Whitman’s 2015 Rankings

Once again, Whitman College received nods from some of the most widely read college ranking publications in the country.

In its annual “Best Colleges” rankings release, U.S. News and World Report awarded Whitman an overall ranking of 40 among the nation’s liberal arts colleges. The college earned that spot in part because of its 87 percent graduation rate and 94 percent retention rate of first-year students.

The Princeton Review’s “Best 380 Colleges” list also ranked Whitman in the top 20 in 12 categories, from Best Classroom Experience (12th) to Best Quality of Life (9th), while Kiplinger’s Personal Finance named Whitman one of the 100 best values in liberal arts colleges for 2015. The ranking cites four-year schools that combine outstanding academics with affordable cost. Whitman College is ranked 29th on the list of liberal arts colleges and 51st in the combined list of all private and public colleges.

Forbes’ 2015 rankings of top colleges and universities ranked Whitman as the top college in the Pacific Northwest. When looking solely at liberal arts colleges, Forbes ranked Whitman at 21 in the nation and at 41 when looking at all private colleges.

Whitman also appeared at the top of several lists naming the healthiest and fittest colleges and universities, in publications such as Great Value Colleges, The Active Times, Greatist.com, and even MTV.

Boyer & Park Hits Newsstands in Walla Walla

This fall saw the publication of the inaugural issue of Boyer & Park, a new community-oriented magazine designed to highlight the connections between the campus and the town, and to build on Whitman College’s relationship with its Walla Walla neighbors.

Distributed to approximately 7,500 homes in Walla Walla—as well as to downtown businesses and on campus—Boyer & Park features stories which center on organizations and individuals from the Walla Walla community, with Whitman College appearing only as a small player in those stories. The magazine also includes a list of public events for the following six months.

The new publication was created with guidance from several staff members who are Walla Walla natives.

“This new publication does a fantastic job highlighting how Walla Walla and Whitman interact in ways that enhance the quality of life for all area residents,” said Associate Dean of Students Noah Leavitt, who contributed to the new magazine’s direction. “We all share this special piece of the map.”

Boyer & Park was produced by the Whitman Magazine team. To read it online, go to whitman.edu/boyer-park.

Bob Carson Gathers a History of Walla Walla in Many Waters

Many WatersBob Carson, the Grace Farnsworth Phillips professor of geology, emeritus, tells the unique story of the Walla Walla Valley in his recently published book Many Waters: Natural History of the Walla Walla Valley and Vicinity.

While many books have been written about the region, Many Waters is the first natural history of the valley. “My earlier books had lots of science and lots of pictures,” Carson said. “I wanted this book to be more ’Renaissance,’ more liberal arts, more environmental.”

Part of the book’s Renaissance appeal lies in its format: Carson gathered work from writers, artists, photographers, scientists, teachers and explorers with an abiding love for the Walla Walla Valley to help bring his vision to life. Many Waters features works by Whitman alumni, as well as members of the community: from paintings by noted Northwest landscape artist Leslie Williams Cain ’75 (right) to poems by faculty member Katrina Roberts and staff member Janice King; from essays on fishing and terroir by Scott Elliott and Kevin Pogue to the geographic and geologic history of the valley, as told by Carson and others. Images by 16 photographers, including magazine visual editor Matt Banderas ’04, illustrate the magnificent landscapes, beautiful flowers and interesting birds and mammals of the Walla Walla region.

George Bridges, former president of Whitman College, called the book an “exhilarating collection [which] captures the complexity and spectacular uniqueness of the Walla Walla area.”

Many Waters was publishd by Keokee Books. Go to keokeebooks.com for more information.

Whitman Alumni Celebrate 2015 Reunion Weekend

Reunion paradeDuring the last weekend of September, alumni, families and friends of Whitman gathered to celebrate Reunion Weekend 2015, adding nearly 800 people to the campus community.

This marks the second combined Reunion Weekend, with 12 classes celebrating at the same time: the 10th reunion of the Class of 2005; the 20th reunion of the Classes of 1994, 1995 and 1996; the 25th reunion of the Class of 1990; the 40th reunion of the Class of 1975; the 45th reunion of the Classes of 1969, 1970 and 1971; and the 50 Plus reunions of the Classes of 1950, 1955 and 1960.

Several new traditions have been established since the new reunion model was introduced last year, including a Friday night party for all classes, a Saturday Parade of Classes (pictured on the next page), a reception honoring the Alumni Award winners and Reunion Convocation—an opportunity for all classes to be recognized by and to hear from President Kathleen Murray.

Another change is the concentration of events held on campus. Feedback from alumni has been positive on this change in particular.

“The best part was the various times classmates could come together by happenstance or by purpose to visit with one another,” said Evans Van Buren ’71. “I think this was benefited by having the events on campus.”

Borleske Stadium Gets New Indoor Batting Cages

There will soon be a place for local baseball players to practice their batting, no matter what the weather is like, thanks to new indoor batting cages currently under construction at Borleske Stadium.

The new facility will be used year-round by the Whitman College Men’s Baseball Team, the Walla Walla Sweets, and elementary and middle school students who attend camps at Borleske Stadium.

Brian KitamuraIndoor cages will allow players to practice in any weather and at any time of year. The lit facility will also allow for practice after sundown, which is common during the fall and early spring.

The encompassing structure for the indoor cages will be made of steel, which is durable and weather-resistant. Inside, there will be three hitting tunnels with raised pitching areas made of clay. The netting inside the new facilities will roll back, allowing for a full turf space for defensive work or three open bullpens. This allows pitchers and hitters to train together.

Whitman College Men’s Baseball Head Coach Brian Kitamura ’10 (above) says that, with the turf indoors, the team will be able to do a lot defensively: hit ground balls, have pitcher fielding practice and work on position fundamentals with specific groups. It will also allow large groups of school-age players in the space during clinics and camps.
“Having this space available for practices, camps and clinics is phenomenal,”
said Kitamura. “We will be able to do so much more with our players and the community. This upgrade to Borleske Stadium—on top of the improvements made over the past few years—makes it one of the top venues in our region and all of NCAA Division III baseball.”

Gifts from Whitman alumni families provided the funding for this facility, which is due to be completed this month.

Siri Smith ’12 on Her Path After Whitman to Ai Weiwei

For Siri Smith ’12, a Chinese art history class changed the course of her life, starting her on a path toward working as a project coordinator for Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei.

“I’m basically the liaison between Weiwei’s team and the museum directors, gallerists and curators,” Smith explained. “For something like the Royal Academy exhibition, I write artwork descriptions for the curators to understand the background behind Weiwei’s work.”

Smith came to Whitman not knowing what she wanted to do, but her vision for her future crystallized when she took an art history course and bought a hard copy of Ai’s blog.

“Being allowed to take classes in art history, math, economics and Asian studies collectively led me to China,” she said. “During senior year, I based all my college papers around China. Trying to understand its culture and economic growth became this sort of obsession.”

The Whitman in China program brought her closer to her dream.

“When I was teaching in Xi’an, I flew to Beijing and called up an art dealer I had a distant connection with. I told him I wanted to work for Weiwei and sent him my resume.”

A year passed. Then a job with Weiwei’s studio opened up, and the artist flew her to Beijing and gave her a room in his studio.

“I left a steady job in finance, a serious boyfriend, and all my Whitman friends and family living in Seattle,” she said. “I had no idea what I would be doing at the studio. If I ever had a passion, Ai Weiwei was it, but it was a huge risk to come to China. Probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done.”

At the studio, Smith did odd jobs for about a month. Then, she got her big break when Ai asked her to be project manager for an exhibition in the defunct Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, titled @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz.

The exhibition featured the enormous wing-like sculpture Refraction. After the exhibition, Smith paved the way for the sculpture to take up residence for the next year on the lawn beside the Fouts Center for Visual Arts.

Her job has also allowed her to do some pretty cool things, from editing a book for the Iraq Pavilion in the Venice Biennale consisting of drawings from three refugee camps in Iraqi Kurdistan to working with filmmaker Laura Poitras, who won an Academy Award for Citizenfour, her documentary on Edward Snowden.
The project was a short film about Ai and Jacob Appelbaum, a journalist and hacker who, as Snowden’s confidant, helped to release documents about government surveillance.

While Smith’s job allows her to pursue her passion, she hasn’t stopped setting goals for herself.

“I want to get into an MBA with a focus in international development,” she said. “I’m thinking about international non-governmental organization work. I think whatever I do in the future will always lead back to Weiwei in some way or another.”

New Book in Honor of Tom Cronin

The Quest for Leadership coverEmeritus Whitman College president Tom Cronin was recently presented with a book published in his honor at a meeting of the American Political Science Association.

The book, The Quest for Leadership: Thomas E. Cronin and His Influence of Presidential Studies and Political Science, was inspired by Cronin’s outstanding scholarship on the subject of presidency and leadership.

“I was totally surprised by this book honoring my academic work,” Cronin said.  

In the book, some of the top scholars in the nation, including Whitman history professor David Schmitz, weigh in on the state of leadership in their particular areas of expertise. The book evaluates the leadership successes and failures of U.S. presidents on a wide range of issues, reviews America’s standing as a world leader, looks at leadership in higher education and looks at the role of chief justices in the global corporate context. 

Cronin is known as one of the most respected presidency scholars in the nation, and he is one of the most influential leadership scholars.

“I have been blessed to have dream jobs as a scholar in my field as well as 12 wonderful years as president of Whitman College,” Cronin said. “I am especially grateful to my faculty colleagues at Whitman who encouraged me in both of these challenges.”   
 
The book is available through Cambria Press.

Community Mourns the Loss of Tom Zbyszewski ’17

Whitman College students are known for their volunteerism and service to their community, and Tom Zbyszewski ’17 was no exception. He spent two summers as a firefighter, and when wildfires threatened the Methow Valley in Washington state, his summer job became a way to help people in the area where he grew up and where his parents live.

Tom Zbyszewski ’17Spending summers fighting fires made perfect sense for Zbyszewski. His father, Richard, and his mother, Jennifer, had both been firefighters. It was something he loved to do.

On August 19, 2015, as he was due to start his junior year at Whitman, Zbyszewski and fellow firefighters Andrew Zajac and Richard Wheeler died near Twisp, Washington, when fire overcame them. The loss was heartbreaking for his parents and the Whitman community.

On a memorial page set up on Whitman’s website, Karen Voorhees, mother of Galen Voorhees ’17, shared a condolence message to the Zbyszewski family: “I think the seeds that Tom sowed by his presence at Whitman will come forth over time. Someday the charred landscape of grief will be like the forest recovering after a fire, with pioneer plants pushing up through the rubble and fresh growth making a new landscape. It may be invisible to the eye but clear to the spirit.”

At Whitman, Zbyszewski was actively engaged in the campus community. He studied physics and Chinese, and he was involved in theater. He had roles in the Instant Play Festival and the One Act Play Contest, and he also took to the Harper Joy Theatre stage during the productions of Three Tall Women and Ukulele.

Thousands, including Washington Governor Jay Inslee, attended a memorial service for the three firefighters in Wenatchee, Washington, on August 30. A service in memory of Zbyszewski was also held on Whitman’s campus this fall.

During the service, Jennifer Zbyszewski said, “I’ve come to realize at the end of any given day, or at the end of a life, the only thing that matters is how many people you love and how many people love you. So I would ask each of you to carry on Tom’s legacy, and always have kind words for everyone that you meet, and genuinely support people, especially those that seem to be on the fringe of your definition of society. All that any of us have in this world is each other, and that human connection that we all share. So for Tom’s sake, just don’t squander that.”