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Doctor of Rocket Science

Congratulations to Joe Shoer ’06 on successfully defending his dissertation. I like this:

The funniest thing about this to me is that I know that the research I’ve been working on isn’t done. There are more investigations to pursue, more refinements to write into the code, more variations to try in simulation, and more experimental verification to perform. Research never stops. But at some point, we grad students have to decide, with our advisers, when we have made a sufficient contribution and should wrap up our work into a complete dissertation. Still, it doesn’t quite feel like I’m “done,” because I know that the research has much further to go!


Eph’s Take Second at NEWAs – Four Qualify for Nationals

Coach Hausenfus and team celebrating with the second place trophy

The Williams College wrestling team had a fantastic performance at this weekend’s New England Wrestling Association tournament taking second place to Springfield College.   At the conclusion of day one, it was a three way horse race for second among Williams, Wesleyan and Johnson and Wales, where one point separate the three teams.  The Eph’s really stepped it up on day two and clinched their second place finish at the conclusion of the consolation finals.  This group of seniors has enjoyed much success at the NEWA’s with place finishes of 3rd, 1st, 1st and 2nd over their careers.

Williams had seven of its wrestlers achieve “All England” status. 

Josh Mattana ’11 was 6th at 125

Ces Antista, ’13 was 1st at 141

Corey Paulish, ’11 was 1st at 149

Kyle Martin, ’12 was 6th at 165

Mike Lomio, ’14 was 3rd at 184

Ryan Malo, ’11 was 2nd at 197

Tom Foote, ’13 was 2nd at 285

More importantly, Williams qualified four wrestlers to the NCAA Nationals to be held at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse on March 11th and 12th – a school record.  Antista and Paulish received automatic bids due to their first place finishes, while Malo and Foote received wild card bids that are awarded by the coaches at the conclusion of the tournament.

Other notable achievements at the tournament included Josh Mattana recording his 100th career win, Corey Paulish breaking Carl Breitenstein’s record for career wins with 127 and Mike Lomio being named conference Co-Rookie Wrestler of the Year.

It was a great tournament and I’m sure our guys will represent Williams College and the New England conference extremely well at Nationals.  I’ll provide an overview of nationals next week.


Best Science Lab

Warning: Do not perform this experiment at home or without adult supervision
Chad Orzel ’93 tells the story of his favorite science lab:

My personal choice is an easy one: the “Ballistic Pendulum” lab we did when I was an undergrad.

The “Ballistic Pendulum” is a technique for measuring the speed of a fast-moving projectile by firing it into a much heavier mass that is suspended to act as a pendulum. From the fact that momentum is conserved in the collision, and energy is conserved after the collision, you can use the maximum height reached by the pendulum to determine the initial speed of the projectile.

We do this in our intro mechanics classes using a PASCO set-up with a spring-loaded launcher that fires a metal ball into a metal-and-plastic pendulum, and records the angle. It’s an okay lab, but nothing too brilliant.

Back in the stone age when I was an undergrad, though, we did this with a .22 rifle and a heavy wooden pendulum. Now, that was an impressive lab… I particularly enjoyed the year when I TA’ed the lab for the pre-med class. I told them at the start of class that we would be firing a rifle in the lab, and offered them earplugs. They all laughed at me. So I set myself up in a place where I could see the whole room when the first group fired the gun, and got to watch the center of mass of the room go up by about 10cm when they heard the gunshot. Good times, good times…

Sadly, you’d never be able to do that lab today without a SWAT team busting in and screwing up the error analysis. But it did make the point very impressively.

Indeed. Were any readers in that lab with Chad?


Please return you seat backs to their original and upright position …

… just in case you’re reading EphBlog while en route to wherever for whatever on a Monday. Christopher Niemann has really nailed it!

He will be moving to the NYT Sunday Magazine.


That Oscar Party after: That Christian Bale can Par-tee! and Randy Newman, well, ’nuff sed!

As if this weren’t enough …

The Last Airbender’ Named Worst Film at Razzie Awards

M. Night Shyamalan earns worst director; Ashton Kutcher and Sarah Jessica Parker named worst actors. Wow – Tarentino and Peter Fonda dropped by. You never know about Hood River.

I may be a little slow in figuring out the EphBlog Oscar winners.


Live blog of the Oscars …

Live Blog on the BBC. Time is GMT

Gee, how old is Kirk Douglas?

I think that the Oscars shouldn’t be a secret. Give the winners time to prepare an acceptance.

Awkward and embarrassing so far …

Even more so with some stiff from ABC being proud to renew the Oscar vows for more years to come. WTF. This is a product placement!

Reminiscent of the old TV days shown in “Quiz Show : “Why who is that coming on stage … well, its Dave Garroway…” Or as Steve Allen used to say “And now our talented singer is wending his way mike-ward to ask the musical question ‘Goodie Goodie’. God Help Us!

Here is Ricky Gervais’ faux script for the opening: (from his blog )

(Drum roll)

Ladies and Gentlemen.
Please welcome your hosts for this evening…
James Franco and Anne Hathaway

(Music and applause)
(James and Anne walk out looking absolutely perfect)

Read more


Our Own EphBlog Biggest Loser – 75#s … hwc!

When this post on Biggest Loser was run on Williams’ Tee Wilson and his audition tape for the popular reality series, it produced an unexpected response!

That recorder of the minutia of college performance ‘hwc’ had been dealing with his not-so-minutia frame for the past year or so.

The second comment under the post was from him.”I’m willing to bet that I am the biggest Eph loser for the last 12 months”, he wrote. And went on …

On February 11, 2010 I weighed 250 pounds. Those were the size 44 jeans I was wearing one year ago. I saved them, as a souvenir of my journey. That was the day I started to eat less and move more. The first official “workout” I logged after dabbling for 10 days was February 22, 2010. I’ve stuck to a consistent 1750 to 2000 calorie a day diet and exercised five to six days a week, except for one week last summer when I had the flu and took four days off. There were some weeks I worked out 7 days, but I’ve learned that I have to force myself to take a rest day.
I’ve lost 74 pounds, I’m doing workouts that I simply can’t believe would ever be possible (TRX pushups, rear-foot elevated split squats, burpees, etc.) and I’m in between 34 inch and 36 inch jeans.
I’m not really losing much weight these days, but the heavier weight-lifting in my current workout program is shifting some stuff around building some muscle and moving some stuff around. An update. The scale this morning says that I’ve lost the five pounds I’ve been trying to lose since Christmas. That makes the fifteenth time I’ve lost “just five pounds”, bringing the grand total to 75 pounds since I started.

Well, small wonder hwc has that big smile on his face! Look at that chart! Congratulations!

Here are the ‘comments from Read more


When Williams Had a Medical School, Part IV: The End

Thanks to Jeff for the unintentional reminder that I have one part of the story of the Williams College medical school has not yet been told. (See Parts One, Two, and Three).

Ebenezer Emmons, Williams Class of 1818, Berkshire Medical Class of 1830. Photo from RPI Earth & Environmental Sciences

This series would read very differently if Williams still had an associated medical school today. So what happened to Berkshire Medical, and why isn’t it a part of Williams today?

As noted in Part I, the origins of the association between Williams and the Pittsfield-based medical school are unclear, but that association appears to have aided in obtaining the medical school’s charter from the legislature and may have served two purposes: to legitimize the degrees granted by Berkshire Medical, and to provide some assurance of stability by anchoring it to an existing institution (albeit one that had just narrowly survived the Moore defection).

Within a decade, it became clear that the alliance of Williams and Berkshire served neither purpose.

Read more


Narnia: Waiting for you at Chapin on your next visit …

Several years ago the Chapin Library received the bequest of paintings and drawings by the British illustrator Pauline Baynes.

Baynes is best associated with the works of C S Lewis and J R R Tolkien.

A personal reminiscence from writer/broadcaster Brian Sibley who was a friend for many years. On the relationship of author to illustrator, he writes

There are certain illustrators whose work is so intimately interwoven with the author’s text as to rank as the books’ co-creators. Sir John Tenniel, for example, the first illustrator of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and E H Shepard who, with A A Milne, led us into the world of Winnie-the-Pooh. Similarly, Pauline Baynes’ pictures of country and denizens in C S Lewis’ seven Chronicles of Narnia are still – despite the recent big-screen movie imagery – the definitive depiction of that extraordinary land beyond the wardrobe…

And from her obit in The Daily Telegraph (London)

In 1948, Tolkien demanded that ( Baynes) be set to work illustrating Farmer Giles of Ham, and was delighted with the subsequent results, declaring that Pauline Baynes had “reduced my text to a commentary on her drawings”. Further collaboration between Tolkien and his Farmer Giles illustrator followed, and a lifelong friendship developed… Later, when she showed him her artwork for a poster featuring Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, the author nodded approvingly and murmured quietly: “There they are, there they are.”

We are what we believe we are.
C. S. Lewis


We’re just fooling’ around. The REAL Oscar voters exposed …

As we fix those canapes and chill down the champagne for tonight, we might ask ourselves “Yeah, but who really votes. I mean really”.

Ephblog has gone to the ends of the screen to google the answer to this celluloid conundrum. Here, expurgated but with a click to the full article, The Guardian of London tells all.

“There are 6,404 of them, mostly living in the Los Angeles area, with further pockets in northern California, New York City and London. They are, by a small majority, male. Their average age is about 57. Rupert Murdoch is one, as are Pedro Almódovar and Sasha Baron Cohen. George Lucas, Woody Allen and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson are not. And on 27 February they will announce to an audience of more than 30 million people the results of a secret ballot that will determine the course of careers, cause corporate stock prices to rocket, and induce howls of outrage in office pools and viewing parties around the world.

“They”, of course, are the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the group of entertainment industry professionals”
Click the link to read the rest of this analysis of who really determines what’s up on the big screen … shocking!

Last Chance to enter your votes, no matter how futile, in our big Outsmart the Smarties Contest. Enter here. When it is too late, it is too late!


Ohh, OK, just one more for today: Unrest and Milan’s Fashion Week …

You never know how Fashion Week in Milan is going to give you a new perspective. Sure – hemlines, bias-cuts, spangles and glitz … you know that’s coming. But, darling, could you have guessed that Mid-East unrest is a luxury marketing opportunity? Well, girlfriend, you could have knocked me over with a bow-belted Monique Lhuillier in a thrilling shade of red! (see photo)

Just read this story from the NYT this pm.

This is a whole area of the world that missed the beat for the last 80 years — but for the future of the global economy, let’s hope it goes in the direction of China and not Iran,” said Michael Burke, chief executive of Fendi, part of the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton luxury conglomerate.

This could be the best news since 1978, when China decided to go with the market economy,” said Mr. Burke, lamenting that in Egypt, a country of almost 83 million people, he does not have a single Fendi product on sale — even though its wealthy elite may have bought into luxury. “For every dictator, we could have one million customers. Traditionally, we do well when the many are integrated into society.”

I guess it’s a question of whether you see the riot as half-full or half-empty!!


WCMA on list of 15 best college museums …

… and given the well-known Trinity, and Krens, and The Art Mafia, and inspired directors including the Class of 1956 endowed position, probably no surprise.


Most people realize that colleges typically offer research facilities, libraries, and athletic resources. But what may not be obvious is the incredible collections that many colleges house in their museums. From archeology to art, these college museums are worth a visit.

Williams College Museum of Art: Once the college’s library, the Williams College Museum of Art has more than 13,000 works spanning the history of art. In this collection, you’ll find artwork that represents a broad range of time periods and cultures, plus additional works of art in loan exhibitions. The Williams College Museum of Art is completely free to visit.

With the recognition of the museum, the reputations of the faculty, the accomplishments of the graduates in the major, why is the picture at the top not of a more grand view?

It is in fact the 155 sq ft McNichol Gallery. So much has been lovingly written on the Trinity. As an art history major ’56, I had Stoddard, and Faison, and Pierson. I also had classes with the singular God Head of Amherst, Frank Trapp, who was at Williams before making the trek over the Berkshires.

Steve McNichol was the man behind the projector bank, showing the slides, keeping pace with the lectures, administering those timed series of slides to be ID’d and of comparisons to be made. Steve was as much a part of the department and as familiar to the students as the teaching staff. And subject to the cries of “Steve, leave it up just a few more seconds”. I was very glad to see the recognition made in this named gallery of someone who contributed to the lore of the art history program at Williams.


Two related; too related? Two posts together …

A reader pointed out to me that the juxtaposition of the post “I am fine” and the post “Revisiting the Value of Elite Colleges” 1960s to 1980s …”
causes an interesting tension.

What are the stresses put on the psyches of students who strive for admission to the elites when they get on campus, how do they handle them, what is the price paid as a student and after graduation, and is it worth it?

The ‘comments’ sections of both posts have produced some very interesting insights.

If you haven’t been following them, read through and see for your self. If you want to add your own observations from your own experience, please join in.

The FaceBook extension of the Williams College site asked the same questions of readers. The responses with names edited out are below under ‘more’.

Ed Note: It would appear that Facebook can have a life of its own in addition to its site. Any volunteers?

I believe that a collection of personal anecdotal experiences may be of value to those charged with campus life at Williams.

Read more


Our Vanity Fair Oscar Party Package has arrived …

Well, no, not an actual invitation as such. Let’s face it, you and me? We are not on the “A” list. I thought maybe my tv connection with the movie package would help. But it didn’t.

BUT HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS. Vanity Fair is letting us in on how they filled in their ballot! Now you can add this inside info to the previous winners of the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes and fill out your digital ballot right now



New England Wrestling Association Overview


Corey Paulish, '11

This weekend the New England Wrestling Associating championships will be held on February 26th and 27th at Trinity College.  Williams won this tournament the past two years and is looking for a three-peat.  The team title will be closely contested with Williams, Wesleyan, Springfield, Johnson and Wales and Rhode Island College all vying for the championship.  What’s at stake for the individual wrestlers is a trip to the NCAA Nationals that will be hosted by the University of Wisconsin at Lacrosse on March 11th and 12th.

Winners of each weight class receive an automatic berth to nationals.  In addition, the conference has four “wild card” selections that the coaches will select at the conclusion of the tournament. prepared a detailed overview of the tournament by weight class and it can be viewed at the following link.

The team has taken the last two weeks to get healthy and prepare for NEWAs.  Read more


NESCAC Championship Weekend Preview and Liveblog

It is a big weekend for Eph sports, as Williams hosts a loaded men’s hoops championship and an ice hockey quarterfinal, plus heads to Amherst to try to knock off the Jeff juggernaut in women’s hoops and to Bowdoin looking for a NESCAC swimming crown.  For anyone watching any of these contests, be sure to keep folks updated on this thread.  On to the previews:

  • The main event is clearly men’s hoops, which pits number one Williams against a tough Trinity team, and then number three Middlebury against number seven Amherst, with the winners meeting on Sunday.  Three of these four teams are legitimate national title contenders.  Previous analysis of Middlebury here, and Amherst here and here.  Williams previews the weekend, and provides links for the free webcasts of all three games, here, the Berkshire Eagle, here, and Amherst, here.  Watch the Williams College basketball show here.  Chandler, inspired by the Sixth Man, should be rocking.
  • Women’s hoops had a dramatic, come-from-behind overtime win over Tufts last weekend (a win which likely locked up an NCAA birth, though nothing is guaranteed).  Now, things get even more difficult in the NESCAC semifinal, facing number two Amherst at Amherst.  The Jeffs have beaten Williams seven straight times, including twice this year.  Amherst previews the showdown and provides a link for a live webcast here.
  • Stephen Maier ’12

  • Men’s ice hockey looks to win its first ever NESCAC title, and earn its first ever NCAA birth.  There was no dominant team in NESCAC this year, and even though the Ephs are the second seed, the title seems wide open for the taking for all eight participants.  Click here for a game preview and webcam link.
  • Finally, men’s swimming and diving heads to Bowdoin, looking for its ninth straight NESCAC title.

“Experience contemporary Egypt”: Julia Morgan-Leamon and Winter Study Art 25 …

So you’ve got the Winter Study coming up. What to take, who to take it with?

Hey, ART 25 looks good:
Julia Morgan-Leamon

ARTS 25 Drawing and Painting in Egypt  Julia Morgan-Leamon
Students will explore ancient Egypt through guided tours of the East and West Bank temples and tomb paintings; they will experience contemporary Egypt through cross-cultural dialogue with the Egyptian students and other local artists. Along with completing art assignments and participating on tours, students will document their experiences visually and in writing in sketchbook form.

And, indeed, they did!

See Morgan-Leamon’ sketch book. and view a video

(Thanks to Parent ’12 for suggesting this from materials on the Williams site.)

Julia Morgan-Leamon is a painter, installation artist, and media producer. She received her MFA in Visual Arts from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and her BA in Studio Art from Mount Holyoke College. In 2009, she was one of 25 international artists invited to participate in the Luxor International Painting Symposium and residency.(from college bio)


Thiel Fellowships for… dropping out?

Coming late to this story, but it still seems worth discussing. Frankly, I’m not sure whether to root for an Eph to win one of Peter Thiel’s “20 Under 20” fellowships:

The Thiel Foundation will award 20 people under 20 years old cash grants of $100,000 to further their innovative scientific and technical ideas. In addition, over a two year period, Peter Thiel’s network of tech entrepreneurs and philanthropists—drawn from PayPal, Facebook, Palantir Technologies, Founders Fund, the Singularity Institute, and others—will teach the recipients about creating disruptive technologies and offer mentorship, employment opportunities, support, and training.

Thiel, the venture capitalist who Wallace Langham played in The Social Network (he’s the guy who makes the investment on the same day that Andrew Garfield’s CFO character freezes Facebook’s bank account), is explicitly interested in finding entrepreneurs interested in dropping out of college to pursue their dreams:

Read more


Round up the usual suspects … Difficult Colleges!

Photo from The Daily Beast slideshow
The Daily Beastt and writer Christina Dell report today:

“To get a handle on how tough it is to get into college this year, The Daily Beast reviewed the number of applications received at key schools across the country—figures that climbed for many institutions. We sampled the eight Ivy League schools, as well as a group of 10 major state universities and 10 selective private liberal arts schools. We calculated the projected admission rate based on information from the schools about the number of offers they expect to make this year, or, in some cases, the number of offers made last year. (The precise admission rates for this year won’t be known until after the letters are sent out and the schools work through their waitlists.) We’ve compared the likely admission rates for this year with the figures from last year and also five years ago The result: one tough admission season”

Have they cracked the case, hwc?

Re the school close to our heart (or somewhere):

17.6 percent projected admit rate

“This small, rural school in Williamstown, Massachusetts, modeled after Oxford and Cambridge’s tutorial systems, where students critique each other’s work, had 7,010 applications this year, up 5.7 percent from last year’s tally. Its acceptance rate hasn’t changed a whole lot over the years, with the school on track to accept 17.6 percent of applicants this year, down from 18.6 percent last year and 19.1 percent five years ago. ”

See the slide show for more data and a beauty parade of America’s finer campi.


Washington, DC: Get Your Non-Combo ‘Za

"Pi on Wheels," as posted at Food Truck Fiesta

Thanks to Frank Uible ’57’s comment, I just learned that his son (Frank Uible ’85) is one of the partners responsible for DC’s newest food truck: Pi on Wheels, the mobile version of the soon-to-open DC location of Uible’s restaurant District of Pi.

I understand that this week has been their first week of regular lunchtime operations (they’re serving lunch today in Chinatown and lunch tomorrow in Franklin Square), but I heard positive reviews from their grand-opening “free pizza” day, held two weeks ago. The truck offers 9-inch, deep-dish, cornmeal crust pizzas for $12, with offerings like “The Beltway” (zucchini, feta, kalamata olives and basil) and “Southside” (sausage, green pepper, mushroom, and onion). So yes, that means they do offer “Combo ‘Za.”

Read more


Eph Loser?

No, I’m not about to denigrate another Eph.  Check out this great audition video by Williams custodial employee Tee Martin, who aspires (with a little help from his undergrad friends) to be on The Biggest Loser.  Good luck to Tee (and thanks to the student who tipped me off to this video)! [Part two of the audition can be found here].


Texas governor launches drive for “$10,000 bachelor’s degree”

Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, is pushing for lower-cost higher education in the Lone Star State:

Perry was inspired by comments that Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft Corp. and co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, made at a conference in California, said Catherine Frazier , a spokeswoman. A video posted on YouTube captured some of Gates’ remarks.

“College, except for the parties, needs to be less place-based,” he said. Web-based instruction and other technology could drive the price down to $2,000 a year, he said.

Perry wrote to university regents last week , urging them to develop $10,000 degree programs and to scale up those programs so at least 10 percent of the sheepskins awarded by their schools are based on this approach. He said programs could include online classes, classes at no-frills campuses, credit for prior learning, credit for Advanced Placement classes in high school and other elements.

“I don’t know whether the $10,000 figure is practical reality or not,” said Raymund Paredes, the state’s higher education commissioner. “I interpret the governor’s remarks as a call to be creative and find solutions to the spiraling costs of higher education.”

Three community colleges — Midland College, Brazosport College in Lake Jackson and South Texas College in McAllen — offer a bachelor’s in applied technology and come closest to Perry’s goal, with tuition and fees for four years ranging from $9,168 to $10,440 and books adding anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000, school officials say.

Is $10,000 a realistic price for a bachelor’s degree? Getting there would surely require substituting technology for human and physical capital, perhaps to a degree far beyond what we’d be willing to recognize as “higher education.” On the other hand, with the diminishing capabilities of high school graduates and lowered standards in college programs, perhaps we already have a portion of higher-ed that’s not recognizable as such.

But I think the $10,000 number is not so much a fixed target as a symbol of a growing interest in disruptive change, rather than incremental reform, in publicly-supported higher education. Alongside the existing state and federal budget crises, that’s likely to bring extraordinary cost-containment pressures to many campuses. I hope dcat isn’t counting on a raise! (And he’s not the only one — there are literally dozens of Ephs on the faculty of the various Texas public universities).

Read more


OSCAR! Almost your last chance … The BAFTAs and The Golden Globes for your help!

Don’t forget to enter EphBlogs annual Be as smart as the overpaid people in Hollywood! contest.

The original announcement is here for your reference.

But now we are down to eightTWO DAYS ! I know you’ll want to be the proud winner of a 1996 Hood River bumper sticker reading Fukitsnukin.

The BAFTAs and the Golden Globes have been awarded. A cheat sheet showing these winners where applicable to our categories is below.



Further to Oscar Madness: Remember this p-p-p-place?

Of course you do! It’s Mr Logues’ consultation room. But immediately before the use of the Georgian townhouse at 33 Portland Place, London W1 as settings for The King’s Speech, it was used for the gay romp Snookered. Also for an Amy Winehouse video..

If the walls could talk …

If you are looking for just the right place for that special party, it is for rent.



Al-Zahrani not competent to stand trial

A graduate student accused of stabbing a Binghamton University professor to death in 2009 is not mentally competent to be tried for murder.

Instead, Abdulsalam al-Zahrani, 46, will be placed in the custody of a state psychiatric facility until he is deemed mentally competent to be tried, said Chief Assistant District Attorney Joann Rose Parry.

Broome County Judge Joseph F. Cawley Jr. signed the competency order this morning in court.

Al-Zahrani’s trial on one felony count of second-degree murder was to have begun with jury selection Tuesday morning. On Friday, however, the potential jurors were told not to report to court.

No new trial date has been set, Parry said Tuesday. The order was signed after a competency hearing and a determination by mental health professionals that al-Zahrani was mentally incompetent to understand the charge or be tried.

The graduate student’s behavior was described by other students to reporters as erratic in the days and weeks before Richard Antoun, a professor emeritus in BU’s anthropology department, was stabbed to death Dec. 4, 2009 in Science Building 1 on the BU campus.

Al-Zahrani has been in the Broome County Jail without bail since he was charged in Antoun’s murder on Dec. 5, 2009.

He’ll be transported to a state psychiatric hospital for treatment, as a result of the order. The order is good for up to year. Al-Zahrani will go on trial when he is deemed mentally competent, Parry said.

Press & Sun-Bulletin

Richard Antoun ’53


George Washington and the Revolution(s)

Gilbert Stuart, "George Washington," from the collection and website of the Clark

As protests continue to challenge and alter governments across the Middle East, discussions have expanded beyond the domain of the bloggers, full-time talking heads, and future presidential candidates who initially jumped at the chance to explain “what it all means.” As the universe of academics writing columns expanded, I started wondering which Eph (from beyond the blogosphere) would weigh in first. Would it be Professor Susan Dunn? Jim Burns ’39? Michael Beschloss ’77?

None of the above, at least to cross my desk. Instead, it’s Washington College President Mitchell Reiss ’79. Writing for Fox News, Dr. Reiss celebrated President’s Day with an article in the “Great Man” historical tradition that discusses George Washington, his initial feelings about the American Revolution, and the role of leadership in ensuring success for democratic revolutions:

For Washington, the unfolding crisis presented an awful choice: the terrifying disorder of revolution or the stability of despotism. “The once happy and peaceful plains of America are either to be drenched with blood, or inhabited by slaves,” he wrote to a friend that spring. “Sad alternative!”

Today, Americans viewing the scenes of revolution across the Middle East may share some of Washington’s ambivalence. We cheer those Arab voices articulating many of the same ideals that roused our Founding Fathers as they fight for a future of greater dignity and freedom. And yet we are anxious because we know from history that revolutions can often spin out of control, leading to chaos and civil war. Dictators or extremist groups often seize power, pervert the original revolutionary ideals and impose new brands of tyranny.

Invoking Nelson Mandela and Lech Walesa alongside Washington, Reiss declares his skepticism about the chances for a favorable outcome, noting the role of “decades of corruption, economic stagnation and political repression” in shaping the future leadership of the countries currently convulsed by revolution.

A better hook to connect Washington and today’s Middle East events, though, would be the French Revolution, not the American Revolution.

Read more


“Revisiting the Value of Elite Colleges” 1960s to 1980s …

Ken Thomas refers us to this NYT article reporting on research spanning the 60s and 1976 to 1989 by Stacy Dale and Alan Krueger. The question in the roughest terms is ‘does an elite college education pay off in income?’.

Of great interest:

It’s important to note, though, that a few major groups did not fit the pattern: black students, Latino students, low-income students and students whose parents did not graduate from college. “For them, attending a more selective school increased earnings significantly,” Mr. Krueger has written. Why? Perhaps they benefit from professional connections they would not otherwise have. Perhaps they acquire habits or skills that middle-class and affluent students have already acquired in high school or at home.

This finding is especially noteworthy because the new study included several historically black colleges, like Howard, Morehouse and Spelman, which are not as selective as Penn, Williams or other elite colleges. Students who choose a historically black college over an elite college may be hurting their future earnings potential.

and this advice to student applicants and colleges

My advice to students: Don’t believe that the only school worth attending is one that would not admit you. That you go to college is more important than where you go. Find a school whose academic strengths match your interests and that devotes resources to instruction in those fields. Recognize that your own motivation, ambition and talents will determine your success more than the college name on your diploma.

My advice to elite colleges: Recognize that the most disadvantaged students benefit most from your instruction. Set financial aid and admission policies accordingly.

Your conclusions as you are looking at 15 April?


Legacy Admissions Update

Director of Institution Research Chris Winters ’95 kindly answered my question about legacy admissions in the class of 2014.

Over the past decade or so, the percent of direct plus (unduplicated) skipped legacies in the matriculating class has been in the range of 11-17%. Direct legacies make up the vast majority of those.

Alas, I had hoped that Chris would give us more details about the class of 2014. Recall that last year the data was more detailed:

Director of Institutional Research Chris Winters ’95 reports on the numbers for the class of 2013. There are 69 students (13%) with at least one alumni parent and another 10 (2%) or so with no parent but at least one grandparent. (Some people restrict “legacy” to mean the children of alums, others include grandchildren.)

The most useful thing to know about legacy admissions would be their average academic rating as compared to the class as a whole. Three years ago:

Morty noted that a decade or so ago [or perhaps when he arrived?], the average legacy was a 3.3 on the 1-9 scale of academic ranks while the average non-legacy was 2.3. Morty did not seem to be a huge fan of this gap, or of giving legacies such a preference. He then noted that the latest statistics show that legacy and non-legacy are now equivalent (both at 2.3). Morty confirmed, consistent with all the analysis I have done, that being a legacy is not a meaningful advantage in getting into Williams.

But, since that time, the legacy pool has only gotten stronger and more competitive. Could the average AR of legacies now be higher than that of non-legacies? Perhaps. But a proper comparison would adjust for key confounders like race, athleticism and nationality.

A great topic for a senior thesis!


A passing note on legacies …

They can take poignant forms.


February Athletics Round-Up

Huge NESCAC championship weekend ahead … preview coming Friday.  In the meantime, we are long overdue for an athletics round-up.  A few stories of note from the first two months of this year:

  • Be sure to read this great Lacrosse Magazine feature on lacrosse / singing dual-threat Matt Cranshaw ’11.  And speaking of lacrosse, check out this interview with future Eph John Maimone-Medwick ’15.
  • Another dual threat athlete-musician, Chloe Billadeau ’15, will be playing goalie for the women’s ice hockey team next year. 
  • Speaking of future Ephs, Tom Cabarle ’15 chose Williams over a variety of Ivy League options.  Cabarle was the Morris County football player of the year, and sounds like an extremely versatile player.
  • Khari Stephenson ’04, who was on loan last year to the MLS San Jose Earthquakes, signed a three-year contract extension.  Congrats!
  • Dave Paulsen ’88 continues to have a tremendous year at Bucknell.  His young Bucknell squad (they start three sophomores and only one senior) locked up first-place in the regular season in the Patriot League, and will host the conference tourney.
  • Check out this fun video from the women’s (incredible) eleventh straight NESCAC swimming and diving title.  At 3:45, you can watch as the Ephs drag their coaches into the pool before a massive splashing celebration.  Looks like fun.
  • The Eph connection here seems too coincidental to ignore … Kellen Pagel, a third string QB from Dave Clawson ’89’s Bowling Green squad, transferred to Kevin Morris ’86’s UMass team, where he will have an opportunity to compete for a starting job.  UMass, which had a strong recruiting year,  is still contemplating a potential move up to Division 1-A, where they would play Bowling Green annually as a member of the MAC conference.   Meanwhile, Clawson brought in a stellar recruiting class (consensus second-best in the MAC) on a shoestring budget.
  • Jennifer Gossels ’13 was recognized as the D-3 cross country student-athlete of the year.  With a 4.0 GPA in computer science and math, and perhaps the top runner in the country, she sounds like a great future Rhodes Scholar candidate to me!
  • Nice article on future Eph tennis player Monica Pastor ’15.
  • Football coach Aaron Kelton is one of the keynote speakers at an NFL coaching symposium.

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