News & Publications
The College Magazine - Summer 2008
FROM THE BELL TOWERS
Campaign Kick-Off Event
The Campaign for St. John's Exceeds $125 Million Goal
When the college formally declares its success at campaign celebrations this July in Santa Fe, and September in Annapolis, there will be quite a few people to thank-Led Zeppelin among them.
The legendary rock band reunited in December 2007 (with Jason Bonham replacing his late father on the drums) in London for a tribute to Ahmet Ertegun, class of 1944 and founder of Atlantic Records. Proceeds established the Ahmet Ertegun Education Fund, which benefits four educational institutions, St. John's among them.
Many individuals-from an anonymous donor who made a $12 million gift to strengthen the college endowment to a recent alumnus who made a first-time gift of $20 to the college's Annual Fund-contributed to the success of "With a Clear and Single Purpose": The Campaign for St. John's College. As of June 1, 2008, more than $130 million has been raised in the campaign, an extraordinary achievement for a small college. "We have been able to address important priorities such as financial aid and faculty salaries, as well as improving the physical facilities on the campus," said Annapolis President Christopher Nelson (SF70).
The Santa Fe campus, which is marking the 40th anniversary of its first commencement this year, will see some of its most important long-term goals come to fruition as a result of campaign gifts. Among them are the Norman and Betty Levan Hall, a new home for the Graduate Institute; a new dormitory; and the Ariel Internship program that provides work experience for students. "The success of this campaign will mean a stronger, more vital campus community in Santa Fe," said President Michael Peters. "Innovation and vision have always meant a lot to this campus. Financial stability, increased support for student financial aid, and improved facilities position us for a bright future."
The campaign formally opened in 2006 with opening celebrations in Annapolis and Santa Fe. On July 25, Santa Fe will host the first closing celebration, a Fiesta for New Mexico alumni and supporters. On September 13, Annapolis&45;area alumni and college friends will celebrate the successful completion of the campaign.
Strong leadership gifts, most notably from Ronald Fielding, campaign chairman, started the campaign out on a high note. Fielding directed his gift to the endowment, for financial aid. To stimulate giving in the final year of the campaign, he issued a $2.5 million challenge to alumni, matching first-time gifts, increased gifts, and multi-year pledges to the campaign. The challenge worked-alumni met and exceeded the challenge, prompting Fielding to raise the challenge and match qualifying gifts through June 30. One of the greatest achievements the college can celebrate in this campaign, Fielding noted, is the creation of a strong culture of giving among alumni.
Leadership gifts from donors such as Fielding, a strong response to the annual fund from alumni, and the support of foundations all contributed to the campaign's success, says Sharon Bishop (class of 1965), chair of the Board of Visitors and Governors. "I think this campaign has reinforced our central beliefs about St. John's," Bishop says. "First, St. John's stands for something important and valuable in higher education. Secondly, our alumni believe in our Program and are willing to support it with their dollars, more than they ever have in the history of our college. Finally, we have gained the admiration and financial support of foundations and friends which have been critical to our success."
When the celebrations end in the fall, the college will embark on a new strategic plan, one that establishes priorities and identifies challenges for the college in the coming years, Bishop says. "Because this campaign has been such a resounding success, we can move on to the next chapter, firmly grounded in our purpose and confident about our future."
By Rosemary Harty
Reaching Out in Annapolis
In past years, Annapolis students have engaged in community service in a variety of ways, from tutoring local children to working on Habitat for Humanity projects. Early this summer, a group of students who are concerned about the social issues of the wider Annapolis community launched a new project: Epigenesis, a 10-week leadership program for Annapolis youth "who have experienced serious difficulties in life," says Jamaal Barnes (A10). The idea, says Barnes, is for Johnnies to support teenagers as they "work through the Annapolis community to create the change they want to see."
Four students created Epigenesis: Barnes, Rachel Davison (A08), Raphaela Cassandra (A10), and Joshua Becker (A08). The group already has seed money: a $10,000 grant from The Davis Projects for Peace program.
The effort arose from a growing concern among students over social problems in Annapolis, including drug-related violence, a high drop-out rate for students of color, and a lack of opportunity for area youth, says Barnes. "Epigenesis was inspired by a love for the Annapolis community," he says. "Instead of being worried and concerned and sitting in our lofty positions on campus, our education inspires us to act. If something's wrong, we should try to fix it in whatever way we can."
Epigenesis founders began their project by making contacts with social service and community organizations in Annapolis, including Annapolis High School, We Care and Friends, Asbury United Methodist Church, and the Boys and Girls Club in Annapolis. "We thought it was important to partner with other groups and get the support of other community programs," says Ms. Cassandra.
The program began in mid-June with a leadership workshop for a dozen area teenagers, selected with the help of community partners, at St. John's. The group will continue to meet throughout the summer to plan and carry out projects in their own communities. Students will develop programs to address the social problems they see as the most critical in the Annapolis community today. Barnes says these could include open--mic nights and community fairs. Johnnies will help facilitate the program as advisers, office assistants, or group leaders, "to help the teens in whatever way possible," he says.
A Dream Walking
St. John's lost one of its biggest fans last February when writer, newspaper columnist and conservative pundit William F. Buckley, Jr. died. Buckley was the Commencement speaker in Annapolis in May 1996. Shortly afterward he praised the college in his nationally syndicated column, focusing on the titles of the senior essays he read about in the Commencement program. Not easily impressed, Buckley described his column as "a lullaby to the forlorn on the theme of: Believe it or not, some American students learn." He described expressing his astonishment at the "academic and intellectual sophistication" of the students to Ray Cave (class of 1948), who sat next to him on the podium. He listed many of the authors read on the Program, and concluded with a line that the college has treasured since: "Did you ever see a dream walking? Go to St. John's."
Search and Rescue Fosters Outdoor Skills
Thanks to wider cell phone coverage, fancy GPS devices, and better wilderness and safety education, fewer hapless hikers are getting lost in the mountains near the Santa Fe campus. That's meant a shift in focus for the college's Search and Rescue Team.
Brendan O'Neill, Athletics and Outdoors Program coordinator in Santa Fe, has been involved with the team since 1998. Since Search and Rescue was founded in 1971, the team would field 30 or so rescue missions a year, he says. With fewer rescues, the team has focused more energy on teaching Johnnies leadership and outdoor skills. O'Neill says extended training is focused in four main areas: navigation, including map reading, compass skills, and GPS; wilderness medicine; communications, including using radios; and field certification, which the state of New Mexico requires for search and rescue participants. The team has about 30 members, 25 of whom are St. John's students. Team members are encouraged to attend at least two sessions a month.
In the past year several courses have been held on the Santa Fe campus, including a wilderness first-response course taught by Wilderness Medical Associates, an amateur radio license class taught by the Los Alamos Radio Club, and an avalanche course. Cultivating leadership skills is still an important goal of the team, O'Neill says, and to that end students take on important roles such as president, training officer, and logistics officer.
All this training means a safer and more effective mission when Search and Rescue heads off campus to the mountains. In January, three searches in four days involved members of the St. John's team. In the first, the hiker turned up while rescue teams were mobilizing—"the best result in a mission," says O'Neill. The second involved a rescue that was completed just before a snowstorm. The third rescue, in which two people were lost for three nights in the Santa Fe Ski Basin area, required 13 teams working in blizzard-like conditions.
By Jenny Hannifin
Santa Fe Greenhouse
Determinate Negation: Razing the Santa Fe Greenhouse
In early January, a call went out from Mike DiMezza (SF98, EC99), former assistant gardener. He was spreading the word to those who helped him build it that the adobe greenhouse behind the Fine Arts Building would soon be taken down. Its decommission makes way for a fire safety road that will serve the Norman and Betty Levan Hall, the center for the Graduate Institute, on which construction will begin later this year.
For many people, the greenhouse, built in 2003, stood as a legacy and a proud accomplishment. It was distinct among buildings on the Santa Fe campus in that students conceived of, designed, and built it-with help from alumni, the Buildings and Grounds office, and friends of the college. A "green" structure, it served as a model for ownership, stewardship, and belonging in the St. John's community. Even though its destruction makes way for a great benefit to the college, many will feel its loss deeply and for a long time. That's why, when Mike suggested a reconvening of some of the old crew to deconstruct the greenhouse, I agreed to join in. We would salvage the materials to be reused elsewhere-perhaps for another greenhouse built by a later generation of students.
Upon reflection, of course, the idea seems a bit crazy. After all, Mike was calling me in New Orleans from his place in Brooklyn, where he lives with his wife, Amy, and one-year-old son, Lucca. The old crew is scattered to far corners at this point. But as Mike said later in Santa Fe, "So many people helped build that greenhouse, so much heart, love, and care went into the site, to have just destroyed it would have been too much to bear." In March, Mike and I flew to Santa Fe. Together with some students, staff, old guard B&G workers and David Perrigo, the campus architect, we brought down the greenhouse in four days.
I delighted in seeing Johnnies again with tools in hand. It felt similar to building the greenhouse as a student alongside other students. The work had been a diversion for some of us, or an outlet for the stress of the trials of the classroom; for others it was a means of honing thoughts engendered therein. For all, it meant learning a practical application of the St. John's method by addressing each task, if not as a knower, then as a thinker. It meant learning to take stock of the tools and resources at one's disposal, however few they were and however crude, and using them to the utmost with creativity and deliberation.
For five years the greenhouse stood as a monument to that invaluable lesson, and as a refuge and place of beauty for the students, faculty, and staff of Santa Fe. Will it have a future incarnation? As Santa Fe President Michael Peters told me, a greenhouse does belong on campus. Materials salvaged from the greenhouse were saved, and the structure will be rebuilt as soon as the best location has been determined.
Until then, it shall live in the hearts and works of those whose hands shaped it and whose lives it touched.
By Shane Gassaway. Shane Gassaway is enrolled in the PhD program in philosophy at Tulane University. In New Orleans, he's put his building skills to use in assisting in the construction of a playground through a program called Kaboom, whose mission is to build a playground within walking distance of every child in America.
Armed with Padded Weapons, Johnnies Pursue Honor
The Melee Club, which wages a (bloodless) battle on the soccer field after lunch every Saturday afternoon, has an important niche at St. John's: It reminds armchair Iliad enthusiasts what hand-to-hand combat was actually like. Forget that these weapons are foam instead of bronze and that the participants fight not for honor, but until the last man is standing. That's not to say that there aren't moments of stoicism that would do any Spartan proud: though no face or groin hits are allowed, everything else is fair game.
"Things like Melee just evolved out of warfare, like most modern forms of martial arts and weapon practice," explains Michael Sloan (A11), who has been playing since he came to St. John's. "The only difference is that while things like fencing and Aikido teach the tactics and procedures of a specific form of combat, Melee is simply a brawl." No specific physical prowess is needed to play-though many of the veteran players will be happy to demonstrate techniques that would make any zombie-fighting ninja proud.
The traditional Melee weapon is a foam sword called a "boffer," though soft replicas of axes, spears, and shields are also common. They all have a core of PVC, wrapped in pipe insulation foam in the shape and size appropriate to the kind of weapon needed. After the glue has set, the entire weapon is wrapped in colorful duct tape to add durability. Archon William Kunkel (A11) says, "The name 'boffer' is probably based on the sound one makes when hitting someone solidly. With a well padded one, it actually sounds like 'boff.'"
This year's Melee group numbers around 20 students, including several women. The rules of battle are simple and the objective is clear. Club members split up into two opposing "armies," chosen by "captains" as if it were a soccer game. Usually the opposing teams stare at once another for a few seconds, then suddenly rush at each other, screaming a battle cry. Combatants get their arms and legs "cut off" with the slapstick glee of a Monty Python movie. Once a limb is "disabled," the player must act as if it no longer functions, leading to the classic Melee pose of hopping after someone on one foot. And, though they might start out as two armies, loyalties are fluid and any game can quickly become "every man for himself."
With all this treachery and risk of bruising, why do people play?
Killian Gupton (A117341;, who just started playing this year, says, "I play because I really need an opportunity to wail away at someone and let off steam without hurting anybody. It just helps me relax and get something out of my system."
Kelly Trop (A11), one of the female players, gets straight to the point: "I play mostly because it's fun to attack people with giant foam weapons."
The origins of Melee on the St. John's campus are lost to those who play the game now, but Archon Jason Ritzke (A117341; believes this particular game is unique to St. John's. ""Many other padded-weapon fighting groups exist," he says. "However, this has the special nature of allowing us to truly communicate (to a classmate) what we really thought about that point made in seminar."
By Erica Stratton (A08)
News and Announcements
New GI Director in Annapolis
Tutor Marilyn Higuera is the new Graduate Institute director in Annapolis, taking over for Joan Silver. Higuera has been a tutor at St. John's since 1979. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees at the University of Michigan and spent two years as a mathematician at the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University.
Having taught graduate students at St. John's, Higuera is excited about spending the next four years strengthening the institute, recruiting new students, and supporting students. "They have come to St. John's after earning an undergraduate degree somewhere else, and they know that they've really missed something. Many of them have full-time jobs and commute long distances to come to the college," she says. "I'm touched by their level of commitment, the lengths that they go to in order to be here."
One of Higuera's most important charges as the new director, succeeding tutor Joan Silver, is to continue to promote the Hodson Trust Teacher Fellowship. The program pays up to 70 percent of the total cost of attending the program for kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers.
Honors for Aigla
Head Sensei Ferol Arce, 9th Dan and one of the highest-ranked martial artists in the country in Karate-Dõ, came to the Santa Fe campus for his first visit in February 2008, with three other Black Belts.
St. John's Dõjõ members, including tutor Jorge Aigla, were pleased to be able to work out with him. But Arce also had a surprise in store: he awarded Aigla a 7th Dan, making Aigla the highest-ranked martial artist in New Mexico, according to Arce.
Aigla has been teaching Karate-Dõ free of charge on the Santa Fe campus for 22 years and has been practicing for 39 years. The St. John's Dõjõ has about 15 committed members and comprises students, faculty, and staff. Aigla accepted the award on behalf of the St. John's Dõjõ, adding that "this distinction really belongs to the students and to the college."
New Look for the Web Site
The St. John's College Web site was redesigned this spring by Baltimore firm No | Inc., with the college's Web team implementing the changes. The new look prominently features the great book authors, and offers improved navigation through drop-down menus and quick links. Of course, the college's favorite tag line remains: The following teachers will return to St. John's.
Anna Sochocky is the new director of Communications and External Relations for St. John's College in Santa Fe. She brings 18 years of experience in areas of media cultivation, advertising, promotion, and electronic and print publication development. During the past 10 years, she has operated a successful consulting business in these areas as well as government relations and creative writing. Most recently she was director of Public Relations and Marketing at the College of Santa Fe. Sochocky earned a bachelor's degree in history and political science at Macalester College and a master's in liberal studies at Hamline University.
Melissa Latham-Stevens, art director/senior graphic designer for the Santa Fe campus, has been recognized for her design talents by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). Latham-Stevens won a Silver Medal in the Alumni Relations Publications category for her design of the St. John's Homecoming 2007 brochure.
Correction: In the Winter 2008 issue of The College, an article on the Annual Fund incorrectly identified Jack Walker. We regret the error.