Not too many years ago, Cleveland State University revived the celebration of October homecoming, a venerable tradition for schools with football teams, but a real challenge for schools like CSU that don’t have a "big game" to anchor the festivities. Yet through imagination and persistence, CSU's homecoming celebration has grown significantly, and this year's celebration, on October 18th and 19th, was a memorable one, with, among other events, a Distinguished Alumni Awards Dinner, a Healthline Classic 10K race (in which Joyce Mastboom participated!), a luncheon with the President, and a Homecoming Parade.
Homecoming this year was particularly memorable for CLASS. We inaugurated the tradition of highlighting a different selection of particular schools and departments each year. This year, our focus was on Communication, Economics, and Philosophy and Comparative Religion, and special efforts were made to draw alumni from those units back to campus. Indeed, successful alumni from the School of Communication played prominent roles during the weekend celebrations. For example, Diann Burns, the first African-American woman to anchor the prime-time news in the Chicago market, hosted Friday evening’s Distinguished Alumni Awards Dinner. Dwayne Bray, senior news editor at ESPN, was the featured alumni speaker on Saturday morning, and he gave a moving account of his life, his work at ESPN, and his passion for journalism. Thomas O’Toole, Senior Vice President of Marketing for United Airlines, was this year’s CLASS Distinguished Alumnus. These were just a few of the many Communication alumni who attended the weekend events. The Department of Economics was also well represented by alumni such as Christopher Hendryx and James Stewart. Reconnecting to alumni like these (and, indeed, all the other alumni who participated) is very important for us because when we describe who we are as a college, the picture we present will be complete only if it includes these truly impressive homegrown success stories. Judging from the alumni I met, we have much to be proud of, and I want to thank all those who worked very hard to make this weekend a success.
We also can be proud of the achievements of our faculty. We were reminded of this on October 3rd, when Peter Dunham, this year's winner of the CLASS Distinguished Teaching Award, was also awarded not only the university's Distinguished Faculty Award for Teaching but also the Jennie S. Hwang Award for Faculty Excellence. Dr. Dunham has a long record of remarkable archeological accomplishments in Belize, and in the recent past, he has focused his efforts on building up the curriculum in Anthropology. He successfully teaches several exciting courses that draw exceptionally large enrollments. These include Ant 100, Human Diversity; Ant 103, Rise and Fall of Civilizations; and Ant 275, Ancient Mysteries.
The college has been exceptionally alive in the recent past. Beyond the homecoming celebrations, Dr. Antonio Medina-Rivera organized the 5th Crossing Over Symposium, which brought in scores of humanities scholars from around the world to give presentations on topics related to border studies. The conference's keynote speaker was Junot Diaz, who won both the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. The lecture drew a very large and appreciative crowd to listen to the passionate author as he recounted his life and commented on his approach to writing and social causes.
Another large crowd gathered on October 17th to hear this year’s Butler Jones Lecture, sponsored by the Department of Sociology and Criminology. This year's speaker, Dr. Tim Black of Case Western Reserve University, described his longitudinal field study of the challenges of marginalized Puerto Rican immigrants in Massachusetts, a study which led to the publication of his award-winning book entitled When a Heart Turns Rock Solid: the Lives of Three Puerto Rican Brothers On and Off the Streets (Random House).
Yet another well attended public lecture was given on September 26th by Salvatore Mangione as a part of the Department of History's History of Medicine Lecture Series, co-sponsored by the Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Mangione's fascinating lecture was entitled "Rudolf Virchow and the Physician as Social Activist," and it uncovered the political and social reformist efforts of one of the great 19th-century pioneers of modern medicine.
Finally, on October 22nd, our own Chuck Hersch delivered a public lecture on his recently published book entitled Subversive Sounds: Race and the Birth of Jazz in New Orleans. The lecture was organized by Regennia Williams as a part of Octavofest, a month-long celebration of the book, sponsored by a consortium of local organizations, including CSU's own Michael Schwartz Library.
Our arts departments have also been active. On October 8th, for example, we heard the first John Flower Faculty Concert, broadcast live on WCLV. The evening featured lively performances not only the CSU Faculty Jazz Septet (including John Perrine, Bob Fraser, Glenn Holmes, Joe Miller, Bill Ransom, Jason Smith, and Rock Werhmann) but also the CSU Student Jazz Quartet (including Brent Hamker, Dan Fernandez, Phil Jones, and Aidan Plank). We were certainly well represented by both groups on this festive evening.
There is so much live music on campus that I hesitate to single out one performance or another. However, I did also want to mention the concert of the JACK Quartet, which took place on September 16th under the auspices of the Cleveland Contemporary Players Artist in Residency Series. Every year in this series Andy Rindfleisch features some of the most cutting-edge contemporary music, and this concert was a good example of how dynamic such music can be. (Interestingly enough, the concert also included an example of "cutting-edge" 14th-century music, Angelorum Psalat, by Rodericus.) What made the evening particularly memorable was that the JACK Quartet played the world premiere of Dr. Rindfleisch's most recent composition, entitled String Quartet, No. 2. It made for a wonderful evening of good listening.
The Galleries at CSU opened in August and featured the paintings of Cuban-born Clevelander Augusto Bordelois. Mr. Bordelois' paintings, featuring a haunting style reminiscent of magical-realism, were truly impressive. The next exhibitions open on October 25th. One is entitled "Two Minds... One Canvas: The Collaborative Work of Jo Gelbard and Miles Davis," and, yes, that is Miles Davis the late jazz legend. The second contains a site-specific installation called "Analog Immigration" by Polish sculptor Przemysław Jasielski, who is also a visiting Polish artist in our Polish Studies initiative, directed by Ed Horowitz. Mr. Jasielski’s presence on campus illustrates another valuable CSU/community partnership because he was brought to this country by the Cleveland Sculpture Center and funded by a Creative Fusion grant from the Cleveland Foundation. We are grateful for our partnership with the Sculpture Center.
Beyond inviting a promising young Polish artist to campus, CLASS continues to move forward in creating opportunities for international education in CLASS. China, of course, is still one of the largest potential sources of new international students as well as an exciting destination not only for study abroad but also for teaching English as a second language. I will be going to China in early November with Qingshan Tan and Angelin Chang to finalize agreements with three Chinese universities—Jilin University in Changchun, Northeastern University in Shenyang, and Guangxi University in Nanning. All three of these universities have expressed a strong interest in developing academic ties with CLASS in the areas of music, political science, and English language and literature, and we will be exploring other possible areas in which CLASS can become a valued international partner and further enrich our offerings in international education.
In the end, in fact, our efforts will be judged, at least in part, by the quality of the intellectual and artistic environments we provide our students. This survey of recent CLASS activity suggests that we do continue to build a rich context within which our students can thrive academically. Moreover, we have created this environment by means of engaged partnerships with key stakeholders, both local and international. The final proof of our continuing success, however, is seen in the amazing careers of our returning alumni, which we get to celebrate each year at homecoming... even without a "big game."
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