A senior writer at The Chronicle, Lawrence has covered higher education for more than 30 years. Can you surprise him?
- For Claremont’s Female Presidents, ‘It’s Not Lonely at the Top’
- Lunch at Grove House: Sandwiches, Cookies, and a Taste of Philosophy
- Cal Poly Pomona’s Doomed Tower Awaits Its Fate
- What Students Ask About Orozco’s Prometheus Is, Well, Obvious
- Beneath a Pirate Flag, West Hall Offers Pranks and the Occasional Nightmare
- fizmath on For Grinnell’s New President, Tense Negotiations Over Sheet Cake
- 11279395 on A Tale of 2 Chickens, a President, and Her Mother
- jbarman on A Tale of 2 Chickens, a President, and Her Mother
- wilkenslibrary on Pitzer Makes a Collective Effort at Biking
- bhread on In Lawrence, Kan., a Home for Theremins and Tropicália
Author Archives: Lawrence Biemiller
February 7, 2011, 12:39 pm
The Center for Holocaust Studies is a library-within-a-library, as well as a museum, at Chapman U.
Orange, Calif. — Marilyn J. Harran is the first to say that a mid-sized Orange County university affiliated with the Disciples of Christ is an unlikely home for a Holocaust library, just as a religious-studies professor whose field is the 16th century and who isn’t Jewish is an unlikely Holocaust-library director. But that makes the library and museum that Ms. Harran has created on the fourth floor of the Chapman University’s Leatherby Libraries building all the more striking, and gives the programs she has championed that much the more impact.
Ms. Harran (left) came to Chapman in 1985 with no thought of establishing a Holocaust-studies program. But as she began teaching about the murder of millions of Jews and others, her interest grew—along with Chapman’s programs and its we…
February 3, 2011, 12:42 pm
A Pitzer College student fixes a flat outside the Green Bike Program’s shop.
Claremont, Calif. — Truth is, I’ve been a little worried about Pitzer College. With one group of sleek new residence halls complete—they wrap around a swimming pool attached to a new student center—and another set now under construction on the scrub land known for years as “the outback,” can Pitzer hold on to its old reputation as the coolest, funkiest, friendliest, most eclectic, most-likely-to-be-vegan of the five undergraduate institutions in the Claremont Colleges consortium?
Sure, there are still chickens scratching in the dirt behind Grove House, the Arts-and-Crafts era cottage that was Pitzer’s first student center. And a series of hexagonal cinderblock buildings from the 60s survive right in the middle of the campus. But those new residence halls are awfully slick—I mentioned the…
December 17, 2010, 2:32 pm
I did not grow up in a family famous for its road trips. True, we drove from Baltimore to Florida a few times in the 1960s, when I-95 had not been completed and McDonald’s did not yet dominate roadside dining (instead, Howard Johnson’s served amazing hot dogs on grilled buns). Florida itself—this was before Disney World—I chiefly remember for being full of little frogs.
But otherwise we never went farther than Atlantic City, N.J. It was a dowdy beach resort in those days, not yet a gambling mecca. We stayed in the Holiday Inn-like new wing of the Marlborough-Blenheim, a vast antique pile of a boardwalk hotel where at meals the tables were still set with finger bowls, which my grandmother had to explain. The Marlborough-Blenheim is long gone, of course, and now I wish I could recall every turret and tower, but I cannot—I didn’t take a lot of pictures or write many blog posts when…
December 16, 2010, 10:42 am
Tahlequah, Okla. — I had no idea that my iPhone knew Cherokee. But the other day Chris Smith showed me how to turn on the Cherokee keyboard and then sent me a text in Cherokee (along with a translation, which I needed). It was a simple hello—o si you—in strikingly beautiful characters that borrow forms from the Greek and Roman alphabets but add numerous flourishes and filigrees. Each of the 85 characters in the Cherokee writing system represents a syllable.
Mr. Smith, a Northeastern State University senior who is the multimedia specialist at the university’s Center for Tribal Studies, is among a number of students and faculty members at the university working to promote the use of Cherokee. A study in 2002 found that the number of fluent speakers was declining rapidly as older people died, and estimates now are that there may be only 10,000 or so people—most of them older than…
December 15, 2010, 3:45 pm
Tahlequah, Okla. — Really, how did I not know about Seminary Hall? Not only is it a terrific building—a red-brick-Romanesque confection of arches and gables and towers crowning a hill on Northeastern State University’s campus here—but its story is as compelling as any in higher education.
It’s a story much older than the university, which celebrated its centennial last year, and older even than the current Seminary Hall, which dates to 1889. It starts in 1850 with the Cherokee Nation’s establishment of two seminaries, one for boys and other for girls, in the territory to which thousands of Cherokees had been forcibly relocated by the federal government a dozen years before.
The seminaries were both within a few miles of Tahlequah, but it’s the women’s institution from which the university descends. The seminary, which…
December 14, 2010, 2:14 pm
The Harry Smith Print Shop at Naropa U. makes good use of its collection of historic presses and type.
Boulder, Colo. — It’s fast-food, Fox News America I’ve been driving across for the past six weeks. Golden Arches peer over the trees at every other freeway interchange, while talking heads babble above news tickers beside the breakfast buffets of a thousand Holiday Inn Expresses. Poetry—and I say this as a fan, sometimes a dabbler—is no more relevant here than dust.
So to come upon a place like Naropa University, where poetry is written and read and listened to and discussed, is a delight. And then to get a tour of Naropa’s Harry Smith Print Shop, where verse is lovingly printed—with old metal type and antique presses, yet—well, it’s both Disneyland and Dollywood for dactyl addicts, an enchanted kingdom of fonts and figures. I could gladly have spent hours pulling…
December 13, 2010, 9:41 am
Boulder, Colo. — Some people, and I know I’m one of them, can be skeptical when confronted with anything unfamiliar, whether it be a recording, a recipe, or a religion. So I was a little worried when I stopped by Naropa University—which describes itself as “Buddhist-inspired” and says it is “dedicated to advancing contemplative education”—and people started talking to me earnestly about consciousness. To be honest, I was afraid my eyes might glaze over, the way they do when people try to talk to me earnestly about, say, football or rap music.
It was Costen Aytes, Naropa’s friendly, plainspoken landscape manager, who came to my rescue, taking me on a tour that started with the main campus’s tidy sandstone paths, towering sycamores, quiet nooks, and busy bike-lending shack—a tour that explained Naropa in terms I’m a lot more familiar with.
December 10, 2010, 2:02 pm
Durango, Colo. — To watch Adam Swanson sit down at the piano in the Diamond Belle during the band’s break, unnoticed among tables crowded with tourists, was to see a shy, slightly awkward college freshman transform himself into as confident and capable an entertainer as you’ll find in any saloon in this noisy, capricious, big-hearted, beer-loving republic.
A few bars of “Chattanooga Choo Choo” and Mr. Swanson had their attention; a few more and a guy at the bar whistled in astonishment and delight; yet a few more and people pulled out their phones to start making videos. By the time he was riffing through “St. Louis Blues”—grinning as he glanced around, making asides to those sitting nearby, effortlessly shifting keys and tempos—there was no question in anyone’s mind that he’s a ragtime phenomenon.
Which is why it was interesting to hear him grousing mildly about his…
December 9, 2010, 11:03 am
Louie, as you remember from yesterday’s post, is Northern Arizona University’s mascot—a 22-foot-tall fiberglass giant who stands, axe at the ready, outside the university’s Walkup Dome. I went to the university library’s special-collections section in search of more information about Louie and that’s where I met Mr. Evans, the university archivist. He told me that the Paul-Bunyanesque Louie had been designed to advertise mufflers, but ended up as an extra. In the mid-60s, Mr. Evans said, an enterprising fiberglass-company salesman loaded Louie up and trucked him along the old Route 66 until he found a willing buyer, the owner of a…
December 8, 2010, 4:33 pm
Northern Arizona U.’s Walkup Dome is among the world’s largest wooden structures.
Flagstaff, Ariz. — Not being a sports fan in a sports-obsessed culture has its hazards, such as that you may arrive on a campus completely unaware of sports traditions that anyone who watches football on television has probably known about since middle school.
Case in point: Until I got a campus tour here, I had no idea that Northern Arizona University’s football team plays all its home games in one of the country’s largest wooden structures, the 1977 Walkup Dome. It turned out to be a 97,000-square-foot, 15,000-seat marvel.
Named for J. Lawrence Walkup, who was the university’s president when it opened, the dome was for several years the biggest wooden dome in the world, until it was overtaken by the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Wash. Besides football, it’s used for basketball, commencements,…