Beloit College Magazine

Spring 2001 Contents



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Beloit Hits National Airwaves

“Big city amenities without sacrificing any of the small-town charm,” says producer Mark Bournes of the Educational Broadcasting Network. He is describing the city of Beloit, which was featured on national television on the “Travel and Leisure” and “E” channels.

The EBN’s new television series, Portrait of America: America’s Best Kept Secrets, profiles select cities throughout the United States. The first 30-minute episode devoted a six-minute segment to Beloit, including interviews with Nicolette Meister, the collections manager for the Beloit College Museums, and Lorraine Stickley’04.

Camera footage for Beloit’s segment was shot over four days last October at Riverfront Park, the Downtown, the College campus, historic area landmarks, and favorite local eateries.

President Bush's Roots Extend to Beloit

It's the whole truth and nothing but: U.S. President George W. Bush can trace his roots to Beloit. His great-great-grandfather, David Davis Walker of Bloomington, Ill., attended the Beloit Preparatory Department and Academy. He was in the "Normal and English" section when he attended in 1854 and 1855; he started his career in 1857 in dry goods, then began his own brokerage house in St. Louis. A modern-day relative, Christopher T. walker from Hamden, Conn., was tracing his family history in 1983 when he contacted the College about the lineage.

If Beloit College, where the President's ancestor attended, is called the "Yale of the Midwest," then Yale, his descendants' alma mater, surely must be known in their family as the "Beloit of the East."

Rock Our World

We thought we had it all figured out, when along came William Peck’94 and colleagues. The Beloit geology major, now teaching at Colgate University, is among those who rocked the science community with research on a single tiny crystal dug from a granite formation in northwestern Australia. The oldest bit of terrestrial rock ever found, it is estimated to be between 4.3 and 4.4 billion years old, raising speculation that life began much earlier than scientists had thought. Just another lesson in not taking things for granite.

Getting out the Vote

Last fall, political pundits and analysts declared Wisconsin a critical swing state in the national election. As election day drew near, Beloit looked like “swing city.” A week before the vote, rumors swirled around the area predicting visits from actor Martin Sheen, director Rob Reiner, and one or more Gore family members. Then, in less than one week, Beloit was inundated with Democratic surrogates.

U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley ended his campaign pass through Illinois and Wisconsin with a stopover at the College. In an event largely organized by Beloit students—which packed the Moore Lounge in Pearsons Hall—Mr. Riley promoted Gore’s education platform and answered questions from the crowd.

Within days, New York-based civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton had arrived at the Moore Lounge for a conversation with the Beloit College community, city residents, and the local media.

Mr. Sharpton’s audience had hardly departed when the College received word that the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Chicago-based Rainbow/PUSH Coalition leader, would visit the community on the Friday before the election. Mr. Jackson concluded his Midwest tour with a visit to Beloit and an address before a crowded Emmanuel Baptist Church assembly.

(As far as those other rumored Democratic visitors, Messrs. Sheen and Reiner got lost and wound up in Milwaukee, and the Gore kids visited Janesville.)

By the way, representatives of the Republican persuasion were sought, but none responded.

Taking Care of (Beloit) Business

Beloit College is many things to many people: alma mater, touchstone of their educational lives, the inspiration and launching point for careers, a cultural resource, and so on. The College also fills vital roles as an employer, bill-payer, corporate citizen, and investor.

It comes as little surprise, then, that the College is also considered a business. What did come as a surprise was the naming of Beloit College as regional “Business of the Year” at the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce dinner.

The citation is not a “bottom line award,” noted Chamber President Nancy Forbeck, adding that the College is “a business in the best sense, not a narrow sense.” She praised students, faculty, and staff for their involvement in social and economic development programs.

Beloit College has an operating budget of more than $30 million and an annual payroll of $15 million. Moreover, it draws some 17,000 visitors each year. 

Professor of Economics Jeff Adams recently assumed the chair of the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce, with a mission to continue enhancing the community’s growth.

College City Open the Gateway

In an unprecedented expression of confidence in the economic future of the city of Beloit, Beloit College has taken the lead in providing funding to initiate one of the most dramatic developments in the city’s history.

Beloit College, the Beloit Foundation, First National Bank of Beloit, Blackhawk State Bank, and M&I Bank South have purchased more than $2.7 million in capital appreciation bonds to complete the first phase of funding for the Gateway Project. This planned development, which will include 2,290 new homes and also commercial/industrial complexes, will involve approximately 1,650 acres east of I-90 between Milwaukee Road and the Wisconsin-Illinois state line. It is expected to attract a population increase of approximately 5,000, while generating regional payroll increases up to an estimated $404 million, and also increasing the city’s tax base to $561 million.

This commitment to the project will release approximately $8 million from state, federal, and private agencies for improvement of the property. The second phase of the project will involve a public offering of bonds.

“This project is expected to create a large number of jobs, as well as provide significant new housing for the area,” says President Burris. “We feel that the financial returns are adequate and, most importantly, we see this as a positive expression of our support for the city.”

"Turtle Creek" is Rising

When you start poking into walls in historic buildings, you never know what you’ll find ... and there have been plenty of surprises in downtown Beloit at 444 East Grand Avenue. 

It is the site that Beloit College’s bookstore will soon call home. Formerly the Hilton Hotel, the facility has been under massive reconstruction for more than a year. Several projected opening dates have come and gone, but now—with renovations moving ahead smoothly—space previews are planned for Commencement Weekend in May with an opening scheduled for mid-summer.

The new bookstore will stock College texts and supplies and offer general books, periodicals, and recordings. A new line of Beloit insignia clothing, gifts, and decorative items will also be available. Patrons will enjoy a cozy coffee bar along with patio tables and chairs for reading. The 10,000-square-foot space will be an asset to both the College and city, providing an inviting and convenient location for town-gown events and interaction.

The name of the new facility, submitted by trustee Steve Mahle’67, is now official: “Turtle Creek: The Beloit College Bookstore.”

The Beloit Inn

The new Beloit Inn, located on the banks of the Rock River, opened its doors in January and has already proven popular with College visitors. The first event on opening day found Beloit officials speaking to a meeting of area professionals, and for the next couple of nights available rooms were occupied by families visiting the College over Presidential Scholars weekend.

A handsome brick three-story structure, the inn contains 54 guest rooms—ranging in size from standard to suite—overlooking Beloit College or the Rock River. Suites are furnished with whirlpool baths and fireplaces, and all rooms include executive work stations. The lobby’s decor features Beloit-area memorabilia. Construction of a restaurant and lounge with an outdoor terrace is underway; its opening is planned for this summer. (Learn more online at

The $6 million project is critical to the renaissance of Beloit’s downtown. Other attractive additions to the area will include the College bookstore, new restaurants, renovated industrial and financial facilities, and a planned incubator for studio artists.

Developers financed the project by creating a partnership with the city of Beloit and investors who have purchased rooms and suites as investments. Beloit College is an investor in the Beloit Inn as the result of two gifts to the College, representing suite ownership.

Beloit’s Court Theatre: The Sequel

The curtain will rise again for summer theatre on campus, as The New Court Theatre begins its second season.

Three American plays have been tentatively selected for production in June, July, and early August: Summer and Smoke by Tennessee Williams; Billy Bishop Goes to War by John Gray and Eric Peterson; and Crimes of the Heart by Beth Henley. Reviving the memory of the original Court Theatre (1951-76), The New Court Theatre combines professional actors with community professional, non-professional, and student performers. 

The original Court Theatre was directed by Kirk Denmark, a legendary professor of theatre at Beloit College. For more than two decades it staged productions in the College’s theatre facilities. The program attracted many actors and directors who went on to highly visible careers, including James R. Sullivan’72, Jameson Parker’71, Amy Wright’71, Ned Schmidtke’64, Ray Liotta, Rod MacDonald, and Gary Sinise.

Josh Burton, founder of The New Court Theatre, is working in tandem with Beloit College officials and theatre department chair Rod Umlas to provide area residents with “rich theatrical experiences, while complementing the cultural and artistic fabric of the community.” Mr. Burton, who studied acting at the Stella Adler Conservatory in New York City, brings professional credits that include Broadway productions, film, and television roles.

Individual and season tickets may be purchased via the Neese Theatre Box Office at 608-363-2755, or by calling 608-368-3060.

New Face at the Front Door

An engaging and effective administrator with more than 30 years of experience in attracting students of quality—and finding the funds to make a liberal arts education possible—will join Beloit’s senior staff in July.

Nancy Monnich, director of admissions and financial aid at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, has been named vice president for enrollment services. A native of the Midwest, she is a graduate of Hillsdale College and has done additional work at the University of Michigan and Bryn Mawr. She gained international experience in Latin America and has served in career planning, development, financial aid, and admissions posts at Bryn Mawr College for the past 25 years. Under her leadership, the college maintained a highly diverse student population and an enrollment of 10 to 15 percent international students for the past three decades. Prior to joining the women’s college near Philadelphia, she served her alma mater as an admissions counselor.

She succeeds Alan McIvor, who left Beloit last year to assume the chief admissions post at Richmond, the American International University in London.

Tune In, Click On, Find Out and Talk Back

A new online feature of Beloit’s Web site ( is designed to keep the campus community informed and to engage all members of the Beloit College family in the process of planning the future of the College.

Shortly after his inauguration, John Burris convened the first meeting of the Strategic Planning Committee, a gathering of 10 members of the College community including faculty, staff, students, and trustees. The committee’s charge is to examine, in the President’s words, “who we are and look to our future, all with an eye to our foundations, principles, and traditions.” Committee members will attend monthly meetings on campus.

Beloiters can track progress and participate in discourse on related issues, too.

“I know from conversations with graduates, parents, and other friends of the College that there are many who feel intensely about Beloit College and its future,” President Burris notes. “Those views are important to us and should be incorporated into our discussions.”

Meeting dates, agendas, and minutes will be posted on the site, and specific questions will be listed in an online and anonymous survey. Respondents may email comments or ask questions by clicking on email address links for the president, individual committee members, or the entire committee. This is a new way to engage the community beyond the campus, and the committee is hoping for an active and helpful response.

Leading Chinese Poet Joins Faculty

Bei Dao, a frequent nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature over the past decade, will join the Beloit College faculty in the fall as the Lois Wilson Mackey Poet in Residence. The newly created position will bring the leading Chinese-language poet and author of seven books to the College annually to teach and lecture.

In recent years, Bei Dao has won numerous honors in the West and filled distinguished appointments at institutions throughout the world. The Beloit College appointment represents his first post of teaching creative writing in English. In his new role, he will return to campus each year for seven weeks to teach an advanced seminar in poetry, as well as offer lectures, participate in other courses, and provide academic input to a variety of departments.

He spent last term at the College as the Mackey Visiting Professor of Creative Writing. The Mackey Chair has brought many distinguished authors in a variety of genres to teach at Beloit over the past dozen years, including Rick Bass, Denise Levertov, Peter Matthiessen, and Ursula Le Guin. This will be the first permanent appointment for a Mackey Professor.

Bei Dao—the pen name for Zhao Zhenkai—assumed major international political stature when, in February 1989, he wrote and circulated a request that the government of the People’s Republic of China move toward a new openness, in particular by releasing political prisoners. During the early days of June 1989, he was outside of China, and today he is unable to return to his homeland for political reasons.

He is the author of The August Sleepwalker, Forms of Distance, Landscape over Zero, Unlock, and a new book of essays entitled Blue House. His poetry has been widely known throughout China since the early ’80s. He has written numerous stories as well, collected in English in his book Waves. His work has been translated into more than 20 languages, and he is the force behind the literary journal Jintian (Today), the most important visible outlet for contemporary Chinese writing.

Cuban Diplomat Adds New Dimension to International Flavor of Campus

A Cuban diplomat and scholar with 40 years experience representing the Cuban government around the world is this year’s Marvin Weissberg Chair in International Studies. Ambassador Carlos Alzugaray’s residency at Beloit, which occurred as the magazine went to press, included participation in classes and in a panel discussion examining the Cuban-U.S. missile crisis. He also presented a major public lecture on U.S.-Cuban relations.

The Havana-born diplomat was appointed to his first position in 1961 in the Cuban Embassy in Tokyo. Since that time, he has served in diplomatic and consular posts in Bulgaria, Argentina, Canada, Ethiopia, Kenya, Belgium, Luxembourg, and at the United Nations.

A graduate of the University of Havana, he holds master’s and Ph.D. degrees in history. His doctoral dissertation was on the Eisenhower administration and the formation of U.S. policy regarding the Cuban revolution, 1958-1961.

Since 1980, Ambassador Alzugaray has been on the faculty of the Raul Roa Garcia Institute for Advanced International Studies, which serves as the Cuban foreign service institute. At the same time, he has been an adjunct professor at the University of Havana. He has taught courses on Cuban and U.S. foreign policy, the history of the United States, and U.S. Latin-American policy.

At present, he is participating in an academic project involving scholars from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, the United States, and Cuba, coordinated by the Association for the Unity of Our America, with the objective of producing a series of books on the historical, economic, socio-cultural, and political aspects of Latin-American integration.

Ambassador Alzugaray is the second holder of the Weissberg Chair at Beloit College. Last year, noted Palestinian activist and commentator Hanan Ashrawi visited the College and offered a series of programs concerning peace in the Middle East.

Three Faculty Take Their Seats

Three professors gained additional titles, honor, and support for their work recently, thanks to the endowed chairs to which they were appointed.

• Beth Dougherty, assistant professor of political science, was named Mouat Junior Professor of International Studies. The late Malcolm Mouat, former chair of Beloit’s Board of Trustees, established the chair to enhance international studies and world affairs at the College.

• Carl Mendelson, professor of geology, has been named the Robert H. and Jane Solem Professor in the Natural Sciences. The chair was established by gifts from Robert Solem, a former trustee, and Jane Elsom Solem’41, former alumni trustee.

• Robert Tomaro, adjunct assistant professor of music and conductor of the Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra, has been named to the Shogren Family Conductorship, which provides a one-half time appointment in the music department for the music director of the BJSO. The gift honors Ethel Shogren and the late Arthur Shogren, longtime Beloit residents and supporters of the College and the orchestra.

Faculty email:

Jeff Adams - Professor of Economics
Beth Dougherty - Associate professor of Political Science
Nicolette Meister - Collections Manager, Beloit College Museums
Carl Mendelson - Professor of Geology
Nancy Monnich - Vice President for Enrollment Services
Robert Tomaro - Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music
Rod Umlas - Professor of Theatre and Chair of the Theatre Department

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