Davidson College honored outstanding faculty and students at Fall Convocation on Friday afternoon. The audience in Duke Family Performance Hall was swelled by family members spending time with their students on Family Weekend.
Vice President of the Faculty Clark Ross was the featured speaker. Ross joined Davidson's economics faculty in 1979, and has continued to teach one course in the department even while serving as academic dean for the past 15 years. However, he recently announced his retirement from the administrative post at the end of the current school year.
Ross reflected on the college's longtime embrace of community and diversity, and how these two ideals relate to each other. He reviewed the steps the college has made throughout its history toward those goals, but noted that social definition of the concepts keep evolving. The achievements can create a harmonious community, he said, but harmony cannot stand as an absolute measure of success. Discord can also signal progress, he said.
Ross concluded that the college should strive toward three propositions. First, it must be increasingly diverse and inviting to those from varying backgrounds. Secondly, learning here should occur in an atmosphere of harmony and trust. Finally, individual members of the community must commit to change. The full text of Ross's remarks is available here.
Professor William K. "Bill" Mahony and Donna Molinek became the the 11th and 12th faculty members to receive Boswell Family Faculty Fellowships. The award was established in 2005 by Tom and Cheryl Boswell, parents of three sons who graduated from Davidson, to help professors afford a full sabbatical. College policy supports just a half-year salary for sabbaticals.
Charles A. Dana Professor Mahony, chair of the Department of Religion, teaches courses on Hinduism, Buddhism and comparative study of religion. He has special research interests in the contemplative and devotional dimensions of religions originating in India.
His most recent book, Exquisite Love, contains his commentaries on the spiritual life based on an 11th century Sanskrit text known as the Narada Bhakti Sutra.
He will use his Boswell Fellowship for an extended study of the nature of a mature spiritual life to include four other classical Indian texts. He said that a full school year will provide adequate time to translate and engage these lengthy texts. Mahony will also be able to accept several invitations to lead seminars and retreats in Europe on the refinement of a contemplative life informed by a spiritual love.
Mahony received his bachelors degree from Williams College, his M.Div. from Yale University, and his doctorate at the University of Chicago. He has been a recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship, was an editor and major contributor to the first edition of the 16-volume Encyclopedia of Religion (Macmillan Press) and is Past President of the Muktabodha Indological Research Institute. He is an active participant in Davidson's South Asian Studies Program.
Professor Donna Molinek, chair of the mathematics department, has wide-ranging interests in differential equations, dynamical systems, mathematical modeling, and topology, including their applications in biology and neuroscience. The Boswell Fellowship will be applied to three projects during her sabbatical next year.
First, she plans to develop a new entry-level course combining statistical and mathematical techniques that can be applied to a deeper understanding of environmental issues. She will also continue an earlier project on modeling the incompletely understood process by which HIV spreads in the lymph system. Finally, she will continue work she undertook with students on "tensegrity" structures. The phrase, coined by Buckminister Fuller, is a combination of tension and integrity. She plans to write introductory curriculum material to help students learn about these self-stressed structures, which are important in the fields of biology, architecture and art.
Molinek received her B.S. degree from the University of Alaska at Anchorage and her M.S. degree from Northern Arizona University. She earned her Ph.D. at UNC-Chapel Hill, and joined the Davidson faculty in 1992. She regularly teaches in the July Experience program for high school students, and was the faculty leader for Davidson's summer program in Ghana in 2006.
Alan Michael Parker, Professor of English and director of creative writing, was appointed to the Douglas Houchens Professorship. This professorship, established in 2003, honors the college's first professor of studio art, Doug Houchens. The inaugural holder of the chair was Herb Jackson, Professor Emeritus of art.
Parker has won Pushcart prizes in poetry, and his recent book of poetry, Long Division, won this year's North Carolina Book Award for Poetry. He has also written two novels, Whale Man and Cry Uncle, and many essays.
W.R. Grey Professor of Classics and History Peter Krentz received the Thomas Jefferson Award, which honors a faculty member who by personal influence, teaching, writing, and scholarship promotes the high ideals of Thomas Jefferson. The overriding outstanding quality is described as that of having given of self, "generously and well beyond the call of duty."
His citation honored him for "rare intelligence, a disarming candor, an admirable work ethic, a seemingly unshakeable integrity, and an uncommon commitment to the common good."
Krentz received his bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees from Yale University, and has taught Greek and Roman history at Davidson since 1979. He held the E. Craig Wall, Jr., Distinguished Teaching Professorship in the Humanities 1997-1999, and was Elizabeth A. Whitehead visiting professor at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens in 2000-2001.
Krentz also served the college in 1998 as coordinator of the new first year writing program, directed the semester program in the Mediterranean region, and served as vice chair of the faculty pro tem.
His research interests focus on archaic and classical Greece, and he has written extensively about ancient Greek military history. He received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for research during his sabbatical year in 2007-2008 on the Battle of Marathon. That work led to publication in 2010 of a highly acclaimed book titled The Battle of Marathon.
He has previously written The Thirty at Athens about Athenian politics, and two volumes of translation and commentary covering Xenophon's Hellenika and Polyaenus's Strategems of War. He also wrote a chapter on land campaigns in the Cambridge History of Ancient Greek and Roman Warfare.
The college presented Goodwin-Exxon Awards to three students. The these awards go annually to a sophomore, junior and senior who exemplify the highest standards of character, good sportsmanship, friendliness and consideration for others.
The sophomore winner was Rahael E. Borchers, a Belk Scholar from Pleasanton, Calif. In the words of one nominator, "She is like a sunflower. She turns toward people that radiate good energy. Those people charge her battery and she in turn radiates that energy to others."
Borchers is involved with the student organization Ending Poverty in Charlotte (EPIC) that aims to connect Davidson Students to homeless neighbors at Charlotte's Urban Ministry Center. She was also active during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, coordinating student volunteers in a variety of venues.
The junior class winner is College Union co-president Cameron R. Joe of Concord, N.C., who was hailed as a consummate team player. Joe is vice president of the College Union Board, and organizer of the board's presidential election night activities. He played on the Wildcat football team, and is president of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.
The senior winner is Bonner Scholar Melodie Mendez from Bronx, N.Y. One of the most respected leaders in her class, she is president of the Organization of Latin American Students, vice president of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and a resident adviser on the Spanish Culture floor in Duke Residence Hall.
She has served the community in the LearnWorks after school program at the Ada Jenkins Community Center, and has engaged her passion for science and the environment to serve as the president of Davidson Volunteers for Science.
Finally, the college Alumni Association announced winners of its annual award, which honors sophomore students who achieved the highest grade point average during the first year of study. There were two winners this year, Elizabeth M. Engel of Aurora, Colo., and James H. Helzberg of Mission Hills, Kan.