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Ephs Go to the Movies

The Williams Art Mafia is well known and justly celebrated. We pay less attention to a lesser but still remarkable phenomenon: The small but celebrated number of Williams alums who go on to have success in the movie industry. I was stricken by this when I watched John Sayles’ “Eight Men Out” the other night. Not only did Sayles direct and play a small role in the film, he also included Gordon Clapp and David Strathairn. I love movies as much as the next guy, but I am not a film buff, and I’m sure that others can fill in the blanks, but it seems to me that for a small liberal arts college with no film program, Williams has done remarkably well. Off the top of my head I can think of Sayles, Kazan (who, if his latest biographer is to be believed, did not much cherish his time in the Purple Valley), and Frankenheimer. And this does not take into account folks who have successfully written for the big screen — a more logical and expected accomplishment — such as Charles Webb, whose book was transformed into the screenplay for The Graduate. I would suppose that one possible explanation is both the most self-serving but also might be close to the truth: someone who graduates with a liberal arts degree from a place like Williams is likely to be able to succeed in just about any field of endeavor. Maybe a closer argument isa that Williams actors and directors tend to come from the theater, an art for which Williams is rightly well known. Still, it is striking that Williams has produced several innovative and brilliant filmmakers.


Photo ID, #41

This one is an easy one, but a nice one just the same. There are at least five notable buildings visible from this vantage point. Click for the extremely large version, if you want wallpaper or something.



The Eph Is Right

Bill McGrath ’04 writes in:

I saw this story on Williams athletics page and thought it might be interesting to the ephblog readers. A senior on the softball team won almost 50k in prizes on “The Price Is Right” during their spring break trip. It is airing on April 7th.

The story also mentions that Christine “Twink” Williams ’06 is 2 for 3 in stolen base attempts. Three stolen base attempts? I am no expert on softball, but one of the central points on Moneyball is that trying to steal bases is a bad idea. Does the same apply in softball? In college softball? In Division III college softball? There is a great senior thesis to be written about this.

Also, did Twing use her Eph brains in playing the game by, for example, strategically placing her guesses just above those of other contestants. (Is that the right strategy for the game? My memory is dim.) If you watch the show, let us know. Better yet, tape it and put it on the web. We need an Eph Tube. Calling WSO!

Director of Sports Information Dick Quinn was kind enough to mention both that article and an interesting interview with Matt Levine ’74, founder of CityLax. Best part:

I also see it as a good vehicle to help the effort to reshape/improve New York City Public Schools. This is one baby step. Lots of hard work ahead, but we are off to a good start. If we can create a “pocket of greatness” in one NYC public school, I hope others will follow.

Great stuff.

EphBlog desperately needs a blogger with an interest in Eph sports to provide more links to stories like these. Jeff Zeeman does the best that he can, but he is only one man! Consider joining us.


Eph Diary: The Politics of Katrina

This entry will deviate a bit from a strict definition of “all things Eph,” but when David Kane wants Williams pictures, he gets pictures; when he wants an Eph Diary, he gets an Eph Diary, and when he wants more information about the political economy of the situation, he will most certainly get as much. While sorting books, we met the AmeriCorps team that is working in New Orleans (more on AmeriCorps below), so I am now a bit more qualified to talk about the politics of that area.

Hands On Gulf Coast — formerly run by Hands On USA and now by Hands On Network — has a core mission, which is to rebuild the community by rebuilding houses so that people can move back into them. You have doubtless heard of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, the poorest and most flooded area of the city. Hands On does not rebuild houses in the Lower Ninth Ward, because there is some probability that the whole area will be demolished in the end anyway, and my guess is that any other volunteer organizations in the city have the same policy. Thus, no one can move back into houses in the Lower Ninth Ward (unless they can pay for a contractor) and so there is no community there for people to return to, which is a bit of a self-propogating cycle (the government says the area might not be rebuilt, so the houses aren’t rebuilt, so there’s no community there, so there’s no reason to rebuild the area, etc.).

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The Williams Art Collective seems like a great idea.

In short, the Williams Art Collective has two main concerns, exhibition of student art and funding/support for community art projects. We have already put on three shows, WA-BAM!, Old-Fangled, and On the Green. The first two were ongoing exhibitions in Schow Atrium and Dodd Living Room, respectively (at Williams College, Williamstown, MA, if you need a wider frame of reference). On the Green was an outside show and therefore had to be dismantled on the same day it was set up. But it was all kinds of cool too. This year, the WAC hopes to bring many more shows of student art to all corners of campus. You’ll know when a show’s coming up by our awesome posters.

We would love to have a WAC member as an author at EphBlog. We have hundreds of readers, many of whom would enjoy viewing a new art work by a Williams student/professor each week. WAC has students who want their art work viewed. Surely this is a match made in heaven . . .

Display your art here.


Class of ’63

There is an amazing senior thesis to be written about the members of the Williams class of ’63 — 1863, I mean. Start here. Although I have linked to this site before, I can’t help but click through the biographies. Could Charles McAllister be related to our fellow EphBlogger Professor James McAllister? Unlikely, but not impossible. What will my paragraph say at ny 40th reunion in 2028? What will yours say?


DJ Backside

Interesting story about one of the cooler (OK, definitely the coolest) Eph alums around. Here is her website:


A Million Pieces

Marc Lynch often writes beautifully. Never more so than here.

Today is my daughter’s third birthday. She woke up early, singing “happy birthday” to herself, and when I made it into her room she was already out of bed, jumping up and down, with Mom and brother watching enraptured. When she opened her first present, a ballet tutu, I thought she would literally vibrate into a million pieces of pure joy. Me too.

Today I went to the funeral of Aidan Crane, son of my friend Sam Crane. Aidan died on March 19, fourteen and a half years old.

Sam loved his son. For fourteen and a half years, he and his wife and daughter nurtured Aidan’s body and spirit. They loved him and cared for him in ways which I can only dimly comprehend. A daily routine of the most basic physical care developed into true communication, a true communion, a love whose depth I can fathom, as a parent, but whose meaning I may never truly appreciate. To say that Sam handled his son’s disability with grace would be profoundly unfair: he accepted Aidan for who he was, and allowed Aidan to change his life in ways which make him the person he is today.

What I learned from Sam and from Aidan is to fully appreciate every moment with my children, the physical experiences, the nuance, the meaning of a slightly cocked head or the love found in a fleeting expression. When I hold my daughter tonight for her birthday, I know that I’ll cry thinking of Aidan and Sam. Sam never had such moments with Aidan. But he had something else.

Today I mourn Aidan’s death and revel in my daughter’s life. Both honor Aidan’s spirit.

As should we all.


Eph Diary: More Spring Break with Katrina!

Diana and a few other Williams students are off in Northern Louisiana sorting donated books and hanging out by a beautiful lake, but the rest of us are still here working in Biloxi. Today a group of us got to work with the Salvation army, preparing and serving lunches to 350 volunteers. We spiced up their lunch experience with some general silliness and dancing in the lunch line. It was great to meet some other volunteers and see how many people are donating their time to help out here on the gulf coast. We also absolutely loved working with the Salvation Army people, who are helping coordinate large-scale resource distribution in this area…we basically fell in love with them.
Some other members of the Williams team worked on the “Tree Crew,” which actually meant moving a lot of debris, as well as cutting up and removing fallen trees from people’s yards. They were awed by tree climbing and roping mastery of their crazy leaders and are now skilled in the art of avoiding these chainsaw-bearing hippies.
Also…drumroll…the Salvation Army had more bananas than they knew what to do with (we’re talking cases and cases), so we dropped some off at a local church; the rest we brought back and turned into scrumptious banana bread to feed the hungry masses at Hands On.
All in all, it was a wildly fabulous and wildly productive day.
–Katie Craig, Liz Gleason, Kim Taylor, Julia Sendor, Zoe Fonseca, and Whitney Leonard (all class of ’08)


Math Less Travelled

Brent Yorgey ’04 has a beautifully formatted blog “dedicated to exploring beautiful mathematics.” Brent notes that:

There is tons of beautiful mathematics out there which is accessible without an advanced degree in mathematics — but not much of it is taught in high school, either because teachers do not have a good grasp of the mathematics outside their set curriculum, or because it is deemed “irrelevant” or “not useful”. While I agree that one goal of education is to make sure students acquire useful skills, certainly another goal is to arouse students’ wonder and curiosity — and this is where current mathematical education (at least in the U.S.) seems to fail so miserably. I doubt this little blog can ever really make up for such a big hole in modern math curricula, but at least I hope that a few students might read it and be inspired to consider that maybe — just maybe — math isn’t quite so boring as they thought…

Great stuff. I hope to convince Brent to do some guest posting at EphBlog as well, both with math items and with thoughts on being a math teacher. There are scores of students at Williams right now considering teaching, either as a career or as a first job after college. Many would be eager to read about Brent’s experiences.


Central Asia Democracy Project

Alan Cordova’s ’06 homepage is, uh, colorful but many of the links don’t work for me. His thesis involves some sort of Central Asia Democracy Project. Seems interesting. Alas, I couldn’t find any more information on it.


Writing Jerkshop

Evan Miller ’06 has a fun pdf on how not to be a jerk as a writing tutor.

Marissa told you last week how the Workshop has had some problems with being seen as a bunch of jerks. Fortunately, one of those problems graduated in June. (It’s progress.) There is still work to be done to improve the Workshop’s public image. For example, one of my friends continues to call us the Writing Jerkshop. He is probably just bitter. In any event, Marissa doesn’t like this state of affairs, and so she called on me to explain to the workshop why and how not to be a jerk. Those of you who know me may be second-guessing her choice of speaker for this particular task. They say you learn best by teaching.

Indeed you do.

Hmmm. What writing-better-than-thou-elitists do we know who graduated in 2004? ;-)


Eph Diary: Spring break excitement on the Gulf Coast

Today I did surveying again, and this time we actually got to survey people, rather than just advertising a meeting! The survey is 52 questions with demographic information, and then questions on what the person liked about Biloxi before the hurricane, what they think the highest priorities should be after the hurricane, and what they think the most pressing issues for the city are. The idea of the surveys is that the Coordination and Relief Center will compile the information about what the citizens of East Biloxi want and give that information to the mayor and city planners, so that they will either have to take that information into account when they plan what will happen next, or they will have to knowingly go against what the city’s people want.

We first went to two trailer parks, which are not trailer parks in the traditional sense, but just fields full of FEMA trailers that have sprung up after the hurricane. This was to survey people who had lived in East Biloxi before the hurricane, but who were living elsewhere after the storm. Most of the people were not home — who would stay in a tiny trailer on a Saturday if they didn’t have to — but I surveyed one woman who was home. She was 20 and had two small children, both about two or three years old, and they were all home watching Saturday morning cartoons. She was African-American, and worked cleaning casinos before the hurricane. I realized later that I’m 20, too, so we were the same age, but living very different lives.

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Where’s The Love for Love Notes?

The College’s love notes are leading to a great deal of anxiety on College Confidential.

As someone who has not gotten one an “early write,” I think it’s bad what they’re doing. I think the college admissions process – at least for those applying to schools like Williams – is too stressful as it is, and I think it is unfair they have anxious applicants running to the mailbox every day.

I also think that there is something wrong with the way that accepted applicants are essentially being ranked, especially at a school as small as Williams where if you choose to attend (after not receiving an early write) you might be one of only 100-200 in your class.

I don’t think there’s a problem with rolling admissions, but I think there is a problem with rolling acceptances. If they wanted to do this they should have been up front about it AND they should also have sent out each decision when they were ready, not just acceptances.



Eph Diary: Spring Break with Katrina, end of the first week

Today a group of 10 Williams students went to the local elementary school to do “tutoring.” Unfortunately for us, the most pressing need at the school today was sorting books, so we didn’t get to talk to individual children or do any tutoring. However, I love sorting, and I love books, so it was all right. This school had a lot of its books destroyed in the hurricane, which was terrible, and then it got a huge number of donated books from everywhere in the country, which is also overwhelming.

We went through perhaps 20 boxes of books, sorting them by type (picture book or chapter book) and genre (part of a series, has “God” in the title, Disney or television character books) and boxing them up again. The good thing is that the books are very well sorted. The bad thing is that we didn’t really accomplish anything tangible; we just moved books around.

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Electronic Community

I truly miss the extended electronic community which sprang up around Williams and Tripod in the mid-90s, and which was just as abruptly cut short by the decision to terminate alumni accounts.

In those days, I could sit in Berkeley or Paris, and communicate with Williams friends and students, just as I often did while on campus. I’ll have to tell you about that later.

Another tale from that era emerged as I was chiding an young sysadmin who took an hour out of my day today:

Mail (POP) and web were offline for about 45 seconds, but was pingable the whole time.

Some images on did not load the first time when back up, and came up in the wrong fonts…

Being inside your own network can be a real pain when troubleshooting. Back in ’94 for or so, someone hacked the SUMEX-AIM archive at Stanford (then the largest ‘shareware’ archive) and uploaded a folder called “KIDDIEPORN” with just that inside.

Whoever did this was also bright enough to manipulate the servers so that, from inside the domain, you would see the original content of the site.

Stanford’s on-duty sysadmin was one embarrassed puppy when I called him up to let him know, and then reported the incident to CERT, with the footnote “Berkeley 1, Stanford 0.”

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Photo ID, #40

Somewhere on campus, there is a white spiral staircase (outside, obviously). Where is it? Did you ever climb it? What makes the building against which it ascends special and unique?



Eph Diary: Spring Break with Katrina, part II

Today I did “animal rescue” with another volunteer and the long-term volunteer that does it every day. First, we organized the warehouse where they keep the cat and dog carriers and cages and everything that they can give out to people, including assembling a lot of cat and dog carriers. We really made the warehouse (which was the space under stadium bleachers, in a stadium owned by the Salvation Army) look much better.

Then the “animal rescue” began in earnest. We had a certain section of East Biloxi to cover, so we drove down every street, and every time we saw a dog or cat, we stopped. We asked the people nearby (because there were almost always people nearby) who owned the animal, to which the answer was usually “I do.” We asked them if they would like food for the animal, to which the answer was usually “oh, that would be great, thanks,” so we gave them cat or dog food — and a lot of it — from the supply in the warehouse. We also asked if the person wanted to keep the animal, and usually they did, but in a few cases they were just feeding it because it was a stray that hung out on their property, so we put them on a list to come get the animal next week. (At the end of March, they will drive a cargo van load of animals “up north” to be adopted.)

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Eph Diary: Spring Break with Katrina

About 50 Ephs are or will be in the Gulf Coast this spring break, helping to clean up and rebuild after hurricane Katrina. I’m in Biloxi with about 15 current students and a few alums, and we’re demolishing houses, scraping mold, building things, and anything else that needs doing. I’ll be cross-posting my blog posts about my experience on EphBlog. I’ll start with my entry from yesterday. The other entries follow in reverse chronological order; I’ll post new ones as separate entries in the days ahead.

Building and surveying

Yesterday I worked on building a ramp for what will be a clinic in a town outside of Biloxi, near the border with Alabama. I painted some boards white, and then I cut strips of tar paper, and then for a very long time, I hammered “joist hangers,” which are these metal things that help to hold the joists up. The joists are the boards under the walkway that go perpendicular to the direction you walk, and the joist hangers help to hold them to the edges of the walkway. Each one had 10 nails, which I nailed in. This took me a very long time. Eventually that was the only thing left to do, so the two men and the other Williams student (a boy) hammered the rest of them in with me, which took only about 10 minutes (it took me a few hours to do the first half). My arm was kind of tired from hammering for a few hours.

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Eph Music Video

See for yourself. But that’s just the trailer. Where is the whole video? And does Morty really make an appearence?


Shooting the Shooters (Photographers, That Is)

There’s an article in the North Adams Transcript about Eliza Segell ’04, a documentary producer. As often happens, she fell into the job through a combination of happenstance and seizing the moment:

After graduation, Segell could not have foretold where she is now. She had done quite a bit of film work in college, but half a year out found herself living at home with her parents in New York City, freshly fired from a coffee shop job. She ended up getting a job as a researcher with a documentary company as a researcher.

The studio had a job to make a 15-minute documentary about three photographers for a nonprofit group. Four days before it was ready to begin, the producer who was making it abruptly left the company.

“I wrote a letter to the head of the company,” said Segell, “and said ‘I think I could this, I’d really like to interview these photographers, I have an interest in photography, and I’d really like for you to give me a chance at this job.’ I think if I had thought that he would have agreed, I never would have had the guts to do it, but then, to my great surprise, the executive producer said ‘Well, you know, we’re in a pretty tough spot, so I guess you’re getting on a plane in three days.'”

At this point she’s made 10 documentaries in 14 months, and her work was recently shown at the Images Cinema in Williamstown.


Pipe Bomb

Some stories (this one from Ken Thomas ’93) are too good to be left in a comment thread.

Salem Gafsi ’92 died during his freshman Christmas break, in a garage in the suburbs of Washington, while trying to assemble a pipe bomb device with friends. He was, I believe, the son of the Saudi Ambassador to the United States.

According to reliable sources, a portion of the chemicals he procured for those devices– all easy to obtain– were taken from the basement chemistry storerooms in Bronfman, just down from what was then the Computer Science laboratory.

For so short a time, Salem lived in Williams D. I remember his face from “Freshman Days,” as they were called then, and it was as doe-eyed and seemingly innocent as any of ours. And I add, as a cautionary footnote, that in those years several Ephs who now lead corporations possessed The Anarchist’s Cookbook, experimented with the production of thermite, and made far more serious proposals for its use than Frank’s offhand comment above.

They did not, of course, take those plans to action.

We are all Ephs. Are we all Ephs?

Vaguely, I remember– and try to recall more of– my short conversations and interactions with Salem. In the realm of linguistic diversity, which I consider a more important and concrete goal than the forms of “diversity” we now pursue, I wonder what it might have meant if some young Eph had been able to engage Salem in Arabic.

How his history might have been different if some Eph had journeyed with him, that Christmas in the Winter of ’88. How all our histories might, just perhaps, have been very different if he had survived those dark times, if, somehow, he had come to meet and converse with Noah Feldman, if Noah had already mastered a bit of Arabic at that point.

Both John Kennedy and Jack Sawyer prayed that we would explore such paths, and solve such problems, decades before. I keep pictures of Lindsay Morehouse, Howard Kestenbaum and Brian Murphy above my desk, to remind me of our duty– and the significance of our individual and everyday actions, and the price of the correct path, when it is not taken.

Perhaps it is time to add Salem’s FaceBook picture to those memorials.

We owe them more.

Whatever our differences– whatever our politics– whatever the meaning of Wiliams’ current “Diversity Initiatives”, or the intense partisanship of the current American Congress– we owe the fallen more than our petty factionalism and ideological blindness.

And the stakes of understanding have never been higher.



Berkshire Idol

If you ask me, there’s nothing more American than an “American Idol” knockoff. The mass reproduction of a winning concept, democracy in action, boob tube-ism … it’s great. Unfortunately for some, the Chinese authorities seem to have had the same idea.

But there’s no problem with Idol-like ventures around these parts. In an event designed to raise money for a pair of local charities, Berkshire Idol auditions are scheduled to begin April 1 in North Adams, with a final event set for April 29 at Drury High School.

And the slate of celebrity judges is nothing short of outstanding. Williamstown pop sensation Ananda Rose and Williams College stalwart Bernice Lewis are on board, as is Williamstown Theatre Festival artistic director Roger Rees, this year’s Baccalaureate speaker. The latter has the potential to bring a non-deranged, benevolent Simon Cowell vibe to the proceedings, which I think we can all agree is a good thing.

I’m tempted to go all Diddy on everyone and start throwing “Vote or Die” references around, but I won’t. If you’re in the area, you should check it out.


Coleman ’90 Creates Board Game

Associate Director of Admissions Gina Coleman ’90 has created a board game for helping students with college admissions.

According to Coleman, children who attend private schools have an edge because, early on, they are “grilled about standardized testing” and “have recruiters from all different schools come in.”

She said private-school students are well aware that they have to provide teacher and guidance counselor recommendations and that they must create a personal essay when applying to colleges and universities.

“They’re savvy to the fact that some schools don’t require standardized testing and other schools do,” said Coleman. “They’re much more savvy about early decision, early action, regular decision, rolling admission.”

Coleman created “Quest for College” with the county’s rural public-school students in mind.

“A lot of (ninth-grade) kids in public schools don’t realized that we’re looking, starting now,” she said. In addition, “A lot of public-school students don’t realize that the things that they do outside the class have a great impact on the college process and how they fare in the college admissions process.”

“The game itself is something of a progression,” said Mark W. Robertson, assistant director of admission at Williams. “You start with joining your first club, your first PSAT, up through studying for the (SAT) test, improving, taking honors classes and an AP class perhaps later your junior or senior year.”

Color me skeptical. How many high schoolers would actually spend time playing this board game? More thorough, honest and free information is wonderful, but a board game just seems unlikely to do much good precisely because it will not be much played. How many, say, Mount Greylock Regional High School students are going to troop to the college councilor’s office during their free period and play a few rounds? Then again, my daughters love Monopoly!

Better would be Coleman with a blog, a place where she could make her thoughts and insights on the admissions process available to all, rich and poor, rural and urban. If you really want to break down the advantages that applicants from places like Phillips Exeter have, you should start by providing, on-line, all the key tips that Coleman knows so well. She could even lead a group blog with other admissions officers like Roberston ’02.


Nice Article On Future Eph

Eph athlete recruits get a lot of attention (much of it negative) here at Ephblog, so it’s nice to see a story about a big-time athletic recruit (ranked one of the top ten basketball seniors in Delaware — granted, that is Delaware and not California) who will likely contribute to campus in a number of ways beyond success on the hardwood.


In Memoriam: Aidan Martin Crane

It was with sudden sadness and shock that I came across the news of Aidan’s passing:

Aidan Martin Crane, October 18, 1991 – March 19, 2006.

Words escape me, as does the futility of words.

In the middle of our Monday morning staff meeting, I had been looking for Rachel Barenblat’s exact words,

“I know how difficult that is for me as an outsider to each situation; I can only marvel at how difficult it must be for you as a parent.”

and I quickly came, again, to Sam’s words,

“Never have I felt a pain so deep, a hurt so overwhelming. That is how it should be, I suppose, when a child dies. But that is not the only thing in my mind…”

In this moment, I am amazed at the pain in my own head, the sudden disorientation and cognitive dissonance, the rush of my mind to many other things, events, happinesses, and profound losses.

What must it be like for Sam?

I can only return to litany, to reciting the Kaddish, and the hope, that all our thoughts and prayers now be with Sam, with Maureen, and with their family.



An anonymous Eph was kind enough to send a copy of the recent article from Harpers & Queen on Bethany McLean ’92. Alas, I can’t find it on-line. But there are always fun comments on the web.

Inwardly I fought renting Enron–The Smartest Guys in the Room, predisposing that it raised the rebel flag and supported the farce fantasy of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911. However, after internalizing the documentary it is my opinion that Bethany McLean is a heroin; that young girls should receive encouragement to become like her. She is remarkable and is one of America’s most beautiful women. Ms. McLean wrote a column for Forbes “Is Enron Overpriced” and asked why the fortune 500 company was trading at such huge multiples. She forced herself against the current, which took courage and resolve. BRAVA

Having met Bethany a few months ago, I can confirm her beauty, but then again I think all Eph women are beautiful. Very few, however, can match Bethany’s amazing dimples. If you have an interest in business, you ought to read her book.



No one back in the 1980s predicted that Williams would be involved with these sorts of talks in two decades.

As visibility and activism of transgendered and gender-variant students has grown, school administrators, facutly and staff need to increase their understanding of basic issues related to transgender experience. This interactive workshop will improve participants’ awareness, comfort and skills with transgendered individuals enabling us to better serve all members of our campus community.

My question: What sorts of talks will be occuring at Williams in 2026 that no one today can imagine?


Pat Duquette (’93) and the BC Eagles

The estimable Bob Ryan has a story in Today’s Boston Globe in which my classmate Pat Duquette (’93) features prominently. Duquette, the Williams basketball captain in 1992-1993, climbed the ranks at BC and is a respected assistant coach who surely will have his shot at big-time coaching in the future.

This is the one time of the year when Williams’ status as a Division III school (albeit a DIII powerhouse) comes home to roost. Having not gone to a big-time school as an undergrad, and having grown up in New England, I have always naturally gravitated toward Boston College and so am a big fan of their sports programs. I attended mid-majors for my MA and PhD, so I have some ties, but in this Big Dance, I am all about the Golden Eagles from the Heights. Pat’s successes thus provide nice symmetry for my rooting interest. March might eb the one time of the year when I lament, at least a little, not having had that major college sports experience. I wonder if any other sports fan Ephs feel similarly.


I Felt Sick

Ben Kamilewicz ’01, currently serving in Iraq, earns a mention in an article about the biathalon.

Biathlon is a war game. Soldiers who ski fast and shoot straight have historically made up its personnel. But at these Olympics, the military is nearly missing from the team sent here by the world’s mightiest military competitor.

Tracy and Lanny Barnes, 23-year-old twins, are shooting and skiing for America in the Italian Alps. They trained on a new trail in Fort Kent, Maine, built by a nonprofit rural-development project, the Maine Winter Sports Center. Though they were “approached several times,” they say, the twins didn’t follow the tracks of past U.S. biathletes to the National Guard’s sports outfit, based near the Army Mountain Warfare School in the Green Mountains of Vermont.

“Our mom strongly opposed us joining for fear they would send us to war,” the twins write in a jointly signed email. Another mother, Gretchen Kamilewicz, knows the feeling. “I’m not a lover of the military,” she says. “When Ben told me he was joining, I felt sick.”

Her son, Ben Kamilewicz, skied cross-country for Williams College and taught high school until the National Guard recruited him onto its biathlon team. That was early in 2001. For four years, he trained full-time, learning to cross-country ski his heart out, pause to let his heartbeat drop, and then fire a rifle at a target. In 2004, he raced for the U.S. at the World Cup in Alberta. He had hopes of making the Olympic team.

But his unit was called up last summer, and now, at 29, he is spending his days on Humvee patrol in Ramadi, Iraq.

“My experience in the sport of biathlon,” he writes in an email from Ramadi, “has been filled with many wonderful adventures that have led me to many exciting places, and at the end of my journey, by some twist of fate, to the wretched war zone of Iraq.”

“This wasn’t in the cards,” says his father, Dexter Kamilewicz, a real-estate man in Maine. “Ben had a passion for the sport. He wanted to compete. Now his focus is on surviving. That takes as much effort and concentration as it does to be a world-class athlete.”

Or more.


1) Don’t join the military for the, uh, sports.

2) The National Guard needed to get its priorities in order. War is good that way.

3) I like to imagine that Ben’s outlook on military service is more positive than the writer portrays it in this article. It would be interesting to read the whole e-mail.

4) It would be nice to hear more from Ben. Perhaps Dick Quinn will write a story about him. See here for a marvelous one about Marine Jerry Rizzo ’87.


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