Devastating tornadoes

North Carolina experienced terrible tornadoes Friday night, leaving 24 people dead, more than 80 injured and hundreds more with damaged homes and billions of dollars in losses across N.C. People will be picking up the pieces of their lives for months and years to come. Raleigh and Sanford were hit hard, but Bertie County sustained particular damage. It’s especially awful that parts of the state, like Bertie County that are so stressed economically suffered such devastation. Our School will be ready to help if we are needed.  Having lived through one of the worst tornadoes of the 21st century (Worcester, MA) and a very bad hurricane (Fran) in N.C., I really can empathize with the physical, fiscal and psychological damage these storms cause.

Celebration of a career

Friday night, I joined hundreds of people celebrating the career of Philip Singer, PhD, Dan Okun Professor of Environmental Sciences and Engineering. Phil is retiring after 37 years at UNC. Having spent his career primarily in one place, Dr. Singer has developed deep relationships with colleagues and can take pride in hundreds of students mentored.  Mike Aitken, PhD, Chair ESE, and others talked about Phil’s outstanding academic contributions to water management and study of contaminants in drinking water (recognized in legions of awards he has won), but they also spoke about the kind of man he is—his commitment to the field of environmental engineering, sense of humor and contributions to department skits, his love of golf, baseball, family, friends and much more. I recall that Phil was the only faculty member who spoke publicly on a sensitive topic.  I admired his integrity and willingness to take risks in stating a position. I am going to miss him!

Phil’s friends, colleagues, former students and others contributed sufficient funds to garner a scholarship in his name. That speaks volumes about how much he means to people.

Mike Aitken read a poem by Robert Pinsky. The department arranged for Pinsky to write the poem for Phil and then they framed it for him. I’ve included it at the end of this post.

A colleague remembered

I was taken aback by a recent report in Science that Baruch Blumberg, MD, PhD had died. I knew Barry when he was senior research member at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, PA. That’s where I first worked after completing my doctoral training. Barry was truly a renaissance man, deeply interested in everything around him. Barry won the Nobel Prize in 1976 for his discovery of the Hepatitis B virus. Once a vaccination for the virus was created, he and Fox Chase colleagues developed global vaccination programs to prevent liver cancers. (I helped out at a few conducted at Korean churches in Philly.) Several of us took a walk on the Delaware Canal in the early 1980s. The walk ended up being about 25 miles, and Barry and I spent some of the time talking and walking. He talked about his career, and he opined about the fact that young faculty spent a lot of time traveling and presenting talks at a time when he had been free to think, work in his lab and write without all the distractions. It seemed like he knew every plant, ecology of the environment around the canal and so much that was interesting about science. I loved looking at his notebooks when I sat next to him at meetings. He’d put in postcards from places he’d been, drawings he made and all sorts of interesting memorabilia, along with meeting notes. The books were chronicles of a fascinating life. I was fortunate to have gotten to know him at a time when I was younger and more impressionable.

Sunday Poetry: The Night Game, by Robert Pinsky

Some of us believe
We would have conceived romantic
Love out of our own passions
With no precedents,
Without songs and poetry–
Or have invented poetry and music
As a comb of cells for the honey.

Shaped by ignorance,
A succession of new worlds,
Congruities improvised by
Immigrants or children.

I once thought most people were Italian,
Jewish or Colored.
To be white and called
Something like Ed Ford
Seemed aristocratic,
A rare distinction.

Possibly I believed only gentiles
And blonds could be left-handed.

Already famous
After one year in the majors,
Whitey Ford was drafted by the Army
To play ball in the flannels
Of the Signal Corps, stationed
In Long Branch, New Jersey.

A night game, the silver potion
Of the lights, his pink skin
Shining like a burn.

Never a player
I liked or hated: a Yankee,
A mere success.

But white the chalked-off lines
In the grass, white and green
The immaculate uniform,
And white the unpigmented
Halo of his hair
When he shifted his cap:

So ordinary and distinct,
So close up, that I felt
As if I could have made him up,
Imagined him as I imagined

The ball, a scintilla
High in the black backdrop
Of the sky. Tight red stitches.
Rawlings. The bleached

Horsehide white: the color

Of nothing. Color of the past
And of the future, of the movie screen
At rest and of blank paper.

“I could have.” The mind. The black
Backdrop, the white
Fly picked out by the towering
Lights. A few years later

On a blanket in the grass
By the same river
A girl and I came into
Being together
To the faint muttering
Of unthinkable
Troubadours and radios

The emerald
Theater, the night.
Another time,
I devised a left-hander
Even more gifted
Than Whitey Ford: A Dodger.
People were amazed by him.
Once, when he was young,
He refused to pitch on Yom Kippur.

It’s a moving poem about baseball, standing for one’s values and lots more. Happy Monday. Barbara

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