‘Doc’ named top prof in Vermont
When John Donnelly was told about a campus ceremony to celebrate his latest award — Professor of the Year for Vermont — he made a typical move: He asked his students what he should wear. And, typical for “Doc’s” students, they were brutally honest. “You can’t wear a tie, and no white shoes and socks or markers on your face,” they told their less-than-sartorially-splendid mentor. “But, you have to look a little better than usual,” Donnelly said, reporting their advice at the November ceremony.

Donnelly, professor of natural resources, was cited for this latest honor by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which annually salutes the most outstanding undergraduate professors in the country — those who excel as teachers and who inspire and influence the lives of their students.

Doc regularly gets the equivalent of five-star ratings from his students on all scores. He calculates his success by the growth he sees in his students and remains discontent until they do well and until he does better. For most of his years at UVM, he taught in “the traditional lecture mode,” but became convinced that, “for long-term learning to take place, students must become more actively involved in the learning process.”

Don DeHayes, associate dean of the School of Natural Resources, called Donnelly courageous for abandoning his already much-honored and dynamic lecture style. “He transformed himself and his classroom,” DeHayes said. He also read several of the letters from students who nominated Donnelly. The letters described a professor whose office light frequently remains on until 9 p.m., and an advisor who calls his students and drops in at the library at 10 p.m. to “make sure his kids are working.”

Provost Geoffrey Gamble read a letter from John Shane, now a senior researcher and lecturer in forestry, who was one of Doc’s students. Shane called him “the most tenacious instructor I have ever met. He absolutely never gives up on a student. . . . I learned more in his class than in any other in my college career.”

Colleagues and students also appreciate Donnelly’s openness about his own shortcomings, a trait most might shelve at such a laudatory event. Not Doc.

After DeHayes read the paean from one student, Doc revealed the flip side of her opinion: “She stood up at the end of one of my classes last year and said, ‘that was terrible’.”

In accepting his award, Donnelly thanked many people, from his wife to his deans, but his deepest thanks went to “the best teachers I’ve ever encountered — my students.”

New home for horses
University of Vermont students soon will be making tracks in a new horse barn and indoor riding arena to be located at UVM’s Paul R. Miller Research Farm on Spear Street. Thanks to a major gift from Amy and Richard Tarrant of Burlington, the university began construction during the fall semester on a new facility that primarily will support UVM’s equine program.

The 18,500-square-foot structure, to be built immediately north of the existing horse barn, will have twenty-two horse stalls and be used for a variety of academic purposes. The new building “will significantly enhance instruction in equine science,” says Lawrence Forcier, dean of the Division of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Extension. He added that the barn also “will support work in UVM’s popular Department of Animal Sciences as well as youth and 4-H programs across the state.”

UVM’s Equine Science Program emphasizes the scientific and technical aspects of equine management and production. Students take courses in equine physiology, nutrition, reproduction, technique training, and small-business management. They also complete a related internship. Students in the program have the opportunity to participate in the management of a cooperative horse barn, using their own horses or those provided by the program.

“Amy and Rich Tarrant’s generosity,” Forcier said, “also provides important leadership in replacing aging structures at the university farm complex, where we welcome more than forty thousand visitors each year.”

The Tarrants have had three children — Jerry ’89, Rich, Jr. ’90, and Brian ’93 — graduate from UVM. Richard Tarrant serves on the UVM board of trustees, and Amy Tarrant is a member of the equine sciences advisory board.

Kroepsch-Maurice Award For Teaching Excellence 1998 Winners

Deborah Hunter
Associate professor, education
“I keep in mind that my students will go around
the country and will affect lives everywhere. …
I hold them to high standards and teach them
to care.” At the heart of her philosophy is the need
to get students to consider opposing views.
“I’m driven to complicate their thinking.”

Shirley Gedeon
Associate professor, economics
“… Ironically, struggling for ways to reach students
personalizes the classroom and makes each day unique
for me, so that I truly don’t get bored, even though
I have been teaching introductory microeconomics and macroeconomics for eighteen years.

Alison Brody
Assistant professor, biology
“When I can get students intrigued and excited
about the material, it’s a real coup and very satisfying.
I consider myself a relatively shy and reserved person,
so getting up in front of forty-five or 245 students
requires me to draw on my ‘alter ego,’
and it can be a lot of fun.”

Patricia Fontaine
Instructor, Continuing Education
“When I was quite green at teaching and therefore
quite caught up in my own importance and status as
an educator, I focused on the knowledge and expertise
I could share with and impart to students. I now see myself
as more of a witness ... appreciating the individual
qualities and gifts of my students.”

Nick Danigelis
Professor of sociology
“A university is a potentially magical place
that can transform the lives of its students. In sociology,
I believe our main purpose is challenging students to learn
about society’s conventional wisdoms, to question
those wisdoms, and to apply what they have learned
to both their own lives and to the larger society.”

Thomas Visser
Associate professor, historic preservation
“I see my main responsibility as helping our students
identify their own relative strengths and weaknesses
so that they can focus on becoming professional preservationists. Helping students to overcome … their weaknesses is probably
the most challenging, but rewarding aspect of teaching.”

UVMers lead hurricane relief
For more than thirty years, Partners of the Americas Vermont /Hon-duras have promoted cultural exchange in the arts, music, education, health, and agriculture between Vermonters and Hondurans. For the past several months, that connection has taken on a deeper urgency as the organization is at the forefront of helping its friends in Central America cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch.

“It’s an extended family, and Vermont has a unique role,” said Dolores Sandoval, associate professor of education and president of the Partners’ board. “The first thing we heard is that people wanted us to pray for them.”

Current and former UVM faculty members compose the majority of the Partners’ Board of Directors. Though numerous organizations are conducting relief efforts, the existing bonds between Vermonters and Hondurans give the Partners’ campaign an added emotional resonance. “Vermonters have always been very responsive to our association with the people of Honduras,” said Dr. Thomas Dowe, former dean of agriculture at UVM and Partners’ executive director.

Lyndon Carew, professor of nutrition and food sciences and another member of the Partner’s Board, left Nov. 23 for a trip that he had scheduled several months before. Originally, He was to visit the Pan-American School of Agriculture to share expertise in poultry and egg production and the use of the velvet bean as a cover crop. He expected to be spending his time on more pressing needs, such as construction.

Members of the Partners’ Farmer-to-Farmer Project, which began in the late 1980s, had several trips planned before the hurricane struck, said Fred Schmidt, project chair and director of UVM’s Center for Rural Studies. Two UVM graduates, Ron Krupp and Daren Nicholson, traveled to Honduras in late November to bring seeds and help plant crops. They also will try to help solve the problem of getting crops to market when there is no market left, Schmidt said.

There also is talk of a faculty-and-student team traveling there during spring break to do some hands-on community work, Schmidt said. Sharing expertise in agriculture and other areas is only part of the solution, he said. “We also need to make sure they know we care about them. And there’s nothing like being there in person to drive that home.”

Probing core questions
In a small lab of the Perkins Geology Building, a machine hums quietly. Inside, the temperature exceeds 900 degrees Celsius as it goes about its business of crushing a pencil-thin piece of meteorite. Tracey Rushmer, research assistant professor of geology, hopes that this NASA-funded study she leads at UVM will help her determine how the earth’s core formed more than 4.5 billion years ago.

“The big picture is to understand the process of core formation, the rates or time frame in which that may occur and the geochemical implications for the core-mantle system,” says Rushmer. “We are fairly certain the Earth formed by many bombardments and eventual coalescence of meteorite-like material during the formation of the solar system. However, how the Earth came to be stratified, having an inner and outer core, a mantle and crust is less clear.”

Rushmer’s study tests one of the main hypotheses as to how the Earth’s core was formed. She is attempting to recreate the strain placed on the meteorites to see how they will deform and how the iron in them will react, crucial evidence to supporting what is known as the dynamic hypothesis of the core’s formation.

In addition to providing funding, NASA helped Rushmer obtain a small piece of meteorite from the Smithsonian Museum. The shard under pressure in the Perkins lab was part of a meteorite that fell in Kernouve, France, in the 19th century.


Turning Bach to the Web
Have you ever enjoyed listening to one of Bach’s famous cantatas but felt totally lost with the German words? Is your choral group planning to sing the “Gloria” from his “Mass in B minor,” but you don’t know which Latin phrases to emphasize?
You now have a place to turn. Classics Professor Philip Ambrose takes the works of the great Baroque composer and makes them accessible using on-line technology. “J.S. Bach: The Texts of the Complete Vocal Works with English Translation and Commentary by Z. Philip Ambrose” is now on the Internet at

Singers from around the world have noticed since the site’s September debut, Ambrose says, and “several fine performing groups of Bach have asked permission to download the translations for their programs.” (Permission is freely given.)

The Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists are using Ambrose’s scholarship. The group, singing in the Herderkirche in Weimar, plans an ambitious project: performing all the surviving church cantatas of Bach during the year 2000, the 250th anniversary of the composer’s death. Also using the site are the Emmanuel Church in Boston and the Bach Society of Washington.

There are many Bach Web sites out there, but this is the first work on paper or in cyberspace, Ambrose says, to contain everything. “It has the secular cantatas, the passions, motets, masses and other vocal works, each with commentary on the sources, biblical and poetic, and on its performance history.”

The Billings–Nemoto story
It’s a rare day that UVM hears about an alumnus from the class of 1889. October 9 was one such day. The 147th anniversary of the birth of Sho Nemoto, UVM 1889, was marked by a visit from one of his descendants, Atsushi Nemoto, and his wife, Naoko. Japanese citizens, they are living in New Jersey, where Atsushi works for a Japanese firm. The Nemotos visited several campus sites, but top on their list was the Fleming Museum to see a bust of Frederick Billings, UVM 1844. From that visit unfolded the story of the Nemoto-Billings friendship.

Sho Nemoto, who was born in a small Japanese village in 1850, converted to Christianity, studied English, and became intrigued by America and its technological advances. In 1879, after a difficult voyage on the steam cargo vessel City of Beijing, Sho arrived in San Francisco. He attended public schools and was sponsored by Alfred Barstow, a lawyer and friend of Billings. Billings mentored Sho, financing his education at UVM, welcoming him into his homes in Woodstock, Vermont and New York, and remaining his friend for life. Sho was nearly forty when he graduated from UVM, and Billings paid for his trip home, via a European tour. Billings’ parting advice to Sho, according to Atsushi, was, “Be a useful man in Japan.”

Sho took the words to heart. He won a seat in the Diet, Japan’s House of Representatives, and introduced legislation restricting access to alcohol and tobacco, promoting free education, and encouraging the development of railroads. He sent his eldest son and heir, whom he named Billings, to study in the United States, but the ship on which he traveled sank, and the young man drowned.

Sho commissioned Ujihiro Okuma, a highly-regarded Japanese sculptor, to create the bust of Billings that he donated to UVM. When Atsushi and Naoko visited the Fleming, director Ann Porter learned that the bust is one of few extant works by Okuma, whose sculptures at home were melted for munitions during World War II.

Sho Nemoto and Billings had several reunions, in Vermont and in Tokyo, and, after the great Tokyo earthquake of 1923, the Billings family contributed to Sho’s rebuilding efforts.

Sho died in 1933. This past October, the Sho Nemoto Memorial Foundation unveiled a monument at his birthplace.

King of horror to visit in March
Hundreds of UVM students have studied the books of Stephen King with Professor Tony Magistrale, a leading authority on the horror master’s work. This winter, a select group of English majors will take that study a step deeper when they have the rare opportunity to spend an afternoon discussing Stephen King’s horror literature with the author himself.

The English Department’s annual Buckham Seminar typically brings a scholar to campus to discuss his or her work with students. This semester’s seminar will have a decided twist as it brings the artist himself, easily the most popular writer in America.

Magistrale, one of the first academics to turn his attention to King’s work, has written extensively on the bestselling author and places him in the American gothic canon alongside the likes of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Magistrale notes that it is very rare for King to make such an appearance. “I think he was attracted by the idea that we weren’t asking him to come over here so we could put him under a glass and examine him,” Magistrale says, “but we truly wanted him to come to UVM to teach and interact with our students for an afternoon of the seminar.”

King will meet with the seminar students the afternoon of March 29 and have dinner with them in the evening. The next day he’ll deliver a public talk in Patrick Gymnasium at 7 p.m. Admission is free, but tickets will be required and can be obtained from UVM’s English Department, (802) 656-3056.

Childhood cancer, passive smoke linked
In the October issue of the journal Nature Medicine, UVM researchers reported what they believe is the first biological evidence that a pregnant woman’s “passive” exposure to cigarette smoke may increase her child’s chance of developing cancer. The study specifically measured genetic changes in placental blood from newborns of nonsmoking pregnant women exposed to cigarette smoke in their homes and workplaces as compared with newborns of pregnant women who had no history of either smoking or passive exposure.

Both biological and population-based studies have identified clear non-cancer dangers — such as increased risk of infant death, lung disease, and developmental problems — that face the estimated 1.75 million infants born in the United States each year after being exposed during fetal development to cigarette smoke by a mother who smokes or is regularly exposed to people who smoke. However, the biological link to cancer has been less conclusive. The strongest evidence to date has come from population-based studies suggesting an increased risk of childhood cancers, especially leukemia and lymphoma, in children whose mothers were exposed to passive — or “secondhand” — smoke during their pregnancies.

The new study, led by UVM College of Medicine/Fletcher Allen Health Care pediatrician Dr. Barry Finette, looked for an indirect genetic link to cancer by examining a specific gene for genetic changes that have in other genes been associated with cancer.

According to Finette, the new findings provide the first biological explanation of studies demonstrating an increased risk of childhood cancer due to passive maternal exposure to cigarette smoking. The new study also adds biological evidence that genetic changes associated with cancer may occur during fetal development.

“Developing cancer is a multifactorial process, so when it occurs in children, many of the genetic changes that add up to cancer must have happened before birth,” Finette said. “These findings suggest that transplacental exposure to cigarette smoke may be one of these genetic factors that increase the risk of childhood cancer. Whether or not this turns out to be true will require additional research in the laboratory and in large populations.”

Finette now believes that future studies will need to investigate the potential genetic changes associated with active maternal smoking during pregnancy as well as genetic changes that may occur in children after birth if they are exposed to cigarette smoke.


Future Alumna — Noël Kemmerer ’99
The point where ethics meet reality isn’t always comfortable. Noël Kemmerer struggled with this truth as a UVM student when she tried to reconcile her knowledge of the environmental pressures on the Earth with the inevitability of being a 20th-century human, part of the problem herself. “How can I live with myself?” was the question Kemmerer put to Professor Ian Worley. That question and the conversation that followed would blossom into an Environmental Program senior seminar — “Environmental Ethics for Daily Living” — in which Worley, Kemmerer, and her student peers faced up to some very difficult issues.

A senior in the Environmental Program, Kemmerer has centered her studies and internships on preparing for a career working to foster within children a connectedness with the natural world and a strong environmental ethic.

Kemmerer’s academic direction took distinct shape with a study abroad trip to Australia last year. Working at the Center for Rainforest Studies, she developed programs and a web page to teach children about the Queensland rainforest. She has followed that with a Shelburne Farms internship, and a thesis project that involves creating camp programs for kids at a Vermont Institute for Natural Sciences nature center in Montpelier.

Kemmerer says a key lesson she has taken from her field experience is that “one of the best things I can do as an environmental educator is to just give kids some unstructured time in the woods — to explore, to build forts, to bond with nature.”

Looking back on her own childhood, Kemmerer says that her passion for nature and determination to protect the environment began with long hours out in the woods outside her parents’ home in rural northern New Jersey, or on summer trips to Nantucket and Idaho.

Today, Kemmerer’s faith in children rivals her faith in nature. “When kids speak up about environmental issues,” she says, “people listen.”

Born in 1980
This note, which recently appeared on the UVM alumni e-mail list, is no doubt sobering to many who may have graduated… a few years ago. Face the facts that most of the first-year students beginning their studies at UVM this year:

Have never owned a record player.
Have no idea what a removable
pull-top can looks like.
Were born the year Walkmans were
introduced by Sony.
Have never cared who shot J.R.
Are unimpressed by Star Wars special effects.
Thanks to Stuart Iribarren for passing this on.

Alumni wishing to commiserate can access the UVM Alumni list from the UVM web pages: