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Larry Damon training in Italy before his first Olympics in 1956.

Larry Damon training in Italy before his first Olympics in 1956.

As Larry Damon ’55 points out his head (third from the wall) among many heads in a photo clipping of the opening ceremonies for the 1956 Winter Games in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, he reveals the true test of Olympic competition. “Standing there for hours and hours was the hardest, most disagreeable part,” he says.
As for the race, Damon flashes something between a smile and a wince, “I remember having a lot of butterflies. I went out like a terror, way too fast, even started to catch the Finnish guy who went before me…” In the end, it wouldn’t be the Burlington native’s best race, but it was a milestone for the University of Vermont, the first time an alumnus competed in the Winter Olympic Games. An NCAA champion skier during his college years, Damon competed in four Olympics as a skier or biathlete and his impressive running career included a tenth place finish in the Boston Marathon.
A veteran instructor at the Trapp Family Lodge Cross Country Ski Center (and a jazz trumpeter on the side), Damon is a modest, patient teacher for many clicking into skinny skis for the first time, unaware they’re about to learn the sport from a four-time Olympian.

This piece originally appeared in the Winter 2006 issue of Vermont Quarterly. Read the entire article on UVM’s proud history in the Winter Olympics. 

BARBARA ANN’S GOLD

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In first place after the first slalom run at the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan, Barbara Ann Cochran ’78 knew she needed to calm down. Her lead over the next skier was a slim .03 seconds, and, as heavy snow fell on the course, the second run of the day loomed ahead.

She gave herself a pep talk. “No matter what happens, you won the first run at the Olympics and not many people can say that. If the French girls can win, you can win.” Then she thought of what her father, Mickey ’48, had said to her a year before between runs in a similar situation at the world championships.

“He had a nice grin, a little twinkle in his eye,” Barbara Ann recalls. “He said, ‘I always thought that you were the cool cucumber in the family.’ And I thought, ‘Oh, yeah, I guess I am.’”

She skied to the Olympic gold medal that afternoon, February 12, 1972. Mickey was half-a-world away, watching the games on TV with wife Ginny ’50 in the Richmond farmhouse where they had raised four kids who would all hone their skiing on the hill out back and go on to the Olympics. Marilyn ’76 and Bobby ’76 MD ’81 were on the 1972 team with Barbara Ann. Lindy ’82 would compete for the U.S. team at the 1976 Innsbruck Games.

The Cochran family’s ski glory includes the Olympics and then some — world cups, national championships. The old family homestead is packed with trophies, plaques, mugs, cowbells, and keys to cities (New York and Richmond) with the Cochran name etched into them.  Standing in the midst of it all, Barbara Ann reflects, “I don’t think my dad had any idea that we’d all turn out to be Olympic skiers. He just wanted us to learn the lesson that to do well in something you had to train at it.”

Pictured: The skiing Cochrans back in the day: Dad Mickey, Bobby, Marilyn, Mom Ginny, Lindy, and Barbara Ann.

This piece was originally printed in the Winter 2006 edition of Vermont Quarterly. Read the whole story on UVM Olympians. 

ALUMNI WIRE

Isis Kanevsky-Mullarky ’96 G ’98, an associate professor of dairy science at Virginia Tech, has been honored by the White House as one of the 2013 recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. The award is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government upon outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers. Kanevsky-Mullarky’s research centers on enhancing the immune response to Staphylococcus aureus infections, work that is critical to bovine health and the dairy industry. “To say I’m thrilled to receive this award doesn’t do my feelings justice,” she said. Winning the Presidential Award as a female scientist in the agriculture field is particularly rare.

Philip Buttaravoli ’66 won first prize in the surgery category for his text Minor Emergencies at the British Medical Association Book Awards in November 2013. The book has become a popular source for comprehensive information regarding the management of everyday non-life-threatening  emergencies, information that is often not covered in major medical texts.

For the eleventh consecutive year, Bill Mark Laufer ’70 has been voted one of the top 100 attorneys in New Jersey by New Jersey Monthly.

Sue Carswell ’83 recently co-authored a book with “I Will Survive” disco queen Gloria Gaynor titled We Will Survive. The book tells forty true stories of encouragement, inspiration, and the power of song. Carswell is a reporter-researcher at Vanity Fair and has ghost-written some ten books.

Benjamin Jones ’06, a 2013 graduate of New England Law/Boston, received the 2013 Adams Pro Bono Publico Award presented by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. This award, bestowed annually upon a select law firm, private attorney, and one law student, honors those who have committed an extraordinary amount of time and energy to provide volunteer legal services to poor and disadvantaged clients.

Donald Forst ’54 one of the nation’s top newspaper editors throughout his long career, passed away on January 4. New York NewsdayThe Village VoiceThe Boston HeraldThe New York Times and The Los Angeles Herald Examiner were among the newsrooms Forst helped lead in an editorial career that began when he signed on with the Vermont Cynic, the University of Vermont’s student newspaper. Newsday won a number of Pulitzers during Forst’s years with the paper, including one for its coverage of a major subway train crash in 1991. UVM alumnus Tony Marro, Class of 1965, was a colleague at Newsday and would himself go on to the top editorial position at that paper. In a 2000 profile of Forst in Vermont Quarterly Magazine, Marro remembered their days working together: “Don was very good at mobilizing the troops. He has a lot of drive, imagination and energy, and he loves taking a small group of people who have allegiance to him and sending them out to chase down the best stories. He’s the kind of editor who wakes up in the morning and thinks, ‘What’s the front page going to be?’”

Read more about the life and career of Donald Forst:

New York Times obituary

Vermont Quarterly profile

 

LEGENDARY LOCALS

The recently published book Legendary Locals of Burlington would figure to have plenty of UVM people in its pages. Still, flip through the volume and you come away  impressed at the numbers of UVM alumni and faculty included, a reminder of how integral the university is to the life of the city both historically and today.

Old John Dewey, yes, but Robert Resnik's catalog of Burlington legends has some less expected names.

Old John Dewey, yes, but Robert Resnik’s catalog of Burlington legends has some less expected names.

You can start with the book’s author, UVM alumnus Robert Resnik, a guy who deserves his own legend status as a familar face at the Fletcher Free Library and Vermont folk and children’s musician. And it goes from there—close to thirty UVM connections by my count. Legendary Locals of days long gone include Ira Allen, John Converse, Zadock Thompson, John Dewey, Frederick Billings, Grace Coolidge, Horatio Nelson Jackson, and Effie Moore. Legends who have taught on the UVM faculty: Larry McCrorey, Bertha Terrill, Ed Feidner, Sara Holbrook, Ken Rothwell, Will Miller, Francis Colburn, Tom Bassett and Raul Hilberg. Resnik’s picks for alumni who have made their mark on Burlington: Dudley Davis, Mark Bove, Jim Lampman, Steve Conant, Pamela Polston, James Kochalka, Ron Krupp, Madeleine Kunin, and the guys in Phish.

It’s hard to argue with any of Robert’s choices, but easy to find others worthy of a place in the book if there’s a sequel. Talking with my friend Mark Madigan (a UVM alum and former faculty member), we agreed that the late John Cunavelis—known around town as “Johnny C”—is deserving of local legend status. A birdlike, wiry man, he was a fixture at UVM sports events, on Church Street, and working out and just hanging out at the Burlington Y. Johnny C, a UVM alumnus, had been a sportswriter for the Burlington newspaper back in the day and was always eager to talk sports or local news.

 

WEIGHTY MATTERS

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Did Italian sculptors of the Renaissance and Baroque eras alter their styles depending on whether a work was bound for just down the road in Florence or going across the Mediterranean to Spain? Did Michelangelo ever really believe that his David would be hoisted to a perch high on Florence’s cathedral?

The answer to the first question is yes. The local sculptures exhibited a delicacy and grace that was compromised when the artist knew his commission (often a gift to curry favor with a foreign power) would be crated, hoisted, and shipped out from the docks in Genoa. As for Michelangelo and the legendary David, most likely the artist never thought his work would or could be lifted to a fairly ridiculous location on il Duomo. As William Wallace, professor of art history at Washington University, put it: “There is no avoiding the tyranny of weight.”

“Italian Renaissance & Baroque Sculpture: Material, Manufacture, Meaning and Movement” was the title of an unusual day-long symposium held in Billings Library on Friday. Kelley Helmstutler Di Dio, associate professor of art history, was the driving force behind the event that brought experts together for what she called “a scholarly exchange about practical issues.”

While most of the day belonged to Italy, the Renaissance, and scholars, late in the afternoon sculptor and UVM alumnus Richard Erdman ’75 brought the perspective of a contemporary artist who has grappled on a very serious level with Italian marble and that unavoidable tyranny of weight. croppedimage198198-18-passage-final2Erdman’s work Passage, a commission for the Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens at PepsiCo in Purchase, New York, is the largest sculpture in the world made from a single piece of Travertine marble. Through a slideshow, Erdman told the story of how the stone was quarried in Tivoli, a 30-foot block weighing 450 tons, slimmed to 120 tons for a very slow four-day drive by truck to his studio in Italy, and finally, at a mere 45 tons, shipped to the United States then driven north through the streets of New York City in the wee-small hours.

A native of Vermont’s Rutland-area marble belt, working with stone is a lifelong passion for Erdman. “It’s the most life affirming of all materials,” he told the scholars and guests gathered at UVM last Friday, “250 centuries of living geology.”

Watch a slideshow on Richard Erdman’s site about the creation of Passage.

Read a 2003 Vermont Quarterly article about Richard Erdman.

ALUMNI WIRE

photo-1Laura Bernardini ’95 recently won an Emmy Award for her work as one of the producers on CNN’s “Election Night in America.” Laura has been part of the CNN news team nearly since her UVM graduation and has covered major events from presidential campaigns to the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Chuck Ross ’78, Vermont’s secretary of Agriculture, Food, and Markets, has been named president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. Since the NASDA president traditionally hosts the annual conference, agriculture secretaries, commissioners, and directors from across the nation will gather together in Vermont next September for the 2014 annual meeting.

Vasu Sojitra ’13 is featured in a Backcountry Magazine piece that spotlights his skill as a backcountry skier despite having one leg. “I just center my leg over my body and lean forward with my arm and use that crutch as a pole, plant that and spin off it. To me right now, it doesn’t seem like a problem. I’ve gotten used to it,” he says. An abbreviated version of the article is available here with the full version featured in the print version of Backcountry.

As “Free Bird” is to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert, so is “The Lanyard” to a Billy Collins reading. There were no lighters held aloft in Ira Allen Chapel last evening or bellowed requests (truth be told: there was one, though not quite a bellow), but the former U.S. Poet Laureate is as close to rock star status as a poet can get these days. And he did, indeed, read “The Lanyard” to the delight of the fans who filled the chapel on a warm October evening for the Vermont Humanities Council event done in collaboration with UVM.BillyCollins

In his introductory remarks, Major Jackon, fellow poet and professor of English, said he’d dubbed the visit, which included meeting with UVM classes earlier in the day,  “The Billy Collins Cruise Ship.”  The poet’s talk, reading (of his own work and others), and Q and A was a pleasure cruise, welcoming and accessible (though Collins is weary of that word, more on that later). A few snapshots:

Speaking of his first exposure to poetry in school, Collins noted it was a form written by “men who were dead, had white beards, and three names.” Having none of those may have been an initial barrier, but he soon found his way to the “sound of clean, contemporary poetry.” Collins suggested poetry should be taught chronologically backwards, beginning with “seductive” contemporary poems. “Chaucer is a terrible place to begin.”

Collins spoke about his Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry anthology and his goal to help people—young people, in particular—discover or rediscover the pleasure in poetry. He described the too familiar scene of a literature class where students have read a poem, then sit with eyes cast to the floor, terrified they will be asked to explain the work. In Poetry 180, Collins gathered what he calls “first bounce” poems, those that can be appreciated on an initial reading. His hope is that the poems are simply read aloud, not taught, in schools so poetry becomes part of the atmosphere. “I’m a great advocate for poetry in public places,” he said, “a line of poetry dragged behind an airplane as they sometimes do in Florida.” He even took his case to Cosmopolitan and delivered his message with the publication’s standard recipe: “7 Sources of Pleasure in Poetry.”

As for that “A” word, Collins said that “accessible” does not mean simple. Rather, it means that a poem has “a portal that is clear and interesting to the point of being seductive.” What happens when a reader steps through that portal and commits to reading the poem is another story.

Fielding a question on process, Collins said that he writes a poem in one sitting, wanting to follow it through and see where it goes. He writes in a notebook with a pen or pencil, continually rewriting as he revises multiple times. “It is more refining than revising,” he said. “You should always be taking away in revision, not adding.”

On becoming a writer: Collins said it is not really a matter of choice. He referenced John Updike’s thought that his becoming a writer was a case of “being swallowed by a hobby.” Collins said, “You don’t make a decision. That would be a rather unwise decision. It overtakes you.”

On becoming a poet, in particular: Collins said it was simply the highest calling of literature. He shared what he’d recently told a novelist friend: “Poetry is a bird. Prose is a potato.”