Spring 2001, Volume 37, No. 2

Contents

FEATURE
Lives of a Saint

SPECIAL SECTION
Altruism 101
Reach Out!
Venture Catalysts
Sagehens in Paradise

DEPARTMENTS
-Pomona Forum-
Altruism 101
-News Print-
Professor's Philosophy of Life Unshaken

-Pomona Today-
Professor of the Year
Inside the Power Crunch
Rite of Passage
Top Five
Frats with a Difference
Bridge Over the Pacific

-New Knowledge-
The Secrets of the Hydra
-Sports Report-
Dynamic Duos
-Bookshelf-
Getting On
Threshholding
George Moore
-Campaign Update-
American Dreams

ALUMNI VOICES
-Parlor Talk-
Traditions
-Family Tree-
Allen-Lee-Kingman-McDonald
-Alumni Profile-
Casey Trupin '95
-Alumni Puzzler-
Inside-Out
-Back Cover-
Pilgrims' Progress



 

As the 350-ton Arbella sailed toward the Shawmut peninsula--later known as Boston--in the spring of 1630, its creaking hold stocked with 10,000 gallons of beer, 3,500 gallons of water and about 100 anxious Puritans, John Winthrop composed a famous covenant.
   "Wee must delight in each other; make each other's conditions our oune, rejoice together, mourne together, labour and suffer together, allwayes haueving before our eyes our commission and community in the worke, as members of the same body," Winthrop, a lawyer, wrote for a lay sermon he titled "Christian Charitie, a Modell hereof."
   Winthrop's model for the Massachusetts Bay Colony, with his sweeping vision of "a citty on a hill," has become a template for Americans' understanding of this country's special place in the world, and the sermon will always be considered crucial to the study of early American history, according to Helena Wall, the Warren Finney Day Professor of History at Pomona.
   That's one reason why it will be a subject of the first lecture in a series that will begin next fall under the sponsorship of the College's new Hart Institute for American History. Wall is the director of the Institute, established as part of The Campaign for Pomona College through a gift from Gurnee F. Hart '51. The inaugural lecture series will be organized around the theme of "American Dreams" and will feature some of the nation's most eminent historians.
   "The basic premise is to ground a discussion of a broad and abiding theme of American history in close reading of important primary documents," says Wall, who has taught at Pomona since 1984. "It's important that we think about documents in as broad a way as possible, so it's not just literary documents, or canonical documents like the Declaration of Independence. There's room for that, but there's also room for things like photographs, or American music." The Institute's range also can be extended, Wall says, through an expansive view of the term "American" history, one that takes into account hemispheric influences and comparative perspectives.
   Besides arranging five lectures in the coming academic year, the Hart Institute will organize workshops, to be led by visiting lecturers, for both students and faculty. Plans also call for an upper-division student seminar each semester to run in conjunction with the lecture themes and materials. Other initiatives in the works include grants for research work in American history by Pomona students, a faculty seminar, a publication program, summer workshops for high school and community college teachers, and projects for local high school students.
   Wall wants the Hart Institute to engage a wide spectrum of students and faculty. "It's important to me that this not become some sort of bailiwick for historians and American Studies people," she says. "I want this to be of interest to and of use to the whole College. I want the series to touch upon a range of interdisciplinary issues." As just one example, a lecture planned for next March will feature Columbia University historian Alan Brinkley, who will examine the Great Depression and the photographs of Dorothea Lange. Marjorie Harth, director of Montgomery Gallery, is planning a concurrent exhibit to supplement the lecture and workshops, and a seminar is expected to be held at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.
   The first speaker in the series will be Bernard Bailyn, a professor emeritus of early American history from Harvard University, who in October will discuss Winthrop and religious radicalism and utopianism in the 17th and 18th centuries. Bailyn has been awarded the Jefferson Medal of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the nation's most prestigious honor in the humanities.
   David Brion Davis, a Yale University historian and director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, will speak in November on the Declaration of Independence, slavery, and ways in which disenfranchised groups used the Declaration to press their claims to equality. Davis received the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction in 1967 for his book "The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture."
   In January, Rebecca Scott of the University of Michigan, one of the first North American scholars since 1959 to carry out research in national and local archives in Cuba, will speak on U.S. imperialism and the issue of defining citizenship within an imperial context, specifically focusing on the U.S. occupation of Cuba. Scott is a past recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, popularly referred to as a "genius grant."
   Thomas Holt of the University of Chicago will lecture in February on Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, and the issue of slavery and emancipation in a hemispheric context. Holt, who has had a long-standing interest in comparing the experiences of peoples in the African diaspora, also is a past recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.
   "We were incredibly lucky in the caliber of people we were able to get," Wall says of the coming lecture series. "They are not just first class, they are world class in their specialties."
   One of the ideas Wall is considering for subsequent years is a lecture series on "Public Intellectuals and Public Policy," which would examine works that have identified, popularized and framed the debate over major public issues in American life and thought. Another tentative theme would address American music, and Wall hopes it would involve Pomona's Music Department.
   Interaction outside the lecture hall is important, she says. In the coming year, program participants "will be able to sit down in a room with people like Bernard Bailyn and David Brion Davis and talk with them about the documents that they've devoted their lives to studying. I think that's a great opportunity for our students."
   It's the kind of opportunity Gurnee Hart had in mind in making the gift to establish the Institute. Hart, a retired partner in the investment firm Scudder, Stevens & Clark, majored in economics at Pomona and went on to receive a master's in business administration from the Stanford Business School. "I've always had an interest in history as an avocation," he says, and after his retirement he spent two terms reading history at Jesus College of Cambridge University. He says the Institute is "a very interesting intellectual initiative," and a timely one, in light of reports that many students entering higher education lack a full understanding of events that shaped the nation.
   "I thought that on the campus there might be some niche that could benefit from a nontraditional approach" to the teaching of American history, says Hart. He hopes that through the new Institute's programs, "students will gain a deeper understanding of history and an appreciation of why the United States has been a beacon to the world for so many years, despite the flaws that we have."
   Wall says the programs "will give people a chance to talk about really important, major things in American history. A lot of people worry about the degree to which the study of history in general has become irrelevant to the public at large, that historians, more and more, talk in very specialized ways to each other, and that kind of neglect of history is problematic. I think this will be a way to redirect attention to some issues and documents and problems of abiding concern.
   "What I care about," she says, "is that people reach informed conclusions about American history and ground their views in appropriate information and evidence and the historical context. It doesn't bother me in the least that people will reach different conclusions or have different perspectives."
   In fact, says Wall, she wants students to recognize that "reading these historical documents and thinking about the issues they raise is both a continuing and a collaborative process. I hope students will see that there's always plenty of rethinking, and reexamination, and new angles that open up." It's especially important that the study of history not be regarded as a dusty exhumation
   of names, dates and treaties, Wall says. "History is really about the study of people who are making sense of the world in which they live, in a variety of ways," she says. "It's about the interplay between people's own wills and desires and motivations, and the circumstances in which they find themselves.
   "That's what students lose when they focus on names and dates: It's inert. But history is about living, breathing people who are struggling and making decisions and changing their lives." --Michael Balchunas