Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Eminent Historian Richard Beeman Named a Senior Fellow at Washington College

CHESTERTOWN, MD— Acclaimed historian Richard Beeman, winner of the 2010 George Washington Book Prize, has recently joined the Washington College community as a Senior Fellow of both the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and the Institute for Religion, Politics and Culture (IRPC). In his new role, Beeman will offer a special four-week series of public talks at the College this fall. The series, Inventing a Nation, will provide attendees a crash course in the dramatic highs and lows of America’s first 25 years.

One of the nation’s leading historians of America’s revolutionary and early national experience, Beeman has been a member of the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania for 43 years and has served as Chair of the Department of History and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He is a member of the scholarly advisory board of the American Revolution Center and is a Trustee of the National Constitution Center.

Beeman joins former Senator Birch Bayh as a Senior Fellow at the Starr Center. He will serve as a resource for the Washington College community, mentoring high-achieving students and leading public programs.

“Rick is a captivating lecturer, a brilliant scholar and a superb teacher,” says Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the Starr Center. “His two previous appearances here were among the best events we’ve ever hosted. He, in turn, has greatly enjoyed his visits to Chestertown. I was thrilled when he approached us about developing an ongoing relationship with Washington College.”

“Having a scholar of the international prominence of Richard Beeman as a Senior Fellow is a great honor and a tremendous addition to the Institute,” adds Joseph Prud’homme, Director of the IRPC. “Rick will be an invaluable resource for our students.”

Beeman, likewise, says he is “greatly honored” to be affiliated with the Starr Center and IRPC. “I have long been an admirer of their superb public programs. I look forward to my association with the students and faculty at Washington College,” he says, “and I hope that I will be able to contribute something useful to the intellectual life at the College.”

Beeman won the George Washington Book Prize in 2010 for Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution (Random House, 2009), which the jurors praised as “the fullest and most authentic account of the Constitutional Convention ever written.” He is also the author of five other books on revolutionary America, including The Penguin Guide to the American Constitution (Penguin, 2010) and Patrick Henry: A Biography (McGraw-Hill, 1974), which was a finalist for the National Book Award.

He is currently at work on a “prequel” to Plain, Honest Men. Also set in Independence Hall, the new book focuses on the Continental Congress’s often acrimonious two-year debate over the question of independence. Our Lives, Our Fortunes, Our Sacred Honor: Americans Choose Independence is scheduled to be published by Random House in 2013.

Over the course of his career, Beeman has received numerous awards, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, and the Huntington Library. He has served as a Fulbright Professor in the United Kingdom and as Harmsworth Distinguished Professor of American History at Oxford University.

The four talks in Beeman’s Inventing a Nation series will take place in the College’s Decker Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on consecutive Tuesdays as follows:

October 18, “The Founders and the Myth of the ‘Original Meaning’ of the Constitution”
October 25, “The Founders, Religion, and Separation of Church and State”

November 1, “The Creation of the Bill of Rights”
November 8, “Sex, Lies, and the Founders: The American Presidency, Democracy, and the Media”

More details will be announced in September.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Poet Jehanne Dubrow Named Interim Director of Rose O'Neill Literary House at Washington College

CHESTERTOWN, MD—Poet Jehanne Dubrow has accepted a two-year interim appointment as director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House at Washington College. She fills a vacancy created earlier this summer when former director Mark Nowak moved to Purchase, N.Y., to lead the Graduate Creative Writing program at Manhattanville College .

In announcing the appointment, interim provost and dean John Taylor described Dubrow as “a gifted poet of growing national reputation who will bring energy, imagination and creativity to the programming of our literary events.” He also expressed his confidence that Dubrow, a popular assistant professor of English on the Washington College campus, “will create a welcoming environment for students with diverse interests in the craft of writing.”

English Department chair Kate Moncrief, an associate professor of English and the chair of the College’s Sophie Kerr Committee, also looks forward to Dubrow’s new role on campus. “Jehanne’s accomplishments and ability as both a poet and a teacher make her an ideal fit for the Literary House,” she says. “She has earned the respect of the students as an assistant professor in the English department, teaching both introductory and advanced courses in creative writing. She’s an immensely talented writer whose connections to the local area and in the larger literary world will be an asset for the Literary House and for Washington College.”

Moncrief praised departing director Nowak—an accomplished documentary poet and a recipient of a 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship—for his accomplishments, especially noting the renowned writers he brought to campus during his two years at the Literary House. “Mark brought a unique vision to both his teaching and his work as Literary House Director,” she said. “He hosted a number of nationally and internationally recognized writers including National Poetry Slam champion Patricia Smith, Argentine novelist Rodrigo Fresán, poets Ken Chen, Deborah Landau and Claudia Rankine, and novelist and Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Díaz. The English department wishes him well in his new position. ”

His successor, Dubrow, is a widely praised poet whose most recent collection, Stateside (Northwestern University Press, 2010), is based on her experiences as a military wife, or “milspouse”—her husband, Jeremy, is an officer in the U.S. Navy. Stateside was awarded the 2011 Book Prize for Poetry from the Society of Midland Authors and was featured on the public radio show Fresh Air and the PBS News Hour arts blog.

She is the author of two earlier poetry collections—From the Fever World, which won the 2009 Washington Writers’ Publishing House Poetry Competition, and The Hardship Post (2009), winner of the Three Candles Press Open Book Award. Finishing Line Press published her chapbook, The Promised Bride, in 2007.

Her newest collection, Red Army Red, is scheduled to be published by Northwestern University Press in 2012. Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser selected the first poem from that manuscript, “Chernobyl Year,” for one of his weekly columns for the Poetry Foundation’s “American Life in Poetry” website.

Dubrow’s poems, creative nonfiction and book reviews have appeared in journals such as The New Republic, Poetry, Ploughshares, The Hudson Review, The New England Review, Barrow Street, Gulf Coast, Blackbird, Shenandoah and Prairie Schooner. She also blogs about the writing life at “Notes from the Gefilte Review” ( This past spring, Dubrow was awarded a $6,000 Individual Artist Award in poetry from the Maryland State Arts Council. She also has been the recipient of a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship and Howard Nemerov Scholarship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and a Sosland Foundation Fellowship from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The daughter of U.S. diplomats, Dubrow was born in Italy and grew up in Poland, Yugoslavia, Zaire, Belgium, Austria and the United States. She earned her bachelor of arts degree from St. John’s College, where she reveled in the Great Books curriculum, then completed a master’s in creative writing at the University of Maryland and a doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The poet and professor is already crafting her vision for what the Lit House can be. “I hope that students will continue to see the House as a fun gathering place but will also come to view it as a space in which they can begin practicing the skills, behaviors and strategies of professional writers,” she says. “In terms of programming, I would like to bring more emerging artists to campus—writers who have already built impressive careers but who are also young enough to connect with and inspire our undergraduates. Finally,” she adds, “I’m really interested to see what kinds of interdisciplinary programs the Literary House might be able to offer in the future—for instance, events that merge literature and the visual arts, or theater and the sciences.”

The Literary House was founded by Washington College English Professor emeritus Robert Day in 1970. It moved to its present location at 407 Washington Avenue in the mid-1980s after a generous gift from Mrs. Betty Brown Casey ’47 and her husband Eugene B. Casey helped the College purchase and renovate the building. The House is named in honor of Eugene Casey’s mother, Rose O’Neill Casey. Professor Day directed the Lit House until his retirement in 1997. Since then, it has been led by Professor Robert Mooney (1997-2005), novelist Benjamin Anastas (interim, 2005-06), historian Joshua Wolf Shenk (2006-2009) and Mark Nowak. For more on the Literary House, please visit:

Friday, July 15, 2011

In Memoriam: John Sampson Toll

October 25, 1923 – July 15, 2011
John Sampson Toll, an internationally renowned physicist and pioneering educator who culminated his career at Washington College, passed away Friday, July 15, 2011 of natural causes at Fox Hill Assisted Living in Bethesda, MD. He was 87.

Dr. Toll is credited with redefining Washington College as one of the nation’s premier institutions of higher education. During his presidency, Dr. Toll elevated Washington College’s national reputation, strengthened its academics with new programs and general education requirements, invested in the physical plant, and directed the single largest fundraising campaign ever conducted by any undergraduate college in Maryland. Before Dr. Toll arrived in January 1995, the College had experienced three straight years of budget deficits. Dr. Toll balanced the budget every year he was in office, and by the end of his tenure had more than quadrupled the endowment.

By his own account, his decade at Washington College (1995—2004) ranked among the most professionally productive and personally rewarding of a career in higher education that spanned six decades. At 71, the former Chancellor of the University of Maryland System agreed to serve as Acting President through a transitional period, and then the Board of Visitors and Governors asked him to stay on. After working at major public research institutions, Dr. Toll said he was impressed that undergraduate students here could conduct research with faculty members in much the same way graduate students do. He proved adept at raising money to support that kind of student/faculty collaboration. With an original campaign goal of $72 million, the Campaign for Washington’s College surpassed its target by nearly 44 percent, bringing in total contributions of $103.4 million. Under his leadership, the College’s endowment assets grew from just under $27 million to more than $112.4 million.

Jay Griswold, the Chairman Emeritus of Black Oak Associates who served as chair of the College’s Board of Visitors and Governors during Dr. Toll’s tenure, remembers him as “one of the greatest presidents of Washington College, and a great man. He was a totally dedicated, selfless individual who taught me a lot about how to treat people and how to raise money for Washington College.”

Gerald L. Holm, Chairman of The Hodson Trust, says Dr. Toll was “known for his intellect, strong leadership, gracious manner and commitment to education. He was, above all, a visionary,” he adds.

Former Maryland Governor Harry Hughes says that Dr. Toll possessed a rare combination of intelligence and modesty. “He did a marvelous job as head of the University of Maryland and later at Washington College. He was greatly interested in students and was one of the finest human beings I ever met. He will be greatly missed — I was proud to consider him a friend.”

As president, Dr. Toll initiated the Washington Scholars program, a successful experiment in student recruitment. His academic initiatives included the addition of five new majors, a certification program in elementary education, a general education program featuring a set of innovative first—year seminars, and the introduction of fine arts, foreign language, and quantitative requirements. Two new academic centers—the Center for Environment and Society and the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience—were established on his watch, as were ambitious initiatives to internationalize the curriculum. His capstone achievement—securing a Phi Beta Kappa chapter on campus—reflects the strength of the academic environment Dr. Toll achieved.

Dr. Toll rejuvenated Washington College’s physical campus as well, with the addition of several academic, recreational and residential facilities—including Daly Hall, Goldstein Hall, the Schottland Tennis Center and, as a final tribute to him, the John S. Toll Science Center.

Joachim Scholz, professor of German emeritus, served as Provost and Dean of the College under the Toll administration. “Working for Dr. Toll was an ongoing and exciting learning experience. He was a man of infinite positive energy as a leader, and of infinite kindness as a person who refused to say a negative word about anybody.”

John Toll, who is known for his work in dispersion theory, elementary particle physics and quantum field theory, began his career in higher education at Princeton University where he helped establish the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. He is highly regarded for his work at SUNY Stony Brook, a school he built from the ground up into one of the nation’s best research institutions, and for his long association with the University of Maryland, where he first taught physics and then returned to preside over a system of five campuses. In 1988, he headed up the merger of Maryland’s two public multi—campus university systems, and was named Chancellor of the University System of Maryland.

Prior to his appointment at Washington College, he had served as President of Universities Research Association, a consortium of universities with research programs in high—energy physics that operates the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. When Congress proposed to build the Superconducting Super Collider, URA was asked to expand its role to include oversight of that project. When budget pressures led Congress to cancel the project, Dr. Toll returned to University of Maryland where he served as chancellor emeritus and professor of physics.

A University of Maryland colleague, Rita Colwell, remembers him as an extraordinary leader, mentor and friend. Colwell served as Toll’s academic vice president at the University of Maryland System; together they developed various biotech centers and research programs for the System.

“He was a visionary who always liked challenges,” Colwell says. “He never wanted to sit back and let things happen. He wanted to make sure there was always forward progress. He loved innovation, and was really fun to work with. He was just wonderful. I will miss him so much.”

Dr. Toll was a fellow of the American Physical Society, the New York Academy of Sciences and the Washington Academy of Sciences, and a member and former national chairman of the Federation of American Scientists. He served as chairman of three advisory panels for the U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment, and as chairman of advisory panels in physics for the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Born October 25, 1923 in Denver, Colorado, John Sampson Toll was the son of Oliver Wolcott and Marie D’Aubigne Sampson Toll. He earned his high school diploma at Putney School in Vermont and was graduated with highest honors from Yale University in 1944. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he completed post—graduate studies at Princeton University where he helped establish Project Matterhorn, now known as the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. He worked in the Theoretical Physics Division of the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory and as associate director of Project Matterhorn before turning to teaching.

In addition to his wife of 40 years, Deborah Taintor Toll, he is survived by daughter Dacia and her husband Jeffrey Klaus; daughter Caroline and her husband Nick Vetter; and a grandson, John Blaese Toll Klaus.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

College's Center for Environment & Society Welcomes Marine Scientist and Educator to Staff

CHESTERTOWN—The Center for Environment & Society at Washington College welcomes veteran marine scientist and educator Douglas R. Levin as Associate Director. Levin, who was selected after a national search, started his new post on July 1. Based at the CES offices in the Custom House, on the waterfront in historic downtown Chestertown, Levin will assist with the day-to-day operations and connect the CES more fully with the science of the Chester River and Chesapeake Bay. He will help Washington College connect students with the water not only through academics and technology, but also through culture, recreation and special programs.
In announcing the hire, CES director John Seidel said Levin brings “a very strong and varied background that includes work in private industry, academia and the federal government, along with an energy and entrepreneurial bent that fits wonderfully into CES and Washington College. Doug’s practical experience and strong scientific background will be a great benefit to the Center and to our students,” he added.
Levin has worked in oceans and waterways domestically (along both coasts, the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes) and around the globe, including the Mediterranean Sea, the Congo River and the coast off Cartagena, Colombia. He comes to Washington College after a six-year association with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Most recently, he was with NOAA’s Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS), leading an effort to improve the oceanographic models used to predict the onset of coastal flooding and the loss of oxygen from coastal oceans. During the summer of 2010 he was part of the team assessing the fate of the deepwater oil plume that entered the Gulf of Mexico via the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
From 2004 to 2010, Levin was a habitat specialist and education coordinator for NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay Office. As part of his responsibilities, he worked with the Oyster Recovery Partnership to develop protocols for mapping the Chesapeake Bay bottom and its tributaries to identify the best sites for oyster-bed restoration. As education coordinator, he helped design the building and developed programs for the Environmental Science Training Center (ESTC) at Oxford, Md. At ESTC, he designed and introduced highly regarded STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs, including Aquabotz, in which participants can design, build and launch working underwater robots in a little over an hour. His program also involved student-built buoys that collect water-quality data.
Prior to his work with NOAA, Levin founded the Earth Mapping Laboratory at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore (2000 to 2004) and spent a decade (1990 to 2000), at Bryant College (now Bryant University) in Smithfield RI, where he chaired the Department of Science and Technology and added courses in geology, oceanography and applied science. While at Bryant, he was named Outstanding Teacher in Liberal Arts, and Student Advisor of the Year. He also was awarded the Community Service Leadership Award and the prestigious Distinguished Faculty Award.
A graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University, where he majored in marine biology, Levin earned a master’s degree focused on geology, coastal processes and glaciology at Boston University. He completed his Ph.D. in Marine Sciences and Geology at Louisiana State University.

Levin says he had been keeping his eye on Washington College since his arrival on the Eastern Shore and occasionally visited and guest-lectured in several classes over the past decade. “Since my first visit to the College, I recognized the unique opportunity that was presented with the Chester River right out the back door. We will tangibly connect the student experience to the water,” he says of the CES mission. “I recognize how fortunate I am to be a part of this historic institution, and I look forward to helping move the Center ahead smartly.”

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Colonial Williamsburg Historian Walsh in Chestertown as 2011 Hodson-Brown Fellow

Chestertown—The C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College is hosting distinguished historian Lorena S. Walsh as this summer’s Hodson Trust-John Carter Brown Fellow. A 27-year veteran of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Walsh is an expert on the culture and economy of colonial-era Maryland and Virginia. While in Chestertown for two months, she will have an office in the Starr Center’s circa-1746 Custom House on the Chester River, as well as exclusive use of its Patrick Henry Fellows’ Residence, a restored 1730s house in Chestertown’s historic district.
Walsh is focusing her fellowship work on a new book about plantation management. Tentatively titled “To Labour for Profit”: Plantation Management in the Revolutionary and Early National Chesapeake, 1764-1820, the new book will follow up on her groundbreaking 2010 publication, Motives of Honor, Pleasure and Profit: Plantation Management in the Chesapeake, 1607-1763 (University of North Carolina Press).
Dr. Walsh's sweeping, two-volume history of Chesapeake plantations—the crowning achievement of a distinguished career—promises to stand as a scholarly landmark for many years to come,” says Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the Starr Center. “We're honored to support her work and host her here in the very appropriate setting of Chestertown.
The Starr Center administers the Hodson Trust-John Carter Brown Fellowship in partnership with the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious institutions for the study of early America. Founded with a $1 million endowment from The Hodson Trust, the Fellowship supports work on significant projects related to the literature, history, culture, or art of the Americas before 1830. Now in its second year, it welcomes submissions not only from traditional historians, but also from filmmakers, novelists, and creative and performing artists.
As a Fellow, Walsh spent two months conducting research at the John Carter Brown Library, which is home to one of the world’s richest collections of books, maps and documents related to North and South America and the Caribbean between 1492 and 1830. “I had the opportunity to read both primary and secondary literature on changing conceptions of slavery before and during the Revolution, and on the debt crisis of the late 1760s and early 1770s,” she says of her time on the Brown campus. “This summer, I plan to incorporate these materials into my analysis of how large plantations were managed in Virginia and Maryland between 1764 and 1789.”
Walsh’s first book, Robert Cole’s World: Agriculture and Society in Early Maryland (UNC, 1991), garnered wide praise for humanizing the hundreds of little-known servants and small farmers whose labor built 17th-century Maryland. The book, which Walsh co-authored with Lois Green Carr and Russell R. Menard, won the 1993 Maryland Historical Society Book Prize and the 1994 Economic History Association Jones Prize.
The American Historical Review lauded her Motives of Honor, Pleasure, and Profit as “a tour de force of persuasive and fluent analysis,” and historian Stanley Engerman proclaimed it “a masterful work that will influence the study of colonial America for a very long time.” Walsh is also the author of From Calabar to Carter’s Grove: The History of a Virginia Tidewater African-American Slave Community (University Press of Virginia, 1997).
Prior to her work at Colonial Williamsburg, she served as a Research Associate for the St. Mary’s City Commission, and Project Director of a two-year National Endowment for the Humanities-sponsored study of Anne Arundel County in the colonial era. She is a Council Member for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, and a Visiting Lecturer at the College of William & Mary.
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Founded in 1782 under the patronage of George Washington, Washington College is a private, independent college of liberal arts and sciences located in colonial Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience is dedicated to fostering innovative approaches to the American past and present. Through educational programs, scholarship and public outreach, and a special focus on written history, the Starr Center seeks to bridge the divide between the academic world and the public at large. For more information on the Center and its fellowships, visit

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Blue Rhythm Boys to Bring Blues, Swing and More To Season's Final Riverfront Concert July 21

CHESTERTOWN, MD— The 2011 Washington College Riverfront Concert Series will conclude on Thursday, July 21, with an evening of blues, jazz, and swing, courtesy of one of Washington, D.C.’s hottest duos, the Blue Rhythm Boys.

Sponsored by the College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, the concert will begin at 6:30 p.m. on the riverside lawn behind the Custom House, located at the corner of High and Water streets. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own blankets, lawn chairs, and picnics. Lemonade and cookies will be provided free of charge, and special picnic dinners will be available at Play it Again Sam (108 S. Cross St., 410-778-2688; please call the café for details). Special assistance is provided by Yerkes Construction.

In case of inclement weather, the concert will take place in The Egg, a performance space in Hodson Hall Commons on the main Washington College campus, 300 Washington Avenue.

Blending the blues with the “hot club” swing of Django Reinhardt, the Blue Rhythm Boys have delighted audiences with their tight vocals and hot guitar playing since 1997. Tom Mitchell and Jim Stephanson’s smoky mix of jazz and blues has won them a wide following, and a recent spot on National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation with Neal Conan. (Click here to listen to the interview.) Each of the two has also established an impressive career on his own.

From 1993 to 2002, Tom Mitchell toured with the legendary dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, playing guitar on the group's acclaimed 2000 album, Beatin' the Heat. Featuring guest appearances by Bette Midler, Elvis Costello, and Brian Setzer, Beatin’ the Heat was named one of the “Top 10 CD’s of the Year” by TIME Magazine, and received 3.5 stars from Rolling Stone. Mitchell also plays with vintage jazz group Ann Savoy & Her Sleepless Knights, with whom he has recorded two albums, If Dreams Come True (2007) and Black Coffee (2010).

Drawing on the influences of Mississippi John Hurt, Les Paul, and Chet Atkins, Jim Stephanson’s unique guitar style has made him one of the most highly regarded musicians in the Washington, D.C. roots music scene. He has played with Hillybilly Jazz, Jimmy and the Blue Dogs, and local rockabilly legend Billy Hancock. His first solo album was released in 2010. A collection of original roots rock music, Say Go was produced by NRBQ’s Terry Adams. As the Blue Rhythm Boys, the duo has recorded three albums, including Monday Morning Blues, released in 2002, and Come On If You’re Comin’, released in 2010. For more on the duo, see

The concert sponsor, the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College, explores our nation's history, particularly the legacy of its Founding era, in innovative ways. Through educational programs, scholarship and public outreach, and a special focus on written history, the Starr Center seeks to bridge the divide between the academic world and the public at large. For more information on the Center, visit

Photo: Guitarists and vocalists Jim Stephanson and Tom Mitchell are The Blue Rhythm Boys.