Plants are learning resources
Libraries and laboratories aren’t the only on-campus academic resources for UVM faculty and students. The university’s flora has long been a reference for teaching and research in fields such as horticulture and dendrology. That resource promises to continue to thrive and improve, thanks to a coordinated effort among the Department of Plant and Soil Science, UVM Development’s Commemorative Tree Planting Plan, and the Grounds Department of Physical Plant.

Approximately 250 trees, shrubs, and benches on campus stand in honor or in memory of alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of the university. The plantings, notes Joan Kieran, stewardship coordinator in UVM Development, provide a living memorial that contributes to both form and function on campus. By more closely coordinating the commemorative tree selections with the teaching and research needs of the university, the program not only beautifies the campus but has a direct impact on the university’s academic mission.

“We’re working to build the diversity of the plantings on campus and shape things in a more careful way through this program,” says Mark Starrett, assistant professor of horticulture in the Plant and Soil Science Department. “Many professors use the trees on campus for teaching purposes and for their own research.”

In addition to sponsoring a planting in honor of or as a memorial to an individual, alumni can become involved with the program by making contributions in support of existing plantings on campus. For more information on UVM’s Commemorative Planting Plan, contact Joan Kieran, (802) 656-4671.

Standing room only at campus debate
The question “Should the United States function as world police?” promises a provocative discussion at any time, but becomes all the more compelling in light of recent history in Yugoslavia and Iraq. So the stage was set for an April 22 debate that filled the Marsh Life Sciences Auditorium to capacity with more than four hundred students, faculty, and staff.

Will Miller, assistant professor of philosophy, and senior Justin Parmett, a regional debate champion, took the position that the United States should end its role as the world’s police force. Robert Kaufman, associate professor of political science, and senior Robert Pontbriand, vice president of the Student Government Association, argued to uphold the status quo.

“This debate didn’t have a winner or loser,” said Kaufman. “It presented, in a clear way, what the fault lines are in American foreign policy.”

Miller noted that the debate provided the UVM community with an opportunity that students have long sought — to see faculty and students debating issues of vital importance from very different perspectives.

“Unhappily, the concurrent U.S. wars on Iraq and Yugoslavia made the event even more timely than we imagined when the debate was initially arranged,” he added.

Pontbriand, who traveled to Serbia in 1997 as part of a debate program, said he was inspired by seeing four hundred students turn out for a Thursday night debate. “UVM students are interested in dialogue, in open debate of issues and are willing to listen to opinions that may not agree with their own,” said Pontbriand. “This debate was certainly a highlight of my academic career here.”

Cardiac disease often takes young lives
A recent $7.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will enable UVM researchers to take a lead role investigating the most common cause of cardiac death in people under age thirty-five, a disease known as familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (FHC). David Warshaw, chair of UVM’s Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, is lead investigator for the study, which also includes researchers from Harvard and Johns Hopkins Universities.

A congenital disease, FHC can be triggered by a change in exercise level and is the cause of death for about half the athletes who die suddenly – such as the Boston Celtics’ Reggie Lewis, who died on the court in 1993. People with FHC may exhibit symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness, or shortness of breath. While people sometimes live long, productive lives despite the condition, “often, the first symptom is death,” says Warshaw.

It is believed that FHC begins with a genetic mutation in the heart’s myosin molecules. Myosin is one of the main proteins of the heart and works with a second protein to function as the heart’s molecular motor. “Like a car motor, the mechanical function of this molecular motor is made up of many parts,” Warshaw says. “Changing one part may compromise how the entire motor functions.” Researchers suspect that the muscle of the heart thickens, or enlarges, to compensate for the myosin defect, impeding both the flow of blood through the heart and the heart’s ability to pump blood to the rest of the body.

As they follow the course of FHC from the mutation in the myosin molecule to an enlarged heart, Warshaw and his colleagues hope to understand how and when the disease becomes lethal. “Our objective is to discover at what point we can intervene and treat the disease,” Warshaw says. The scientists also hope to acquire information that will help in the development of a diagnostic test to detect the presence of the mutation in families with a predisposition for FHC.

A senior gift that swings
Members of UVM’s Class of 1999 left one of the more original senior gifts in recent memory, as they raised the funds to build a ropes course for the university. For the use of students, faculty, and staff, this year’s seniors hope that their gift will foster teambuilding and personal development on campus for years to come.

John Abbott, outdoor programs specialist in the Department of Student Life, has been a strong supporter of the initiative to construct a UVM ropes course. Abbott notes that UVM groups typically have spent considerable funds each year for the adventure ropes course experience.

Now, thanks to the Class of 1999, those in search of a taste of adventure and the opportunity to learn something about themselves and others needn’t travel far.

The Class of 1999 raised approximately $25,000 for the course, which will be constructed on university-owned land in either Jericho or Williston.

'Cataract camps' restore sight in Himalayas
In a unique blend of exploration, medicine, and humanitarianism, Dr. Geoffrey Tabin, a UVM professor of surgery and a world-class mountaineer, journeys regularly to remote mountain regions in the Himalayas to perform cataract surgery and train native doctors in the procedure.

The fourth person to climb the highest peaks of all seven continents, Tabin has impressive credentials as an adventurer. His 1993 book, Blind Corners, An Adventure on Seven Continents, chronicles his climbing expeditions, from the first successful attempt of Mount Everest’s extremely dangerous and virtually insurmountable East Face to expeditions with Pygmies in the New Guinea jungle.

As founder and co-director of the nonprofit Vermont Himalayan Cataract Project, Tabin combines his passions for remote, rugged landscapes and for improving the quality of human lives through his medical skills. Tabin sets up “cataract camps” several times each year in the Himalayas, performing up to forty pro bono cataract surgeries per day on the indigenous population and working with physicians to improve eye care. In Nepal and Tibet, cataracts are responsible for nearly seventy percent of all blindness, and more than ten percent of people over age sixty are blind in both eyes from cataracts, according to a World Health Organization study.

Tabin’s goals are not only to help cure blindness through performing surgery in areas where access to physicians and specialty care is extremely limited but also to teach the local doctors, nurses, and technicians to do the job themselves. He brings along medical students from UVM and other institutions, providing them with the opportunity to learn under very different circumstances than they encounter in the United States.

Tabin recently shared his experiences at the annual dinner of the legendary Explorers Club, an international, multidisciplinary professional society dedicated to the advancement of field research and scientific exploration and the preservation of the exploring instinct. Former senator and astronaut John Glenn was the keynote speaker for the evening.

New Alumna -- Carla Maribelli '99
While most of her classmates were wrapping up finals and term papers, Carla Maribelli ’99 got a jump on a post-graduation trip to Europe. But it wasn’t the traditional rail pass and backpack wander across the continent. Maribelli traveled to The Netherlands to represent the World Citizen Foundation at the Hague Appeal for Peace Conference. World leaders attending the event included U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, South African President Nelson Mandela, and Jordan’s Queen Noor.

Maribelli became involved with the World Citizen Foundation, which promotes a number of issues with an emphasis on world peace, through UVM’s Women’s Studies Program. She volunteered with the foundation as an undergraduate and she will continue to work with it this summer as she sorts out future options, which likely will include graduate school.

An English major/speech minor, Maribelli has been inspired by Professor Alfred “Tuna” Snider. “I took a class with him my freshman year and thought, ‘This guy is on to something.’ I learned that speech — the power of the spoken word — is profound.” Adds the two-year veteran of the Lawrence Debate Union, “Professor Snider gave me my voice.”

Likely, Maribelli will use that voice well. When she left her home in Washington, D.C., for college in Vermont, Maribelli acknowledges that she was tired and a bit jaded of the political world.

That perspective has changed over the course of her UVM experience. “Helping people is very important to me, and I thought that politics and humanitarianism were not particularly compatible,” Maribelli says. “I realize now that you can work in a political environment and make a positive difference.”

After sixty years, trophy is where it belongs
From a UVM-Dartmouth ski meet to a trophy case at the University of Vermont, it’s been a strange,sixty-year journey for this little silver loving cup. The homecoming is cause for alumni of the UVM Outing Club, circa 1939, to celebrate a victory…again.

The trophy went astray when a couple of Dartmouth skiers, upset about their loss to UVM, decided to steal it as a prank. No doubt it was a prized possession in a Hanover dorm room for a few years, but it had been boxed up in an attic when it was recently rediscovered in New Jersey by the widow of a Dartmouth alum. She gave it to a neighbor who owned a house at Killington, figuring that would get the cup on its way north. Indeed, the neighbor passed it on to one of her neighbors in Vermont, knowing the family had UVM ties. Finally, with a letter to President Ramaley, Joan Cross re-presented the award to UVM in February.

UVM helps Vermont, America to read
Over the past year, UVM has taken leadership in Vermont promoting President Clinton’s America Reads Challenge, a program to ensure that every child can read by the end of third grade. This spring, the university extended that leadership nationally in hosting a telecast of “Delivering Effective Tutor Training,” a program UVM developed with the U.S. Department of Education. Panelists for the April 26 telecast from the university included Carol Hampton Rosco, director of the America Reads Challenge in the U.S. Department of Education, and UVM’s Jane Mekkelsen, a lecturer in the teacher education program and coordinator of the campus’s America Reads Program.

UVM conferences address societal violence:
In April, UVM’s Division of Continuing Education sponsored a regional conference on “Youth Violence in Schools & Communities: Building Active Partnerships for Prevention.” The event, held in suburban Boston, brought together educators, law enforcement officials, and human services professionals who have taken a lead in New England on these difficult issues.

While the tragedy in Littleton, Colo., has put a national spotlight on school violence, addressing violence in our society, particularly as it involves youth, has been a focus of UVM Continuing Education conferences over the past five years. During that span, conferences have included “Building Community Alliances Against Domestic Violence,” “Combatting the Gang Crisis in America,” “Growing up Terrified: The Damaging Effects of Domestic Violence on Children,” and “Preventing Hate Crimes: Learning to Live in a Multicultural Society,” among others.

New building key to health sciences research
The university will break ground this summer on a new Health Science Research Facility, adjacent to the Given Building and Stafford Hall. The new building will add state-of-the-art research space to campus, allowing UVM researchers currently located in leased space in Colchester to return to campus. Connected to Stafford and Given, the new facility will promote important cross-disciplinary work, especially in areas such as UVM’s internationally renowned cancer research, which involves investigators from numerous departments. It is anticipated that faculty and staff will be in the new building in summer 2001.


UVM students enjoy "Shining" moment
Stephen King makes his living scaring people. This March, he managed to unnerve a few more by making a live appearance at UVM. Just before the novelist was due to arrive on campus as the 1999 Buckham Honors Lecturer, the senior seminar class hosting his stay was “as nervous as houseflies in July,” according to Tony Magistrale, professor of English.

Although the classmates had done their homework — exploring most of Stephen King’s work in depth and planning his visit at great length — they were anxious about meeting the man behind the myth. How could they relate to a man their teacher calls the “literary heir” to Charles Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe?

Magistrale, who has written three scholarly books about the intellectual merits of King’s prose, had been cautious about inviting a celebrity to campus. He initiated the visit after some encouragement from Stanley Gutman, chair of the English Department, and together they decided to create a cultural event for the entire city, with UVM at center stage.

Magistrale’s eighteen Buckham Honors Seminar students were charged with helping organize the two-day, one-man show.

All the event planning in the world — and no amount of literary foreshadowing — could have prepared the class for what was to come: a true scholar and a gentleman. When the King of Horror walked into their Old Mill classroom on March 29, he immediately shifted the attention back on the students. He asked them about their studies of Poe, not his own work. Magistrale saw it as an act of genuine humility; his students were genuinely surprised.

“He was extremely approachable and down to earth,” Dawn Pelkey, Magistrale’s teaching assistant, says. “He said that the way we treat celebrities is overblown and that he is just a guy with a knack for something.”

King sent the same message and left the same impression at every stop.

Ira Allen Chapel was filled to capacity when he read from his latest work, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, for a predominantly student audience. He also played to an awestruck crowd at Patrick Gym, a moment Magistrale won’t soon forget.

“It reminded me of what it must have been like to see a luminary from the 19th century in a public forum,” he contends. “It was a performance that was part intellectual discourse, part road show, and part love-fest.”

King shocked more than four thousand die-hard fans, some of whom made the pilgrimage from neighboring states, with his self-deprecating celebrity jokes and razor-sharp take on reality. “I just do this because it buzzes me,” the prolific author said of his life’s work, pausing to remind everyone to check their back seats before going home.

The Buckham Honors Seminar students now consider King a role model. “He was generous with his time and knowledge, and he does a tremendous amount of charitable work. He’s really giving something back.” And the only thing more startling than King’s entrance was his exit. The man who gave so much of himself to UVM handed his honorarium check back to Magistrale. “Do something interesting with this,” were his last words.


Noted & Quoted

Mark Stoler, professor of history, appeared on the PBS special, “MacArthur,” which was aired in May. Stoler was interviewed for his expertise on the relationship between Gens. Douglas MacArthur and George C. Marshall. He discussed the personal relationship between the two men as well as their numerous strategic disagreements.
A study led by Dr. Sharon Mount, assistant professor of pathology, was featured on ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America” in March. Mount also was interviewed on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” The study, which was published in the March issue of Pediatrics, found that girls in suburban and rural northern New England had very high rates of cervical cell abnormalities that are often caused by a sexually transmitted virus and can lead to cancer. Articles about Mount’s study also appeared in editions of The Boston Globe, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and other national publications.
UVM students were featured in the March 29 edition of U.S. News & World Report in a story about college students who choose community service over partying for spring break. UVM is mentioned in the first paragraph along with two other institutions sending students to locales across the country.
Dr. Bruce Kapp, professor of psychology, was featured in The New York Times Magazine’s cover story on Feb. 28 about scientists finding the source of human terror by tracing brain activity. Kapp was mentioned for his research studying heart rate changes that actually originate in the brain stem.The article explained that the work being done by researchers like Kapp could lead to better treatments for those suffering from anxiety disorders.