The next meeting will be Friday, October 5, at 10.30 in the Javits room, 2nd floor library. The speaker will be Donny George. Iraqi archaeologist Dr Donny George Youkhanna gained international prominence as director of the National Museum in Baghdad, playing a vital role in the recovery of artefacts looted after the US invasion and the subsequent reorganisation and reopening of the museum. Dr. George was instrumental in recovering almost half of the 15,000 Mesopotamian artworks and artifacts that date back to as much as 6,000 years, and which were looted from the museum and Iraq's 12,500 archaeological sites. He was also the chairman and president of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH). He has authored two books on the architecture and stone industries of Tell Es-Sawaan, and has given presentations on the current archeological and museum conditions in Iraq at conferences in numerous countries. While living in Iraq, Dr. George was in constant fear for his life. He was a potential target of violence not only due to being a relatively high-profile Christian government official, but also for his frequent appearances in the western media. He needed to change his car everyday, change his route. and change the times he drove. He would never know if he would make it to the museum or not. In August 2006, George resigned from the SBAH, citing his frustration at lack of funding and at growing interference from the radical Shi'ite party now in control of the government. Following death threats, the cessation of financial support and poor security, George, left Iraq and fled with his family to Syria. Shortly after, in October, President Kenny appointed him as visiting professor in our anthropology department. He is co-sponsored by the Scholar Rescue Fund through the Institute of International Education's program, whose mission is to rescue persecuted scholars to continue their academic careers in safe locations. George had longtime ties to the University, largely developed by his old colleague and friend, distinguished professor Elizabeth Stone.
The Provost's Annual Luncheon on May 4th was attended by well over 100 emeriti and their guests. Chairman Homer Goldberg began the meeting by gaving a brief "farewell address," expressing the group's appreciation to provost Bob McGrath who unfortunately was unable to attend the luncheon, and his own appreciation for the services of members of the steering committee and the provost's staff. He then introduced the incoming chairman, Karl Bottigheimer, who acknowledged his co-chair, Howard Scarrow, and encouraged members to contact the co- chairs or other members of the steering committee with criticisms or suggestions for the coming year. He also expressed appreciation to Homer for his generous services to the group. After the lunch Homer introduced the guest speaker, Professor Roger Rosenblatt, who this year joined the university's English Department. Homer cited Roger's many accomplishments as teacher, editor, columnist, playwright, author of best-selling books and, most recently, novels. He is probably best known for his essays in Time magazine and his television essays on the PBS Jim Lehrer New Hour. The United Press International has cited Roger as a "national treasure," and it was with that title that Homer and the audience welcomed Roger to the podium. The announced title, "Reflections of a Late Bloomer, or It's Never too Late To Fail," perfectly captured Roger's deadpan, self-deprecating autobiographical reflections. As a school child Roger was not interested in studies, preferring basketball and other distractions, and thus ranked near the very bottom of his class. As a teenager Roger became attracted to writing and literature, and despite his low grades was admitted to NYU. At first he continued to score near the bottom of his class, but then was admitted to the honors college where he graduated at the top of the class. He then applied to graduate school to pursue literary studies. Even though he was admitted to Harvard, that did not satisfy his father-in-law who continued to insist that Roger attend law school. Roger soon became a devoted student of Professor John Kelleher who guided him in the study of Irish literature, leading Roger to spend a year in Ireland. Upon returning to the United States and completing his Ph.D., Roger accepted an opportunity to remain at Harvard as director of the freshman writing program and as Master of Dunster House, where an apartment was provided for him, his wife, and new-born child. These were years marked by violent student demonstrations on the Harvard campus, resulting in Roger being appointed to serve as one of two non-tenured faculty on a 15 member committee charged with guiding Harvard's response to these events. Roger's reputation from that service resulted in his name being added to a list of candidates for the Harvard presidency. As the list was narrowed Roger's name continued to appear, and he was finally one of three to make the final cut, the others being Clifford Wharton and Derek Bok. As a result of that exposure Roger soon began receiving offers to apply for other college presidencies. However, he settled instead on an offer from the National Endowment for the Humanities to hand out $21 million in grants, an experience that introduced him to many new-found "friends." From there he went on to be litearary editor for the New Republic, and then a writer of humorous editorials for the Washington Post. After spending time in rural New Hampshire Roger received a call from Time magazine asking him to write essays for that publication. Following that assignment he traveled around the world writing as both a reporter and essayist for such publications as Vanity Fair and New York Times Magazine, and interviewing Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and the father of the current president. Then in 1996 Long Island University invited Roger to direct its writing program, a post he held until joining Stony Brook last fall. In 2003, lectures that he presented at the Chatauqua Institute led him to write his first novel, Lapham Rising, and a realization that he would return to his literary roots, devoting the rest of his life to writing satiric novels. The good news is that it's never too late:- he has 10-20 good years left.
Natalie Fiess was assistant to the Chemistry chair for many years before leaving Stony Brook for a retirement home in Chapel Hill, NC. with her husband Ed (former Emeritus Prof, English). She died on May 27 not two weeks after emailing us how much she enjoyed reading this newsletter. Contributions in her memory can be made to the ACLU.
Richard Levine, long-time Chair of the English Department, died on August 16. He had retired to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he was a docent in the Georgia O'keeffe Museum. Maria Luisa Nunes (Hispanic Languages and Literature) died June 30 in Englewood Florida.
On morals and ethics
This does seem to be more of a problem these days, as even official guardians of probity, for example Randall Tobias, Paul Wolfowitz, Ted Haggard, Claude Allen, and Monica Goodling, are having difficulties with (taken in sequence):- call girl massages, girl friends, boy friends, stealing, and incrimination in congress . We note that many adminstration appointees, including Ms Goodling, Rachel Paulose (assigned to monitor the US attorney office in Minnesota), and Lurita Doan (head of the G.S.A accused of violating the Hatch act), were educated in faith-based schools and colleges. This suggests that these institutions might consider adding to their curriculum a course on morals and ethics. We have one in the department of Computer Science at SUNY Stony Brook which we can recommend.