From Jonathan Veitch

A Double Play, the Global Way

What do the Chicago Cubs have to do with Oxy's strategic commitment to global citizenship and the country's premier undergraduate United Nations program? Let me take a swing at an explanation.

 

 

This spring, with the formal dedication of the McKinnon Center for Global Affairs, Oxy moved into the top ranks of liberal arts colleges devoted to international affairs, a group that includes Middlebury and Macalester. For the first time, many of Oxy's strongest and most distinctive programs—diplomacy and world affairs, politics, United Nations, overseas study—are housed in a single, central location. And what a location: Architect Hagy Belzberg has transformed a dark, dingy labyrinth of narrow halls and cramped classrooms in Johnson Hall into a dramatic, flexible, innovative public space where the excitement of intellectual endeavor—and liberal arts education in general—is made visible to all.

The McKinnon Center is now a space where Oxy students, whether here in Eagle Rock or anywhere in the world, can collaborate and display their research—work that incorporates not just traditional narrative but video and audio, infographics and images. If brevity truly is the soul of wit, then condensing a thesis into a handful of maps, graphs, and photographs is the soul of an argument—one that can be displayed on multiple screens to provoke a debate or spur further collaboration, or supplemented with breaking news on an adjacent screen. Like most innovations, this approach won't supplant what we do now. Rather, it will enhance and extend what we do in hybridized fashion. Most of all, the McKinnon Center will be a place for experimentation. What it is now may not be what it is next year or five years from now, as our students and faculty push the technology and its capacities further. Certainly the lessons we learn from the McKinnon Center will inform our thinking as we move ahead with the transformation of Clapp Library into the Academic Commons.

While it's easy to dwell on the dramatic beauty of Hagy's design and what it allows us to do as an educational institution, I think it's equally important to recognize the virtuous circle of giving that made it all possible. This is where the Cubs come in.

The McKinnon Center really began eight years ago when Occidental received one of its largest gifts ever—an $11-million bequest from the late John Parke Young of the Class of 1917 and his wife, Marie. That magnificent vote of support for global programs at Oxy inspired Ian McKinnon '89 and his wife, Sonnet, to see the value of giving global affairs a central and highly visible presence on campus. The fruit of their generosity, in turn, inspired the Choi family to underwrite the cost of restoring the College's original auditorium to its rightful role as one of the most attractive and useful spaces on campus. And that has led to yet another major gift, a pledge of $5.5 million from Elizabeth and Bill Kahane '70 to endow Oxy's United Nations program in New York City, which for the last three decades has laid the foundation for the careers of some of our most distinguished graduates.

Baseball fans know that the phrase "Tinker to Evers to Chance" is code for a brand of seamless team play that led the Chicago Cubs to back-to-back World Series championships in 1907 and 1908. The 6-4-3 combination of shortstop Joe Tinker, second baseman Johnny Evers, and first baseman Frank Chance was immortalized in "Baseball's Sad Lexicon," a 1910 poem by news­paper columnist (and unhappy New York Giants fan) Franklin Pierce Adams.

Over the last several years, we've had the good fortune to witness our own version of that kind of seamless team play. Instead of Tinker to Evers to Chance, we have the McKinnons to the Chois to the Kahanes—the chief difference being that instead of inspiring lamentations, our team sparks celebrations. I only wish I were poet enough to do them justice. But I know we all look forward to our next double play. Perhaps today's hapless Cubbies could even take a page out of our playbook. It couldn't hurt.

Jonathan Veitch, President