A new role for Bill Redell '64, Obama biographer David Maraniss speaks at Oxy, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa praises Occidental’s hillside solar array, and more
Bill Redell ’64 has stepped down as Occidental’s head football coach after a disappointing 2-7 finish in his first season with the Tigers. The College Football Hall of Famer will remain with the College as an consultant, spearheading a committee that will devise a strategic plan for Oxy athletics. “I have been very fortunate to come back and end my athletic career here,” Redell said in announcing his retirement from the sidelines. “I’m grateful to have worked with so many outstanding young men, and I’m excited to continue in my new role.” (After the Winter magazine went to press, Doug Semones, formerly an assistant head coach at Yale University, was named as Redell's successor.)
A memorial for Ravi Shankar (1920-2012), whose ’70s-era Music Circle performances played to “enraptured audiences literally hanging from the rafters” of Herrick Chapel, will take place at Herrick on January 26 at 2 p.m. The Music Circle’s service will include musical offerings, tributes from some of Shankar’s closest associates, and keepsakes for the audience. Admission is free.
The Henry Luce Foundation has awarded Occidental a four-year, $400,000 grant to further develop the College’s China-Environment Program. The grant will allow Oxy to expand its partnerships with academic and nonprofit institutions in Hong Kong and Nanjing, develop academic content on China and the environment, stimulate student and faculty exchanges, establish innovative community-based research and classroom programs, and create public forums to view China through the lens of environmental issues such as air quality, the built environment, land use and transportation, global trade, and sustainable food systems.
A gift of $400,000 from the L.A.-based Edgerton Foundation will enable Oxy to partner with The Theatre @ Boston Court and A Noise Within to create the Edgerton Foundation Theater Program. The centerpiece of the four-year program will be extended joint residencies for directors and playwrights at Occidental and the two Pasadena theaters. The program also will offer an internship and fellowship program for current Oxy students and recent graduates.
Biographer David Maraniss: Oxy Awakened Obama’s ‘Intellectual Curiosity’
Bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss returned to the scene of one of the key chapters in his critically acclaimed Barack Obama: The Story when he spoke about his presidential portrait in Thorne Hall on October 29. The audience for Maraniss’ talk—just one week before the November 6 election—included many of the president’s friends and professors, who gathered for a private dinner with Maraniss later that evening.
“When people describe the president as professorial, I take that as a compliment,” said President Jonathan Veitch, introducing Maraniss. “I am utterly unconcerned about whether he graduated from here or not. Sometimes it matters as much where you begin as where you end.”
Maraniss agreed, saying in his remarks that Obama’s first two years of college at Occidental “were a much deeper and richer experience” than his following two years at Columbia University. “Oxy reinforced his international sensibility,” he said. “Some of his friends were Pakistani, French, Indian, Chinese.” He added: “His intellectual curiosity was really awakened here. The professors here, the older students he hung out with, awakened him in a very important way. He began to feel a sense of purpose, of destiny.”
The president’s two years at Occidental are prominently featured in Maraniss’ biography, which The New York Times called “a revelatory book, which anyone interested in modern politics will want to read, and which will certainly shape our understanding of President Obama’s strengths, weaknesses, and inscrutabilities.”
Considering why Obama might have chosen to transfer to Columbia, Maraniss conjectured that it was not for any negative reasons associated with Occidental. Rather, “I think that Oxy was a little too comfortable, too beautiful—not close enough to the grit of American life. He thought going to Columbia and living in New York City would bring him closer to that.”
However, once at Columbia, Obama “receded into himself” and began an introspective journey to discover his racial, intellectual, and cultural identity, Maraniss said, pointing out that “we talked to many people there, and very few remembered him.” In contrast, “Hundreds of people at Oxy remembered Barry.”
Maraniss insisted during the Q&A portion of his talk that the publication of his biography so close to the election was incidental, not intentional. “I’m a historian and a journalist.” He stressed that he hadn’t set out to write a political analysis, but rather was just “searching for the truth wherever I would find it and trying to write the real story.” He also said that he did not get to “peek” at Obama’s grades at Oxy, but that the president had told him in an interview that his GPA was 3.7. The truth, Maraniss said, is that Obama is “an incredibly intelligent human being.”
Conversation Piece: The Occidental Gate at Jack Kemp Stadium
One of the most talked-about moments at Homecoming & Family Weekend in October was the unveiling of this new entrance to Kemp Stadium by Highland Park artist blacksmith Heather McLarty. “It is my joy, as well as my job, to transform industrial materials into soulful sculpture using fire, anvil, and hammers; mind, body, and heart,” McLarty told Huffington Post contributor Lorraine Devon Wilke (who hailed the gate as “a spectacular example of art and function”). Commissioned by President Veitch, she created the gate in her studio, a large Sioux-style teepee in her own backyard.
“Why did we pick Oxy? What they’ve done here is unique and important. They understood as a college—a great college—they have an obligation to the community.”
—Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, announcing the two largest contracts for solar power in L.A. history against the backdrop of Oxy’s new hillside solar array December 6. Once it’s up and running, it will generate about 11 percent of the College’s annual power usage.
“One would be hard pressed to find someone who has done more to further the artistic stature of American film than George.”
—Warren Beatty on George Stevens Jr. ’53, pictured, founder of the American Film Institute and the Kennedy Center Honors. Stevens was awarded an honorary Oscar on December 1 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizing his six decades of work as a producer, writer, and documentarian.
Number of views (as of press time) of a YouTube video featuring Oswald the Tiger (accompanied by a pair of admission officers) hand-delivering an early-decision acceptance letter to Frank Hernandez, a first-generation college student and a senior at the Thacher School in Ojai, on December 11. (Other letters went out through the U.S. Postal Service; Oswald can’t be everyone at once, alas.)
Number of iPads purchased with donations to the library for instructional use. Consequently, an Immunology class taught by Roberta Pollock, professor of biology and biochemistry, was selected as an iPad Pilot Project this fall. Students were provided with an iPad and purchased an electronic textbook designed specifically for the tablet. Marcella Raney, adjunct assistant professor of kinesiology, will use the iPads during a spring human anatomy course, with an emphasis on apps that help students do digital dissections.
The average salary of a mid-career Oxy graduate, according to a Wall Street Journal survey. Oxy ranked 35th in the Journal’s “SmartMoney” college rankings, which measures schools by graduates’ earning potential.
Discounted price for an unsold copy of the 1981 edition of Feast (featuring two poems by Barack Obama ’83) put up for sale at the Political, Western Legends & Americana Signature Auction in Dallas in December. There were no takers at the original estimate of $1,200-1,500. (Hang on to your copies a little while longer.)
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