The Andover Alumni Awards of Distinction are presented to distinguished alumni chosen by the Alumni Council from a group of more than 20,000 around the globe. Recipients are recognized for their dedication and positive impact in various fields of endeavor. Meet this year’s recipients:
Peter Chermayeff ’53
Did you have a favorite aspect about architecture?
Yes, I would say from the beginning my greatest interest in architecture was not the building of structures for their own sake, but the building of places or spaces in which people lived their lives, or did their thing, their work, or had some kind of experience. I found the question of space and light as interesting as the question of structure, or you might say building form.
Was there any point where you feel you struggled or faced significant hardships here, and do you think those times shaped who you are today and your success?
A big part of my experience here was being a shrimp. I was about 4’11” when I arrived here… when I graduated I was 5’2”. I used to go to the dining hall and across the hall somebody would tease me with a squeaky voice because I was a Senior and my voice hadn’t even changed… I learned that I could laugh that off and survive and survive it. Though it was annoying and cruel I didn’t let the people know that who were doing it to me. I hid the fact that it hurt and it was painful, and I learned to not only survive on it, but to thrive on it because I think it made me stronger. It made me more aware of who I was.
Looking back on past projects, was there a favorite?
I think of two projects as my favorites. One is the Tennessee Aquarium as a gem which turned out very well. Another is the Lisbon Aquarium which is more recent, and turned out very well. But there’s also a third one among those kinds of projects that we haven’t talked about, but to me was the project of a lifetime. And that was the United States Exhibition for Montreal in Expo ’67 which was the U.S. exhibition of that year, ’67… It’s one of the best projects of my life and my partner’s lives because we all had the fun of the ages to make a public exhibition inside [the glass] bubble [we constructed].
Tamar Szabó Gendler ’83
Why did you choose to pursue undergraduate education as Professor of Philosophy and a Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Sciences?
I love school, and I wanted to try to figure out a way that I could stay in school. And one of the amazing things about being a university professor is that it gives you the right to spend your life in an educational environment… So I managed to find a career that let me combine the two things that I love the most. One of which was being in an educational institution, and the other which was thinking about the relation of how those three subjects; math, and philosophy, and psychology.
During your time at Andover, did you know that this was a field of work you wanted to pursue?
So when I was at Andover, I thought I was going to go on in math… I took a course that was called Math-55, which was multivariable which was a BC calculus course. And then I took my Senior year, multivariable calculus and I took an amazing physics course Physics-55… But I also really loved English. I took some amazing courses over in Bulfinch Hall and so when I got to Yale I thought I would do math, and then the part of me that had been taught here to love books and learning from them drew me a little bit over philosophy.
Was there a time at Andover when you struggled or faced significant hardship? Do you think those times shaped who you are today and your success?
So there were two times at Andover that were particularly challenging. One was my first year here when I started in Latin-20, which was a second-year latin class for which I was completely and entirely unqualified… And that taught me a certain kind of humility. And the second time was the fall semester of my Senior year when I was president of the Debate Team, and Executive Editor of The Phillipian, and in charge of all sorts of things. And I thought the campus can’t run without me. Then I got an illness called mononucleosis, which caused me to have to stay in bed for two solid months. And everything went on just fine with my absence. And I learned that the world is much much bigger than me.
Eileen Christelow AA ’61
What inspired you to become a writer?
I like to draw pictures and I like to tell stories with pictures, and so that started as photography. And initially I was trying to write the stories that I did as well as photograph, but I hadn’t quite figured out how to write a story for a magazine, so I often worked with other writers and I did several things for the Philadelphia Sunday Bulletin Magazine, and for the Pennsylvania Gazette, and some small magazines for teachers. So basically my photographs were used as illustrations for those. I often came up with ideas for stories. And then, eventually, the writing started more as I was doing the picture books, because I wasn’t going to come up with an idea and then go find a writer to do it, and so I just had to figure out how to do that myself. And I much prefer writing and illustrating.
What does your writing process look like?
So my writing process is: I kind of play around with ideas, and I play with drawings, and I play with words, and so I might draw a little bit, write a little bit, draw a little bit, and so they both feed each other.
How do you think writing for children and writing for adults differs?
First and foremost, the story has to appeal to me. Because if I can’t stand it, then I have to live with it for a year, year and a half while I’m working on it. But I also really am thinking about how do I capture the attention of some little three or four year old who’s running around and how can I get that child to want to sit and listen?
What have you learned as a writer?
I guess I’ve learned to tell a story. From the beginning, I’ve learned. I think I’ve learned a lot as an illustrator. I think I’m a better illustrator than I was when I started out, obviously. And I think also one thing I’ve learned, and I think it’s true with writing as well as illustrating, is that you can really overwork things. It’s very possible to overthink things. And often the initial sketches have more vitality then the final, finished, possibly overworked drawings and so I try to keep that original vitality in the end product, which is sometimes hard to do.
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