Currently browsing posts authored by Guy Creese '75

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Professor Dudley W. R. Bahlman

Inspired by the “Good People of Williams” post (but not wanting my story to be lost in comments), I figured I’d write about Professor Dudley Ward Rhodes Bahlman. (Although to be fair, he went by the less formal “Dudley W. R. Bahlman”). Now that’s a name for a college professor. He looked the part as well. Easily 6’2,” he was a big man. Rumor had it that he’d played on the Yale football team. I never found out whether it was true, but he certainly had the build of a linebacker. A linebacker who wore three-piece suits to class; on his days off he’d wear a tweed sportscoat or a Shetland sweater.

Between the name, his build, and the way he dressed, he was an imposing man. So it was with some trepidation that I sat down in his class, my first class in my freshman year at Williams: History 101. “Good morning, class,” he started. “My name is Professor Bahlman. It’s not ‘Dudley’ or ‘Dud’–it’s Professor Bahlman. You will be ‘Mr. Creese’ and ‘Miss Coolidge.’ Maybe when we all die and go to that big Heaven in the sky I’ll be Dud and you can be Chip or Buffy, but in this class we will address each other formally. Is that understood?” We all gulped and nodded.

“Now, you’ll notice that I walk around a lot in class,” he said, striding forcefully back and forth across the front of the room in Greylock. “I have a lot of energy and I find it useful. I used to twirl my pocket watch on the end of its chain, but the chain let go one day and beaned a student. Knocked him out cold. Took several minutes to bring him around. So now I just walk back and forth.” Once again we gulped and nodded.

I learned a lot from him, but two lessons stand out. The first paper we had to write for him was a five-pager answering the question, “Was World War II inevitable?” Like many students at Williams, I had been a straight A student in high school. Needless to say, I was shocked when I got the paper back with a big “C+” on it. Everyone else was pretty much in the same boat, so the general demeanor in the class that day was total disbelief.

He started out, “I suspect that many of you are disappointed in your grade–as well you should be. Frankly, many of the papers were not well argued. It’s fair to say that your first mistake was to answer the question I posed.” We’re looking at each other, going, “Huh? What was that again?” He went on. “Look at how I posed the question: ‘Is World War II inevitable?’ You need to qualify the question. Inevitable when? In 1935? In September 1939? Furthermore, the word ‘inevitable” is a trap. It’s too absolute. You should have started your paper by saying something like, ‘I will answer the question, “Was World War II inevitable?” by answering the more specific question: “At the beginning of December 1941, was it probable that the U.S. would have eventually entered World War II, even if Pearl Harbor hadn’t happened?”‘ Remember, it’s your paper; you’re in control of what you write. Don’t blindly follow the professor over a cliff.”

Thirty-seven years after that class the lesson is still burned into my brain: Recast the question if necessary.

My junior year I took Professor Bahlman’s class on Victorian England and learned yet another lesson. He was a big believer in making us read “the definitive works,” some of which were quite dry. We had a quiz at the start of class one day and although most of us did pretty well, the entire class was stumped by one specific question. (We all compared notes during the break, since it was a three-hour class.) We ganged up on him once we got back in class, all of us claiming that that we’d never seen that answer in the assigned reading. “Ah,” he said, his eyes sparkling. “That was in the footnotes. You should always read the footnotes.”

I carefully read footnotes to this day.

Finally, to give a hint of his softer side, a story from outside of class. One Winter Study I did an oral history project about Williams during the Baxter and Sawyer administrations. I went around and interviewed faculty and staff who’d worked for Presidents Baxter and Sawyer, and Professor Bahlman was one of them, since he had served as Dean of the Faculty under Sawyer. At one point he got onto recounting some student pranks during the 1960s, and made the comment, “You know, I think students take themselves way too seriously these days. We haven’t had a good student prank in the past several years.”

Partly emboldened by his offhand comment–and somewhat distressed that the future Sawyer Library was being built without the obligatory construction sign listing the architect, construction firm, etc.–my roommates and I decided we would correct that omission. We created a large plywood sign, white with purple letters, that said, “Site of the Future Smilin’ Jack Sawyer Library.” We attached it to the fence surrounding the construction site in the dead of night (and got caught by Security in the process–but that’s another story). The sign suddenly appearing out of nowhere caused a minor sensation, since many people couldn’t figure out whether the sign was official or not. (We’d worked hard to make it appear professionally done.) Its appearance was written up in the Williams Record, and the college sent a picture of it to alumni in a newsletter, attributing the sign to “student humorists.” Several days later, I ran into Professor Bahlman at a hockey game as I was scooting past him to get to a seat. He looked down at my sneakers with dabs of paint on them, smiled, and said, “That’s an interesting shade of purple paint, Mr. Creese,” and winked.

In my mind, a great professor.

UPDATE: This post was originally posted in 2008. But, we need to “re-up” wonderful writing like this, bringing Williams history to a new generation of readers. — DDF


What are Values of the Two-Year College or university.

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Junior faculties also provide a fantastic opportunity to start out your grasping mission inside of a way that could be a superb deal a great deal more easily sensible towards normal national than an all out higher education. These universities are to a wonderful extent worker faculties then again you will find a few that allow understudies the practical experience of residing over a school grounds in a a lot of lower price tag than most serious schools charge for your exact or basically the same as benefits.

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Absolutely, around the off possibility that you are looking for an astounding fine quality with regards to instruction you would do your self or your kids an injuries in the event that you do not look within the junior higher education choices into your basic vicinity prior to dove in and jumping to the faculty technique for lifespan. You will see that that junior faculties quite often provide you with an equal amount of instruction to the straightforward classes that to start with and second calendar year undergrads commonly acquire, these are a vastly improved esteem for the money, and they’re an exceptional characteristics with the people today who are attempting to juggle their teaching with loved ones and perform obligations.


Williams Needs a Purple Cow (Striped with Yellow Highlights)

So how do we get one of these installed at the entrance of Hopkins Hall?


The Waiting List Dance

An article in today’s The New York Times entitled, “For Students, a Waiting List is Scant Hope.” It describes the dance between students (“Should I go with a college that accepted me or wait on the waiting list?”) and admissions officers (” need some flexibility to sculpt the freshman class”).

I’m showing my age–when I applied to college I applied to four colleges. The number now seems to hover at 10+.


Student Blogging as College PR

There’s an article in The New York Times this morning (“M.I.T. Taking Student Blogs to the Nth Degree“) that discusses how colleges are using student blogs to publicize life at the college and entice prospects. It notes:

Dozens of colleges — including Amherst, Bates, Carleton, Colby, Vassar, Wellesley and Yale — are embracing student blogs on their Web sites, seeing them as a powerful marketing tool for high school students, who these days are less interested in official messages and statistics than in first-hand narratives and direct interaction with current students.

Notice that Williams isn’t mentioned.

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Williams Has Too Many ‘Nice Boys’: Background

For those of you who have been reading the posts entitled, “Williams Has Too Many Nice Boys,” the genesis for the idea of my Senior Honors Thesis (The Concept of the Gentleman at Williams College: 1929-1939) started when I applied to Williams. In the course of wrapping things up after my Admissions interview with Phil Smith, my father casually asked, “So, is Williams still a playboy school?”

You would have thought a bomb had gone off. Phil got really animated and cited statistic after statistic (average combined SAT scores of 1300, 60% of students from public high schools, on and on), arguing that Williams was academically elite and no longer the school of the gentleman’s C. I remember thinking, “Wow, now that was an interesting over-reaction.” At the time, I knew nothing about the history of Williams, and when I asked my father later about his question, he explained that when he went to Brown in the late 1930’s, Williams had a reputation as a rich boy’s school, much like Amherst, where his brother had gone, and he was just trying to understand how much it had changed.

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Williams Has Too Many ‘Nice Boys’: Part 3

What follows is an excerpt from The Concept of the Gentleman at Williams College: 1929-1939, my Senior Honors Thesis in History. Part 2 is here.

Because the reported speech was so vague, people read their own meanings into Dennett’s speech. Consequently, his alumni address brought forth many different characterizations of Williams students and many different reactions to the speech: some of the people who wrote Dennett were sure he was referring to student snobs, and they applauded him for wanting to change the college’s character; others felt that he was against private school graduates, and they angrily wanted to preserve the character of the clientele. But all of the correspondents, whether in a derogatory or an admiring manner, spoke of the preponderance of “gentlemen” at Williams — wealthy, well-mannered, upper class students.

In an editorial, the Boston Herald deftly described the type of student that everyone noticed at Williams, and expressed surprise at wanting to have fewer of them:

Not only are graduates of ‘our best preparatory schools’ an adornment to any campus, with their well-washed faces and their studiously careless attire, but they are also usually well-mannered, urbane, and responsive to intellectual and aesthetic stimulation.

They provide a tone to college which no amount of Gothic architecture or zealously cultivated ivy can apply. Nor is the pleasant fact to be overlooked that their papas and mamas occasionally surprise the faculty — often just before examination time — with a check for a swimming pool, a baseball cage, or a new set of Dickens.

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Williams Has Too Many ‘Nice Boys’: Part 2

What follows is an excerpt from The Concept of the Gentleman at Williams College: 1929-1939, my Senior Honors Thesis in History. Part 1 is here.

Headmasters of the lesser known preparatory schools also quickly wrote to President Dennett. Wilson Parkhill, a Williams alumnus and headmaster of the oldest private boys’ school in America — Collegiate School — sent a letter inquiring what Williams wanted in regard to future students. He pointed out that out of a graduating class of twenty-three students, for or five had wanted to go to Williams. After the speech,

two of them are going to Dartmouth, one to Amherst, one to Harvard, and the other is undecided as to just what he will do. They are the best boys in the school — not the ‘nicest’, particularly, but high type. When such a thing as this happens, it makes me think a little.

To these headmasters President Dennett wrote long replies, rebutting their criticisms and explaining what he had meant to say. According to Dennett, the naming of private schools other than Hotchkiss was “sheer fabrication by some unknown reporter.” Furthermore, the newspaper account had been inaccurate in other places. He had said that Williams was not about to step down its work for the high school student, and had also observed that preparatory school students were generally well-mannered and were pleasant to have around since they gave few disciplinary problems.

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Williams Has Too Many ‘Nice Boys’: Part 1

A common topic on Ephblog is student diversity–how to foster it, its interrelationship with financial aid, the impact of international students, and so on. In the 1930’s, such discussions were a lot less nuanced. During the Great Depression, the big diversity question was, “Should we admit more public high school students?”

What follows is an excerpt from my Senior Honors Thesis in History: The Concept of the Gentleman at Williams College: 1929-1939. This is the first chapter, where I talk about the fallout from President Tyler Dennett musing out loud that Williams had too many prep school students. The firestorm that resulted shows how far Williams has come in 75 years.

Read it and enjoy. It’s quite a story.

On March 11, 1937, an article on the front page of the New York Herald Tribune carried the headline: “Dennett Regrets Williams Has So Many ‘Nice Boys.’” The Herald Tribune went on to explain:

Tyler Dennett, president of Williams College, declared today his fears that Williams was growing less and less representative of the American people because its students run ‘almost uniformly to the “nice boy” type.’

‘My idea of a college community is that it should be a cross-section of American life,’ Mr. Dennett told the Williams Alumni Association of Boston, explaining that Williams’s ‘nice boys’ came almost exclusively from ‘good’ schoools like Hotchkiss, Kent and Deerfield.

‘We need more high-school graduates, but it is difficult to get them,’ he asserted. ‘We step down our courses in the freshman class, but our standard is, nevertheless, hard for the high-school graduate because of his poorer preparation…[sic] I wish we knew better how to do this sort of thing.’

So, according to the newspaper story, President Dennett had not only subtly insulted the college he headed, but also insulted secondary schools, both private and public. In his mind, Williams College accepted and taught only “nice boys” — in the vernacular, snobby, rich preppies who sat around and contented themselves with a gentleman’s C — while private schools turned out these decadent students and public high schools gave their students poor academic preparation for college.

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College Sustainability: Williams Gets a B+ (Amherst Too)

The Boston Globe has published an article entitled, “Harvard, Dartmouth, UNH earn high ‘green’ marks,” in which it goes over the College Sustainability Report Card, published by the Sustainable Endowments Institute in Cambridge, MA. Williams received a B+, as did Amherst. Ratings probably of interest to Ephblog readers:


On the Other End of the Log at Auburn

An interesting article in The New York Times on Kelly Jolley, Chairman of the Philosophy Department at Auburn, and his bootstrapping of the department over the past 17 years from a tolerated backwater to a philosophy powerhouse:

Jolley is almost single-handedly responsible for this state of affairs. When he first arrived at Auburn as a young professor 17 years ago, there were just a handful of philosophy majors, and there wasn’t much interest inside the department or the administration in adding more. Today, however, there are about 50 philosophy majors at Auburn. If recent history is any guide, a handful of them will even pursue Ph.D.’s in philosophy at highly competitive graduate schools and go on to become professional philosophers. “I don’t know of a comparable department at a comparable school,” James Conant, a philosophy professor at the University of Chicago, where two of Jolley’s former students are now studying, told me.

Well worth reading, and all the more impressive since Auburn–a land grant college centered around the idea that education needs to be “practical”–isn’t centered around the liberal arts vision like Williams.


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.


Twins and Triplets at College

There’s an interesting article in The New York Times on twins and triplets applying to college, and their worry that applying to the same college will hurt them.

The Williams case that I know of is the Samuelson triplets: one went to Harvard, one went to Yale, and one went to Williams. (Before parents faint at the thought of Mr. Samuelson paying three high-end tuitions all at once in the early 1970’s, don’t. Mr. Samuelson was Paul Samuelson, the MIT economist, who was well-heeled due to royalties from his popular economics textbook. And yes, we used his textbook in Econ 101.) Paul, the triplet at Yale, after several years decided to transfer to Williams and was accepted. So Bob Samuelson and Paul Samuelson graduated from Williams in 1975.


Trying to Figure Out If Williams Is Selling Its Mailing Lists

I suspect not, given all the warnings that the college has around its online alumni directory (verbiage to the effect that you can’t use the addresses for commercial purposes), but I received a piece of mail today from Comcast touting its “reliable business class communications,” and it was addressed to:

Guy Creese

This form of address is curious, because catalog mailing lists certainly don’t know that I went to Williams–or that I graduated in the Class of ’75. The only other option I can think of is that Comcast bought a mailing list from web registrars, since I am the webmaster for the Class of ’75 web site.

In any case, has any Ephblog reader received similar mail?


Hank Payne: Some Remembrances

A very nice obituary was published on Hank Payne in The Boston Globe over the weekend. The part I liked was the fact that he had started taking piano lessons:

“He had this sort of infectious desire to learn that manifested itself in him, and by example in other people,” Johnson said. “I tell people he’s the kind of person who takes piano lessons at 59. He took up piano lessons just like a first-grader. I told that at the graveside service, and a woman walked up after and said: ‘I want to introduce myself. I’m the piano teacher.’ I said, “Was he doing well? And she said, ‘Very well.’ “

Another nice comment was:

“He would have a national search [at Woodward Academy] and could get the very best,” he said. “People would come from wherever they were because they wanted to work for Hank Payne. People loved to work for him because they learned so much, and they loved to work for him because he had such a light touch in terms of management style.”

Other comments I’ve seen over the past several days include:

Nancy McIntire said, “He was a wonderful boss. I liked working with him a lot. He was very accessible. He had a wonderful sense of humor. And he was very, very smart.”

‘Here is this bright, funny, thoughtful guy, great job, broad interests, lovely family; he’s got everything going for him,’ ” said Jane Leavey, the Breman Museum’s executive director.

“I tell people I never in my life met anybody who was that smart who was as modest, self-effacing, fun,” said Johnson, the managing partner of the law firm Alston & Bird.


Recruiting Athletes, Small College Style

The New York Times ran an article today entitled, “In Recruiting, a Big Push From Small Colleges, Too.” It describes how small colleges recruit athletes, using Haverford as an example.

Amy Bergin, Haverford’s volleyball coach, makes some interesting observations:

“Of 1,000 I’ve contacted, about half will reply,” Bergin said. “About half that reply will be academically qualified. About half of them will be truly interested in Haverford. About half of them will be actually good enough to play volleyball for us. About half of that group will apply for admission. About half of them will get accepted. And about half of them will decide to come here. If that happens, that’s a really good year. That’s almost eight girls.”

“There are the girls who say, ‘Well, I’m a Division I talent,’ ” Bergin said. “And I think, ‘Forget it.’ I don’t need the attitude. I’ve got to spend four years with these girls. I cross girls off my list all the time because I think they’ll be high maintenance.”

Mike Murphy, the men’s lacrosse coach, offers some thoughts on working with Admissions:

The high school goalie Murphy is welcoming to the Haverford campus is Kevin Friedenberg of Needham, Mass. Murphy has scouted Friedenberg twice. Seconds after shaking Murphy’s hand at the student center, Friedenberg hands over his transcript, which Murphy scans in seconds and offers immediate advice.

He wants Friedenberg to take as many Advanced Placement courses as he can in his senior year. “You’re a good student, but that’s the first thing that admissions will ask about,” Murphy said.

“When recruiting at this level, if you don’t take your cues from the people at admissions and use it to guide the prospects on their academic record, you’re just crazy,” Murphy said. “That’s probably as important as identifying athletic talent.”

He sums up by noting:

“You start this process knowing of hundreds of kids you think you might want to play for you,” he said. “But you know that only a few will actually be on the field at your first practice. And none of them will be on scholarship and all of them can walk away at any time. They can just quit. So you better have made your choices carefully, and they better have come for the right reasons.”

While I’m sure Williams’ practices differ in some way from Haverford’s, they’re certainly a lot closer to Haverford’s than, say, Ohio State.

On a side note, for folks interested in better understanding Williams’ admissions processes (admittedly by proxy), I highly recommend The Gatekeepers, by Jacques Steinberg. It follows the admissions process at Wesleyan over the course of a year (1999).


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