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by Brown Daily HeraldSep 19, 2014
“Atypically formal for a collegiate event, ushers dressed in black tie greeted concertgoers and a grand piano graced the stage of Salomon 101 Tuesday night. Gathering to hear Cheol Woong Kim, a concert pianist and professor of music at Paekche Institute of the Arts in South Korea, speak and perform, audience members trickled in starting at 7 p.m., and within half an hour, the floor and balcony were packed.
At half past seven Kim — a North Korean native who fled and now lives in South Korea — began his concert not with spoken word, but with song.
Bowing humbly after performing Chopin’s “Nocturne No. 2,” he explained in Korean his somber choice of song. Translating his remarks, Peter Kim GS and Betty Kim ’15.5 explained that the song is featured in the movie “The Pianist” set in Nazi Germany. The film’s main character only keeps his life because a Nazi soldier appreciated his music, capturing the power of music even in chaos.
“I will be talking about my life and will play some pieces in between,” Kim said. “I hope that by learning about my life between these pieces that you will learn more about the life in North Korea.”
Living a “privileged life” as the son of a politician and a university professor, Kim started to play piano at age six. There were only three available pianos in the entire city, and Kim attended a kindergarten that was home to one of them, he wrote in an email to The Herald. Kim Jeong Il, the North Korean ruler at the time, respected musicians, so Kim’s parents had him learn with hopes that the skill would help his career, he added.
At eight years old, Kim was one of nine chosen from 5,000 applicants to be accepted into the Pyongyang Music and Dance Institute. “Of those nine people, my first love was one of them,” he said at his performance. “I don’t think you can not talk about love when you talk about life, right?”
He then studied at the Moscow State Conservatory. “Before I studied abroad, I did not begin to question the kind of limit I had as a pianist. … I thought that to express music was to express the ideology of the government,” he said.
It was this restriction on his freedom of expression that eventually gave Kim the impetus to flee. He had planned to propose — to the girl who was one of the nine — by playing her a song, but the song he wanted to perform was not permitted in North Korea. Practicing secretly in his room one day, he was overheard and reported to the authorities. After being detained by the National Security Agency, he was interrogated about what made him play the song. He was instructed to write a report, and he escaped during this interim.
He did not talk to his parents. He did not talk to his love. “I could not tell her even if I had had the opportunity. And if I were to have told her, she probably would have reported me to the authorities,” he said.
Escaping first to China and later to South Korea, where he is now a professor, he said, “I did not escape for ideological reasons. I wanted freedom for my fingers to move on the piano.”
He said the type of music he played from the beginning of his piano instruction was half classical and half propaganda. “But people in North Korea still wanted to express themselves,” he added. “No matter how totalitarian the government is, music will always prevail. It is basically the essence of life. And this is why I want to use music as a medium to change their lives.”
“I just said ‘them,’ but the truth is, I used to be one of them,” he added.
Kim closed his concert and conversation with a traditional piece that he transposed to better articulate what he felt demonstrated the harmonious blend of the cultures of North and South Korea.
Even today, citizens of North Korea cannot speak freely, he said to the audience. “To a nation that was united over 60 years ago and that could be united 60 years from now, I hope that I can converse with them.”
A standing ovation ensued as the lingering notes of his music and tone of his words echoed in the auditorium.”
by Brown Daily HeraldSep 19, 2014
“The football team opens its 2014 season with a trip to Washington to face Georgetown University on Saturday.
In 2013, the Bears opened a strong season with a 45-7 obliteration of the Hoyas in Providence that propelled them to a 6-4 record. But to repeat last year’s feat, the team will have to find its identity on the fly. With only four of last year’s 22 starters returning — none on offense — the 2014 Bears are almost unrecognizable from 2013 team. With new players comes a new style of play, and Bruno will have to quickly discover what works best.
The Bears are ready to “find out what kind of squad we are,” said quarterback Marcus Fuller ’15.
Unfortunately for the Bears, Georgetown will have an advantage in experience. The Hoyas have three games under their belts: losses to Wagner College and the University of Dayton and a win over Marist College. They have already undergone the growing pains that accompany a new season. But there’s a flip side to this coin.
“We have two game films on them,” said center John Heile ’16, adding, “and they don’t have any on us.”
The Hoyas may know who they are but that means Bruno gets to know too. The Bears also have the element of surprise on their side.
“They don’t know anything about us,” said linebacker Dan Giovacchini ’15.
“With 11 offensive starters … and a bunch of starters on defense leaving, we’re a completely different unit,” Heile said.
With the benefit of film, the Bears are looking to take advantage of the Hoyas’ habits and playing style.
“We just kind of look at schemes, tendencies, things like that, any weaknesses we could possibly exploit,” Heile said. “We just craft a game plan around what we see from them.”
Both Giovacchini and Fuller noted some specific Georgetown tendencies they plan to use to inform their play. Giovacchini observed that the Hoya offense has been “pass-happy,” while Fuller said he anticipated some “situations where (Bruno’s) receivers are matched up with their (defensive backs) one-on-one.”
All things considered, the Bears expressed confidence about how they will play together and what waits for them in the nation’s capital.
Heile described the team’s chemistry as “incredibly important, and I think it’s come a long way … it’s only going to get better and better.” After spring practices and a scrimmage against Yale, the Bears have a fair amount of team experience, even if they have none in live game action.
Several players said that if the Bears can adhere to their game plan and avoid penalties, they should have a good shot to open the year with a victory.
“We think we can have a lot off success against this D,” Fuller said. “We don’t need any crazy individual performances. It just takes everybody doing their part.”
“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” Giovacchini added.
Saturday’s game kicks off at noon.”
by Brown Daily HeraldSep 19, 2014
“The women’s volleyball team will battle its Ocean State rival the University of Rhode Island this weekend at the University of New Hampshire’s Holly Young Invitational. With a sweep of Providence College under their belts, the Bears could cement themselves as the state powerhouse after this weekend’s competition.
Last year, Bruno lost to URI. Outside hitter Emma Thygesen ’17 said that with this past record, the team is ready to “stick it to them.” The Atlantic 10 team will also come prepared with a strong 9-1 record, and last Saturday, the Rams swept Rutgers in three games.
URI is not the only team posing a threat to the Bears this weekend. Bruno will play New Hampshire Friday and New Mexico State Saturday. “All competition is going to be good competition,” Thygesen said.
New Hampshire comes into the games with a record below .500, going 4-8, but regardless of the numbers, the Wildcats held their own in a tight match against Ivy League rival Dartmouth.
Like the Wildcats, New Mexico State currently has a losing record, 3-5, but has proved itself on the court against competition such as North Dakota State University and Missouri State University.
“We have made some good strides this week,” said Head Coach Diane Short said, looking forward to these three match-ups.
The Bears had a full week of practice — a luxury they have not had in quite some time. It was “nice to get a rhythm this week,” Thygesen said. They took advantage of the practice time to focus on and improve their blocking, stressing what Coach Short said were some of the weaknesses from the last tournament.
With stronger intra-squad relationships and a better understanding of one another’s playing styles, the Bears are prepared to attack their competition at the Holly Young Invitational. “We are actually at a better place this year compared to last year,” Thygesen said.
Short also seemed confident. “I do feel this team has showed consistent effort, and what more can the coach ask for when teaching?””
by Brown Daily HeraldSep 19, 2014
“Coming off its breakout win over Harvard last weekend, the rugby team will travel to Philadelphia to take on Ivy foe Penn. Brown (1-0) kicked off its 2014 campaign with a hard-fought win over the defending Ivy champions and is looking to continue its domination Saturday against the Quakers (1-0).
Neither Brown nor Penn will be lacking in confidence, as the Penn team also comes into the contest with an undefeated record and victory over Columbia (0-1) already under its belt. The two teams did not face each other in 2013, though the Bears earned a decisive victory over the Quakers in fall 2012. But that contest is now distant history for college teams whose lineups can fluctuate from year to year.
Head Coach Kathleen Flores is only in her second year with Brown, so she has never seen the two teams play in league competition.
“I know that they are very scrappy,” Flores said. “In the past, there have always been the top four Ivies and then the next four, and they were always knocking on the door to that top four.”
In Penn’s season debut, the squad faltered early in rainy conditions against Columbia but picked up its pace in time to jump ahead of the Lions and secure a win. The Bears will have to watch out for the Quakers’ senior Lucy Dawson, who scored two tries and won three of six conversion attempts in their opener. The Penn defense also proved to be solid, shutting out the Lions over 80 minutes of play.
Brown will take the field with the same winning mentality it utilized against Harvard. With the squad looking to shine in its first varsity year, the Bears’ coaches said they have already been impressed.
“Harvard did beat us pretty handily last year,” Flores said. “While it wasn’t a surprise that we won … it was certainly welcome.” The Bears made history by winning the first-ever varsity Ivy League women’s rugby game.
Facing Penn, Bruno will seek to maintain the successful parts of its approach against Harvard, while also making adjustments and tweaks in order to play an even better game Saturday.
“We took what we didn’t do well at Harvard … so we’ve been practicing working on our defensive launch a lot, and trying to bring up our attacking line a bit,” Flores said.
Both teams will be hungry for the win Saturday, but only one can take home a victory. The Bears seem to think it will be them.”
by Brown Daily HeraldSep 19, 2014
“After spending decades as a psychotherapist, Steve Cadwell now has a second job that is admittedly a “bridge to retirement,” he said. But his autobiographical one-man show, “Wild and Precious,” has catapulted him into a national conversation on both gay rights activism and pure theatrical entertainment, with major performances planned in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles.
Cadwell will perform his show, sponsored by the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life and the LGBTQ Center, in Manning Chapel Saturday. Cadwell met University Chaplain Rev. Janet Cooper Nelson at the funeral of their mutual friend Maxim Daamen, a local psychiatrist, gay rights activist and professor at the Alpert Medical School. Cooper Nelson invited Cadwell to bring his show to Brown both as a memorialization of Daamen and as a celebration of the future of human rights, she said.
The show takes an unusual approach to gauging its success. Cadwell tells audience members that they are free to leave at the intermission. But with most audience members sticking around for the full show, the performance seems to be catching on.
Cadwell speaks of his show’s positive reception with more than a hint of pride in his voice, and his confidence is fitting for a psychotherapist who has built a career on fighting shame associated with gender and sexuality. But he wasn’t always so self-assured — at 23, his psychological distress over coming out caused him to spend time in a state hospital. “When I was a sophomore at Amherst College, homosexuality was a disease,” he said.
The show features an interlude of poetry and songs written over the past half-century, combining various visual and auditory media into a cohesive narrative of self-acceptance. It follows his journey from a child on a farm in Vermont to a proud parent with his husband Joe.
“I’m doing a life review on stage,” he said, adding that he aims to detail the impressive “social change in the last 50 years” from a personal perspective.
As Cadwell’s life story continues to change, so does the play: He added a new musical number in front of a Burlington crowd Sept. 12. And though the show used to include an onstage assistant, Cadwell scaled down to a one-man cast to communicate with the audience on a more direct level.
Cadwell’s respect for the roles of both storyteller and listener stems from the years he spent on the audience side as a psychotherapist. “My appreciation of what happens in a good therapeutic relationship is that we connect, we relate,” he said.
The story is simultaneously a ritual of aging, a celebration of an increasingly accepting society and a reflection of the horrors of intolerance. This last point adds a crucial element to the performance: In understanding previous generations’ experiences of oppression, the current generation is better equipped to fight homophobia and cultivate diversity in a world in which gay people continue to be minorities who are vulnerable to scapegoating, he said.
By sharing his story, Cadwell challenges others to live out his titular inspiration — Mary Oliver’s poetic provocation, “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?” He said he plans to perform long into his “baby elder bloomer years.””
by Brown Daily HeraldSep 19, 2014
“The speakers at the 10th annual Business Innovation Factory Summit all have one thing in common: They want to shake things up.
The featured storytellers and audience members descended on the Trinity Repertory Company in downtown Providence Wednesday and Thursday, a congregation of “innovation junkies,” as the conference’s founder and chief catalyst Saul Kaplan called them. The event celebrates innovations in different fields of business through narratives, similar to a TED talk.
“Most of the people on stage talk all the time, so I ask them to tell a personal story,” Kaplan said. “It enables what I always call random collisions of unusual suspects — to help people collide outside of their normal discipline and industry sector.”
Innovation is truly sparked by the intersection of divergent experiences, Kaplan said. He founded the summit 10 years ago while he was working for the office of then-Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri ’65 on the state’s economic development strategy.
“It was part of a broader strategy to make design, innovation and entrepreneurship central to the way we think of the future,” Kaplan said.
The speakers come from a wide variety of backgrounds. From a world-renowned interaction designer, to a 14-year-old robot builder, to a doctor who helped solve maternity deaths in Nepal, to a children’s book illustrator, speakers shared their personal stories with the hope of inspiring the audience to craft their own narratives of innovation.
“We spend a lot of time thinking about curating the event, and we’ve been at it for a while,” Kaplan said. “In the beginning, we were reaching out to people who we wanted to hear their stories, but now our network is so large and so strong that we get an amazing number of people who want to tell their stories coming to us.”
Keith Yamashita, the head of a strategy consulting firm in New York, was the first speaker at the summit — but he was not the last in encouraging the audience members to seek creative endeavors.
“We’re all born as creative beings,” Yamashita said. “All of us in here have survived school that tells you, ‘you’re not,’ a workforce that takes it out of you. … Creativity is a courageous daily practice.”
Rupal Patel, a speech scientist at Northeastern University, spoke about building individualized voice boxes for people with speech impairments.
“The prosthetic box isn’t just about the words they’re saying,” she said. “It’s not just about the words we say — it’s how we express them.”
Eileen Gittins, the CEO of a creative self-publishing platform called Blurb, described her personal history with technology, innovation and books.
“A book is the most awesomely crafted, created filter that history has ever known,” she said. “I don’t think that’s going away anytime soon.”
One speaker even centered his talk on an apology he made to the audience for inventing the online pop-up ad.
“First of all, let me say that I am very, very sorry,” said Ethan Zuckerman, before discussing his frustration with the current public climate surrounding the Internet.
For Debbie Mills-Scofield, a strategy consultant and visiting scholar at Brown, BIF10 was her fifth time attending the conference.
“I really enjoy the diversity and the depth that just doesn’t exist anywhere else,” she said. “BIF is a humble, intimate version of TED and that’s what I enjoy about it. I meet so many different people from all walks of life doing so many different things in one place that I couldn’t do otherwise.”
Every year, Mills-Scofield brings a group of Brown students to attend the summit with her.
“I want them to meet people who can impact their life,” she said. “I want to expose them to ideas and people and things going on that they wouldn’t easily get exposed to.””
by Brown Daily HeraldSep 19, 2014
“The Islamic State has been declared. The first caliphate since the fall of the Ottoman Empire a century ago, claiming to represent all Muslims worldwide, has been established. The speed with which the Islamic State — formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — spread from Syria back to its birthplace in Iraq was matched only by its military successes along the way, prompting the collective jaws of Western commentators to drop. If one watches American news media, an ill-advised endeavor, the only thing heard more often than a bellicose call to arms against the new old enemy is the purported ignorance as to its origins. However, we must not be fooled into thinking the Islamic State somehow emerged from the depths of hell or is a product of spontaneous generation, like rats in the holds of pre-scientific ships. Rather, the ever-unfolding story of the Islamic State can clearly be traced back to American military and economic policy over the last several decades and most sharply to American bombs, bullets and arrogance unleashed in our deluded assaults on the people of Iraq.
The Islamic State was conceived in a river of blood, which first began flowing over two decades ago when the first George Bush, under the pretext of humanitarian aid to the oil fields of Kuwait, formed an international coalition to liberate the invaded Kuwaiti monarchy and punish Saddam’s dictatorship in what became known as the Gulf War. With a highly disproportional death count, this war could more accurately be described as an act of industrial slaughter, complete with an aerial assault on Iraqi soldiers retreating from Kuwait on the infamous Highway of Death and the live burial of scores of Iraqis by armored American bulldozers. While the vast majority of Americans have probably forgotten or never heard of these events, the atrocities of this war live on in the cultural memory of the jihadists. Although one cannot say it with absolute confidence, it is certainly conceivable that many of those killed by our bombs were the fathers and grandfathers of those now waving the black flag of the Islamic State.
However, as difficult as it may be to imagine, these senseless and needless massacres were merciful compared to the slow and brutal economic strangulation that ensued for the beleaguered citizens of Iraq. With minimal military justification, crucial civilian infrastructure was purposely bombed and destroyed, including the vast majority of Iraq’s electrical power stations and oil refineries, as well as many of its water purification plants, roads, bridges and other necessities of industrial civilization. To compound this misery, sanctions leveled against Iraq, once one of the most advanced and prosperous nations in the region, effectively wiped out its economy and all but brought the country back to the Stone Age with terrifying results. Iraq’s GDP fell to about an eighth of what it was before the war. Illiteracy and child labor skyrocketed. Rates of malnutrition shot up, medical supplies became precariously scarce and diseases from lack of clean water became the norm. Estimates of excess childhood deaths as a result range from over half a million to a lower estimate of 100,000, figures which would make the Islamic State blush and were described by the former United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Baghdad Denis Halliday, as “genocidal sanctions on the innocent of Iraq.” In light of the illiteracy, poverty and destitution created by our actions, questions such as “why are they so violent?” and “why do they hate us?” would be almost comical if they were not so tragic.
While many of these events have gone down the Orwellian memory hole in this country, the next part of the story should certainly still be familiar. For a variety of pretexts, ranging from nonexistent weapons of mass destruction to nonexistent ties to al-Qaeda to our certainly existent modern manifest destiny of democracy promotion — but, of course, in no way related to oil, petrodollars, defense contractors, Dick Cheney’s Halliburton and the imperial Project for the New American Century —, the second George Bush decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and once again invade Iraq. However, this time the goal was not merely to punish Saddam but to transform Iraq, which is what ironically occurred, although not along the lines envisioned.
What was meant to be a quick and efficient demonstration of American military omnipotence devolved into an all-too-predictable, all-too-costly and all-too-gruesome counterinsurgency against the newly liberated but less-than-thankful people of Iraq. Improvised explosive devices and roadside bombs against American military vehicles and private military contractors were answered by wholly indiscriminate fire against an unseen and elusive enemy and often against entirely innocent civilians, as documented by American soldiers and independent journalists on the scene and verified by disclosed Wikileaks documents. Military and private armed forces apparently began to suspect everyone with brown skin and a fluency in Arabic, a rather substantial portion of the Iraqi population, of being affiliated with the insurgency, as reflected in the civilian death toll and reports of human rights abuses by American forces. Overall, the inferno we ignited, into which the Iraqi insurgents poured their own gasoline, consumed around 130,000 innocent human lives, as reported by the Iraq Body Count project, with a high-end estimate of over 1 million deaths — three percent of the country’s population — due to all the effects of the war, including destruction of sanitation and health-related infrastructure, according to ORB International. Although these inconvenient facts are rarely mentioned in the American media, we are living — and others are dying — with these results today.
As with all tragedies, this second War on Iraq is laced with its own cruel ironies, among which is the creation of what would later become the Islamic State. Under Saddam Hussein’s secular Ba’ath Party, fundamentalist religious groups were heavily suppressed as challenges to his rule. With Hussein removed from power, such groups sprang up once again, either from the ether or from the underground, to fill the void and combat American forces. They were aided by the absurdly stupid policies enacted after the first phase of the war, the most inane of which was surely Coalition Provisional Authority Order 2, which disbanded the Iraqi military, security and intelligence infrastructure, putting 400,000 men knowledgable in the arts of war out of work and gifting many of them into the hands and leadership roles of the insurgency. Other deluded programs included setting up a spiteful and vengeful Shiite puppet government in a majority Sunni nation, as well as slashing the state sector and forcing neoliberal policies onto the Iraqi economy, embittering many and throwing countless people out of nonviolent work. Predictably, those idle hands soon picked up rifles, joining a variety of insurgency groups, one of which was the Islamic State of Iraq. If that name sounds familiar, it should: after countless refugees and fighters poured over the border to neighboring Syria and after crystallization in the cauldron of war against the government of Bashar Al-Assad, the Islamic State of Iraq now calls itself simply the Islamic State.
And thus, what are we left with? A new old enemy cutting through colonial borders as surely and brutally as it cuts through the heads of apostates, enemies and Western journalists. A new state flush with cash and intent, providing vitally needed infrastructure to the population it governs, as well as the opportunity for violent Jihad and Promethean state-making to would-be radicals throughout the world, including in the West.
And what have we learned? Judging from Obama’s recent remarks to “take out (the Islamic State) wherever they exist” — absolutely nothing. Nonmilitary options, particularly economic ones aimed at replacing extremists’ weapons with true tools of state-making, have not even entered into the thoughts of the president elected on his promise to get us out of Iraq. Although serious questions remain as to the actual threat the Islamic State poses to the United States, with General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the President’s top military adviser, going so far as to claim there is no sign of “active plotting against the American homeland” from the Islamic State, the war drums are already being beaten. Air and drone strikes, the propaganda poster children for Islamic radicals worldwide, are our first course of action, followed by the sort of training of local resistance fighters which turned the Mujahideen into the Taliban and in no small part assisted in the formation of the Islamic State in Syria by providing arms and instruction to those then fighting Bashar al-Assad. What new, more horrific entity emerges from this latest baptism of blood is as yet unknown, but one can safely bet on its inevitability and brutality. As we sow, so shall we reap.
Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Those who do learn are doomed to watch idiots and simpletons with reflexively violent reactions repeat it for them. It may well not be hyperbolic to state that in due time — if we persist in our actions — we may be looking back at this moment with nostalgia, with society as we know it collapsing around us.
God save us all.
David Katzevich ’16 enjoys learning from history, raising his fist in righteous indignation and shaking his head in futility. He can be reached at email@example.com.”
by Brown Daily HeraldSep 19, 2014
“The Undergraduate Council of Students has selected four undergraduate representatives to serve on the Task Force on Sexual Assault announced by President Christina Paxson in a May letter to the Brown community. The selections were announced at Tuesday’s BUCC meeting.
Katherine Byron ’15, Justice Gaines ’16, Lauren Stewart ’15 and Yvonne Yu ’14.5 are the last representatives to join the 11-member task force. Other members include two graduate students, one medical student, four faculty members and four administrative staff. The group is chaired by Russell Carey, executive vice president for planning and policy, and Michele Cyr, professor of medicine and associate dean for academic affairs at the Alpert Medical School.
The task force will begin meetings immediately, as early as the end of this week, said UCS President Maahika Srinivasan ’15.
UCS executive board members conducted interviews over the weekend and selected the four finalists Monday night, Srinivasan said.
Council leaders “jumped” at the opportunity to select other students to represent the student body, she added.
With a short timeline to select students, UCS leaders composed an application in collaboration with Frances Mantak, director of health promotion, and Bita Shooshani, coordinator of sexual assault prevention and advocacy, Srinivasan said.
UCS released the application in a campus-wide email Sept. 7, with questions surveying why the applicant thinks sexual violence happens on college campuses, what can be done to prevent it and what the task force can address with regard to “student support and advocacy” and “policies and procedures for sexual misconduct.”
The conversation surrounding sexual assault policy recommendations began last fall, Srinivasan said. The Sexual Assault Policy Task Force, a student group on campus separate from the formal committee assembled this fall, was working at the time to make policy recommendations and increase student representation on the Student Code of Conduct Committee, she said.
When campus conversation escalated in April after Lena Sclove ’15 publicized her struggles with the University’s disciplinary process for sexual assault cases, Paxson announced the creation of a separate committee tasked with solely addressing sexual violence policy outlined in the Student Code of Conduct, Srinivasan said. The separate task force would conduct a quicker code review process and prepare recommendations by December, she said.
The recommendations presented this fall could be implemented as early as January 2015 or could be reviewed by the Corporation at its tri-annual meeting in February, she said, adding that the nature of the recommendations will affect when they are implemented.
Going forward, UCS will encourage the task force to stay engaged with the greater student body and facilitate open discussions, Srinivasan said. “By no means are the four representatives the end-all representation of conversation,” she said.
The student representatives will attend an open forum at a UCS general body meeting, which are always open to the public, she said.”
by Brown Daily HeraldSep 19, 2014
“Reflecting on Marjorie Thompson ’74 PhD’79 P’02 P’07 P’09 P’12 P’14 P’16 this week, colleagues and friends repeatedly used a number of words and phrases: “Remarkable.” “Incredible.” “So dedicated to her students.” “A mother to everyone.” “A force to be reckoned with.”
Remembered as an alacritous professor, talented artist and fierce advocate for undergraduate advising, Thompson touched the lives of countless undergraduates and colleagues during her four decades at Brown.
After declaring medical leave for the fall semester, Thompson died Monday after a four-year battle with cancer, Professor of Biology and longtime friend Ken Miller ’70 P’02 said. “In typical Marge Thompson style she never let on, never let up, never stopped doing the work that she loved until she was forced to.”
An advising exemplar
After completing both an undergraduate degree and a doctorate degree at Brown, Thompson began her journey toward reforming the undergraduate biology curriculum in 1980, Miller said.
“Her passion for supporting students, her enthusiasm for science, her commitment to Brown (were) unsurpassed,” he added.
The University has an unusual structure for its biology departments, Miller said. Though no specific biology degrees exist at Brown — in botany or zoology, for example — there are six different biology departments “each with (its) own chair, (its) own interests,” he added. In order to unite those six departments, Thompson established the Biology Curriculum Committee, comprising a representative from each biology department and — at her insistence — three undergraduate representatives, Miller said.
As an adviser, Thompson personally worked with hundreds of biology and independent concentrators every year.
“I would come up with excuses to go talk to her,” Elena Suglia ’15 said. “Everyone who came in contact with her just got this sense that she was totally passionate about helping others at Brown.”
“She had a wickedly sharp sense of humor,” Miller said. “She could not only be funny and make you laugh, she could make jokes with a point, and that’s a rare skill.”
Reid Secondo ’16, a member of the BCC, said his favorite memory of Thompson was when he went to see her during his first year with questions on gonad development for the vertebrate embryology course she was teaching.
“She said, ‘You know what, Reid, you are like the indifferent gonad. Like the indifferent gonad, there will be different signals and mechanisms thrown your way that will force you to bend and twist and change but at the end of the day, you have to decide what you’re doing and what gonad you want to be. And you have to be happy, and take ownership in your path,’” Secondo recalled. “‘As long as you are content with who you are and what you want to do with your life, you should be a proud gonad.’”
The mentorship Thompson provided did not stop when students graduated. Lily Chan ’13, a former BCC member, said Thompson was not only dedicated but “very intense, … very honest and very direct.” Thompson continued to mentor her even after she left Brown, Chan added.
“Everyone knew that she always had her Blackberry with her, and everyone knew that she replied to emails instantly. No one knew how she did it,” Chan said. “I think that was how I was able to keep depending on her for support even after I left Brown, because I knew she was there, both in person and over email.”
“She was absolutely tireless in terms of setting up office hours, staying late, helping people out with special projects. It was just incredible,” Miller said.
‘A Renaissance woman’
Thompson was multifaceted and modest, finding success in her career as a talented musician and artist.
Driving once with Jody Hall, manager of undergraduate laboratories, Thompson asked Hall if she liked the music playing in the car. Hall responded that she did, and Thompson replied, “‘That’s me’ in her non-showy way,” Hall recalled.
“She was very modest about it,” Hall said, even though Thompson had just made her first recording and wanted to share it.
“All the things this woman does and now she’s adding this on top,” Hall remembered thinking at the time.
When he first learned Thompson was taking guitar lessons in the ’80s, Miller said, he thought it was nice that she was picking up a hobby. It was not until a couple years later, when Miller tried to schedule a meeting with Thompson and she responded that she was on the road opening for Richie Haven, that he realized what a talented performer she had become, he said.
In addition to her music, Thompson created the jewelry company Cellular Fun, where she handmade “biologically correct” pins that depicted cells like macrophages and epithelial cells, according to its website.
“She was a Renaissance woman for sure,” Suglia said. “She did a million different things, and she did them all with unparalleled finesse.”
Family and beyond
While several students said Thompson cultivated a sense of family in the biology department, she did not stop there. A mother of seven, Thompson was always willing to open her arms and welcome others into her home.
One year, unable to return to Louisiana for Thanksgiving break, James Young ’16 accompanied Thompson’s son Griffin home for Thanksgiving dinner. Young said Thompson came downstairs from answering emails to embrace him warmly and welcome him.
“They’re a very quiet family, but they have a very loud influence on their peers,” Young said. “It’s interesting to note that unique paradox.”
Young added that Thompson quietly slipped away after dinner to continue answering emails from students.
Hall said Thompson “absorbed” both Hall and her son into her home for nearly 10 years, adding that she is “grateful (for that) on a daily basis.”
“She was a great mom,” Miller said. “You can see that in her kids — how much they love each other, and how much they love their mom.
‘She was a force’
Despite her 5 foot 2 inch frame, Thompson leaves a large legacy behind. Katherine Smith, interim associate dean of biology, said she remembers “being shocked” at Thompson’s tiny stature the first time they met in person. “In my mind, I had always envisioned her being a giant of a person, 6 feet tall and very large, because that was her personality and that was her power on campus. She was a force.”
“I’m filling enormous shoes,” added Smith, who assumed the role Sept. 1. “Every day brings something completely new and challenging, but I’m enjoying it because I feel like I’m helping to continue to steer the ship that she has captained.”
Miller said he will remember Thompson primarily for the joy she brought to her work and to the workplace.
“I don’t think (she) could have imagined being anywhere else, or doing anything other than what she did,” Miller added. “And she did it out of joy. Not everybody at a university does what they do out of pure, unadulterated joy like Marge Thompson did.”
-With additional reporting by Isobel Heck and Caroline Kelly”
by Brown Daily HeraldSep 19, 2014
“Professor of Neuroscience Diane Lipscombe will become interim director of the Brown Institute for Brain Science Jan. 1, when current director John Donoghue, professor of neuroscience, embarks on a year-long sabbatical in Switzerland , Provost Vicki Colvin and Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences Jack Elias announced Friday.
Lipscombe’s 24 years at Brown have been “remarkable,” Colvin and Elias wrote in the announcement. For each of the last 20 years, Lipscombe has received funding from the National Institutes of Health for her research. She has also been recognized with awards such as the Graduate School’s Faculty Award for Advising and Mentoring in 2010 and the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Graduate and Postdoctoral Teaching and Mentoring in the Biological Sciences in 2013, among others, they wrote.
Lipscombe began her career at Brown in 1990 and joined the Department of Neuroscience in 1993, after Donoghue formed it. Lipscombe was one of Donoghue’s first hires for the new department, she told The Herald, adding that they have always worked very well together. “I admire him tremendously, and I admire what he’s built,” she said.
Lipscombe said she and Donoghue plan to work together up until January and will remain in close contact throughout his sabbatical. “This ability to dovetail with John, to overlap with him, is really smart,” she said.
But while Lipscombe said she hopes to learn from Donoghue’s experience over the next few months, she is also excited to bring “fresh ideas” to the institute. Since her academic work differs from that of Donoghue’s, Lipscombe said she hopes to continue strengthening certain areas of study at the institute with which Donoghue has not been as involved.
“This is a very, very, very successful institute, but it can be even more successful,” she said.
Lipscombe said she looks forward to using the skills she has developed throughout her career to work with the variety of centers and people associated with BIBS.
“For me, I can’t think actually for a better thing to do right now at Brown,” she said.”
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