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Eph SecState?

Which Eph is most likely to be Secretary of State in 2009? Probably Mitchell B. Reiss ’79, adviser to Mitt Romney.

Governor Mitt Romney, looking to bolster his foreign policy experience as he prepares for a 2008 presidential run, embarks Sunday on a week-long trip to Asia, making stops in Japan, China, and the Korean Peninsula, where he will tour the demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea.

Romney has made economic competition from Asia a centerpiece of his stump speech, often warning that the United States is falling behind the Far East in educating the scientists of tomorrow, a trend he believes will threaten America’s position as a economic and military superpower.

The trip is being paid for by Romney, not the commonwealth, Fehrnstrom said. Traveling with Romney will be Bob White, a close friend of the governor’s from Bain Capital who’s been instrumental in raising money for Romney’s political career, and Mitchell B. Reiss, a former director of policy planning for the US State Department who is now a vice provost at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

Previous EphBlog coverage of Reiss here. If not Reiss, then who?

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PIRG at Williams

What is the current status of MassPirg at Williams? Stories like this one explain why I have been fighting against the use of Williams funds for this rip-off for two decades. Previous EphBlog coverage here.

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Eph News

Many thanks to all the comments and suggestions with regard to our Eph News project. Per usual, I have dropped the ball and done nothing. Until today! To the right, you can see a new link to Eph News.

For now, this doesn’t do much. All we get are the results of a search in Google News for:

“Williams College” OR “Chris Murphy” and Congress

Still, it is a start. Now, we need to convince someone like Ronit Bhattacharyya ’07 to take ownership. He (or someone else) can easily redirect this link to a more full featured solution.

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Krissoff Summary

Thanks to Todd Gamblin ’02 for suggesting that we add a link to all posts which refer to 1st Lt Nate Krissoff, USMC ’03. We have added the link, which retrieves every relevant post. The link will stay until the Williams Memorial for Krissoff. I believe that this is scheduled for January, but I don’t have further details.

Those interested in the outlook of Marines like Krissoff during the holiday season may enjoy “A Soldier’s Christmas,” reprinted below.

Read more

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Not All That Liberal

Ephs for Guliani?

California conservative Republican Bill Simon [class of 1973] has begun building a network of support in the Golden State for the prospective presidential campaign of his old boss, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Simon, son of the late Secretary of the Treasury William Simon, was Republican nominee for governor of California in 2002. He was a prosecutor working for Giuliani, then U.S. attorney in New York City, in 1986-88.

Simon has been arranging get-acquainted meetings for Giuliani with prominent California conservatives to show them he is not all that liberal and really is a Republican.

“Not all that liberal?” Hmmm. Bug or feature?

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Ohnemus ’04 At Sea

Speaking of interesting new blogs, comes now Dan Ohnemus ’04 with a travel blog live from the edge of the world.

After two six-hour flights and a three-hour layover at LAX, we’re finally here in Honolulu! All of our luggage arrived too, including a checked bag containing some pretty important reagents frozen on dry ice this morning at 3 am. They’re now happily frozen in my hotel fridge.

Ohnemus will be sailing around the South Pacific during much of January, studying ocean life as part of a team led by Dr. Zackary Johnson of the University of Hawaii. The official team Web site (with Q&As, journals, scientific explanations and such promised) looks to be here, but Ohnemus will be doing separate updates.

(Big h/t Drew Newman ’04)

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Five Things

Five things you did not know about Dan Drezner ’90. Not so interesting. More fun would be a Record article on the same theme with Williams administrators.

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Feeling Green

Mike Crotty ’04 feels green.

A number of Michael Crotty’s fellow Williams College graduates have good jobs, some much better than others. But plenty of those in the Class of 2004 would trade places with Crotty in a heartbeat.

That’s because Crotty, who was a standout guard at Williams during his playing career, is in the middle of his second season as the director of player development with the NBA’s Boston Celtics.

A nice New Year story. There is a lot to be said for doing what you love.

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Duquette ’88 Gets No Credit

Old news:

On this day [Spetember 15, 2006] two years ago, the Mets’ lineup card included Jason Phillips, Eric Valent, Wilson Delgado and Jeff Keppinger.

The manager, Art Howe, was about to be fired. The general manager, Jim Duquette, was about to be demoted. The team was 20 games under .500, having endured the worst homestand in its history and the kind of ridicule now reserved for the Knicks.

The Mets’ top prospect, Scott Kazmir, had been traded for an injured pitcher. The top young player, Jos Reyes, was out with the seventh injury to his lower body. One of the relievers, Mike DeJean, was out because he had been allowed to pitch on a broken leg.

Left fielder Cliff Floyd summed up the state of the Mets at the time when he said, ”There isn’t any light at the end of the tunnel right now.”

Two years later, the Mets can see all the bright lights of the postseason. They are on the verge of clinching the National League East and winning their first division championship in 18 years. As they head to Pittsburgh, their magic number is down to 1.

No matter how the Mets fare in the playoffs, they will be defined by the speed of their turnaround. Major League Baseball has seen teams go from last place to first place in a year, but rarely has an organization recast itself so thoroughly in such a short time.

But doesn’t Jim Duquette ’88 deserve at least a little credit for the good season that the Mets had?

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Photo ID, #63

This one’s a little weird, I admit.

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Ficial

Coolest new Eph blog? Ficial by Chris Warren of OIT.

‘ficial’ is a not-word – one of those words that’s implied by other words but which doesn’t actually exist. For example, the word nonplussed (upset, taken aback, disturbed) implies the existence of plussed (content, happy, calm). Superficial is the anti-root of ficial

Read Chris on Blackboard.

The BB annual license fee is going up again. Not surprising.

It makes some sense, but with the decent and popular free options out there (moodle and sakai spring to mind) it seems like a dangerous move at first blush. However, it’s a balancing act. If they lose, say, 1% of their existing users over this, then they actually come out about 3.9% ahead with their 5% price increase. In this world where free software is an option a company will never get all the users. Some percent(x) of the users will use the company’s product, and the rest (100-x) will use something else. Say each customer is worth some value (v), then the company is trying not to maximize x, but x * v. It’s perfectly fine if x goes down as long as v goes up enough to compensate (and then some, ideally). It will be interesting to see as time goes on whether that balance point turns out to be 10,000s, 100,000s or 1,000,000 of dollars.

That being said, the free software seems to be getting better very fast, both from and end users perspective and from an administrators/installers perspective. Also, academia generally likes the idea of open source and free sharing – in many ways it’s what academics is all about. Unless BB starts providing a lot of functional improvements to go along with their price increases I think they could lose more customers than they expect over the next few years.

An academic institution like Williams should spend less money on software. Although a case can be made for a very few closed source applications, there is no plausible reason for something like Blackboard. Sounds like Chris is on the side of the angels on this one.

By the way, we still have one spot for a discussant in our Winter Study seminar. Perhaps Chris would be interested? He has clearly thought quite a bit about non-traditional forms of education, and it would be fun to have faculty/staff/alumni/students all represented in CGCL.

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Mad Cow

The latest Mad Cow is out.

Do you think that the new building in the middle of campus looks kinda funny? Eager to be a part of the next master race? Want to know if you should visit London on an economy airline? Wonder what the Waffle Club is all about? Or do you just have uncomfortably many limbs?
No matter what you’re looking for, you can find potentially spurious information in the pages of the Mad Cow, in a dining hall near you. If you aren’t on campus, or are too sleep-deprived to read right now, don’t worry–there’ll be a fresh batch deployed after break.

But how about an on-line version for those not an campus? If a Mad Cowian (Mad Cowite? Mad Cowista?) would send us a pdf, we would be happy to post it.

An article about “next master race” reminds me about the 3/5th vote controversy of 5 years ago. Don’t remember that one? Unfortunately, since my suggestion to include some history in the Diversity Initiative Report was ignored, there is no handy summary of the controversy. Nor can I add a new entry to the Campus Controversies section of Willipedia on the topic since old-alum logins don’t work.

For background on the dispute, see Seth Brown. Gerry Lindo’s op-ed remains must-reading on the topic.

So it is with Williams: the minorities are accused of having chips on their shoulders and everything they say is treated as hyperbolic leftist blabber.

This is the most frustrating part of minority politics on this campus. Few recognize the good faith of the activists and the genuineness of their grouses. When the Mad Cow debacle was playing out, I and several other black folk were not too offended at first – some jokes were made in questionable taste, we were made uneasy and that was that.

This was all that I, personally, wanted to get across, so that the editors (one of whom I knew well) would understand and not repeat the incident. Basically, I hoped it would be a quick “we didn’t like that at all,” followed by “OK, sorry about that, we’ll remember next time.” This, of course, is not what happened. The greater part of the escalation was a refusal to simply acknowledge our position. By the time a few people finally got it, the chaos was already upon us. No one came in to hang the Mad Cow, but that is precisely what happened.

Neither the first time nor the last that this particular sequence will play itself out at Williams.

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The new student center: Latest shots

Construction of the new Paresky Center (site of former Baxter Hall) is in its final stages. Three photographs of the building, taken during a recent hardhat tour, can be browsed here.

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The Graying Professoriate?

One of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2007, if Dave will have me given our wildly divergent world vews and periodic contretemps, is to write a bit more for Ephblog. We’ll see how long this resolution lasts.

Today’s Boston Globe has an article on the graying of the American professoriate. The debate comes down to a fundamental question: Does the increasing prevalence of over-70 professors limit job opportunities for younger scholars?

Any young professor, and perhaps more to the point, any young unemployed scholar, is well aware of a largely mythical bubble of senior faculty who for decades, we have been told, have been poised to retire en masse, leading to jobs for all. But if these people are not retiring, where do the jobs come from?

The reality is a bit different. Yes, the abundance of retirement-created jobs has never materialized. But this is not what is costing opportunities to young scholars or professors who desire upward mobility within the profession. As America grows, so too does its need for places in community colleges, colleges, and universities. Blaming senior professors — almost always our most accomplished folks — is too facile by half.

Such a mindset also places blame where it does not belong. Administrators would love to believe that there is a simple supply and demand formula at work, and that if only senior professors (with their higher salaries and pools of research and travel monies) would retire there would be ambrosia for all. But those same administrators, especially away from the ranks of the elite colleges and universities, in the places where most professors teach and most students learn, are the ones most likely to countenance the outsourcing of higher education to hordes of adjuncts and visiting lecturers beholden to a miserably competitive job market.

There is another factor at work as well, and that is, in many disciplines, the overproduction of PhD students. Having a PhD program is a sign of belonging to (or of wedging one’s program putatively within) the ranks of the elite. A PhD program confers status. Professors want to teach in a PhD-granting department. Chairs want to head PhD-granting departments. Deans want to oversee as many PhD-granting departments as possible. VPs and Provosts and Presidents and Chancellors and Trustees (Oh MY!) want their universities and their university systems to be granting as many PhD’s as possible. The problem is that much of this pressure for producing PhD’s occurs independently of whether these PhD’s are able to go out and get jobs in academia or in the private sector. That is to say, too many departments are granting too many PhD’s without regard for whether or not there is an actual need for those PhD’s.

There is no easy solution to this last problem. It would be shortsighted and foolhardy for only a tiny, Ivy-covered elite to produce all of the PhD’s. And it would go against many fundamental principles of freedom and liberty to encroach upon either an institution’s desire to grant PhD’s or a student’s desire to receive one. Nonetheless, those departments that grant PhD’s ought to be looking closely at their job placement rates to determine if they are granting too many doctorates.

Think about our own experiences as students in thre Purple Valley. Williams has had enough legendary professors whose classes we have taken. Surely none of us would want to jettison some of Williams’ most senior treasures in the vague hopes that a new generation of scholars need their shot and will prove as enduring as their predecessors. (Furthermore, I’ve seen no sign that Williams is not doing a fine job of balancing senior folks with vibrant junior faculty members.)

The graying of the professoriate — which seems to me to be a concept that arose independent of much evidence but that contains an idea too rich not to run with — is not a serious problem. The real dilemma is the lack of imagination at work among the people whose jobs it ought to be to have an imagination about the way higher education functions rather than simply to find new ways to count beans.

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Williams History on the Web

For those of you who don’t get Ephnotes, this site features some very interesting historical anecdotes and photos, as well as some great commentary on a few of Williams’ architectural disasters (generally during the 1960’s and 1970’s, although I also love the Hopkins Mall comment).

Here is one other interesting college-maintained page — you can see the historical costs of every construction project on campus.

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Life on Hold

More coverage of the funeral of 1st Lt Nate Krissoff ’03, USMC.

When terrorists struck the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, former Reno resident Nathan Krissoff put his life on hold to protect his nation.

A Truckee native, Krissoff died Dec. 9 from wounds sustained in a roadside bombing in Iraq’s Anbar province. The first lieutenant was 25 and a Williams College graduate who put his international affairs career on hold to join the military.

“He would not and could not stand idly by,” Marine Corps Capt. Michael Dubrule said Saturday during a memorial service for Krissoff in Reno. “The Marine Corps was a place where Nate could give back to his country and make a difference. Nate did make a difference.”

The standing-room only crowd filled Nightingale Concert Hall on the University of Nevada, Reno campus, where Krissoff was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart. The 90-minute service included “God Bless America,” the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and the Jewish mourners’ kaddish — a solemn prayer. Law enforcement motorcycles escorted the hearse carrying the flag-draped coffin to Mountain View Cemetery.

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During the memorial at UNR, Krissoff was remembered as a charismatic leader and a “modern-day knight” dedicated to protecting the Constitution. The names of presidents Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower were mentioned in remembering Krissoff.

After college and while working in Washington, D.C., Krissoff interviewed with the CIA but was told by the agency he was “too young,” says a memorial service program handed out Saturday. “… Being deeply affected by the events of 9/11, he decided that he wanted work on the front line in the Global War on Terror.”

Commissioned as a second lieutenant in August 2004, Krissoff was with the 3rd Marine Division, where he served as a counterintelligence officer. And Gov.-elect Jim Gibbons noted to mourners Saturday that Krissoff was sent to Iraq on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Acting on intelligence not long before his death, Krissoff helped save the life of an older Iraqi man from insurgents, Gibbons said. Stories like this from Iraq “rarely” make it into the mainstream media, said Gibbons, a combat pilot in the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars.

The Marines credit Krissoff with coming up with “pinpoint intelligence” information against “an enemy that hides behind civilians.”

This resulted from fact-gathering “up close and personal and often in the most dangerous places,” said Dubrule, the Marine captain who read comments from soldiers serving with Krissoff.

“Nate knew the danger, and he stepped in readily. His efforts helped save the lives of Marines, sailors, soldiers and innocent Iraqis.”

Krissoff was the son of Dr. and Mrs. William Krissoff and attended Roy Gomm Elementary School and Darrell Swope Middle School in Reno. He later attended Stevenson prep school in Pebble Beach, Calif., where he was a standout athlete.

He graduated from Williams in Massachusetts, where he earned a political science degree and was captain of the men’s swim team. He landed a job with an international studies institute in Washington before joining the Marines.

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“I think the thing that is most telling about his character is the fact that this is a young man with a whole lot of options available to him, and he wasn’t looking to learn a trade or a skill,” Dubrule said after the memorial. “He wanted to serve and give back to his country. That should be pointed out whenever you talk about Nathan Krissoff — that he was there for the right reasons.”

Condolences to all.

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Sarah Hart-Unger ’02 provides an update.

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Dan Blatt ’85 remembers President Gerald Ford.

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Ridin’ Dirty

Why isn’t this movie of a Good Question performance available on YouTube? (The audio is crystal clear but I couldn’t get the video to work.)

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Heroically Composed

Todd Gamblin ’02 writes:

We are also planning to make him a shadowbox with a folded flag, all of his medals, his Williams swimming and polo caps, a plaque, and other mementos.

The news report is accurate, and the concert hall was standing room only. The procession to Mountain View mortuary was also incredibly packed. As Nate’s father said to me, the overwhelming response is entirely due to Nate, and I think the number of people who came to his service does him more justice than anything I could say here. A remarkable number of swimmers (including myself) made it out on short notice. To give you an idea, one swimmer came all the way from China to see Nate. Two others, after missing the last flight out of New York on the 22nd, took a late flight to Sacramento and drove the rest of the way overnight.

The Krissoffs were heroically composed during the services, and don’t ask me how, but they knew everyone by face. They recognized me even though I don’t believe we ever met while I was at Williams. I hope that the overwhelming support made them at least somewhat happier in
knowing what kind of son they had. I was proud to be there to help
with what I think was the best send off we could have given Nate, and
it was totally deserved.

Other comments welcome.

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Modern Day Knight

AP coverage of the funeral for Nate Krissoff.

A former Reno man who suspended his career to enter the Marines after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks was praised at his memorial service as a “modern-day knight” who made a difference.

Nathan Krissoff, a native of Truckee, Calif., where his father is an orthopedic surgeon, died Dec. 9 from wounds received in a roadside bombing in Iraq’s Anbar province. The first lieutenant was a Williams College graduate who put his international affairs career on hold to join the military.

“He would not and could not stand idly by,” Marine Corps Capt. Michael Dubrule said Saturday during a memorial service for Krissoff in Reno. “The Marine Corps was a place where Nate could give back to his country and make a difference.”

The standing-room only crowd filled Nightingale Concert Hall on the University of Nevada, Reno campus Saturday, where Krissoff was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart. Law enforcement motorcycles escorted the hearse carrying the flag-draped coffin to Mountain View Cemetery.

I have been unable to locate any pictures from the event. Are any available? We would be happy to post them here.

During the 90-minute memorial, Krissoff was remembered as a charismatic leader and a “modern-day knight” dedicated to protecting the Constitution.

After college and while working in Washington, D.C., Krissoff interviewed with the CIA but was told by the agency he was too young.

Old editions of the Record are not on-line so I can’t easily document that, back in the day, campus radicals actively protested when the CIA came to campus to recruit. The lowlight of these activities came when these students performed a “citizen’s arrest” of the recruiter.

That all seems a long time ago.

Commissioned as a second lieutenant in August 2004, Krissoff was with the 3rd Marine Division, where he served as a counterintelligence officer.

Gov.-elect Jim Gibbons noted to mourners Saturday that Krissoff was sent to Iraq on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Acting on intelligence not long before his death, Krissoff helped save the life of an older Iraqi man from insurgents, Gibbons said.

See here for the full story.

Stories like this from Iraq rarely make it into the mainstream media, said Gibbons, a combat pilot in Vietnam and both Persian Gulf wars.

The Marines credit Krissoff with coming up with pinpoint intelligence information against “an enemy that hides behind civilians.”

This resulted from fact-gathering “up close and personal and often in the most dangerous places,” said Dubrule, the Marine captain who read comments from soldiers serving with Krissoff.

Are those comments available anywhere? Many Ephs who could not make the service would like to read them.

“Nate knew the danger, and he stepped in readily. His efforts helped save the lives of Marines, sailors, soldiers and innocent Iraqis.”

Krissoff was the son of Dr. and Mrs. William Krissoff and attended elementary and middle school in Reno and Stevenson prep school in Pebble Beach, Calif.

He graduated from Williams in Massachusetts, where he earned a political science degree and was captain of the men’s swim team. He took a job with an international studies institute in Washington before joining the Marines.

“I think the thing that is most telling about his character is the fact that this is a young man with a whole lot of options available to him, and he wasn’t looking to learn a trade or a skill,” Dubrule said after the memorial.

“He wanted to serve and give back to his country. That should be pointed out whenever you talk about Nathan Krissoff – that he was there for the right reasons.”

Indeed. If any EphBlog readers were at the funeral, we would appreciate knowing your thoughts on the service.

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Limp Wristers Vindicated

Faithful readers will recall our extensive coverage of Trustee Robert Scott’s ’68 (eventually successful) effort to force of out Phil Purcell, the semi-competent CEO of Morgan Stanley. Best part of the conflict was Senator Orrin Hatch referring to Scott and his allies as “limp wristed.”

The New York Times reports that Morgan Stanley has now followed the advice of Scott and his fellow limp-wristed, grumpy, old men.

He built it. Now he is taking it apart.

John J. Mack, in his boldest strategic move since he became chief executive last year, said yesterday that Morgan Stanley would spin off its slow-growing credit card unit, Discover.

For Mr. Mack, a mastermind behind the 1997 merger with Dean Witter, Discover & Company that brought Discover into the Morgan Stanley fold, the decision is a tacit recognition that the firm’s future success lies with its traditional heart, its lucrative trading and investment banking business.

“The soul is back,” said Anson M. Beard Jr., an advisory director at Morgan Stanley. Mr. Beard was part of a group of former executives who started a shareholder revolt that forced the departure last year of the previous chief executive, Philip J. Purcell. “You have to give John credit for that.”

Not really. Mack didn’t (seem to) do anything to help force out Purcell. In fact, he just sat and watched and then was rewarded when the board needed someone to run Morgan Stanley but, for whatever reason, refused to turn to Scott.

Perhaps Beard means that Mack deserves credit for realizing, after a decade of being wrong, that Morgan Stanley is much better off following the lead of Goldman Sachs: avoiding credit cards, retail brokerage and all the other detritus involved with normal clients while focusing on M&A and proprietary trading.

Better late than never.

Ties between Mr. Mack and the original group of eight Morgan Stanley dissidents have warmed noticeably in the last year. They had become strained when it became clear that top executives like Vikram S. Pandit and Joseph R. Perella would not return to the firm.

A few months ago, Mr. Mack invited Mr. Beard; a former president, Robert G. Scott; and a former chairman, S. Parker Gilbert, among others, to lunch at the firm’s headquarters, where he brought them up to date on his strategic thinking.

Must have been a bittersweet lunch for Scott. Although he must be pleased to see Purcell gone, and his vision for Morgan Stanley as a first and foremost a trading and advisory firm vindicated, the sight of John Mack in control must be a bit galling. Mack was very, very wrong a decade ago about what Morgan Stanley should do. Instead of being punished for this mistake, the fates have rewarded him with the CEO job and a $40 million payday, just for 2006. Where is the justice in that? Recall the history.

The Morgan Stanley Group, one of Wall Street’s elite investment firms, and Dean Witter, Discover & Company, which sells stocks and bonds to small investors, agreed to merge yesterday into the world’s biggest securities company in a transaction valued at $10.2 billion.

But the new firm faces the stiff challenge of integrating Morgan Stanley’s aristocratic culture, where managing directors routinely make millions of dollars a year for advising companies like AT&T, with the meat-and-potatoes environment at Dean Witter Reynolds, whose brokers ply their trade everywhere from suburban office complexes to small-town storefronts. In a way, the merger would be as if Sears and Saks Fifth Avenue decided to join.

Financial marriages, though, are easier contemplated than consummated. For example, Citicorp and American Express discussed a merger late last year and then discarded the idea.

The new company, to be named Morgan Stanley, Dean Witter, Discover & Company, would have a total stock-market value of $23.3 billion at yesterday’s closing price, compared with Merrill Lynch’s $14 billion. It would also have a total of $270 billion in assets under management, including mutual funds and individual accounts, the most of any securities firm.

Morgan Stanley’s stock soared by $7.875 a share on the New York Stock Exchange yesterday, to $54.25. Dean Witter’s shares gained $2 each, to $40.625. The deal was reported by The Wall Street Journal yesterday.

”It makes sense to pick your partner,” Richard B. Fisher, Morgan Stanley’s chairman, said at a news conference in midtown Manhattan yesterday. Mr. Fisher will become chairman of the executive committee of the new firm’s board of 14 directors, half drawn from Dean Witter and half from Morgan Stanley. ”We have initiated this and produced this opportunity together because we believe this is the strongest possible combination we could make.”

Philip J. Purcell, Dean Witter’s top executive, will become chairman and chief executive of the combined company. His No. 2 will be John J. Mack, now Morgan Stanley’s president.

”This is as close to an ideal merger as there is,” Mr. Purcell said. ”It may be a more gray and rainy day for some of our competitors.”

Morgan Stanley and Dean Witter had discussed working together intermittently during the last three years, the firm’s top executives said yesterday, and had even considered possible joint ventures in 1995. The logic, these executives said, was obvious.

But Dean Witter, which gained its independence from Sears, Roebuck & Company only in 1993, seems to have been the more hesitant of the two partners. Mr. Mack was determined to forge an alliance with a big Main Street firm and was fearful that if he did not succeed, his own company — even with equity capital of $5.4 billion — could become a takeover target.

Detailed discussions between Mr. Mack and Mr. Purcell began last summer, but it was only in recent weeks that it became clear that a merger would probably result, executives said yesterday. Both senior managements saw such combinations as Nationsbank’s takeover of Boatmen’s Bancshares, and even Salomon Brothers Inc.’s recent link with Fidelity Brokerage Services Inc. as evidence that it was better to move quickly before either company might itself attract the attention of other predators. The merger was clinched by the signing of a definitive agreement earlier this week.

The new combination, however, holds risks for both firms and for their clients and shareholders. Mergers of equals are notoriously difficult to carry out, and often one partner emerges as the dominant force, as the managment team at Chemical Banking has done in its merger with the Chase Manhattan Bank. Morgan Stanley and Dean Witter called meetings for today to get the merger moving as quickly as possible.

The people at the top of financial services firms, and particularly on Wall Street, are well-known for their powerful egos and ruthless plays for management power and huge financial compensation. This often makes smooth cooperation among senior executives difficult. At yesterday’s news conference, Mr. Purcell sat sandwiched between Mr. Fisher and Mr. Mack, both of whom have proved themselves adept board-room politicians at Morgan.

Morgan Stanley was formed in 1935 out of the bond department of the House of Morgan after the passage of the Glass-Steagall Act that separated the securities and banking businesses in reaction to the 1929 Wall Street Crash and the ensuing worldwide depression. It has always prided itself on its blue-blood heritage. Its 1995 annual report to shareholders trumpeted the principle that J. P. Morgan Jr., one of its founders, enunciated 62 years earlier: ”At all times the idea of only doing first-class business, and that in a first-class way, has been before our minds.”

Despite some digging, I have not been able to determine what Scott thought of the ill-fated merger with Dean Witter, back in 1997. Had he fought it or had he already lost out to Mack within Morgan Stanley? Scott also suffered a heart attack shortly after the merger was announced (and after he had been named to supervise the details). Perhaps that heart attack was the proverbial nail which allowed Purcell to win the boardroom battle to come.

Anyway, there is a great senior thesis to be written about the last 10 years at Morgan Stanley, and the evolution of the finance system of which it has been a part. A decade ago, smart people thought that the leading financial firms of the future would have a significant connection to average investors. I don’t know anyone who thinks that now.

Bob Scott has seen it all. Some smart junior ought to e-mail him and set up a phone interview. He is an engaging fellow and was kind enough to chat with a sophomore whom I put in touch with him last summer.

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Organic Chem Lord

Great description of one of the hardest classes at Williams.

Chem 342: Synthetic Organic Chemistry

For those with enough testicular fortitude, this class is interesting but the workload is constant and makes intro orgo look rather pale by comparison. Getting through this class with a decent grade is a blessing bestowed upon few. With Smith its a whole new world of pain, he’s a great prof and helps out a lot but with:

Weekly Problems sets averaging 6-8 hours as a minimum (more like 12-14);
Two “6 hour” take-home midterms that would frighten the bravest chemist;

This class is no joke. But if you’re willing to get your ass kicked for a semester the knowledge imparted upon you is vast and powerful…for you shall become an Organic Chem Lord…

The class is MUCH more difficult and MUCH more time consuming when taken with Professor Thomas E. Smith (who incidentally has the initials TES…which would mean something to you if you took this course).

Perhaps one of our chemist readers can explain the TES joke. Tom Smith is a member of the class of 1988. Kudos to him for teaching a rigorous class while maintaining the affection of his students. It is easy to teach a hard class. It is easy to have your students love you. It is not easy to do both.

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Merry Christmas

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May your holiday be as festive as the Thompson Chapel has been since November.

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And may your tree, if you have one, be more beautiful than this one, and not as tall.

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Pirates

Missed the homecoming show at Halftime? Or the halftime show at Homecoming? Either way, here is how it started.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, hermaphrodites and mennonites, kids of all ages and lovers of pages, landlubbers and film-dubbers, curvey wenches and players on benches, Enron execs and fans of T-Rex, spreaders of cheer and drinkers of beer, entomologists and scientologists, Demagogues, Candy hogs, Psychatogs, and scurvy dogs,

Welcome, to the 2006 Homecoming Halftime Extravaganza. Featuring the Ramblin’, Scramblin’, rope-jumpin’, bilge-pumpin’, shanty-singin’, cutlass-swingin’, jig-dancin’, wench-romancin’, never-beaten’, lime-eatin’, Wesleyan-defeatin’ Mucho Macho Moocow Military Precision Regimental Marching Band and Pirate Crew, featuring “Cap’n” Katy Dieber, Sunmi “Skipper” Yang, and Chris “two hooks” Caproni.

Was this as funny before Seth Brown ’01 started writing it? I don’t think so. Read the whole thing as a special Christmas Eve treat for the kids. They’ll love it! Arrrrgh!

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Pruning

A new year means changes in our Eph Blogroll. Your suggestions welcome! The following blogs have been inactive for 6 months, so I am pruning them. read them now before they disappear into the ether.

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The Old Way

Stephen O’Grady, Jr. ’98 suggests a new addition to our Eph Blogroll: Stephen O’Grady, Sr. ’68/’71. Although the main topic is exchange traded funds, the memories are nice as well.

We spent Saturday morning trucking these bags up to the Boro Hall for dumping(we recycle the bags). Overall 80 bags over the last few weeks.
The trips gave me time to reflect on how things change. The previous Saturday a truck of recent immigrants pulled up in front of our house. Six men exited, strapped on blowers and started on my neighbors lawn. Forty minutes later the lawn was cleared of leaves. As I have every year, I resolved to rake and bag my own leaves. Some savings financially, many hours spent but mainly I because it has become a tradition like my resolve to swim in the ocean in New England every Memorial Day weekend.

The bagging has been required for the past 5 years. Before that I either put them on a compost heat(which became too big) or dragged them across the street and dumped them on Boro owned land . That practice was banned and fines were threatened.

I got to thinking back to when I was a kid in first Hartford, Ct. and after that in Geneva Switzerland. This was before the time of political correctness and worry about the state of the environment.

I remember fall afternoons when my brother and I would help my dad rake leaves into piles. We would light a corner of the pile and slowly feed the pile into the flame. We would often feed too many leaves into the flame causing a large flare up. The leaf burning was always kept at some distance from the house. Part of the experience was diving into the piles of leaves as my father picked up the slack left by my brother and I. Mostly I remember the smell of the burning leaves. There were usually several neighbors burning leaves at the same time and the entire neighborhood was filled with the sweet and earthy smell. Nothing was rushed , always leisurely, a time for bonding. My Dad is gone, we are always rushed, we can’t burn but must bag and carry ,or hire illegals to do our work for us. I wish I could experience the old way again.

As do we all.

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Brains with Sex Appeal

Professor Stamelman’s book, Perfume: Joy, Scandal, Sin – A Cultural History of Fragrance from 1750 to the Present, gets a nice paragraph in the New York Times.

A good coffee-table book balances brains with sex appeal. Eye-popping pictures are not enough. “Perfume,” at first glance, looks like a bimbo but turns out to be a well-researched history of the subject, with wonderful historical illustrations from art and advertising. Richard Stamelman, a professor of romance languages and comparative literature at Williams College (and an honorary member of the Socit Franaise des Parfumeurs), adopts the right tone, recognizing perfume as one of life’s harmless pleasures while carefully documenting its history, and its alluring presence in the works of Baudelaire, Colette and of course Patrick Sskind, the author of the novel “Perfume.”

Seems like the perfect holiday gift for the brainy/sexy Eph in your life. College press release here.

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Happy Holidays

I just want to wish a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, to ask “Habari gani?” to those celebrating Kwanzaa, and to bid a “Festivus for the rest of us” to, well, the rest of you. I’ll save an airing of grievances for the New Year. In the meantime, Come fill your glasses up, and all that.

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Pay Scales

Catching up on our backlog of simple economics question, we have this 1995 letter to the New York Times from Professor Jay Pasachoff.

It seems odd that you choose to put an article on your June 12 front page that some college professors in Nassau County, Long Island, make more than $100,000. In view of the fact that Michael Ovitz, Hollywood’s top deal maker, just turned down a job with a $250 million salary, some 2,500 times more, and that new lawyers fresh out of law schools earn close to $100,000 from major New York firms, the real question may be why other professors don’t earn more than they do.

The question still remains why university professors should make so much less than comparably trained individuals in other professions.

Professor Pasachoff was kind enough to teach me basic astonomy 20 years ago. Allow me to teach him basic economics.

In a free society, your wages are determined, for the most part, by supply and demand. If there are a lot of people willing and able to do what you do, your wages will be low. If there are many firms eager to hire people like you, your wages will be high. Baseball shortstops are paid a lot of money, not because they spend years slaving away in graduate school, but because a) there are very few people who can do what they can do (hit major league pitching) and b) there are many teams (firms) that want to hire them.

There are complexities involved, of course. One reason that baseball players are so well paid is that it is relatively easy to judge their talent and measure their marginal contribution to the success of the team. The output of college professors can not be measured so easily.

But the key point is that there are thousands of people with Ph.D’s who would love to teach at places like Williams. The demand for college professors, at least at elite schools, is mostly fixed, but the supply is large and growing. Why should Williams offer someone $200,000 to teach when it can find dozens of excellent candidates willing to do the same job for $75,000?

Now, the fact that getting a Ph.D. involves years of effort does restrict the supply of professors. If a Ph.D. were quick, there would be tens of thousands of smart people who would want to teach at Williams! Even with the impediment of graduate school, there are still too many people chasing too few jobs.

And why is that? Why do so many people (like me!) get a Ph.D. in hopes of being a college professor when they could make more money (with the same training time) as a lawyer or doctor? Simple: Being a professor is much more fun than these jobs.

Supply and demand.

By the way, how many Williams faculty make more than $100,000 per year? I would guess at least 50 and more likely 100.

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