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Also In This Issue:

Mount Holyoke's Commencement Weekend

Commencement Activities at a Glance

About the Honorary Degree Recipients

Trustees Name Four Faculty Members to Endowed Chairs

Melhorn to Lead Alumnae
Glee Club Choir in
Great Britain

Hannah Alexander '05 Is Passionately Making a Difference

MHC Newsmakers

MHC Milestones

MHC Notices


Mount Holyoke College News and Events Vista The College Street Journal Archives
May 20, 2005

Trustees Name Four Faculty Members to Endowed Chairs

The Mount Holyoke College Board of Trustees named four faculty members to endowed chairs at its meetings on May 6–7, including two new chairs established this year as the result of alumnae generosity.

A strong supporter of Mount Holyoke for many years, Helene Phillips Herzig ’49 has established a new chair for the Helene Phillips Herzig ’49 Professor of Art. Herzig is an aficionado of the arts and has long been associated with the Art Museum’s Art Advisory Board. In fact, Herzig’s support for the arts is directly tied to her education at Mount Holyoke. She was among the first group of students to visit Europe and its museums after the end of World War II in a trip sponsored by the College. Herzig also has extensive familial ties to the school. Both of her daughters and her sister attended Mount Holyoke. For many years, Herzig, now retired, served as the features editor at North Shore Magazine in Manhasset, New York. Professor of art Bettina Bergmann has been named to this new chair.

“Mount Holyoke has always been a special place for me, my four years there a cherished part of my life,” said Herzig. “My late husband Philip returned from the WWII battlefield to share three years of my college life, and I wanted to give something back to anchor those memories. My experience at Mount Holyoke in mind, we thought, ‘What could have more impact on a student's life than a fine professor?’ Remembering Marion Hayes, chair of the art department, who took me and 20 other students to Europe in 1948, who awakened my mind to the visual arts; my many rewarding years on the Art Advisory Committee of the Art Museum, truly a place for all students; and the fact of daughter Julie’s experience as an art major at MHC, this chair is a step to strengthen the excellence of the art department, and to say ‘thank you.’ ”

Marilyn Dawson Sarles ’67, a physician trained in internal medicine, established the Marilyn Dawson Sarles, M.D. Chair in Life Sciences this year. Dr. Sarles graduated cum laude in zoology and went on to receive her medical degree from Brown University. A longtime supporter of her alma mater, Sarles was greatly influenced by the quality of her science education while at MHC.

“The primary reason for my gift to science teaching at MHC is my belief that one should encourage strong and sustained educational opportunities for women in the sciences—an issue that continues to be of paramount importance in our society,” Sarles said.

Sarles’ husband, H. Jay Sarles, is a banker and a newly appointed trustee of the College. The Sarles have three children. Professor of chemistry Sean Decatur has been named to the new Sarles chair.

At a May 7 dinner honoring holders and donors of endowed chairs, President Joanne V. Creighton said, "Endowed chairs underwrite, in a very real way, the work of the professor whose spirited teaching and research challenge and inspire new generations of students, and who go forward, in Mary Lyon's words, to ‘attempt great things’ and ‘accomplish great things.’ Endowed chairs are an important part of the engine that’s powering the ‘great intellectual and moral machine,’ that Lyon called Mount Holyoke College.”

The four faculty members named to chairs this year are:

Bettina Bergmann
Helene Phillips Herzig ’49 Professor of Art History

Bergmann is widely known and much respected for her work on Greek and Roman art. She has published a dozen major articles, a collection of symposium papers, and many review essays, all looking from one vantage point or another at the relationships among Roman architecture, painting, and literature. Examples of the range of her work are the edited volume The Art of Ancient Spectacle; the catalogue essay “The Moon and the Stars: Afterlife of a Roman Empress” for the Mount Holyoke Art Museum exhibit focusing on the museum’s recently acquired bust of Faustina the Elder; and two books in preparation, one on Roman ensembles and another on Roman spectacles of landscape. Bergmann is a splendid teacher, offering innovative 100-level courses such as Art and Cultural Politics, 200-level courses on landscape and interdisciplinary courses in ancient studies, and advanced courses on Roman and Greek art. Her teaching has national and international dimensions as well, through a number of symposiums and seminars organized over the years at the University of Michigan, Harvard, Columbia, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, and the American Academy in Rome, and through major lectures at such places as Yale, Dumbarton Oaks, the Getty Research Center, the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU, and the New York Classical Society. She has served the College generously by chairing her department and major College committees, helping to develop the interdisciplinary ancient studies program, and serving on the advisory board to the Weissman Center for Leadership and the Liberal Arts.

Sean Decatur
Marilyn Dawson Sarles, M.D. Professor of Life Sciences and Professor of Chemistry

Decatur works in biophysical chemistry, specializing in the spectroscopy of proteins and the protein-folding problem. Crossing the boundaries of biology, chemistry, and physics, he looks at how chains of amino acids transform themselves into three-dimensional proteins. Mishaps in that protein-folding transformation are linked to diseases such as mad cow and Alzheimer’s. Decatur’s research has been supported by over a million dollars in grants, including an NSF CAREER Award, two NIH AREA Awards, and a number of other research and instrumentation grants. Last year alone, his research lab published five new papers. Seven Mount Holyoke students wrote theses on projects related to that work—again in one year alone—and two of those were summa theses. This year, Decatur has been on sabbatical working in three areas: peptide conformations, protein folding, and peptide adsorption to very small (nanoscale) particles. He is a superb teacher at all levels of the chemistry curriculum, and is an innovator in curriculum development for science and nonscience students alike. His many initiatives include a series of talks on race and science, a course exploring ethical, social, and political questions about such topics as bioengineered food and gene therapy, and a team-taught chemistry course combining biophysical chemistry, physical chemistry, and inorganic chemistry. He has served on key College committees and, until his sabbatical, was a member of the Presidential Commission on Diverse Community.

Joseph Ellis
Professor of History on the Ford Foundation

Ellis’s eighth book, His Excellency: George Washington, is a masterly narrative of the nation’s first president, and a New York Times best-seller as well. His seventh book, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize in History. He is one of the two or three leading scholars of the American revolutionary era and the leading historian of the nation’s founders. In addition to his books, which are delightfully readable and manifest the highest standards of historical scholarship, Ellis has produced a host of articles, essays, and reviews, including a piece on Alexander Hamilton for the New Yorker and an essay titled “Jefferson: Post-DNA” for the William and Mary Quarterly. Ellis is also a brilliant and attentive teacher. Generations of former students—some of them now professional historians in their own right—claim him as one of the great inspirations of their lives and an enduring friend. Ellis served Mount Holyoke as dean of faculty from 1980 to 1990. At the end of his term the trustees named him to the then-new Ford Foundation Chair, noting Ellis’s uncommon achievement and excellence in his field, his commitment to excellence in the teaching of history, and his encouragement of students to stretch their intellectual and analytical abilities to the fullest measure of their potential. Ellis stepped down from the Ford Chair in 2001. After four years of teaching, scholarship, and service of the highest standards and integrity, he has earned the chair anew.

Indira Peterson
David B. Truman Professor of Asian Studies

Peterson is a scholar of Indian and comparative literature, both classical and modern; Sanskrit and Tamil language; Hinduism; South Indian cultural history, literature, folklore, religion, and performing arts (music, dance, and drama); and women and gender in South Asia. She is fluent in her native Tamil, in English, Sanskrit, Hindi, Marathi, French, and German. In her spare time she uses Russian and Greek. As her students and many colleagues know, she is a performer as well as a scholar, introducing the arts of South Indian dance, music, and voice into her courses and her work in this community and beyond. In the wider academic world, Peterson is known as a leading scholar of classical Sanskrit, of classical and modern Tamil languages and culture, of classical Hinduism, and of colonial, postcolonial, and gender studies. Since 1982, when she first came to Mount Holyoke, she has published at least one major article a year. Her several books include Poems to Siva: The Hymns of the Tamil Saints. She edited the Indian literature section of the Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. Beloved as a teacher, she offers courses in classical literature of India, great epics of India, sacred narratives in the Hindu tradition, Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore, and modern Indian fiction.

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Copyright © 2005 Mount Holyoke College. This page created and maintained by Office of Communications. Last modified on May 26, 2005.