I am an adult convert to soccer. Westmont’s team had already won a national title before "the beautiful game" captured my attention. Then came Nerf ball matches with my children, AYSO, and a severed Achilles on the faculty intramural squad. But my late awakening and middle-age injury did not prevent me from becoming a fan and securing an invitation to the 50th anniversary celebration of Westmont’s men’s soccer program earlier this month. With the help of Dave Wolf and Johnny Whallon, my final entry in this report reflects on some of the most memorable stories in that half-century heritage.
October brought another anniversary, the 10th for the Westmont Orchestra. To salute the inaugural decade, I asked Michael Shasberger to choose some of the musical compositions he has most enjoyed directing since his arrival.
"Quantitative literacy" is our "institutional learning outcome" for the year, and Steve Contakes is serving as our "lead assessment specialist." He will probably find something more complicated than keeping score at soccer matches to measure our students' competence. A more challenging test will be to explore the connections between music and math, which is what David Hunter does in the newest edition of his textbook on discrete mathematics. This report also salutes the release of a new mathematics textbook by Ray Rosentrater and takes a glimpse at some of the fine work showcased at last month’s Celebration of Summer Research, focusing largely on the students of Amanda Sparkman.
As I have done in previous years, I will be saving some space in these reports to pay tribute to faculty members who will be retiring in May. We start this month with biology professor Frank Percival, a stalwart of 41 years. When I asked some colleagues for comments about Frank, they admitted that they were already starting to tear up.
VISTAS: NEW FACULTY AND STAFF COLUMN
Next month the Provost’s Office will begin sponsoring a twice-a-month column, written by selected faculty and staff. Entitled Vistas, the columns will feature reflections on a range of topics, drawn both from their disciplines and from current events. It will be distributed electronically within Westmont, and we hope some will be republished elsewhere. Niva Tro will offer an essay on graphene—the world’s thinnest substance—and the liberal arts. Other early contributions will be by Rachel Winslow (international adoption), Grey Brothers (singing the “Passion”), and Amanda Sparkman (“the gentler side of natural selection”). Since we are entering the long year before the next presidential election, Tom Knecht has agreed to do a series of pieces for us on perspectives from political science, including his opening article: “I’m in Waste Management.”
FRANK PERCIVAL: A TRIBUTE
“It is not an overstatement to say that Frank is the most knowledgeable biologist I have ever known,” Jeff Schloss observes. “And this includes exchanges with National Academy members and Nobel laureates. Frank has a deep understanding of the principles of bioscience, and an impressively expansive grasp of its manifold sub-disciplines. Unlike many of us, Frank has—in the famous words of Nobel laureate Barbara McClintock—‘a feeling for the organism.’”
A graduate of Occidental College, Frank Percival completed his doctorate at UCSB, and began his teaching career at Westmont in 1975. This coming May, after 41 years on the faculty, he will retire from full-time teaching. His biology colleagues have trouble imagining the department without Frank, and they are quick to comment on his legacy and Christian character. “I have learned more from Frank about what it means to be a good teacher and mentor than from anyone else at the college,” Eileen McMahon McQuade notes. Steve Julio admits that “it is not a stretch to say that I wouldn't be on the faculty at a liberal arts Christian college if it weren't for Frank. I can recall thinking as an undergraduate, ‘I'd like to do what Dr. Percival does.’" [continue reading]
THINKING LIKE A MATHEMATICIAN
For many years Ray Rosentrater has been developing material for his upper-division Real Analysis course, and during his recent sabbatical he turned it all into a textbook entitled Varieties of Integration, just published by the Mathematical Association of America. “By the time a young mathematician has completed the first year of graduate school,” Ray writes in the preface, “she will have encountered three versions of the integral. . . . Most often, these integrals are studied in isolation and with very little connection or comparison made between the different definitions.” Ray’s book provides a comparative study of four approaches to integration and helps readers understand the work done in formalizing and extending the ideas of integral calculus.
Another goal is to help readers “think like a mathematician.” “The budding mathematician,” according to Ray, “is often left with the impression that ideas spring full-grown from the ground and that they could never have been otherwise . . .” [continue reading]
REPTILES AND RESEARCH
Stephanie Hynes admits that at one time she did not like snakes. But now she is disappointed that it took a full day to catch 20 of them. “We used to catch 20 an hour,” she told me, recounting their research trips to Eagle Lake near Mount Shasta. The drought has kept many reptiles underground.
I visited with Stephanie (photo) and one of her collaborators, Brooke Hobbs, during the annual Celebration of Summer Research in Winter Hall. More than 25 students were involved in the presentation of posters, all done in collaboration with Westmont faculty and other scholars from places like UCLA, the University of Colorado, and the National Animal Disease Center in Iowa. Stephanie and Brooke worked under the guidance of Amanda Sparkman, and they travelled to Eagle Lake last summer to assess the behavior and the development of western garter snakes. Not surprisingly, their photos of the habitat revealed the parched and crusted soil along the lake’s retreating shoreline . . . [continue reading]
THE WESTMONT ORCHESTRA: GREATEST HITS
"Picking favorite music is like picking favorite children," Michael Shasberger concedes. "It really can’t be done." Since the Westmont Orchestra is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, I asked Michael if he could identify a handful of his favorite compositions and performances during his time at Westmont. Such choices, I know, are always a challenge.
It would be a challenge if he simply had to choose among compositions performed by his daughters Sarah and Rebecca (photo). Two of those works did make the list. When the orchestra was on tour in Hungary, Sarah was the lead instrumentalist on the Vaughan Williams "Suite for Viola and Orchestra." A collection of eight miniatures, with varied textures and atmosphere, the "Suite" evokes English dance music, alternating between melancholy, pastoral, and joyful moods, and is a virtuoso opportunity for the soloist on the viola. The Hungarian press lauded the performance, taking particular note of the "father-daughter connection." A few years later, while in China with the orchestra, Rebecca performed Camile Saint-Saëns' "Cello Concerto No. 1 in A Minor"—one of the most renowned of all cello concertos. First performed in 1873, it broke with tradition by offering a continuous musical thread, rather than adhering to the usual three-movement concerto structure. The composition keeps the cello soloist in the spotlight, often subduing the orchestral background. Michael recalls the warm response to Rebecca's performance from their hosts at Fudan University in Shanghai.
In 2006 the "orchestra" was a small chamber group that played before a hundred people or less. Now it features more than 60 musicians and plays around the world. Although much has progressed, Michael stlll thinks of those early years with affection. "All in all," he observes, "I would have to recall the excitement of . . . " [continue reading]
NEW THOUGHTS ON JUNIPERO SERRA
Pope Francis's canonization of Father Junipero Serra drew international attention this year, as the Franciscan priest continues to win acclaim for his role in the founding of the California mission chain and to draw critique for his role with the Native American peoples. Both President Beebe and Greg Orfalea, author of a recent biography of Serra (Journey to the Sun, Scribners), were present at the canonization service in Washington, DC. To help explore Serra and his legacy, Greg has coordinated a panel of experts, which will be held in Hieronymous Lounge on Tuesday, November 3, at 7:00 p.m. The topic will be "New Thoughts on Junipero Serra and His Legacy for California." Panelists include John Johnson, professor of anthropology at the University of California at Santa Barbara and curator at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History; Ruben Mendoza, professor of archaeology at the California State University at Monterey Bay; James Sandos, professor of history at the University of Redlands; and Kristina Foss, curator of the Santa Barbara Mission and lecturer at SBCC.
WESTMONT ACADEMY AND TAIWAN YOUTH ORCHESTRA
Han Soo Kim (photo) directed the first major summer musical outreach program of Westmont Academy for Young Artists (WAYA) this summer. It drew 30 pre-college musicians to campus for two weeks in August. He was joined by other colleagues from the Music Department, all of whom presented seminars and taught lessons throughout the program. Those included Michael Shasberger and Andy Radford on conducting, as well as Joanne Kim and Andrea Di Maggio on clarinet and flute. Han Soo and Michael, along with adjunct faculty members Trevor Handy (cello), Joanne Kim (clarinet) and Emily Sommerman (violin), hosted the Taiwan Youth Orchestra during their week-long visit to campus in July. Lessons, chamber music coaching and performances were all provided by the Westmont faculty, as well as Shasberger’s conducting of "Valse" from Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings, Op. 48,” J.S. Bach's “Klavier Concerto in F Minor,” and Akutagawa Yasushi's “Triptyque for String Orchestra” with the visiting orchestra.
GOOD DAYS IN THE THEATRE
"Do you see the world covered in flowers, Toby," asks one of the characters in the play Good Day. "No. It's covered in wasps and take-out." This month Mitchell Thomas chose a play by Westmont alumna Diana Small (photo, class of '09) for the major fall production. Through a few restless characters and their eclectic endeavors—meditating on one's parents' lawn, selling flower seeds, ordering Chinese take-out, and exterminating wasps—the play conveys the longing for meaning among twentysomethings faced with both loneliness and the fear of death. The production gave Mitchell and the Theatre Department a chance to accent the distinctive voice of one of its own graduates.
In conjunction with an alumna's play, the department hosted a unique "Home Cooking" reunion weekend for its alums. Thirty-seven people—including 20 graduates, 15 current students, and 2 professors—came together for an entire day of reminiscences and renewal. In the words of John Blondell, the “event was intended as reminder, invitation, re-entry, support station, oxygen tent, and physical therapy, as it were.” John opened the day with a this-is-where-you-come-from slide show covering the last 25 years of the program’s history, and the group engaged in a short meditation, exchanged post-Westmont stories, took part in a spiritual formation workshop at the Willard Center, heard a talk by Diana Small, saw two plays directed by Mitchell, and ended up at Mitchell’s house for a post-show gathering. All in a day.
"Many of the alums said they were reticent to come,” John admits, since “they didn't know what we were after with this event. By the end, new projects are cooking, alums are talking with present students about opportunities and future engagement, and I am left both drained and exhilarated. They are big, expansive, searching, witty, soulful, feeling, smart, interesting, creative, articulate, spiritual, resilient, funny, story-loving people. When I think of the difference between where our alums were upon graduating, and where they are now, I can only describe their transformation as a kind of expansion of consciousness, a growing into sense of self and identity that I can describe as nothing other than soul-work . . . They hit me in the solar plexus, and took my breath away.”
FOOTBALL TURNS FIFTY
Association football—or what we call soccer in the United States—first caught my imagination during the World Cup in 1986, when I stumbled across a UHF broadcast in Spanish. The tournament, held that year in Mexico, won an occasional story in the back pages of the Los Angeles Times, even though the Cup drew virtually no attention from the English-language networks. The U.S. National Team had not even qualified. NBC covered only the final. So, in order to follow the group stages and elimination matches, I kept wrestling with the circular antennae on my TV to capture the snowy, black-and-white signal from Channel 50, and stuck with it until Argentina lifted the trophy. Somehow, through the obscure pathway of PBS, I felt that I had discovered a new secret—even though it was one that the rest of the world already knew.
Soccer was generally a well-kept secret in much of the United States when Westmont launched its first team in 1965—a team that featured Cliff Lundberg as its captain. In fact, the first coach, Jerry Huhn, had never seen a soccer match before he got the job. A recent graduate, he had been a javelin thrower on the track and field team when Westmont asked him to launch the new club. As soon as he got his new duty, he drove down to East LA to see how the game was played on parks and fields. He also hit the books, heading straight to the library to check out rules and strategies. Whether he chose the right books or simply relied on Cliff’s heroics, the team did pick up five wins that year—including a 9-1 victory over CS Fullerton in the inaugural match—against only two losses and five draws. Cliff picked up honors as a member of the All-Pacific Coast NCAA team.
Fifty years later, in September of this year, the men's team at Westmont played its 1000th soccer match. This one was set in Ohio and pitted the Warriors against Rio Grande University, currently the top-rated team in the NAIA. A Westmont goal in the 88th minute sent the match into overtime, though Rio Grande eventually claimed a 2-1 victory. For Dave Wolf—who has guided half of Westmont's 50 seasons—the game featured another opportunity to share the soccer experience with his son Tanner, a senior midfielder. Both the first and the 1000th match were on the short list of the landmark soccer moments that assistant coach Johnny Whallon and Dave chose for me when I asked them to select a few of the most memorable events from the last half century. Some of you may recall the others: [continue reading]