Home / Fall Table of Contents / Convocation Speaker, Doris Abramson / Highlights / Snapshot / Campaign News / Generous People: the DiGiammarino family
"It's a beautiful day, just not a beautiful day for ballooning," Jon Plassmann '86 was heard to remark ruefully about 5:30 p.m. on October 1. Warm golden light from the afternoon sun was flooding the lawn east of the Campus Pond and the nine-story-tall, maroon-black-and-white-striped hot-air balloon that was tethered there. But a pesky breeze was also frisking around the tree-tops, causing the luminous, looming rayon bulb to give an occasional lunge in one direction or another, and the small crowd gathered at its foot to skitter the other way.
This bright and beautiful behemoth, inflated for the first time in celebration of Homecoming Festival Weekend, is the newest addition to the five-balloon fleet of Pioneer Valley Balloons, the company that Plassmann runs with best friend and fellow state environmental police officer Lisa Fusco '87 and their crusty, confidence-inspiring mentor, Northampton Airport owner Dick Giusto. Alumni Association sponsorship made possible the design of the "envelope," as balloonists call the huge inflatables, with the new university logo emblazoned on the side. Rented out for private pleasure cruises in the coming years always with pilots John, Dick, or Lisa at the helm, of course it will add a stately and playful UMass presence to Valley airscapes.
The hope on Homecoming afternoon was that weather would permit a brief cruise for guests at the association's 125th anniversary soireé, which was gearing up under a tent on Library Lawn. "Safety first," said the pilots regretfully, and while the daylight and the evening breeze lasted the balloon remained on the ground. As darkness fell, however, the wind fell too, and it was announced during dinner that "tethered flights" would be offered for those with the willpower to slip away from their places at table. So the fiery huff of the balloon's air-heater and the occasional delighted cries of the riders drifted back across the pond to the tent, where the association board was saluting its long line of presidents, listed below, and pledging to grow into a figurative nine-story champion of the campus.
Presidents of the campus alumni association: / Edgar E. Thompson 1871 / William H. Bowker 1871 / Emory A. Ellsworth 1871 / Samuel T. Maynard 1872/ Edgar H. Libby 1874 / James H. Webb 1873 / Charles L. Penhallow C1872 / Joseph F. Barrett 1875 / William A. Macleod 1876 / Peter M. Harwood 1875 / John M. Benedict 1874 / Hiram Kendall 1876 / William P. Brooks 1875 / Robert W. Lyman 1871 / Frank H. Plumb 1892 / Joseph B. Lindsey 1884 / Edward R. Flint 1887 / Howard N. Legate 1891 / Charles S. Phelps 1886 / Herbert Myrick 1882 / Charles E. Beach 1882 / Austin Peters 1881/ Homer J. Wheeler 1883 / James B. Paige 1882 / William P. Birnie 1871 / Francis E. Kimball 1872 / Walter S. Leland 1873 / Newton Shultis 1896 / Atherton Clark '1877 / Frederick Tuckerman 1878 / Evan F. Richardson 1887 / Herbert J. Baker '11 / Ernest S. Russell '16 / Philip F. Whitmore '15 / Charles H. Gould '16 / Wynton R. Dangelmayer '31 / David Buttrick '17 / Theoren L. Warner '08 / Ralph F. Taber '16 / Harry Dunlap Brown '14 / Alden C. Brett '12 / Albert W. Smith '22 / William V. Hayden C'13 / Ralph S. Stedman '20/ Dennis Crowley '29 / Clarence F. Clark '22 / Michael J. Donohue '47 / Edgar A. Perry '16 / Richard J. Davis '28 / Robert D. Gordon '48 / John A. Maginnis '18 / Sumner Z. Kaplan '41 / George F. Benoit '43 / Stanley Barron '51 / Paul G. Marks '57 / Lois E. Toko '56 / John V. Parnell III '66 / Stanley P. Chiz '50 / William L. Mahoney '57 / Ruth R. Levens '48 / Edward Accomando '71 / John T. Sweeney '56 / Jack M. Leader '78 / Michael W. Morris '63 / Robert M. Goodhue '70, '80G / John H. Goodrich Jr. '65
Convocation: reaffirmation of purpose
Statelier than a gliding balloon, almost, is an annual bit of pageantry associated with Homecoming Convocation: the procession of faculty in their academic gowns to Bowker Auditorium, where the Chancellor's Medal is bestowed on distinguished alumni and friends representing the schools and colleges and the campus at large.
Always a tender, touching, and inspiring event which we observe in these pages, fall convocation has special resonance in them this year. One of the medalists, art historian Judith Barter '91G, is the subject of our lead alumni feature (page 17), which had been in the works before we realized she'd been tapped for the campus's highest honor. Another, Doris Abramson '49, gave an address so rich in allusion and affection for UMass that we had to make space for it in this issue (page 44).
In honor of this annual reaffirmation of purpose, we list this year's medallists with a little more pomp than usual. A bit more information about the alumni recipients can be found in Class Notes.
Fall '99 Chancellor's Medalists:
Doris Abramson '49, At Large; Judith A. Barter '91G, College of Humanities and Fine Arts; Anne L. Bryant '78G, School of Education; Melanie Dreher, School of Nursing: dean of the school from 1988 to 1997, currently dean at the University of Iowa; James M. Douglas, College of Engineering: professor emeritus of chemical engineering; Bruce Friend '79, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; Melvin Howard '57, Commonwealth College/Honors Program; John Maki, At Large: professor emeritus of Asian studies; Paul J. McDonald '66, Isenberg School of Management.
Ten bells of the Old Chapel chime installed in 1937, have returned from a refurbishing in the Netherlands. Lifted into place, along with two new bells, in the restored Chapel tower in October, the chime is to be augmented still further: the late Vincent Couper '37, a major patron of the restoration, left additional funds in his will to provide thirty more bells and a clavier, creating a three-and-a-half-octave carillon.
"What can it do? Oh, plenty," says a computer sciences grad student who's built a match-head-size Web server thought to be the world's smallest. Hariharasubrahman-ian Shrikumar who, following the South Indian custom of putting surname first and the American one of making things simple, is known as "Shri" says the diminutive server is more than an adorable record-breaker. Because it combines Internet technology with the microchips that run everything from cell phones to toasters, we could replace those proliferating arrays of buttons and indicators with "one easy-to-use" and extremely portable point-and-click Web browser," says Shri.
UMass students gamely waded, huddled, and trudged through the effects of Hurricane Floyd as the edge of that huge, swift, and destructive storm swept over New England in September. On high, Floyd was also physically challenging Jim Carswell '95G, a research professor of electrical and computer engineering who flew into the massive eye of Floyd with a government "hurricane-hunting" crew. His purpose in such outings is to test UMass-developed sensing equipment that provides better information on dangerous storms. What an experience, Carswell told the Daily Hampshire Gazette in October: Missions last about ten hours and may involve more than fifteen passes through a storm's eye in planes equipped to withstand winds of up to 180 miles an hour. "You can get bumped around pretty bad," said Carswell.
Joining the circle of several dozen students in 301 Bartlett October 19 was anthropologist Liza Dalby, author of the book Geisha and the only non-Japanese ever to join that elite society of women performers. Tall, stylish, and strikingly self-possessed "Can I ask about your sexual life while you were a geisha?" asked one young man; "You can ask," she answered with a smile Dalby spent two hours in discussion with students of Asian languages and literatures professor Doris Bargen, at whose invitation she was visiting the Five Colleges. Bargen is a scholar of Japanese women's roles, both ancient and modern, and an expert on the 11th century literary classic The Tale of the Genji. "With the current geisha obsession created by Arthur Golden's bestseller Memoirs of a Geisha," says Bargen, "it's clear that even more than a thousand years after Genji we still have a fascination with these women."
Yes, we do, and by "we," we mean residents of the commonwealth. The campus's main library, and its music library too, are public libraries: Not only alumni, but all adult residents of Massachusetts have borrowing privileges. So do kids with letters from school administrators.
We're all privy also to the library's awesome electronic resources - many accessible on-line at www.library.umass.edu. And this night shot isn't just decorative: Regular house at the Du bois Libarary are 'til midnight Sunday through Thursday, 'til 10 on Friday and Saturday. (Double-check at 413.545.0414.)
living the land-grant
More finishing touches
Those of us who thought its best feature was that grand gateway sorely miss it in the remodeled Fine Arts Center. Functionally, though, the new lobby is terrific, and sophisticated graphics and dramatic lighting make it spectacular by night. The FAC lobby is one of several major projects completed this fall. Computer science faculty and staff have moved into their new $14.6 million building. A new 12,000-square-foot animal-care facility is up and running next to Tobin Hall, and a new lab in Morrill Science Center is providing top-notch facilities for the geosciences department.
Affirmative actions: Last spring's debate over affirmative action [Around the Pond, Spring 99; Exchange, Summer 99 and page 6] has not abated this fall. At an October lecture by NAACP leader Julian Bond, students of color lined up at the microphone to express discouragement and pessimism about UMass's commitment to diversity. September's report by the Chancellor's Task Force on Undergraduate Admissions coincided with a faculty teach-in at which TransAfrica Forum founder Randall Robinson was the keynote speaker. Among the task force proposals were more aggressive recruiting efforts, and such efforts over the summer did seem to deflect any precipitous decline in numbers of minority students admitted. Calls from department heads and other stepped-up efforts to persuade students of color to choose UMass were rewarded by a representation of just under 17 percent of such students in the entering class. The figure for fall 1998 was slightly more than 19 percent. Back on the pharm: Not only does UMass own the world's first transgenic cloned cattle ["Cows now," Summer 1999; Exchange, page 3,4], it now also owns the technology that created George, Charlie, et. al. In August, UMass was awarded a patent for the nuclear transfer technology developed on campus in 1995 by James Robl and Steven Stice '89G. Alumnus Jose Cibelli '98G and former faculty Paul Golueke and Abel Ponce de Leon '75, '81G are also listed on the patent as inventors. UMass has licensed the techniques to Advanced Cell Technology, a Worcester firm founded by Robl and Stice in 1994. ACT also recently announced that it has resumed work with embryos created by fusing human cells with cow eggs. Stem cells from the embryos can potentially develop into tissues and organs for transplant into humans, but ACT halted work on them a year ago to allow debate on the sensitive issues involved. The research has met with general approval in the scientific community, according to Robl, because it does not seek to clone humans.
One of Germany's greatest films, the original 1977 Jacob the Liar, was re-released November 3 by UMass's DEFA Film Library, the only archive outside Europe for films from the former German Democratic Republic. It was an impressive display of scholarly leveraging. The release took place at the Northampton Film Festival, kicked off a conference on contemporary German identity, and was followed by a screening at MOMA in New York City which coincided with both the tenth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the sixty-first anniversary of Kristallnacht.
Pre-millennium jitters? Post-Floyd blues? UMass experts were called upon to assuage a number of worries about the proper course of things this fall. Despite the summer's drought and the rains and winds of Floyd, there was every reason to trust that "New England's foliage displays may well be as beautiful as always," said plant physiologist Bernard Rubinstein. As for the apple crop, pomologist Wesley Autio '82G, '85G said this year's drought conditions didn't damage the trees, though it caused an earlier than normal harvest of some varieties. "To the consumer, the quality of the fruit is as good or better than normal, even if it's smaller."
Dept. of distinctions: Four UMass graduate students have won Fulbright grants to study abroad next year: the School of Education's Ann Becker in Norway, anthropology's Richard Wallace in Croatia, Brandon Brei of entomology in Australia, and Leslie Hyatt of English in Mexico . . . Elizabeth Wilda '93 of Academic Instructional Media Services has been named one of AV Video and Multimedia Producer magazine's Top 100 Producers of 1999 . . . And political science professor Jerome Mileur has entered the the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, as a donor of papers from his thirteen years as an owner in the Double A Eastern League.
GOOD MORNING, CLASS. Today we're studying the photoelectric effect. Everyone log in, please."
This is not your typical freshman-level chemistry lab. When students stroll into Bill Vining's class at 11:15 am on Tuesdays and Thursdays, they sit not at wooden desks or black-topped lab benches, but at plush computer work-stations. And instead of opening fat textbooks or thick pads of notes scribbled furiously at previous meetings, they boot up their computers and enter "Chemland."
Vining teaches two of the four honors sections of general chemistry that meet in the Chemical Engineering Alumni Classroom on the second floor of the Lederle tower. The room, which can accommodate about fifty students, is a three-tiered amphitheater with long, C-shaped desks on either side of a spacious central aisle. The desks are smartly outfitted with twenty-eight Gateway PCs, each with two "mice" to allow for collaboration, plugged into a fast ethernet system. The classroom opened in 1997 with an $850,000 grant from General Electric and help from the university's facilities planning department.
Joe Fraiman, a neuroscience major from New York, intently studies the image on the screen before him: a light bulb that brightens and dims as he manipulates "current flow" with his mouse. Instantaneously with his manipulations, he sees the different wavelengths of light emitted by various substances sodium, potassium, cesium under changing levels of current. "When we did this experiment in high school, it took us an entire lab," says Fraiman.
That's a major advantage of computer-aided science classes, says Vining, who designed the "Chemland" software. Where Fraiman's high school experiment produced results for a single element under a specific current level, in Vining's class he can simulate the same experiment for several elements, under wide-ranging conditions and within seconds.
"In a lab experiment the students can find one or two data points," says Vining. "But they can't get relationships between the data points. This gives them the opportunity to synthesize data into concepts."
Chemical engineering head Michael Malone, who designed the classroom with the help of colleague Michael Doherty, says computer-simulated experimentation has another advantage: allowing students to push boundaries, but safely. Students can operate virtual chemical processors, for example, from the tranquility of their work stations; if someone miscalculates a reaction and the processor blows up, they go back to the drawing board with all their limbs intact.
Further, says Malone, virtual experimentation "calls for a type of thinking that's more like what engineers really do. They see how a system behaves, then they figure it out."
Both Malone and Vining say traditional teaching methods are still important. Vining gets a good aerobic workout scampering between the blackboard, the overhead projector, and his own work station. A textbook is still required for the course, but it's packaged with computer software. And homework is issued, but it's completed over a network called "Owl" that students can access from home. The assignments are stored on the network's mainframe computer, which immediately tells students if their answers are right or wrong; requires them to start over if nec-essary, and grades their work electronically.
Back in the classroom, says Malone, "We've found we use the technology about 25 percent of the time." But under its influence classes grow more informal, he adds, with students more active in discussion and more likely to change its direction. "It's teaching on the fly," says Malone. Vining agrees that guiding discussion in such a class is challenging and often leads to uncharted waters. Today's exploration of the photoelectric effect spawns questions about blacklight that ever-popular dorm-room glow and fabric whiteners. These are not subjects that Vining anticipated discussing, but he uses them to illustrate his points nonetheless.
Student reaction is generally positive. "Cool" seems to be the consensus description of the high-tech classroom by these freshmen. The room also seems to be pedagogically effective: On a scientific reasoning survey of UMass, Hampshire, and Mount Holyoke students, those who'd completed a course in the classroom scored higher than those who hadn't.
Understandably, homework is never popular, whether slide rules or computers are involved. "It's frustrating," says Kate Harris of Holliston with a wrinkled frown. "But I guess it's good."
Campaign UMass zooming toward goal "I try not to use the words 'complete' or 'finish,'" vice chancellor for advancement Royster Hedgepeth told the Springfield Union-News in late October. "But our intent is to reach our goal by the end of next year."
The goal in question is the once huge-sounding, $125 million target of Campaign UMass, launched three years ago with the expectation that it would require five full years to complete. As of June 30, after a fund-raising year that brought in close to $24 million, the total stood at around $87 million. With the addition of nearly $4 million in bequest intentions, or gifts to the university in the wills of people 65 years old or older, the total as of November 1 was $91.4 million.
The current pace and momentum of fundraising, says the vice chancellor, make it likely that the financial goals of the campus's first-ever campaign will be reached a year ahead of schedule. "The reward for that success, of course, is getting to start all over again!" he says with a laugh. In early November, Chancellor David Scott told the university's trustees that the dollar goal for the next campaign will be $300 million.
Besides the chance to start the next campaign a year early, a 2001 startup will synchronize fund-raising with the beginning of Chancellor David Scott's second strategic action plan. The first plan, an initial framework for reinvigorating the university's teaching, research, and outreach missions, began in 1995.
Progress is being made on all fronts, says Hedgepeth, and the money we're raising is fuel for that progress. "The campaign has always been about improving the quality of education," he said. "Dramatically increased private spending is essential to that quality; that has always been the bottom line."
Campaign UMass Basics
GOALS: Raising $125 million
LOGO: Old Chapel and the W.E.B. Du Bois Library
THEME: "To dream, to act, to lead."
"We know where competitiveness comes from. It comes from an institution's people but only people who are free to dream, to risk, free to act." Jack Welch '57, CEO, General Electric Company
Baby Boom: UMass faced the baby boom thirty years ago, burgeoning into one of the biggest, best respected, most dynamic public universities in the nation.
Competition for State Funds: In the 90s, competing demands hamper the commonwealth's efforts to preserve the high quality of a UMass education. Less than half of the current operating budget comes from the state.
Strategic Action: As a first step in both shoring up the budget and reimagining our land-grant mission, the campus has initiated a sweeping strategic plan that will prepare it to thrive in the next
Call for action: Campaign UMass will rally our extended family to help finance the strategic plan and a margin of excellence for the university.
Shaping the Future: Through Campaign UMass, for the first time in the 135-year history of the campus, donors can and will take a direct hand in shaping the future of the university.duration:
Generous People: the DiGiammarino family The future of elfing
It started that Christmas of 1979 when two DiGiammarinos tore open their presents to find they'd bought each other nearly identical custom shower-heads. "That was a laff!" says Helen DiGiammarino in her pleasant Greater Boston accent. This amusing Christmas-time contretemps was one more nail in the coffin of traditional gift-giving among the ever-expanding but very close-knit DiGiam-marino family.
With six married children, and at this point nine grandchildren, who could keep up with the shopping? And who doesn't already have too much stuff? "We realized that we the adults anyway didn't really need physical gifts anymore," says Peter DiGiammarino '75, a high-tech venture executive in Northern Virginia and giver and receiver of one of the shower-heads. "We started talking about how we could pair off for different occasions to do something together," he says. "Some project or some charity or good deed. We called it 'elfing.'"
Various combinations of DiGiam-marinos have been elfing ever since, forming committees and subcommittees, making lists and assignments and proposals and counterproposals, telephoning and e-mailing one another enthusiastically about their various joint undertakings. In the last year or so, elfing has intersected with the UMass affinities of a large contingent of the family. In the UMass alumni records, the DiGiam-marino connection begins with Frank II '55 and his bro-thers John and Dominic of the Class of '58. ("Are John and Dominic relatives?" we asked Peter after noticing them on the lists. "By definition!" he exclaimed. "All DiGiammarinos are relatives!") It continues with sons Peter '75 and Paul '76, who were born in Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton while Frank and Helen were in student housing at UMass. ("We had two-and-a-half children there, and I can tell you exactly where," says Frank. "The radio station" WFCR, in Hampshire House "is right where our bedroom was.") It concludes, for the present generation, with son Frank III '92, and includes Peter's wife, Peggy '75; Paul's wife, Robin '76; and Frank III's wife, Carol '92.
That's a lot of UMass DiGiammarinos. And while there are almost as many with other alma maters (Helen graduated from Framingham State, son P.J. from Wesleyan, and daughters Peggy and Patti from Mount Holyoke), all of the kids and some of the grandkids, too, have found common cause on a major elfing project honoring Frank and Helen at UMass. They'd been casting about for one for a couple of reasons. The sweet reason was that Frank and Helen turned seventy this year. The bittersweet one, says Peter, was that when his elfing partner Susan, P.J.'s wife, lost her grandfather recently, she "realized how nice it would have been to have something with his name on it that they could donate to."
Such a something now exists for Frank and Helen at UMass,
to which whole batches of DiGiammarinos, and anyone else who'd like to, can donate in their honor. The Frank and Helen DiGiammarino Citizen Scholar Award has been set up as an endowment toward which the family has pledged a minimum of $25,000 in elfing gifts. The endowment will fund at least one internship in a program administered by UMass's new Commonwealth College, which allows recipients to spend a summer in unpaid or low-paid community service.
This is right up Frank and Helen's alley. Both spent their careers as educators and are devoted to the principle of academic excellence. They're equally devoted to the idea of service, volunteerism, "giving back." These wiry and energetic retirees make a point of balancing parenting, grand-parenting, and "as much tennis and golf as we can manage" with volunteer work in both Maine, where they summer, and Florida, where they spend the winter months. The agreement establishing the award provides that the family can be involved in choosing the recipient, and it's already occurred to Helen that a future intern might be interested in working at Landholm Farm Estuarine Reserve near their Kennebunkport home.
"Of course we couldn't be prouder of the kids and what they've done," says Frank of the award. "It's wonderful."
"I think it may be the future of elfing," says Helen.