February 20, 2012

Vol. 27 , No. 09   

A Conversation with a Leader

In 2004, Connie Duckworth P’12 P’14 founded ARZU, Inc., a non-profit organization based on an innovative model of social entrepreneurship that helps Afghan women weavers and their families break the cycle of poverty by providing them steady income and access to education and healthcare by sourcing and selling the rugs they weave. She serves pro bono as chairman and chief executive officer. Duckworth is a retired partner and managing director of Goldman, Sachs, & Co., where she was named the first woman sales and trading partner in the firm’s history during her 20 year career from 1981-2001.

Duckworth is currently a trustee of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company and a director of Russell Investment Group and Steelcase Inc. In her philanthropic work, Duckworth serves on the boards of The Wharton School in Philadelphia, the Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago and NorthShore University HealthSystem, in Evanston, Illinois, where she was the first woman to be named chairman of the board. She is a member of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, a public/private partnership aligned with the U.S. State Department and past chair of the Committee of 200, the organization of leading women entrepreneurs and corporate business executives in the U.S. Duckworth also co-authored a primer on entrepreneurship entitled The Old Girls Network: Insider Advice for Women Building Businesses in a Man’s World (Basic Books 2003).

The recipient of numerous awards for leadership, advocacy, social impact, innovation and global presence, Duckworth was awarded the 2011 Wharton School Dean’s Medal, the school’s highest honor. In addition, she was named a 2008 Skoll Foundation honoree for Social Entrepreneurship. Duckworth holds an M.B.A. from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. from the University of Texas.

Connie Duckworth’s visit to the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum is sponsored by the President’s Leaders Forum program.

Unearthing the Visions of a Master: The Story and Legacy of Ramanujan

The legend of Ramanujan is one of the most romantic stories in the modern history of athematics. It is the story of an untrained mathematician, from south India, who brilliantly discovered tantalizing examples of phenomena well before their time. Indeed, the legacy of Ramanujan's work (as a whole) is well documented and includes direct connections to some of the deepest results in modern number theory such as the proof of the Weil Conjectures and the proof of Fermat's Last Theorem. However, one final problem remained, the enigma of the functions which Ramanujan discovered on his death bed. Here we tell the story of Ramanujan and this final mystery.

Ken Ono, the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Mathematics at Emory University, received his Ph.D from UCLA in 1993. Upon graduation, he held positions at the University of Georgia, the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), the Institute of Advanced Studies, and Penn State University, where he was named the Louis P. Martarano Professor in 1999. From 2000-2011 he was the Manasse Professor of Letters and Science and the Hilldale Professor of Mathematics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He has authored over 130 research papers in number theory. He has advised 17 doctoral students to date and sits on the editorial boards of eleven journals including the Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society, as the managing editor, and the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society. He has received numerous awards and honors, including a Sloan Fellowship, a Presidential Early Career Award, a Packard Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is also well known as a distinguished mentor and teacher. He twice won the University of Wisconsin Residence Halls "Favorite Instructor Award", and in 2005 he won the NSF Director's Distinguished Teaching Scholar Award.

An Evening with the Author

All around the country, the women were waking up. Their alarm clocks bleated one by one, making soothing sounds or grating sounds or the stirrings of a favorite song. There were hums and beeps and a random burst of radio. There were wind chimes and roaring surf, and the electronic approximation of birdsong and other gentle animal noises. All of it accompanied the passage of time, sliding forward in liquid crystal. Almost everything in these women's homes required a plug. Voltage stuttered through the curls of wire, and if you put your ear to one of the complicated clocks in any of the bedrooms, you could hear the burble of industry deep inside its cavity. Something was quietly happening.
-from The Ten-Year Nap, by Meg Wolitzer

Meg Wolitzer is a best-selling novelist and writer. She insists on writing fiction that explores the “possibilities of things” within her life and the lives of her readers. Her books, including The Wife (2004), The Ten-Year Nap (2008), and The Uncoupling (2011), have been praised in the pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post and by Nick Hornby, among others.

In addition to her bestselling novels, Wolitzer has written a number of screenplays. Her short fiction has appeared in The Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize, and she has also taught writing at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and at Skidmore College.

Meg Wolitzer’s visit to campus is jointly sponsored by the Berger Institute for Work, Family, and Children, the Center for Writing and Public Discourse, and the Athenaeum.

Computers and Cultural Conflict: Digital Humanities in Tumultuous Times

Wars and major conflicts inevitably have devastating effects on sites of great historical and cultural value. The extraordinary events unfolding in the Middle East over the past twelve months threaten uncountable archaeological sites of exceptional cultural importance in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, Lebanon, Iran, and most recently Syria. Coupled with global economic concerns, the funding of excavations, computer reconstructions, databases, and the digital preservation and dissemination of those materials is perhaps more important than ever. Digital Humanities as a discipline is still in its infancy (the office of Digital Humanities at the National Endowment for the Humanities is not yet five years old), but numerous innovative digital projects provide new ways of extracting, collecting, interpreting, archiving, teaching and disseminating data for cultural heritage and preservation.

Arnie Flaten is an art historian working to recreate ancient and Renaissance art and architecture in the digital realm. Flaten has taught at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, SC since 2003, where he is an associate professor of art history and chairs the visual arts department.

In 2005, Flaten helped found Ashes2Art, an innovative program that combines art history, archaeology, graphic and web design, 3D animation and digital photography to recreate monuments of the ancient past online. Flaten continues to co-direct the project in collaboration with Arkansas State University. He is also co-founder and co-director of the recent Digital Jazz Manuscript Archive, which, among other things, publishes hand written works by masters such as Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock online. Flaten’s research has been supported by the Fulbright Commission, the J. Paul Getty Research Institute, the Kress Foundation, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

After graduating from St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota, Flaten bicycled from Amsterdam to Tel Aviv to coach soccer and teach English and art history at his former high school. After two years designing marketing plans for General Mills, Inc. in Minnesota, he moved to Rwanda to teach for a year. He then returned to the States to earn an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Art History from Indiana University-Bloomington.

What the Science of Memory Can Teach Us about Leadership
LUNCHEON 11:30 a.m.; LECTURE 12:00 p.m.

Henry Kravis Research Chair professor of leadership studies, CMC; editor, Boardroom Realities: Leveraging the Leadership Capability of Your Board (2009) and co-author, Growing Your Company's Leaders: How Great Organizations Use Succession Management to Sustain Competitive Advantage (2004).

India: A Revolution of Rising Expectations

Dr. Aseema Sinha is the first holder of the Wagener Family Associate Professor of Comparative Politics and George R. Roberts Fellow. This evening’s lecture marks Professor Sinha’s ceremonial installation as the inaugural holder of the chaired professorship established in honor of the Wagener family.

Professor Sinha’s presentation will focus on the emerging dilemmas in India: the combination of growth with rising inequalities, the pursuit of a unique model of transition that combines a second democratic revolution and inclusive growth with a market economy, and the challenges of India’s new-found status at the global level for some of India’s domestic contradictions.

Prior to joining the faculty at Claremont McKenna College, Professor Sinha served on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. Her research interests relate to the political economy of India and India-China comparisons.

At CMC, she teaches courses on South Asia, Social Movements, Globalization and Developing Countries, and Comparative Politics. She is the author of the prize-winning book, The Regional Roots of Developmental Politics in India: A Divided Leviathan (Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2005).

A Conversation with Fran Lebowitz

“Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about wine.” Not only is this good advice for the Athenaeum, but it also exemplifies Fran Lebowitz’s frank but humorous evaluations of society and culture.

Lebowitz, a high school dropout (with GED) from New Jersey, has risen to become one of the country’s most prolific social commentators and cultural icons. After receiving her GED, she moved to New York and worked various odd jobs, including cab driving. Her wit and intelligence endeared her to many in the New York cultural scene, and she was thrown into the 1970’s literary lifestyle after befriending Andy Warhol, who hired her as a columnist for Interview magazine. After Interview, she worked briefly for Mademoiselle and published two collections of essays, Metropolitan Life (1978) and Social Studies (1981), now collected and published in The Fran Lebowitz Reader (1994).

Although known as a writer, these were the only written works by Lebowitz until 1995, when she published her children’s book, Mr. Chas & Lisa Sue Meet the Pandas. Together, these three books comprise her entire set of published works. She recently broke a ten-year writer’s block and is back at work on her novel, Exterior Signs of Wealth.

While the public craves ever more of Lebowitz’s written word, she continues to be a beloved lecturer, guest-star on “Law and Order,” and talk-show guest. A recent HBO documentary entitled “Public Speaking” and directed by Martin Scorsese chronicles her witty world-view and social repartee. Lebowitz is also an advocate for smoker’s rights.

Eric Puchner, author of Model Home: A Novel (2010), is an assistant professor of literature here at CMC. Before joining our faculty in the fall of 2009, he lectured at the University of Arizona, San Francisco State University, and Stanford University. Puchner specializes in creative writing, and teaches a freshman humanities seminar on the comic voice.

Puchner attended Middlebury College, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. in English in 1993. In 1997, he completed his MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Arizona. In 2005, he published a collection of short stories called Music Through the Floor, which was a finalist for the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award. Puchner’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in GQ, The Daily Beast, Zoetrope: All Story, Best New American Voices, and many more acclaimed journals and anthologies. He has received a Pushcart Prize and a National Endowment for the Arts grant.

Puchner’s first novel, Model Home, has received much praise since its publication last year. Kevin O’Kelly of the Boston Globe writes, “Puchner is an extraordinarily talented writer. He’s a master of mood and tone, able to make moments of pure hilarity follow heartbreak with the seamlessness of real life . . .every character is perfectly realized . . . the perfect novel for our time.”

Fran Lebowitz’s Athenaeum appearance is part of the ongoing series, Shifting Perceptions: Celebrating the Spectrum of Leadership.

It Gets Better

Dan Savage has written his column “Savage Love” for Seattle’s alternative weekly paper The Stranger since 1991. Now syndicated to more than 50 other papers, Savage has become one of America’s leading voices on topics relating to sex and sexuality. And over the last 18 months, he has had substantial influence on our national conversation about gay rights and the place and value of queer people in American society.

In the fall of 2010, several American teenagers committed suicide in response to homophobic bullying by their peers. Nine of ten gay teenagers face bullying and harassment at school. And queer teens are four times likelier than their peers to attempt suicide. In response, Savage and his husband started the It Gets Better Project. The Project is a collection of videos – messages from gay and straight adults to gay teens that “It gets better.” A week after Savage and his husband, Terry Miller, posted the first video, there were 200 more. Now there are over 30,000 videos that have been viewed more than 40 million times.

Savage is a regular contributor to This American Life, a frequent commentator on national op-ed pages, and the author of four books. In spring 2011, he edited the collection It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living.

Dan Savage’s talk is a part of the Athenaeum’s ongoing series “Shifting Perceptions: Celebrating the Spectrum of Leadership,” which aims to foster a greater sense of inclusivity and community at CMC by celebrating the bold leadership of women, gay men, and lesbians. The series is sponsored by nine different offices and organizations on campus, including the Athenaeum, the President’s Office, and the Dean of Students Office.

The Politics of Poetic Form

Charles Bernstein has been the most influential U.S. poet-critic for two decades. His literary career began with a small magazine, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, that he edited with Bruce Andrews in the 1970s. This publication drew together a relatively large group of young writers who since then have been known as the Language writers. Most of them are poets, but I say “writers” because they all write in experimental forms, many of them in prose. These writers developed literary doctrines, some of which were in play among academic critics engaged with literary theory, and these doctrines continue to be closely considered by young writers today. That is, the ideas about poetry that Bernstein advocated in the 1970s and later have had real staying power. First among these ideas is the notion that the individual experience and sensibility of the poet is not so important and valuable as many of Bernstein’s contemporary seemed to presume. He has argued that the properties of language itself are of greater significance than the feelings of a single person, even of a poet. Second is the notion that the play of language occurs in a social context, that we all live in language together, and that work at the edges of a language community’s practices bear a genuine relationship to all its language practices, that even experimental poets are engaged with the meaning-making of their contemporaries.

Having said that, I should add now that Charles Bernstein is unusual among poets in that he is a writer with a wonderful sense of humor, and a genuine passion of poems and people too. He is the author of too many collections of poems and essays to list here. For years he published with small avant-garde publishers. Now his poems are published by the Farrar Straus: All the Whiskey in Heaven appeared in 2011. University of Chicago Press publishes his critical essays: most recently, Attack of the Difficult Poems (2011). When he began his literary career, he was a technical writer, I believe, a writer of instruction manuals, say. He did not foresee becoming an academic. Nonetheless he and the poet Susan Howe built up a very distinguished Ph.D. track at SUNY Buffalo known as the Poetics Program. He was the David Gray Professor of Poetry and Letters at Buffalo. Now he is the Donald T. Regan Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, where he helps oversee a wonderful on-line archive of recorded poetry readings. Charles Bernstein is a distinguished academic who did not mean to become a professor, and a highly regarded poet who was first a technical writer. He is a person of surprises.

-Robert von Hallberg, Professor of Literature, CMC


  • It is the policy of the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum that no lecture, appearance or performance by any speaker or performer at the Athenaeum is to be videotaped, audiotaped, or otherwise recorded and/or broadcast without the prior written permission of the relevant speaker, performer, or other authorized owner of the intellectual property rights to the event.

  • Anyone requesting permission to record an event is required to submit an “Event Recording Request Form” to Bonnie Snortum, the Director of the Athenaeum, at least 48 hours in advance of the relevant event.

  • It is understood that the speaker, the performer, the Athenaeum, and any other event sponsor, as appropriate, reserve all intellectual property rights for each Athenaeum event.

  • If you have any questions regarding this policy, please contact Bonnie Snortum at bsnortum@cmc.edu or at (909) 607-4180.


  • The Athenaeum serves as a gathering place where ideas, inquiry, and fellowship bring students, faculty, staff, other scholars, and nationally prominent speakers together.

  • Attendance at any event may be limited to persons associated with CMC, to the people who signed up for the dinner, or to the maximum number of people allowed by fire regulations.

  • On some occasions the speaker may address the group in another forum or the College may set up a video feed to handle an overflow crowd. All programs at the Athenaeum are filmed. Individuals attending should understand that their image might appear on the videotape.

  • House rules and common courtesy prohibit disruptive actions inside the building during an Athenaeum sponsored program.

  • Time allowing, there will be a period set aside for questions. Students will have priority during this portion of the program.

  • Guests are expected to dress appropriately in all dining rooms. Shorts, jeans, and t-shirts are not acceptable at dinner; more casual attire is acceptable for lunch and tea. No bare feet at any time.