We know that during his 15 years at Denison, Dale Knobel, who retired in June, has done a lot of big-time-important-presidential-things in that office in Doane (more on that on p. 16), but his role as Denison’s president has allowed him to do a few surprising things along the way, as well. And as the consummate historian he is, he kept a list to document it all.
Carole Rigsby Darst ’63
Retired, Indianapolis, Ind.
M.A., Case Western Reserve University
M.S., University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Darst has made a lifelong commitment to bringing art and art education to the forefront in the community around her—even when the word “community” has a statewide definition. She’s had a lasting impact on the arts in Ohio, Massachusetts, and Indiana, through programming, planning, lobbying, and community development. She has worked as a toy designer; graphic artist; designer of exhibits, theatre sets, and store interiors; and as an assistant education director at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. She was the exhibits and education director at the Indianapolis Arts Center, special projects and exhibits coordinator for the Indiana Arts Commission, and the program and theatre director at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Darst was the Indiana arts lobbyist on state and national levels when she became executive director of the Indiana Citizens for the Arts and Indiana Advocates for the Arts.
Later she directed the statewide Millennium Program for the state of Indiana and implemented the revolving exhibit of Indiana artists at the governor’s residence. During those years, she served on many local and national arts and arts education boards of directors. She also contributed to arts programming at Indiana University, Purdue University, and Indiana-Purdue at Indianapolis. In addition, she has taught summer courses at Ball State University on the critical role of the arts in education, community development, and sustainability.
William H. Mobley ’63
Visiting Chair and Professor of Management, Asia Pacific Academy of Economics & Management, University of Macau, Macau, China
Ph.D., University of Maryland-College Park, 1971
M.A., University of Maryland-College Park, 1969
Mobley is a renowned educator who has devoted his career to the development and effectiveness of leaders and organizations on a global scale. His work on motivation, leadership, and organizational culture has been published in leading journals around the world. He previously served on President George H.W. Bush’s Commission on Minority Business Development and was a delegate to the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council. He has served as corporate manager of HR research and succession planning for PPG Industries; professor of management and director of the Center for Management and Organizational Research at the University of South Carolina; professor of management, dean of the college of business, president, and now president emeritus of Texas A&M University; and chancellor of the Texas A&M University System.
He has served as a senior Fulbright professor at National Taiwan University; a visiting fellow at Cornell University; a visiting professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; and honorary professor at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. From 2002 to 2009, he was professor of management at China Europe International School and was named the first professor emeritus there.
For the last eight years, Mobley has led his own executive assessment and coaching firm, Mobley Group Pacific Ltd., and has served as managing director of William Global Partners Ltd., providing support for China start-up ventures.
Barbara Furin Sloat ’63
Biologist, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Ph.D., University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, 1968
M.S., University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, 1966
Sloat is a powerful presence in her field—as a scientist, as an educator, and as an advocate for women in the sciences. She is a cell biologist whose research has focused on cellular morphogenesis in yeast. She has enjoyed a lifelong interest in medicine, both Western and Eastern, with treks in Tibet, a medical expedition in Nepal, and educational travel in India and Bhutan. Inspired by her trips to the Himalayas, Sloat studied Tibetan medicine at the Shang Shung Institute in Conway, Mass. Her travels also inspired her to study Western emergency medicine, and in 1998, she obtained her paramedic license. She served on the national executive board of the Association for Women in Science and on the board of Southeast Michigan’s HIV/AIDS Resource Center. She has been recognized by the University of Michigan for distinguished service, scholarship, and commitment to the betterment of the status of women, and she has been the recipient of Denison’s Grace Lyon Alumnae Award for her outstanding contributions to the advancement of women in science.
Sloat has long volunteered at the University of Michigan Health Center, where she currently serves on the Neuroscience Hospital Advisory Committee and the Neuroscience Patient and Family Partnership Council.
William H. Wilken ’63
Retired, Granville, Ohio
Ph.D., Syracuse University, 1971
M.A., Emory University, 1964
After 30 years in Washington, D.C.,Wilken returned to Granville because, he said, he and his wife Jane Trexler Wilkin ’64 were “in search of life on a human scale.” That search has brought him to a highly involved life in Granville, serving on governing boards for the community and his church, working on behalf of his Denison reunion committee, and serving two terms on the board of the Denison University Research Foundation. His path back to Granville, he says, was not a straight line. He taught political science at Georgia State University, was offered tenure, and instead of taking it, left to work in public policy research and advocacy. He became an authority on school finance reform as the director of the American Education Finance Association, and then switched gears again, becoming an information technology entrepreneur. “[It was] a rather ironic choice,” he says, “for someone who assiduously avoided any technical or scientific coursework at Denison.” He and two partners created CMS Information Services with 300 employees, a company that was later sold to a Fortune 500 corporation.
Nancy L. Ball-Licorish ’73
Director of Sponsored Programs, Lafayette College, Easton, Pa.
M.S., Indiana University-Bloomington, 1974
Ball-Licorish has been a loyal member of the Denison family, first working in admissions and educational services for five years and becoming the founding director of DART, the Denison Alumni Recruiting Team. Ball-Licorish then moved east and became director of sponsored programs at Lafayette College. She is active and engaged in her community, performing award-winning service for organizations in Bucks County, Pa., including service on the boards of the Easton YWCA (now Third Street Alliance for Women and Children) and the Bucks County Housing Group (BCHG). She has served as a volunteer for the local PBS station, Quakertown Food Bank, U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots, the Upper Bucks YMCA, the Easton YMCA, and Weller Health Center. In 2008, she was appointed to the Community Development Advisory Board for the Bucks County Department of Community and Economic Development. She is a recipient of the Shelley Partlon and Beyond 2012 Awards, both from BCHG. All the while, she also has continued her service to Denison, including her work as an alumni-nominated trustee, Alumni Council president, and National Annual Fund chair.
Constance M. Soja ’77
Professor/Presidential Scholar, Colgate University, Hamilton, N.Y.
Ph.D., University of Oregon, 1985
Soja is a professor of geology and a presidential scholar at Colgate University, where she teaches evolution, paleontology, Darwin, and a seminar on reefs that includes a field course in the Bahamas or Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. She also offers a first-year seminar, “The Sixth Extinction,” which details the modern biodiversity crisis. She leads science education workshops on biomimicry for high school teachers and on dinosaurs for elementary school teachers and their students. She also has directed Colgate’s study-abroad programs in England, Wales, and Australia. Recognized by Colgate as Professor of the Year, she conducts research on fossil reefs. Her work on reefs with undergraduate students has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Keck Geology Consortium.
Soja has written extensively about her field research around the world, including some exciting discoveries, such as novel ecological relationships in ancient reefs and the first-ever documented links between the geology of Russia and Alaska. With her students, she has published research on dinosaur eggs and the conditions that favored their preservation in the fossil record. Her upcoming book, The Last Good Buy: Evolution in the New Age of Extinction, will focus attention on endangered species around the world.
Phillip P. Jenkins ’78
Electronics Engineer, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, D.C.
M.E.E., Cleveland State University, 1985
Jenkins is the model of the person who nowadays is called an “experiential learner.” He always acquired knowledge most successfully through exploration, examination, and by actually taking things apart. “I didn’t appreciate history until I had lived long enough to realize I was witness to it,” he says. “I didn’t appreciate math until I understood its physical manifestations—the arc of a baseball, for example.”
In his work, Jenkins has had an impact on Earth—and on Mars. He discovered his scientific aptitude as a student at Denison, finding engagement in both physics and filmmaking. He then went on to become an electrical engineer. He started his engineering career as a research assistant at NASA, where he worked with physicists in the areas of solar cells and semiconductors, making more efficient solar cells for use in space, which is how he became involved with the Mars Pathfinder. Working with colleagues at NASA, he helped develop a solar cell experiment that rode on the Sojourner rover. In addition, Jenkins also worked on several successful experiments with the International Space Station for the Naval Research Laboratory. Later, he moved to the NRL full-time, where he heads a group of scientists working on advanced imaging and solar cell technology.
Stephen R. Polk ’78
Chairman, President and CEO, R. L. Polk & Company, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
M.A., Northern Michigan University, 1981
Polk continues the family legacy as the fourth-generation Polk to lead the company his great-grandfather founded in 1870 as a publisher of city directories. The company began serving the auto industry in the early 1920s when Alfred P. Sloan, president and later chairman of General Motors, asked Ralph Lane Polk II to impartially tabulate and publish automotive statistics.
Today, R. L. Polk & Co., under Stephen Polk’s leadership, is a globally integrated organization providing automotive intelligence, marketing solutions, and vehicle history information through its independent operating units, Polk and CARFAX. Polk, who joined the company in 1981, restructured the organization around customers’ needs and accelerated the development of new products and services, streamlining operations and sharpening the company’s focus. The organization became the number one provider of information and marketing solutions for the automotive industry.
Polk serves as chairman for the Automotive Hall of Fame, vice chairman of the board of trustees of the Cranbrook Educational Community, and vice president/director of the Detroit Zoological Society. He also serves on the boards of directors of Fifth Third Bank of Southeast Michigan and Beaumont Hospitals.
Alumni Citations are traditionally given to graduates of the college, but Denison has made three exceptions to this rule over the years. The first was a Citation awarded to Denison President Blair Knapp upon his retirement in 1961. The second went to Bob and Nancy Good in 1984 for their stewardship of the college during Good’s presidency. Finally, during Reunion Weekend 2013, a citation was awarded to Dale and Tina Knobel for their work on behalf of the college.
Fletcher O. Marsh was a professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at Denison for 21 years, and at one point, he was the president for a brief period after Samson Talbot’s death in 1873. But he was an engineer at heart.
Marsh supervised the building of both early brick structures on campus (Marsh and Talbot Halls) and was well known for making the first improvements to the treeless college grounds, carrying heavy loads of manure and saplings up the hill and digging them into the steep and then-barren terrain.
Marsh’s house stood on the site of Beth Eden, and the only carriage access to his home or the rest of the hilltop was a bumpy path entering from Burg Street. But he visualized a winding avenue up to his house and the college from Main Street in Granville, so he purchased that hillside property, laid out the road we’ve long known as “the Main Drag” and then he sold off the unused sections of that parcel for as much as the original purchase had cost him. Marsh then donated to Denison the land for the new road, and in return the college covered the $300 expense of actually building it, as seen in this 1868 photograph.
For 145 years, straining horses, panting people, and countless vehicles—from oxcarts to Model Ts to minivans—have climbed this path to its summit. All have reached Denison’s campus using the long driveway to Professor Marsh’s house, which he created with a great deal of ingenuity and without, in the end, spending a dime.
Carolyn Oakes Gillingham ’48 couldn’t make it back to campus for her 65th Reunion, so a member of the class of ’49 (Carolyn’s husband, Jim Gillingham) and a member of the class of ’72 (Carolyn’s daughter, Lynn Gillingham) joined her for their own mini-reunion at the family home in Kansas City on June 1.
Just a few weeks after the majority of the students took off for the summer, the campus saw an onslaught of alumni ready to hang out with old friends, dance, and take part in Alumni College courses. They took tours of campus, slept in the residence halls, and laughed. A lot.
This year, Denison welcomed back classes from 1938 (celebrating its 75th Reunion) to 2008 (celebrating its 5th). Members of the class of 1963, who were here to ring in their Golden 50th, came by car, by plane, and by bicycle. (Cam Shuford ’63 pedaled to the Hill from Evanston, Ill. Just for fun.)
For those of you who missed it (or for those who just want to relive it), here’s a look at Reunion Weekend 2013. You can see more photos from Reunion on Denison’s Flickr site (www.flickr.com/photos/denisonuniversity).
Every April, the admissions office sends out acceptance letters for the new class, but the folks who work in that office and get to know those students don’t ever get to see their reactions to the good news. So this year, they had a favor to ask of the new members of the Class of 2017: Send in a photo of yourself and your letter.
The office received a lot of great ones—students smiling in front of their computer cameras, acceptance in hand. Other students got pretty creative. One young woman was jumping high in the air. Her dog stood beside her with a sign around its neck that read: “My human was accepted 2 Denison.” One gent took a photo of his letter with the Seattle Space Needle in the background. And Morgan Phoenix, of Oceanside, Calif., decided to have her picture taken at high speeds, halfway down the precipitous slope of a roller coaster. We’re not sure who the young lady is in the seat next to Phoenix, but she seems to be pretty psyched, too. —Maureen Harmon
Todd Feil, professor emeritus of mathematics and computer science
Feil, who is often spotted pedaling his way to campus on his road bike, began his Denison career in 1982 as an assistant professor in the mathematics and computer science department. He served as chair of the department and as chair of the faculty during his Denison tenure. In addition to authoring and updating a number of books while at Denison, he also created the Denison Spring Programming Contest and has served as a judge on the ACM regional programming contest. This year’s world finals take place in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It’s one of the first trips Feil will take in retirement.
Lyn Robertson ’70, associate professor emerita of education
Robertson joined the Denison faculty in 1979, when she became the assistant dean for educational services. During her 34-year career here, she’s held a number of positions, including director of the John W. Alford Center for Service Learning, chair of the Department of Education, chair of the faculty, acting director of the women’s studies program, and a faculty member in the South African Orientation Program. She served as the mayor of Granville during her time at Denison, and she authored books on the development of literacy in children with hearing loss. She served as a Boston Posse V and VISTA mentor, as well. Just a few months before her official launch into retirement, she earned a new title: Grandma.
Lorraine Wales, director of the Vail Series
Wales has hung out with some big names during her time at Denison. Folks like Yo-Yo Ma, Yuja Wang, and Bobby McFerrin. It was her job to create the widely-acclaimed Vail Series from scratch, and boy does she have stories to tell, like Itzhak Perlman’s response when she invited him to Denison for the inaugural performance
The Denison University Archives devotes much of its shelf space to books, catalogs, reports, and other intentional documentation of the college, but nothing tells the story of life as it was lived better than the donated personal scrapbooks made by students through the years. An impressively fastidious coed from the early 1950s kept (and still keeps, we hope) a daily “Budget Book” that was tucked in among her snapshots and theatre programs. As you turn each of the 30 pages, a surprisingly intimate story of her life and times unfolds.
On May 17, 1952, she went to see Singin’ In The Rain (“with Phil”) for 50 cents. Apparently they went dutch. She enjoyed an occasional cigarette, mailed her laundry home (as was the custom) every other month for 41 cents, ate at the college “Grill” in the basement of Talbot, paid her Chi Omega, Book-of-the-Month Club, and YWCA dues, and from time to time spent a nickel on a Coke and considerably more on cosmetics. On this page, it looks like she bought some yarn on November 2, 1951 for Phil—we’re guessing he got socks for Christmas.
It took six years—a period of her life that included a week of obstructed labor, the death of her child in her womb, being disowned by her family, and a 23-hour journey on foot and by bus from the rural Ethiopian community of Dabola Village to a hospital in the capital city of Addis Ababa—for 25-year-old Ayehu to learn that she was not the only woman to suffer from obstetric fistula.
Obstetric fistula—which affects more than two million women and girls every year, the majority in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia—develops during childbirth when a hole forms between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum, resulting in incontinence. The effects of fistula are portrayed in the 2008 Engle Entertainment documentary, A Walk to Beautiful, which recounts the experiences of Ayehu and four other Ethiopian women with the condition. The film, which won the International Documentary Association award for “Best Feature Documentary” and an Emmy for its television adaptation, reveals that the toll fistula takes is not only physical, but deeply emotional and psychological.
“Women who develop fistula tend to be ostracized,” says Abdi Ali ’13, who grew up in Ethiopia. It wasn’t until he took a women’s studies course at Denison—and watched A Walk to Beautiful with his class—that Ali realized the extent to which women with fistula are often shamed by families and divorced by husbands who don’t realize that the condition is medical and not the woman’s fault. “They’re alone,” says Ali, who graduated with a degree in history. “Fistula destroys their lives.”
With a $10,000 grant from Davis Projects for Peace, which funds grass-roots projects to promote peace and understanding worldwide, Ali and Shiyu “Amy” Huang ’13 will spend the summer in Dabola Village establishing a community health center for women affected by obstetric fistula.
Ali and Huang, an economics major with minors in philosophy and German, will work with medical professionals from Addis Ababa to train local midwives to staff a community health center where women and young girls can seek medical and psychological attention for fistula. In addition, the team will emphasize fistula education in the community, making sure that both men and women are aware of the causes of fistula as well as the cures.
“People see some issues [like fistula] as women’s issues,” says Ali, “but they’re not just women’s issues. They’re men’s issues. They’re human issues.”
It’s a brisk morning in late March of 2013, and Dale T. Knobel is pacing back and forth addressing a packed auditorium in Slayter Union. He comes to rest briefly in order to pull a piece of paper from his jacket pocket and read an excerpt from a letter dated 1906—a letter written by Howard Ferris, a judge on the Cincinnati Superior Court, to William Hannibal Johnson, a Denison professor of Latin who later would compile a brief history of the college’s presidents.
“I have but one son,” wrote Ferris, “and am anxious that he should make the most of his opportunities.
“I sent him to Granville because I believe in small colleges … where an aggregation of students, brought together from different parts of the country, congregate for similar purposes. I believe in a small place, peculiarly adapted for purposes of study … And I was therefore anxious that my boy should live in that atmosphere.”
“That’s Denison today,” Knobel tells the audience—the last group of prospective students he’ll ever meet as Denison’s president. Next year, Adam Weinberg, currently the CEO of World Learning in Brattleboro, Vt., will be standing here as Denison’s 20th president, addressing a bunch of high-schoolers and their parents. And Dale Knobel and his wife, Tina, will be settling into retirement.
Knobel spent the first 20-odd years of his academic career teaching history. And while his schedule forced him to give up lecturing soon after he came to Granville, he still looks like the archetypal college professor: tall, genial, silver-haired, eyes rimmed by wire glasses. He elicits laughter with wry remarks about the college application process, while simultaneously making what amounts to an earnest sales pitch on behalf of the institution he has served since 1998.
The presentation at Slayter is classic Knobel: using a letter about Denison that is more than half as old as the college itself to make a point about the enduring virtues of the institution today. This is, after all, a man who continues to self-identify as a professional historian, and who has made the history of the college a minor specialty—a way of satisfying his scholarly urges and of trying to understand the present through the lens of the past. “Nothing comes out of the ether,” Knobel says. “Everything has context.”
But missing is a crucial bit of context concerning the letter from Ferris to Johnson. The majority of students at the time (and for much of Denison’s history) were white, affluent, Christian, and male. While much of what Ferris had to say about the college still rings true, the “aggregation of students” to which he referred has changed a great deal.
It’s hardly unusual to hear reference to diversity and inclusion at a prospective student meet-and-greet. Those terms have become watchwords among administrators across the country—not to mention selling points for their institutions. But the progress that Denison has made toward those goals has advanced considerably during Knobel’s tenure.
In recent years, the number of students of color at the college has more than doubled, while the percentage of students receiving some form of financial aid has more than tripled.
Gary Baker, a professor of modern languages who came to Granville in 1989 and was chair of the faculty when Knobel arrived, recalls that student cars were once uniformly nicer than faculty ones. That is no longer the case now that one-sixth of all students are the first in their families to attend college, and nearly one-fifth receive federal Pell grants, which go to those with the highest documented level of financial need. There is an increasingly visible contingent of gay and lesbian students, and significantly more religious pluralism, as well. As a result, the Denison community is more varied now than it ever has been—a fact that is reflected in the proliferation of identity groups, from Students of Caribbean Ancestry to the Muslim Student Association.
Knobel is not solely responsible for this, but he did have a considerable hand in fostering it. He’s also quick to point out that having a diverse campus is one thing; learning to work and live and study within that newfound diversity is another.
One day when I was in college, many years ago, and our alarm clock rang at the crack of noon, and I lurched out of the bottom bunk and groggily thumped my roommate in the top bunk, he did not, for once, snarl and growl and slide his long legs over the side and leap down hurriedly to beat me to the shower so as to beat me to class, but lay in his bunk, silent and still.
I barked at him and ran for the shower so as to beat him to class, but when I got back to our room he had budged not an inch. This was weird because usually he was the soul of punctuality and he had never cut a class yet, a remarkable thing to say, as some of the young men on our floor had never been to class once, as far as we could tell, despite the fact that intellectual stimulus was ostensibly the product our parents were buying or borrowing for; these young men spent their time playing cards and records and basketball and football, and planning social expeditions and romantic conspiracies, and drinking beer and rum, and arranging dances and dates, and smuggling kegs and paramours into the hall against the rules, and etc. I remember one young man in particular who I do not think ever left the confines of our hall once in the years I lived there. He was a thin pale young man with a drawl who said he was from Antarctica. His roommates brought him food, we thought, although no one had ever seen him eat, and there was a rumor that he never slept, but prowled the attic in our hall all night long, dreaming of ice.
I asked my roommate if he was sick and he said no, and I asked him if something was broken and he said no, and then he told me that the phone had rung this morning, long before dawn, and that he had leapt down to grab it before I woke, because when the phone rings at four in the morning the news is never good, and indeed the news was bad: His dad had died. It was his mom calling. His dad had been sick but no one expected him to die but he died, a thousand miles away, suddenly, in his chair on the lawn, the chair with a view of the beach.
I had never cut a class either; I was just as alert as my roommate to the fact that our parents were scratching desperately to send us to college. But I cut class that day. I got dressed and climbed up into the top bunk and sat with my roommate all afternoon. I remember it was a glorious spring day and you could smell flowers and thick redolent plowed soil. Our college was set like Oz amid a vast sea of cornfields and the spring plowing was in full gear and you could smell the dense fat ancient patient soil and imagine it darker than brown, darker than black, composed of creatures that had died and were now preparing to enter creatures that lived.
Other guys came by over the course of the afternoon when they noticed we had missed class, and some guys brought sandwiches, and one guy hopped up in the top bunk with us for a while, which was a kindly thing to do, I thought. Some guys tried to be funny and some guys said religious things but mostly guys understood that just stopping by was enough. A lot of guys stopped by, I have to say. That’s what I wanted to tell you about this morning, that a lot of guys stopped by the top bunk and put a hand on my roommate’s shoulder or put a hand gently on his chest as he lay there weeping. That’s all. I have been paying attention to prayer and grace for 50 years now and I don’t think I ever saw anything as moving as that.
Finally late in the afternoon I had to go to work in the dining hall so I jumped down from the top bunk but another guy said he would take over for me and he climbed up. As I walked down the hall I saw a ragged line of guys waiting to lay a hand on my roommate’s shoulder. I have seen a lot of cool things in life but I have never seen anything cooler than that.
Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland magazine and the author of Mink River. He will speak at Denison next year as part of the Beck Lecture Series.
Hide And Seek: The Bunnies & Flower Power: The Henderson Gardens
When the Knobels were young parents with young children, they weren’t quite ready for a family dog, so they allowed their son, Matthew, to raise bunnies. When Matthew died in a car accident in 1992, the bunnies took on special significance for the Knobels, who kept bunny statues throughout Monomoy Place and in the gardens as tributes to their son.
Tina Knobel wasn’t always a gardener, but the move to Monomoy back in 1998 started an intense interest in the world of horticulture. She’s taken special liking to amaryllis, which could be spotted throughout Monomoy during the holidays, and she created tribute gardens on the grounds to honor family members who have died, including an all-white garden in honor of Harry Knobel, Dale’s father; a colorful garden in honor of her own mother, who loved impressionist painting; and a garden bursting with pink to honor her daughter, Allison Knobel Sitton, who died of breast cancer in 2011.
Puppy Love: Ginger, The Presidential Dog
One year, the president’s office received a call from a concerned father. His daughter, it seemed, was feeling homesick, and really missed her dog in California. He asked if it would be possible for the student to walk the Knobels’ dog, Ginger. Tina Knobel arranged it. Ginger was a gift to Tina from her daughter more than six years ago, and the chocolate dachshund has a penchant for fashion, including rhinestone collars and pink sweaters.
A Love Story: The Clock
There are three grandfather clocks in Monomoy Place, but only two will stay after June 30. This one has traveled with the Knobels throughout Dale’s career from Texas A&M, where he was a professor and associate provost, to Southwestern, where he was provost and dean of the faculty, and then to Denison. The clock was a wedding gift to the Knobels from Tina’s grandmother when the pair wed back in 1971. The road to the wedding started in high school when Tina asked Dale to a Sadie Hawkins dance. Dale admits that Tina’s move gave him the courage to ask for a second date.
The Things They Carried: Artifacts of the Civil War
As a historian who specializes in American history, it’s no surprise that Dale is a Civil War buff. In his study sat a display case that held artifacts of the Civil War, including a box that once held ammunition for infantrymen and a fragment from a cannonball found near the Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland.
Ring Tone: The College Bell
The college bell orginally hung in Marsh Hall, the college’s first brick building, which stood where Higley Hall (the former Life Science Building) stands now. When the Knobels arrived in 1998, the bell hadn’t been rung in some time, until Dale pulled it out of retirement. Today the sound of the college bell kicks off Induction and Commencement ceremonies.
Of Presidents Past: Pratt’s Wick Trimmer
Dale kept a wick trimmer on the mantel of the first-floor study in Monomoy. It once belonged to Denison’s first president, John Pratt, who served the college from 1831 to 1837. Though Dale didn’t use it much, it served as a reminder of the presidents who had come before him and the challenges they had faced.
Place of Business: The President’s Office
For 15 years, Dale Knobel has climbed the steps of Doane to reach his office on the second floor. On July 1, Adam Weinberg, the college’s 20th president, began his tenure here.
Well Tuned: Monomoy’s Piano
Although Monomoy is part museum (many pieces from the Denison Museum grace the walls) and part reception site (the Knobels have hosted faculty, students, alumni, politicians, diplomats, and world-class performers here), it also is the place the Knobels have called home. The grand piano, which was often played by students to provide ambiance at events, held the Knobels’ family photos, including pictures of their children, their two grandsons, Grant Matthew and Connor, and their son-in-law, Daron Sitton.
Bookshelf Battles: Toy Soldiers
Dale Knobel spent his childhood studying the Civil War with his uncle Robert Boehm, who taught history at Defiance College for 45 years. The pair would spend summer days touring the battlefields of West Virginia and staging battles with toy soldiers. Knobel still has a collection of these soldiers, many of which have stood guard on the shelves throughout Monomoy.
Every once in a while, I get to break out of my office and do something different. For this issue, that meant I got to become a photographer’s assistant for the day when Matt Wright-Steel came to campus to photograph President and Mrs. Knobel, as well as students, faculty, and staff who submitted memories about the Knobels for our story, “The Historian,” which starts on page 16.
Poor Matt. I’m no photographer, and I know very little about the ins and outs of a shoot. I had managed to schedule folks in 30-minute intervals for their portraits, and I had managed to get the photo equipment loaded into my minivan and up to campus on time, but other than that, I could be seen checking emails on my iPhone and occasionally looking up at Matt to ask, “You good?” while he was sweating in the sun, building a giant black box that would serve as our set and was designed to control the light.
My big job that day was to use a reflective disc to redirect sunlight into the box to provide some powerful natural lighting. Matt, the professional, was polite but clear about what he wanted. “Blast them,” he’d tell me. And with a meek little apology, I’d turn the disc toward our subjects, catch the sun, and propel sunbeams directly into their eyes. Throughout the day, I “blasted” students, faculty, staff, a mere child, Dale and Tina Knobel, and Tom Hoaglin ’71, chair of the board. And then I promptly sent them away seeing spots, hoping we weren’t sending Dale and Tina into retirement with permanent damage to their corneas.
The day was a whirlwind of shutter clicks and sunshine, and we had pulled it together quickly, because I’ll admit that I had apprehensions when we asked folks to send us their memories of the Knobels’ time at Denison. I was wary that we’d get the “He was a really great leader” submissions and the “Denison is a better place” sentiments. While these statements may be true, I knew there were more personal stories to share. Turns out, there were plenty. Religion Professor David Woodyard ’54 told us about the strength of the Knobels’ marriage. Sarah Torrens in the library told us about Dale’s call to her after her son Joe had died in a car accident. One student shared a funny story about the first time she saw Dale in Granville—he was carrying a giant picture of himself through town. (Those stories and more, by the way, can be found on TheDEN.)
I have a few of my own stories about Dale, but the one that stands out to me most is the faculty meeting that took place after Dale and Tina’s daughter, Allison, had died of breast cancer. He stood before the faculty to thank them for the kindness they had shown throughout Allison’s fight with the disease and her death. As I looked around, I saw faculty members crying. They were crying because they genuinely cared about this guy, and his wife, and his daughter (whom many had never even met).
College presidents have a tough job. They’re not perfect. They make decisions that some applaud and others repudiate. It’s difficult to really get to know a president, because his role is to be the human face of an institution, even when he faces heartache and tragedy in his personal life. Even, as Dale states in his last column on p. 7, when he and his wife head to the grocery store for milk.
But folks got to know Dale and Tina well in their 15 years here, because they made a point of becoming a part of the community in which they worked and lived. So I guess it’s not all that surprising that we received so many personal stories about the Knobels. And I guess it’s not surprising that the folks who wrote those stories showed up to have their pictures taken in a little black box behind Doane while some amateur photographer’s assistant directed sunlight into their eyes.
Everyone was a good sport that day. Tom Hoaglin placed his hat on his head and stepped into our little torture device without complaint. Susan Kosling, production and academic administrative assistant in the dance department, wore her Sunday best and convinced her young son to come along as well. David Woodyard crossed his arms and gave us a great big smile (yes, a smile—he’s not as tough as he looks.)
The point is that they did it because they wanted the Knobels to know that they had made an impact at Denison beyond budget numbers and diversity and new facilities. They did it because this place really is a community, and two of our community members are leaving. They did it because they wanted the Knobels to know they will be missed.
By the time this issue of Denison Magazine arrives in your mailbox, Tina and I will have moved into our new home in Georgetown, Texas, just north of Austin, to begin our new life as “civilians.” I taught my first college class in 1974, while I was still completing doctoral studies in history at Northwestern University, and have been employed in higher education ever since. Although we still had a private life during my professorial career and even in the first years after I assumed a succession of academic administrative posts, 15 years as a college president hasn’t given Tina or me much time out of the public eye. In a college town, it seems I’m always the president and Tina always the first lady, even when we’re just going to the grocery store!
So it seems right that now, in retirement, we’re going to have more time to spend with each other, to undertake some travel that isn’t dictated by the rhythms of the academic calendar, and to enjoy living much closer to our young Texas-born grandsons. Tina, having grown used to making beautiful things grow in Henderson Gardens surrounding our home, Monomoy Place, is now going to relearn how to make things green in Austin’s warmer, drier, stonier environment. And I hope ultimately to resume the writing of a couple of books in American history that I set aside as my administrative responsibilities grew.
Since this is the last opportunity I’ll have to write to so many in the Denison family, I thought I’d use it to answer the question I am asked all the time—and even more often in these last weeks of my presidency: What has been my favorite experience at Denison? I offer this reply: There is no one time or occasion, but rather five times each year that stand out for me. The first is our annual First-Year Induction Ceremony, held on the evening of the day that the new class arrives for August Orientation and often attended by parents as well. I love this ceremony for the sense of expectancy that we all have—not only students and their loved ones, but Denison faculty and staff, too, as they see the possibility in these young men and women. And I enjoy this as a brief moment to teach again, to share ideas that I hope will help launch these new Denisonians into a productive college career.
The second occasion arrives just weeks later. It’s what we now call Big Red Weekend, the amalgam of the old Parents Weekend with what used to be Homecoming into a general open house for the families, alumni, and friends of Denison. This is a time to show the college off a little, especially as the leaves on our hillsides begin to turn red and gold. It is a time when students are able to share their pride and excitement in what they are doing in and out of the classroom and an opportunity for our visitors to see the college in action.
In mid-April, we conduct the annual Academic Awards Convocation in Swasey Chapel. On this occasion we celebrate outstanding learning and leadership and exemplary teaching. We recognize the ways in which members of the student body (especially the seniors) have distinguished themselves, and we award the President’s Medal to the seniors who have exemplified academic and leadership achievement. New holders of endowed professorships are named, as are the two faculty members selected by their peers to receive the Brickman Teaching Awards. On this occasion, the members of the board of trustees, the faculty assembled in academic regalia, and I all agree that we rediscover why it is we do the work that we do at Denison. It’s inspiring.
Just a few weeks later comes Commencement. Graduates pass through a double file of faculty decked out in the riotous color of academic gowns and hoods from around the world. I get to “ring the class out” with the historic college bell just as I “rung them in” with it at Induction. But the best is enjoying their smiles, handshakes, and sometimes hugs as they receive the diplomas that represent their four years of accomplishment. And then, at the end, behold, I get to “teach” one more time, offering a Charge to the Class to set them on their way.
About three weeks after Commencement comes Denison’s Alumni Reunion Weekend, when more than 1,000 Denisonians and their families are back on campus. I love the fact that they are rediscovering their college—not just as it was, but as it is—and rediscovering one another, too. The best thing about reunions is that you not only enjoy old friends, but you often make new ones, finding in classmates one barely knew five or 50 years ago, men and women who now have shared important life experiences. I watch each year in wonder as these friendships unfold.
So, you know, it hasn’t been a bad life being a college president! It’s been fulfilling, for both Tina and me. And for this reason, we know we will always stay connected to Denison and Denisonians. The college is in our hearts. Consequently, we are excited about our successors, Adam and Anne Weinberg, and want to do everything we can to see that they have an experience that is a success for them and for Denison. By embracing them as you have embraced us, you will help make Denison’s future bright.
Close your eyes and picture it, this curious moment, framed like something out of a film. A couple of hale lads on a sunny afternoon in the fall of ’48, the golden light of early autumn casting shadows on the grass outside Curtis Hall. Two freshmen tossing a ball—nothing unusual there. Only it’s not a football, not even a game of catch with a hardball and gloves.
They’re using … sticks?
“We drew a crowd,” Dick Bonesteel ’52 says, chuckling at a memory six decades old. “Most of them had never seen a lacrosse stick.”
Dick “Bones” Bonesteel and John “Dad” McCarter ’52 were Ohio boys, but they might as well have been three-eyed aliens for the looks they got that day. Four years of high school in New England explained it. Bonesteel and McCarter spent their prep years at the Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts, and when they came home before heading off for college, they brought with them an invasive species: this sport with a funny name, something like hockey with an airborne component, or rugby with sticks.
Most of a lifetime has passed, and lacrosse at Denison long ago matured into a fixture—one of the best small-school programs in the nation. But 60 years after the university adopted it as a varsity sport, it’s worth remembering the game’s unlikely origins on campus: a university that wasn’t interested, and a group of players (and coaches) who weren’t entirely sure what they were doing, but stuck with it anyway.
Enthusiasm trumped inexperience for the eight players Bonesteel and McCarter recruited for the first Denison lacrosse squad, a neophyte gang that dubbed itself the Granville Lacrosse Club (GLC) when the administration denied it official affiliation with the Big Red. It proved a minor obstacle, as did the initial lack of a full roster when they took the field against Kenyon for their debut match in the spring of ’49. “We had no goalie,” Bonesteel recalls. “We had to borrow one from Kenyon.”
The April 14, 1950, edition of The Denisonian advertised the return of the GLC that spring as “merely a group of interested men who gather together to play nearby colleges in informal lacrosse matches.” The media coverage confers a level of legitimacy on the second-year program—even if it was only three paragraphs on page 6. Ohio State and Oberlin joined Kenyon on the schedule that spring, with home matches played on the Granville High School football field. Most of the ’49 squad was back, and there were a half dozen or so newcomers, including a freshman who had taken the same prep school route that Bonesteel and McCarter had.
Springfield, Ohio native Edward “Bud” Miller ’54 arrived at DU in the fall of 1950, and if he didn’t miss the frigid winters from his time at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts, he was happy to find at least one reminder of New England: lacrosse. Miller was among those who straddled the transition from the unaffiliated GLC to an official Denison varsity sport in 1953—a year too late for Bonesteel and McCarter to take part. But their legacy had legs, even if it still lacked success in the record books. Even now, Miller remembers much about Denison’s lacrosse debut.
“They asked Ken Meyer to be the coach,” Miller says of the war hero and former Big Red star quarterback who went on to a long career coaching college and pro football. At the time, Meyer ’50 was a DU football assistant who, Miller says, “didn’t know anything about lacrosse and would freely admit it. Before the season he sat me down and said, ‘Tell me all you know.’”
Miller remembers being one of just two players on that ’53 squad with any real playing experience, and it showed. The record book reveals that Denison’s first official lacrosse team went 0-7, with two losses apiece to Kenyon, Oberlin, and Ohio State, and one more to the Cleveland Lacrosse Club. The following year, Meyer handed over the reins to Rix Yard, who went a combined 1-14 in his first two seasons, the only win a 6-5 victory over Ohio State in the opening game of 1955.
Of course, Yard would figure it out. He coached 10 seasons in all, and his teams’ records improved every year, culminating with marks of 10-1 and 12-0 in ’62 and ’63. Miller’s great regret from his Denison days was that he “only had one year to play for Rix.” Bill Mason ’57, a co-captain and MVP of Denison’s ’57 squad, remembers Yard’s knack for finding lacrosse talent in other sports’ leftovers.
Mason was playing basketball at Denison but readily admits he was far from a star player. “I was the only junior playing junior varsity at Denison in 1956,” Mason says. “Dr. Yard saw me and said, ‘You’re not going to play a lot of basketball here, but I’ll make one heck of a lacrosse player out of you.’”
Mason ended up as Yard’s assistant in 1958 and filled in as head coach for one season—DU went 11-1 under his guidance in ’65—before making way for Tommy Thomsen, who established the Big Red among the nation’s elite. Thomsen’s teams went 255-97 over his quarter century in charge, leaving a foundation that current coach Mike Caravana and, for a brief stint in the 2000s, Matt McGinnis, have carried on. Coming into the 2013 season, DU’s all-time record stood at 562-241-3.
By any and every measure, Big Red lacrosse has come a long way, and it’s difficult now to imagine the sport’s stuttering birth on campus—difficult unless you were there, of course. Bonesteel is happy that there are still a few half-hidden reminders. “Somewhere in the old athletic complex, there was a hallway with pictures on both sides of the walls,” he says. “Way down at the far end, there was a group picture of the Granville Lacrosse Club, the 10 guys who made up the team my freshman year. We stand out like a sore thumb. We’re the only guys standing there with lacrosse sticks.”
As Denisonians around the world united on Jan. 30 for the “After Work with Denison … Everywhere!” event, seven came together for the very first time at Harry’s Bar, the oldest American watering hole in Paris, France. For many of us, it was the first time we dropped the names of Slayter, Olin, and Beth Eden since leaving the top of the Hill for the foot of Montmartre.
What draws Denisonians to the City of Light? “The amazing food!” was easily the first response around the table, particularly by Matthew Ketcham ’02. Ketcham came to Paris for an M.B.A. program, was offered a job with a French company, and has since settled right in.
Other responses were more sentimental. “It’s the view of certain things. I don’t want to be the person who visits. I want to live here,” said Karen Decter Malek ’88, who studied in Paris her junior year and found her way back permanently just after graduation.
For me, my path to Paris lies between the two. What began as culinary curiosity evolved into my unexpected dream job as an illustrator and a food stylist for magazines and commercial advertisements.
And love provided the backdrop. It is Paris, after all.
Surrounded by other Denisonians at a snug round table at Harry’s Bar, along with our triumphant tales of Denison, we exchanged our France horror stories. Although love, art, business, and curiosity led us all here, navigating a country where the first answer is “non” takes a continual amount of commitment, courage, and perseverance. And everyone could commiserate over expiring visas, language mishaps, and cultural clashes, I was surrounded by new friends who all had the same two pinnacle places in their personal histories. And it was an overdue pleasure.
WHERE WERE YOU ON JAN. 30?
While seven alumni met up in the City of Lights, hundreds of Denisonians were getting together all over the United States (as well as Shanghai and Rio) to reminisce with old friends or make new ones. Here were the top five places to be that night, based on number of Denisonians all in one room.
New York: 130
Columbus, Ohio: 113
Washington, D.C.: 109
When demonstrating why you’d be a good fit for the position, make sure you use concrete examples of your work. Use statements such as, “As you can see from my resumé, I’ve had experience working with …” or “My background at Google is a good example of how I transformed the way people think about computers.” The more examples you use, the easier it is for the interviewer to see you in the position for which he or she is hiring.
Know where your weaknesses lie. Saying you don’t have any weaknesses, or worse, that you share a weakness that isn’t work-related, may stop the interview in its tracks. Think about a weakness that can be perceived as a strength. “I have a tendency to take on more than I should,” for example, covers an area of opportunity, while also revealing the fact that you have a strong work ethic.
You may be asked, “Why should we hire you over other candidates?” Stop! You can’t compare yourself to the other candidates. What you can do is say, “I can’t speak to the skills of the other candidates, but I do know why I’m a good fit for this position.” Then begin to tell them how your skills and abilities will add to the bottom line.
Prepare questions. You’ll be spending 40 hours or more a week in this position, so there has to be something you want to know. Don’t ask about benefits or salary and don’t ask any questions that could easily be answered in company literature or on its website. Ask about the culture, the team, and specifics about the work.
Practice with a colleague or trusted friend. If you make a mistake, it’s not like your job’s on the line.
It’s the jitterbug, not the Harlem Shake, but from maypoles to flash mobs, dancing on the quad has long been a Denison rite of spring. So have dogwood blossoms, outdoor classrooms on the shady lawn, impulsive romance, and the wearing of shorts. In the late 1950s, “Bermuda Shorts Day” combined all the joys of spring into one, like, crazy theme, and as an alumna from the era recalls, there was a particularly frisky novelty to wearing Bermudas in front of Doane, at a time when strict dress codes
allowed only dresses and skirts for young women.
In January, Denison’s board of trustees welcomed a new member. Meet Amy Todd Middleton.
Amy Todd Middleton ’93
Senior Vice President,
Global Strategic Marketing, Sotheby’s
Todd Middleton began her career at Sotheby’s in 1993. Early on, she played an instrumental role in many of Sotheby’s pivotal single-owner sales, such as the Duchess of Windsor sale, the estate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the estate of Pamela Harriman, the estate of John Hay and Betsey Cushing Whitney, and the Barry Halper collection of baseball memorabilia.
After a brief departure to pursue an opportunity in the world of consulting, Todd Middleton returned to Sotheby’s in 1996 to work on special projects in the managing director’s office. Over the last 16 years, she has held roles as the head of international client services, director of online auctions for jewelry, director of special events and sponsorship marketing, and director of North American marketing. She became the worldwide director of strategic marketing in 2008, a role in which she continues to serve.
After graduating from Denison, Todd Middleton pursued graduate studies in journalism at New York University. She is involved with many philanthropic organizations, serving as a patron for The New York Botanical Garden and as a board member of the Sylvia Center, a program that inspires young people to discover good nutrition.