Amherst Fall 2013

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  • Fall 2013

    TreasureHunting

    What you thought

    about railroads

    is probably wrong

    Living in Emily

    Dickinsons House

    JFK, 50 Years Later

    Fundraising Success

    Dan Brown 86 is one of the best-sellingauthors of all time. How does he do it?

  • IN THIS ISSUE FALL 2013 | VOLUME 66 | NUMBER 1

    FEATURES

    14 TREASURE HUNTINGINTERVIEW BY RICKGRIFFITHSDan Brown 86 on reading Dante, scoping out chase scenes and why hed never writea character as evil as Cruella de Vil

    18 OUR HOUSE, EMILYS HOUSEBY JEAN MCCLURE MUDGEAfter outbidding the A&P grocery, Am-herst sought a tenant for Emily Dickinsons house, and a family of fi ve moved in. fi

    24 FROST + KENNEDYFifty years agohelicopters landed on Pratt Field andPresident John F. Kennedy gave a speech about privilege, poetry and Robert Frost.

    28 THE SHORT-LINERSBY ROGER M. WILLIAMS 56George Betke 59 andMike Smith 68 know something that most people dont: Therailroad industry hasseldom, if ever, been in better shape than it is today.

    ON THE COVERPhotograph of Dan Brown 86 by Asia Kepka

    DEPARTMENTS

    2 VOICES

    4 COLLEGE ROWWAITING FOR THE VAN at Logan Airport STATS on the new fi rst-fiyear classTHE FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN raised $502 millionAND MORE

    12 SPORTSFOOTBALL Last yearthree brothers werenursing injuries in the living room. This fall they fought it out on the fieldfi

    34 POINT OF VIEWNOTEBOOK DAYS TessTaylor 00 said she was being a writer, but she felt like a fake

    36 BEYOND CAMPUSFLYING Randy Davis 76 has chauff eured wolves,ffffemperor penguins and a Catholic saintDINING Alden Booth 83and Lissa Greenough 83own The Peoples Pint HEALTH A lawyer and an actor are fi ghting suicidesfistigmaSECOND ACT How the U.S. Army led Josh Cole99 to medical school ENERGY Lois Epstein83heads The WildernessSocietys Arctic Program

    42 AMHERST CREATESTHEATER A new play by Ralph Lee 57 and Robert Bagg 57 FICTION Six Years, by Harlan Coben 84, and The Partner Track, by Helen Wan 95 NONFICTION A guide-book to air travelBIOGRAPHY Michael Gorra 79 on Henry James

    128 REMEMBER WHENOn Nov. 22, 1963, onesophomore returned from his 11:20 class to hear the president had been shot.

    I did have classic city determinationa crate of books, a few connections, a lead on a waitressing job in a converted funeral parlor. TESS TAYLOR 00 PAGE 34

  • ONLINE WWW.AMHERST.EDU/MAGAZINE

    MORE NEWS

    l PRESIDENT BIDDY MARTIN, who has morethan 6,000 Twitterfollowers, has now added commentary to her onlinerepertoire. Her firstfirefl ection is about free flspeech in academia.

    l Trustee Julie Segre87 was named a FederalEmployee of the Year forresearch that ended a2011 outbreak of a fatalsuperbug.

    AUDIO AND VIDEO

    l In a speech to newstudents, New Yorker writer and Amherst parentELIZABETH KOLBERT said the state of the earthis much worse than her 2006 book about climatechange described.

    l Author and four-time National Magazine Awardfi nalistfi CHARLES C. MANN76 gave a talk on 1493: Entwining ecology andhistory.

    l Psychology Professor CATHERINE SANDERSONspoke with the Today showabout what doesand does notmake peoplehappy.

    l Daniel Diner 14walked around campusand asked: What advicedo you have for the freshman class?

    PHOTO SETS

    l Browse photos from HOMECOMINGweekend, the CAMPAIGN CELEBRATION and a 1920s-themed FALL FORMAL.

    j THE VIEW FROM Emily Dickinsons bed-room in the 1960s, when a professor and

    his family lived in the house. The table and chair are Dickinson family pieces. Page 18

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  • 2 Amherst Fall 2013

    Amherst Summer 2013 27Illustration by Keith Negley

    THE NUMBER KEPT CHANG-ing. Was it 374 years, as Pres-ident Biddy Martin stated inher congratulatory remarks? Or 421 years, as listed on theinvitation? Or some otherfigure?

    Any way you tally it, thecollective amount of time notched by the membersof the English department who were formally retiredlast spring is daunting, and a grateful appreciation of theirserviceits quantity and qualitybrought scores of former students to the LordJeffery Inn in May to cel-ebrate and thank ProfessorsCameron, Chickering, Gutt-mann, OConnell, Peterson,Pritchard, Townsend andvon Schmidt.

    The teaching careers of the most senior retirees go all the way back to 1958theyear I and my now middle-aged mates in the Classof 1980 were born. In the America of that distant year,Eisenhower was president,Beatles were pests in yourgarden and Vietnam wasan obscure French colonial struggle. As for Amherst, itwas 900 white males in ties,

    AMHERST ENGLISH

    BY RAND RICHARDS COOPER 80

    He thought he was getting away with something.But really hewas learning something.An

    Appreciation

    Illustratio

    AMH

    AA

    26 Amherst Summer 2013

    VOICES

    The maddening mysteryWhat do these professors want?reinforced my sense that I didnt belong. Im glad the era of English 1 is over.

    THE ONE WHO FELT BULLIEDIt was a pleasure to read about the legacy of English 1 (Am-herst English: An Appreciation, Summer 2013). But a statisticaldetail in Rand Coopers accurateportrait took me aback:

    Yet for every student who felt bullied there were three who felt challenged to rise to the occasion, spurred on by what one student called this we-are-tearing-you--down-so-that-you-will-put-your-self-back-together attitude.

    The quotation, I assume, is from Robin Varnums book Fenc-ing with Words. The arithmetic Itake to be Coopers, and I take issue with it.

    Like Cooper, I had John Cam-eron for English 11 in the mid-1970s. I was the one who felt bullied.

    The only thing I knew forsure in the fall of 1974 was: I do not belong at Amherst College. The epigones of English 1 may have spurred on some, teach-ing their privileged, entitled, well-prepared freshmen that they werent as smart as they thought. The maddening mys-teryWhat do these professorswant?didnt teach me anything and reinforced my sense that Ididnt belong.

    That sentiment is not uncom-mon among first-year students fiat Amherst, especially now, because (I hope) more studentsarrive at Amherst less-well-prepared. Im glad the era of English 1 is over.

    Paul Statt 78PHILADELPHIA

    STRANGE COVER CHOICEStrange choice for the rear cover of Summer 2013!

    Those of us who survived two wars subject to the draft and have made longtime contributions to the fairest college are depicted as none other than fun-loving participants in the annual lighting of the bonfire, whereas current fistudents are shown as serious organicfarmers. This is like depicting the stu-dents of today as gathered around a communal bong.

    David K. Winslow 53 BROOKHAVEN, N.Y.,

    THEN &

    NOW STICKS

    In the 1950s a not-angry mob of torch-wield-ing stu-dents came together for a campus bonfire. This June student in-terns drove tomato stakes into the soil of the Florida field (so named for its shape) at Book & Plow Farm, a four-acre operation on college land. The intern-ships allow students to sample the life of an organic farmer (which, if they're lucky, now includes sampling the fruits of this early-summer labor).

    1950s College Bonfire

    2013Book & Plow Farm

    BONFIRE PHOTO FROM AMHERST COLLEGE ARCHIVES & SPECIAL COLLECTIONS. FARM PHOTO BY ROB MATTSON

    FOLLOWING THE CABLEI was delighted to read the interviewwith Andrew Blum 99 about his tracingthe Internet through its sub-surface lab-yrinth (Behind the Glowing Screen,Spring 2013). That tends to confirmfimy suspicion that the system is indeed fi nite, with not-unlimited capacity. The fidiscourse jargon suggests otherwise,such as the references to the Cloud, where limitless bits of data supposedly can be stored forever. The Cloud actu-ally is, or are, big black boxes tuckedaway in remote buildings, and like everything else eventually will fill toficapacity. When that point of collapse isreached, we may find the fifi rst-class let-fiter gets to its destination quicker. Holdton to your forever stamps.

    W.G. Sayres 53 WAYNE, MAINE

    ANOTHER SELF-INTERESTED IDEALISTAThe Common, the Amherst-based print and online literary magazine focusingon a strong sense of place, is honored to partner with the visionary AmhersttCollege Press (Librarians Will Lead the Revolution, Winter 2013). While t

  • Amherst Fall 2013 3

    ACP will publish scholarship and The Common publishesfi ction, essays, poetry and art, fithe two new, idealistic ven-tures share core values that distinguish them from run-of-the-mill presses. Fore-most is the emphasis on ed-iting, which librarian Bryn Geff ert calls the last great ffffbulwark against slippingstandards. In 2012, Vanity Fair editorrand Amherst board chair Cullen Mur-phy 74 told Amherst that every editor tshares faith in the power of the written word. Its not just the power to commu-nicate. Even more fundamentally, thevery process of writing is essential to theprocess of thinking. At The Common, I mentor Amherst student interns in all aspects of the editorial process.

    Like ACP, The Common is at onceself-interested and altruistic. The

    magazines self-interest is refl ected in seeking toflbetter understand ourhuman place in the worldwhile training a futuregeneration of readers and editors. The benefit fiof this eff ort, and of theffffscholarly works to be produced by ACP, extends to