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Broadband – Philosopher of Mystery …

and one of this blog’s frequent contributors of views on philosophy, morals, and inter-personal relationships. His views are often at the center of controversy for their startling insights.

But what of David Broadband, the man? Little is known or can be gleaned from his quite long-ish and often dense comments.

Did he, in fact, go to Williams?  Was he once driven through Williamstown on a ride to a correctional facility? Or is the first rule of Broadband, we don’t talk about Broadband?

Here is the only known photo of him in a Williams locale. But, it may be a cleverly-done photoshop fake.

Your theories or direct knowledge about Broadband are welcomed! Let’s fill in the broad blanks of this enigma.

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Tiger Purchases

One of the financial services that I subscribe to reports on the holdings of Chase Coleman’s ’97 Tiger Global Management hedgefund.

Charles Coleman founded Tiger Global with the blessing of [Julian] Robertson in 2001 to focus on Technology stocks. Coleman has stayed true to his roots as Technology stocks make up almost 50% of his $4.7B reported portfolio. Thanks to a new investment in Visa (V) and a modest increase to an existing investment in MasterCard (MA), the firm also has a healthy investment in credit card issuers.

I heard through the finance grapevine that Robertson is Chase’s godfather. True? Below the fold are new (equity) positions as of June 30, 2008. Comments?

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Better Education

Josh Kraft ’89 in the Boston Globe.

Josh Kraft looks so uncomfortable he might turn i nside out. He is jiggling his legs. Wincing. Leaning way back in his chair, as if willing himself into the next office.

“Ah, is this going to be about me?” he asks. “I got no problem talking about the clubs, but ah . . . I don’t want to. . . . I’m just uncomfortable. . .”

Kraft took over as head of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston this month. And though everybody you talk to says he has a boatload of qualifications for the job, sitting still for interviews about himself isn’t among them.

Kraft, 41, is the third of Bob and Myra Kraft’s four sons. His parents, of course, are the bazillionaires who own the New England Patriots.

Born on third base, Josh Kraft is under no illusion that he hit a triple.

“I grew up in the lucky DNA club,” he says. “I’m very fortunate.”

He knows his parents’ wealth has sometimes gotten him breaks he might not have deserved. This job isn’t one of them. Never interested in any of the family businesses, he started as an intern at the Boys & Girls Club in South Boston, after graduating from college 18 years ago. There he chased down 20 at-risk children who were skipping middle school, staying on them every day to make sure they didn’t drop out.

“I got a better education at D Street and Old Colony than I ever got at Williams College,” he says. “It was life-changing.”

Indeed. Read the whole thing.

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Endowment Returns?

Does anyone know how the Williams endowment performed during the latest fiscal year, ending June 30, 2008? Harvard did well.

arvard University’s endowment fund posted strong annual gains, finishing the fiscal year ending in June up 7 percent to 9 percent, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The numbers are particularly impressive given the relatively weaker performances by rival endowments and pension funds, which are struggling in the current market, The Journal noted.

According to The Journal, the $35 billion endowment was boosted by investments in commodities, Treasurys and some strong hedge-fund performers.

Still, the results fell well-short of the endowment’s average annual return rate of 15 percent over the previous decade, the newspaper noted.

To make 8% in this time period is very impressive. I doubt that Williams did as well. As usual, it is endlessly annoying that the College is not more transparent. You can be certain that the members of the Investment Committee (pdf) have the preliminary numbers for Williams. Why not share them with the rest of us?

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Bicentennial Medal Winners Announced

See here for the overview. Who will update our Wikipedia listing? Note that these awards are for “distinguished achievement in any field of endeavor.” Under what definitions of these terms does not a single Eph veteran of the Long War qualify while a renowned slam poet does? Just asking!

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Peabody Interview

Interesting interview with Bo Peabody ’94. Here is an overview and some highlights:

“Stock lockup” is a term remembered with horror by many entrepreneurs who weren’t allowed to sell their dot com shares before the bubble burst. Bo Peabody founded Tripod, which was sold to Lycos for $58 million in stock. The terms of the sale forced him to hold onto his stock for two years — while its value happened to increase ten-fold. He also happened to sell his shares just two months before the bubble burst. This lesson in luck was not lost on Bo, who wrote a book titled Lucky or Smart? However, his luck didn’t come out of nowhere. In our interview, he describes the years he spent developing his business even before the Internet was commercially available. He’s now helping entrepreneurs build businesses in parts of the country where venture capitalists typically don’t tread through his venture firm named Village Ventures.

“Business is fundamentally about getting other people to do what you want them to do.”

“When someone wants to put money into your company at a fair price you should take as much as you can get, because you never know when the market is going to turn.”

“If you recognize luck then it humbles you a little bit.”

“Technology does more in 10 years and less in 2 years than we think it’s going to.”

Indeed. Listen to the whole thing.

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What do the Hon. Jeffrey Sutton ’83 and Mike Myers have in common?

They both “love gooooooooooooold!”

As Howard Bashman writes:

An opinion in a case captioned 216 Jamaica Avenue v. S & R Playhouse has perhaps a better than average chance at involving erotic entertainment, but alas that proved not to be the case with regard to this decision that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued today. Yet the opinion remains of interest because the decision considers the enforceability of a contractual provision, contained in a lease executed in 1911, stating that “[a]ll of said rents shall be paid in gold coin of the United States of the present standard of weight and fineness.” The trial court had held that the provision was unenforceable. But today, in an opinion by Circuit Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton, the Sixth Circuit reaches the opposite conclusion.

Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy comments as well:

The question, in simplified form: If a 99-year lease signed in 1912 specifies that the lease payments are $35,000 per year, payable “in gold coin of the United States,” can the lessor almost 100 years later demand that the payment be the value of 35,000 gold coins rather than $35,000?

For 90 years, the lessor only demanded payment of the dollars themselves, essentially ignoring the “gold coin” provision. And from 1933 to the 1970s, the “gold coin” clause was unenforceable under federal law thanks to U.S. monetary policy. But in 2006, a new company bought the property and began demanding the value of 35,000 gold coins instead of just $35,000. Does the language of the contract entitle the company to the value of the gold coins rather than just $35,000? In a very interesting opinion, Judge Sutton concludes that it does. Seems pretty persuasive to me, although I don’t know much about the topic.

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A new ephblog feature begins …

Swart said Kane needed something to humanize the ephblog and he suggested (well, he rather strong-armed me) that I apply my knowledge of human nature and my penchant for giving advice to provide a service for ephblog readers with problems of a personal nature.. 

So here we are. I have been provided with a few letters for starters and, needless to say, the identities of the writers have been carefully shielded.

From DB

Dear Rechtal Turgidley, Jr.,

While I generally believe the manipulation and formation of contexts with its endless repetition generates powerful and overwhelming contexts necessary to holding your understanding in its proper relationship, I am having problems getting a date. I am not considered bad-looking by members of my family (well, my mom) and try to be a good conversationalist. Any suggestions?

Dear DB,

A mother’s love is very important to one’s self esteem. But could verbosity and some lack of focus add another dimension to the situation of datelessness?

Some have found that a mouth-stapling proceedure improves their ability for that quick relationship. As an alternate, there is always the application of money.

 

From JZ

Dear Rechtal Turgidley, Jr.

I have been participating in a chat room for those who are truly romantic and yet my questions themselves do not surely enhance yield, as the most marginally interested candidates have ceased to apply. Question: on these chat room essays, do people have to represent that they do not receive substantial help from parents, college counselors, etc.? If not, they should.

Dear DB,

Oh dear no – no outside help allowed! You should simply sign the honor statement signifying that you have neither given or received help on your entry after each chat room exchange.

From cwh

Dear Rechtal Turgidley, Jr.

I find that my obsession with numbers and my ability to prove any point with them i.e

Percent submitting SAT: 50%

25th percentile SAT: 1380

75th percentila SAT: 1500

If it weren’t a fraud number, that would be the highest 25th percentile of any LAC in the country at the time. Higher than Swarthmore, Williams, Amherst, and Pomona, but with an acceptance rate of 27%.

Compare to this year’s Middlebury numbers:

Percent submitting SAT: 88%

25th percentile SAT: 1300

75th percentila SAT: 1490

Hmmmm. So you are telling me that the bottom quarter of Midd’s freshman class plummeted by 80 points on the combined SAT in just four years?

does not compensate for my acne. Do you have a suggestion?

 

Dear cwh,

Yes. Graduates of elite schools such as ourselves have often found that acne can be cured by getting a skin graft from a graduate of some lesser but more robust college. I would write a carefully worded inquiry and post it on Craigs List 

 

KD writes

Dear Rechtal Turgidley, Jr.

I am the content providor of a prominent blog. The time consuming part is actually writing the posts: the linking, the quoting and, of course, the scintillating comments that keep our readers coming back for more. I spend about as much time blogging as similar Ephs (men my age in finance) spend golfing. Perhaps I should be hitting the links instead! What do you think?

Dear KD,

INDEED!

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Dream Job

Article on new mens basketball coach Mike Maker.

Coaching for 17 years in the topsy-turvy world of Division I college basketball, Mike Maker always had a knack for landing on his feet.

He spent 11 years as one of the top assistant coaches at Dartmouth before working three years as an assistant at Samford University in Alabama, two years at the University of West Virginia and last year at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.

But not since the 1984 graduate of North Salinas High was coaching the Hartnell College women’s basketball team during the 1990-91 season, had Maker held the title of head coach.

That was until last week when Maker, 42, was named head coach of Williams College, a Division III school in Williamstown, Mass.

I am no basketball expert, so could someone walk me through Maker’s career progression? Did he leave Dartmouth because his career was stalled there? Why would he leave West Virginia to go to a similar(?) job at Creighton?

“I’ve had some close calls (at getting a head coaching position),” Maker said. “I was a finalist last year at Princeton and I had a chance at VMI. It was well worth the wait. For me, this is a dream job.”

If your “dream” is coaching at a place like Williams (where academics are much more important than athletics and the TV cameras never visit), then why would you leave Dartmouth to spend time at places like Samford, West Virginia and Creighton? Why would you consider VMI, a place as different from Williams as an undergraduate college can be?

Coming to Williams College is nearly as much a family reunion as it is another chapter in what has been a long and successful coaching career for Maker.

“I’m only couple of hours away from where my dad was born and raised,” Maker said. “I have family in the area. I feel humbled and honored to have this job.”

Maker interviewed for the coaching position at Williams College eight years ago and has remained friends with some members of the basketball program ever since.

“Williams represents everything that’s good about college,” Maker said. “It’s a top liberal arts college, and to me its academic level makes it seem like a mini-Stanford.”

It is always a good idea to hire faculty with close ties to the region. They are more likely to stay at Williams. Note the importance of networking. Even though Williams turned down Maker 8 years ago, he kept in touch with them. You can never do too much networking.

Is the “mini-Stanford” line a compliment or an insult? Opinions differ. Our athletes are much smarter than the athletes at Stanford. Our non-athletes are less smart. Bug or feature?

“It’ nice to have your own program and put you own stamp on it,” Maker said. “And to do it at a place like Williams College is quite overwhelming.”

Williams College went 17-8 overall last year and returns three starters.

“We have 14 players coming back and four coming in,” Maker said. “We’re going to Italy in August, and I’ll use that to get to know the players.”

Are you a member of the class of 2012 who wanted to try to walk on to the men’s basketball team? Think again. Coach Maker has 4 players coming in and you aren’t one of them.

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College Chaos

This 2003 Atlantic article is as timely now as it was 5 years ago, and it features some nice Eph quotes.

Getting into college has always been stressful. But this year the experience is likely to be different from that of only three or four years ago, and in many ways worse. This, at least, was the implication of an extensive series of interviews that Atlantic reporters conducted over the spring and summer with college admissions officers and high school guidance counselors from across the country.

I am vaguely suspicious of these the-sky-is-falling storylines. If things are much tougher in 2003 than they were in 1999 (or in 2008 than in 2003), we would expect to see significant increases in objective measures (like average SAT scores) at places like Williams. We don’t see major increases, so why believe the hype?

But many admissions deans use terms like “flood” and “torrent” to describe what is happening. Williams College received 5,341 applications last year, for a freshman class of 533; that was 410 more than the previous year.

The Admissions Office must look back upon 5,341 applications as an easy time. There were more than 7,200 applications last year. Morty and the Trustees are thinking of re-introducing Williams-specific essays to decrease the number of applications from students who really aren’t that interested in Williams.

Williams is more representative of elite schools. Last spring it sent acceptance letters to 936 students, on top of the 193 it had accepted under its binding early-decision plan, and it put 700 to 800 more on the waiting list.

Why so many? There are some incidental reasons. Waiting lists can be a way to soften the blow for the children of alumni or for members of other important constituencies, rather than rejecting them outright. At some schools the lists, strangely, have also become a repository for some of the most highly qualified applicants. These colleges know that they are being used as safety schools by students who really want to get into more prestigious and selective institutions. Some safety schools welcome the role, for the occasional extra-strong student it brings them. Many others resent being taken for granted—and react by putting “overqualified” applicants on the waiting list rather than, as they see it, “wasting an admit” on them.

But the main reason for long waiting lists is enrollment management. To return to Williams: about half of the people it placed on its waiting list in early April did not send back the required confirmation that they wanted to stay on the list. Either they had decided to accept a spot elsewhere or they had lost interest in Williams. By early May, as students sent in their enrollment deposits, Williams was beginning to get an idea of how many of those admitted—and which ones—would be attending, and therefore what holes in the class it still had to fill. The number it admits from the list varies, but last year it was thirty-seven. These were not necessarily the ones who’d originally come closest to admission but those whose traits and skills best balanced the class. This is the main reason for such long waiting lists—to have access to what the dean of another school calls “critical mass,” in a variety of categories, to add whatever element a class seems to lack.

More on the wait list process here and here.

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“Roseblog …”

 

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Freedom

Peter Nunns ’08 writes:

After visiting France and the Soviet Union in the late 1920s, Walter Benjamin commented that artists found themselves in opposite positions under socialism and capitalism. In the capitalist democracies, artists had freedom but no power; in the USSR, they had power but no freedom.

He pointed out a curious truth about liberal free-market societies. In them, we have freedom to create, write, and speak freely, but our works are only socially relevant insofar as they are directly profitable. Art is no more than a private passion – much like this diary.

By contrast, art was held up as a means of social transformation in the bad old spaces of communism – but artists could only hew into reality works that had been approved by the Party. Art could be a public passion, but it could not represent its creator’s own view.

Benjamin sought, or hoped for, a world in which the artist, with his expressive individuality, could be reconciled with the interests of society. A world in which the artist would have both freedom and power. Although the latter part of Benjamin’s dilemma passed out of existence almost two decades ago, we are still pierced by the first clause.

I would venture the speculation that the marketing and advertisement industry is the largest employer of art-school graduates in the country. In today’s capitalized America, artists are only deemed useful when they can augment the bottom line. To survive – and create – they (we?) must turn their talents to works that have been approved by the upper management.

The interesting question, of course, is this: At what point does a lack of power lead directly to a lack of freedom?

When one can’t live (or pay for canvas and paint) without selling all of their creative labour to a corporation, when health care is unavailable without doing so, when rents are too high to live near other artists and gas prices are too high to commute – then we might say that artists lose the license to create freely. If us creative individuals have no power over our society, we rapidly lose our practical freedom of expression.

When television rips all the eyeballs away from paperback fictions and zines, when advertising posters cover all the walls, when public space is supplanted by skyscrapers, what does the First Amendment mean? We become vox clamantis in deserto – voices silenced by the lack of an audience in the desert of the real.

What part of the word “freedom” does Peter not understand? There are more people doing art in America today then ever before, either in raw numbers or as a percentage of the population. Capitalism, and the wealth that it generates, makes this possible. I just love the phrase “today’s capitalized America.” Does Peter think that the America of 1980 or 1880 was any less capitalized? Does he believe that the America of 100 years ago was filled with artists, unfettered by the need of approval from “upper management?”

Or perhaps this is a parody of the incoherent musings of a rich, spoiled Eph? If so, it’s brilliant!

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Literally, Once In A Lifetime: The Ghost Orchid

The one blooming ghost orchid we found in Floridas Fakahatchee Strand.

Am I the first Williams graduate ever to see this ultra-rare bloom in person?  The ghost orchid, while perhaps not as rare as the most obscure of plants (some species are down to numbers in the dozens), it sits at that ultra-sexy nexus of rare and alluring.  It is considered by many to be the most sought-after orchid in the country, world famous for its elusiveness and ethereal beauty.

About a month ago, near the end of my work at the Fairchild Tropical Garden in Coral Gables, FL, I took advantage of my closeness to some of the (very friendly) botany graduate students there to combine forces with one of them.  Brett, a tropical botany Ph.D. candidate at Florida International University, had been seeking the orchid as a hobby for five years.  He knew where to look; I had a good camera and closeup photography knowledge.  We set out one Saturday morning for the Fakahatchee Strand, the only place in the country where the orchid grows (the only other habitat in the world is in Cuba).  I have heard that the world’s estimated population is 2,000, but the locations of only a couple hundred are known.  Their locations are not made public, to discourage poaching, and only 5-10% bloom every year.  Since an unblooming ghost orchid occupies a surface area about the size and color of a single sycamore leaf in a dense jungle, the odds of finding one are infinitesimal.

For the full story and sights from this small but famous swamp natural preserve, read on.

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There is one man between us and 2nd place …

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Does Amherst Misreport Its SAT Data?

I am probably wrong about this (corrections welcome!), but there seems to be a non-zero chance that Amherst is misreporting its SAT data and that, therefore, Williams should be alone at #1 in the US News rankings. Consider the data for the class of 2011 on what percentages of the class took the SAT and the ACT.

Williams: SAT: 95% and ACT: 18%. Total: 113%.
Amherst: SAT: 76% and ACT: 23%. Total: 99%.

The Williams numbers are not unusual for this year. For the class of 2002, we have SAT: 99% and ACT: 15% for a total of 114%. And that makes sense. The SAT is now truly a national (even international) exam for those high school students thinking of elite schools. Although many/most of those schools will also accept the ACT, it is now common for academically gifted students in the South and Midwest (ACT strongholds) to take the SAT as well. That pattern explains why almost every single member of the Williams class of 2011 took the SAT. (Why many students also take the ACT is a topic for another day.)

Is it really plausible that 111 of the 474 students in the Amherst class of 2011 did not take the SAT? No. (The only plausible explanation that I can think of is that Amherst is now drawing from a signficantly different student population that Williams. Yet that seems highly unlikely and I have never heard of such a tendency. Has anyone?) If (many of) those students did take the SAT, is it plausible that Amherst does not have access to their scores? No. (I think that Amherst requires SAT subject tests and that any student who took such subject tests and reported them to Amherst would have to allow Amherst to see her SAT scores as well.) If Amherst does have access to their SAT scores, then why doesn’t it report those scores in its Common Dataset? And, even more interesting, are the SAT scores for those students particularly low?

Comments welcome. (I especially hope that data-maven HWC will chime in.) Are other elite schools more like Williams or Amherst? (At Swarthmore (pdf), 95% of the members of the class of 2011 took the SAT.) Without looking at the data yet, one hypothesis would be that Amherst reports only ACT scores (and not SAT scores) for its weaker students. That would cause its ACT scores to be lower (relative to its SAT scores) than those for other elite schools. Do we see that?

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Advice

Glad to see that EphBlog is the number 3 item for a Google search of “what do i do if my legs are rubbing together causing a rash or something.” We are glad to help!

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The List: St. Thomas Aquinas considers …

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Good Questions

How does a smart Eph hedge fund manager operate? See below.
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Catsam ’93 Tenured

Congratulations to long-time EphBlog author Derek Charles Catsam ’93, recently tenured in the Department of History at The University of Texas of the Permian Basin. Well done! Winning a tenured position in history is one of the hardest tricks to pull off in academia nowadays.

Regular readers will note that Derek hasn’t always told us (me?) what he really thinks, has occasionally pulled his punches, perhaps out of a concern that untenured academics should avoid making waves. Those days are over! Time for the uninhibited Derek to shine . . .

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U.S. News Rankings Are Out: Williams Tied with Amherst

The U.S. News and World Report rankings are out: Williams and Amherst are tied for first, both with scores of 100. Let the debates begin.

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The Ghost of Cal King Past …

shows Morty Shapiro what Spring Street was like when Phinneywhig was president.

 

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Stetson-Sawyer Pictures

Go here. Looks like construction is complete.

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Coming LIVE to a theater near you …

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The Mountains

The JAs for the class of 2012 will be arriving in Williamstown soon. Do they plan to learn “The Mountains” and teach it to their first years? I am here to help! Thanks to Chris Winters for passing along the sheet music (pdf) and this recording (mp3) from an Octet alumni concert with Warren Hunke ’42 conducting.

[display_podcast]

Chris also writes:

Just FYI, and relevant to your ephblog discussion of music, is that the Williams Octet, and in particular, the Octet Alumni, perform the “Songs of Williams” nearly annually at our homecoming weekend reunion concert. Yard by Yard is always a crowd pleaser and The Mountains is traditionally our closer where we ask all the alumni to stand and sing with us.

A particularly moving Williams musical moment came last Fall during the Octet Alumni’s post-concert celebration down at the Log. A young member of the football team, who had contributed to beating Amherst handily in the homecoming game that afternoon, came into the Log accompanied by his proud parents. The Octet Alumni burst into an impromptu round of Yard by Yard to honor the young man who stood, beaming, with his folks. By the end the player’s mother was in tears.

Great stuff.

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Next-Gen Billionaire

Our hit count seems higher in the last few days. Much of hit seems to be associated with searches for “Chase Coleman.” Why the sudden interest? Perhaps because Coleman, class of 1997, is on Forbes list of next generation billionaires.

Noting that the world’s current crop of billionaires has plenty of money but “not much youth”, the American magazine said the average age of the 1,125 people on Forbes’ list of the world’s wealthiest is 61.

“…It’s impossible to predict exactly who will replace them, but don’t bet against the following people. All are young, extraordinarily successful and have ambitious plans for the future,” the magazine said in an accompanying article published in its online edition.

Forbes itself notes:

Hedge fund manager Chase Coleman’s age, 33, belies his exceptional ability to manage money. His Tiger Global fund reportedly returned over 70% after fees last year, a performance over six times better than the hedge fund average.

Is Coleman really a billionaire? Tough to tell, but you can be sure that the Alumni Office is curious.

Here is more from Forbes.

This direct descendant of early New York Gov. Peter Stuyvesant learned from one of the best. Coleman worked under billionaire Julian Robertson Jr. at Tiger Management. Robertson has an astounding track record of training rich-listers. Other “Tiger Cubs” already on our list of the world’s richest include Lee Ainslie III and Stephen Mandel. Coleman is well on his way to joining them. According to Bloomberg, Coleman’s fund, Tiger Global, returned over 70% after fees last year. Compare that with the 11% return that hedge funds averaged last year. Coleman’s amazing performance means a big paycheck: One estimate has him taking home up to $400 million.

But you need to share that money with your partners/employees, pay your taxes, and so on. Pretty soon, you’re struggling just to get by . . .

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After-School Fun

Good to see an idea from Williams infiltrate the University of North Carolina:

Last year, graduate student and teaching assistant David Ticehurst had a few students from his Astronomy 101 class over for dinner.

Ticehurst went out and got barbecue, and he and his students discussed the stars until late in the evening.

He thought it was such a good idea that now he is trying to secure funding so professors and TAs can host similar events without taking money out of their own pockets.

Ticehurst, who spent his undergraduate years at Williams College, a small liberal arts school in Massachusetts, said his former school has a similar program that helped shape his undergraduate experience.

“I think it’s a really good idea,” he said. “It gives the students a chance to see the real world outside of the classroom.”

Ticehurst still needs funds for the program. Last year he sought $5,000 for the program from the Graduate and Professional Student Federation in addition to a matching contribution from the provost’s office.

“It’s like the University was just waiting for someone to come along with this idea,” he said. “They are always talking about developing a more intellectual climate, and that’s what this does.”

He said he is planning on designing a Web site where instructors can submit proposals and share stories about programs.

He also wants to make a presentation in front of the Faculty Council to get them excited about the program, which initially evolved out of class discussions.

Having the students over for barbecue was something Ticehurst, who is a certified barbecue judge, had talked about with his students all semester, he said.

When it came time to host a pilot event, he thought that would be the perfect time to try it.

Michael Johnston, a sophomore who was in Ticehurst’s astronomy lab, signed up to help Ticehurst after enjoying the first program.

“It was funny at first because you’re seeing all of these faces you’re used to seeing at 8 a.m. when nobody is awake,” Johnston said. “It was awkward at first, but we found enough to keep the conversation going.”

Johnston also said seeing the instructor outside of the classroom setting makes him or her more approachable.

It makes it seem like you have some sort of connection to this person that’s teaching you,” Johnston said. “Instead of just seeing this giant brain at the front, you see a little more of a person.”

I have no doubt that the evenings I spent drinking wine and chatting with professors till late at night were more valuable to me than a good many of my classes. I only regret that I did not do it more often.

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Ephblog readers well-informed …

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College Presidents Call for Lower Drinking Age

Well, this could get interesting.

College presidents from about 100 of the nation’s best-known universities, including Duke, Dartmouth and Ohio State, are calling on lawmakers to consider lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18, saying current laws actually encourage dangerous binge drinking on campus. …

“This is a law that is routinely evaded,” said John McCardell, former president of Middlebury College in Vermont who started the organization. “It is a law that the people at whom it is directed believe is unjust and unfair and discriminatory.”

Kind of a strange way to make the case, but fair enough.  Plenty of people, myself included, think a lot of the most dangerous kinds of binge drinking would be curtailed by kids’ showing up to school with more, not less, experience with alcohol.

MADD, however, recommends that we let the good times roll.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving says lowering the drinking age would lead to more fatal car crashes. It accuses the presidents of misrepresenting science and looking for an easy way out of an inconvenient problem. MADD officials are even urging parents to think carefully about the safety of colleges whose presidents have signed on.

“It’s very clear the 21-year-old drinking age will not be enforced at those campuses,” said Laura Dean-Mooney, national president of MADD.

Sigh.   Thank you for arguing like a  5-year-old.

McCardell claims that his experiences as a president and a parent, as well as a historian studying Prohibition, have persuaded him the drinking age isn’t working.

But critics say McCardell has badly misrepresented the research by suggesting that the decision to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21 may not have saved lives.

In fact, MADD CEO Chuck Hurley said, nearly all peer-reviewed studies looking at the change showed raising the drinking age reduced drunk-driving deaths. A survey of research from the U.S. and other countries by the Centers for Disease Control and others reached the same conclusion.

If drunk-driving deaths were the only toll inflicted by abuse of alcohol, Hurley might have a point.  But the costs of our dysfunctional drinking culture of course extend far beyond that, into the realm of cirrhosis and obesity and the psychological torture of alcoholism.  To me, building a healthier drinking culture requires education, and education requires teaching kids about alcohol when they’re young enough to be taught.

Anything else to add, responsible adults?

Hurley, of MADD, has a different take on the presidents.

“They’re waving the white flag,” he said.

Well, alcohol is winning, if that’s what he means.

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I couldn’t resist…

Okay, so I probably shouldn’t go back to this topic, but I found the claim of journalistic integrity for the Enquirer so preposterous that I must come back with a slight rebuttal.  I will grant that they have broken a couple of big stories, but only if David and others realize that many, many, many more of their stories are basically crap (unless there are way more “love children” kicking around playing with space aliens than I realized).

Case in point from the Boston Globe a few days ago:  “Enquirer settles with Cape Cod woman

You win some, you lose some. Just ask the National Enquirer. The tabloid, which is being celebrated for scooping the mainstream media on the John Edwards mistress story, has quietly settled a lawsuit filed by a Cape Cod woman who claimed the Enquirer published false and defamatory stories about her supposed “love child” with Senator Ted Kennedy.

Lawyers for Caroline Bilodeau-Allen provided DNA test results from 1985 that show Kennedy is not the father of Christopher Bilodeau, who was born in 1984. The settlement, first reported by TheSmoking Gun.com, was filed in US District Court in Boston. Terms of the deal have not been made public, but the website says American Media Inc., parent company of the Enquirer, made a “significant payment” to Bilodeau-Allen.

The stories, published in 2006, alleged that Kennedy and Bilodeau – she was unmarried at the time – began dating in 1983, while Kennedy was separated from his wife, Joan, just before the divorce was finalized. The tabloid claimed that after Bilodeau became pregnant, the senator, then in his early 50s, begged Bilodeau, then in her early 20s, to have an abortion.

Bilodeau-Allen subsequently sued American Media and two of its reporters, Richard Moriarty and Alan Butterfield, who is one of the reporters writing about Edwards’s affair with Rielle Hunter. David Rich, Bilodeau-Allen’s attorney, did not return a call yesterday. Nor did Michael Antonello, counsel for American Media.

The case file does include a few e-mails revealing the Enquirer’s strategy for placing the Kennedy story with other newspapers and TV shows. According to one e-mail exchange, the Boston Herald was given the story a day ahead of everyone else and Ken Chandler, then the top editor at the Herald, promised to “run it big (possibly page one).” In the end, it did have a front-page presence.

Now, any publication can have a few libel issues here and there, but I thought this was rather appropriate given the chorus of support the rag received on these pages a few weeks back.  This is but one example that caught my eye.  And before anyone says “they settled, no one proved anything,” I’ll point out that their very well-paid attorneys are only going to recommend they make a “significant payment” when they are certain to lose.  If you have any shred of actual proof, a libel case will get kicked out of court.

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