Faculty Get Project Grants

This summer, Marc Koolen, Chair of the Biology Department, will work on a play about Darwin’s HMS Beagle, while Greg Wilkin, Instructor in English, will refine his novel and screenplay about former English tennis star Bunny Austin, and Alana Rush, Teaching Fellow in Community Service, will document the histories of families in India and Cambodia through photographs and recordings. These three were among 16 who received Kenan Grants, awarded yearly to faculty members, of up to $5,000 for summer study. THE PROCESS Three visiting committee members joined with co-coordinators of the Kenan Charitable Trust Fund, John Maier, Instructor in Spanish, and Marcelle Doheny, Instructor in History and Social Science, to evaluate a total of 22 proposals. John Rogers, the Dean of Studies, was also present. Maier said, “All the proposals are sent to the committee members one week ahead of time. When the committee members come [to Andover] they bring a clear weighting, so that we can all sit down and discuss the rankings.” Doheny said, “Though John Maier and I do not make the decisions, we each read every proposal and help to gate-keep the outside readers.” Kenan Grants have been awarded to members of the faculty since 1975 to support “faculty pursuits in research, scholarship, creativity and curriculum enrichment and study,” according to the Andover website. “Ranking proposals is an art and not a science. The proposal should have originality, clarity, and especially clarity of budget. As a reader, we try to see how the project will fit into the applicant’s regular work, though it certainly doesn’t have to,” said Maier. He continued, “Above all, the proposal should be engaging and intriguing. It has to strike the reader as worth doing either in relation to professional work or personal growth or both. Often times we also ask the applicant to bring their work back to the [Phillips Academy] community.” THE GRANTS: Marc Koolen, Instructor in Biology Koolen hopes to take an alternative approach to the study of Darwin and the HMS Beagle. Koolen said, “Darwin’s famous discoveries in natural selection are well known. Instead, my focus is on the life of Darwin aboard the HMS Beagle survey ship. Conditions aboard the ship were primitive with no showers and 75 men, certainly quite different from Darwin’s privileged upbringing.” “I hope to have a theatrical end product, in which I will play Charles Darwin and my brother will play Captain Robert Fitzroy, the captain aboard the HMS Beagle. We will reenact events on the ship such as ‘Crossing the line,’ an initiation ceremony that Darwin was subjected to while crossing the equator,” Koolen continued. The act will be complete with costumes of early 18th-century gentlemen and a foam board model of Darwin’s quarters on the HMS Beagle. Koolen aims to perform the play by next year, which also happens to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and 150th anniversary of the publication of “The Origin of Species.” Koolen said, “My initiative began at the Addison Gallery. They had a model ship display last year, and they wanted a teacher to give a presentation, so I volunteered. If the science department will have us, my brother and I would love to perform for students and properly present the HMS Beagle this time.” Greg Wilkin, Instructor in English Greg Wilkin, Instructor in English, also received a Kenan Grant. Wilkin plans to continue his book about the British tennis player Henry “Bunny” Austin, the last Englishman to reach the finals of Wimbledon. Wilkin first learned of Austin in 1983, but met him for the first time in 1994. Austin died in 2000. Wilkin said, “I got a long article published in TENNIS magazine after an interview with Bunny. I received a bunch of letters and emails after that, so I decided to write a movie script and novel about him.” Wilkin, who has already completed his screenplay, has received support from the Kenan Foundation throughout his writing process. He is already thinking about potential actors for the leading role. “Somebody small, dark, handsome and athletic needs to do Bunny–so that would be Johnny Depp, or Jude Law,” he said. So far most of the novel is complete, but Wilkin wants to add to two chapters where the background information is a bit thin. “I plan to visit Mackinack Island and Ottawa, where Bunny and his wife worked for Moral Re-Armament, an organization working against Nazi and Soviet industrial sabotage,” said Wilkin. He continued, “I hope to publish the book as soon as possible, because if some British player gets into the Wimbledon final, that takes away an important dust-jacket claim.” Randall Peffer, Instructor in English Randall Peffer, Instructor in English, will also use his Kenan Grant to finish a novel. He plans to travel in Southeast Asia for two to three weeks, particularly in Vietnam, to complete his new novel “Bangkok Dragons, Cape Cod Tears.” Peffer’s new novel is the fifth murder mystery in his Cape Island Mystery series. In 2006, he published his most recent book, “Provincetown Follies, Bangkok Blues.” In his novel, he said, “a young ex-public defender from Cape Cod goes to Bangkok when a former client begs him to defend her in a murder trial. The client has been accused of murdering a very wealthy pharmaceutical company owner. The defender soon discovers that his client is being victimized by the Thai mafia, Nak-Lin.” Alana Rush, Teaching Fellow in Commuinty Service Alana Rush, Teaching Fellow in Community Service, received $3700 to travel to India and Cambodia to complete a “photography and oral history project.” Rush said that her project is similar to the NPR program “StoryCorps,” which travels around the United States gathering first-hand stories. According to NPR, “StoryCorps” is “the first person accounts…[recording] the way we live today-and how we got here.” Rush said, “Families [will be] recording stories and aspects of their lives that are important to them; the aspect of having history be democratic in terms of people offering things that are important to them, rather than prescribing certain questions really appeals to me.” She continued, “I think so often history is seen through the eyes of the hegemony that writes history; so, the historian tells the story rather than the people who are living it.” Rush will be working with three different non-government organizations (NGO’s), “Sustainable Cambodia,” “Bridges Across Borders” and the “Rural India Awareness and Education Society.” She will be working with a variety of families in both rural and urban areas and said that the NGO’s generally work with people who are “in the bottom billion” or surviving on less than one dollar per day. She said the length of her trip is still not entirely set, but that she would like to weave the school-run Niswarth trip in India into her project. Thomas Hodgson, Instructor in Philosophy and Religious Studies Thomas Hodgson, Instructor in Philosophy and Religious Studies, will spend part of his summer writing an article and possibly producing a video on the serve in squash. To help write the article, Hodgson plans to interview various coaches and players with whom he is familiar. He hopes to have the opportunity to work on the video during fall term for use during the competitive squash season in the winter. If it is polished enough, Hodgson hopes to have the article published in Squash Magazine. Hodgson said, “[The serve] is the part of the game you control…and that it is more of a factor than most people pay attention to.” According to Hodgson, there are four different types of serves, and the serve can help a player win many points in any game. Hodgson, also the Girls’ Varsity Squash coach, said that he coaches the girls how to serve properly. Hodgson has been playing squash seriously for the past 11 years. He played a bit in college but only “hardball,” not the now played “softball” squash. His introduction to squash came after a sabbatical he took in England. When he returned the school said it needed a coach and Hodgson attended an adult squash camp at Dartmouth College. Hodgson hopes to have written the article by the end of the summer. OTHER GRANTS Many other faculty members also received grants to pursue their interests over the summer of 2008. David Fox, Instructor in English, was awarded a grant to travel to Florence, Italy to study the Renaissance. After returning to Phillips Academy, he will create a course, with Instructor in Mathematics Fernando Alonso, focusing on different aspects of the Renaissance in Florence. Maria Litvin, Instructor in Mathematics, received a grant to participate in a five-day sailing program in the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland. She started sailing this past summer at the Greater Lawrence Community Boating Program under the instruction of a Phillips Academy senior. Litvin hopes that when she returns from her trip she will be able to use some of the things she learned in her math classes.