Alumni Society

It was early—before noon—on a Saturday morning in October. With no concern for our rest, the Adytum photographer rapped hard on every door of our basement hallway, flatly shouting “Yearbook.” We stepped out into the dark cinderblock hall, bleary, in our underwear, not yet camera-ready. “Everybody outside in two minutes.” I don’t remember which of us had the first-rate idea to dress in Ironic Formal, but we used both of those two minutes to find our neckties and line up outside the back door of East Hall. Take a moment to appreciate our trim physiques, our hair, and our excellent wit. One of those things hasn’t changed.
—James Hale ’78

First Person

Nan Carney-DeBord ’80 was a field hockey and basketball player during her student years (she was inducted into the Denison Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998), and she had every intention of pursuing a career in medicine. But after a January term, during which she worked as a volunteer coach at Granville High School, she was hooked on sports. She earned a master’s degree at Kent State, then spent 25 years as head women’s basketball coach at Ohio Wesleyan, where she took the Bishops to six NCAA Division III tournament berths and five North Coast Athletic Conference championships. She was a seven-time NCAC Coach of the Year and was named the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Division III National Coach of the Year after her team’s run at the national semifinals of the 2001 NCAA Division III tournament.

Now she’s back at Denison. Last summer, Carney-DeBord assumed the role of the college’s director of athletics. As she approaches her first anniversary at Denison, she talks about her superstitions, the secret to the art of slalom, and why college athletics should be about much more than sports.

Most people don’t know that My interests go well beyond athletics. I love the arts and music. We all play the piano in my house. My younger son also plays the viola. As an undergraduate, I purposefully didn’t live with athletes. I lived with a dance major and a German major. Another thing people may not know: I’m addicted to M&Ms.

In 2001, when I was head coach at Ohio Wesleyan, we made a run to the Final Four of the national tournament. We always got dressed up for the games, and for one, I wore pearls. Everybody made fun of me. But when we won the game, they said: “You’re gonna have to wear them again.” I wore those pearls to every game after that.

I should say I like to watch basketball on TV. I do like the Celtics, and I do watch the WNBA, but the truth is I have two golfers—both of my sons compete—and my mother and father were avid golfers. I used to think watching golf was the most boring thing. But now I understand it a little more, and I watch some of the major tournaments—but never all 36 holes.

I golf. I ski. I water ski—even at my age. My 19-year-old and his friends wakeboard, and they’ll invite me to come along because they want to know how to slalom. I have an old water ski—a wooden-cut O’Brien. It’s sweet. It’s about ready to die, but I can’t give it up. I also have a new fiberglass ski, but I like that old one because I can really get low to the water. So I slalom, and the boys crack up.

Even though I was involved in Division I athletics while in graduate school, I didn’t like it. There is an imbalance to Division I. There are too many hours—six to eight hours a day—dedicated to sport. And there’s a lot of structure—when to study, when to eat. I prefer the balance of Division III sports, and I love the academic component of it. A lot of what I learned as a student at Denison was in the dorms and in unstructured environments. I believe that the Division III experience is more empowering and less controlling, and you play for the pure love of the sport.

Denison’s new pool, which will welcome swimmers and divers this fall, is three times the size of the old pool. From a competitive standpoint, this certainly will help our varsity teams continue their national dominance. But the overall expansion and renovation of the athletic facilities (set for completion in 2013) will also mean we’ll have a lot more space for everybody—faculty, staff, students, the nonvarsity athletes—for recreation. The new building will also unite us as a department. All faculty and staff offices will be on the same floor. We’ll have new and updated locker rooms. We’ll have new conference rooms, so we can meet and greet not only with recruits, but with alumni, too.

Our goal is to be the quintessential Division II athletics program. We want to compete for the Learfield Trophy, which goes to the top Division III institution in the country. I believe we are capable of doing so, but we also want our students to continue to be more than athletes. They possess advanced physical skill, but it’s not unusual for athletes to be in a music or theatre production or on the student board of an academic department. It’s important to recognize that that’s difficult to do, but it’s also special.

In Memoriam: Virginia Northrop, professor emeritus

Gill Wright Miller ’74 can vividly remember the day she met Virginia Northrop. It was Miller’s first year at Denison, and every student was required to take courses in physical education. She showed up in Fellows 101, where the physical education faculty stood around to answer questions students might have and to guide them to a good phys ed fit. Northrop walked up to Miller in the line and said: “You look like a dancer. Sign up for a dance class.” Miller had no formal dance training and was apprehensive. Still she showed up for her first class, took the school-issued leotard and tights, and did her best. “Ginny made me feel like I should give it my all. She believed in me as “having potential,” and I swear I had no idea what I was doing.” When Miller was invited by the faculty to take a composition class, she looked around to find that, of the eight invited students, she was the only one without dance background. She went right to Northrop’s office. “I think this is going to be over my head,” she told her. Northrop’s response? “I don’t think so.” When dance became an official Denison major just one year later, Miller majored, and today is an associate professor in the dance department.

Northrop had something amazing, says Miller. As a dancer trained in the Martha Graham method, she had the ability to convey the history of modern dance from its birth onward through movement. “She held the history in her body,” says Miller. “When she did a Martha Graham arm gesture, you saw Martha Graham dancing that dance. And, as a student, you suddenly ‘got’ it.”

Northrop joined the Denison faculty in 1952 as a member of the physical education department. She was instrumental in moving dance from physical education to the fine arts, and she crafted the Denison dance major passed in 1971-72–one of the earliest in the country. Northrop had a bachelor’s degree from William Smith and a master’s from Sarah Lawrence. She not only taught students how to move, she taught them how to support their bodies through nutrition and exercise. “She wanted us to know that there was more to dance than performing,” says Miller, “and she was willing to help us see not only what those things were but also how they mattered in our lives.”

Northrop retired from Denison in 1975, and eventually moved to Norfolk, Virginia, where she died on Sept. 29, 2011 at the age of 87. She is survived by her sister, Linda Rockwell.

In Memoriam: Marion Slaughter Wetzel, professor emeritus

By the time Don Bonar came to Denison in 1965 as a math instructor, Marion Wetzel had already put in nearly two decades of teaching, and she was happy to dole out advice to the new faculty member. “She was very supportive of the young people in the department,” says Bonar. And she seemed to take a special interest in the math instructor who would spend the rest of his career at Denison. “I think she saw a West Virginia farm boy working hard,” says Bonar. Wetzel herself grew up on a farm in Ashton, Ill., and had a love of agriculture. She went on to school at Cornell College in Iowa, and later to Northwestern University, where she earned her master’s degree and a Ph.D. She joined the Denison faculty in 1946—a rare woman in the math and sciences—and her passion for math guided her on a long career in the math department. She became an associate, then full professor, and served as chair of the department—the first woman to serve in the administrative role—for several years. When she retired in 1986, she was the college’s longest-tenured faculty member.

Wetzel’s main area of interest was in continued fractions, and she could often be found on campus plugging away at her work into the evenings, often joining Bonar for a cup of coffee in the student union, before heading back to the office. “She gave her life over to math,” he says.

Bonar describes Wetzel as both lively and cautious. She had a white Buick convertible, for instance, but she never put the top down. “Her car never left Ohio,” says Bonar, “it may never have left Licking County.” But Wetzel did, occasionally traveling with colleagues to math conferences and meetings across the country.

“She never lost her interest in math,” says Bonar. Even in retirement. She was fascinated with trinkets,” he says. “If they were math-related, she was interested.” Bonar recalls one such trinket: a wooden möbius strip sculpted from a walnut tree.

Wetzel died on January 14, 2012 at the age of 92. Preceded in death by her parents, a brother, and a sister, she is survived by her nieces and nephews.

No Miss Manners

I’m not exactly known for my grace. I once kicked a puppy. Swear. But I wasn’t mad—just oblivious. (She was fine, by the way.) I also spent an evening a few years back trying to convince my husband that we should buy a Vespa scooter for me to use as my primary work vehicle to save on gas and reduce our carbon footprint. He reminded me that I have trouble walking the dog without somehow falling and injuring myself, and he was not about to put his wife and the mother of two kids on two wheels with a motor. In traffic.

I tend to be pretty blunt in conversation, and though I haven’t yet, there’s a good chance I could bring up an uncle’s gall bladder surgery, if prompted. At the dinner table, I have the basics down. I put a napkin in my lap. I keep my elbows off the table. I chew with my mouth closed. But I grew up with three older brothers, so I tend to eat a lot, and quickly. In my house, you had to grab the food and get it down fast before it was gone.

So, when I heard that President Dale Knobel and Mrs. Tina Knobel, in conjunction with the Career Exploration and Development Center and Campus Leadership and Involvement, were hosting the annual etiquette dinner for seniors, “The Art of the Business Meal,” I signed up.

The idea behind the dinner is to make sure seniors are prepared for business lunches, dinners, and interviews before graduation. Throughout a five-course meal, they learn the proper eating techniques using both American and Continental dining styles, the duties of the host and the guests, the art of the toast and the tip, and how best to handle accidents. I may be older than the majority of folks in that room, I told myself, but who couldn’t use a little etiquette lesson now and again? Especially someone who occasionally cleans her plate with her finger.

On the night of the event, Cathi Fallon, owner of The Etiquette Institute in Columbus and our teacher for the evening, told us just how much may be riding on every spoonful of soup. “Never forget,” she said, “how people see you handling your fork or knife is how they see you handling their company.” But there’s a lot more to it these days than knowing which fork to use when.

Increasingly, graduates are meeting and greeting potential employers over a meal—and in a global society, sometimes that meal is in another country. Not only did Fallon arm students with the practical advice they need in the business world (and likely have heard from Mom and Dad and Grandma growing up), but she also made a point to teach students and, ahem, faculty and staff, multicultural dining manners. Leaving your napkin on the seat of your chair in some cultures, for example, would not go well. Such a move tells servers that you are not at all satisfied with the service and will not be returning. (Imagine coming back from the restroom to find that the best meal you’ve ever eaten has been taken away.) In case you do need to step away from the table, Fallon suggests folding your napkin and hanging it on the back of your chair.

I’m proud to say I remembered this little tidbit when I had to excuse myself for a few minutes. I also remembered to work from the outside in while handling my utensils and to keep table conversation relatively neutral. (Apparently, no one wants to hear about gall bladder surgery over dessert. Or ever, really.) The students at my table and I were all a little bummed to hear Fallon advise us not to finish any course—and never to take the last slice of bread. Still, I weathered the whole lesson without too many embarrassing mistakes. But I did have one moment of panic during the salad course when I dropped a tomato on the table. Thank goodness, Fallon was nearby. “What do I do?” I asked her, only half joking.

“Pick it up,” she told me.

Oh. Well then. This etiquette thing isn’t all that hard.

 

Maureen Harmon, editor

Are the steps to wisdom worth the climb?

There are a lot of debates swirling about the value of higher education these days. If you’re looking for a stimulating discussion, you could do worse than wade into the ongoing national conversation over the current state and future direction of American higher education. Private or public? Four-year or two-year? In-class or online?

But if it’s a real debate you’re after, look no further than the roiling argument over the value of one particular kind of college or university education: the kind offered by Denison. The temperature of that debate was neatly summed up in the headline of an article that appeared last October on the website of the Public Broadcasting Corporation: “Is a Liberal Arts Degree Worth It?”

The arguments of those who answer that question with a resounding “no” can be reduced to two basic, and not entirely unrelated, positions:
a) a liberal arts degree is too expensive, and
b) a liberal arts degree won’t help you land a job.

Both arguments are compelling, especially when times are tough. With unemployment high and the future of the economy uncertain, students—and their parents—are more concerned than ever about the practical value of the degrees for which they are paying. And paying quite a bit: $50,000 a year at top-tier private institutions like Denison, for a sticker price that after four years amounts to “roughly the median price of a home in some metropolitan areas,” as the editors of U.S. News & World Report noted in 2010. This in an era when student indebtedness is also on the rise: $25,250 per head, on average, for the national class of 2010, according to the Institute for College Access and Success, with figures approaching $50,000 at a number of individual schools. (By comparison, Denison students’ average debt is about $16,000—and more than half of the college’s graduates leave without any debt at all.)

But for those on the “yes” side of the question, the purely financial, can-you-get-a-job arguments are the easiest to counter. Studies consistently show that those who earn a bachelor’s degree also earn significantly more income over the course of their careers than those who do not. People with liberal arts degrees pursue all manner of careers; the National Science Foundation’s data show that the nation’s top liberal arts colleges outperform even large research institutions in producing graduates who go on to earn doctorates in science and engineering, two areas that will be in particularly high demand in the years to come. And many liberal arts colleges, Denison included, have robust internship programs designed to boost students’ career potential by giving them real-world, resumé-building experience. In addition, Denison’s Career Exploration and Development Center recently launched an externship program that will allow students to shadow alumni on the job. And while student indebtedness is a serious problem, the actual debt any individual student accrues has a lot to do with where she goes to school. According to Nancy Hoover, director of financial aid, Denison’s lower debt burden—about $9,000 less than the national average—is due to the fact that about 95 percent of Denison students receive some sort of financial aid from the college, either merit or need-based, or both. Denison’s Admissions Office recently awarded members of the incoming class of 2016 annual scholarships in the $10,000 to $40,000 range. “You can go to a good liberal arts college and not come out overloaded with debt,” says Provost Bradley Bateman, himself an economist.

But what about the merits of a liberal arts education that cannot be entirely reduced to numbers and dollar signs? Proponents of the liberal arts contend that a liberal education confers long-term benefits both in the workplace and in the realms of good citizenship and self-fulfillment. Such arguments are neither as colorful nor as easily summarized as purely quantitative ones, but they get at the heart of what makes liberal education unique. They also hinge on a couple of niggling questions, like: What exactly is a liberal education? And how, exactly, does one measure its true value?

Although the terms are used interchangeably, liberal education and the liberal arts are not entirely synonymous. The latter refers to a clutch of subjects that evolved out of the medieval university curriculum, which comprised the trivium (grammar, rhetoric, logic) and the quadrivium (math, geometry, music, and astronomy). The trivium, in turn, dates back to classical antiquity, when it was considered essential study for any free citizen— “liberal” deriving from the Latin liber for “free.”

But as the Stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger pointed out in the first century C.E., the point of a liberal education has never been just to master a particular subject, as useful as it might be, but rather to develop the capacity for wisdom and virtue. A present-day exponent might put it this way: while the arts and science majors that a college like Denison offers are of considerable value in and of themselves, they remain, in the grand scheme of liberal education, a means rather than an end.

But a means to what? You don’t often hear words like “wisdom” and “virtue” bandied about in contemporary debates over higher education. Instead, those who argue most passionately in favor of liberal education talk about “cognitive and personal capacities,” to use the phrase favored by Robert Connor, senior adviser to the Teagle Foundation, a private philanthropy that seeks to improve student learning and engagement. (The foundation has awarded funds to Denison to improve academic assessment and gauge student improvement in areas such as critical and creative thinking.)

Connor believes that relying solely on quantitative measures, such as the number and cost of college degrees, is a mistake. Better, he argues, to pay more attention to issues of quality: the ability of an educational institution to nurture critical thinking, effective communication, moral reasoning, and lifelong learning—all of which, he believes, lie “very, very close to the core of what liberal education provides for students.” As it happens, all of those skills are also extremely helpful in navigating a rapidly changing, deeply interconnected global environment in which individuals are required to make sense of vast amounts of information and to learn new skills more or less constantly.

Tales from the Bottom

On a gray winter day, Doug Boyd ’92 is in Frankfort, Kentucky, the state’s compact capital city. He knows this place well—or at least, he knows what it used to be. He’s the director of the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky and author of the new book, Crawfish Bottom: Recovering a Lost Kentucky Community, which details the history of a 19th-century Frankfort neighborhood wiped out by 20th-century urban renewal. He heads downhill—north, away from tree-lined streets and handsome brick homes with bronze plaques that mark spots where great moments in Kentucky history took place. When he crosses the railroad tracks that border the historic downtown, he stops. Before urban renewal, “The contrast must have been great,” Boyd says. “We are literally on the other side of the tracks. In fact, some people attribute the phrase to this town.”

What’s on the other side of the tracks these days is the Capital Plaza Complex—a broad plaza, a slender office tower, a hotel and convention center, a YMCA, state office buildings, and a park tucked behind the levee that keeps the Kentucky River from sluicing through the streets when it floods. What used to be here, in this low land along the Kentucky River, was the community called Crawfish Bottom. The city began clearing the area for redevelopment in 1958—a long process that continued into the 1970s and ended when the last vestiges were replaced by the Kentucky Transportation Building in the 1990s. “Fifty acres were wiped out,” Boyd says, surveying the scene of concrete and glass. Wild tales about the raucous lives lived here have piqued the interest of Kentuckians for years. But there’s universality to that curiosity—or at least there should be, says Boyd. “Almost every city had a place like this and razed it.”

French dramatist Jean Cocteau once wrote that history is a combination of reality and fable. “The reality of history becomes a lie,” Cocteau said. “The unreality of the fable becomes the truth.” For Boyd, both the “reality” of the historical record and the “fables”—the memories of those who lived in a time and place, and the folklore about that place—are all important if you want to understand history. And that’s what he has tried to do in Crawfish Bottom. “This book is … about the process of balancing memory—the different tensions in creating the story that people came to know,” he says.

Crawfish Bottom was, in its time, a spot notorious for crime and poverty. That was a reputation that persisted long after the land was transformed by concrete and steel. But in 1991, Frankfort historian Jim Wallace located and interviewed former residents of the neighborhood. The oral histories that he collected painted a picture of a functional, tight-knit community that was broken apart—and never mended—by urban renewal. In his new book, Boyd has used those interviews, along with traditional historical sources, to create a deeper understanding of a complicated place.

What kind of a place was it? Wet, for one thing. Swampy enough that this part of the city was mostly vacant until after the Civil War, when free blacks, retreating from the Deep South, made their way to Frankfort and moved into wood frame houses that enterprising developers built on the cheap land. “There were not,” Boyd says, “a lot of other options for African-American people.” The state penitentiary was constructed here, too, attracting the families of incarcerated men, and many of the city’s German and Irish immigrants made the place home. The mix created something unique in the 19th century: a community where blacks and whites lived side by side. And it remained that way throughout its history.

That was one of the most tantalizing aspects of Crawfish Bottom for Jim Wallace as he did his interviews 20 years ago. Wallace, the assistant director of the Kentucky Historical Society, explains that “these people were outcasts. I wanted to get to the truth of what they were really like.” The project was a remarkable experience for Wallace, who grew up in the segregated South in the 1950s. “I did not shake the hand of an African-American person until I was 16 years old,” he says. Meeting elderly people who had lived in a community that had been integrated for generations was, he says, “a window for me into a whole different world.”

It was not always a tidy world. Vintage photographs show streets lined with houses set cheek-by-jowl—some shabby shotgun-style, some modest two-stories, most all wood, so fire was a constant problem. Sometimes it smelled, because the city’s gasworks were located here, away from the more refined parts of town. When the river rose, crayfish scuttled through the streets, giving residents an early warning that the sewers were about to heave up their contents. And whenever the river flooded, Crawfish Bottom felt the full weight of the disaster.

Inside “Inside Edition”

It’s the Tuesday following the Oscars, and a Gwyneth Paltrow look-alike is having her make-up done as she sits in a folding chair in a small room on the fourth floor of Pearl Studios in New York City. Her tiny pink Ugg boots are dangling a foot off the ground, and she’s clutching a pair of mismatched socks. “They’re like her blankie,” her mom tells the woman with the lipstick. “Gwyneth” is a 4-year-old model who has been hired for a photo shoot with photographer Tricia Messeroux, owner of Toddlewood, a group that recreates Hollywood moments with tykes. A 6-year-old Angelina Jolie sits next to Gwen, whipping her huge false eyelashes around. Soon George Clooney’s girlfriend, Stacy Keibler, arrives. In walks Jennifer Lopez. Viola Davis. Octavia Spencer. They’re all accompanied by their parents. George Clooney even brings his grandma.

Across the room is the “set,” made up of two bright red carpets pushed together and a table draped in black with signs proclaiming, “The Academy Awards.”

Just a few minutes ago, videographer Warren Manos, soundman Jonathan Smith, and associate producer Maggie Hopf were dispatched from the Inside Edition offices, 20 blocks away. Their job today is to hang out at the shoot from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., talking with the toddlers, getting before-and-after shots, and interviewing Messeroux for a couple of sound bites. They’ll spend nearly four hours collecting the video that the editors and producer will use to make a 60-second “story” that will go out on Inside Edition’s syndicated newsfeed at 3 p.m. In addition to making it back to the offices on time and with enough material to satisfy the producer, Hopf is feeling a tad worried about Angelina’s leg.

Yes, that leg. Or the 6-year-old version of the now iconic limb that struck a pose on the real red carpet and the Oscar stage.

Inside Edition can’t use the footage if the cut on the dress is too high. The kid is only 6 years old, after all. So Hopf starts trading a flurry of texts and calls to producer Colum Ward.

The leg is the most talked-about Oscar moment, and Ward wants the shot. So it’s Hopf’s job to spend a few seconds convincing the stressed and rushed photographer—who has use of the rented studio only until 2 p.m.—that they’ll need to lower the cut on the dress for a few seconds to get their shot. Messeroux looks at the clock and reluctantly agrees. Her team pins the dress above the knee and the crew takes rushed footage. A “runner” arrives from Inside Edition’s offices to pick up the XD disc and drive it back to Ward, who is waiting to begin editing and writing the script for anchor Deborah Norville. Hopf and her crew hang back and continue filming.

Maggie Hopf got to Inside Edition largely through a combination of determination, New York-style networking, and good old-fashioned luck. After graduating from Denison, Hopf asked her parents to drop her off in New York City as they headed out of town for a trip. Her plan was to camp out in a friend’s apartment for five weeks, send out resumés and follow-up emails, pound the pavement, and hope for the best. A friend of a friend of a friend got her a job doing “load-outs,” which basically meant that she’d show up at a predetermined location and unload or load sets for Broadway plays. She’d work for an hour or two and pocket $75 to $150. She worked as a temp at a printing company. She interviewed for a position on Maury, starring Maury Povich. She babysat.

And then there was the lunch meeting that would get her into the television news world. That friend who graciously allowed her to live in her apartment for five weeks? Turns out she was the soccer coach for the daughter of a 20/20 senior producer. Hopf’s pal pulled some strings and arranged a meeting. “I was terrified,” says Hopf. “I was at ABC with a 20/20 producer. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me.” The meeting went well, but there weren’t any open positions at 20/20. So for the next six weeks Hopf emailed the producer every Friday, trying to carefully walk the line that divides the determined from the annoying. Over time the woman helped her land interviews at Good Morning America and ABC World News. But nothing came of the meetings. Finally, when a staffer went out on maternity leave, Hopf came in to freelance as a booker in the development and booking department, which meant she’d pitch story ideas and help arrange interviews. It may have been an entry level position at 20/20, but the work wasn’t easy. “Being a booker is one of the toughest jobs,” says Hopf. “You really have to have a personality. You have to make people feel comfortable. You have to be honest. You have to call victims of crimes and the mothers of people in jail. It’s emotionally draining.” When the senior producer’s assistant resigned, Hopf took her place. She was answering phones and making appointments, but her career benefactress also pushed Hopf to pitch stories and act as a booker and production assistant. Eventually, she started booking more and answering the phone less.

In the 20/20 offices there are televisions everywhere. It’s the staff’s job, after all, to watch the news. Hopf remembers one particular Thursday when she was working while The Ellen Degeneres Show played in the background. She was just getting ready to leave the office when Channel 4 interrupted
Ellen to show footage of a USAirways plane floating on the Hudson River.

At first everyone thought it was a movie set, but newscasters soon relayed the story of flight 1549, which, within minutes of takeoff, hit a flock of Canada geese, causing a loss of thrust in the engines. The crew guided the plane to a water landing. As the staff was watching the broadcast, the producers chose Hopf and another booker to head out to the scene. Their job was to see if any survivors would agree to be interviewed for the 20/20 episode, which would air just 30 hours later. “There was media from everywhere. Japan’s reporters were there,” she says. “Everyone was trying to get past the police tape.” After hours of waiting and pleading with folks to share their story, she headed home, discouraged. The next morning, she learned that 20/20’s partner show, Good Morning America, had landed a couple of interviews. So after GMA’s taping, she gathered the interviewees and took them to breakfast. She wanted them to refuel for the next set of interviews at 20/20. Over the course of two days, Hopf worked 34 hours—most of them spent on her feet.

Survivors

July 8, 2010 started perfectly for Tonie Michaels ’14 and her father, James. She had just earned her pilot’s license and was joining her dad—a lifelong pilot—on a long-awaited series of aviation adventures stretching from their native Wisconsin to Colorado. They took off that morning from Greeley, Colo., heading to Vail for some shopping. James was flying; the weather was clear. By noon, they had reached Estes Park in northern Colorado, and the views of the green hills from a few thousand feet above were breathtaking.

Then, without warning, fifteen seconds of catastrophe: A freak downdraft started to pull the plane down at more than 120 miles per hour. James tried to pull the plane up and to the right to escape the draft. It didn’t work. They were going down.

It was at that moment that James’ mind flashed back to a good friend of his who had died in a crash 10 years earlier despite following the prevailing flight technique for such a situation: slow the plane down and land it in the treetops and—hopefully—settle to the ground. When his friend attempted this, the plane ended up hitting the ground vertically and with such force that it tore the plane’s seatbelts and—even though he was wearing a helmet—crushed his skull. Troubled by the death, James sought to find out what could have saved his friend, eventually learning from a decorated aviator and mountain crash survivor that the best approach would have been to try to navigate a slow path through the trees and put the plane on the ground—letting the branches strip the plane and further reduce its forward momentum.

So as the plane descended, James evened out and decreased his speed to about 65 miles per hour—the slowest flight speed possible without having the plane simply fall out of the sky. He yelled back to Tonie to brace herself, and she held on tight with both hands to the straps of her five-point harness. Tonie’s mind had gone blank. In the lengthy moment when the two were waiting to hit the oncoming trees on a mountain, James managed a final thought: “She’s dead. Everything was going right. And now my daughter is going to die.”

The right wing hit the first tree with a loud thud. The cockpit windows broke and air rushed in. More trees, more thuds, and they were suddenly at a stop, the plane sideways between trees. Fuel was everywhere. They unbuckled and rushed from the plane, fearing it would erupt in flames.

There was no emotional moment, though—no hugging, no crying. Celebration would have been premature. After a quick injury assessment—a scratch on James’ leg, an elbow knock that Tonie shrugged off (later revealed to be a fracture)—they began planning how to stay alive in the middle of the forest for their foreseeable future. Rain was forecast for the afternoon, and they knew temperatures would likely reach freezing overnight. They needed to stay dry and warm. So they set about constructing a makeshift tent from plane parts and nearby branches. James managed to collect a few ounces of fuel from the split-open tanks in an empty shampoo bottle, and they used one of Tonie’s Harry Potter books and a spark from the plane’s battery to start two fires—one fairly close to the plane and another in a small nearby clearing as an alert to any possible rescuers. With no cell phone service, it was the best they could hope for in terms of communication. To blacken the second fire’s smoke and make it more noticeable, they added a tire from the plane.

Tonie, a Denison field hockey player, was obviously uneasy. First of all, she hates camping. Those class camping trips in high school? The worst weekends of her life. And secondly—more urgently—she couldn’t stop thinking about what happens if no one found them. She had heard the stories of people in such a situation being found two weeks later, dead of dehydration or starvation. And all she and her dad had was a single water bottle and one pack of tuna.

By evening, Rocky Mountain National Park rangers had been alerted to the plane’s distress signals and sent out two planes to locate the source. They honed in on the signal and saw two points of light—the two fires—nearby. When James and Tonie heard a plane start circling overhead around 8 p.m., they celebrated by opening the tuna. Still, Tonie didn’t sleep much that night. James didn’t sleep at all.

At 6:40 the next morning, two rangers arrived at the crash site and were awestruck. The lead ranger looked up the hill at James and Tonie, and at the airplane sitting sideways in the trees, wings folded back. He sat down on a stump, dumbfounded. These things, he told the Michaels, don’t usually turn out so well.

Soon after the rescue, James called the veteran aviator who had given him the landing advice so many years back, as well as the family of his friend who had died in the mountain crash, to tell them that their son’s death had helped save his and his daughter’s lives. And now they are paying it forward, recounting their experience as part of a safety seminar at aviation conferences. The information had saved their lives—and might now save others.

The Difference a Year Makes

Just like last year, Denison and rival Kenyon College led the competition at the NCAA Division III Men’s Swimming and Diving Championship as the schools headed into the final event, the 400 freestyle relay. And just like last year, the fans battled each other with cheers. On one side of the Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis, a purple crowd consumed the stands, roaring every time a Kenyon swimmer stepped up on the blocks. Opposite them, on the other side of the pool, Big Red fans roared back, and with every Denison swim and Denison dive, they sent up a booming Big Red chant. And just like last year, Denison had the upper hand heading into that final relay.

But that’s where the similarities end. This year, Denison had more than just a lead: they had an 87-point lead. And rather than needing a third or better to win the title (which they did in the 2011 meet by placing third by 0.32 seconds), a disqualification couldn’t stop them from becoming the 2012 NCAA champs. This year, they grabbed the runner-up trophy in the 400 freestyle relay by 0.19 seconds and won the meet by 81 points (600-519). So last year was no fluke, ladies and gentlemen. Denison is here to stay.

In addition to their new gold trophy, the men’s team has six individual national records and 56 All-American performances to show for it. Along the way to the college’s second consecutive—and third overall—national championship, the Big Red men collected six championship titles. Al Weik ’14 broke the national record in the 500 freestyle and won the event; he also defended his national title and broke his own national record in the 1650 freestyle. Weik also anchored the 800 freestyle relay, swimming with Sean Chabot ’14, Carlos Maciel ’14, and Spencer Fronk ’14 to win the event and break the national record set by Denison’s 2009 team.

Co-captain Robert Barry ’12 defended his crown in the 100 backstroke, and he broke the national record while leading off the 400 medley relay. That relay, swum by Barry, Damon Rosenburg ’15, Fronk, and M.J. Barczak ’12, won the event by more than two seconds and bested Kenyon’s national record. On the final day in Indy, Barry rounded out the first-place, record-clinching finishes with a 1:46.23 in the 200 backstroke, breaking the national record set last year by teammate Quinn Bartlett ’13. At the meet’s conclusion, head coach Gregg Parini was named the National Coach of the Year for the ninth time in his career. In addition to their championship titles and national records, the Big Red broke nine school records. “Going out on top as a senior,” Barry said, “it was sweeter this year than it was last year. We didn’t win by one point; we won by 80.”

The Big Red women closed out the meet with a third-place finish overall with 420 points. They were topped only by champion Emory University (639) and runner-up Williams College (453). Diver Katie Collins ’15 was the first Denison woman diver to qualify for the meet since 1992. In all, the Big Red women broke three school records, had 48 All-American performances, and brought home the women’s 16th top-three trophy in team history. “I could not have asked for a better group of women to compete with in my last meet,” co-captain Hilary Callen ’12 said. “Every one of my teammates swam with her heart. I will remember this group of women and this meet for the rest of my life.”

A New Odette

World-renowned dance artists Dada Masilo and Lulu Mlangeni traveled more than 8,000 miles in February from their homes in Johannesburg, South Africa, to Granville. During a 10-day stay in the village, Masilo held student dance workshops at Denison, spoke to classes about issues of feminism and urban life in Africa, and rehearsed for her American debut, which took place on Swasey’s stage. In the midst of all of that, Masilo found time to sit down with Gill Wright Miller, associate professor of dance, and talk about her work, in which she blends classic movements with African dance.

What was your early attraction to dance?
Dance really saved my life. I started at the age of 11, just as a hobby. There was this street group called the Peacemakers. I used to dance with the group to Michael Jackson songs in the afternoons. What was great about it was that I was introduced to structure and discipline, which is something that I didn’t have as a kid. In 1996, the Peacemakers were introduced to Suzelle LeSueur from the Dance Factory when she saw the group perform at the international dance festival. She was interested in the group, and she offered us formal dance training. It was like another world for us. We had to point our feet, wear leotards and tights (which I really hated), but I think that’s when I really fell in love with dance.

You really favor narrative form, and you have become Shakespeare’s Juliet, Lady Macbeth, and Ophelia, and Swan Lake’s Odette on stage. What is it about the narrative form that attracts you?
When I was a teenager, we always did this abstract dance thing. It was arms and legs everywhere and choreographers were always saying: “Engage with it emotionally,” and I thought, “What am I engaging emotionally, if it’s just a movement piece?” So narrative has been really great because it takes my ego out of the work; instead it becomes about the character that I’m trying to portray. How do you put yourself in Juliet’s shoes? Or in Carmen’s shoes? Or Ophelia’s? Or
Odette’s? Lady Macbeth is manipulative but she’s also really clever. Juliet is this innocent woman living in her head where everything is beautiful. Carmen is very grounded. And Odette is just cute, she’s coy. But I think they all know what they want. The challenge is trying to find each woman in my body.

Where do you imagine your path as an artist will lead you?
I think I’ll just let it unfold. It would be great to get to a point where I’m not making work because I’m under pressure to do it. Last year I took a year off and joined a dance company, but it drove me crazy. I couldn’t do the company thing—I don’t like the monotony of 9 to 5 because I don’t think creativity works like that. I don’t think you’re always creative between 9 and 5. A lot of the things I come up with happen at 3:00 in the morning. So I love the instability of not knowing how things are going to pan out. I want to just let it be and struggle through it.

Maternal Bliss?

New mothers are taught a lot before they even leave the hospital. But when it comes to preparing for their babies emotionally, moms are often on their own. Erin Henshaw, assistant professor of psychology, and her team of student researchers hope to change that. They’re looking at something that rarely has been addressed before: expectations for new mothers, and what happens if women don’t feel they’re meeting them.

Messages about motherhood, such as the expectation that a good mom should know exactly what her baby wants all the time, can be misleading. “These expectations can shape whether or not moms think they are doing a good job,” said Henshaw. If a woman thinks she is falling short in her new role as a mother, she could experience stress, anxiety, depression, and even physical pain.

Rachel Fried ’12 and Jenni Teeters ’12 are talking with new moms at Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus to get a better idea of the adjustment process. As certified hospital volunteers, Fried and Teeters survey the new mothers and then contact them a month later to see how they’re doing. They’ve collected data from about 30 mothers so far. Despite recently giving birth, most moms are happy to help out others in their position. “They know this research might help some new moms avoid postpartum anxiety,” said Henshaw. “They want new moms, like themselves, to know as much as they can.”

Once all the data are collected and analyzed, Henshaw and her students plan to share it with staff at the hospital. Eventually, they hope to develop planning sessions that prepare new moms and their partners for parenthood. “A hospital is the perfect place to affect individuals,” said Fried, who plans to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner, “but also the mental health field as a whole.”

Fried and Teeters plan to collect data from over 100 mothers by August. They are currently training Emily Siskind ’14 and Eve Sussman ’13 to take over the project for their summer research. “It’s rare to change the big picture,” said Fried, “but you can do it little bit by bit, to affect things in the long run.”

—Natalie Olivo ’13

From the Archives

Although the equipment, which dates back to the late 1800s, looks awfully formal to our modern-day sensibilities, the machine was used to seal envelopes for everything from official college correspondence to monthly bills. If the president wanted to write to the parent of a woman who seemed bent on bending the rules, for example, his secretary would seal the letter by pulling that lever, lowering the stamp into hot wax. The result was a circular seal with the words “Shepardson College” curved along the top, and “Granville, O.” swinging on the bottom. In the center, an image of academia: an open book surrounded by a laurel wreath.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the seal likely lived bolted to a tabletop in the Shepardson College president’s office, which would have been located on today’s lower campus. Burton Hall, Stone Hall and King Hall were once women’s dorms—and the ladies of Shepardson would have trekked uphill to Denison to take classes. The stamp was retired after Shepardson merged with Denison in 1927 and is now tucked away in Denison’s archives.

Behind Every Doctor …

So when she began studying anatomy and physiology in Lowell, Mass., (where she moved during her high school years), Simunyu felt pulled to the materials. “I began to develop a passion for understanding the chemistry and biology of disease,” says the Posse Scholar and biochemistry major. Last summer, she participated in a program in Kentucky that allowed her to get a glimpse of medical school, including the opportunity to shadow a doctor. And she made some discoveries about herself during the process. “I realized that I’m interested in research rather than treating patients. It is the science behind these treatments that interests me.”

Joe Reczek, an assistant professor of chemistry and her advisor, thought Simunyu would be an ideal candidate for the UNCF Merck Science Initiative Scholarship, a $25,000 award given each year to 15 outstanding African-American undergraduate students across the country. And he was right. Simunyu was the first Denison student to be awarded the prestigious scholarship, which comes with the opportunity for a paid summer internship at one of a dozen research facilities throughout the country.

During her internship, Simunyu plans to research metabolic diseases with the hope of someday affecting a patient’s treatment options—and life—from the lab.

—Ginny Olderman Sharkey ’83

A Horse With Three Lives

Lylle’s story started in 1999 at a thoroughbred farm in Ocala, Fla., when she was born into what would become a famous family—as far as horse families go, that is. (Peace Rules, perhaps the most successful of Lylle’s siblings, came in third at both the Kentucky Derby and the Preaknes­­s in 2003.)

When she was three months old, Lylle (pronounced “Lily”) was purchased by investors from Miami. They raised her to become a racehorse, and three years later, she won three small races, but retired at the end of the year, never quite reaching the kind of stardom her brother enjoyed. She was a little like the third Olsen sister.

The investors sent Lylle to a trainer in Atlanta, Ga., before she found a more permanent home in North Carolina with Howard Grubbs ’68, his wife Mary Jo, and their then-13-year-old daughter Meg, who had developed a love of horses and riding. Lylle trained and competed with Meg for four years, before Meg developed new interests and the Grubbs family decided it was time for Lylle to move on. However, finding a good match proved difficult.
One day, though, as Howard read Denison Magazine, he wondered whether or not the school would want Lylle for the equestrian team. After several conversations with the school and coach Claudia Hutchinson, the Grubbs family sold Lylle to Hutchinson in 2008 for $1.

Now Lylle lives less than five miles from campus on Hutchinson’s farm with 15 other horses—10 of which the equestrian team rides regularly. Maggie Reagan ’12 (pictured) says that Lylle is known for her love of food (hay anyone?) and canny ability to pose for photographs. Seems about right for a horse that’s been in the spotlight most of her life.