Fat Bear Week in Alaska

Fat Bear Week in Alaska

OK, voters! 

It’s Katmai National Park’s Fat Bear Week again, and their gallery of fat bears is teeming with … fat bears. There’s also a junior bear competition, but, come on, let cubs be cubs! I’m still recovering from Toddlers and Tiaras and Dance Moms. You too?

Now, to be completely transparent, I’ve followed “professional” wrestling and personally measured Arnold Schwarzenegger’s neck. I spent a week as the replacement advisor to a cheerleading team attending Spirit Camp at Auburn University. If you have never seen teen-aged girls compete for the “Spirit Stick”, you have never seen the bare face of human desperation. I’ve been in the belly of the beast, people. 

Loyal readers already know that my wife and I encounter bears on a regular basis. We live among black bears in a manicured suburban town just north of Hartford, Connecticut. Our local facebook pages include one dedicated to bear antics in swimming pools, at birthday parties, and in garbage bins. The most recent estimate of bears in town numbered almost 100, including the cubs we first saw last spring. Close encounters of the bear kind? I’ve had two, mano a pata, close enough to understand that there is something more than I can understand behind those deep brown eyes. 

Is this just another beauty pageant for bears? There’s nothing remotely regrettable about this contest.

There may be pageant winners out there, aching to correct my superficial dismissal of beauty contests. I know. It’s all about the scholarships. And yet, I still recall the solemnity with which Miss Arizona 2009 responded to a question about universal health care:

“I hear your question and refuse to answer it or express an opinion because everyone has a right to an opinion…”

I’d rather interview a black bear rooting through a garbage bin.

Back to Fat Bear Week. 

The opportunity to endorse the bear of your choice is sponsored by the Katmai National Park, Brooks River, Alaska. There is a wonderland of bear related information and photographs on their competition website: https://explore.org/fat-bear-week#about, including several bear cams and a lot of information about the habits of bears in that park. For those of us not able to visit Katmai, the park offers this description of its treasures:

“Katmai’s brown bears are at their fattest in late summer and early fall. It is the end-product of their summer-long effort to satisfy their profound hunger and prepare for winter hibernation. During hibernation, bears do not eat or drink and can lose one-third of their body weight. Their winter survival depends on accumulating ample fat reserves before entering the den. 

To get fat, bears gorge on the richest and most easily obtainable foods they can find. In Katmai National Park, that most often means salmon. Dozens of bears gather at Brooks River to feast on salmon from late June until mid October. Perhaps no other river on Earth offers bears the chance to feed on salmon for so long.

Fat bears exemplify the richness of Katmai National Park and Bristol Bay, Alaska, a wild region that is home to more brown bears than people and the largest, healthiest runs of sockeye salmon left on the planet.”

Fat bears are not mocked; winter is coming. As the park puts it –

In the bear world, fat exemplifies success. It is the fuel that powers their ability to endure winter hibernation as well as the key to their reproductive success … Their road to greatness began months ago. After a summer-long effort, brown bears at Brooks River in Katmai National Park have reached peak fat. How did they do it and what challenges did they face along the way? Those are a couple of the questions we’ll answer as we reveal the contenders and the bracket for the 2022 Fat Bear Week tournament. Watch Fat Bear Week Contestants and Bracket Reveal: October 3 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific.”

I did check back to see what the brackets look like and found that only four hours ago, an avid voter added this poetic tribute to the bear of her choice:

I like the light brown Bear Holly

Although she doesn’t look jolly.

She’s feeling the stress

of being chosen the best.

She is looking somewhat melancholy.

A visit to Holly’s profile explains the poet’s ardor. Holly is described as resembling a lightly toasted marshmallow; she has blonde ears and tan-colored claws. I exhort you to make your own determination of bear girth, pick a favorite, and write an ode in appreciation of the massive ursine beauty you favor. Mine is a bear known only as 856. You’ll find his resume at the web address provided below:

https://explore.org/meet-the-bears#bear-856

It’s immeasurably easier to wax rhapsodic about a bear with an actual name, Holly, let’s say, than it is to promote my pal, 856, but here goes-

856, dark vision of plumpitude

Is a marvel of belly and rumpitude

His prowess in pre-winter feeding

Assures him of snoozing and breeding

While others must wander in chumpitude

Your bear is waiting to meet you. Feel the love, and as Al Capone is reputed to have said, “Vote early and vote often.”

NO * NECESSARY! The Judge – All Rise

NO * NECESSARY! The Judge – All Rise

Televised Yankee games are blacked out in this part of Connecticut. Aaron Judge may hit a 61st home run at any moment. The stakes are very high. Desperation takes me back to radio – WFAN-AMFM, radio with John Sterling’s play-by-play and color commentary by Suzyn Waldman. 

Have no fear. I’ll wax rabid about Judge and about the significance of this season’s milestones, but my first tip of the cap goes to Sterling and Waldman, an elegantly balanced broadcasting duo who remind me of the power of the spoken word. I grew up in an oddly televised baseball mixed marriage as I was stuck in the Northwest corner of Connecticut. Until the Giants left for San Francisco, New York’s WPIX, channel 11, broadcast Yankee and Giant home games. A slightly less predictable signal carried Brooklyn Dodger games, and an occasional shift in the weather allowed the Boston Red Sox to flicker in and out. I became a Yankee fan early on as Joe DiMaggio gave way in center field to Mickey Mantle. Simply remembering the pantheon of Yankee demi-gods brings back the excitement I felt in watching the Yankees at work: Mantle, Yogi Berra, Hank Bauer, Billy Martin, Gil McDougald, Bobby Richardson, Gerry Coleman, Andy Carey, Bill Skowron, Elston Howard, Tony Kubek, Enos “Country” Slaughter, Whitey Ford, Don Larsen, Sal “The Barber” Maglie, Ralph Terry, Bob Turley, Bob Grim.

As William Wordsworth put it, “Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven.” For Wordsworth it was The French Revolution, for me Yankee baseball in the 1950’s, and I couldn’t stand to miss a game. Home games were locked in, but when the Yankees went on the road, I had to depend on Mel Allen or Red Barber to take me to the ball game. I built a ham radio and listened with headphones until I received a Sony transistor radio and the world grew larger. I suppose every baseball market has a string of beloved voices, but Allen and Barber were, to me, how baseball was meant to sound. Both announcers had been raised in the south; their voices were as smooth as Tupelo honey. Allen was the more excitable; if he didn’t coin the phrase,”Going – Going – Goooonnnnn!!”, he made it part of the baseball lexicon. Later, as an announcer, retired shortstop Phil Rizzuto would rely on “Holy Cow” to describe all manner of events. Allen’s “Well, how a-bout that?” was only attached to moments of Yankee heroics. I have to restrain myself in writing about Red Barber (“Red Bahbah, Heyah”) because his use of metaphor in the heat of a game was broadcasting at its best. I will pass on a cautionary note that Barber included in his memoir, Rhubarb, his word for a scuffle on the diamond: Barber NEVER swore in any circumstance or setting. It was his conviction that were he to allow a single curse to leave his lips, it might leap out in a moment of excitement in the booth. Excellent advice. Never taken.

OK, so back to AAron Judge.

He is the first contender for baseball’s Triple Crown since Miguel Cabrera played for the Tigers in 2012. Before Cabrera, the most recent crown belonged to Carl Yastrzemski who earned it in 1967. Since 1940, the only other winners were Ted Williams (1942 and 1947), Mickey Mantle (1956), and Frank Robinson (1966). As I write, he has a commanding lead in home runs (60), RBIs (128) and is tied for the leading batting average (.317). Winning a Triple Crown is good stuff but not epochal.

Those 60 home runs, on the other hand, have already put Judge in a conversation about how baseball, a game imbued with precise statistical measurements since Henry Chadwick’s reporting in the 1850s, can compare milestones, such as the home run record, as conditions of play change over the decades. 

The most widely shared concern has to do with the explosion of home run power in the decade following the baseball strike and the cancellation of the World Series. In 1998, Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa battled to the wire, Sosa pounding out 66 home runs, Mark McGuire rocketing 70 into the bleachers. In 2001, Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs, retiring in 2007 as the all-time home run leader with 762 home runs.

None of these three have been chosen for the Baseball Hall of Fame; all three have been linked with the use of performance enhancing drugs during the height of their careers.

For all of recorded history (my first baseball game), the gold standard had belonged to Babe Ruth. He hit 60 home runs in 1927 after hitting 59 in 1926. He ended his career with a total of 714 home runs, what seemed an unassailable lifetime record. Henry Aaron hit 24 or more home runs from 1955 to 1973, amassing 755 home runs when he retired. Home run 715 was celebrated widely as Aaron had been an All-Star and model of consistency throughout his career. Aaron’s stats are unvarnished.

No whiff of impropriety accompanied Roger Maris’ benchmark season of 1961, in which he passed Ruth’s seasonal record by hitting 61 home runs. But … the great scorekeeper in the sky affixed an asterisk to the total in the record book because Ruth had hit his home runs in a 154 game season and Maris hit number 61 in game 162. 

The gods give and the gods take away.

The asterisk virtually nullified Maris’ record, but baseball purists have since taken another look at the Ruth years. The ball might have not been as lively, but neither was the pitching Ruth faced. Today’s batters regularly see fastballs exceeding a hundred miles an hour. Estimates vary, but the only pitchers of Ruth’s era who came close to contemporary flamethrowers were Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, and Bob Feller. Of course another daunting pitcher was Leroy “Satchel” Paige who pitched in the Negro Leagues from 1926 until 1947. He was still formidable when he joined the Cleveland Indians in 1948, but we can only guess at what his skill and the skills of the many who never got a chance to play Major League baseball. Ruth was occasionally called The White Josh Gibson for example, as Gibson may have hit as many as 800 home runs.

When Aaron Judge comes to bat tonight, he will already have hit 60 home runs in 148 games. At the same point in the 1927 season, Ruth had hit 58, Maris 56. Bonds and McGuire have higher totals, but … there is no asterisk big enough to put next to their haul. Judge is not only facing pitchers Ruth and Maris never saw, but facing three or four different pitchers in the course of a game. Fresh arms. 

So, I’m blacked out. My laptop acting as my transistor radio, I’ll have John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman in my ear. I’ll be waiting for the crack of the bat each time Judge steps up, that distinctive sound of solid contact, and in my mind I’ll be saying, “Going – Going – GONNNNNNNNN”!

Calvin Coolidge’s Presidential Pets

Calvin Coolidge’s Presidential Pets

It all started when I discovered that Donald J. Trump, James K. Polk, and Andrew Johnson were the only presidents whose time in the White House was spent without the comfort of a pet of any sort. “Yow”, I said, suddenly aware of the lack of attention I had given pet ownership in reviewing the history in the United States. Interesting to note in passing that two of the three were impeached twice.

 “Who doesn’t have a pet?” quickly gave way to a superficial swan dive into the meticulous records of pets in the White House, wherein I was stunned to find that one of the most pet-centered presidents was the otherwise infrequently mentioned Calvin Coolidge. This is not the forum in which to debate his legacy, but it does seem appropriate to make reference to his public persona. Widely known as “Silent Cal”, Coolidge was said to be “…silent in five languages.” Jokes about his lack of animation and taciturn delivery when forced to speak probably arose from Coolidge’s discomfort with the trappings of celebrity inevitably attached to the office of the presidency. When asked why he attended state dinners, Coolidge responded, “Got to eat somewhere.”

Alice Longworth Roosevelt described Coolidge as having been, “weaned on a pickle.” When Coolidge died in 1933, the acerbic wit, Dorothy Parker, replied, “How can they tell?” 

That’s the Coolidge I expected to find, but the first mention of a Coolidge pet describes the President walking a racoon on a leash every morning during his term in office. That alone would put Silent Cal in the Pet Owner Hall of Fame, but the racoon was but one of the menagerie that accompanied Coolidge during his presidency and in his four years of retirement. 

We’re not going to get into the fine points of pet ownership, but the Founding Fathers had horses, of course, horses being the mode of transportation and most had dogs. Horses may have been necessary, but Washington named one of his his horses “Sweetlips” indicating fondness that went beyond utility. Of course, we named our Dodge station wagon “Harley” so …

Jefferson is but one of the presidents to have owned bears, two grizzly cubs, but the most lethal of his pets was a ram which purportedly killed a child. John Quincy Adams is reputed to have had the highest IQ of any president, spoke eight languages, and was socially awkward. He barely qualifies as a pet owner as his wife kept silkworms, and his short stewardship of an alligator could well be apocryphal. It was no surprise to find that Andrew Jackson rased fighting cocks, but deliciously unexpected was the account of his parrot’s flood of obscenities during Jackson’s funeral. 

Coolidge? 

Coming soon, but, and I was about to say, “the elephant in the room”, is the nation’s larger than life naturalist, cowboy, historian, Rough Rider, pugilist, and president, Theodore Roosevelt. Among the 5,013 mammals, 4,453 birds, and 2,322 reptiles that Roosevelt brought back from his Smithsonian Expedition of 1909 was an elephant, one of eight elephants currently on display in the American Museum of Natural History. We’ve all seen the photograph of Roosevelt riding a moose, I assume. A blinking moose! Living creatures sharing his home included the usual panoply of dogs and cats, a badger, hens, an owl, pigs, a laughing hyena, and a bear named Jonathan Edwards, after one of Mrs. Roosevelt’s ancestors.  

That’s a tough collection to match, and one would assume that its counterparts would be found in the roughest and toughest of presidencies. 

Nope. Let’s take a look at Cal’s household:

Ten dogs, several cats, two racoons (one walked daily), a donkey, a bobcat, lion cubs, a wallaby, Pekin ducks, a duiker, and Bruno, a black bear. Oh, and a pygmy hippopotamus. Reserved, silent in five languages, Calvin Coolidge, professional New England stoic, walked a racoon and bathed a hippopotamus.

Adages abound – “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, “Don’t judge a person by the chapter you walk in on,” “All that is gold does not glitter,” and so on. Cal and I would have disagreed on almost every aspect of government, but anybody who walks a racoon? 

America’s Best Kept College Equestrian Secrets

America’s Best Kept College Equestrian Secrets

In revising the descriptions of the colleges that make up America’s Best Kept College Secrets 2022, I paused in updating Albion College in Michigan. Albion is among the under-appreciated small liberal arts colleges in the Midwest (Albion, Kalamazoo, College of Wooster, Ripon, Lake Forest, DePauw, Beloit, Lawrence, Earlham and many more!) and is one of the small colleges offering a significant equestrian program and excellent equestrian facilities.

Hmmmm, I thought. What are America’s Best Kept Equestrian College Secrets? Time to do a quick survey before returning to the compiling of the next edition of …  well, the name of the next edition is to be determined, as  America’s Best Kept College Secrets seems to have confused people who are looking for scandal and outrageous tales of college life.

My wife and daughter, who have more than a passing acquaintance with horses, barns, turn-out facilities, tack, forage, and many, many more horse-related subjects, advise me that “equestrian” is a broad descriptor ranging from international competition in dressage, jumping, and eventing to barrel racing in a rodeo program. 

Keeping the barrel racing dive somewhat shallow, allow me to simply identify the top colleges offering intercollegiate rodeo competition. The top six men’s programs are: College of Southern Idaho, Missouri Valley College, Feather River College (CA), University of Tennessee-Martin, Panhandle State University(OK), and McNeese State(LA). The top six programs for women are: College of Southern Idaho, Montana State University, Dickinson State University (ND), McNeese State (LA), Northwestern Oklahoma State University, and Gillette College-Sheridan  College (WY).

Now, the exercise gets tricky. The U.S. Equestrian Federation is the national governing body for most of the competitions, keeping track of: dressage, driving endurance riding, hunt seat equitation, hunter-jumper, para-equestrian, reigning, roadster, saddle seat equitation, vaulting, and western riding (which consists of equitation, western pleasure, reigning, trail, western dressage, and other unnamed events).

Before identifying intercollegiate competition, however, it’s prudent to present a brief description of academic courses of study that might intrigue those whose noses twitch when the term “equine” is bandied about. An AA or BA degree in Equine Science unsurprisingly considers the science of all aspects of the horse in a scientific manner, Biology, Anatomy, Reproduction, and other equine issues. There are programs that offer certification in Equine Therapy, Equine Business Management, Equine Production (daily management of an equestrian facility), and Equestrian Science (sports science in equestrian events).

Most of the colleges offering rodeo competition offer a program in equine studies. Similarly, most of the schools competing in the National Equestrian Competition also offer a major or minor in equine studies. 

Here goes:

NOT in the NCEA

William Woods University

Fulton, Missouri

Stephens College

Columbia, Missouri

Albion College

Albion, Michigan

(Profiled in the Third Edition)

Centenary University

Hackettstown, New Jersey

Earlham College

Earlham, Indiana

(Profiled in the Third Edition)

Alfred University

Alfred, New York

St. Andrews University

Laurinburg, North Carolina

University of Findlay

Findlay, Ohio

Emory & Henry College

Emory, Virginia

(Profiled in Third Edition)

Savannah College of Art and Design

Savannah, Georgia

Berry College

Berry, Georgia

(Profiled in the Third Edition)

Cazenovia College

Cazenovia, New York

University of Kentucky

Lexington, Kentucky

Murray State University

Murray, Kentucky

Colorado State University

Fort Collins, Kentucky

NCEA

Auburn University

Auburn, Alabama

Auburn will be profiled and will include a description of the six time national championship equestrian team and the equine center. Auburn offers up to 15 equestrian scholarships.

Baylor University

Waco, Texas

Baylor will also be profiled with particular attention directed toward the size of its equestrian team (more than 80 riders) and its hosting of the NCEA’s National Championship. Baylor offers up to 15 Scholarships.

Bridgewater College

Bridgewater, Virginia

Bridgewater competes in Division III of the NCAA, and so, cannot offer athletic scholarships. The admission office, on the other hand, can offer “Merit” scholarships, some of which may assist in the recruitment of riders.

Brown University

Providence, Rhode Island

Brown is one of three “Ivy League” colleges competing in the NCEA. None of the colleges in the Ivy League offer athletic scholarships, but do offer need-based scholarships.

College of Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina

The College of Charleston is located in Charleston, but it is a university with an undergraduate student population of more than 10,000 students. A state supported university, COC offers equestrian scholarships.

(Profiled in the third edition)

Cornell University

 Ithaca, New York

Both public and private, the Cornell Equine Park is the location of Cornell’s outstanding Equine Hospital.

Dartmouth College

Hanover, New Hampshire

The newest addition to the NCEA, Dartmouth’s equestrian team competes nationally.

Delaware State University

Dover, Delaware

DSU offers majors in Animal Science and Equine Business Management and offers scholarships.

Fresno State University

Fresno, California

Fresno State’s Equine Program includes the Horse Unit, raising American Quarter Horses.

University of Georgia

Athens, Georgia

Georgia, established in 1785, is among the oldest universities in the United States and cometes n Division I.

(Profiled in the Third Edition)

Long Island University

Brookville, New York

The C.W. Post campus of the university is located in Brookville offering a BS in Equine Studies.

University of Lynchburg

Lynchburg, Virginia

University of Lynchburg was formerly Lynchburg College and now enrolls about 3000 students

(Profiled in the Third Edition)

University of Minnesota Crookston

U Minnesota Crookston is located in Minnesota’s Red River Valley, where the forested area to the east meets the Great Plains of the Dakotas.

Oklahoma State University

Stillwater, Oklahoma

OSU (not Ohio State or Oregon State) offers a degree in Animal Science and a certificate in Equine Enterprise Management. The program’s website also offers horses for sale.

Sacred Heart University

Fairfield, Connecticut

Sacred Heart is the second largest Catholic university in New England with extension campuses in Dingle, Ireland and Luxembourg. Women’s wrestling became a varsity sport this year.

Seton Hill University

Greensburg, Pennsylvania

Seton Hill is a private Catholic university enrolling about 3000 students on a campus near Pittsburg.

Southern Methodist University 

Dallas, Texas

SMU is a university enrolling almost 7000 undergraduates on a campus in the heart of Dallas.

University of South Carolina

Columbia, South Carolina

USC (not Southern California) has a campus of almost 400 acres near the state capital of Columbia.

South Dakota State University

Brookings, South Dakota

The South Dakota State Jackrabbits study in Brookings, the fourth largest city in South Dakota (population 23,000),

Stonehill College

North Easton, Massachusetts

Stonehill is a private Catholic university located in the greater Boston area. Stonehill has recently moved up to Division I in most sports.

Sweet Briar College

Sweet Briar, Virginia

(Profiled in the Third Edition)

Although Sweet Briar competes in Division III, its program is among the most highly regarded in the nation. The Vixens ride in a newly renovated equestrian facility and on the 2400 acres of Virginia countryside.

Texas Christian University

Fort Worth, Texas

TCU’s Division I program is located about three miles from downtown Fort Worth.

Texas A&M

College Station, Texas

Texas A&M has the largest undergraduate student enrollment in the U.S. – almost 60,000 students.

University of California – Davis

Davis, California

UC Davis, located in California’s Sacramento Valley, competes in Division I and is the home of an outstanding program in veterinary medicine.

University of the South

Sewanee, Tennessee

Most frequently known as Sewanee, the University of the South looks and feels like a New England college. The campus is located on 13,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau and is often mentioned as one of the most beautiful colleges in the U.S.

(Profiled in the Third Edition)

University of Tennessee – Martin

Martin, Tennessee

One of the five campuses of the University of Tennessee, Martin’s equestrian program, the Skyhawks, compete in Division I.

University of Vermont

University of Vermont

Unversity of Vermont – Burlington, Vermont

The University of Vermont is located in the heart of Burlington, a picture-perfect college town, packed with great eateries, cafes, and clubs. A quick glance over the shoulder reveals Lake Champlain, the sixth largest lake in the United States, Green Mountains, the great outdoors, winter sports, and the best skiing in the East. One recent visitor described Burlington as, “a good college town for young hippies looking to escape their conservative families,” and it is. A recent article in the New York Times, however, offered a revisionist view of the city, due in part to the influx of urban folk as the pandemic devastated city life in New York and Boston.

Burlington, home of the University of Vermont and the birthplace of Phish, Ben and Jerry’s and Seventh Generation, has long embodied the earthy progressivism and can-do independence that define the state’s spirit. Lately that ethos has taken on a sophisticated sheen, as chefs apply Vermont’s longtime obsession with local ingredients in exciting new directions. There are still plenty of Birkenstocks about; they’re just parked under tables spread with confit duck poutine, braised leek crepes and crisp, complex Vermont craft brews like Alchemist’s Heady Topper, a beer of near-mythic reputation among hops aficionados.”

Confit duck poutine and Lake Champlain? Pretty much says it all.

Students at the university are mostly white and mostly Christian, but the diversity of backgrounds and interests is kind of impressive in this relatively small university. The work is tough enough and the reputation sound enough that the general tone of the place is both industrious and cheerful. Hippies and hipsters, jocks, skaters, boarders and skiers, aggies pre-meds, pre-vets all seem to enjoy each other’s company and their privileged location.

The University of Vermont itself has a few quirky characteristics. It is popularly known as UVM rather than UVT because its Latin title is Universitas Viridis Montis or University of Green Mountains (that makes sense). Then UVM is a public/private or private/public university. UVM was founded as a private college in 1791, just as the foundling state abandoned its status as an independent republic to join the newly established United States of America. In the Nineteenth Century, the Morrill Acts established the Land Grant universities, of which UVM was one, thus taking on the role of the state’s public university. Today, the university operates with funds from the state and with tuition paid by students, a good number of whom are from other states. 

The university is an excellent small research university, generally included in the small group of public (ish) universities that offer highly regarded academic instruction. Known as the Public Ivies, the original group includes Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina, Miami University (Ohio), UC Berkeley, UCLA, Texas, William and Mary, and Vermont. UVM continues to enjoy a solid reputation, due in part to its success in placing its graduates in competitive graduate programs and in part to its many innovations in developing a sustainable campus. In addition, development of specialized programs continues; Healthy Brains, Healthy Bodies, taught by pediatric neuroscientist Dr. James Hudziak from the university’s School of Medicine led to the establishment of a new residence hall program to be instituted in the coming academic year.

For many who apply to UVM, however, the appeal of the place is in its location (already described as spectacular), its size (under ten thousand), its diversity of majors organized in eight undergraduate divisions, and its lively, active, generally happy student body. UVM is a rarity as a public institution in which only 2 percent of classes are NOT taught by full-time faculty.

The totemic creature once prowling the northern tier of New England, the Catamount (also known as mountain lion or puma), is the school’s mascot and a reasonable gesture toward the environmental concerns the Green Mountain State has championed and a gesture toward the elegant power of the university’s Division One teams. Lots of schools have adopted cats of one kind or another (Tigers, Lions, Bobcats, Wildcats), but Vermont’s Catamount prowls alone as a purely regional beast. Well, Maine suggests that their Black Bears are Maine Black Bears, but they look exactly like anyone else’s Black Bears. In any case, while UVM is not generally seen as a sports-mad campus, two winters sports, basketball and ice hockey, draw crowds to some spectacular play.

Residential life is healthy, as is indicated by the high percentage that chose to live on campus throughout the four years. It is rare to see more than 50% remaining in dormitories at a university of this size, but the advantages of living on-campus are many. In describing the social scene at UVM, students quickly disclose that there are three thriving sorts of social activities, outside of clubs, organizations, team and intramural sports, etc. The Catamounts can prowl the Burlington nightlife, which gets high marks – the number of recommended clubs is overwhelming. Many will take to the outdoors; all the usual wilderness activities are within a short drive. Hiking, rock climbing, camping, rafting, sailing – all in a glorious setting. The skiing is excellent and there are a number of types of venues. There are some pretty stylish resorts, such as Stowe, Stratton Mountain, and the aforementioned Trapp Family Lodge, and lots of MUCH less expensive skiing as well. Some offer Nordic and some Downhill and some both.  After a healthy snowfall, numbers of students slap on a pair of skis and cross-country wherever they want.  Lots happens on campus, including an active calendar of student organized coffee houses at which budding singers/songwriters/stand-up comedians take the stage. The university brings in the usual array of big-name entertainment twice a year and provides a number of entertainment choices throughout the year. There are fraternities and sororities at UVM, but they hold no more sway in the social life of students than do a number of other organizations and associations.

OK, the setting is fabulous and social goodies abound. What about academics?

UVM is a relatively small university, and students report exceptional access to professors; many describe themselves as having found a mentor during their undergraduate careers. A fair number choose to stay to complete graduate work and reports on their preparation indicate that they have had a solid undergraduate training. 

The university presents seven colleges, an Honors College, a medical school, and a variety of graduate programs. They are: The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Education and Social Services, the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, the Rubenstein School of Environmental and Natural Resources, and the Grossman School of Business..

All of the divisions have distinctive programs or majors; perhaps among the most uncommon are the Green Forest Initiative sponsored in the Jericho Research Forest  by the Forestry Program of the Rubenstein School (and the internship at the Alaska Field Station), the programs in Rehabilitation and Movement Science in the College of Nursing (including Athletic Training and Movement and Exercise Science), and the program in Early Childhood Special Education, sponsored by the College of Education and Social Services.

Most applicants from outside the region will probably apply to the College of Arts and Sciences. One of the distinctive differences between UVM and many other public universities is that a significant number apply without a major. More than 30% arrive without having stated a major choice, and that does not include those in the Honors College. UVM offers the usual comprehensive smorgasbord from anthropology to zoology with some pretty interesting options. There are some good interdisciplinary programs (Neuroscience and Eastern European/Russian Studies), thirty-seven majors including Film and Television and Classical Civilization. 

The Honors College gets very high marks from students who, in many cases, chose it over some hefty “name-brand” liberal arts options. Separate housing is provided in a stunning residence hall, replete with conference rooms, libraries, study centers, and handsome suite and single rooms. In addition, a residential faculty is available for discussion and formal lecture opportunities. About two hundred and sixty students join the Honors College each year, and in addition to getting first choice in registering for classes (a major advantage!), they also meet in council to advise the university on the development of new courses and new programs. 

Students from outside the region may have the misconception that UVM is a snow-bound school for crunchy New Englanders, and in an attempt to correct that opinion, here are a few relatively current initiatives straight from Burlington. 

The first comes from the Business School and the Engineering College, where enterprising students decided to invent a better golf club. “The Bomb”, a high-end driver, was created at UVM and marketed by BombTech, a UVM start-up. From all accounts, it is one heck of a driver.

Dance students from Vermont take their salsa and meringue from alpine New England to … Mongolia? Yes, UVM has an exchange program with Mongolia University Arts College, promoting cultural exchange through dance, and an opportunity to study Traditional Mongolian Medicine and Cultural Immersions.

If you have ever asked the question, “Are we happy?” You’ll be pleased to find that the  UVM Business School students are at work on the “hedonometer”, a device that graphs the emotional state of people by measuring activity on Twitter.  Imagine a ticker such as used on the Stock Exchange, graphing emotional booms and busts as Twitterscapes provide immediate data.

When UVM invites students to “Walk on the Wild Side”, the invitation comes from horticulturalists teaching herbivores to find edible plants.

UVM has sent numbers of graduates into volunteer and service programs following graduation; alumni have flocked to the Peace Corps, and one recent graduate founded a program called Connecting Cultures, a service provided to Refugees from more than twenty countries who find themselves in Vermont. One outgrowth of that initiative was the establishment of New England Survivors of Torture and Trauma (NEST). 

So, what else do Catamounts think about? 

Her Campus based at the University of Vermont is the largest online global community for college women, identifying such issues as The 8 Things You Do That Make You Not Seem Like Girlfriend Material, and 11 Swimsuits We’re Obsessed with for Summer. As a fairly neutral visitor to the blog, I was most impressed with a really sensible and helpful article on how to spend a happy and healthy spring break on campus, directed toward the many students who can’t afford or manage to make the traditional “College Gone Wild” Spring Break. I also found some comfort in understanding, “What House Placements mean in Astrology and What Yours Says About You!”

Or, you might contact Adrian Ivakhiv, Professor of Environmental Studies, who maintains a blog entitled, Immanence, directed toward creating a space for environmental cultural theory. How many people follow Ivakhiv? A recent survey of the “top humanities theorists of the last century” was flooded with nominations. The winners, should you wish to pass them on in casual conversation, were: Michel Foucault, Pierre Bordieu, Max Weber, Sigmund Freud, and John Dewey. Umberto Eco finished a disappointing twenty-eighth. 

As might be expected, there are blogs dedicated to Pasture Management and Orchard Maintenance; for example, the UVM Fruit Blog characterizes the thinning and codling moth population in the state. But there are also rabidly followed blogs attending to issues surrounding UVM’s nationally regarded hockey and basketball teams.

Speaking of sports, UVM fields eighteen Division One teams, including national championship teams in Skiing and basketball teams (both men’s and women’s) that have played a part in the NCAA tournament. Vermont’s ice hockey team is a perpetual powerhouse, often appearing in the Frozen Four. Catamount teams are fairly well supported, but it is the hockey team that gets the most love. Gutterson Field House ROCKS during the hockey season, especially when playing traditional rival Dartmouth. Anyone watching the NHL will recognize the names of goalie, Tim Thomas, and sharpshooter Martin St. Louis, winner of the Hart Trophy, both former Catamounts.

Outdoor Magazine rates UVM among the Top Ten Collegiate Outdoor Programs, and the call of the wild is heard and obeyed. Club sports also abound, including all of the usual options plus Equestrian, Fencing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Figure Skating, Bollywood Dance, and Olympic Weightlifting. 

2022 ADMISSIONS STATISTICS

The University of Vermont  received approximately 25,560 applicants, from which approximately 16,350 were admitted in order to enroll a first year class of approximately 3,000. The acceptance rate in recent years has ranged from 58% to 64%

Scores reported for the 25th-75th percentile ranged from 630-710 on the Evidence Based Reading and Writing subtest of the SAT and from 610-700 on the Math. ACT scores for the same group have ranged from 29-33. College of the Atlantic’s enrolled student population is approximately 62% female and 38% male. Approximately 83% are White/Non-Hispanic.

The University of Maine

The University of Maine

The University of Maine – Orono, Maine

I’m going out on a limb here. U Maine may be the only public university I know in which students are boisterous in expressing their  gratitude for the opportunity their state has afforded them. They are also open in recognizing that U. Maine is not an Ivy League sure ticket to Wall Street, but they appreciate the care with which their professors teach them, for a campus they consider lovely, and for a variety of programs that entirely meet their needs. One real measure of a university’s ability to deliver on its promises is in the attrition rate; good schools keep their kids and few leave the University of Maine. Dollar for dollar, Maine may be among the best “buys’ ‘ in the Northeast.The university is a bargain for in-state residents and not a bad deal for out-of-staters as well. Facilities are considered excellent; a remarkable number of students describe their dormitories as very comfortable, and a truly remarkable number rave about the food, although many advise shopping carefully for the meal plan that suits a student best.

Those who love Maine cite four distinctive qualities that make Maine a great choice: Supportive faculty eager to help in every way, great variety of activities, pride in Black Bear sports, and a friendly and active college town

Located about sixty miles inland and about a hundred miles from the Canadian border, Maine is the northernmost of the universities and colleges reviewed in this edition. The University is set in Orono, a city of about ten thousand, and is the largest in Maine’s system of universities (about 8,600 undergraduate students/11,500 undergraduate and graduate) and the state’s flagship university. Maine was founded in 1862 by the same act of Congress that established most of what were called “land-grant” colleges (only Cornell and MIT are non-public land-grant institutions). Maine’s campus is actually on an island between the Penobscot and Stillwater rivers. The campus was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the architect who framed Central Park in New York, the grounds of the White House, and the elegantly crafted landscapes in which the nation’s grandest estates have been placed. The most striking aspect of the campus, other than its lovely setting, is the University of Maine Mall (not a shopping center!), which extends from the library to the field house.  

Although the temperature in Orono at mid-winter is only about three degrees lower than that in Worcester or Springfield, Massachusetts, Maine has a “north country” feel that has something to do with its extensive programs in forestry and sustainability, and an awful lot to do with the success of Maine’s “Black Bear” championship ice hockey team. The Black Bears are strong in a number of sports and are the state’s only Division I athletic program, but the fever pitch in the Alfond Arena when Maine takes the ice against archrival New Hampshire warms even the coldest of Maine winters. The Bears have twice won the national championship in hockey and regularly send players on to the NHL.

Maybe it’s the beauty of the campus, or the quality of food provided by the dining service, or the relatively small size of classes and the variety of excellent programs of study, or the excitement of big-time sports, or the quiet comfort of the town, or well maintained dormitories, or distance from the rattle of big cities – for whatever reason or reasons, students at the University of Maine are HAPPY.  

Students use words such as “welcoming”, “friendly”, “accepting”, “generous” in describing their community, and it’s clear that there is a strong sense of community in this not-very-large state university. Athletes, actors, dancers, scientists, environmentalists, fraternity/sorority, physically disabled, people of color – all seem to have a place on a campus that students call, “open to diversity”. An uncommon number of student-written accounts describe their university as responsive, supportive, and working hard to meet the needs of its students. Most instruction is provided by professors who are well liked by students who find them informative and helpful. The curriculum is wide and deep; specialized programs in the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture are distinctive, as are the several strong programs in psychology and neuroscience, but highly regarded programs are also offered throughout the academic divisions (Maine Business School, the Honors College, the College of Education and Human Development, the College of Engineering, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the aforementioned College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture), 

Engineering and the Natural Sciences/Forestry/Agriculture get a lot of attention, but there are several other programs that are noteworthy and highly regarded. Among them is a new program called New Media, which, as its title suggests, offers extensive exposure to the quickly changing media landscape.  Courses in digital narrative and documentary are accompanied by courses in what is called, ” Time-based sequence” in digital arts. The program is interdisciplinary and at the cutting edge of digital arts and journalism. I hear equally good things about the Music program, which includes performance majors and is under the umbrella of a growing School of Performing Arts, part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Other programs of note include an Athletic Training program in the College of Education and Human Development, Civil and Chemical Engineering, (actually ALL of the Engineering programs), and a rigorous Honors College, which depends upon core programs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Natural Sciences. Honors students meet the General Education requirements in courses that are offered in small groups made up of Honors students. One of the requirements of the Honors College is the completion of an Honors thesis.

The university carries out a formal program training those who offer support in residential life, indicating that the Residence Advisors have been taken seriously and that quality of residential life is a priority.  Aside from the warm welcome in the first year for new or transferring students, new students also find that they have free admission to all of Maine’s Division One athletic events (Go, Bears!) and are given two free tickets each semester to concerts and performances on campus.

Outside of the classroom, Maine offers significant opportunities for recreation and activity, the most notable of which, given the university’s location, is the program known as Maine Bound.  Women Rock – rock climbing for women, Biking and Bouldering, Katahdin Knife Edge Traverse, Surf Southern Maine, Sea Kayaking – all bring students into the wilderness, but a lot of activity can be found on campus in the Indoor Rock Climbing facility and the Ropes Challenge Course.  Fitness programs are offered in the New Balance Student Recreation Center and Intramural sports abound, including indoor softball, floor hockey, and the Black Bear Attack Adventure race, which almost certainly does not involve fleeing from a black bear.

Student clubs and organizations are equally well subscribed and include all of the expected options in music, drama, journalism, political activity, and celebration of culture.  At last count, Maine hosted more than two hundred different clubs, so I am forced to highlight only a small portion of the array.

Sports?  Fencing, crew, cricket, rugby, triathlon, Alpine skiing, wrestling, ultimate frisbee.], capoeira, equestrian, figure skating, trap and skeet, yoga.

Cultural and Service?  Best Buddies, South Asian Association of Maine, Helping Honduras, Iranian Social Hub, Hillel,  Muslin Students Association, Deaf Culture Club,  Autism Training Student Organization.

Other?  Gamers, Black Bear Robotics, Home Brewing Club, Hip Hop and Swing Dance clubs. Strap on your apiary gear – Black Bear Beekeepers are looking for you!

My favorites, however, are found in the Animal and Veterinary Sciences division:  UMADCOWS – caring for the dairy herd, the Maine Animal Club, several equestrian clubs and competitive teams, and the Standardbred Drill Team.

Fraternities and sororities have their place at Maine, and Greek life seems healthy and positive.  A strong Residential Life staff organizes a variety of living options, including theme based housing for new students, should they feel more comfortable in one of eight residential communities organized around Great Books, Technology, or Global Crossroads among others.  The seventeen residential halls on campus are described by students as comfortable and welcoming.

There are two distinctive traditions at Maine that deserve at least a cursory description.  In the first place, the crowd at any athletic event might cheer, “Go, Blue” in order to root the team to victory, but the true mascot is a black bear.  Originally, Maine’s mascot was an elephant (Go Figure!), but the arrival of a black bear cub on the sidelines of a football game apparently made the crowd go “bananas”, so today, “Bananas the Bear” is the university’s totemic animal.  Once a famous song across the country, the “Maine Stein Song” is now sung at most events and often when the Bears score.

Most varsity teams at Maine play in Division I in three separate conferences.  The football team is a member of the America East Conference, which includes U. Massachusetts, U. New Hampshire, U. Vermont, SUNY Albany, SUNY Binghamton, Bryant University, U. of Maryland Baltimore County, U Mass Lowell, and New Jersey Institute of Technology. The very successful hockey team plays in the Hockey East Association.  The association currently includes the universities of Notre Dame, Vermont, New Hampshire, Boston College, and Boston University.

2022 ADMISSIONS STATISTICS

The University of Maine received approximately 15,000 applicants, from which 14400 were admitted in order to enroll a first year class of 2025. The acceptance rate in recent years has ranged from 85% to 96%.

Scores reported for the 25th-75th percentile ranged from 540-650 on the Evidence Based Reading and Writing subtest of the SAT and from 520-630 on the Math. ACT scores for the same group have ranged from 22-30. College of the Atlantic’s enrolled student population is approximately 50% female and 50% male. 

The majority of applicants are from New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Approximately 82% are White/Non-Hispanic.

College of the Atlantic

College of the Atlantic

College of the Atlantic – Bar Harbor, Maine

Maine is celebrated for its rocky coastline, fisheries and lobster traps, and ruggedly stunning islands, one of which, Mount Desert Island, has famously welcomed families of enormous wealth and power. Much of Acadia National Park on the island was donated by John D. Rockefeller whose elaborate summer home is among those built by J.P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the Astors. The town of Bar Harbor and communities of Northeast Harbor and Seal Harbor, located on Mount Desert, have long been a refuge for the most prominent families from the steamy confines of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. In what might have seemed a curious impulse, Mount Desert is also the home of College of the Atlantic, a remarkable educational innovation, unique in its mission and uncommon in its ambition.

COA was founded in 1969, one of the last of the wave of experimental colleges that swept the end of the decade and one that has remained true to the vision of its founders. Today, almost four hundred students live and study on a thirty-seven acre campus overlooking Frenchman’s Bay; they are all engaged in the study of Human Ecology, the college’s only major. Well, that’s not entirely true, or at least not completely true. COA describes itself as a liberal arts college in which all students design their own major examining a range of areas of study, from Molecular Biology, Climate Change and Energy, Farming and Food Sytems to Literature and Writing, Mind, Meaning, and Consciousness, Gender and Identity Studies and a dozen other areas. The college identifies the 100 or so entering students, prospective majors in Human Ecology – “Currently seeking 100 points of view”. 

This is one instance in which you might actually get the best of both worlds.

Imagine a college that takes ecology seriously – I mean REALLY seriously. 

“Maine has between 4,000 and 6,200 islands depending on who’s doing the counting.” Students get their feet wet (hah) through the college’s Islands Program

The extraordinary setting and natural resources make the college a living laboratory and a superior learning environment for those who think it is great to work in Acadia or take an hour-and-a-half boat ride to Duck Island, one of the college’s research stations, a twelve acre preserve protecting the largest breeding ground of Leach’s Storm Petrels and Black Guillemots. If marine mammals are your preference, you can scoot twenty-five miles to Mount Desert Rock which offers a window into the world of whales, dolphins, and porpoises. If you don’t know the difference between dolphins and porpoises, you probably need to enroll right away. Any description of resources available to students at COA has to include the world-class biological research facility, the Jackson Laboratory, one of the leading areas of research in Geonomics, Mammalian Genetics, Cancer Research, and Neurological and Sensory Research. Recently, the college added a wilderness outpost in Northern Maine. North Woods Ways is a traditional skills wilderness winter academic base camp. Other less academic adventures include the Bar Island Swim.

So, to make the picture a bit more complex, COA is a small (350 students) college located in a fabled Maine holiday destination next to one of the nation’s most powerful research facilities. My own impression of the COA experience leads me to describe the college as an intensive professional school with considerable interest in the liberal arts. 

All students take the core course in human ecology and must also take at least one course in history, a writing course, a quantitative reasoning course,and meet distribution requirements.. The requirements for a degree from COA also include community service, a writing portfolio, an internship, a final human ecology essay, and a final project.

Without majors, the distribution requirements in the college are separated into three areas of inquiry: Art and Design, Environmental Science, and Human Studies. Thus, even in this environmentally super-charged college, a student can develop concentration in Arts and Design, Field Ecology and Conservation Biology, Ecological Policy and Planning, International Studies, Literature and Writing, Sustainable Business, and Sustainable Food Systems. 

The courses generally included in the Environmental Sciences are as one might expect, both comprehensive and marine sensitive: Organic Chemistry raises its formidable head, but so does Edible Botany; Introduction to Statistics and Research Design is offered in the same quadrant as the Art and Science of Fermented Foods.

Concentration in Arts and Design might introduce a student to a Visual Seminar in Photographic Syntax as well as a course in The History of Rock. Some courses are clearly conceptually based (The Reality Effect: Art and Truth in the 19th century) while others have a hands-on approach (Four Dimensional Studio Art). 

Human Studies is concerned with the social sciences, of course, but the range of courses proceeds from Gender, Politics, and Science in Fairy Tales from the World to Philosophy at the Movies.

Chances are that students interested in the College of the Atlantic have self-identified as ecologically active; few arrive without having sustained interested in marine environments. The school is small and somewhat remote; Mount Desert is stunningly beautiful but about an hour from Bangor and about four hours from Boston … if you have a car. As a result, the description of student life is probably more significant than it might be in examining other, more conventional, opportunities.

It goes without saying that environmental activism is an important part of the experience at COA. The regular trips to field stations like the frequent monitoring of projects begun as part of the curriculum or as part of internships takes planning and considerable time. 

The payoff? Night skies at the Duck Island station are spectacular, and apparently, the view of the sunrise from the station’s lighthouse is pretty remarkable as well. A Lunch break at Mount Desert Island includes a parade of whales breaching nearby. Yes, the environmental stuff is a huge part of life at COA, but so is recreation in the outdoors. The college’s outdoor program offers a fleet of canoes and kayaks as well as Rhodes 19 and Sonic 23 sailboats. Camping equipment is checked out daily, with lots of COA trips into the mountains and rivers of Maine. Wintertime? Still time for exploration and camping. 

The college maintains several distinctive programs and facilities that are animated and directed by students throughout the year. In addition to classrooms, labs, and library, COA operates The Osprey, a research vessel and floating classroom. The George B. Dorr Museum of Natural History, once the headquarters of the Acadia National Park is now curated by students who design and prepare every exhibit. Beech Hill Farm is a working, sustainable, organic farm, also operated students, faculty, and farm managers. The college also operates the Peggy Rockefeller Farm, more than one hundred acres of pasture on Mount Desert Island. All electricity used on the farm is generated by solar panels, and the entire property is in the Northeast Creek watershed. On campus, the college maintains a garden, a greenhouse, a herbarium, and an arboretum. 

Regular college fun? OK, slightly modified but definitely present. The residences (NOT dorms) are wonderfully diverse and rich in character. Collaborative living is at the heart of the COA residential experience, and, while there are Residential Advisors in each facility, the expectation is that all residents will be mindful of the needs of others. The closest thing to conventional dormitory is Blair/Tyson, essentially a group of connected townhouses with group kitchens and cedar sided ski-lodge exterior. About twenty students live in Seafox, an authentic and authentically quirky New England seaside farmhouse. This is the largest of the residences with a porch that looks out on the sea; Seafox is also designated as a substance-free dorm. Six students live in Cottage, a converted gatehouse, which, in addition to comfy intimacy offers the residence closest to the Bus Stop. The first building constructed as part of the college, Peach House, holds eight students and is also designated as a substance-free residence. Also substance-free is David House, a small carriage house welcoming five students. The newest housing on campus is the Davis “Village”, a complex of biomass pellet heated, solar powered, toilet composting small houses, separate from but adjacent to Seafox and the Deering Commons. The village is also designated as substance-free.

Students edit two publications throughout the year – Off the Wall, a student newspaper, and Edge of Eden, a literary journal. Open Mic nights take place in the great hall of the Turrets mansion, and a major cultural/social/musical/theatrical event of the year is “Fandango”, a talent show that raises money for charity while allowing students to perform a surprising variety of talents, from the choral presentation of Finnish folk songs to an authentic Maori dance. Fandango also allows international students to carry some aspect of their culture into the program. Roughly twenty percent of the student body comes from outside the United States.

Unconventional in its focus, serious in its commitment to changing the world as well as its students, the College of the Atlantic is unique. It is not for everyone, but if a star-spangled night sky, breaching whales, organic food, and cozy collaboration appeal to you, there is nothing more invigorating than the experience COA promises and delivers.

2022 ADMISSIONS STATISTICS

College of the Atlantic received approximately 525 applicants, from which 337 were admitted in order to enroll a first year class of 100. The acceptance rate in frecent years has ranged from 58% to 61%.

Scores reported for 25th-75th percentile ranged from 630-740 on the Evidence Based Reading and Writing subtest of the SAT and from 580-660 on the Math. ACT scores for the same group have ranged from 27-32. College of the Atlantic’s enrolled student population is approximately 70% female and 30% male. 

The majority of applicants are from New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pensylvania. Approximately 64% are White/Non-Hispanic.

The College of Wooster – First College Profiled in the 4th edition of America’s Best Kept College Secrets

The College of Wooster – First College Profiled in the 4th edition of America’s Best Kept College Secrets

Best Kept College Secrets – 2022

The College of Wooster – Wooster, Ohio

The Motley Fool, a highly regarded financial and investment firm, named The College of Wooster among “The top 5 schools with the smartest professors”. Every small college boasts an estimable faculty, loads of Ph.D.s, accolades and prizes; this powerhouse investment consulting firm (no fools, they!) puts The College of Wooster in the mix with Stanford and the University of Chicago. How has this impressive college remained among the best kept secrets  in college admissions?

The College of Wooster is one of the most attractive of the  “undiscovered” gems. Those in the know have long understood that this small college, set in a small town south of Cleveland and east of Akron, is a rarity. Not only is Wooster one of Loren Pope’s Colleges That Change Lives, a charter member of the Great Lakes College Association, and an active champion of international education, its traditional association with its Presbyterian founders allows it to proudly boast one of the few collegiate bagpipe bands, replete with highland dancers.  Once known as “The Presbyterian Steamrollers,” the unaffiliated Wooster teams are now the “Fighting Scots,” and they fight effectively in the North Coast Athletic Conference.

There is no way to truly communicate the warmth, loyalty, and good-hearted spirit on this campus; Wooster’s students feel at home from the very start and spend their four years making others feel as if they too have a place at Wooster.  

Like Davidson, Macalester, and Centre, Wooster was established by the Presbyterian Church, and like those colleges, that founding impetus had much to do with the direction and purpose of the college from the very start.  In 1870, much had yet to be worked out in the aftermath of the Civil War.  Wooster’s founding president was clear in stating the mission of this college:

“The sameness of our origin as men and women carries with it our original and essential equality. Had our national life been the true expression of our national creed, slavery would have been forever impossible. Caste, in whatever name, strikes at the soul of our humanity and liberty.”

In the same fashion, Wooster was established as a coeducational college from the start, clear in its expectation that it would hold women to the same level of expectation that it did men.

Although the college is no longer a Presbyterian college, one legacy of that affiliation is very much a part of the Wooster experience today – an uncommon commitment to a strong international presence on campus. Wooster reaches out into the world with a number of service and educational programs and has long enrolled a higher proportion of international students than most colleges of its type.

Missionaries left Wooster and traveled the globe, establishing strong ties with institutions and individuals.  The Wooster in India program, for example, was founded in 1930.  At that time, Wooster became connected with a sister school, Ewing College in Allahabad, India.  Today, Wooster enrolls students from more than thirty nations, having developed programs that have welcomed international students as few colleges have done.  Babcock Hall is a residence in which international students live in a cross-cultural living environment with students native to the United States.  Luce Residential Hall offers six separate foreign language living centers in Russian, Chinese, French, German, Spanish, and Classics

In addition, Wooster offers instruction in seven foreign languages and promotes study abroad in sixty countries.  As a side note, those travelers sent artifacts as well as students; the college has owned an Egyptian mummy since 1885 when it was donated by an alumnus who had purchased four in Egypt for the price of eight dollars each. 

In addition to nationally reputed programs in the sciences, especially Chemistry, Wooster is known for its Independent Study Program, through which all students work one-on-one with an advisor in completing an independent project.  This notion of a capstone academic experience has been copied by other colleges, but few have as successfully sustained a college-wide independent study program as Wooster has. Upon the successful completion of the Independent Project, students are awarded the coveted Tootsie Roll – yes, the chocolate candy.  Look for the Tootsie Roll on the college’s website; it stands for a job well done.

Other traditions help Wooster separate itself from the pack of Ohio colleges, none more stirring than the corps of bagpipers who appear at a number of the college’s most significant events.  Pipers lead the marching band onto the football field, and pipers lead the procession at graduation.

Few colleges have a solitary bagpiper; Wooster has a minimum of five who appear in kilts as do the one hundred and seventy members of the Fighting Scot Marching Band.  Pipers are attracted to Wooster, of course, but enticed as well by the Scottish Arts Scholarship that identifies and supports talented musicians.  

These aren’t the only musicians or performers at Wooster.  The Ohio Light Opera Company is the resident professional company of the College of Wooster, for example, and in continuous rehearsal and performance throughout the year.  In addition to the expected performances of Gilbert and Sullivan’s light operas, the company also produces musical theater, such as Camelot or Guys and Dolls.  Wooster has long offered a strong program in Theater and now enrolls students in a major in Theater and Dance. 

Two of the most significant traditions at Wooster involve the archway of Kauke Hall, at the center of the handsome campus.  Freshman march through the archway on their way to their first convocation and are led back through the arch by the aforementioned pipers on graduation day. The entire student body rises to the challenge when snow falls heavily as tradition has it that classes will be canceled if the entire archway can be completely packed with snow.  “Packing the Arch” is one of the moments that creates a bond of friendship in shared labor.

There are fraternities and sororities at Wooster, but they play a less prominent role than at many similar colleges, in part because they are not nationally affiliated.  Most social activity revolves around the residences, and most Wooster students have friendships that extend beyond fraternity or residence halls.  Wooster is simultaneously an active academic community, a workshop in international understanding, an impressive athletic power in the region, and a very comfortable social setting for varieties of students of every type.  Some fraternities and sororities live in sections of dormitories; some students join the College of Wooster Pipe Band, some belong to the Light Opera Company, some begin life work in theater.  This is a healthy and happy campus, filled with motivated and effective students.

One hallmark of school spirit at Wooster is the very high proportion of students who play intercollegiate varsity sports; almost half of the men at Wooster have played at least one sport.  The Fighting Scots excel in a number of sports for men and women, but the tradition of victory in basketball is particularly compelling.  Wooster has shared the North Coast Athletic Conference championship in basketball with only one other college during the course of the last decade.  The Wooster/Wittenberg rivalry in basketball is heated, and the games between these two teams always fill the stands.  These are the only two teams in the NCAC that have won more than fifteen hundred games, and they are the two teams that set the standard for the league.  Baseball, lacrosse, track and field, swimming and diving- all are good and well supported.

The other fifty percent of Wooster’s students jump into club and intramural sports, of which the cricket club, ice hockey club, equestrian club, cheerleaders, dance team, ultimate frisbee club, and WOODS (Wooster’s Outdoors Club) are most active.

Who ends up at Wooster?

The admissions process here is eminently sensitive and humane. Counselors and consultants appreciate the care with which applications are considered and the degree to which the college extends itself to ambitious students whose academic journey is still in process.  

2022 ADMISSIONS STATISTICS

In recent years, Wooster has received approximately 6,611 applications from which approximately 4,000 were accepted in order to enroll a first year class of 600.  The acceptance rate in the past few years has ranged from 59% to 62%.

Scores reported for the middle 50% of enrolled first year students have ranged from 620 to 720 on the Evidence Based subtest of the SAT and from 600 to 710 on the Math subtest.  ACT Composite scores for the same group have ranged from 25-34 English and 24-30 Math..

Approximately 52% of incoming students hail from Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, with New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Illinois providing another 16%.  Wooster’s enrolled student population is approximately 46% male and 54 % female.  Approximately 61% of enrolled students are White/Non-Hispanic.

If You Go Out In The Woods Today …

If You Go Out In The Woods Today …

OK, writing about bears in our town of Simsbury, Connecticut is like writing about snow on Mount Rainier. Rainier gets about 59 feet of snow a year; we have a bear encounter of one kind or another virtually every morning. Big deal. 

Does a foot of snowfall more or less matter to Mt. Rainier? Apparently, as someone is keeping tabs closely enough to report that the average for Rainier is about 640 inches annually, although in the boom winter, 1988-1989, the final tally was 1,035 inches. That’s a hefty 86 feet of snow and pretty hard to ignore. Can Washingtonians in the region describe snow with a particularity that baffles outsiders? Well, could you spot the difference between dendrite, needles, columns, plate, graupel, diamond dust, and rime icing?

Simsbury is about 11 miles north of Hartford, the state capital, home to commuters, retired folks, students at two prominent independent boarding schools, the international Skating Center (Sasha Cohen, Shizuka Arakawa, Osan Baiul, Michelle Kwan, Ekaterina Gordeeva, and Alexi Yagudin and tons of Olympic hopefuls), two pretty satisfactory bagel shops, Le Banh Patisserie, and the headquarters of the Ensign-Bickford Aerospace and Defense Company. Le Banh produces world class confections, and Ensign-Bickford produces Primacord, preeminent detonating cord, used by NASA in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions, and, yes, the sound you hear is the weekly test of explosives.

We’ve got the usual suburban amenities (Starbucks, tennis clubs, golf courses, paddle tennis, pickleball, rowing) but only one chain restaurant (Jersey Mike’s). We’ve got three boutique grocery stores within ten minutes of the center of town and a number of excellent restaurants. The town’s library is fabulous, the Farmington River is available for rafting and tubing, and the Simsbury Land Trust preserves more than 1500 acres of wooded land.

Those acres adjoin the peculiarly wooded neighborhoods in Simsbury, Canton, and New Hartford. I’ve had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting the usual complement of woodland creatures plus beavers, porcupines, fisher cats (not cats), weasels, minks, coyotes, bobcats, and bears.

About the bears.

Male black bears bears (boars) tip the scales at 250 – 600 pounds; females (sows) can weigh up to 350 pounds. Our bears are active throughout the day and evening; they are omnivorous with a remarkably keen sense of smell and hearing. Ours do not hibernate, but they slow down during the winter months, “denning” without eating, defecating, or urinating. Most find napping spots under fallen trees or in bushes, but some comfort-driven bears end up under porches or decks or in sheds. Think about that for a minute.

Males look for mates in the late spring and early summer, wandering around recklessly, ignoring humans attempting to shoo them away, and occasionally appearing tipsy, weaving and staggering. Connecticut has a lot of bears; the tally this spring identified about 1000, with the greatest concentration in … oh, yeah … West Hartford and Simsbury. Between the two towns we have roughly 140 bears moving around, more than 70 traipsing through our neighborhood every day. Are we surprised that Greenwich has but one bear? We think not. Very exclusive.

I belong to a fairly popular facebook group entitled, Simsbury Bears Unite, misnamed to some degree in that bears are not posting and reading, and there’s nothing united in the members’ attitude about bears. I belong to the “they’re not big raccoons, I wish they wouldn’t get into my garage,, Holy Shit! A mother and four cubs just looked in our patio window, and they are magnificent and endlessly interesting creatures living alongside us” portion of the bear watching population. Some think they are oversized Beanie Babies and some want them hunted down and destroyed. I have to confess that my pleasure in experiencing bear encounters depends almost entirely on the size, posture, and position of the bear encountered. Back when we planned this relocation to Connecticut we did our homework about snow and flood, but neglected to ask about the possibility of meeting a bear in the driveway as I walked to get the mail. We’ve learned a lot quickly as spring brought bear cubs and hungry bears into our lives. I was cautious in putting out the recycling and garbage, but one of the bears is seemingly so accustomed to the routine that he’s called “Tuesday” in our neighborhood and is quick enough to claw open an ordinary garbage can in the ten minutes between our putting it out and the truck’s arrival. We saw three mothers with cubs fairly regularly, usually at a distance, but occasionally in the yard. We did what we ought to have done from the start – got the military grade bear-proof garbage bin and made sure the garage door was never left open. Our area is perhaps the most thickly protected for moms with cavorting cubs, but the real meal ticket is close to the center of town, condos and apartments with provocative dumpsters. As the cubs grew, they needed less cover and wanted more chow, so they headed south, for the most part.

For the most part.

My wife and I walk our dogs on a familiar road that winds through our neighborhood. Houses are set a good distance from the road, and each is separated by several acres of untouched forested land. In the spring, those woods were alive with our ursine pals, but as conditions have changed, their appearances are mostly confined to the trash days. 

We thought.

Approaching a long stretch of empty road a few weeks ago, both dogs froze then barked. We assumed these were standard postures primarily taken to impress squirrels, but a sudden blur of black surprised a squeaking “Bear!” out of me as I pulled our deaf dog away from the edge of the woods. A mother we know quite well was taking a shortcut across the road with four cubs, none of which paid any attention at all to her. It took a moment to realize that if we continued in the direction we had begun, we’d effectively walk between mom and carousing cubs. We stood for a moment, thinking that we might seem unthreatening , but the large bear looked me in the eye, chuffed a low growl and began to move deliberately in our direction.

It was the directness of her gaze that momentarily liquified me, but then our party discretely shuffled away, assuring any bears in the region that we had NO interest in taking the conversation to the next level. Mom turned and cuffed a cub down from a tree as we changed direction and gratefully walked home at a good clip.

I just took a short break from writing this piece to roll our bear-proof trash bin to the end of the driveway. Tomorrow morning we’ll see Tuesday examining the morning’s array of bins, Wally loping across a manicured lawn in order to splash into a swimming pool, and Victoria and the cubs looking longingly at our garage doors.

I did remember to shut the garage doors, didn’t I? 

Still America’s Pastime

Still America’s Pastime

I like Michael Wilbon’s measured good humor in responding to what are meant to be inflammatory subjects. Here’s his take on the introduction of American football in Europe:

Italy doesn’t need American football. For what? I’ve been. Wine, women, song, shopping, unbelievable vistas and landscapes… You need Titans vs. Panthers? Uh, no.

Fair enough, and a response that leaves room for rebuttal or affirmation. Yesterday, however, in responding to a curious incident in which Astros’ slugger, Yordan Alvarez, stayed at the plate after having been struck out, hitting the next pitch into an easy infield out, Wilbon waxed hyperbolic. How does it happen that no one on the field, in the stands, in the dugout noticed that Alvarez took an extra pitch? 

To summarize the Wilbon argument:

Baseball is so boring that nobody gives a rat’s patootie about following the pitch count. 

How far has baseball fallen in popularity? In a recent poll, baseball was named a favorite sport by 11% of sports fans, barely nudging out soccer and “something else”, which seemed to include esports and competitive gaming. 

Wilbon is not alone in his criticism of the sport. Traditionalists may long for the abolition of the designated hitter, now in place in both leagues, but most critics fix on other more pressing issues. Twins Hines in an article in “Bleacher Report” identified the need for a replay system, unguaranteed contracts, and a salary cap. The fourth issue for Hines is stadium food. Apparently there are hot dog buns pulled from moldy bags. 

It has been suggested that baseball’s fan base is aging out; as my generation moves on to the big diamond in the sky, attachment to baseball, they suggest, will go the way of fondness for Gidget, Bosco, and the Monster Mash.

Baseball, America’s national pastime, is a dying sport. The kids of this generation find it boring; its fanbase is dwindling with each passing season and networks like ESPN have begun to focus their coverage almost exclusively on other sports. 

Ryan Cole, Copy Editor of the “Yorktown Sentry Online”, the paper of record published by Yorktown (Virginia) High School, identifies several issues facing baseball in an article published in March of 2021. Actually, Cole suggests that the number of issues is “infinite”, a judgment that leaves little room for easy improvement. 

Meanwhile, here in August, 2022, a baseball season filled with compelling stories, a copy of Baseball Digest’s 80th Anniversary Issue landed in my mailbox. The magazine celebrated the players who had made its eight decades memorable, recognizing 80 remarkable athletes, from Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller, Warren Spahn, and Stan Musial to the brightest of contemporary stars. Each generation brought to mind the magic of the game when played at the highest level. Mantle, Koufax, Clemente, Mays, Suzuki, Griffey, Jeter – 80 players whose play was frequently breathtaking.

As I read the magazine, Juan Soto had just won the Home Run Derby, and, at the age of 23 landed the biggest (and probably most entirely well deserved) contract in the history of the sport, tracking as he does a career most closely related to Ted Williams’, Shohei (Shotime) Ohtani had hit 21 home runs and had an e.r.a of 2.8, and Aaron Judge was on pace to hit 67 home runs this season. The conversation about the best players in the game includes talented young players and steady veterans: Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, Freddie Freeman, Fernando Tatis, Vlad Guerrero, Jr, Jacob deGrom, Nolan Arenado, Jose Ramirez, Max Scherzer, Manny Machado, Bryce Harper – some of whom had been recognized by Baseball Digest, and some whose legends have not yet matured.

Will the Dodgers meet the Yankees in October/November?

Will the Padres reconstitute themselves as the most dangerous emerging franchise?

If the average attendance at a Marlins home game is roughly seven to ten thousand, where did the extra 20,000 come from when Ohtani pitched in Miami?

Yes, the games are too long, and yes, the shift is an ugly defensive maneuver, and, yes, the specialization of pitchers inning-by-inning is annoying, and yes, replays are long overdue, and yes, some uniform choices are more than unfortunate, and, yes, it will be awkward to have the same team in Los Vegas and Oakland, but baseball is still a game that George Will called “Heaven’s gift to mortals”, and a game uniquely appropriate to the length and pace of summer days and nights.

This week the Cubs and Reds will play on the Field of Dreams in Iowa. The teams will walk through the storied corn stalks to take their place in the field and at bat. The Reds won their first game in 1869, thumping the Great Western Team of Cincinnati 45-9. The Cubs, then known as the Chicago White Stockings, first took the field in 1876, winning the National League’s first 11 championships. By any other name (White Stockings, Colts, Orphans) the Cubs have faced the Reds since 1880. 

The Field of Dreams. See you there, Wilbon.