in 1974—at Skidmore. She was on campus for a graduate-level course in ceramics. With leftover porcelain she’d been using to throw pots, and some “very crude press molds,” she made small heads, hands, and feet—enough for four dolls. At a student show to help pay expenses, she offered the dolls for $25 each. They sold in a flash, and people lined up to order more.
     Wilson, who initially constructed dolls in a rustic cabin without electricity, doing the fine detail work by kerosene lantern, now has a bigger workshop at her New Hampshire home. She employs three people half-time on-site; six others work from their homes. While some of the production sewing and painting is done by her employees, and her husband helps construct doll-size furniture and accessories, Wilson is still typically the one who puts the finishing touches on the dolls before they’re shipped out to shops around the world.
     Wilson’s cloth figures and molded dolls of papier-mâché are described as “museum quality.” And their creator is blunt about her style: “I hate cute,” she says. She wants her dolls to have dignity—and all the “charm and heart” of Early Americana, which makes them so popular. Her humble cloth dolls, which have a handmade, primitive look, are also sold as kits, providing home-crafters the satisfaction of making a doll without having to design it themselves.
     Besides her booming home business—which includes doll-making retreats and online classes (see gailwilsondesigns.com)—Wilson has been commissioned to make historically accurate dolls and accessories for museums; she also designed an old-timey rag doll for the 2002 Disney movie Tuck Everlasting.
     For all her success, Wilson admits, “I only started calling myself a doll-maker about five years ago”—because she still considers herself a craftsperson first and foremost. —MTS

From SPN to XPN

Last winter, Philadelphia media man Roger LaMay ’75 switched gigs, from being general manager of Fox affiliate WTXF-TV to taking on the same role at WXPN, the public radio station of the University of Pennsylvania.
     It was, in a way, a return to his roots. As a Skidmore student (one of the first men to enroll—the first, he claims, since he mistakenly showed up a day early), LaMay was the first general manager of WSPN as it transitioned from being a carrier current station on the old campus to an FM station on the new campus.
     It’s not that he didn’t enjoy television—he was in it for twenty-four years, mostly in news management. (At WTXF, he helped create and launch a primetime newscast, Ten O’Clock News, in 1986 and was named the station’s GM in 1996.) But “to offset the stress of his daily responsibilities,” LaMay served on the boards of an assortment of nonprofit arts and culture groups, including WXPN.
     Shrugging off the image of public radio as heavy with news and classical music programming, XPN is widely acknowledged as the pre-eminent public nonclassical music station, showcasing new music by lesser-known artists. (LaMay notes that it was “the first to play [Grammy Award-winners] Norah Jones and John Mayer before they reached a wider audience.”) Its signature program is World Café, a two-hour daily broadcast that airs on more than 150 public radio stations nationwide and features contemporary rock, folk, alternative country, rhythm and blues, world beat, and jazz. (Have a listen at www.xpn.org.)
     As GM, LaMay is responsible for fundraising, programming, and marketing. For the moment, though, he’s focused on overseeing a $4 million building project—which, by next summer, will provide state-of-the-art studios in a 40,000-square-foot building shared with the spanking-new World Café Live nightclub. It’ll be “Philadelphia’s nicest music venue,” claims the veteran broadcaster; and it promises to amplify his feeling that “the best part of my new gig is spending most of my waking hours listening to music.” —MTS

Nashville nighties

When Kayce Reagan Hughes ’88 left Skidmore, she employed her artistic talents designing women’s clothing for Ralph Lauren. She gave that up after six years, when she had her first child. Four years and three more children later, Hughes sewed some “vintage-looking” fabrics into nightshirts for her daughter. “They were so cute that I had a seamstress sew up some dresses and shorts as well,” she says. Marketing them under the label Pears and Bears, Hughes took her tot-size garments around to a handful of stores, which snatched them up.
     “I didn’t expect to turn my hobby into a business,” she says, “but over the years a few stores on the East Coast have turned into sixty across the country.” What began with a simple nightshirt has now expanded to about fifty items—per season.
     Hughes’s children are her most obvious source of inspiration. She has five now, ranging in age from one to nine. She takes her cues regarding comfort and design from them, noting that “it’s the cozy outfits they want to wear over and over.”
     Pears and Bears clothes, she says, are “classic and fun”—she mixes men’s shirting fabrics with floral and vintage prints—at the same time they’re practical. “My dresses are roomy enough to run in and have hems that won’t come undone,” Hughes says, “and we line our pants with flannel, so they’re more cozy.”
     Hughes works from her home in Nashville, Tenn., which means she can stay focused on her “first priority, which is being a mom.” Another woman helps manage the manufacturing and sales of the clothes—all made in the United States by seamstresses or very small factories.
     Pears and Bears clothes are sold through specialty kids’ stores. You can contact Hughes at khughes@pearsandbears.com. —MTS

War lawyer

Army judge advocate Robert Resnick ’88 graduated from New England School of Law in 1991 and entered the Judge Advocate General’s Corps the following year. Since 1995 he has been a criminal law expert.
     As chief of military justice for the 3rd Infantry Division at Ft. Stewart (Georgia) he trains prosecutors, manages court staff, and oversees criminal law cases. But having been deployed to Iraq, Resnick now also practices operational law, working on the Judicial Assessment Team, which, he says, is “trying to help the Iraqi people establish a free and democratic judiciary.” During hostilities, Resnick advised commanders regarding targeting decisions and rules of engagement. He regularly sent e-mail updates to family and friends, excerpted here.
     February 27— Last week we practiced tearing down, moving to a new location, and setting back up. It took a lot longer to do than was acceptable. The rebuild was the worst. We started at 3:30 a.m. when we arrived back at the site. Many chose to hide and sleep. Some never returned to help. At least all my folks helped.…My Humvee is all ready to go, with my name proudly on display as in command. Now we just have to cross the border already and get this done. The sooner we go, the sooner I bring my folks home.
     March 26— In the Karbala area, we dodged scuds, ducked from artillery, and took fire from Iraqi forces. Someone did not plan our location well.…To respect muslim law, I [helped dig] some graves, as they must [bury their dead within] 24 hours. Some local clerics thanked me. Good will pays dividends. Except we were later attacked. Nothing serious. I never left my tent. I hear and watch artillery all the time.
     April 27— We have a lot of military justice going on these days.…We had individuals try to mail things back such as Iraqi weapons and others who thought we might not miss some of the millions of dollars in cash we found in various hiding places in Saddam’s palaces. That money belongs to the Iraqi people, and we are holding it for projects to help them rebuild.… My soldiers are very professional. As we walk around, they form a box, not letting anyone have a clear shot. I feel so safe, I fill my ammo pouches with cookies and other goodies. As the families wave and say hello or thank-you, I hand out treats to all the kids. You should see the smiles.…We need to begin training the new police force and judiciary. I get to lead the effort. What an opportunity. I never saw this in my future, even when I joined the JAGC. As much as I really want to come home, this is very rewarding.MTS

Mix master

As owner and chief mastering engineer of the Lodge, Emily Lazar ’93 is making waves in the sound business. After earning a master’s from New York University’s music technology program (where she currently teaches part-time) and working at other mastering facilities, Lazar decided to set up her own shop—in the living room of her New York City apartment. In 1998 she claimed a larger space for her studio, in Greenwich Village, and it’s been all uphill—in the best sense—from there.
     The Lodge has been featured in Electronic Musician, Mix Magazine, and Billboard; Lazar has also been in the public eye endorsing equipment for Avalon Design and Apple Computers. Her studio works with well over a hundred recording labels, including Columbia, Atlantic, Elektra, and BMG. Lazar has mastered original soundtracks for feature films such as Training Day, Pokemon: The First Movie, and American Psycho. And her reputation for producing high-quality work has big-name artists flocking to the Lodge: David Bowie, Taj Mahal, Lou Reed, Natalie Merchant, Destiny’s Child, Sonic Youth, and the All American Rejects, to name a few.
     The Lodge boasts a mind-boggling list of monitoring and mixing consoles, analog and digital recorders, equalizers, compressors, DVD and CD players. But Lazar knows it takes more than top-of-the-line equipment and technical savvy to do her job well. It requires patience, dedication, ears, a sense of humor, and—always—attention to quality.
      “Respect for the integrity of the music is vital,” she says. “But equally important is the ability to add something completely unexpected to a project. I’m only successful if I help give an album a distinctive sound. There’s a dynamic balance between the technical and creative, and they influence each other significantly in the mastering process.”
     Being a musician herself (she sings and plays guitar, piano, and flute), Lazar has “a strong sensitivity and appreciation for the artist’s role, which has added perspective and affected my work as a mastering engineer.” How a mix sounds should always reflect the artist’s intention, Lazar knows. “My clients need to be pleased with the work they’ve done. Sometimes that means very minimal mastering; other times it requires extensive surgery.”
     After ten years in the business, Lazar is still learning. “The more I live, the less I’m sure of,” she confesses. But she has some words of wisdom: “You can’t fake it—you either have passion or you don’t. So, do what you love and love what you do!” —MTS


This year’s Cinco de Mayo celebration at the Mexican Connection in Saratoga began on Friday, May 2. Despite being up before dawn and working all day as an assistant high-school principal, Johanna Zalkind Friedman ’96 was a bundle of energy behind the bar, mixing margaritas, handing out free T-shirts, taking orders for chimichangas, fajitas, tostadas, and guacamole.
     Friedman and husband Jason are the owners, since October, of the popular restaurant that’s been serving traditional Mexican and Southwestern food to Saratogians for more than two decades. Both Friedmans had worked there under the previous ownership—she as a bartender, hostess, and waitress (while also working full-time at Bethlehem High School in Delmar, N.Y.), he as a bartender and cook (while also working full-time at Saratoga’s Gideon Putnam Hotel restaurant).
     The previous owner had the restaurant on and off the market for several years before the Friedmans decided it was an opportunity they couldn’t resist. Besides the fact that they love Mexican food (“the tequila isn’t bad either!”), they’d seen first-hand that Mexican Connection customers kept coming back. And they liked the location, not far from downtown and a stone’s throw from the Saratoga Race Course. The couple developed a five-year plan, made an offer in the spring of 2002, and became the new proprietors six months later.
     They feel lucky to have retained experienced staff and loyal clientele while cultivating new “regulars,” and they’re pleased with the support they’ve gotten from the community. “It’s not unusual to see several other restaurant and business owners here on any given night,” they say, as well as customers from the racetrack—“everyone from grooms to excercise riders to trainers to horse owners.”
     While the Mexican Connection is now Jason Friedman’s full-time enterprise, Johanna still does double duty, going to school most days and then acting as hostess, waitress, bartender, and busser until the restaurant closes late at night. “A lot of people don’t understand how I do it, but I’m a high-energy person,” she says. —MTS

Making a big production

Black-garbed goblins writhing to a heavy-metal beat, a pack of Evil Surgeons, and that fairy-tale dog “with eyes big as saucers”—Joshua Chambers ’98 brought all that with him and more, when his Fovea Floods theater company returned to Saratoga Springs this past March.
     In Paul Pry, the mixed-media phenomenon performed at the New Visions Studio Theater (courtesy of Saratoga Stages), Chambers transformed Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow Queen into vibrant avant-garde theater. An apocalyptic mix of Freud, Brecht, and Buster Keaton, Pry begins with the meddling goblin making a mirror in which good appears evil. The mirror shatters and splinters fly into hearts and eyes, turning a young boy’s spirit to ice and luring him to the palace of the Snow Queen (played by a gaunt young man in whiteface and long white gown) until his sister finds and redeems him. For Chambers, the aim is to “create a style of theater that can compete with the appeal, excitement, and spectacle of sporting events and modern film.” For regional critics, the result was “little less than a work of near genius in its ability to capture an audience’s attention.”
     Chambers entered Skidmore as a Filene Scholar in classical guitar and exited as a theater major, composer, playwright, director, and co-founder of the predominantly Skidmore-alumni troupe Fovea Floods. Before the company decamped for New York City in 2000, productions at Skidmore, Caffè Lena, and Albany’s Proctor’s Too drew raves: The Times Union called the group “the most original, jarring, and forward-thinking theater in the area.”
     Current productions, headquartered in the Brooklyn-loft rehearsal space where Chambers lives on the proverbial shoestring, are again drawing euphoric reviews. Next summer, Saratoga Stages will present the complete fairy-tale trilogy of which Paul Pry is a part. Comparing Chambers to the director of Broadway’s Lion King, Saratoga Stages artistic director Bruce Bouchard predicts, “Josh is going to be the next Julie Taymor.” —BAM


© 2003 Skidmore College