All about This Year's Faculty Award Winners
At an April 23
event honoring four MHC faculty members, two for outstanding teaching
and two for excellence in scholarship, a citation was read about
each award winner. Jonathan Lipman, professor of history, and
Lynn Morgan, professor of anthropology, received the Mount Holyoke
College Faculty Prize for Teaching. Anthony Lee, associate professor
of art, and Susan Smith, Norma Wait Harris and Emma Gale Harris
Foundation Professor of Biological Sciences, were awarded the
Meribeth E. Cameron Faculty Prize for Scholarship. The citations
are reproduced here in their entirety.
Tony Lee's books are hard to put down. With crisp prose and elegant
use of visual and literary evidence he draws readers into his
narratives of the interconnections of art with social and political
history. As one critic concluded "we are . . . exhilarated
to have been participants in the unfolding of this drama."
In Painting on the Left (1999) he tells the history of
mural painting in San Francisco and the catalytic effect of Diego
Rivera's murals on the work of radical artists there. Picturing
Chinatown (2001) examines, with little-known photographs,
the image of San Francisco's Chinatown and its residents in the
non-Chinese imagination and how the quarter's history was intertwined
with that of the city that surrounded and isolated it. Tony's
focus moves from close-ups of single events, persons, and places
to wide-angle views of San Francisco's social movements, political
struggles, and popular perceptions and prejudices. His skill as
an art historian in presenting and decoding the visual images,
and the rich body of supporting material he has found, make each
piece of his story engrossing. His narrative becomes even more
compelling as he moves from microanalysis to larger questions
and longer histories of national and international importance.
Tony is a prodigious worker. Much of his evidence was unearthed
in archives and in obscure periodical literature. His research
on San Francisco's murals was groundbreaking, and that on Chinatown
has been called "a great achievement of sheer historical
retrieval." He brings to these raw materials the talents
and tools of a sophisticated theorist. Critics commend him for
his knowledge of the wide range of contemporary theory and his
insightful use of it without resort to jargon or name-dropping.
He is especially concerned with issues of race and class. His
analysis in Picturing Chinatown is praised for building
on "the insights on race, representation, and nationality
put forth by scholars of African America and the Caribbean,"
and for its application of Edward Said's concept of Orientalism
to describe how non-Chinese represented Chinese immigrants to
justify and maintain dominance over them.
Scholars laud Tony's books for their lucid prose, their evenhandedness,
the newly discovered material they contain, and their fresh and
insightful analysis of works previously known. Tony is seen as
making significant contributions not only to art history, but
also to American, Latin American, and urban studies. Painting
on the Left was described by an eminent scholar of Latin American
art as "the most penetrating, sensitively reasoned, and readable
book to appear on . . . [Diego Rivera's] work and intellectual
milieu in a long time." Picturing Chinatown, published
two years later, was thought even better and a work that makes
Tony "one of the country's leading historians of American
art and culture."
Tony's publications include a number of essays and reviews related
to his two books but also articles on, for example, African ceremonial
art and numerous reviews of contemporary art exhibitions. His
breadth of interests is reflected in the range of courses he has
offered at Mount Holyoke: surveys of nineteenth-century, modern
and contemporary art, and seminars on sex and gender, Chinatown,
French painting in the 1880s, and theory and interpretation. He
has been very active in the American Studies Program and in the
development of Asian American studies at Mount Holyoke and the
His new research projects continue his commitment to social and
political concerns and his meditative use of photographic images.
He is working on a monograph on Diego Rivera, a study of immigrant
Chinese shoemakers' lives in a nineteenth-century
New England factory town, and a coauthored book and exhibition
on photographs by Diane Arbus. All who know Tony's work must look
forward with excitement to where he will take us next and what
we will learn from this pathbreaking scholar.
The professor walks in at 8:30 am, unrolls a large map, and the
magic unfolds. The students, wide awake despite the hour, listen
with rapt attention as Jonathan Lipman lectures on the Central
Asia of Genghis Khan, the life of a working woman in modern China,
the role of intellectuals in the Chinese revolution, or Japan
in World War II. The lecture is brilliant, witty, provocative,
entirely fascinatingbut it is not long before it makes way
for an animated, thoughtful discussion, involving the entire class.
For Jon a class meeting such as this is a quotidian affair, but
we, his students and colleagues, know just how remarkable his
achievement is. It lies not only in the stunning range of his
courses, which cover great stretches of time and vast spaces on
the map of Asia. Nor is it simply that he has awakened the enthusiasm
of generations of students to the history and cultures of China,
Japan, and Korea. His excellence as a teacher is discernible equally
in the care, attention, and skill he devotes to his work.
Students describe the experience of taking a course with him
as a series of exciting challenges. Given their subject matter,
it might seem tautologous to say that his courses help students
to view the world from whole new perspectives. The fact is that,
in Jon's classroom, even students who have a firsthand knowledge
of China and Chinese culture find their preconceived ideas challenged,
always to their astonishment and delight. "I will never again
categorize China' or Chinese.' " is a typical
comment. But it is not cultural preconceptions alone that are
challenged. A student who takes a course with him emerges a better
thinker and writer. First, through the fascinating and wonderfully
diverse readings that he assigns, she is made to grapple with
multipleoften diametrically opposedpoints of view
on a subject. She learns to sift and weigh evidence and evaluate
arguments. Second, in several short writing assignments, with
his rigorous but always constructive mentoring, she hones her
skills in writing clearly, critically, and precisely. "I
have never made so many graphs and charts to help see connections
between the things I was learning. I no longer go off in pursuit
of wild trains of thought, neglecting evidence and argument,"
says one student, of the writing assignments, while another exclaims,
"Even writer's cramp did not discourage me." In short,
he helps students see the process of learning for the great adventure
it is and masterfully draws them into it. Students come to Jon's
classes to learn about Asia. At the end of the course, however,
they find themselves fascinated, not only with Chinese or Japanese
history, but with the discipline of history itself. As one student
put it, "He speaks as though he were living through the people
and events we read about, and that makes history come alive for
Jon inspires his students with his eloquence, his passion for
learning, and his prodigious knowledge of Asia, which is based
on his command not only of Asian history, but of an impressive
number of Asian languages. Students who take Jon's courses look
forward to his brilliant lectures. At the same time, however,
they cherish him for being a wonderful listener. They know that
no question or idea they voice will be ignored or rejected and
that he is always available to continue the conversation outside
Jon carries his skill in teaching well beyond the field of Asian
studies and beyond the gates of Mount Holyoke College. We have
all benefited from his leadership in the development of the Mellon
comparative seminar and the course on nationalism, and his many
contributions to ongoing debates on the curriculum. Very few at
Mount Holyoke know, however, of his other lives: as the winner
of a major grant for faculty development in East Asian studies
at the Five Colleges, and as an active participant in the Five
College outreach and high school partnership in western Massachusetts.
Equally impressive is Jon's dedicated leadership of the project
to help high school, community college, and college faculty nationwide
learn how to teach Asian culture and history. When not in a Mount
Holyoke classroom, he very likely can be found talking to them
about "Teaching about China" or "Teaching and Decentering
the Twentieth-Century World." We
celebrate Jonathan Lipman, who instructs us and inspires us with
his stellar example.
Please join us in Lynn Morgan's classroom. It is crowded, without
an empty seat, so you will have to standbut watch what goes
on here. This class has about fifty students; others range between
twenty and thirty. There is a "buzz" as they gather.
Her courses are "hard, demanding," every evaluation
reports. "She is the hardest professor I've ever had. She
doesn't accept mediocrity and is always available to help while
she pushes students to do their best possible work." They
know she is very much sought as a teacher, "the best professor
I've had since I came to college" say many of her students.
She walks in, "always well prepared, always professional,"
as students regularly comment, and lays out the issues for the
day. She lists all the times she will be available for conferences
that week and plunges in.
Students say her lectures are models of clarity and organization,
and as you listen, you too will be led into a complex map of theoretical
perspectives on issues such as the construction of gender and
sexuality, imagining the fetus, the intractable nexus of poverty
and development in Latin America, or the tense boundaries around
the provision of medical care. But these are not lectures in the
conventional sense. She maps a complex intellectual problem, and
then, in the word that appears in every evaluation, she "provokes"
students to explore it from every imaginable direction and wring
out the implications and contradictions. "By being so well
prepared she is able to guide any kind of discussion
amazed by her ability to make what seems like a tangential comment
by a student relate to the class discussion."
She invites students to develop their critical voices and use
their "anthopological imagination." Ultimately, the
analysis and the class discussion become a mirror in which each
student can see her own deep assumptions and one-sidedness. One
paper topic is to figure out where your shirt comes fromdevelopment,
globalization, transnational corporations, international trade
all come into focus. Finally, Lynn insists each student consider
her own embeddedness in exploitative systems and what she might
do in her personal life to dissolve those systems. "I love
her classes because they make me think about my role as a learner
and a doer, to re-evaluate my actions and reactions to the topics."
The discussion takes off, and Lynn manages the switchboardpushing,
challenging, weaving together, reining in a delicious tangent,
summarizing, reframing the question, suggesting another direction.
Her demanding classroom also works because it is embedded in
outside support. Lynn always has time for conferences, discussions
about a paper, suggestions for revisions, advice for a research
project. "Her availability to help outside of class is exceptional."
"A great listener and devoted to her students."
How does she do this"the theoretical powerhouse in
the Five College anthropological community," as a University
of Massachusetts student described herand the author of
two very well received books in the last several years, Community
Participation in Health: The Politics of Primary Care in Costa
Rica and with Meredith Michaels, Fetal Subjects, Feminist
The deep answer lies in her life as a thinker and an anthropologist.
She embodies as well as any person on our faculty the Mount Holyoke
belief that good teaching is always closely yoked to deep wells
of scholarly and creative work. She is "incredibly enthusiastic
about her work, and her involvement in anthropology spills over
on to the students
I've done my most meaningful and critical
thinking and work in her classes."
She pushes her students in the same way she pushes herself, to
"think beyond the material and look at the larger picture."
"She challenges her students to reach the limits of their
intellectual capacity," just as she challenges herself. She
is a person of exceedingly high standards, as all of us know.
We too have felt her probing questions or struggled to explain
to her why we have always done something in a certain way. She
has won our great respect for her work in the Five College anthropological
community, her long project of creating the Five College certificate
in medical anthropology, and now, her skillful shepherding of
the Academic Priorities Committee.
Lynn Morgan is a master teacher, who will continue to provoke
and challenge us, her students, and her colleagues, to do the
very best work we are capable of.
Picture the field biologist stealthily pursuing her subject.
Winter, summer, spring, and fall, she is there observing creatures
as they woo and mate, care for their young, and struggle to survive
in good times and bad. Images of male mountain goats batting heads
in competition for chosen mates come to mind, and perhaps a grinning
chimp in the arms of Jane Goodall, or even Sigourney Weaver in
a primitive cabin amidst the mountain gorillas. Who knew such
life and death struggles were going on in our own backyards? Susan
Smith knew, and she has opened our eyes to the equally intriguing
world of birds.
Susan's enchantment with birds began as a child and, although
her true love affair is with the chickadee, Susan will go anywhere
and do almost anything to study any kind of bird. From Alaska
to Costa Rica to New Zealand to Papua New Guinea she has gone
after the rare and elusive as well as the well-known birds of
the region. Yet Susan's pursuit of birds is more than a bird-watcher's
search for another "notch" on a lifetime list. As her
colleagues attest repeatedly, she looks at birds with a different
eye. She begins with profound questions followed by astute observations
and elegantly designed experiments to test her hypotheses. Susan's
early work on the response of naïve birds to coral snake
color patterns using this approach has become a textbook example
in discussions on warning coloration and innate avoidance. She
later uncovered the "underworld" of rufous-collared
sparrows by observing the floater (the nonterritorial) populations.
Susan found a highly structured social system that controls the
interplay between these birds and the breeding populations. This
work is widely cited as the first on such relationships that have
since been demonstrated in numerous other species. The papers
resulting from her studies are models of clarity and conciseness
and appear in the most prestigious professional journals, but
she also makes her research accessible to the layperson, through
talks at ornithology and nature clubs across the country, in Natural
History and popular magazines, and in films on public television.
Over ten years ago, a colleague noted that Susan was among the
best field ornithologists in the world, and that continues to
be true. She is a Fellow of the American Ornithologists' Union,
the oldest and most prestigious professional ornithological organization
in this country and, in 2000, she received the Margaret Morse
Nice Medal from the Wilson Ornithological Society. The latter
award is notable in several ways. First, it comes from a most
respected society for both professional and amateur ornithologists.
Second, the medal was established in honor of one of the country's
most distinguished ornithologists and naturalists. Her research
on the song sparrow, one of the earliest documented long-term
studies of an animal species, initiated a new era in American
ornithology. Lastly, Margaret Morse Nice was a Mount Holyoke graduate
in the class of 1906 who received an honorary doctorate of science
from Mount Holyoke in 1955. What more fitting home for the Nice
award than in the hands of Susan Smith.
For most of us, however, this internationally respected scientist
is the "Chickadee Lady." For more than thirty years
she has chronicled the life of these familiar little birds, and
for more than twenty of those years she has been an ever-present
shadow at our bird feeders. Because chickadees are long-term residents
in an area and are monogamous during the breeding season, she
can become well acquainted with each of the birds and its offspring
over a long period of time. This allows her to see relationships
not evident to the casual observer. With patience and a careful
eye to discriminate among the combinations of colored bands on
their tiny ankles, she has uncovered a veritable soap opera of
chickadee life: cuckoldry, fortune-hunting widows, henpecked males,
domineering females, promiscuity; and with indomitable enthusiasm
and wit she has shared her passion, and theirs, with us. Each
of us read avidly to identify "our" black-capped chickadees
among the characters in her classic book on their behavioral ecology
and natural history.
These wonderful stories, along with those of sparrows, motmots,
and kiskadees, illustrate so well that profound answers may be
found in the most unlikely places, when the questions are asked
by a creative mind and the answers pursued with patience and integrity
by a dedicated scientist like Susan Smith.