Scene and Herd July 2012
TAKING THE LONG VIEW
By Benjamin Gleisser
When it comes to building a winning team, Pittsburgh Pirates owner Robert Nutting ’84 is opting to play small ball. And it’s starting to pay off.
Once the legendary team of Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski and “Pops” Willie Stargell, the Pirates in recent years have come to achieve a different sort of celebrity. In 2011 they logged their 19th consecutive losing season—more than any major professional sports team in North America. Yet Nutting believes he can restore the Pirates to their former glory.
As head of the 122-year-old Wheeling, W.Va.-based Ogden Newspapers, Nutting has always felt an affinity for the 125-year-old Pirates franchise less than 50 miles away. When he became the team’s principal owner in 2007, he recalls, “They needed a tremendous amount of work. But I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of working with businesses that were broken and finding opportunities to fix and rebuild them.”
Some of his decisions as owner haven’t exactly make him a fan favorite. Heading into the 2010 season, he slashed the payroll below that of the 1992 roster—the last team to appear in the playoffs. He also declined an unsolicited offer by beloved Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner and hockey hall-of-famer Mario Lemieux to purchase the team. The move prompted an open letter in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette stating it was time to “draw a hard line in the infield dirt on when the Nutting regime will be accountable and return this storied franchise to a modicum of respectability— or else depart the scene.”
Reflecting on the public criticism he’s taken (fans have heckled him when he’s attended games, often accompanied by his daughter Cameron ’11 and father Ogden ’56), Nutting says, “It’s difficult to read negative things about myself in the press or be booed by a crowd. But at the same time, I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t think I could build a championship team and show some success at the end of the day.”
Nutting has stood firm on his decisions to focus on drafting talented amateurs over buying high-priced superstars and to redirect money to player development. In addition to nurturing promising college athletes in the U.S., he built a training academy and education facility in the Dominican Republic to attract up-and- coming Latino players and help them earn high school diplomas. The team also signed Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel— the first Indian citizens to sign a contract with an American pro sports team—after spotting the two in a “Million Dollar Arm” baseball-pitching contest in India.
After flirting with first place in the National League’s Central Division in 2011 but fading down the stretch, the Pirates had a 35-32 record as of June 21 this year and were in second place in their division. The team welcomed more fans in 2011—1.94 million—than in any other year in the previous decade. And, true to his promise at the start of the 2012 season, Nutting opened his wallet to sign All-Star centerfielder Andrew McCutchen to a six-year, $51.5 million deal and made a trade for pitcher A.J. Burnett, absorbing his two-year, $13 million contract.
“I brought long-term, strategic goals to the Pirates,” Nutting says, “and my hope is to build something my kids are proud of.”
WILLIAMS TO HONOR FIVE BICENTENNIAL MEDALISTS
During Fall Convocation on Sept. 8, the college will award five alumni with Bicentennial Medals for “significant achievement in any field of endeavor.” This year’s medalists are: Erin I. Burnett ’98, a TV journalist and the host of CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront; Kathleen A. Merrigan ’82, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and an influential force behind federal organic food standards; David S. Paresky ’60, a travel industry pioneer and philanthropist; Norman P. Spack ’65, an internationally recognized pediatric endocrinologist; and Charles N. Waigi ’72, founding director of the nationally acclaimed Jeremy Academy in his hometown of Limuru, Kenya. On Sept. 7 the honorees (with the exception of Burnett, who is hosting her show that day) will participate in a panel discussion at the ’62 Center MainStage. Check www.williams.edu later in the summer for more information.
CHANGES TO THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES ANNOUNCED
The college’s Board of Trustees welcomed five new members on July 1: Brian D. Carpenter ’86, James B. Lee Jr. ’75, Caron Garcia Martinez ’81, Clarence Otis Jr. ’77 and Martha Williamson ’77. Martinez was elected by the Society of Alumni in the spring, and Carpenter was appointed to replace Gregory H. Woods ’91, who stepped down as alumni trustee in early April after being appointed general counsel to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Michael R. Eisenson ’77 was reappointed for another term on the board. And Thomas M. Balderston ’78, Glenn D. Lowry ’76 and William E. Simon Jr. ’73 stepped down when their terms ended in June.
EMERITUS STATUS AWARDED TO EIGHT
On May 10, more than 60 alumni from across the country and as far away as Germany surprised Robert Dalzell at his last class before his retirement as the Fred Rudolph Professor of American Culture. Dalzell was granted emeritus status at the end of the year along with the late Ernest Brown, professor of music; Jean-Bernard Bucky, the William Dwight Whitney Professor of Arts & Theatre; Lynda K. Bundtzen, the Herbert H. Lehman Professor of English; Markes E. Johnson, the Charles L. MacMillan Professor of Natural Sciences; Glyn P. Norton, the Willcox B. & Harriet M. Adsit Professor of International Studies and professor of Romance languages; Alex P. Willingham, professor of political science; and Reiko Yamada, professor of Japanese. The group represents more than 240 years combined of teaching, scholarship and service.
MATH SCORES HIGH MARKS
Williams’ student math teams earned accolades during the 2011-12 academic year, first by placing in the top 10 and receiving an honorable mention out of 460 teams in the prestigious William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition in December. Another group then took first prize in the Regional Undergraduate Mathematics Competition at Central Connecticut State University in April. Both teams were led by coach and math professor Mihai Stoiciu.
Check out the problems the team worked on at the Putnam competition at bit.ly/LULC35. (Solutions are also posted!)
COLLEGE CELEBRATES 223RD COMMENCEMENT
The Class of 2012 was treated to fabulous weather for graduation on June 3. Festivities included a commencement address by noted surgeon and author Atul Gawande and a speech by Phi Beta Kappa Speaker Anders E. Schneider. Check out http://alumni.williams.edu/102012 for profiles of 10 seniors (now newly minted alumni), and visit http://bit.ly/williams12 for text, photos and videos of the big day.
GOLDSTEIN, NUGENT RECEIVE NAT'L RECOGNITION FOR THEIR PUBLICATIONS
Language professors Darra Goldstein and Christopher Nugent received national awards this spring for their published work. Goldstein, the Francis Christopher Oakley Third Century Professor of Russian, received the 2012 James Beard Foundation Journalism Award for Publication of the Year for her quarterly journal Gastronómica. Nugent, professor of Chinese, received the Association of Asian Studies’ Joseph Levenson Book Prize in the pre-1900 category for his 2010 book Manifest in Words, Written on Paper: Producing and Circulating Poetry in Tang Dynasty China. See a list of recent faculty books at ephsbookshelf.williams.edu.
The college last spring noted the passing of two influential community members—music professor Ernest Brown and former alumni secretary John English ’32.
Brown “broadened culturally the college’s engagement with music,” stated President Adam Falk in a letter to the Williams community announcing the ethnomusicologist’s death, at the age of 64, after a three-year struggle with cancer. In addition to teaching an array of courses including “Music Cultures of the World” and “Black Music and Postmodernism,” he founded and directed both the Zambezi Marimba Band and Kusika African dance ensemble. Read his full obituary at http://bit.ly/ernestbrown.
English, a reporter and avid golfer who was an assistant executive director of the U.S. Golf Association, was Williams alumni secretary from 1959 to 1975, serving as director of the college’s alumni relations, Alumni Fund and public information operations. He continued to connect his classmates to each other for decades as author of the class notes for the Class of ’32. At the time of his death, at the age of 101, he was also the college’s oldest alumnus. In a letter noting English’s passing, President Falk called him “one of the college’s more versatile retired staff members.” Read his full obituary at http://bit.ly/johnenglish.
EPHS PLACE THIRD IN DIRECTORS’ CUP
With NCAA championship titles for women’s crew and tennis—which each set records with seven and five consecutive NCAA wins, respectively— Williams took third in the race for the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup, given each year to the best all-around athletics program for performance in 18 sports. It’s the first time in 14 years—and the second time since the cup’s creation 17 years ago—that the Ephs haven’t placed first. Middlebury took the cup this year with a total of 1,040.75 points, followed by Washington University (980.25), Williams (964.50), Amherst (950.75) and Wisconsin-Whitewater (815.50).
STUDENT ENTREPRENEURS WIN SEED CAPITAL
Katy Gathright and Imran Khoja, both Class of 2012, are staying in Williamstown this summer, working to launch their “socially conscious flash sales web business,” Designed Good. In a business plan competition judged by a panel of alumni, the students received a $15,000 seed grant, office space and free legal advice. The competition capped a year of entrepreneurial programming organized by local resident and biotech startup veteran Jeffrey Thomas, who brought together area business leaders, professors, staff, students and alumni for events, workshops and a Winter Study class. Khoja and Gathright’s business plan was one of 22 entries. You can read the executive summary for Designed Good at http://bit.ly/Msqd3o.
Ever check out “The Exchange”—Williams students’ online classifieds? We got a chuckle out of these want-ads, which were posted last semester:
A cage for a small animal
Want a drawing tablet?
Bryant/Mark Hopkins Single Swap with REWARD!
Wanted: Cello for one day
Make $50 by moving 3 boxes a few feet
Selling super fast and sexy racing bike
Trying to get some shoes off my hands
See more at http://bit.ly/KRrCyy