In the News

April 28th, 2007

Ancient Mariner

The most extraordinary thing about this year's annual sailboat race between Chicago and Mackinac Island on Lake Michigan was not that, at 333 miles, it's the longest freshwater sailboat race in the world. Most extraordinary is that sailing it - for the thirtieth time - was Karl Stein '30. Stein, who is 96, was navigator of the thirty-three-foot Liberty, which came in 95th out of 135 boats finishing. Stein sailed his first Mackinac Race in 1953, and has been a part of the winning crew three times. "As long as I can do it," he told the Chicago Tribune in July, "I'm going to keep doing it."


Twenty years ago, towns looked at planners the way cattle rustlers once looked at sheriffs. With so much money to be made developing real estate, who wanted to hear about wetland regulations and zoning restrictions? In 1985 in Narragansett, Rhode Island, for example, housing was going up so quickly that some residents were calling the town Narracondo. That's the year Clarkson Collins '72, '76 AM arrived in town as environmental coordinator. Clarkson spent the next twenty years introducing sanity in the form of rules about such things as building in environmentally sensitive areas and preserving affordable housing. Clarkson retired this summer as Narragansett's director of community development, but according to the Providence Journal, he's hoping to keep an eye on things for a local land trust. "It's what I love to do," he told the Journal. "Once you lose a landscape or you lose a natural resource, it's gone for good."

Personal Best

On Thanksgiving Day, 1987, a few days before that year's Olympic trials, Anne Hird '81, a fourth-place finisher in the Boston Marathon just three years before, was out running with friends in Providence when she was struck by a car. At the wheel was a fourteen-year-old unlicensed driver. The collision smashed Hird's left leg, severely damaging bone and nerves. Despite surgery and numerous treatments, Hird was told the injury would severely restrict her for the rest of her life, a diagnosis she refused to accept. She researched her injury in the Brown Sciences Library and began swimming regularly. By 2002 she was able to walk a few miles at a time. Now married and the mother of two children, Hird found a sympathetic podiatrist and some physical therapists who suggested a new procedure that might help her leg heal more quickly. By the end of 2003, she was running again, and without pain. Last year she ran a five-kilometer race in a personal best time of 19:22. "It's funny," she told the Albany Times Union in June. "I used to say I wanted a full life so if I ever got hit by a truck I could continue on. That's pretty much what happened."

Three Acres and a Dream 

Agribusiness it might not be, but Purisima Greens, three acres of potatoes, garlic, onions, kale, chard, arugula, mustard, parsley, and heirloom lettuce grown on three rented acres on California's Half Moon Bay, is the kind of agricultural operation that Jason McKenney '92 says "is what agriculture should be." McKenney, who farms the land organically with a business partner, told a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News in July that he hopes those who buy and eat what he's grown will realize that farming without chemicals can be both beneficial and profitable. "We have a whole culture divorced from knowing where their food comes from," he says.

Wisdom of Age

It took Glenn LaFantasie '05 PhD twenty-five years, but he finally finished his doctorate this spring, twenty-five years after starting it. After his wife, an officer in the U.S. Army Reserves, was put on active duty, he'd left Providence with her and eventually wound up as a deputy historian at the state department. As he wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education in June, once the kids were out of college and his wife had retired from the Reserves, LaFantasie, now in his mid-fifties, returned to campus and became Brown's oldest teaching assistant. When an undergraduate noted he was "the sickest TA we've ever had," his alarm was replaced by relief when he realized that "'sickest' to the current generation of college students means what 'coolest' or 'hippest' meant when I was going to school."

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Related Issue
September / October 2005