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Archive for May 4th, 2012

As offered in the spring ’12 Scope magazine, here’s a fuller version of Kathryn Gallien’s interview with Ubaldo:

JOHN UBALDO ’88

  • Government major
  • Owner, John Boy’s Farm (Berkshire pigs, black Angus cattle, chickens, ducks)
  • Cambridge, N.Y.

 

How do you define success?
I don’t know what success is, because I think success is the end result of something, and my farm is evolving. I don’t know if you can ever judge if you are successful until you look back. What you get from farming in terms of success is not monetary. People ask me if I’m making money, and the only thing I can tell them is: we’re still here. But am I successful? I’m successful in breeding and raising animals, and doing it all naturally, treating them impeccably. People don’t realize how amazing it is to be around animals all the time, when you actually live with your animals 24/7. I grew up in Westchester, I went to Skidmore, I went to Wall Street, I didn’t grow up a farmer. So for me to step into this whole realm as an outsider and really just have the experience—it’s staggering.

Were you successful in your first career on Wall Street?
We made a ton of money, so from a social standpoint, yeah, I was successful. Probably the highlight of my Wall Street career was getting to go fishing out of Venezuela, and the Bahamas, and Costa Rica; that I would consider a success.

It was a pretty major change from Wall Street to farming.
I mean, it’s wintertime, so we’re only doing 14-hour days. In the summertime, we do 18-hour days. The thing about it is, working on Wall Street life is extreme to one end—you definitely work a lot of hours, but you make such an insane amount of money that the vacation fishing trips kind of cure the pain of that. This is the opposite end of the spectrum, and I wasn’t expecting to do it this heavy. Every animal is born and bred on this farm (we don’t just buy animals and fatten ‘em up) so we have to keep breeding herds healthy, so we started growing our own non-GMO feed. And we have excellent herd health, where people around here growing GMO corn are really having problems. We even feed our animals three times a day. There is zero automation here—it might as well be 100 years ago. So I just figure I was extreme one way, and I ended up extreme the other way in doing this. It kind of makes you a very righteously grumpy person.

You talk about how rewarding it is to be around animals all the time—yet they’re going to be slaughtered.
I maintain a breeding stock, so there are animals that will live here until death do us part, naturally. I raise Berkshire pigs, a very old and rare breed. I’m one of the few people I know who has English-blood pigs; it’s a very rare herd, and unless we process them, there’s no chance of the herd existing. All my mama pigs and the boars have names; they’re all here for the long run. Then we also have our pigs for the processing. If I didn’t have to do it, I wouldn’t. It’s my absolute worst day of the week, no question about it. And we raise Aberdeen Black Angus cattle, another rare breed from Scotland, and you have to raise them for two years. To raise an animal for that long and then walk it out the door—it’s awful. But it’s also crucial to expanding an amazing herd of animals. The thing about it is, they have a great life. I raise my animals much larger and much longer than anybody I know, in a really good environment. So, yeah, I’m close to all the animals. I walk through the herds all day. But, you know, we’re meat eaters. I’d rather eat a pig that I raised and took care of properly than something that went through a factory. What goes on in those confined feeding operations is such a horrible reflection on our country. All in the name of McNuggets. It’s just scary.

What were you on Wall Street?
I was an investment banker, and I was the national sales manager for my firm, Bluestone Capital. The money wasn’t lacking, but I didn’t do it for the money. I drove a 1993 Ford Bronco down to Wall Street every day. Truthfully, I went there to make enough money to buy a farm. My biggest thrill on Wall Street was teaching 22-year old kids, some of them who came from not-so-good neighborhoods, how to come to Wall Street and make life-changing money. If you want to talk about success, that’s what I did. The money itself is a stupid thing to talk about.

What does it mean to lead a successful life?
That I impact people positively. And that I would never want to say, “I should have” or “I wish I did.” Think about how many people go and make money and say, “I wish I could have done” this or that. Of course you have to be kind of insane to do it, but I will never have to say, “I wish I tried farming.”

Are you comfortable with your success?
I wanted to have a farm to kind of be off the grid, to live my own life. What it’s turned into is baffling. Honestly, I’m like a rock star—so many people know me. People send me letters about how they learned so much about food, and how they’re cooking again and eating right and not eating McDonald’s—just looking at everything differently—from the amount of education that I’ve pumped out there. I send two e-mails a week to a massive list of customers, and all I do is rant and rave about what is going on in the food system and where we are with the whole GMO thing—the worst thing that has ever happened in our country, bar none. My plan of isolation has kind of put me into a spotlight that I’m not necessarily comfortable with. But when I see how many families have been affected by what I do, it’s really humbling. When the first piece of meat that someone’s baby eats is one of your chickens or one of your pork chops—the first real food that I want my baby to eat—that’s kind of freaky. It puts a lot of responsibility on you. A lot of these kids are much older now, and they’re really into eating the right foods. I mean, I think success is getting people away from McDonald’s.

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As offered in the spring ’12 Scope magazine, here’s a fuller version of Kathryn Gallien’s interview with Tacopina:

JOE TACOPINA ’88

  • Business-government major; JD, University of Bridgeport School of Law
  • Trial lawyer; CEO, Madison Avenue Sports and Entertainment; VP, AS Roma soccer team
  • New York City

How do you define success?
First and foremost, loving what you do. I don’t think success is defined in terms of creature comforts or monetary success. I know plenty of people who have Monopoly money, and they’re not happy people. To me the magical elixir to being successful is hard work and passion. I was actually giving a commencement speech at my local high school on that this year, and that’s basically what I said: find something you love and pursue that, because if you love what you do and you’re passionate about it and you apply hard work, you’ll be successful.

 Is financial success important to you on some level?
Of course it is: I have five kids! It’s not only important; it’s mandatory. And yes, I enjoy creature comforts (I was raised by two Italian immigrants and lived a sort of lower-middle-class to impoverished childhood). However, I’ve gained an enormous amount of perspective over the last several years, and money has definitely fallen lower down the totem pole of priorities for me. After Skidmore I decided I wanted to be a trial lawyer, and I just wanted to be as good as I can be. I thought if I ever made $100,000 a year I’d be set for life.

 You were a varsity athlete at Skidmore?
I played both hockey and baseball and was co-captain in both sports. Playing a sport was an important part of the education process, because it helps build discipline, instills that what you put in is generally what you get out, develops character, develops the ability to work within a team. It develops respect for others, and it sparks a competitive fire. So a lot of the things that I sort of reach back to when I apply my education to daily life are the things I learned in sports—particularly on the hockey team.

Is it true you hold the Skidmore hockey record for most minutes in the penalty box?
For a single season, yes. Very proud record-holder! It’s never been broken and I hope it never will be.

What does that say about you?
That I have issues! It’s funny: I put blades on my feet and a wire goes off in my brain. I don’t know what happens to me when I’m on the ice. I’m a little more aggressive than I would be in person.

The way you have to be tough in your job?
There’s a common thread there, it’s true. For the most part I’m defending those who are downtrodden, who are under the avalanche of the allegations. Most of my penalties at Skidmore were basically defending my teammates. I was one of the bigger guys on the team, and we had a lot of smaller guys who were getting banged around, and part of my self-imposed job was to see that if someone did that they remembered not to do it again. I still play hockey. At 45, I’m probably the oldest guy on the team. It keeps me competitive. And I still have issues about the blades! I actually got suspended for three games.

Do your kids play sports?
All of them. They play in travel soccer programs, they play hockey on a recreational level, and the three boys actually competed in the nationals in ski racing in 2008 and 2009.

What do you hope they grow up with in terms of defining success?
Where we live, a lot of kids drive to school in Mercedes and BMWs, and my daughter has a used Jeep that she had to pay for. That’s just the way it’s going to be. For me there’s nothing worse—even if we have the ability to do so—than handing kids things on a silver platter, as if they’re entitled. I see high school kids who have nicer cars than I have, and I’m saying to myself, so what do they strive for? Where do they go from here? When do they realize that they actually have to work to get things? It’s not that my kids don’t have nice things; they do. But we don’t just hand them things. They work for things, there’s a consequence for their actions, and they know if they don’t do something right they will feel it.

What is the secret of your success in a few words?
Look: four things. It’s hard work and passion, the two things I said before. It’s also a modicum of talent. (Perhaps I’m a little cocky. I know I’m very good at what I do; the results speak for themselves.) And lastly, a helluva lot of luck. Right place, right time. There are a lot of very good lawyers out there who are working with public defenders and just don’t get the recognition. So I know it’s a lot of luck. I work hard, I’m passionate about what I do, I believe in it, I have some skills, but I also have luck. And a lot of good people around me.

Are there any downsides to being as successful as you have been?
Yes. Everything you do is analyzed. Every move in every case—especially in this era of the Internet, with the blogs—people love to critique and criticize, and there are some crazy people out there. So if you’re a high-profile individual, really, more than ever, some people can be nuts saying vicious things. But I don’t let it get to me. You develop a thick skin when you’re always under the microscope, which is fine. I like that pressure.

What are the biggest upsides?
The satisfaction of knowing that you’re making a difference. My views have shifted over the last decade. It used to be that reading about myself in the New York Times or GQ was just so gratifying. Now it’s not that important to me anymore. What’s important is doing right by the people who are putting their lives in my hands, really caring about them, and making a difference. A lot of people come to me because they think an avalanche of shit is about to come down on them unjustly or unfairly. I enjoy those challenges, and I’ve had a good run, fortunately.

Listen, I think that success is also individually defined. There are people who work with the Red Cross, dedicate their lives to helping others without anything in return, barely living above the poverty level—I’ve got two friends like that, and they’re the happiest people I know. To me, they’re as successful if not more successful than I am. Anyone who says “I make a lot of money but I can’t stand it” is full of it, because they could stop tomorrow if they wanted to. But it’s not that. If you’d talked to me 10 years ago, I would have said that the greatest thing was that I make so much money. But that lasts for about a year or two. I got rid of my fancy cars and all that stuff, and now success is having a good family, healthy and successful kids, being there for them, juggling it all, serving your clients, doing well, and enjoying what you do.

You don’t have that Maserati any more from the GQ photo?
Gone.

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As offered in the spring ’12 Scope magazine, here’s a fuller interview with Vaswani:

NEELA VASWANI ’96

  • English major; MFA in writing, Vermont College of Fine Arts; PhD in cultural studies, University of Maryland at College Park
  • Author, You Have Given Me a Country and other works; faculty member, Spalding University’s MFA program in writing
  • New York City

How do you define success?
For me, success doesn’t have much to do with money or status. Both are helpful for more freedom, better choices, and making life easier, of course. But I don’t value money or status as much as I value doing good work and being a decent person. There’s a distinction for me between having “all the trappings”—a shiny, polished coat and public accolades—and being respected and trusted by your friends and family. I don’t mean to say that the stereotypical definitions don’t exist and aren’t powerful (having a story rejected is painful, and getting a good review in a major publication feels wonderful); but being someone who can be counted on to help, to listen, to try her best at any given moment—that’s the kind of success I strive for on a daily basis.

How did you come to that definition?
 I think I learned through life experience—probably starting when I was a teenager—that a nice house, expensive car, and brand-name purse didn’t buy satisfaction or contentment (and I value both above “happiness,” which is a word I’m somewhat suspicious of). As a young adult, especially just after graduating from Skidmore, I realized that I had to figure out what success meant to me rather than to the rest of the world or my family. It was complicated being the only artist in my immediate family; to not be the doctor everyone wanted. But what would have been harder, for me anyway, would have been to not follow my instincts and natural inclinations. My mother always said to me that she didn’t care what I ended up doing with my life, as long as I did it well and took pride in it. I held on to that (even when she said, in the same breath, that I better have a pension and health insurance, no matter what). She said that out of a sense of protection and practicality, but in terms of the life I wanted for myself, I wasn’t able to follow the pension and health insurance path. I had to take risks, to be less stable and less secure. Luckily, it’s worked out for me (so far). And throughout, I’ve always taken pride in all of my work, including my less glamorous jobs, like waitressing (which I consider to be a noble profession). I’m a good waitress and I’m proud of that.

 Has that definition changed over time?
 My definition of success has definitely changed, and I can tell you that it will keep on changing. One thing that affected me deeply was working with the adult literacy/ESL community at the New York Public Library. I’ve never met a more courageous group of people. Every new word learned, every moment of defeat or difficulty borne with good humor and moved past—it’s a true measure of success, in my opinion. I also shifted my definition when my husband was diagnosed with leukemia a year and a half ago (he’s doing great, in remission, running marathons). Success for us became about getting through the day with as much grace as possible. A walk around the block was a huge blessing, and passing a good-looking dog or an interesting face was a thing of enjoyment to hold onto for the rest of the day. Whenever life hands you something less than ideal and you can keep yourself together enough to continue to be as kind and unselfish as possible, that’s success to me. Getting something edible to grow in a garden or making a good meal that feeds people and brings them together: that’s what I consider being successful.

How important is it to be successful in your work?
 With my writing, I want to keep developing and trying new things. My first book was a collection of short storie; my second book, a memoir; and my third book, a young-adult novel. I like switching genres and styles because it forces me to start fresh every time so that I don’t get stale or set in my ways. I want to keep pushing myself and get better at my craft. If I’m proud of something I’ve written, if I feel I’ve poured my whole being into the process, that’s success. And with teaching, if I reach students and see moments of connection or clicks of understanding or passion for a topic (that I can tell will last beyond the class period), I feel successful. To get to help people with their own path and development is a privilege.

How important is it to you to be successful in your life—and what does that mean?
It’s important to me to be a decent person in my daily life. To think about what I do and say, critically. To see myself honestly. To try to have as much empathy as possible, while still protecting myself and not feeling taken advantage of. Most important to me is to be a good mate to my husband, a good friend to my friends, and a good daughter/daughter-in-law/cousin, etc. (Of course, how to be a good anything is different for each person.) I want to be a responsible citizen, too, to do my part for the world, to be a contributing member of the human race, from recycling to helping people who are struggling to get a foothold. I’ve been lucky to be helped along the way by teachers, friends, and family, and I enjoy doing the same for others, passing it on.

How do you influence your students’ ideas about success?
I’m probably more subtle about it when teaching undergrads and more direct with grad students. Something I always tell my creative writing students is to be careful to not get hung up on publication, to not weight publication as more important than craft. It’s a hard thing to talk about, because I’m saying that to them as a published writer, and I know before I’d had publications it was something I very much hoped and longed for. That said, I wanted to have earned publication by writing things I was proud of and learning my craft as well as possible before I worried about (or even submitted things for) publication.

You haven’t mentioned your American Book Award and O. Henry Prize; what do they mean in terms of success?
The awards I’ve won have been validating for me. They’ve given me more confidence. I think of myself as a writer now, and claim the word as a true vocation. They’ve garnered me more readers and more opportunities and I’m very grateful. But I don’t think of them in relation to personal success, only as vehicles that help to “indicate success” when out in the wider world. All of my books are with independent presses. I’ve always been glad to be with a respected press, one I can be proud of, and to have beautiful books we created together. Anything beyond that is icing on the cake. I’ve generally made my economic living through teaching or other jobs—not through writing. And that probably changes my outlook on equating success, in a traditional sense, with my writing, regardless of awards.

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Five faculty members are retiring this May.  As promised in Scope magazine, here are the full citations, as presented at the faculty meeting of April 27, 2012:

Retiring after 100+ combined years at Skidmore:

Steven Hoffmann arrived at Skidmore College in the fall of 1967, having received his B.A. from Harpur College, State University of New York at Binghamton, an M.A. in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania, and while still in the process of completing his doctoral dissertation on the India-China Border War of 1962 at the University of Pennsylvania.  Henry Galant, the chair of the Government Department at the time, hired Steve to fulfill the modest charge of expanding the Government Department’s course offerings into “the non-Western world,” which, at that point, included every area of the globe outside the United States and Western Europe. In the early years of his career, Steve tackled this tall order by developing a full-year course called “Politics of the Non-Western World,” which covered, in alphabetical order, Africa, China, India, Latin America, and the Middle East. Later, Steve would help develop GO 103: Introduction to Comparative and International Politics, which is still a fundamental introductory course in the Government Department. He would eventually introduce and teach separate courses on the Middle East, Africa, India, China, and Japan.  Later in his career, Steve would also introduce his course on “The Military and Political Lessons of World War II” and, what might have become his most popular course, “What the US Does Wrong in the World: Views from India and Answers from Washington.”  In addition to both broadening and deepening the Government Department’s course offerings, Steve also developed innovative team-taught courses on Japanese culture and history with Harry Gaugh from the Art History Department and on Indian History and Music with Gordon Thompson.

Steve’s knowledge of these diverse areas of the world was not limited to the theoretical or book-derived. Following inaugural research trips to India in 1966 and 1967, and after a short hiatus, Steve traveled to India on an almost yearly basis from 1976 until his latest trip in the summer of 2011. He has traveled to Japan, Great Britain, and Israel several times each, and in 2001, he traveled to China as part of a group of scholars sponsored by the Asia Society and the Smith Richardson society. He has also carried out extensive on-site explorations of the major European battlefields of World War II. His interest and expertise in US military policy and doctrine led to his being selected to participate in the National Security Seminar program at the United States Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in June 2008.

Despite the fact that, when Steve began teaching at Skidmore in 1967, he had a 4-4 teaching load and that he was responsible for covering such a large and important part of the globe for Skidmore’s students, he has maintained an active research agenda and an impressive record of publication. His monograph India and the China Crisis was published by the University of California Press in 1990, and Oxford University Press published the Indian version of the book the next year. Steve has also authored more than 20 journal articles, chapters in edited volumes, and encyclopedia entries, with the latest, an article entitled “Reinvigorating the ‘Momentum’ in India-US Relations,” appearing just last year in the New Delhi publication South Asian Monitor. Steve is one of the country’s foremost authorities on the India-China relationship, and his expertise is recognized in the capital cities of both India and the U.S. In the fall of 2000, Steve was invited to be a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., one of the most prestigious think tanks in this country, while in the spring of 2009 he was invited to be a scholar in residence at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses in New Delhi, India.

Steve has also been an active citizen of the college. In addition to serving as Chair of the Government Department from 1992 to 1996, Steve has served on some of the major all-college committees, including what was then the CAPT Review Board. He also served on many task forces, including the one that revised the student evaluation forms. Steve was also instrumental in the founding of Asian Studies as a program at Skidmore. He worked with then Dean of the Faculty, Eric Weller, on the original NEH grant that established Asian Studies as a “Faculty within the Faculty,” and he served as chair of the program. Steve and Bev Becker, when they served together on the Admissions Committee, helped to establish what have become the phenomenally popular and effective Accepted Candidates Days. They, and Skidmore, were very much ahead of the curve. Steve also taught for many years in the Skidmore Prison Program at Great Meadow, and he has been an important participant in the Greenberg Middle East Scholar Program at Skidmore.  He was invited to visit Ben Gurion University in Israel during the early days of the program, and he has served as a gracious host for our visiting Greenberg fellows. He team-taught courses with two Greenberg scholars, and he served as a knowledgeable and judicious moderator and commentator for memorable Greenberg and other Middle East events, including sessions with Benny Morris, Sari Nusseibeh, and, most recently, former Special Assistant to President Clinton for Arab-Israeli Affairs, Robert Malley.

Steve’s dedicated teaching, excellent publications, and useful service were recognized when was he was promoted from Instructor to Assistant Professor in 1970, to Associate Professor in 1979, and to Professor in 1987. His strong contributions to our students, to the Government Department, to the discipline of political science, and to Skidmore College were further recognized when he was appointed to the Joseph C. Palamountain Jr. Chair in Government in 2003.

During his 45 years at Skidmore, Steven Hoffmann has seen the college undergo amazing changes: from the old campus to the new campus; from a 4-4 teaching load to a 3-2 teaching load; from a single-sex to a co-ed school; from a more parochial school, where one person could cover the politics of the non-Western world to one where more than 60% of the students study abroad, including many who go to those “non-Western” places that Steve first helped to open to Government Department students. What has not changed during those 45 years is Steve’s devotion to his teaching and his students and his kind mentoring of younger faculty. At a point in his career when many would be happy to recycle all student evaluations unread, Steve would still read them carefully and think of ways to improve his courses. This attention to his craft bore great fruit in terms of the popularity of Steve’s courses, which were routinely over-enrolled. By a conservative estimate, Steve has taught over 7,000 students during his 45-year career, forming close, long-lasting relationships with many of them. He has taught at least one mother-daughter team of Skidmore students, and probably more than one! Most importantly, particularly in the later years of his career, Steve’s courses provided one of the principal ways that our students were able to explore the crucially important topics of Middle East politics and United States military policy in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

In retirement, we fully expect Steve to continue to court adventures in places both far-flung and nearby—and to continue to cultivate the life of the mind as well as to enjoy his role as husband to his wonderful wife Cheryl and as “Grandpa Steve” to his beloved Emma and Sam. We wish him all the very best as he does so.

On behalf of his colleagues in the Government Department and across the college, as well as the many, many students he has taught, we extend heartfelt thanks and the warmest congratulations on an exemplary career to Steven Hoffmann, a true teacher-scholar.

For those of us in the English department, this is a bittersweet moment. We bequeathed Susan Kress to the College six years ago, when she became Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs, and then Vice President for Academic Affairs.  And though we never let her forget that she was, first and foremost, a Professor of English, we missed her dearly.  We missed her in our offices, our hallways, our classrooms.  This moment, then, becomes our rather selfish opportunity to reclaim her, even as we wish her well in her retirement.  She is ours.  Always has been.  Always will be.

Susan joined the English department as an Assistant Professor in 1975, having taught previously at Cornell University, Queens College, Marymount School of New York, and the State University of New York at Albany.  She received her Ph.D. from Cambridge University in 1976 and began her publishing career with a paper first presented at the 21st Annual Conference on Corrections, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Some Myths Exposed” (excellent preparation for her administrative work to come). The following years saw significant publications on such figures as Doris Lessing, Marge Piercy, Abraham Cahan, and Willa Cather, as well as a number of essays related to pedagogy, academia, and the role of women in both.

Susan’s ongoing scholarly interest in women in literature and the academy reached its zenith with the publication in 1997 of her biography of Carolyn G. Heilbrun, Feminist in a Tenured Position.  This book received an Honorable Mention from the Emily Toth Award Committee for “best feminist study of the year by a single author,” and was named one of the “Best Biographies of 1998” by Bookman.  After Heilbrun’s suicide in 2003, the book was reissued in 2006 with a new epilogue in which Susan helped her readers come to terms with this shocking loss.  As Nancy K. Miller writes, “In her moving final chapter, Kress, whose sense of personal loss is palpable through these pages, balances a life story of extraordinary accomplishment with the troubling ending Heilbrun chose to give it. [This book] is a deeply satisfying account of a woman writer whose pioneering words and example inspired many women to change their lives.”

Throughout her career, and in so many ways, Susan has been interested in joining the theoretical to the practical, lending the insights of feminist theory to the problems we face as teachers, as administrators, and as perpetual students.  And for all of us who have had the pleasure of hearing Susan speak, it’s no surprise to learn that her voice is equally engaging on the page.  Her prose is a delight, offering wit and wisdom in equal measure.

To know Susan on the page is to know her in the classroom.  In both modes—as writer and as teacher—she moves gracefully from the known to the unknown, from some glimmer we may have of the truth to its fuller and more transformative realization.  She is, indeed, a master teacher, a fact recognized by her appointment in 1999 as the inaugural holder of the Class of 1948 Chair for Excellence in Teaching.  The faculty member who holds this chair should, according to the guidelines, have a “long and distinguished record of teaching at the College,” and should have “served as a mentor to new faculty members and as a model of dedication to the intellectual growth of our students.”  On both counts, Susan’s appointment was the perfect way to model and to honor the work of teaching.

Susan’s teaching evaluations reveal someone born to be in the classroom.  With a mixture of intelligence, humor, genuine curiosity, and more than a dash of skepticism, she makes it look easy, when we know that it’s anything but.  Great teaching is an illusion, a slight of hand, or of mind, in which we present something which took years to create as the sudden insight of an alert imagination.  I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Susan teach.  She’s not simply pulling rabbits out of hats.  She’s manufacturing zebras, on the spot. As one student wrote, “She leads discussions subtly and draws us into the material so that we make our own conclusions—which ‘happen’ to be exactly the conclusion that she was aiming at.  In short, she teaches us by leading us to teach ourselves.”

Great teachers never stop teaching, so it’s no surprise that Susan has been equally impressive as a faculty mentor.  She visited a class of mine in my first year at Skidmore, and I can still recall the conversation we had afterward.  On the surface, what she was doing seemed simple.  She was showing me to myself.  She let me see, truly, what I was doing.  And while the effect of this kind of exposure can be terrifying—and it was—it’s also transformative, not simply in the moment, but over a career.  I still watch myself teach with Susan’s eyes.  I still wish I could see myself half as clearly as she did.  As our former colleague Terry Diggory writes, “Above all, Susan is an educator.  Inspiring in both the classroom and the committee room, she brings out—literally, ‘educates’—the best in all of us.”

And it’s in that journey from classroom to committee room that Susan has, I believe, had her most lasting impact.  Susan’s record of service at the College reads like the A-Z listing under “Governance”: Affirmative Action Committee; CAPT; CEPP; Committee of Faculty Governance; Curriculum Committee; Dean’s Governance Advisory Council; General Education Committee; Vice-Chair of the IPC; Middle States Reaccreditation Steering Committee; Periclean Awards Committee; Self-Determined Majors Committee; Standards and Expectations Subcommittee; University Without Walls Committee.  Those are just the acronymic highlights, and they don’t include Susan’s service on almost every English department committee imaginable, including five terms on the Personnel Committee and six on the Curriculum Committee.  Oh, and by the way, she chaired the department twice.

Susan has been particularly dedicated to and involved in Women’s and Gender Studies at Skidmore. She has co-directed that program, and was an early advocate of child care on campus, pressing, along with others, for the founding of the Greenberg Child Care Center.  Leslie Mechem, Director of Gender Studies, calls her an “active and stalwart supporter,” and a “founding Mother of Women’s Studies.”

In addition, Susan is an often-called-upon national leader in education, having served as President of the Association of Departments of English (ADE), and having been actively engaged in the work of both the ADE and the Modern Language Association.

Of course, Susan’s most significant and long-lasting service to the College has been in her more recent work as Vice-President for Academic Affairs and Acting President of the College.  Here, she brought her unique skills as both leader and collaborator to a wide range of needs and opportunities.  She advanced a number of diversity initiatives, including the hiring of the first Director of Intercultural Studies.  She chaired groups responsible for significant Faculty Handbook revisions and major policy initiatives, including the new parental leave policy.  She wrote a successful grant application to the Mellon Foundation ($750K) to provide bridge funding to assist in retirement transitions.  She managed several important leadership transitions in Special Programs and oversaw the process to close UWW.  She managed the leadership transition in the Registrar’s office and led the effort to define a charge for the Zankel Center.  She worked with Phyllis Roth to develop a program to support our retirees, and to encourage their continued involvement in the affairs of the College.  She worked with the CAOs of the New York Six Schools to develop a common agenda for collaboration, including the faculty work project supported by the Teagle Grant.  This is all in addition to Susan’s management of the full range of activities that fall within the purview of the Chief Academic Officer.

And then, of course, there are the million and one crises that pop up on any given day, each of which has the capacity to knock one completely off balance and to sabotage the ongoing work of the College.  Susan led us through difficult times with a mixture of poise, grace, and determination.  It is a mark of her great leadership that we will never fully know all of the ways in which she kept us moving forward when the winds were against us.

As our former colleague Terry Diggory writes, “Throughout my long association with Susan Kress, I have always admired her good sense, good humor, and absolute integrity.  Scrupulous about process, Susan is devoted to the ideal of collective decision-making, but she recognizes the reality that at key points in the process the responsibility for a decision falls to a particular individual, and she never shrinks from that responsibility when it falls to her.”

President Glotzbach had this to say about Susan’s most recent work on our behalf: “Through her many accomplishments as Skidmore’s Vice President for Academic Affairs, Susan Kress has earned my highest respect—and that of the Skidmore community—as a most thoughtful, conscientious, and effective academic administrator.  She has managed the myriad responsibilities of her office with consummate grace, and above all she has been a consistent champion for the academic life of the College.  A true `servant leader,’ Susan always made it her highest priority to support the education of our students and the work of our faculty.  We are a better place for her long and distinguished service to the College – as a faculty member, as Chief Academic Officer, and as Acting President.  Her absence will be deeply felt.”

For thirty-seven years, Susan Kress has devoted herself to this institution, to its students, its faculty, its staff—to its history and its future.  We are, all of us, immeasurably better for that devotion.  We wish her the best in this next stage of her life, and we offer her our humble and sincere thanks for all that she has done on behalf of this great institution.

Mac Oswalt “graduates” from Skidmore College after 45 years of service in the Psychology Department.  Mac earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from DePauw University in Indiana, and a Master’s and Ph.D. from Louisiana State University with a major in psychology and a specialization in clinical psychology, as well as a minor in anthropology.  He joined the Skidmore College Psychology Department in 1967, earned tenure and promotion to Associate Professor in 1974, and earned promotion to Professor in 1983. During his time at Skidmore, Mac also served as the Faculty Director for the Skidmore College in London Program twice (1988, 2001), as a Visiting Professor at Richmond College in London (1988), as a Visiting Professor at the Regents College in London (2001), and as an Adjunct Professor for the UWW programs at the Washington Correctional Facility (1986-1994) and the Great Meadows Correctional Facility (1970-1994). Mac was also a practicing clinical psychologist from 1973-1986. his 45 years of teaching at Skidmore College, Mac delivered courses in Abnormal Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Psychological Testing, Psychoanalysis and Sigmund Freud, and Introduction to Psychology, and notably never missed a class due to illness.  For many years, he was the only faculty member in the department whose teaching load was exclusively in the clinical area of study.  Thus, he played a critical role in educating students in this branch of psychology and shepherding students towards careers in clinical psychology.  To provide students with valuable field experience while at Skidmore, Mac developed the first collaborative internship venture with Four Winds Hospital, placing students over many years in clinical internship experiences in the mental health field each semester and over the summer.

Mac’s scholarly contributions include numerous publications and presentations at professional conferences on blood and organ donor motivation. He has also conducted research on the desensitization of traumatic memories by eye-movement, and sexual behavior among college students, including the transmission of AIDS and date rape.  Mac’s publication outlets range from psychology journals, including the Journal of Applied Psychology, Psychological Reports, Perceptual and Motor Skills, and the Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, to other journals uniquely tied to his research interests, including the Journal of the American College Health Association, Transfusion, Medical Laboratory Observer, Dialysis and Transplantation, and Behavioral Medicine Advances.  Other outlets for Mac’s passionate interests in flight and travel include Astronautics and Aeronautics and the Sunday New York Times (Travel Section).

Throughout his Skidmore career, Mac chaired a variety of college committees, including the Committee on Appointments, Promotions, and Tenure, the Admissions Committee, the Faculty Housing Committee, the Committee on Faculty Governance, the Committee on Educational Policies and Procedures, and the Committee on Academic Freedom and Rights.  He also served as a member of other college committees, including the Committee on Academic Standing, the External Master of Arts Committee, and the Institutional Review Board.

In the community, for many years (1993-2007) Mac served a leadership role in development of the campus Blood Drive program, informed by his study of the factors that influence adults to participate in donor commitment programs.  Other contributions to the Saratoga community include running a self-help group for individuals with phobias, serving as a trustee for local pre-schools, serving on committees for the Regents College Examinations, and serving on various committees for the Wilton Developmental Center.

Within departmental discussions, Mac is ever focused on making program decisions that are in the best interest of our students.  With an enduring commitment to the college and to the value of a liberal arts institution and education, he is the first to remind his colleagues to stay focused on the broader issues related to liberal arts education.  Mac is the embodiment of a good citizen within the department.  Mac’s consistently supportive and collegial interactions with department faculty and staff, his participation in departmental meetings, discussions, and committees, his regular attendance at student presentations, ceremonies, and performances—and his enduring sense of camaraderie, humor, and cynicism—will indeed be missed. We wish you a happy retirement, Mac.  T.G.I.F. and all that!

Also retiring, though not as “official” Skidmore retirees since they were here for a shorter time:

 John Berman, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, received his Ph.D. in social psychology from Northwestern University in 1972, and then was hired as an Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  He remained there for 28 years, the last 12 of which he was Chair of the Psychology Department.  During his career in Nebraska, John was also honored as a Fulbright Lecturer in India, an Exchange Professor at the University of Trier in Trier, Germany, and a Visiting Research Professor at Graz University, Austria.

After a year at Williams College as an American Council on Education (ACE) Fellow, John arrived at Skidmore College in 2000 as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty.  John joined the Committee on Educational Policies and Planning (CEPP) early in his term as Dean, while CEPP was in the middle of several complicated projects, and he became an active member of that committee during the last major overhaul of the all-college curriculum. The Chair of CEPP at the time comments that, “At our countless meetings John would listen carefully to all the input and brought a distinctive perspective based on experiences at other institutions. He was always eager to support the efforts of CEPP on behalf of his office, but believed that curricular changes should be led by the faculty.”

As VPAA/DOF, John also established the Athletic Review Committee (ARC), which embarked on a year-long study of athletics at the college and generated a substantial report. In the following years, work based on that report yielded a series of valuable reforms. These included a rationalized admissions policy, significant steps forward in gender equity, improved facilities (especially for softball, field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, and the training room), a productive fundraising mechanism in the Friends of Skidmore Athletics, additional personnel, and numerous other favorable developments. None of this would have been possible without our chief academic officer being critically engaged in the complex issues of college athletics and pulling in dozens of people from across college divisions into the work of ARC to sort through the challenges.  And all this progress was made in the context of scarce resources.

As VPAA/DOF, John was involved in launching the Tang Teaching Museum and shepherding it through its growing pains. He also contributed to the planning for the Zankel Music Center.  In addition, he established the policy recommending that a percentage of indirect grant funds be returned to Principal Investigators and home departments.  This policy has afforded departments the opportunity to support and benefit both student and faculty professional development in numerous ways.

After some time as the VPAA/DOF at Skidmore, John joined the Psychology Department where he has taught and conducted research for the last 10 years.  His courses here, some of which were new preparations for him, have included Introductory Psychology, Law and Psychology, and Applied Psychology.  John’s commitment to the delivery of the department’s gateway course has been critical in helping to engage students in the science of Psychology.  His Applied Psychology course covers the application of psychological research to industry, sports, health care, the media, environmental conservation, conflict resolution and terrorism. His Law and Psychology course has enhanced the breadth and interdisciplinarity of departmental offerings, and provides natural ways for students to link the course material to social action.  In his teaching, John establishes unique ways of getting students to work with the material, notice nuances, and explore the significance of research findings.  He connects with his students through his engagement in ideas, his humor, and his dedication to helping/advising his students both in and out of the classroom.

Throughout his career, John has published over 40 articles and edited two books.  His research has been concentrated in two areas. The first applies social science methodology to shed light on real-world problems.  He has published articles on assessing the effects of jury selection, parole, no-fault divorce, involuntary commitment to mental institutions, and alcohol treatment programs.  Being selected to be a Senior Fulbright Scholar to India in the early 80’s stimulated John’s second area of research interest.  Since that time he has collaborated with his wife, Virginia Murphy-Berman, on a series of publications investigating cross-cultural differences in perceptions of what is considered “fair.”

While at Skidmore, John served on the Committee on Appointments, Promotions, and Tenure (CAPT) for three years, including a year when he was chair.  Since then, he has been a frequent substitute CAPT member when needed.  For the last two years, he has served as chair of Skidmore’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). John’s service in the Psychology Department includes his significant contributions to the life of the department through his work on numerous committees, including serving as Chair of the Psychology Review Board.  His citizenship is regularly demonstrated in a variety of ways, including his very active participation in efforts to recruit new faculty candidates, his valuable participation in personnel reviews, and his important mentoring of departmental colleagues.  Extending his citizenship and commitment to social service to the Saratoga community, John has been a regular volunteer mediator for Mediation Matters in Saratoga Springs for the last six years, mediating conflicts between participants in small claims court, parents and teens, and couples who are divorcing.

The Psychology Department offers John best wishes for all his new endeavors in his retirement and for safe travels.

Virginia Murphy-Berman graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Penn State University with a B.A. in Psychology, and she received her Ph.D. in social/personality psychology from Northwestern University.  Later she completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Law and Psychology at the University of Nebraska School of Law.  At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she served as Research Director and Research Professor of Psychology at the Center on Children, Families, and the Law, the mission of which is to conduct basic and applied research and policy analyses on topics that impact the lives of children and families.  Throughout her career, Ginny’s academic pursuits have taken her far and wide as she spent a year as a visiting scholar at the University of Trier, in Germany, and another year at Graz University, in Austria. She also spent a year as a visiting faculty member at the Center for Social Change at the University of Allahabad in Allahabad, India.

Since 2001, Ginny has held the position of Visiting Professor in the Psychology Department at Skidmore College.  Her courses have included Cross-Cultural Psychology, Psychology of Well-Being, and a Scribner Seminar (offered six times in seven years!).  Her Seminar focused on the application of psychological theories of social justice to such topics as the use of the death penalty, the insanity defense, affirmative action policies, warfare and justice, problems of global poverty, and human rights. Student feedback from the course is overwhelmingly positive, and students describe her course as engaging and interesting; moreover, they also report their appreciation for learning from Ginny how to closely examine an issue from all sides, how to listen to and understand others’ points of view, and how to substantively support their arguments.  Ginny’s Well-Being course lives up to its name, both in content and intention.  Students regularly offer accolades and note the impact of Ginny’s course as being “life changing,” both in the ways students look at themselves and in the ways they view the world.  Such comments come not only from current undergraduates but also from alumni, who continue to reflect on the impact that the course has had on their lives and ways of thinking.

Ginny has also offered a one-credit course on the Psychology of War, and she taught both Social Justice and Cross-Cultural Psychology online for the UWW program.  This latter course was cited in a Sloan-C survey on effective practices in online education as “a bridge to the lifelong, life-changing sensibilities that educators want.”  Ginny continued to explore her interest in online teaching in a paper she co-wrote with Sally Stebbins entitled, “The Teacher-Scholar Model of Online Education: A Skidmore Example.”

Over the course of her career, Ginny has edited one book and has published over 50 articles/book chapters, including a dozen since she came to Skidmore.  Her published articles deal with a wide range of topics, such as cross-cultural differences in perceptions of fairness (with studies conducted in cultures such as Turkey, Indonesia, China, Hong Kong, Germany, and Austria), children’s rights, justice and health-care decision-making, cultural differences in perceptions of the self, and analyses of a variety of community programs and projects for children and families.  Ginny also currently reviews papers for numerous journals in psychology and is a member of the editorial board of the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, a journal that focuses on issues related to mental health and social justice.

Outside of Skidmore, Ginny has also been active in the community.  In 2010, she presented an “Academic Minute” talk on NPR radio entitled, “The Search for Happiness.” And recently she gave a talk on the challenges of culture shock when moving to a new country for individuals taking an English as a Second Language class offered through the Literacy Volunteers program.

Ginny has been an amazing source of knowledge, information, ideas and help in moving forward department assessment efforts over the years. She and another department colleague also played a vital role in bringing the departmental Writing-in-the-Disciplines proposal to fruition, and she offered substantive contributions and insight to the departmental self-study in preparation for the recent external program review.  With her never-ending collegiality and relentlessly positive attitude, Ginny’s citizenship in the department and college has been remarkable in many ways, including her advising of six groups of first-year students in Scribner Seminars, her supervision of student independent studies and senior theses, and her eager participation in departmental endeavors.

After her retirement, Ginny plans to continue to work on a topic that she has been newly investigating, which concerns how different cultures construe notions of happiness or the “good life.”  Truly, she embodies a life of well-being, and we expect that Ginny will, indeed, be living the “good life” in her retirement!

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