Rockefeller fellows chosen for 2011-12

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first_imgConcluding its annual meeting and interviews at Harvard on Dec. 10 and 11 this year, the Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Fellowships Administrative Board has awarded fellowships to six graduating seniors.Rockefeller Fellowships contribute $18,000 toward a year of purposeful postgraduate immersion in a foreign culture for candidates at critical stages in their development who feel a compelling need for new and broadening experience.The six recipients are Ama Francis of Winthrop House, for travel to Brazil; Benjamin French of Leverett House, for travel to Botswana; Laura Jaramillo of Pforzheimer House, for travel to France; Catherine Ntube of Pforzheimer House, for travel to Jamaica; Oliver Strand of Eliot House, for travel to Japan; and Lauren White of Lowell House, for travel to Argentina.last_img read more

Treasures hiding in plain sight

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first_imgA few years ago, a student browsing the stacks in Harvard’s Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library opened an old book. Pasted in the front was a letter from author and philosopher Henry David Thoreau, an 1837 graduate of the College who is today an icon of civil disobedience.This civil and obedient student alerted library authorities, who withdrew the letter from circulation, copied and cataloged it, and secured it for posterity in a safer place.That letter is among 11,000 fragile or rare items rescued since 2008 from the stacks at Widener by students, scholars, and library staff who have a keen sense of what needs to be protected and conserved. Such items end up on what library insiders call “The Shelf,” a book-lined basement corridor in Widener overseen by Preservation and Digital Imaging Services. Think of it as triage, experts there say. Rescued items are assessed, repaired, digitized, and — most often — removed from general circulation. (Support for this work comes from the Daniel L. and Alisa R. Doctoroff Library Fund and from the Betty and Barrington Moore Jr. Fund for the Harvard College Library.)The origins of this rescue effort go back to the days of microfilm, when a “brittled books” program flagged fragile volumes. They were copied to film, and the originals were placed in collections where physical access is limited. Since 2008, a new digitization-conservation collaboration at Widener reviews vulnerable materials from the stacks, digitizes them, and updates catalog entries. (Harvard is believed to employ the only full-time preservation review librarian in the country.) In the end, access is improved for scholars worldwide.“Objects are being moved to wherever is best for them,” said Franziska Frey, the Malloy-Rabinowitz Preservation Librarian and head of Preservation and Digital Imaging Services. “But they can still be on your desktop,” added Maggie Hale, librarian for collections digitization.The Thoreau letter points to a surprising fact. Many items in general circulation at Widener would anywhere else only be found in special collections. Vulnerable items still in the stacks come to light because of alert library users. “They’re targeting the items we most want to find,” said Todd Bachmann, associate head of imaging services at Widener.His boss, Bill Comstock, calls it “deputizing” the students, scholars, and staff who comb through holdings. (If you find an item in the stacks that seems rare or vulnerable, take it to the circulation desk. Attendants there get regular conservation training.)Rare items linger in the stacks, in part, from the sheer size and complexity of Harvard’s collections. The University has more than 90 libraries across the globe. They hold 17 million items in a system that is the oldest in the United States and the largest in the academic world. Widener, its flagship operation, contains 4.5 million books and other cataloged items on 65 miles of shelves. Widener is six stories high and has four stories of stacks underground.Add to size the complexities that age brings to a library system. Harvard’s first books date to 1638. By the time of the American Revolution Harvard still had only 1,000 volumes, but by the eve of the Civil War it had 65,000. Some of the latter, it seems, are still in general circulation, along with many of the 164,000 items the library had cataloged by 1877.Then there is the fact that Harvard’s collection includes more than books. John Langdon Sibley, head librarian at Harvard from 1856 to 1877, called himself  “a sturdy beggar” of library items. During his tenure, donated volumes arrived by the box and barrel. But the prescient Sibley also saw the value of pamphlets and other ephemera. As early as 1853, while still an assistant librarian, he had collected 30,000 or more — many of them rummaged from old trucks, bought at auction, or rescued from pulping operations. It is these pamphlets and other nontraditional items that often show up on “The Shelf.”Items recently saved from the open stacks include a collection of cartoonlike drawings done by Harvard undergraduates in 1850. (“I’m not sure they’re still funny,” said Bachmann.) There is a complete set of a royalist French journal in print from 1790 to 1792 — one of just a few in the United States. Add to that a bound copy of what look like old baseball cards, a book salesman’s dummy copy of “Half Hour Sundays with Jesus.” There is a book of horrific battlefield images from World War I, a rare vanity press album showing Henry Ford on vacation with other captains of industry, and an 1893 pamphlet from the other side of the tracks: In a few cheap pages, Isaac Jenkins tells his story of being lynched and left to die.Not many things recovered from the stacks at Widener have the stature of a letter from Thoreau — “marquee items,” Comstock called them. But all of them echo Sibley’s 1846 diary entry on ephemera: What is “not very valuable now,” he wrote, “will become valuable here after.”last_img read more

A Q&A on economic outlook

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first_imgKenneth Rogoff, Harvard’s Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy and professor of economics, is a leading authority on international finance, macroeconomics, and political economy. He served as chief economist and director of research for the International Monetary Fund from 2001 to 2003. In a question-and-answer session with Gazette staff writer Colleen Walsh, Rogoff weighed in on the economic outlook for the United States in the wake of the recent election.Where do you see the country in two years?The good news is that the candidate who won [Barack Obama] puts a big weight on the quality of opportunity and trying to reduce inequality in general. And this is just a huge social and political and economic problem in the country. And if we had had eight years like under President George W. Bush, that might have put even more strain on the system. The bad news is President Obama didn’t really articulate a clear plan for growth. The economy is in the doldrums, and is likely to be for a long time.What we do know is that Obamacare is coming, which certainly is laudable, but it is going to be a big weight on growth. Even if in the long run, it’s in the social interest, in the near term it’s going to be a big thing to digest.So I think the challenge now is to find a way to try to maintain solid growth. Unfortunately, based on my work with Carmen Reinhart [the Minos A. Zombanakis Professor of the International Financial System at Harvard Kennedy School], I have to guess that it will be very hard to dig our way out fast.One problem is the big overhang of private debt, public debt, and external debt. Overhangs of this magnitude usually take a decade or more to unwind, though perhaps with better policies and a lot of luck, it might only take us four or five years instead. … The best guess is we will still be growing slowly for long while, with employment improving only gradually.What do you think it would take to make people feel better? And could a better collective mood itself help spur growth?Sure, animal spirits matter, but there is a huge overhang of debt, and it’s just not easy to dig your way out of. If one looks at history, including other deep financial crises the U.S. has experienced — not just the Great Depression, but also a few before that — or if one looks at other countries’ experiences with financial crises, it’s hard to see that we are going to be galloping along anytime soon, no matter what the psychology.During this period, maintaining social stability — having people feel that they are part of the system, that they are not disenfranchised, that they have hope for the future — is actually quite important. Otherwise, we could experience wild gyrations in politics that could be very destabilizing and throw us off track.The recent election is probably good for stability, since President Obama embodies empathy toward the less fortunate. He is very popular abroad in most quarters. But on the other hand, the Republicans won decisively in the House, so policy will have to be a compromise. Both sides need to work together toward finding a way to dig us out of this a little faster.Is there a deal to be had in Washington?There are clearly deals to be had. Unfortunately, we are at a level of dysfunction in Washington. Clearly, some of that’s emanating from divisions in the Republican Party. This game of passing bills all year and then using the debt ceiling to renegotiate everything is a very dangerous development, not just for the present gridlock but potentially in the future, when, say, there is a Republican president and Democratic House. The debt ceiling could become a nuclear weapon whenever the administration and the Congress are divided. This is a fight not just over policy, but over how power is divided among the branches of government.What is the solution?I worry we might not come to a solution. Some day, if not on this occasion then perhaps a few years from now, the president may to have to say, ‘OK, then don’t sign it, don’t sign the bill, don’t vote for this bill if you are so insistent,’ and see how the country reacts. Of course, that’s a very dangerous game because then the public might hold the president accountable, even if the president feels he is blameless. Unfortunately, a lot of people in the public think it’s the most natural thing on earth to just cut off the government’s credit very suddenly as a way to force it to pay its bills. The government has a myriad of commitments, which cannot be cut off so easily without huge disruption in ways the public does not seem to understand, but it will when it happens.What are your thoughts on tax reform?Well, the president endorsed Simpson-Bowles [the bipartisan commission that recommended spending cuts and higher taxes to trim the nation’s debt]; Mitt Romney endorsed Simpson-Bowles. Right now, that’s the best plan on the table. You can improve it, but the basic idea of drastically reducing deductions and then trying to keep marginal tax rates low is a much better idea than raising marginal tax rates for maintaining growth.Mitt Romney suggested something interesting in the debates, capping deductions at a fairly low level. That would have a quantum effect. For the very wealthy individuals, he mentioned numbers like capping deductions at $25,000 or $50,000. That would be really quite dramatic. Also, a lot of earned income is disguised as capital gains, and that’s incredibly pernicious in the system. It’s frankly one of the ways great pools of wealth have been created. The ultra-wealthy pay a much lower effective tax rate, and that’s really a deep flaw in the tax system. And I think only drastic simplification of the tax system can prevent that. [In] any system that is complex, the very wealthy, with lots of lawyers and accountants and political pull, will figure out a way to game it. …For me, Simpson-Bowles doesn’t go nearly far enough. I would like to see a flat consumption tax with a very high deductible, so that you don’t pay any taxes up to a certain level. I would actually fold all taxes into that, even Medicare, Social Security, etc., and have just have one simple tax system. This idea has been voiced by a number of economists; Steve Forbes campaigned on a variant of it in the 1990s. If you don’t have a simple system, it’s too easy to game it.What will actually happen? I don’t know. Simpson-Bowles was presented as reaching the limits of political compromise. We can hope. It’s highly unpredictable, with certainly a leading chance that they’ll just find a temporary solution and not reach an agreement on more fundamental change.Do you think the president can actually create jobs without a stimulus package?Of course it is possible, but it is not all about stimulus. Going forward, you want to try to think of real structural reform that will lead to organic growth, especially in light of the headwinds coming from the introduction of significant taxes to fund the new health initiative.Tax simplification and tax reform would be really the ideal thing. Of course, there are many others. I’d like to see an infrastructure program and a serious look at education, which needs drastic reform, and I don’t just mean more funding.last_img read more

Roles of a lifetime

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first_imgIn a movie career spanning six decades and 80-plus films, Burt Lancaster played Wyatt Earp, Moses, Jim Thorpe, a pirate, a bookie, a billionaire, a gangster, a rogue general, a Nazi, a French Resistance fighter, and a convict who studies bird diseases.Playing a soldier, he was also one-half of the most famous kiss in cinema history, a wave-washed, adulterous embrace with Deborah Kerr on a Honolulu beach in “From Here to Eternity” (1953).Starting July 19 and running through Sept. 8, the Harvard Film Archive (HFA) will embrace Lancaster with a 20-film centennial retrospective. It’s not a kiss, but a remembrance: 100 years ago this November Burton Stephen Lancaster was born in Manhattan, one of five children in a working-class East Harlem family.His career in movies was delayed by a long Depression-era stint as an acrobat and by service in World War II. The iconic actor — with his clipped diction, pearly straight teeth, and imposing physique — was 33 when he appeared on screen for the first time in “The Killers” (1946). (A nod to film buffs: His actual film debut was “Desert Fury,” whose release was delayed until 1947.)The timing of his stardom made Lancaster a transitional figure of successive movie worlds: the reign of the classical Hollywood studio system, which would topple in the 1950s, and the modern era of independent producers. That makes Lancaster “a natural choice for a retrospective,” said HFA programmer David Pendleton.Lancaster was one of the first Hollywood stars to form a production company. Hecht Hill Lancaster allowed him to avoid typecasting — because he was casting himself — and the result was a diversity of roles. Some of them odd and daring, like the titular swimmer in the 1968 film based on John Cheever’s classic story. And Lancaster crossed over to star in European movies, Pendleton noted, taking direction from cinema legends such as Luchino Visconti.The series would have been screened at Harvard several years ago, Pendleton said, and was only delayed because a print of one of the Visconti films, “Conversation Piece” (1974), was not yet available. (The retrospective will also feature “The Leopard,” directed by Visconti and released in 1963.)The timing of the series works out nicely for Joanna Lancaster. She is the second youngest of the star’s five children and helped to introduce the first film of the series, “Sweet Smell of Success” (1957) — a cutting, if veiled, portrait of a power-mad New York media star modeled on the fast-talking Walter Winchell. Another star in the film is the city of New York itself, with its grit, glitter, glamour, and shadows.Joanna Lancaster, a onetime film producer who teaches sixth-grade English in Los Angeles, owns a farm in western Massachusetts — and for the next two weeks at least will try to see as many of her father’s films as she can. The Harvard series includes a special bonus, she said: “Conversation Piece,” which she has never seen.She remembers “The Leopard,” however: The whole family spent the summer in Sicily when it was being filmed. “He wanted everything he did to look good,” she said of her father’s work — and it earned him a reputation of being difficult on the set, and of arguing with directors. “He was a pain in the ass on the set. He fought for what he wanted.”Joanna remembered being on the set for “The Trapeze” (1956), “Devil’s Disciple” (1959), “Elmer Gantry” (1960), and other films.At home, Lancaster talked a lot of shop about movie making. “He had a very large presence,” she said. “We always used to laugh that Elmer Gantry was very much how Dad behaved at Sunday night dinner.” And he sometimes asked for advice — when Joanna was 13, her father sought her opinion on a movie version of “The Swimmer,” handing her the Cheever story to read.Her father was often boisterous and talkative, his daughter said. “We were pals.” But he was also capable of deep quiet — enough that he would tune everyone out while reading the paper or doing a crossword puzzle.“Having said that,” she added, “he was very scary when he was angry. He had a big voice.”Intimidation could apply to boyfriends. In high school Joanna and her beau often went to her father’s office, where he kept a 20-foot gymnast’s rope hooked to the ceiling. Lancaster was not sure he liked the boyfriend, but then the teenager scrambled all the way up. “Then he was OK,” she said.Lancaster was proudly physical — even to the point of being uncooperative when he was sick. Joanna was on the set of “Cattle Annie and Little Britches” (1981) when her father collapsed from a bile duct blockage. They returned to Los Angeles and an ambulance met them at the airport. It was 105 degrees and the ambulance broke down on the way to the hospital. “He got out and pushed,” she said. “I couldn’t get him to behave.”Across the HFA series, Lancaster’s cinematic gifts are on full display: a masculine intensity, a counterpoint vulnerability, and sheer physical presence. He was a basketball player on scholarship at New York University before quitting at age 19 to start a circus and vaudeville career as an acrobat.“His physical stature and his physical grace were an important part of his becoming a star,” said Pendleton. “From the very beginning the camera took to him.”Lancaster will show off his acrobatic past in “The Crimson Pirate” (1952), being screened at HFA July 26. As a bonus, the movie also stars Nick Cravat, Lancaster’s onetime acrobatic partner in the 1930s. They made nine films together — though in many of them (including this one) Cravat stays mute because of his heavy Brooklyn accent.The HFA festival is in collaboration with a series under way at the Brattle Theatre. Only two films will show in both places, however: “Sweet Smell of Success” and “The Killers.” Harvard Film Archive screenings are in the Carpenter Center, 24 Quincy St. Harvard students are admitted free. Harvard faculty and staff, along with seniors and non-Harvard students, pay a $7 admission. All others pay $9.last_img read more

When bacteria fight back

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first_imgThe U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a report about the growth of drug-resistant bacteria in this country, saying that each year more than 23,000 people die and 2 million are sickened by infections caused by resistant microbes.The report released on Sept. 23 categorized the 18 most-worrisome microbes, with three labeled as urgent problems: Clostridium difficile; carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae; and drug-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which causes gonorrhea.To gain a better sense of the medical concerns involved, Gazette staff writer Alvin Powell spoke with Professor of Medicine David Hooper, a physician and chief of the Infection Control Unit at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, a member of the Harvard-wide Program on Antibiotic Resistance, and an authority on drug-resistant bacteria.GAZETTE: What did the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do on this issue, and why?HOOPER: The CDC has been concerned about antibiotic resistance for some time. They have undertaken a very systematic and broad-ranging look at the details of resistance and the magnitude of the problem, identifying cases that resulted in death due to the resistant organisms, something that has not been so cleanly defined in the past.GAZETTE: Is there new science in this report, or is this really just a call to action?HOOPER: The data are new in terms of the magnitude of the problem, defined in the careful way they did it. But none of these organisms is brand-new. We’ve known about them. We just haven’t known the numbers in quite so detailed a manner. It’s very helpful from a public health perspective that you know the magnitude of the problem. And yes, it’s a call to action as well.GAZETTE: How did this problem of antibiotic resistance occur, and how bad is it?HOOPER: We’ve been dealing with various types of resistance to antibiotics for many years, and, over time, an increasing number of bacterial types have developed resistance. In some cases, organisms have become multidrug resistant. One of the organisms identified as urgent [by the CDC], carbapenem-resistant bacteria, are in many cases resistant to most of the antibiotics we have, and in some cases all of the antibiotics we have. So the problem has been increasing over time and has been of concern to the CDC for some time. The CDC’s action helps to highlight the extent of the problem and give some priorities, categorizing organisms as urgent concern, serious concern, and concerning for the future, should they emerge.“We do see patients with these carbapenem-resistant bacteria [pictured],” said Hooper. “Fortunately, the numbers are relatively low at this point.” Courtesy of the CDCGAZETTE: They identified three specific organisms as urgent threats. Do you agree with that assessment?HOOPER: Yes. I do clinical infectious disease work, and we do see patients with these carbapenem-resistant bacteria. Fortunately, the numbers are relatively low at this point. They’re dangerous because they’re resistant to multiple drugs, and the carbapenem drugs are a class that in the past we have used as our fallback agent, for cases resistant to many other drugs. So now these strains are also resistant to carbapenems, so that’s why they’re listed as urgent.Clostridium difficile is mainly a hospital-acquired pathogen, although not always. The disease occurs most often in patients who are on antibiotics, and it can be severe and in some cases life-threatening. It’s an antibiotic-promoted infection rather than an antibiotic-resistant infection, but it certainly causes disease and is the most common hospital-acquired bacterial infection.The resistant gonococcus, which causes gonorrhea, is a public health concern because of the ability for sexually transmitted pathogens to spread. The drugs that have been used in the past have become progressively inactive as the organism has become resistant. Fluoroquinolones were previously used to treat a patient with gonorrhea, but resistance is high enough now that you can’t do that. Then, an oral, third-generation cephalosporin antibiotic was commonly used, but now a number of these organisms are resistant to that. So we’re at the edge. We have one principal antibiotic that can reliably treat the cause of gonorrhea. That’s obviously a concern, given the potential for spread of this organism.GAZETTE: Are these three organisms on the verge of being untreatable?HOOPER: Clostridium difficile can be treated. In many cases for carbapenem-resistant strains, we can use two other antibiotics, though in a few cases there are no antibiotics that are active. The gonorrhea-causing organism is currently still treatable with an antibiotic that has to be injected, but that’s the only one we have left to use reliably.GAZETTE: How does an organism develop resistance?HOOPER: Resistance generally emerges in the context of antibiotic use, because resistant organisms have an advantage over antibiotic-susceptible organisms and can multiply.Bacteria can multiply as rapidly as every 20 minutes in optimum conditions, so they have a lot of opportunities to change their genetic makeup, either by mutation or acquiring resistance genes from other bacteria in the same environment. And there are genetic elements called plasmids that can transfer from one bacterium to another, and some of these plasmids have on them multiple genes for antibiotic resistance. So when the plasmid transfers, you don’t just get antibiotic resistance to one drug, you get resistance to multiple drugs.All of these resistant organisms might be present in very small numbers, but when antibiotics are used, they then become much more prevalent and much more likely to spread from person to person, particularly in health care settings.GAZETTE: If nothing is done, what is the worst case we’re looking at?HOOPER: If nothing were done over time, these resistant organisms would probably increase in prevalence and extent. Complicating this problem is the fact that there have been relatively few new antibiotics developed by the pharmaceutical industry in recent years.In the past, when resistance of one type or another emerged, pharmaceutical companies would come up with agents active against the resistant organisms. But today there are fewer companies involved in antibiotic development, so we have fewer new drugs coming down the pipeline that might deal with this resistance.GAZETTE: From the public’s standpoint, where are they most likely to meet these bugs?HOOPER: Two of the “urgent” organisms, carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae and Clostridium difficile, have been most often encountered in health care settings, either a hospital or long-term-care type of setting. The gonorrhea organism, being sexually transmitted, is related to sexual behavior and occurs in the community.GAZETTE: What is the most important message the public should take from the report?HOOPER: The most important message is that antibiotics are a valuable resource. They can save lives and treat serious bacterial infections, but they shouldn’t be used without good evidence that they’re going to cause benefits. Using them to treat acute bronchitis, for example, which is nearly always a viral infection, should not be the standard of practice. And for other types of infections that may be viral that are not helped by antibiotics, patients shouldn’t be asking physicians for antibiotic treatment. There are symptomatic treatments that can be used for many of these viral infections that are usually self–limited.A good standard practice is hand hygiene: hand-washing or use of alcohol-based gels. In a hospital setting, we emphasize that to minimize transmission from patient to patient, and consider it a standard of good practice. In one’s daily life, the habit of hand-washing after going to the bathroom, hand-washing regularly after contact with other persons — though not in an obsessive way — can be useful in avoiding the spread of pathogens.Another factor for the public is vaccination. Every year now, the CDC recommends everyone over 6 months of age without a medical contraindication get a flu vaccine. While influenza is a virus, influenza disease can be associated with secondary bacterial infections, so preventing influenza makes good sense. There is another vaccine that is aimed at the Streptococcus pneumoniae, the most common bacterial pneumonia pathogen, that’s recommended in general for patients over 65 who are at the highest risk, and for younger people who have other underlying diseases.GAZETTE: Can you talk briefly about the work going on at Harvard in this area?HOOPER: I’m most linked into Harvard Medical School, where my appointment is. But all of the Harvard-affiliated hospitals have programs for reducing transmission of pathogens in the hospital, policies and procedures shown to reduce the likelihood of any of these bugs spreading in a hospital setting. That work is standard and ongoing.In terms of research, there is epidemiologic research in the hospitals about occurrences, risk factors, those sorts of things. At the basic [research] level, there’s a number of groups studying mechanisms of resistance, seeking to understand how these organisms adapt, how they acquired genes of resistance, and how those resistance genes may be transferred, modified, or regulated in their expression.There is a program project grant, NIH-funded [National Institutes of Health], that looks at resistance in Staphylococcus aureus, particularly methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enterococci. Several labs are part of this multiproject grant that involves both understanding the mechanism of resistance but also trying to identify new compounds that are active against these highly resistant organisms.last_img read more

Harmony and humanity

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first_imgYou could hear the packed house inside Sanders Theatre hold its collective breath as jazz pianist Herbie Hancock slid onto the bench and gently settled his hands on the Steinway to pluck a few chords that he picked up from trumpeter Miles Davis. They were harmonic ideas, he said yesterday, that opened his mind to new creative possibilities and would go on to shape his illustrious, six-decade career as a performer and composer.Soundbytes: Herbie Hancock on ‘The Wisdom of Miles Davis’Listen to a clip from Herbie Hancock’s lecture in Sanders Theatre.“The Wisdom of Miles” was the title of Hancock’s first lecture in the series of talks he will give over the next two months as the 2014 Norton Professor of Poetry. Hancock laid out his vision for the series and spoke of some of the early practical advice (start your own publishing company) and creative insights (learn to listen) that Davis imparted to the then-artistically struggling young musician.Established in 1925, the title of Charles Eliot Norton Professor in Poetry at Harvard has been held by giants in literature, fine arts, and music, including T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Charles Eames, Igor Stravinsky, and Leonard Bernstein.Hancock’s appointment marks the first time that jazz will be the subject of the Norton lectures, and the first time an African-American has been named a Norton Professor, said Homi Bhabha, the Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities and director of the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard, which sponsors the post.“He is both a legend and a pioneer. It is no exaggeration to say that his influence on jazz, and a range of affiliated musical traditions, has been utterly transformative. His musical creativity knows no bounds because it goes hand-in-hand with his remarkable spiritual and intellectual aspirations,” Bhaba said in an email. “I have no doubt that these lectures will display Herbie Hancock’s musical genius in the context of his remarkable contribution to humanitarian issues.”When approached by Bhabha, Hancock said he was delighted to be selected, but wasn’t sure initially what the Norton professorship was all about.“I never heard of it,” Hancock said in a phone interview. “And then when I saw the list of people who’ve received this appointment, I was blown away. I said ‘Wow, this august group of people — what am I doing there?’” But he embraced the guiding principle behind the lectures, which is to advance the expression of poetry in its broadest sense.“Being asked to teach a series of lectures was, I felt, a great opportunity for me to express myself in a way other than through moving my fingers,” he said.Hancock said the series, “The Ethics of Jazz,” encapsulates the system of morals and values that have guided him musically and spiritually. His upcoming talks will delve further into his life as a working musician and composer, but will also touch on his experiences as cultural diplomat, his experimentation and innovation with music technology, and his spiritual growth, gleaned from four decades of practicing Buddhism.“My overarching concept is that the human spirit is a real treasure. Your life is a real treasure. [It’s] multi-faceted, even if you don’t realize it,” Hancock said in the interview. “There’s a tendency to think that there are things outside of ourselves that are the cause of our unhappiness or the cause for our difficulties in life, and I don’t believe that. I believe that the way you look at things can be a catalyst for bringing out wisdom in your life and choosing to take those difficulties and becoming victorious over them.” He said to “never give up on the fight to go beyond what you thought you were and into what you can become. I really believe we are all here to help each other realize the best of what we can be, which is the catalyst for living a life of happiness.”Hancock is a 14-time Grammy Award winner, most recently for his 2007 record “River: The Joni Letters,” which won for album of the year, the first time a jazz artist had taken the music industry’s top prize since Stan Getz and Joäo Gilberto’s 1964 bossa nova classic, “Getz/Gilberto.” His career has been marked by daring innovation in virtually every decade.Born in 1940, Herbert Jeffrey Hancock grew up in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood on the city’s South Side. His talent on the piano surfaced as a boy. At age 11, Hancock won a local contest whose first prize was performing a Mozart concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.He went to Grinnell College, a liberal arts school in Iowa, to study electrical engineering. But music’s pull was strong, luring Hancock back to Chicago where he quickly fell in with trumpeter Donald Byrd, an early mentor, and began gigging with saxophonist Coleman Hawkins.Hancock found the artistic and commercial success that would mark his six-decade career in 1962 with “Watermelon Man,” a breakout R&B-flavored jazz hit from his debut album, “Takin’ Off,” on Blue Note Records. That recording caught the ear of Davis, who soon invited Hancock to join what many call Davis’ second great quintet, a legendary ensemble that featured Davis in one of his creative peaks as a composer and bandleader, as well as some then relative unknowns: saxophonist Wayne Shorter, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Tony Williams. Still, Hancock wisely maintained a solo career on the side during that era, penning a number of works like “Cantaloupe Island” and “Maiden Voyage” that would become jazz standards.In the late 1960s, Hancock explored the interplay of acoustic and electronic instruments in jazz, as well as the fusion of avant-garde jazz ideas and improvisation with contemporary funk and rock rhythms in the mode of Davis’ 1970 landmark “Bitches Brew.” Hancock did so through his new band, Mwandishi, and the soundtrack for a new educational children’s TV program by Bill Cosby, “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.”Hancock’s funk/jazz explorations would lead him to another creative and commercial milestone in the mid-1970s with his band and record “Head Hunters.” The group’s groundbreaking sound influenced funk contemporaries, and would be revived by hip-hop artists in the early 1990s.Hancock’s synth-heavy instrumental “Rockit” was an unlikely pop hit in the 1980s and would be hailed for its mash-up of electronic funk and hip-hop, as well as its pioneering music video.In addition to his active concert schedule, Hancock is currently a professor at UCLA and chairman of the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz. He is also a founder of the International Committee of Artists for Peace and was named a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador in 2011.While at Harvard, Hancock also will speak about his film-scoring work, for which he won an Academy Award in 1986 for “Round Midnight.” The Harvard Film Archive will screen two other films that he scored, Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Blow-Up” (1966) and the thriller “The Spook Who Sat by the Door” (1973) later this month.Hancock’s next lecture, “Breaking the Rules” will take place Feb. 12.“‘Breaking the Rules’ is really about the fact that people who we study are not the ones who followed the rules. We don’t even know about the ones who followed the rules because they didn’t change anything,” said Hancock.“The reason I want to talk about that is because each of us has a voice that has our own individual way of expression. No matter what job we may have, each of us can find our own personal take on things, and it’s important to find that.”The remaining lectures include “Breaking the Rules,” Feb. 12; “Cultural Diplomacy and the Voice of Freedom,” Feb. 27; “Innovation and New Technologies,” March 10; “Buddhism and Creativity,” March 24; “Once Upon a Time …,” March 31. All lectures are at 4 p.m. at Sanders Theatre, 45 Quincy St., Cambridge. Events are free, but tickets are required. Tickets will be available starting at noon on the day of each lecture at Sanders Theatre and online (handling fee applies). Limit of two tickets per person. Tickets valid until 3:45 p.m. on the day of the event.last_img read more

Rethinking public health education

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first_imgFlashed on screen at a recent Harvard symposium was an illustration from the year 1308 showing students in a lecture-style class. Some are fooling around. Some look bored. One is even sleeping.Next on screen: a modern-day photo of a lecture-style class, surprisingly similar to the 1308 illustration. The professor is at a lectern — and the students, sitting in rows before him, look just as bored as their medieval counterparts.The images were presented during a series of talks on innovations in education at the 9th Teikyo-HSPH Symposium, on “Training Public Health Leaders for the 21st century,” held Thursday, Sept. 4 at the Harvard Medical School’s Joseph B. Martin Conference Center. The symposium, held every two years, is jointly sponsored by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Teikyo University Graduate School of Public Health in Japan.Sanjay Sarma, MIT’s director of digital learning, showed the two lecture hall images to make the point that while other industries — publishing, retail, and music, for instance — have undergone seismic changes because of new technologies, “nothing much has changed” with Western-style education. Read Full Storylast_img read more

The modern Buddhist minister

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first_imgHarvard University was founded in 1636 to establish “a learned ministry.” Nearly four centuries later, Harvard Divinity School (HDS) works to produce a learned ministry for modern times.At a recent HDS conference, Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies Janet Gyatso recalled the School’s 2005 revision of its master of divinity curriculum and how it became an opportunity to broaden the scope of the program.“I really felt that this would be a wonderful place to start training Buddhist ministers in very much the same way that students who are largely in Christian traditions were getting trained,” she said. “The basic phrase or model of this whole master of divinity program is to produce a learned ministry. … Why not do that for Buddhist students as well?”The conference, “Education and Buddhist Ministry: Whither — and Why?” was a new undertaking for the School’s Buddhist Ministry Initiative (BMI). The BMI’s first international conference brought together scholars, students, and educators for three days to discuss challenges, insights, and questions regarding training for Buddhist ministry and to foster collaboration among institutions and individuals. The conference was funded by the Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation.Several panels addressed a major question among those participating: As Buddhism is being drawn upon to meet the needs of the secularized West, is it just becoming a secular adaptation of traditional Buddhism, or can it continue to be a vehicle of spiritual liberation?Among the speakers was the Venerable Yifa, program director at the Woodenfish Project. Woodenfish helps the development of emerging scholars in the West who have interests in Chinese Buddhism. Photo by Evgenia EliseevaIn talking about challenges, Gyatso pointed out that Buddhist ministers in the Western world are going out and working in hospitals and prisons with people who are not exclusively Buddhist. That can lead to a generalization or abstraction of certain types of practices such as mindfulness and compassion, she said, later asking if that means those exercises then cease to be Buddhist, and at what point that becomes something to worry about.“Part of what the students are challenged with is how do they take the insights — the wisdoms that are coming from contexts that are not necessarily Buddhist at all — and, on one hand, translate them into Buddhist terms and, on the other hand, how do they contribute insights and wisdoms that they are getting from their Buddhist background back into those practices? So it’s a two-way street,” she said.Francis Greenwood Peabody Senior Lecturer on Pastoral Care and Counseling Cheryl Giles talked about her transition from being a Roman Catholic to a practitioner of Buddhism.“Where we come from shapes our understanding and practice of ministry,” Giles said. “As an educated, black, lesbian, recovering Catholic from a working-class family who practices Tibetan Buddhism, it does matter. I bring all of this to the practice of Buddhism — and hopefully ministry.“Buddhist ministry is not a one-size-fits-all practice. It is being at the margins with the poor, homeless, uneducated, sick, mentally ill, and despairing. It is visiting the sick, dying, and those incarcerated. It is advocating for justice. It is teaching students who are future leaders to stand with the poor, to honor the dignity of each person, and to practice love and kindness, not just for others, but also for ourselves,” she explained.A separate panel discussion focused on the question of what it takes to be a Buddhist minister.Yangsi Rinpoche, president and professor of Buddhist studies at Maitripa College, a Buddhist university in Portland, Ore., spoke about seeing some Western-ordained practitioners become nervous and uncomfortable when performing Buddhist rituals. He hopes the focus will shift and be based in the wisdom of the ritual rather than the method.John Makransky, an associate professor at Boston College and teacher at the Foundation for Active Compassion, noted the importance for students to be connected to Asian Buddhist teachers and communities, so training doesn’t become a “Western thing.” He also commented on the importance of Buddhist ministry as a key resource for interreligious engagement.“Clearly, that’s very important in the place and time that we live in. A lot of people looking to Buddhism are non-Buddhists, not seeking to convert to Buddhism, but to learn something deeply from it that informs their lives as Christians, Jews, and others,” he said.Other panelists included HDS faculty members Emily Click, assistant dean for ministry studies and field education and lecturer on ministry, and Charles Hallisey, the Yehan Numata Senior Lecturer on Buddhist Literatures.last_img read more

Flier to step down as Medical School dean

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first_imgJeffrey S. Flier announced today that he will step down as dean of Harvard Medical School (HMS) in July. Flier, an endocrinologist and an authority on the molecular causes of obesity and diabetes, is the Caroline Shields Walker Professor of Medicine at HMS, and plans to return to teaching and regular service on the faculty following a sabbatical in 2016-17.Flier became the 21st dean of HMS in 2007, implementing a broad-based, strategic planning process to produce a clear vision for a vital, collaborative academic community well positioned to advance biomedical research and medical education. Flier has overseen a series of innovative educational approaches, including the redesign of the School’s M.D. curriculum; strengthened the School’s research enterprise through new faculty appointments and initiatives; and guided the School’s continuing advancement through the 2008 financial crash and tightened federal funding for research.“I have strived to work every day over these past eight years to sustain and enhance the sacred mission of this, the world’s leading medical school — set within the world’s greatest university — and associated with the finest teaching hospitals and research institutions anywhere,” said Flier. “Working together, this large, complex, and remarkable community has made great strides — as our mission statement promises — toward reduced suffering caused by disease.“It has been an extraordinary honor and privilege — more than words can possibly convey — to have been given the opportunity to serve as dean,” Flier added.“From the moment he accepted my invitation to serve as dean, Jeff has invested himself relentlessly in sustaining Harvard Medical School’s excellence and enhancing its extraordinary contributions to improving health,” said Harvard President Drew Faust in a message to the HMS community. “He has never wavered in his determination to assure that our remarkable community of medical faculty, students, and staff — on the Quad and across Harvard’s affiliated medical institutions — fulfill the aspiration to be one of the world’s most powerful forces for the advancement of biomedical science and the betterment of the human condition. In a domain energized by the interplay of scientific rigor, innovative thinking, and humane concern for others, Jeff has not only affirmed those qualities but embodied them.”Flier’s leadership has been marked by efforts to develop far-reaching educational initiatives, advance the School’s record of remarkable achievement in scientific discovery, and safeguard the School’s financial stability. Flier has guided an innovative and extensive redesign of the HMS medical education curriculum, one that has involved hundreds of faculty over the course of several years. The Pathways curriculum more closely fuses basic science and clinical education, moving students into clinics earlier and employing more advanced pedagogical techniques and technology.He has overseen the creation of an integrated program in graduate education (both Ph.D. and master’s) and the launch of several new master’s programs in priority areas that include global health delivery, bioethics, medical education, immunology, and biomedical informatics. Under his leadership, HMS has also formed a new Office for External Education, combining under one strategic umbrella the School’s Continuing Medical Education, Global Education, and new online education initiatives along with Harvard Health Publications, in order to make HMS’s educational offerings accessible to many kinds of learners around the world.Flier is also recognized for his deep commitment to the research and discovery mission of Harvard Medical School.Under his leadership, HMS last year successfully launched the Laboratory of Systems Pharmacology, the cornerstone of the transdepartmental Harvard Program in Therapeutic Science (HiTS), in which scientists, software engineers, and physicians are partnering to advance the science of drug discovery.During Flier’s tenure as dean, he championed the establishment of an academic Department of Biomedical Informatics, focusing on the development of new tools and methods for capturing, representing, storing, and analyzing big biomedical data and information. He repositioned the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine to embrace a more ambitious mission in global health, and launched a Center for Primary Care that enables innovation and new models of patient care across a range of affiliated teaching practices that serve more than 270,000 patients in Greater Boston.Also under his guidance, the Harvard Catalyst has created avenues for cross-disciplinary and translational research. It was awarded two successive five-year federal grants, making possible new efforts in collaborative biomedical research across Boston.“Every single day, our students, faculty, and staff work together to enhance human health across the dimensions of education, research, and service,” said Flier. “These efforts are of increasing importance to the world today. Over the past eight years, I have encouraged this remarkable community to leverage their individual talents by working together in partnership, including new collaborations and modes of interaction.  It is my hope that these efforts have made the School a stronger place and resulted in meaningful contributions to biomedical science and health.”Flier is one of the country’s leading investigators in the areas of obesity and diabetes. His research has produced major insights into the molecular mechanisms of insulin action and insulin resistance in human disease, and the molecular pathophysiology of obesity.Born in New York City, he received a B.S. from City College of New York in 1968 and an M.D. from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in 1972, graduating with the Elster Award for highest academic standing. Following residency training in internal medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital from 1972 to 1974, he moved to the National Institutes of Health as a clinical associate. In 1978, he joined the HMS faculty of medicine, serving as chief of the diabetes unit at Beth Israel Hospital until 1990, when he was named chief of the hospital’s endocrine division.In 2002, Flier was named chief academic officer of Beth Israel Medical Center (BIDMC), a new senior position responsible for research and academic programs. He worked with Beth Israel Deaconess academic department chairs to ensure the quality and breadth of academic programs at BIDMC, in which many HMS students take part. He also served as the BIDMC’s formal liaison to HMS, sitting on the School’s Council of Academic Deans.Flier is the author or co-author of more than 200 scholarly papers and reviews. An elected member of the Institute of Medicine and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he has been recognized with such honors as the Eli Lilly Award of the American Diabetes Association, the Berson Distinguished Lectureship Award of the American Physiological Society, and honorary doctorates from the University of Athens and the University of Edinburgh. He was the recipient of the 2003 Edwin B. Astwood Lecture Award from the Endocrine Society, and in 2005 he received the Banting Medal from the American Diabetes Association, its highest scientific honor.Faust said that she and Provost Alan M. Garber will launch a search for a new dean soon.last_img read more