May 19, 2008

Volume 2, issue 38
May 19, 2008
The Fountain

Whitman celebrates 385 graduates at commencement

Bob Carson, the Grace Farnsworth Phillips Professor of Geology and Environmental Studies; Robert Fontenot, professor of mathematics and recipient of the 2008 A. E. Lange Award for Distinguished Science Teaching; and David Schmitz, Robert Allen Skotheim Chair of History and recipient of the 2008 Robert Y. Fluno Award for Distinguished Teaching in Social Sciences, walk the commencement processional.

Blue skies and warm weather greeted the 4,000-plus graduates, guests, faculty and staff in attendance at Whitman’s 126th commencement ceremonies honoring the 385 students of the class of 2008.

President George Bridges thanked parents, grandparents, step-parents and step-grandparents for the support given to students. He also thanked the faculty and staff members for their hard work and numerous contributions.

Speaker William Gates Sr., co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said that although it is traditional to praise the graduates on commencement day, he also wanted to praise the parents for their achievements. “I never could get my son to finish college. How did you do it?” The text of his speech is available online.

For more information, including faculty award winners, see this Whitman news release. The text of all four baccalaureate addresses can be found here.

Faculty tenure, promotions, appointment announced

Provost and Dean of the Faculty Lori Bettison-Varga reports that the recommendations for tenure, promotion and appointment have been “advanced to and approved by the Board of Trustees. Please join me in congratulating and celebrating these individuals who have been recognized for their accomplishments.”

  • Tenure and promotion to rank of associate professor effective with the 2008-09 academic year: Kay Fenimore-Smith (education) and Elizabeth Vandiver (classics)
  • Tenure effective with the 2008-09 academic year: Karl Storchmann (economics)
  • Promotion to the rank of professor effective with the 2008-09 academic year: Julie Charlip (history) and Roberta Davidson (English)
  • Appointment as Garrett Fellow effective with the 2008-09 academic year: Patrick Frierson (philosophy) and Jeanne Morefield (politics)
  • Appointed to endowed professorship: Elizabeth Vandiver, Clement Biddle Penrose Professorship of Latin

Robert Tobin accepts Clark University position

Robert Deam Tobin, Cushing Eells Professor and Chair of the Humanities, has announced that he will be “moving on” to accept an offer to become the Henry J. Leir Chair in Foreign Languages and Cultures at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. Tobin, who received the Edwards Award for Excellence in the Integration of Teaching and Scholarship at commencement ceremonies Sunday, May 18, joined the Whitman faculty in 1989. He said in a campus e-mail that working with the Whitman community has been a privilege and a pleasure, but that the offer from Clark University was simply “irresistible.” The “visionary” position, although located in the foreign languages department, is independent of any specific language, said Tobin. “Instead, the Leir Chair’s responsibility is to design courses that bring together students of various languages, literatures, and cultures, while also reaching out to other departments with interdisciplinary courses.” Tobin’s baccalaureate address is online here.

Staff Profile: Tamara Tinhof
Director of Donor Relations and Communications

  • Office: Development
  • Birthplace: Pendleton, Ore., but I grew up in Walla Walla.
  • Education: AA from Walla Walla Community College, paralegal certification Portland Community College and, as of Sunday, bachelor of arts in philosophy from Whitman.
  • Years at Whitman: Seven
  • Favorite…
    • Books: Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche and Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. I compared them in my philosophy thesis.
    • Films: “Donnie Darko,” “The Last Picture Show” and “Queen Margot” are favorites. I like to check out art house and foreign films.
    • Music: These days, I mostly listen to alternative/folk rock: Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Bright Eyes, Iron and Wine, Mason Jennings. But I still have great affection for the hard rock of my youth, like Guns N’ Roses and Metallica.
    • Plays: I enjoy watching my daughter participate in musical theater. I love the energy the actors bring to a live performance and hearing my daughter sing, of course.
  • Favorite sculpture on campus: “Three Stories” by my Wa-Hi classmate Squire Broel.
  • Best travel experience: I spent four days completely alone and without a plan in Boston. I wandered around taking in everything as it came to me and doing whatever I pleased from moment to moment. It was great.
  • Interests/pleasures: Now that I’m done with classes, I’m looking forward to having more time to read some Hesse, watch more foreign films, attend a rock concert or two, and take my daughter to some touring Broadway shows.
  • Recent accomplishment: Passing writtens (exams) earlier this spring. It has taken seven years to complete my degree one class at a time, so I had a lot of time to forget what I had learned in early classes.
  • What people don't know about me: I don't think I want to go much further with this than Guns N’ Roses!
  • A day in the life/on the job: Lots of writing. Thank you letters, donor proposals, reports and updates, plus some donor event planning and arranging for donor recognition, such as signage.
  • Favorite aspect of Whitman: An abundance of ideas and encouragement for expressing them.
  • What I've learned here: As a staff member, to communicate more accurately and persuasively, and as a student, what it means to attempt to follow where the logos lead.
  • Quote: "Those who were dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." — Nietzsche

Editor’s Note: Tamara graduated from Whitman with a degree in philosophy, cum laude, at Commencement 2008. Her mother, Catherine Tinhof ’87, who also was a nontraditional student in her years at Whitman, was in the audience as was Tamara’s 17-year-old daughter, Sierra.

Faculty Accomplishments

Helen Kim, assistant professor of sociology, was a featured presenter at the annual conference of Be’Chol Lashon International Think Tank — a Bay Area initiative dedicated to fostering diversity in Jewish life — and she was quoted about conversion to Judaism in an article titled “Think Tank Aims To Infuse Jewish Mainstream With Dashes of Color” in the Jewish Daily Forward, the nation’s oldest national Jewish newspaper and in Ha’aretz, Israel’s largest daily newspaper. Her husband, former adjunct professor Noah Leavitt, is Jewish. He is the president of Walla Walla’s Congregation Beth Israel, and Kim serves on the board of directors.

Professor’s success with “mean and lowly things” continues to climb

Not everyone would consider finding a rattlesnake amid the rocks and wild grass at Palouse Falls a “lucky break.” But Kate Jackson, assistant professor of biology, was pleased to find this western rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) and share it with her herpetology students on a recent field trip.

Pictured: The members of Bio 472: Biology and Amphibians and Reptiles are, left to right: Jackson, Willie Kunkel ’09, Brittany Smith ’08, Adam Knappe ’08, Katie Moyer ’09, Keven Moore ’09, and photographer (not pictured) Aaron David ’08.

Jackson will soon trade the arid West for the jungles of the Republic of Congo, where she will continue her ongoing project to document the area’s reptile fauna this summer. Jackson is the author of Mean and Lowly Things: Snakes, Science and Survival in the Congo (Harvard University Press, April 2008), which at press time had an Amazon ranking of 5 out of 5 stars; was ranked No. 8,771 in books (see Bestsellers in Books) and was popular in the following categories:

  • No. 1 in Books » Outdoors & Nature » Fauna » Reptiles & Amphibians;
  • No. 2 in Books » Travel » Canada; and
  • No. 2 in Books » Travel » Africa.

Whitman Cycling Club receives $500 gift
Above, left to right: Michael Austin, Beth Swanson, Steve Rapp, Dean Snider, Andrew J. Aviza ’09, Duncan McGovern ’10, Lori Bettison-Varga, provost and dean of the faculty.

Steve Rapp, race director of Tour of Walla Walla, presented a $500 check to Dean Snider, director of athletics, to be given to the Whitman Cycling Club. The Tour of Walla Walla race committee invited the cycling club members to participate in the race, raised money to support their participation, and last Tuesday gave the club $500. Orbea, a Whitman team sponsor, donated two top-of-the-line bikes to be raffled as a money-maker. The winners of the Orbea Bicycle Raffle were announced at the race’s Sunday Criterium: Mark Emsting, visiting from Canada, won the women’s Orbea Aqua, which he gave to his fiancé. Lars Smith, Whitman electrician, won the men’s Orbea Aqua.

Welcome to the Whitman Family

Robert Morrison, associate professor of religion, and his wife, Dana Gold, announce the birth of their first child: daughter Aziza Gold Morrison was born May 6, 2008. Weight: 7 lbs., 7.5 oz.; height 21". “Having never been a parent before, I have been struck by how significant the experience is to those who already have children. We’re kind of tired, but happy,” Morrison says. Though the Morrison Gold family is leaving Whitman to be near their family in New England, they’ll be here through June.

In case you missed it…

Jim Buchan’s Sunday, May 18, Union-Bulletin article on Whitman athletics and the Sherwood renovation is here.

Whitman College
In This Issue
Tenure, appointments
Robert Tobin
Staff Profile:
Tamara Tinhof
Faculty Accomplishments
Kate Jackson
Cycle team
New baby
Sherwood update

Past issues

The Fountain is published by the Office of Communications. Send news to Editor Lenel Parish at Photos are accepted. Submissions are due by Tuesday at 5 p.m. for the following week's issue. Editorial Assistant: Marcy Manker ’10. Director of Communications: Ruth Wardwell. Online: