Who, What, When
Commencement 2007 The usher's tale
Women's works Steloff Lecture brings von Trotta and Atwood
Skidmore teams with Carnegie and Juilliard First residency in October
For the record Making, and mentoring, music
Faculty retirees Levith, Tacardon, Sweet, Zangrando
Professoriat What the faculty are up to
Thinking ahead Brooklyn teens get a taste of college life
Books Faculty and alumni authors
One foot out the door Periclean Scholar award winners
Business casual Quirky performance art
Creative kleptomania Top composer advocates artistic license
Sportswrap Spring sports highlights
English professor Murray Levith came to Skidmore forty years ago, at the urging of his undergraduate mentor (and Skidmore legend), Edwin Moseley. Although Levith was hatching a plan to join a German opera orchestra, he says, “I could not refuse my mentor.” (He did play violin for many years in the Albany Symphony, the Skidmore orchestra, and a string trio with faculty members Dick Spears and Helga Doblin.)
Levith, who started Skidmore’s Teach in China program and was appointed an honorary professor at two Chinese universities, says he will miss “everything” about the college—teaching (especially Shakespeare), the opportunity to lecture around the world (England, South Africa, China, Australia, and elsewhere), and his colleagues, who, he says, “spurred me on to do my work. I became really productive in a way that I don’t think I would have been in another place.” He intends to stay in touch with former students, some of whose parents he also taught—which “makes me feel really old,” he admits.
Retirement projects include writing a comparative biography of two of his graduate-school teachers, poets Karl Shapiro and Delmore Schwartz, and traveling—possibly to “some exotic place; India might be nice.” Meanwhile, he’s set to teach a seminar on “Shakespeare in China” for the MALS program this fall. And once his wife, Tina Ladd Levith ’71, retires (down the road sometime) from her job in the dean of studies’ office,
he may consider teaching again in another country.
He also wants to get back to the violin. “I’m going to work on my technique and intonation,” he says. “I’ve gotten very rusty.”
Peg Tacardon, associate professor of social work, arrived at Skidmore in 1978. Impressed by the college’s “very supportive atmosphere—the give and take”—she says “that kind of respect for people as professionals is what makes Skidmore such a good institution.” The quality of students too is “excellent,” she adds—“intellectually, and in terms of interactive processing.” (Plus, “they helped keep me young; their enthusiasm for many things kept me challenged.”)
In addition to social-work field practicums, her teaching included “Human Behavior and Social Environment” and “Obsessions and Addictions,” as well as personal favorites “Social Work Values and Interpersonal Skills” and “Prisons in America.”
When Skidmore’s social-work program became nationally accredited in the early 1980s, Tacardon was “very proud.” Another defining moment came when she was given tenure on appeal. “That was huge,” she says. “I think the major issue was how few people knew about social work as an academic discipline. For me, it said a lot that there were people willing to hear that and learn more about it.”
Professorial life is “a form of identity,” Tacardon says. “There’s something to being in the mix. And when you step away from that, you’re bound to miss it.” But retirement sounds pretty good too. She’ll spend some time “decompressing” and “getting organized” around her house. And then she’ll start sifting through the boxes of materials she’s collected in researching her grandmother, “one of the first women judges in New York State.
She was a really remarkable woman. I’d like to see her inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame.”
After twenty-six years at Skidmore, cultural anthropologist Jill Sweet says she’s most enjoyed “being able to combine research and teaching, where one informs the other.” Active in the Native American community, she has studied, lectured, and written about Pueblo Indian performances. She also co-curated the 2002 Tang Museum exhibition Staging the Indian: The Politics of Representation. The exhibit, which juxtaposed the photographs of amateur anthropologist Edward Curtis with works by contemporary Native American artists, served as a useful teaching tool for her students.
Sweet taught applied anthropology, the history of anthropological thought, and field methods, as well as classes on Southwest Indians and North American Indians. Her favorite was “Symbolic Theory and Performance” because it “engaged students in experiencing different performance genres.” Sweet herself was a dance instructor and
choreographer for the New Mexico Ballet Company in the 1970s.
In retirement she will do some editing for colleagues and is looking forward to spending more time with her therapy dog, Vida, and husband, Steven.
Arriving at Skidmore’s American studies department in 1976, Joanna Zangrando intended to stay for two years. But the professor of classes such as “American Material Culture,” “Civil Rights in the United States,” “Women and Work in the United States,” and “Disorderly Women,” found a trio of good reasons to stay longer: the women’s studies program; liberal studies, which she directed for most of its existence; and her own department, which she chaired for a dozen years.
“Skidmore has been a wonderful place for me,” Zangrando says. “I can’t imagine any other institution would have given me the freedom to do the things I like to do. Or
people wouldn’t have cared that much about teaching and curricular issues.” She also enjoyed teaching in London several semesters and scoping out universities in Australia for Skidmore students wanting to study there. Other high points came in the early 1980s when she was asked to speak at an event honoring dance legend Martha Graham, and when poet Maya Angelou came to campus the first year LS I was offered.
Zangrando, who is active on the boards of Saratoga’s history museum, preservation foundation, and film forum, predicts retirement won’t slow her down. She’ll delve into her “huge file cabinet full” of preliminary research on Helen Stuart Campbell, a “second-tier reformer in the late nineteenth century,” and she hopes to do some traveling. “I have to do something, because I know it would be very easy for me to just stay home and read,” she says. —MTS