Before you take off for holiday break, remember that a few simple energy saving actions can make a big difference in helping Harvard University meet its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2016. In this month’s Green Tip, the Office for Sustainability (OFS) challenges us all to take part in the “Turn Off and Take Off Challenge.” The tip includes a link which allows you to add a holiday break shutdown list to your Outlook calendar as a reminder to help save energy before you leave for the holiday.According to the EPA, the energy used by a building to support just one office worker for a day causes over two more times greenhouse gas emissions than if that person was driving to and from work (we know that most of the Harvard community already makes the green choice to take public transit, walk, or bike to work so remember this is just for comparison).As part of the Turn Off and Take Off Challenge, OFS encourages staff and students to take the following actions before they leave on break:Turn down the heat – a 5 degree setback can save you 5% on your energy bill.Pull the plug – in the kitchen, office, and dorm room. “Phantom Loads” add up fast and can account for 8% of energy use or $100/year!o Computer/monitor/printer/fax and copy machineo Coffee makers, tea kettles, microwaves and applianceso Unplug the power stripsTurn off what you can’t unplug.Close/shut all: o Windowso Storm windows, where applicable – storm windows can prevent 25-50% of heat loss through windows.o BlindsLast one out the door shuts off the main lights.Check-in with the facilities team to learn your building and School specific shutdown procedures.Let your facilities team know if you see any leaky faucets/toilets or if you have any trouble with windows, thermostats, or lights during your shutdown.At the Harvard Law School, the Facilities and Sustainability teams found the savings from energy saving actions taken by students and staff to be substantial. Behavior related programming such as holiday shutdowns, temperature policy adherence and room scheduling led to a savings of 781 Million BTU’s in December ’10 compared to December ’09. That works out to just over $39,000 in energy bills and 43.4 Metric Tons of greenhouse gas emissions avoided.
Monty Python may claim credit for immortalizing the “silly walk,” but molecular biology beat the comedy troupe to the punch. It turns out that a tiny motor inside of us called dynein, one tasked with shuttling vital payloads throughout the cell’s intricate highway infrastructure, staggers like a drunken sailor, quite contrary to the regular, efficient poise of its fellow motors.But researchers, led by Harvard Medical School Assistant Professor of Cell Biology Samara Reck-Peterson, believe dynein’s theatrical strut and apparent inefficiency may help keep cells alive and healthy.These findings appear online Jan. 8 in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.Molecular motors, built from proteins, are a kind of transport service that keep cells functioning. They traffic essential chemical packages between the heart of the cell, the nucleus, and the cell periphery. In elongated cells such as neurons, this can be a big commute in cellular miles, equivalent to a person walking from Boston to Manhattan. The constant shuttling of materials by motors keeps cells alive and allows cells to move and divide, and talk to their neighbors.It’s no surprise, then, that when these motors stop functioning, serious problems can result. In fact, defects in dynein-based transport have been linked to Lou Gehrig’s and Parkinson’s disease and the neurodevelopmental disease lissencephaly.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7AQVbrmzFw]To understand how this essential protein machine works, Reck-Peterson and colleagues decided to study the dynamics of motor movement on the nanoscale by developing protein engineering methods and then implementing single molecule imaging technologies.First, they purified dynein motors, whose “legs” were tagged with fluorescent markers, and microtubules, long filaments that serve as dynein’s highway. Next, they put these components on a microscope slide and directly visualized dynein motors stepping along microtubule tracks.“Dynein is critical for the function of every cell in our bodies,” said Reck-Peterson. “Deciphering the walking mechanism of this and other tiny machines may one day shed light on the molecular origins of certain diseases.”This research was funded by the Rita Allen Foundation, the American Heart Association, the Armenise-Harvard Foundation, and a National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Award. Harvard affiliated co-authors included Weihong Qiu, Nathan Derr, Brian Goodman, and William Shih.
Harvard University President Drew Faust announced today that David Hempton will become dean of Harvard Divinity School, effective July 1. Hempton, the Alonzo L. McDonald Family Professor of Evangelical Theological Studies at the Divinity School, succeeds William A. Graham, who last September announced his intention to step down from the post at the end of this academic year.“David Hempton is an internationally recognized historian of Christianity with an exceptionally distinguished scholarly record,” said Faust, in announcing the appointment. “His broad-ranging interests in religion, political culture, identity, and ethnic conflict, and the history and theology of Evangelical Protestantism make him particularly well-suited to advance the understanding of religion at Harvard and in this religiously pluralistic world. His incisive intellect and high-level engagement with both the scholarly and administrative issues at the School will serve him well as dean, and I am delighted that he has agreed to take on this leadership role.”“I am grateful to President Faust for this opportunity, and I am honored and humbled to be asked to serve as the next dean of the Harvard Divinity School,” said Hempton. “I look forward to working with colleagues at the Divinity School to build on the progress made over the last decade in expanding and strengthening the faculty across a range of fields and broadening the scope of the education offered. I also welcome the opportunity to engage with colleagues in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and across the University to improve Harvard’s approach to the study of religion at the undergraduate and graduate levels and to enliven our engagement with religious and ethical questions more broadly.”A prominent scholar focusing on global Christianity, Hempton is a native of Northern Ireland and former director of the School of History in the Queen’s University of Belfast. Hempton arrived at Harvard in 2007 from Boston University, where he was University Professor and professor of the history of Christianity. In 2008, he was named the Divinity’s School “Outstanding Teacher of the Year.”As director of the School of History in the Queen’s University of Belfast, Hempton had broad authority over budget and management, faculty recruitment and curriculum, and preparation for the national university research and teaching assessments. Hempton has also served as an external consultant for the Open University and the British Broadcasting Corp. in the design of multimedia course offerings in the history of Christianity.Hempton is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and a former chairman of the Wiles Trust, founded in 1951 to promote innovative thinking on the history of civilization, broadly conceived. He has held fellowships from the Wolfson and Nuffield Foundations and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has been a visiting scholar at St. John’s College Oxford, and has delivered various endowed lectures, including the Cadbury Lectures at the University of Birmingham (1994) and the F.D. Maurice Lectures at King’s College London (2000).Hempton is the author of many books and articles, including: “Methodism and Politics in British Society, 1750-1850” (Stanford University Press, 1984), winner of the Whitfield prize of the Royal Historical Society; “Methodism in Irish Society 1770-1830,” proxime accessit for the Alexander Medal of the Royal Historical Society (1986); (with Myrtle Hill) “Evangelical Protestantism in Ulster Society 1740-1890” (Routledge, 1992); “Religion and Political Culture in Britain and Ireland: From the Glorious Revolution to the Decline of Empire” (Cambridge University Press, 1996), shortlisted for the Ewart-Biggs Memorial prize; “The Religion of the People: Methodism and Popular Religion c. 1750-1900” (Routledge, 1996); “Faith and Enlightenment” in the “New Oxford History of the British Isles” (OUP, 2002); “Methodism: Empire of the Spirit” (Yale University Press, 2005), winner of the Jesse Lee Prize; “Evangelical Disenchantment: Nine Portraits of Faith and Doubt” (Yale University Press, 2008); and “The Church in the Long Eighteenth Century” (I.B. Tauris, 2011).Having recently completed a study of global Christianity in the early modern period, he is currently engaged on a comparative study of secularization in Europe and America from the 18th century to the present.Hempton is married to Louanne Hempton, and has two grown children, Stephen and Jonney.
This is one in a series of profiles showcasing some of Harvard’s stellar graduates.Brent Suter flat-out loves helping others. No life-changing experience spurred him to enter the public service arena. He’s just built that way.In fact, Suter’s coming-of-age story is fairly standard: a natural athlete, the Midwestern-born Suter played baseball and basketball from a young age. Always academically strong, he was also involved in student government at his Catholic high school in Cincinnati, and worked with organizations like Big Brother and Little Buddies. During his senior year, Suter’s pitching really took off, earning the attention of Harvard coaches.His left-handedness makes him a valuable commodity, but Suter is not just the exceptional sportsman. He’s the exceptional all-arounder. During his years at Harvard, Suter maintained his affinity for helping others, simply because he has “always loved serving the community.”“It does give me this sense of joy to see the happiness you can bring to other people’s lives,” he said. “But overall, it’s a necessary thing to give back to the community to remind yourself of how blessed you are, and to use the position you’re in to help others who sometimes aren’t so fortunate.”This year, Suter was one of 30 national athletes nominated for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. To be eligible, a student-athlete must be an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character, and competition.Suter, a double concentrator in environmental science and public policy and a pre-med student, is a third-year volunteer tutoring first-generation immigrant third- and fourth-graders in literacy and math at the Cambridge After School Program of Phillips Brooks House Association. He’s the baseball team’s central figure in its Friends of Jaclyn program, which benefits Alex Wawrzyniak, who suffers from pilocytic astrocytoma low grade glioma, a form of cerebral tumor. Suter is also active with the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter and the student group Athletes in Action, and he is co-chair of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. There, he was instrumental in leading events such as the Bench Press for Breast Cancer in 2010 and 2011, shoe drives for Africa, toiletry drives for the homeless, and charity balls.But wait — there’s more.Last year, Suter founded the Harvard Baseball-Watertown Cuniff Elementary Program. Harvard baseball players travel each Friday to the elementary school to tutor and mentor students in an effort to provide a positive male role model in their lives. “A couple of weeks ago, the school invited us over for a schoolwide pep rally,” recalled Suter. “And then they all came out to our game against Boston College at home, and they gave us a lot of cheers, and it was a lot of fun. We ended up winning the game. It was a really special moment.”Now, Suter’s off to Indianapolis to teach remedial math for Teach For America — unless the majors come calling. “I really want to play professional ball,” said Suter, who is awaiting the June draft. “I’ve had interest from a lot of teams, so we’ll see.”The pitcher, who throws in the high 80s to lower 90s, said that while at Harvard he has “grown from a boy to a man.”“My four years here have been wonderful. Even the baseball losses taught me good lessons about perseverance, and just taking a step back to realize how lucky we are,” he said.Perhaps Suter’s one regret was not making the cut during a singing tryout for one of Harvard’s campus music groups. His talents and activities are enough to ruin one’s self-esteem forever: music on top of Harvard, on top of baseball, on top of volunteering?“But,” said Suter, laughing, “I’ve actually wanted to do more in my college career.”
John Harwood, chief Washington correspondent for CNBC and a political writer for The New York Times, has been tapped to lead the Nieman Foundation’s Advisory Board. A Nieman Fellow in the class of 1990, he has served on the board since 2006.Harwood takes the reins from William O. Wheatley Jr., NF ’77, who finished his term as head of Nieman’s advisory board last year. The board, composed of leading journalists, Harvard advisors and media specialists, serves in a consultative role on issues related to the foundation’s work and future prospects.Harwood’s work for The New York Times includes reporting and writing for the regular politics and government blog “The Caucus.” He was previously the political editor and chief political correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, where he also covered Congress and the White House. He is a regular contributor to NBC’s Nightly News and “Washington Week” on PBS.
The Football Players Health Study at Harvard University released a set of recommendations today on issues affecting the health of National Football League (NFL) players. Among its major recommendations, the study said that club medical staffs should not have divided loyalties between players and clubs.The study also suggested further research into the health effects of playing football, and said that health care improvements should never be a bargaining chip in negotiating sessions between the NFL and the players union.A research initiative composed of data from several ongoing studies, the report, which is nearly 500 pages long, is based on an analysis performed over two years by researchers from The Petrie-Flom Center at Harvard Law School. It’s the first comprehensive analysis of the legal and ethical obligations of groups influencing NFL players’ health.The report reviewed and evaluated the roles of 20 relevant stakeholders, including the NFL, the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), players, and team doctors. The report made 10 major recommendations, and 76 in all.Its highlight findings addressed these key issues:Conflicts of interest: The current arrangement under which a team’s medical staff, including doctors and athletic trainers, have responsibility both to the players and to the club presents an inherent structural conflict of interest. A division of responsibilities between two groups of medical professionals is needed to minimize such conflict and ensure that players receive medical care that is as unbiased and uninfluenced by competing interests as possible. Care and treatment should be provided by one set of medical professionals, called the “players’ medical staff,” appointed by a joint committee with representation from both the NFL and NFLPA. The evaluation of players for business purposes should be conducted by a separate set of medical personnel, known as the “club evaluation doctors.”Player health and adversarial collective bargaining: The NFL and NFLPA should refrain from making improvements to player health policies a bargaining chip in labor negotiations, to the extent that this is not already the case. Players should never be asked to trade their health care for other benefits in the collective bargaining process.Ethical guidelines: Various stakeholders — including club doctors, athletic trainers, coaches, contract advisers, and financial advisers — should adopt, improve, and enforce codes of ethics specific to the environment of the NFL.Ongoing research into the health effects of the game: The NFL and NFLPA should continue to initiate and support efforts to scientifically and reliably identify the health risks and benefits of playing pro football.Access to data: The NFL and, to the extent possible, the NFLPA should make aggregate injury data publicly available for independent reanalysis. They should also continue to improve their data collection and offer it to qualified professionals for analysis.Meaningful penalties: The collective bargaining agreement should be amended to impose meaningful fines on any club or person found to have violated players’ rights to medical care and treatment.Investing in players’ health and care: The NFLPA should consider investing greater resources to investigate and enforce player health issues and enforce player rights.This report recommends that responsibility for player health should fall upon a diverse but interconnected web of the groups involved.“Our report shows how the various stakeholders might work together to protect and support NFL players who give so much of themselves — not without benefit, but sometimes with serious personal consequences — to one of America’s favorite sports,” said Glenn Cohen, professor of law at Harvard Law School and co-lead of the law and ethics initiative as part of the health study.“We are committed to addressing the needs of ‘the whole player, the whole life,’” said Alvaro Pascual-Leone, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and research director of the study. “As a physician, I know we must take an interdisciplinary approach to address important ethical and structural factors. This report elucidates many valuable points that we hope will lead to productive dialogue.”“This report offers vital recommendations to improve player health,” said Ed Reynolds, a former linebacker with the New England Patriots and New York Giants and an adviser on the study. “Many individuals and groups are involved, and we must continue this important dialogue to help keep NFL athletes healthy on the field and long after.”In the coming months, the law and ethics initiative will release several additional publications that cover other legal and ethical issues affecting NFL player health.
Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction writer Jennifer Egan comes to Harvard on Monday to talk about her craft as part of the Writers Speak series at the Mahindra Humanities Center. Her 6 p.m. conversation at Paine Hall in the Music Building with fellow novelist Claire Messud, a senior lecturer in English, will cover Egan’s success with “A Visit from the Goon Squad” and offer a peek into her forthcoming historical novel, “Manhattan Beach.” In a Gazette Q&A she talked about honing her skills as an oral historian, writing her books by hand, and learning how to let a story live.GAZETTE: It’s been almost six years since you published “A Visit from the Goon Squad,” which won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Critics Circle Award. Did you intend to take such a long break?EGAN: I’ve been researching “Manhattan Beach” [due out in October], which is research-heavy and long, since 2005. It was a big undertaking. I would say the whole time, even while working on “Goon Squad,” I was researching this other book. It is set in the ’30s and ’40s, and I was interviewing people — women especially — who had worked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, repairing and building ships during World War II. Many of those people have passed on even since my interviewing them. They were all in their 80s then. It’s amazing how hearty some people are. One of my more recent interviewees is a 94-year-old Merchant Marine engineer. In 2015, he was racing up and down ladders on a Liberty ship with me. He recently complained that he’s just had to get a cane. He’s bummed out about that cane. All I can say is: More power to him.I also took some time off from writing and tried to capitalize on my good fortune with “Goon Squad” and reach as wide an audience as I could. I hadn’t had that opportunity before. I traveled to other countries as much as was feasible with kids at home — short, intensive visits in a number of places. I traveled in this country, too, trying to connect with and solidify an audience as much as possible. “Manhattan Beach” is so different from “Goon Squad” that I’m not sure I will carry all those people with me.GAZETTE: In an interview with The Guardian in 2011, you talked about the challenge of writing a historical novel “in a way that’s more playful than just setting in the past.” How did you achieve that?EGAN: Not in the way I’d envisioned, that’s for sure. After “Goon Squad,” I felt a certain pressure to be a “structural innovator.” But working on “Manhattan Beach” reminded me that structural innovation only really works when the story can’t be told any other way. And the material in “Manhattan Beach” repelled any trickiness that I tried to impose upon it. It convulsed under those impositions. The book required a more conventional telling than any I’ve employed in a while. I’d call it a noir thriller, if I had to classify it.GAZETTE: You mentioned the elderly voices you interviewed for the book. Was there added weight in knowing your conversations with them would probably be their last opportunity to have their experiences, in some way, recorded?EGAN: Well, in some sense that weight was formalized: I joined forces with the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Brooklyn Historical Society to help create an archive of Navy Yard workers’ stories. We were interviewing people for that specific purpose, and we recorded with really good equipment. There was an oral historian involved. My prior interviewing experience, which was extensive, had come from being a journalist. But I learned that interviewing for oral history involves a very different technique — it’s about getting the subject to tell their story in whatever form it takes, without trying to order or structure it in the moment. My mistake as an interviewer was that I kept trying to keep my subjects on track, rather than letting the track assert itself. The tangents were important, too. I feel like I sort of lost things, or cut them off, when I took the lead in some of those early interviews. But I tend to be self-critical; the bottom line is — it was a wonderful experience. And I did learn to shut up over time.GAZETTE: Can you talk about the traveling you did for “Goon Squad”? Where did it take you — and what was the value in it?EGAN: There was a real joy in meeting and interacting with people who had read the book. That was a thrill and a privilege. I had written other books, and although I had moved incrementally forward, this felt like a quantum leap that I never presumed I would make. Winning a prize is always a matter of luck: You’re lucky to have pleased the right jury at the right time. I got unbelievably lucky, winning the Pulitzer Prize, and yet the prize has this weird iconic quality that ends up obscuring its chancy underpinnings. It’s very poignant to think that someone else could have had that luck. It happened to be me. I never thought of myself as being especially lucky, and I assume I will never receive that kind of treatment again. I hope I can give other people that luck.GAZETTE: How do you spread the luck?EGAN: For one, I continue to blurb. Also, to encourage and help worthy writers whenever I can. I’m not really a teacher, but I have my eyes open and have tried to help people as much as I can. There are a couple of people I’ve mentored professionally, really tried to help guide through the process of getting published. Coming to Harvard, I love talking to younger writers because it’s another way I can try to help. I think it’s useful to know that anyone trying to write is in the same boat. We all have much more in common than we have differences. I try to communicate that as much as I can. These visits are about finding common ground rather than me dispensing wisdom from on high.GAZETTE: Has your writing style evolved? Do you still write exclusively by hand?EGAN: My first draft of “Manhattan Beach” was 30 legal pads, handwritten. That was rough. Typing it was dreadful. I made a bit of a change in my routine in the editing of that book. I used to never write on the screen, but with “Manhattan Beach,” I began to alternate between revising by hand and revising on the screen. I would see it differently. I don’t know if that will remain a permanent thing for me, but it moved the process along a bit — the book might have taken me even longer otherwise!At the beginning, in my first drafts, I rely on my unconscious to cough up material. That doesn’t happen if I see everything on a screen in typeface. What seems to free me up is the physicality of handwriting — the act of doing it — and the indecipherable quality of my particular writing. Sometimes I actually can’t read it, and I lose things. Not being able to read what I’m writing, literally, makes the process mysterious. I need to allow it to unfold. Once I’ve typed the draft, which is hell, and read it, which is even worse, I come up with a clear and conscious outline. As a journalist, I write on a screen, but with fiction writing, when I leave behind my own life and thoughts, I need to enter a different creative mind.GAZETTE: With “Goon Squad,” there was debate: Was it a novel or a collection of short stories? What is your advice on how to think about framing stories?EGAN: In art as in life, categories are just concepts. “Goon Squad” actually did turn out to have a genre: It’s a record album in literary form. I didn’t realize that when I started working on it. When I was dividing it in half, there was Part 1 and Part 2, and I decided to call them A and B. I thought, “Ah, it’s a record album.” In general, I would urge people not to worry about categories. They’re not real, and they shouldn’t be reified into truths. The hardest thing is to write anything that has a pulse, that feels alive. My advice would be: Just try to do something good — God knows it’s not easy. Let the publisher worry about the category.I should add, though, that I didn’t follow my own advice. I wouldn’t let them put “novel” on the hard cover of “Goon Squad.” That was a bad marketing decision. The book did very poorly the first several months, and I’m sure part of that was that it lacked a category. I’m reading George Saunders’ new novel [“Lincoln in the Bardo”], and it’s crazy and moving and strange. Who knows what it is, exactly? Who cares? If it’s alive, you know all you need to know about it. I wanted “Manhattan Beach” to be a tricky, raffish take on the historical novel, but the material died when I tried to manipulate it that way. I had to let it be what it wanted to be.Interview was edited and condensed.The Writers Speak series continues with Daniel Alarcón (“Lost City Radio,” “At Night We Walk in Circles”) and Francisco Goldman (“The Long Night of the White Chickens,” “Say Her Name,” “The Art of Political Murder”) visiting Sever Hall, Room 113, at 6 p.m. April 3.
“My family are pack rats. They saved everything. They took pictures of everything. They kept detailed journals and scrapbooks; they published articles and books; and they often were themselves the subject of articles, particularly in the African-American press.”Patricia J. Williams, who holds the 2017–2018 Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Fellowship at Radcliffe, has donated 65 boxes (so far) of her family’s papers — spanning more than 100 years — to the Institute’s Schlesinger Library. It’s unusual for any family to collect papers over such a long period of time, but especially rare for an African-American family.As Williams says, “Things get lost in a society as perpetually mobile as ours.” Her family is extraordinary in having the rare good fortune of being residentially stable, unusually well-educated, and incredibly long-lived.Williams herself earned her undergraduate degree from Wellesley and her law degree from Harvard in 1975; she has been a law professor for the past 30 years. Since 1991, she has taught at the Columbia University School of Law, where she is the James L. Dohr Professor. Among her many honors is a MacArthur Fellowship, awarded in 2000. For two decades, she has published a column titled “Diary of a Mad Law Professor” in The Nation. The author of four popular books and hundreds of articles, she thinks of herself as having parallel careers: one as a law professor, the other as a writer and journalist.Williams didn’t decide to give her family’s papers to the library — that’s simply how things evolved. Kathryn Allamong Jacob, the Johanna-Maria Fraenkel Curator of Manuscripts at the Schlesinger Library, got in touch with Williams and asked if she’d be willing to donate her own papers — “as a black feminist from a certain era,” as Williams put it. “And I thought that was a fine idea.”Soon thereafter, Williams’ parents — in their late 90s and dealing with health problems — needed to move, so the family home in Boston was put up for sale. But before it went through, Williams investigated the attic.“It was packed to the rafters,” she says, “and every room in the house was filled with boxes of letters and books and journals. Because we’re all writers, and we keep stuff.”,Not only was Jacob interested in the papers of Williams’ parents, but she visited Williams’ second home, on Martha’s Vineyard, to look at additional family records. Then there were the archives of Williams’ aunt Marguerite in New York, a journalist who had been on the board of governors of the Overseas Press Club and one of the original United Nations correspondents. Marguerite had willed her apartment to Williams, so that was another trove she needed to deal with.Again, Williams chose the Schlesinger — which houses an array of African-Americans’ papers — even though her aunt had already given some of her papers to the Amistad Research Center at Tulane, a repository that specializes in the history of African-Americans and other ethnic minorities.“What she did not give to Amistad,” Williams says, “was the personal family stuff. That’s why it felt more logical to put everything in Massachusetts, where most of the family was from at the time this archive begins.”Williams has read only parts of the vast archive she is giving to the Schlesinger. In her application for a Radcliffe fellowship, she said she intended to study the papers and begin a narrative, titled “Gathering the Ghosts” and covering four areas: “African-American lives in Boston and Cambridge; the lives of African-American college-educated women at a time when few women of any race went beyond high school; love letters describing both intraracial and interracial romance, commitment, and marriage; and photographs of African-American family life dating from the late 1800s through the contemporary era.”But, as often happens, things changed. This past October, Williams’ mother died, just weeks before she would have turned 100.“She was the long memory of this project,” Williams says. “I talked to her frequently. Can you remember …? I’m very lucky to have had her as long as I did. And I realize that now I am the memory that’s left.”Williams tells about a condolence note that Jane Kamensky — the Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Director of the library and a professor in the Department of History at Harvard — wrote to her, saying that the archive could be like an afterlife.“I do feel that, just that phrase,” Williams says. “When I walked over to the library this morning — it was the first time I’d been back since my mother died — I thought, yes, this is going to be very comforting.”Since her mother’s death, Williams’ idea for a long narrative with four strands has shifted. Now she plans to write a collection of related essays — a form she has used before and of which she’s a master.“I’m going to follow my instinct and write about my mother, because that’s what is haunting me,” she says. “Some of my best writing comes when I’m in that emotionally affected place and allow myself to see what comes up.”Williams has also thought about making larger changes. “I’m thinking about learning to be more of a historian, because this sort of research is what I truly want to do. This project has given me a passion that I didn’t know I had.”“People underestimate how important the written word is in African-American culture,” Williams says. “They forget that the entire jurisprudence of the 20th century was about trying to integrate schools. It wasn’t just about being the black face in the classroom; it was about getting the education and using the books and machines and technology in those schools. Many African-American families guard documentation fiercely, and my family is one of them.”Williams’ conversation — and her books — are rich with compelling stories about her family. One is the story of Old Pete, the Walkaway Slave, as he’s known in the family. Pete, Williams’ great-grandfather on her father’s side, was in his 70s when he walked away from the swamps of north Florida, where he had been enslaved.According to family legend, Old Pete walked very, very slowly, so no one noticed. He made it to a “maroon” colony in South Carolina, where runaway slaves, Native Americans, and abolitionist missionaries lived. After settling there, he married a younger woman with whom he had eight children, all of whom survived.Williams’ grandfather, the eldest, lived to be 96, and the other children lived to be over 100. Williams’ father was proud, she says, of helping Old Pete learn to read.“He was just so determined,” Williams says of her great-grandfather.A story she tells about a more recent event involves her favorite writer, the Nobel Prize–winner Toni Morrison. “I met her when my son was 5 weeks old,” Williams says. “I had contributed to an anthology she put together, and we were all on a panel. I brought my son to her and she kissed him on the forehead. So my son was baptized by Toni Morrison.”
On Sept. 12 the Faculty Council welcomed new members, reviewed history and policies, and chose subcommittees for 2018–19. They also discussed a proposal for early registration and proposed changes to the language requirement.The Council next meets on Sept. 26. The preliminary deadline for the Oct. 2 meeting of the Faculty is Sept. 18 at noon.
In the first week of her College life, Eva Ballew ’22, who grew up in a rural town of 3,000 in southern Wisconsin, promised herself always to stay grounded and to do everything she could to blaze a trail for others.Ballew was admitted to 10 colleges, including Dartmouth, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, and Northwestern. To decide among them, the first-generation college student displayed a maturity and perspective beyond her years.“When I was accepted to Harvard, I felt it was the first step to the rest of my life,” said Ballew, the daughter of a Native American man and a Hungarian-American woman. “I thought about all the doors that could open not just for me and for my family, but for the Potawatomi children.”A descendant of the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi tribe, Ballew feels strongly tied to her indigenous heritage. Among her dearest memories is attending pow-wows in southwestern Michigan, where the tribe of 5,000 has had its headquarters since it was federally recognized in 1994. On her cellphone she has an app to learn the Potawatomi language.While Ballew credits her family and her high school academic adviser for supporting and inspiring her to do well in school, she recognizes that her path is uncommon given the high dropout rates among Native Americans. According to the U.S. Department of Education, only 67 percent of Native American students graduate from high school. “College is not an outlet for most Native Americans,” Ballew said. “Our high schools need to do a better job in helping native students think about college.”At Harvard, Native Americans make up almost 2 percent of the student body, said Shelly Lowe, executive director of the Harvard University Native American Program. Ballew’s arrival here, Lowe said, is part of a recent trend among some Native American students.“We’re seeing more Native American students applying to 12, 15 colleges, including top institutions, and that was never done before,” said Lowe. “The fact that Eva got admitted to 10 top colleges is remarkable and shows a shift in how families and students are thinking about college.“There is a lot more information for Native American students, but also for high school counselors, tribal communities, and community members, who are being educated on how to encourage students to look at colleges,” she said.Ballew hopes other Native American students follow in her footsteps and defy the statistics that show her peers lagging. Centuries of hardship and generational trauma have marked the lives of indigenous people in the U.S., and, “I don’t think our society recognizes that the trauma still continues,” she said. “Until it’s recognized, I don’t think we’ll be able to progress as a nation.”Ballew’s family’s story is no exception to trauma. When Ballew’s grandmother was 4 years old, she was taken from her family and placed in a boarding school as part of the government’s attempt to assimilate indigenous children. At the federally run school, Ballew’s grandmother, who had been named Zada, was renamed Elizabeth. Years later, when Ballew’s older sister was born, her parents named her Zada to honor the matriarch.“They suppressed the native side in my grandmother,” said Ballew. “My father never knew about his native heritage until he was 20 years old. There was a fear of being Native American, of feeling proud of your indigenous heritage.”To some extent, times have changed. Over the past decade, there has been a revival of Native American culture and pride, which was galvanized by the 2016 protest movement to prevent the Dakota Oil Pipeline from being built on indigenous land. Tribes are pushing to reclaim and preserve their languages and to change the narrative that portrays them as victims, mired in poverty and despair.“We have endured many hardships, generation after generation, and we’re still here, even though many people, including some of my high school mates, don’t believe we exist,” Ballew said. “We’re still here, fighting the good fight.”In her high school in the town of Raymond, Ballew was the only Native American student, and many of her friends didn’t know about her background until she shared it with them. “People have a depiction of what a Native American person looks like,” she said. “When people saw me, they saw me as white.”At Harvard, Ballew plans to concentrate on government or history, an interest sparked by a trip to Montenegro in high school. She hopes that her education will help her community, and Native Americans more broadly, find better educational opportunities.“I want to help my community to get to a place where success is a possibility and education is a real opportunity,” said Ballew. “I want to be the same person that I am, but wiser and better prepared to take on the world and fix the injustices I see. I promise myself to never forget where I came from.”