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The Rubenstein School of
Environment and Natural Resources

There’s a lot in a new name. With a landmark gift of $15 million, the Steve and Beverly Rubenstein family affirms UVM’s place as a leader in the study of the environment and provides a dramatic centerpiece to the public launch of The Campaign for the University of Vermont.

When it comes to environmental stewardship, Steve Rubenstein ’61 has seen some of the worst mankind can do. His 40-year career in real estate has been centered on purchasing and rehabilitating degraded factories and warehouses and putting them back into use.

One site that Rubenstein Properties renovated turned out to have been used for pesticide manufacture in 1929 and had the highest arsenic levels in the soil of any site in the United States. Far more than rust and rot, he’s encountered some of the most environmentally egregious industrial practices the last century could dish up and worked through the challenge of clean-up.

Through a long relationship with UVM’s School of Natural Resources as a member of the school’s Board of Advisors, he has also seen some of the best practices in teaching and research on environmental issues. Those two parts of Rubenstein’s world came together for him, his wife Beverly, and family when their landmark gift to the University of Vermont was announced at Homecoming Weekend, which coincided with the public launch of UVM’s $250 million Campaign for the University of Vermont. (See story on page 40.) The $15 million in support will result in renaming the School of Natural Resources — now known as the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.

Being a named school brings both added resources and a higher profile on a national level, says Dean Don DeHayes. Steve Rubenstein has long championed the thought that UVM’s faculty, programs, and location make Vermont uniquely suited to wear the mantle of “The Environmental University.” Speaking at a press conference announcing the gift, Rubenstein said that his support is motivated by the hope that through research and education, UVM can be a national leader in finding ways to remedy damage to the environment and develop future leaders who will stop such from happening in the first place.

In many cases, those challenges are best met through interdisciplinary research and teaching. DeHayes notes a number of collaborative efforts between the school he leads and faculty in areas such as agriculture, nursing, business, medicine, and engineering. In the same spirit, 25 percent of the Rubenstein gift will benefit students in environmentally focused majors throughout the University with the remainder going specifically to the Rubenstein School.

The new support will build upon a UVM strength that was recently cited in a National Research Council study into the graying of the nation’s environmental leadership and a fast-approaching shortage of well-qualified professionals to fill those roles. DeHayes proudly notes that UVM’s School of Natural Resources was lauded as one of the top two programs in the country for “producing the kind of interdisciplinary thinkers that are needed in this world.”

That work promises to be enhanced in the future as the Rubenstein gift is realized in ways that range from student scholarships to faculty enrichment. It can’t be too soon for the Rubenstein School’s namesake who, when considering the part environmental education can play in the classroom pursuit of students and faculty across disciplines, says — “The environment should be the number one thing in all of their minds.”

Quote Unquote

"This may be the first generation of children that doesn’t live as long as their parents."

Nutritionist and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Rachel Johnson commenting on childhood obesity at the 2003 Aiken Lectures, “Agriculture? Advertising? Industry? Who Chooses the Food You Eat?”

The Dean & Dan Show

Usually Dan Rather is the one asking questions, but when the veteran CBS newsman and presidential candidate Howard Dean stepped onto the fifth floor terrace of UVM’s Waterman Building on October 2, Rather exclaimed at the beauty of the view and asked “Where are we now?”

The former Vermont governor gave Rather a quick lesson in local geography, orienting him to the stunning landscape of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks beyond. The exchange was one of a number of UVM moments that sharp-eyed alums may have caught in the “Dr. Dean” profile, which aired on “60 Minutes II” on October 22.

Dean and Rather started their day at the Oasis Diner, a downtown Burlington institution where pancakes and politics have been menu staples for decades. David Lines ’91 manages the family business these days. And alert grads of the Environmental Program might have spotted UVM Professor Emeritus Carl Reidel, who was sitting with his son and grandson in the booth behind Dean.

Next stop was up the hill at the Waterman Building, where UVM administrators had agreed to allow the CBS crew to tape the Dean-Rather interview in President Daniel Fogel’s office. The production crew approached UVM in search of an alternate location when Dean declined doing the interview in his own home. Word is they wanted something with a “New England feel” and were drawn by the wood-paneling and Fogel’s text-heavy bookshelves.

It’s doubtful that many alums would recognize the interior of the president’s office; the inside of Nectar’s is another story. The legendary Phish nursery and french fry emporium showed
up in a segment about Dean’s grassroots volunteer “Meet-ups.” Another alumni connection, Sally and Damon Brink ’92 have owned Nectar’s for the past year.

Throughout the day, Rather sightings arguably created more buzz than seeing the five-term governor, a familiar face around town. The CBS News anchorman told a UVM reporter that he’s been to Vermont many times over the years and noted some parallels with his native Texas.

“I feel a kinship with people in Vermont because they are so fiercely independent-minded,” Rather said. “Texans and Vermonters don’t share much, but they do share a desire for independence. If you want to see a Texan’s neck swell and his face get red, tell them where to line up for what. Vermonters have a similar independent spirit, and I love that about them.”

Horse Sense

UVM junior John Pigott describes his life as “a serious challenge in time management.” When he’s not cramming for an organic chemistry exam, he’s busy with his work-study job on campus, or out riding four days a week with the UVM Equestrian team.

There’s an ethic behind the hectic schedule. “I like to try everything and in everything that I do try, I give the best that I can,” he says. Last May that meant no less than winning America’s most prestigious award for intercollegiate equestrian competitors, the Cacchione Cup, at the national championships held in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Being on the top step of the podium is familiar territory for Pigott and his UVM Equestrian teammates. Coached by Madeleine Austin at Imajica, her farm in Williston, the club team of 30-some undergraduates regularly wins regional titles and is a perennial contender at nationals. Pigott, who is co-captain of this year’s team, also keeps up a year-round schedule competing on his own.

“I actually didn’t come to UVM thinking that I would ride,” Pigott says. “I came here because of the strong reputation of the animal sciences program. I joined the UVM team after some convincing, and it’s been a great decision. This is such a successful team, and I’ve learned a lot.”

Inspired by the veterinarians he’s watched care for horses, the chemistry/animal sciences double major, plans to head to vet school after graduation next year. But first he wants to take the opportunity to test himself competing internationally in Europe.

In the meantime, he contemplates what he’d do with a spare moment.

“I guess I’d just like to sit down for a minute,” he says, “and let it all sink in.”

— Carly Baldwin ’05

3 Questions

Susan Hasazi, professor of educational leadership and special education, directs the new National Institute on Leadership, Disability and Students Placed at Risk. It is a University of Vermont-led, national effort involving seven universities including UVM, working to develop methods to better prepare K-12 educational leaders for addressing issues of students with disabilities and those placed at risk of failure in school. The institute is funded by a $1 million gift to the UVM College of Education and Social Services from an anonymous donor.

Q. Could you define “students placed at risk?”

A. When we think about children and youth who are placed at academic risk, most often these students are poor, new arrivals from other countries with limited English, or they have disabilities. In some urban areas, between 30 and 40 percent of students are experiencing significant academic challenges. In Vermont, we would generally see about 20 percent of students at some kind of academic risk of failure.

Q. Do you think that educational leaders have been addressing the needs of students placed at risk?

A. Yes, I think that principals and superintendents are deeply concerned about these students and want to do what’s best for them. While some of these leaders have acquired the necessary skills and knowledge to promote the use of best instructional practices for students experiencing academic challenges, some don’t have the background knowledge. Many leadership preparation programs across the country will acknowledge that principals don’t have all the skills and knowledge they need to ensure that students placed at risk are successful. Leaders need to know more about how to implement positive support systems for students with behavioral challenges, systemic approaches for identifying students who are not succeeding in the early grades, and effective intervention programs for enhancing literacy skills. The literature suggests that leaders who have those skills can make a huge difference in the culture of the school, the attitude of teachers related to these students, and the achievement levels of the students themselves.

Q. Do you see this institute growing from Vermont’s progressive tradition on special education issues?

A. Yes, in Vermont we’ve had a commitment to all students for almost 30 years, and according to the national data, we have consistently educated the highest percentage of children with disabilities in general education classrooms. I think from our own experience, we’ve learned that when school leaders view themselves as instructional leaders and acquire the necessary skills, all students benefit.

Learning for the Long Run

The bingo board is dark in Rutland’s Godnick Adult Center on this warm September afternoon, but the room bustles with local senior citizens and the excitement of a new show in town. As the large room fills and extra folding chairs are set up, Jean Davies of Pittsford, Vermont looks around and says she’s seeing people she hasn’t seen in 40 years, making note of the “smiles on faces all over the place.”

The occasion is a talk by popular New England humorist/storyteller Willem Lange, the premiere lecture for the Rutland chapter of The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute — an effort funded by the San Francisco-based Osher Foundation, administered by UVM, and implemented with considerable input from local community members. As Deborah Worthley ’66, who directs the Vermont program through the University’s Division of Continuing Education, tells the group: “Osher is for people who want to learn just for the joy of it. That’s what this is all about.”

There’s one more thing that it is about — individuals over age 50, people like Rutland’s Thelma Perkins ’73 who could be Exhibit A for lifelong learning done well. Perkins would be UVM Class of 1950 if family hadn’t come along before her degree. Twenty-three years later, though, she earned a diploma and that ’73 after her name. She and her husband Bob ’50 were eager to get involved as steering committee members when they first heard about Osher.

Jean Hinson ’57 is another like-minded UVM alum who was eager to get involved with Osher. The curiosity that led her to take a UVM summer geography class focusing on Islam – “because it is so important to understand right now, and I know so little” — is the same spirit that guides the Osher lectures.

The program will widen to Brattleboro, Springfield, and Montpelier in 2004. Eventually a statewide network is envisioned as the University builds on the original Osher grant of $100,000 received in January 2003.

On September 23, it was clear from the crowd in Rutland that the Osher Institute is filling an important niche. Taking the podium, Willem Lange quipped: “Holy Toledo! I didn’t think there were this many old people in the entire state of Vermont.”

What's New

English professor and poet Major Jackson is among the ten recipients of the 2003 Whiting Writers’ Award, given to “emerging writers of exceptional talent and promise.”

It was another top-ten finish for UVM faculty when Derk Pereboom, professor and chair of philosophy, had his paper “Robust Nonreductive Materialism” selected as one of the year’s ten best pieces of philosophical writing by the Philosopher’s Annual.

Harold Leitenberg, professor emeritus and founder of the clinical Ph.D. program in psychology, received the 2003 Outstanding Contribution by an Individual for Educational/Training Activities award from the Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy.

UVM’s fall 2003 undergraduate enrollment of 8,004 represents the highest total since 1991. The increase of 403 students is the largest one-year increase in the past 30 years.

Former Vermont governor Madeleine May Kunin G’67 is sharing lessons of her career in politics and diplomacy through a joint academic appointment as a distinguished visiting professor of political science at the University of Vermont and St. Michael’s College. The three-term governor, who served the state from 1985 to 1991, will teach at both institutions, will be a guest lecturer in several academic disciplines and will be available to work with students individually. During the spring 2004 semester, she will teach a course at UVM that is tentatively titled “Doing Good.”

Dr. Geoffrey Tabin, associate professor of surgery, and his work with the Himalayan Cataract Project were featured on a National Geographic “Ultimate Explorer” documentary that aired on MSNBC in September.

For more on these stories and other UVM news: www.uvm.edu/news.

Small State, Big Book

Eclectic bits of Vermontiana — our contributions to the practice of nudism, that several lakes are home to the elusive fur-bearing trout, the Green Mountain colonial tradition of freezing elderly people in the winter and thawing them in the spring — in addition to better-known facts about the nation’s fourteenth state, form the heart of the recently published Vermont Encyclopedia. The University Press of New England reference is the culmination of five years of work by UVM emeriti professors Sam Hand and Ralph “Harry” Orth, and their Johnston State College emeritus colleague John Duffy G’58.

With the help of 140 contributors, primarily experts in their respective fields, Hand, Orth, and Duffy have produced the only modern day encyclopedia on Vermont, and the first in more than 70 years.

The 1,050 entries include all of the traditional figures and events one would associate with Vermont such as Ira Allen, George Aiken, Calvin Coolidge, and the history of the founding of the state in 1777. But the book also includes more recent icons such as Phish, Howard Dean, and Ben & Jerry’s.

With the diverse talents of Orth, a professor of English, Duffy, a professor of humanities and English, and Hand, a UVM scholar who was dubbed the “Dean of Vermont Historians” by the Rutland Herald, many of the entries fell within their respective expertise. In the end, Orth says the three friends of 30 years were pleased with the final product, which involved the significant challenge of defining the significant while sorting through thousands of potential entries.

“We had no secretary, no fact checker, no nothing,” Orth says. “Luckily we’re all retired, so we had time to do it ourselves.” In the end, he adds, the work was its own reward. “It was a lot of fun and we all learned a lot. We’re teachers and we believe that learning never ends.”

Green Graduation in 2004

On Sunday, May 23, there will be a strong sense of both history and place at UVM’s 200th commencement when the University graduation ceremony is held on the Green for the first time in decades. Coinciding with reclaiming the Green as graduation’s homebase, the University has begun work to refurbish the area to something more closely approximating its historic character.

“You can’t restore a landscape, but what we’re doing is taking a fresh look at the Green that is guided by its historical uses and the design of a classic New England town green,” says Linda Seavey ’70, director of Campus Planning Services.

In the post-elm era (starting late 1960s), the landscape of the Green has developed without a long-term plan and has become much more densely planted with smaller trees and shrubs. The long vistas and public spaces of a historic New England green have largely been lost.

Work began in September, centering on the area directly in front of the Waterman Building, where Commencement 2004 will be held. Seventeen small trees were removed and several larger trees had lower limbs removed to open up sight lines.

Mark Starrett, an associate professor of plant and soil science who participated in meetings regarding the project, says that the crabapple trees removed all were affected by foliar diseases. He adds, “Many of the shrubs in question have been deemed invasive species by the state of Vermont. The Green is the University’s front door, and it’s not a good thing to have a cluster of invasive shrubs right at the welcome mat.”

Thomas Visser, associate professor of historic preservation, participated in many of the meetings involved in developing the landscaping plans, and is confident that they honor the Green’s symbolic and historic character.

The preservationist calls the plan an opportunity to begin to “refurbish” the Green. “I’m very excited,” he says. “This will reopen some once sunny spaces in the midst of the trees and also offer new vistas of the beautiful historic buildings across the Green.”

Starrett suggests another hope for the Green’s future. “My goal is to see some elms put back on the Green,” he says. “There are now disease-resistant elms, so why not bring some of them back? Not as a monoculture, but as a reminder of the past.”

Albert's Gold

The next time you’re in Gutterson Fieldhouse, take a moment to remember the man to whom the building owes its name. Albert Lovejoy Gutterson, UVM Class of 1912, leapt to an Olympic record (7.60 meters) and a gold medal in the long jump at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm. The great Jim Thorpe won gold in the pentathlon and decathlon at those same Games, but finished well behind the UVM alumnus from Springfield, Vermont in what was then known as the “running broad jump.” Gutterson’s gold medal and track spikes are among the treasures of UVM’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

Into the Woods

The epiphany — that moment when all is clear and nothing will ever be the same — is among the Holy Grails of college life. For Jane Dobisz ’80 that insight came when she cracked open Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, an assigned reading in a UVM religion course with Professor Robert Gussner. Angels with herald trumpets and shafts of light didn’t pour down from the heavens, but more than 20 years later, Dobisz still recalls where she was (walking down Main Street) and the lines that struck her (“If you want to know if tea is hot or cold, you have to drink it yourself.”)

The clarity in Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki-roshi’s words resonated as “what I’d been looking for all of my life” and reassured Dobisz that “I wasn’t alone,” all-important to a young adult. So began a life of Zen practice that would lead to becoming a Zen Master and guiding teacher at the Cambridge Zen Center in Massachusetts. Dobisz documents another formative period of spiritual growth in her new book, The Wisdom of Solitude: A Zen Retreat in the Woods, HarperCollins.

In the winter of 1984, Dobisz “emulated the ancients” with a 100-day retreat. In a bare-bones cabin in the New England woods, she followed a strict regimen of sitting and walking meditation, chanting, work sessions chopping wood, or preparing simple meals. Solitude documents the not-so-simple process of what happens when a person of our times dares “to get my mind and body in the same place at the same time.”

The book is rich with humility and humor — Dobisz finds lessons in Zen and life in everything from the frozen rock-solid contents of her chamber pot to the temptations in a package of Lorna Doones. And she distills it down into the Zen nuggets that are so easy to understand, but often so hard to implement. “Joy comes from appreciation,” she writes. “Appreciation comes from paying attention. Paying attention is the practice of Zen.”

The author knows as well as anyone the challenge of paying attention in a busy life. Even Zen masters need day jobs and Dobisz balances her practice, teaching, and writing with being a mother, wife, and senior financial advisor. That cabin in the woods can seem very far away when you’re in traffic on I-95, a reality that is the subject of Dobisz’s next book. Tentatively titled Living It, Dobisz hopes the book will help people put Zen practice into the real world.

But don’t expect a spiritual inoculation against the trials of modern life, Dobisz cautions. If there is one misperception of Zen, she says, it is that those who practice will be forever balanced. Dobisz is quick to tell you that she gets “derailed” as much now as she did 20 years ago, but adds, “now I’m just more comfortable with my imperfections.”

Check It Out

The X President
by Philip Baruth, Bantam Books

Imagine the world fifty years in the future and chances are Bill Clinton isn’t in the picture. Not so in English Professor Philip Baruth’s new novel, where “BC” is a 109-year-old ex-president sequestered in his Arkansas compound, “outwitting decrepitude” with his state-of-the-art titanium “body-walker” and reconstructed ceramic hand, “the nation’s poster boy for raging against the dying of the light.” With America on the brink of defeat in a world war that traces its roots to the Clinton Administration…well, let’s not spoil it. Publishers Weekly wrote that “readers who thought Primary Colors was too tame will appreciate this wacky speculative fantasy.”

A Group of One's Own:
Nurturing the Woman Writer

by Laurel Lloyd Earnshaw ’84,
Karen Desrosiers, Charlene Pollano,
Deborah Regan, Susan Wereska
Story Line Press

When it comes to a publication on women’s writing groups, one could do worse than having Gloria Steinem pitching for you; Ms. Magazine’s founder calls the book “a powerful and practical guide.” Alumna Laurel Lloyd Earnshaw and friends share experience drawn from eight years of mutual support and creativity within their southern New Hampshire writers’ group. With advice on everything from finding fellow writers to finding an agent, the book could serve well as a surrogate literary circle until a novice writer finds that group of her own kindred spirits.