Former White House press secretary Tony Snow and novelist M.G. Vassanji are featured speakers
Political commentator and former White House press secretary Tony Snow and novelist M.G. Vassanji will be the featured speakers at Old Dominion’s fall commencement on Dec. 15.

Snow will speak to the colleges of Engineering and Technology, Education and Sciences at the 9 a.m. session. Vassanji, who is also receiving an honorary degree, will speak to the colleges of Business and Public Administration, Health Sciences and Arts and Letters at the 2 p.m. session.

Snow, 52, is a native of Berea, Ky., and grew up in Cincinnati. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Davidson College in North Carolina before working as an editorial writer for The Greensboro Record and The Virginian-Pilot and editorial page editor at The Daily Press. He also wrote nationally syndicated columns for The Detroit News and USA Today.

For seven years, he served as host of “FOX News Sunday” television show, and later had “The Tony Snow Show” on FOX News Radio.

In April 2006, he became press secretary for President George W. Bush, but his service was interrupted by the recurrence of colon cancer, and he retired in September to concentrate on fighting the disease.

He and his wife, Jill Ellen Walker, and their three children live in Virginia.

The Kenyan-born Vassanji, 57, emigrated to Canada in 1978 after studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania, where he specialized in theoretical nuclear physics.

While working as a research fellow at the University of Toronto, he became enamored with writing, and co-founded what is now called “The Toronto Review of Contemporary Writing Abroad.” In 1989 he published his acclaimed first novel, “The Gunny Sack.”

He has since published two collections of short stories and five more novels, including his most recent, “The Assassin’s Song.” His works have earned him two Scotiabank Giller Prizes, The Order of Canada and the Commonwealth First Book Prize, among others.

Vassanji currently lives in Toronto. His wife, Nurjehan, was born in Tanzania. They have two sons.

Vassanji will be among six recipients of Honorary doctorates will be awarded during the morning ceremony to:

  • Conrad M. Hall – Hall serves as president and CEO of Dominion Enterprises, a Landmark Communications-owned company that provides media and information services to the employment, automotive, real estate, marine, recreation and industrial markets.
  • Thelma Harrison – Harrison has been active in the civil rights movement her entire life. She attended the segregated J.J. Smallwood Elementary School, which was once located on the present ODU campus. She worked with U.S. Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. for 30 years in the area of voter registration. Today, she continues to work in her community, including registering voters.
  • Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr. – Giambastiani is a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s second-highest-ranking military officer. During his 37-year naval career, he was the first director of strategy and concepts at the Doctrine Command and led several submarine and anti-submarine commands. He supported the creation of an ODU master’s degree specifically for Navy nuclear-qualified officers, to be delivered by asynchronous technologies.

Honorary degrees will be awarded during the afternoon ceremony to Vassanji and:

  • Gen. Benjamin S. Griffin – Commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Griffin graduated from ODU in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in business management. He directs a workforce of 50,000 military and civilian employees, located in 45 states and 38 countries, whose missions range from the development of sophisticated weapons systems and research to the maintenance and distribution of spare parts worldwide.
  • George C. Crawley – Crawley has dedicated his life to serving the city of Norfolk. He was promoted to assistant city manager in 1982, a post he held 14 years. After retiring, Crawley returned to public service in 1997 as assistant executive director for community building with Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority. He is the founder and president of The 200+ Men Inc., a regional organization of African American men who work to improve access to opportunities in education, economic development and community betterment.

More information on commencement is available at Back to top

University awards $400,000 in multidisciplinary seed funds
Five research teams involving 18 faculty members at Old Dominion and six collaborators from other institutions will share nearly $400,000 in multidisciplinary seed funding awarded Nov. 29 by the ODU Office of Research.

The grants were announced by Mohammad Karim, vice president for research, who said the 2007 competition attracted 15 proposals involving 44 ODU faculty members and 17 researchers from other institutions. This is round three of a program Karim initiated in 2005 to promote multidisciplinary research projects. The goal is to nurture projects to the point that they can attract external funding.

Projects selected for funding by the research office’s panel of experts are (unless otherwise noted, the investigators are from ODU and are identified by the departments and/or centers they represent):

  • “Disease-Specific Trapping of Human Cancer Cells” – Ali Beskok (PI), aerospace engineering, and Juergen Kolb, Frank Reidy Center for Bioelectrics. Consultants: Ravindra Joshi, electrical and computer Engineering, and Dr. Stephen Beebe, Frank Reidy Center for Bioelectrics. Award: $70,700.
  • “Elucidation of Protein Structure Networks and Beyond” – Lesley Greene (PI), chemistry and biochemistry, and Li-Shi Luo, mathematics and statistics. Consultants: Alex Pothen, computer science; Chris Osgood, biological sciences; Patrick Hatcher, chemistry and biochemistry, and Christine Orengo, University of London. Award: $80,000.
  • “The Role of Endogenous Retroviruses in Prostate Cancer” – Alex Greenwood (PI), biological sciences; Dr. Timothy Bos, microbiology and cellular molecular biology, Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS), and Dr. Tarek Kandil, Virginia Prostate Center, EVMS. Consultants: Dr. John Semmes, Virginia Prostate Center and microbiology and molecular cell biology, EVMS. Award: $80,000.
  • “Effect of Low Temperature Cold Atmospheric Plasma on Oral Biofilm” – Gayle McCombs (PI), dental hygiene; Michele Darby, dental hygiene, Wayne Hynes, biological sciences, and Mounir Laroussi, Laser and Plasma Engineering Institute. Award: $83,664
  • “Dynamic Medical Measures: Creating a Model to Study the Neuropathic Process in Diabetes and Normal Aging” – Steven Morrison (PI), physical therapy; Sheri R. Colberg, exercise science, sport, physical education and recreation; Mira Mariano, physical therapy, and Dr. Henri Parson, Strelitz Diabetes Center, EVMS. Consultants: Dr. Aaron I. Vinik, Strelitz Diabetes Center, and Martha Walker, physical therapy. Award: $80,000.

The funds made available to the teams must be expended by June 30, 2008. Each team is required to provide a written report, make an oral presentation and follow up with an aggressive plan to attract external grants. Back to top

Bookstore ribbon cutting set for Dec. 7
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Old Dominion University Village Bookstore on Dec. 7 will highlight three days of grand opening events at the new facility.

The ribbon cutting, scheduled for 4 p.m., will be preceded by a book signing by David Baldacci, author of the bestseller “Stone Cold,” at 1 p.m. Friday’s events, which conclude at 7 p.m., will also feature live music by the ODU Jazz Combo and photo-ops, from 3-4 p.m., with Big Blue and the ODU cheerleaders.

The grand opening celebration began Dec. 6 with book signings by Joanne Steen and Regina Asaro, authors of “Military Widow,” and David Poyer, author of “Korea Strait.” A story time with Curious George is scheduled for 10 a.m. Dec. 8.

Located at the corner of 45th Street and Monarch Way behind the Ted Constant Convocation Center, the bookstore building is three-and-a-half stories and encompasses 42,000 square feet. The first and second floors offer approximately 20,000 titles, from bestsellers to children’s books. General merchandise is located on the first level and academic books on the second. The first floor also features a café, with an outdoor seating area. ODU’s Office of Development occupies the upper floors.

Owned by the Old Dominion University Real Estate Foundation, the building replaces the bookstore that operated for many years in Webb Center.

“The new bookstore represents an important step in the development of the University Village – it anchors the other retail and cultural attractions along Monarch Way to benefit both the university and the entire Norfolk community,” said Robert L. Fenning, vice president for administration and finance.

Follett Higher Education Group, which operates the University Village Bookstore, also has campus bookstores at the University of California at Berkeley, University of Notre Dame and Stanford University, among hundreds of others schools. Additionally, Follett provides bookstore services and programs to more than 1,800 independently owned bookstores. Back to top

Engineering management program honored
The graduate program in engineering management received its third Founder’s Award for Excellence in Academic Leadership from the American Society of Engineering Management (ASEM) at the society’s national meeting on Nov. 10. The award recognizes the best student chapter among member universities.

Resit Unal, department chair, and Rafael Landaeta, assistant professor, were on hand to accept the award from ASEM President William McFadden during the conference in Chattanooga, Tenn. ODU also won the award in 2000 and 2005.

“Needless to say, we are very proud to get this prestigious award for the third time,” Unal said. “It is a testimony to our excellent programs in engineering management at Old Dominion University and to the hard work we are putting in to maintain the high standard we set for our programs.”

The graduate program, one of the first in the country to be accredited, earned re-accreditation earlier this month. Back to top

Author of “The Hypomanic Edge” to speak Dec. 11
John Gartner, author of “The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (A Little) Craziness and (A Lot of) Success in America,” will be the guest speaker at the Economics Club of Hampton Roads luncheon on Dec. 11.

Co-sponsored by the College of Business and Public Administration, the luncheon will begin at noon at the Norfolk Marriott Waterside Hotel. The cost is $30 for nonmembers. Reservations are required and may be made by calling 683-4058.

In his book, Gartner writes about the possible relationship between energetic entrepreneurs and the psychiatric disorder, mania. “The idea that some entrepreneurs may be a little manic is hardly new. Entrepreneurs, as well as the markets they energized, were commonly described in the media as ‘manic.’ Yet, until now, there has never been a serious suggestion that the talent for being an entrepreneur and mania, the genetically based psychiatric disorder, are actually linked,” says Gartner. Back to top

International programs, admissions offices move
The Dragas International Center, which houses the International Programs and Study Abroad offices, and the Office of Graduate and International Admissions, moved into new quarters recently.

The Dragas Center moved on Dec. 6 to the second floor of Hughes Hall. For more updates, visit

The Office of Graduate and International Admissions relocated on Dec. 3 to 129 Koch Hall.
The office telephone and fax numbers for all of the offices will remain the same.
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ODU will have three alumni at Beijing Olympic Games
Old Dominion alumni sailing standouts Anna Tunnicliffe ’05 and 2004 Olympic silver medalist Charlie Ogletree ’89 won their respective events this fall and will represent the United States in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, Aug. 8-24.

They will join another ODU great at the games, basketball Hall of Famer Anne Donovan ’83, the U.S. women’s basketball head coach.

Tunnicliffe, a three-time collegiate national champion and current No. 1-ranked U.S. sailor, won the Laser Radial title to qualify for the Olympics.

This will be Ogletree’s fourth straight Olympic appearance. He teamed with John Lovell to win the Tornado Class by one point to qualify. Back to top

Porter awarded grant to study dangerous driving
Psychologist Bryan Porter and his research team will help Virginia develop and evaluate traffic safety programs, including new initiatives against drunken driving, under a grant from the commonwealth’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

Porter, an associate professor, is an expert on the psychological underpinnings of dangerous driving habits. He is known internationally for his work assessing and promoting automatic photo-enforcement to reduce red-light running. His research group also recently helped the state to evaluate a “Click It or Ticket” program to encourage seatbelt use.

The new one-year grant, which is for $130,310, calls for the group to continue working with the seatbelt program, but also has other focuses, such as drunken driving. The project period extends through September 2008.

Porter said his team will do preliminary work on a DUI program, expanding upon work it already has started to identify high-risk areas for drunken driving-related crashes. “We will make recommendations to the state regarding where it should target the problem of DUI, and then will help the state choose the best programs to deploy,” he explained.

A possible third component of the work under the grant would be a program aimed at reducing speeding.

“Our evaluation activities will provide data for DMV leaders to assess the effectiveness of programs so that those programs can be disseminated more widely, refined or perhaps even discarded to allow alternative approaches,” Porter said. Back to top

Research looks at effects of parental alcoholism
A treatment program that provides sobriety individual counseling for an alcohol-abusing husband as well as couple counseling for the husband and his wife can provide significant “trickle-down” psychological benefits to the couple’s preadolescent children, according to an article co-authored by an Old Dominion professor.

The research shows, however, that the behavior of an adolescent child in the home may not be as likely to improve with reductions in the father’s alcohol use and improvements in marital functioning.

Michelle Kelley, professor of psychology, wrote the article together with William Fals-Stewart, a former ODU faculty member now at the University of Rochester. Their article appeared in the fall 2007 issue of Journal of Family Psychology.

The research focuses on the behavior of preadolescents (8-12 years) and adolescents (13-16 years) whose fathers cease to abuse alcohol and whose fathers and mothers have a more peaceful relationship following their participation in the treatment program called Learning Sobriety Together. The program combines Behavioral Couples Therapy for the husband and wife conjointly and individual counseling for the substance-abusing husband. Back to top

Workshops to address new videostreaming interface
In the spring 2008 semester, faculty members teaching distance classes are likely to find videostreaming students in their classes. Students will be using a different interface which will be received on a page with a fresh design.

The Center for Learning Technologies is holding a series of hands-on workshops designed to orient faculty members to the new launch page and the new functions of videostreaming. There will be three one-hour workshops offered each weekday from Jan. 3-11. To register for an “Orientation to the New Videostreaming Interface” workshop, go to Back to top

HACE sponsoring program on blood pressure Dec. 10
The Hourly and Classified Employees Association will sponsor a CommonHealth program on blood pressure from noon to 1 p.m. Dec.. 10 in the York/Potomac River Room of Webb Center.

Maureen Mullin, ODU’s CommonHealth representative, will give hints on how to lower blood pressure and present other related information.

Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP to Judy Smith, HACE president, at, and include their state ID number from their health care card. For more information call 683-3269.
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Candidates interviewed for provost position
Four candidates were on campus recently to interview for the position of provost and vice president for academic affairs. The interviews spanned the period of Nov. 26 to Dec. 4.

The search committee reviewed the credentials of more than 80 applicants, according to John R. Broderick, vice president for institutional advancement, chief of staff and chair of the search committee. He added that the committee spent many long hours assessing the candidates and made every attempt to reach out to as many campus constituents as possible during the interview process.

The four candidates are:

  • Thomas Isenhour – Current provost and vice president for academic affairs at Old Dominion. Besides his five-year term as ODU provost, he has been a dean at Old Dominion, Utah State and Kansas State universities.
  • Y.T. Shah – Former provost at both the University of Missouri at Rolla and the University of Central Missouri. He also has served as senior vice president for research and graduate studies at Clemson and as engineering dean at both Drexel University and the University of Tulsa.
  • Carol Simpson – Provost and senior vice president at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. She is on sabbatical leave through June 2008. She also served as associate provost for research and graduate education at Boston University.
  • Gary A. Olson – Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Illinois State University. He also served as interim associate vice president for academic affairs at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg.

Vitae of all candidates can be reviewed in Perry Library and the deans’ offices. Back to top

Senate forwards recommendations
The Faculty Senate on Oct. 23 recommended approval of new wording for a policy on tenure-track positions funded by research centers to be placed in the Faculty Handbook.

In its rationale statement, the senate said: “All tenured faculty should be evaluated according to the policies and procedures found in the Faculty Handbook; to include review by Departmental, College, and University Promotion and Tenure committees.”

Also at the meeting, the senate recommended approval of changes in wording for a policy on emeritus appointments to be placed in the handbook. Among these recommendations are:

  • Designating emeritus and emerita appointments to identify recipients by gender ;
  • Providing a policy that would allow “faculty who retire as senior lecturers to be awarded emeritus service for their demonstrated expertise in the field and a sustained record of effective performance in teaching and professional service, and a minimum of five years experience at the rank of lecturer”;
  • Making administrative officers eligible for designation as emeritus/emerita, to be nominated by the provost;
  • Providing framed certificates to emeriti faculty and an engraved silver bowl to those with 25 or more years of service; and
  • Expanding university privileges for emeriti faculty.

Also on Oct. 23, the senate recommended the following statement about faculty who teach or conduct research at off-campus sites be added to the Faculty Handbook:

“All Old Dominion University faculty are governed by the policies and procedures outlined in the Faculty Handbook. Regardless of whether faculty carry out their research or teaching responsibilities on campus or at an off-campus site, all faculty are members of an academic unit with attendant responsibilities and privileges. Policies regarding workload, evaluation, promotion and all other aspects of academic life are the same for on-campus and off-campus faculty.”

In its rationale statement, the senate wrote: “This policy would make it clear that all off-campus faculty members, whether at the higher education centers or at research facilities such as VMASC, are governed by the same policies and procedures as on-campus faculty members.”

All of the senate’s recommendations have been forwarded to President Roseann Runte and Provost Thomas Isenhour. Back to top

Monkey business: Creative writing chair recounts experiences of working with primates in South Africa

Michael C. Blumenthal, Old Dominion University’s Mina Hohenberg Darden Chair in Creative Writing, spent three weeks last May in South Africa volunteering at an animal rehabilitation center near Phalaborwa, located about 250 miles northeast of Johannesburg. An article he wrote about his experience, “Baboon Heaven,” is featured in the December/January issue of Natural History magazine (

Like many of the volunteers, Blumenthal learned of the Centre for Animal Rehabilitation and Education (CARE) and the work of its director, Rita Miljo, and her staff from watching a program called “Growing Up Baboon” on the Animal Planet network. Harboring a fascination with primates since childhood, Blumenthal decided to embark on an adventure that would both satisfy a curiosity and provide a service – that of nurturing and caring for orphaned baboons.

Although the immediate assimilation process wasn’t easy, it didn’t take Blumenthal long to settle in to the routine and gain acceptance from the primates in his care. A typical day for the volunteers at the center began with the preparation of several hundred feeding bottles for the infant baboons. In addition to feeding the animals and cleaning the cages, volunteers spent much of the day interacting with each different age group to teach the animals socialization skills. Or, as Blumenthal describes it, learning to behave like a baboon.

“By the end of my second week, I [was] beginning to feel a bit baboony myself,” recalls Blumenthal in his article. “It’s not a bad life, being the alpha male.”

One fond memory of his trip is of a baboon named Dennis and his sister, Maggie, both of whom were between 8 months and 1 year old. Dennis and Maggie each sat on one of his knees, tenderly grooming him as if he were one of their playmates. The experience was a “lovely, tender, sensual moment,” Blumenthal recalls.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Sooner than he would have liked, Blumenthal was faced with saying goodbye to the charges that had become his friends. He left not only with a greater appreciation for these magnificent creatures, but with a greater sense of self as well.

“It gave me, I think, a deeper understanding of what it means to be human – as well as of what we have gained, and lost, in the process of our so-called ‘humanization.’ It also helped me to understand more deeply the great power of instinct,” he said.

As all good writers do, Blumenthal also came away with a wealth of material. In addition to the article in Natural History magazine, a similar piece is slated to appear in The Washington Post Magazine next spring. Blumenthal currently is preparing a proposal for a biographical work on Rita Miljo, CARE’s founder and director.

Recognizing how valuable and unique the experience was, Blumenthal is already making plans to undertake another primate adventure in the near future – this time to an orangutan refuge in Borneo.

“This experience changed me in making me realize, once again, how difficult, and yet rewarding, it can be to ‘stretch’ the horizons of one’s own experience, to experience a world radically ‘other’ than one’s conventional own. It also taught me that I’m braver than I thought I was.”

Blumenthal’s other forthcoming works include a reissue in paperback by Pleasure Boat Press of his award-winning 1993 novel, “Weinstock Among the Dying,” in March or April. He also plans to release a new book of poetry, titled “And,” in 2009. Back to top

Professor featured recently in national media
Sheri Colberg, associate professor of exercise science, last month discussed her new book about living well with diabetes on CNN Radio and was featured in a USA Today story on Nov. 15, in conjunction with National Diabetes Month. An article also appeared in US News & World Report.

The book, “50 Secrets of the Longest Living People with Diabetes,” profiles people who have been living with diabetes for many years. They offer advice about how others who are living with the disease can also live long, healthy lives.

Colberg was interviewed on 20 radio shows across the country about her book and was a guest on “Hearsay,” a call-in talk show that airs on WHRV-FM in Norfolk.

According to the author, “50 Secrets” is the first book to feature many of the longest living people with diabetes. The book highlights Gladys Dull, who has been living with diabetes since 1924, and Bob and Gerald Cleveland, brothers who have been living with the disease for 75 years. It also includes a profile of James W. Quander, the longest living black American with diabetes, who has been living with the disease more than 80 years.

Colberg is the author several books on diabetes and recently published another book, titled “The Science of Staying Young.” Back to top

Boyd donates collection on military, diplomatic history
Cataloguing was completed this fall for 185 books about military and diplomatic history donated to the Old Dominion University Libraries by former history professor Carl Boyd.

The books, from Boyd’s personal collection, are the first of what will soon become the nearly 800-volume Carl Boyd Collection of the History of War.

Boyd, who joined the history faculty in 1975, retired in 2001 as an eminent scholar emeritus and Louis I. Jaffé Professor Emeritus of history.

“We are pleased that Dr. Boyd chose to donate his collection of military history. His collection will be a significant addition to the University Libraries and will be used by scholars and students now and in the future,” said Virginia S. O’Herron, university librarian.

While titles on World War II military history dominate, the collection spans the history of war from earliest times through the late 20th century. The books themselves were published from the 1880s through 2001 and include materials written in Japanese, German and English. Subjects range from the ruminations of diplomats and military men to military intelligence, espionage, submarine warfare and civil-military relations in modern Europe.

Boyd began reading diplomatic history as a high school student. After graduating from high school in 1954 and serving four years in the U.S. Navy Submarine Force, he matriculated at Indiana University, where he received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He earned his doctorate from the University of California at Davis.

By the time of his retirement from teaching in 2001, Boyd was acknowledged by his peers as an expert in intelligence and strategic studies, naval and military history, and international relations. He is the author of “The Extraordinary Envoy: General Hiroshi Oshima and Diplomacy in the Third Reich, 1934-1939” (1980), “Hitler’s Japanese Confidant: General Oshima Hiroshi and MAGIC Intelligence, 1941-1945” (1993), “American Command of the Sea Through Carriers, Codes and the Silent Service: World War II and Beyond” (1995) and “The Japanese Submarine Force and World War II” (1995, with Akihiko Yoshida).

Boyd received numerous awards during his academic career, including a Fulbright Fellowship for 1999-2000. Additionally, he has served as a consultant for the National Geographic Society, the U.S. Postal Service, the Mariners’ Museum and the History Channel. Back to top

Book traces history, influence of American television

TPick any major historical event during the past 60 years and chances are you witnessed it on your television screen. April 3, 1956: a young man who looked and sounded like the wave of the future, Elvis Presley, makes his first television appearance on “The Milton Berle Show.” November 22, 1963: Walter Cronkite announces to Americans that their young president was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. February 9, 1964: a British pop band called The Beatles appears on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” July 20, 1969: Neil Armstrong steps on the moon’s surface. August 18, 1974: President Richard Nixon addresses the nation and announces his intention to resign from office.

Aside from their historical significance, these events were memorable because they represented a significant development in the cultural landscape of the time – the ability of Americans across the country to participate collectively in a singular event in real time. The television set, which has become a ubiquitous fixture in most every American household today, had generated a shared consciousness that transcended economic and social strata.

Recognizing the important influence of television on American culture, media historian Gary R. Edgerton, professor and chair of the communication and theatre arts department, has written “The Columbia History of American Television,” which was published by Columbia University Press in September. His book traces the technological developments of television and its growing cultural relevance in our society from the 1930s and ’40s through present day, concluding with a look at the new forms of instantaneous communication and the ways in which they shape our social, political and economic landscape.

Listening to Edgerton discuss television, it is clear he is passionate about his subject and quick to defend the medium against the hackneyed complaint that there is “nothing but garbage” to watch.

“Descriptions of television run the gamut, and a lot of them are pejorative – terms like ‘boob tube’ and ‘chewing gum for the mind’ and that we’re wasting our time watching TV. When you’re talking about programming 24/7, 52 weeks a year, then obviously there’s a lot of dross on TV,” Edgerton concedes.

“On the other hand, there are wonderful things on television all the time, too. So if you watch proactively and you schedule what you watch ... you can get a lot out of it.”

“The Columbia History of American Television” examines “how television programming has evolved, how it has become more sophisticated, more challenging as an art form,” Edgerton adds. “I would pose it [television] as being as accomplished as the best movies you see. Some of the best television programs – “The Wire,” for example – are as good as the best novels that are out now.”

In the preface to his book, Edgerton reflects on the historical significance of television in America: “No technology before TV ever integrated faster into American life. Television took only 10 years to reach a penetration of 35 million households, while the telephone required 80 years; the automobile 50; and even radio needed 25. By 1983, moreover, the representative U.S. household was then keeping the TV set turned on for more than seven hours a day on average; two decades later this mean was up to eight hours a day and counting.”

Despite television’s prevalence in our lives, few of us stop to consider the influence it has on how we think and perceive the world around us. “The central paradox of the last 60 years is that the flow of television images and sounds has been torrential, while our historical-critical understanding of TV as a technology, an industry, an art form, and an institutional force has largely been a peripheral concern for most people,” Edgerton contends.

Despite having to address a multitude of historical events, Edgerton manages to present the material in an intelligent and engaging manner. Ken Burns, producer and director of the recent PBS documentary “The War,” describes “The Columbia History of American Television” as “an accessible and compelling narrative of the complicated forces that went into creating our most enigmatic of mediums.”

The book begins with a look at television’s prehistory and the laying of the first telegraph line in 1844, which gave rise to the idea that images and sounds could be transmitted over long distances. Edgerton then considers how television’s look and purpose evolved during the Network Era (1948-1975) and the part TV played in the transformation of postwar America. The birth of prime time and cable ushered in the Cable Era (1976-1994) along with the exportation of American culture as a result of television’s foray into the international market.

Edgerton concludes his book with a discerning look at the current Digital Era (1995-present): “Unlike any other medium before it, the Internet was global from the outset. Even though the roots of the Internet date back to the late 1960s, it wasn’t until 1995 that it actually caught on with the general public in the United States when the World Wide Web (a hypertext-based information retrieval system) became widely accessible through Netscape’s graphical browser. From that point onward, the Internet grew faster than any other communication medium in human history.” Back to top

Prof publishes book on plants of the holy lands

In 1985, Lytton Musselman began gathering material for a book he had long wanted to prepare on the plants of the holy lands. This month, his hardback and extensively illustrated “Figs, Dates, Laurel, and Myrrh: Plants of the Bible and the Quran” was published by Timber Press.

“It seems so long ago when I started on this,” said Musselman, the Mary Payne Hogan Professor of Botany and chair of the biological sciences department.

“I was brought up in a home with a high regard for the Bible,” he added. “It is a shaping influence on my background and development. In addition, I love plants. This book is a conflation of two loves.”

Musselman said his opportunities to live and do research in several countries of the holy lands during the last two decades enriched his chapters about the 100 plants that are mentioned in the Old Testament and New Testament, including the Apocrypha, as well as in the Quran.

The book ($25, 336 pages and with 250 photos, mostly taken by Musselman) has an introduction by Garrison Keillor, the humorist and creator and host of “A Prairie Home Companion” radio show. Keillor notes that his upbringing in the Plymouth Brethren church was a “rather arid” experience that left him thinking of the Biblical lands more in terms of cactuses than fruit trees. “Figs, Dates, Laurel, and Myrrh” shows these lands to be more lush, writes Keillor, who is a longtime friend of Musselman.

There are 81 chapters in the book, covering well-known edibles – capers, cucumbers, garlic, lentils, olives, walnuts, watermelon and, of course, figs and dates – as well as more exotic plants – calamus, galbanum, ladanum, nard and sycomore (not to be confused with sycamore).

Many chapters clear up references in the holy books that may confuse modern readers. Musselman, for example, notes that the sycomore fig tree, and not a sycamore, seems likely to be the tree that Zacchaeus climbed in order to get a better look at Jesus. The author also makes a case for the apricot, and not the apple, being the fruit with which Eve tempted Adam.

Keillor takes exception in his introduction to this last bit of botanical sleuthing. “After a lifetime of biting into apples and imagining them to be forbidden fruit and therefore all the more delicious, I find it hard to transfer this to a smaller fruit. ... This is a matter for further prayer, Brother Musselman.”

Musselman has received three Fulbright awards, allowing him to teach at institutions such as the University of Jordan, and he has been a visiting professor at Aleppo University in Syria and the American University in Beirut. He is the author of “Jordan in Bloom” (2000), which was commissioned by Jordan’s Queen Rania Al-Abdullah. Back to top

Kuhn elected Fellow of American Physical Society
ODU ranks fifth among nuclear physics groups having APS Fellows

Sebastian Kuhn, professor of physics and eminent scholar, has been elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS), increasing to12 the number of the university’s physics faculty members to have been so honored.

With his election, Old Dominion’s nuclear physics group includes seven APS Fellows. Only four universities in the country have more Fellows on their nuclear physics faculties. ODU has 27 faculty members overall in physics, 12 of whom are in nuclear physics.

Educated in his native Germany, Kuhn has conducted research in nuclear and particle physics at laboratories in several countries. Most recently he has led experiments probing the structure of nucleons – the protons and neutrons that make up the nucleus of the atom – at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in California and the Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News. He joined the ODU faculty in 1992.

“We are delighted that a scholar of very high caliber such as that of Dr. Kuhn has been elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society,” said Chris Platsoucas, dean of the College of Sciences. “This is quite extraordinary to have a nuclear physics group that is ranked fifth nationally in number of Fellows.”

Platsoucas noted the “highly competitive” nature of the election. No more than one-half of 1 percent of the APS membership become Fellows each year.

“Dr. Kuhn has made seminal contributions in his field of research and made educational and scholarly contributions to the college and the university. We thank him for all that he has accomplished and wish him many additional successes,” the dean added.

Gail Dodge, chair of the Department of Physics and a collaborator in research with Kuhn, said her colleague is “richly deserving of this honor” for his work, including “a suite of high-profile experiments that he initiated and led at Jefferson Lab to study the inner workings of the proton and neutron.”

The Department of Energy’s Jefferson Lab accelerator propels beams of electrons at close to the speed of light into collisions with targets – protons for example. Huge detectors collect the collision fragments, and by studying the speed, direction and energy of the fragments, scientists can learn more about the fundamental nature of matter. The lab already is the most precise facility of its kind in the world for exploring the subatomic particles known as quarks and gluons, and a planned upgrade is expected to double its accelerator energy over the next decade.

The citation from the APS states that Kuhn was elected a 2007 Fellow “for his leadership on measurements of the nucleon structure functions, in particular in the non-perturbative and valence region.”

In a commentary article published two years ago in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Kuhn gave a general description of his work at Jefferson Lab: “It turns out that the mass of all atoms is nearly all due to the energy of the quarks and gluons inside the nucleons. To study this internal energy, we need to probe matter with the best resolution possible, using the most powerful ‘electron microscopes’ available. The accelerator at Jefferson Lab is the ‘brightest’ such microscope in the world, and that is why scientists from around the world come here to study the origin of mass.”

Kuhn joins these other APS Fellows from the ODU physics department: Charles Hyde, Anatoly Radyushkin, Mark Havey, Rocco Schiavilla, Jay Wallace Van Orden, Lepsha Vuskovic, Lawrence Weinstein and Colm Whelan, and three Jefferson Lab researchers, Bernhard Mecking, Jean Delayen and Geoff Krafft. Back to top

CLT offers training in January on new features in Blackboard
To help faculty and teaching assistants get up to speed with several new features in Blackboard, the Center for Learning Technologies will offer the Blackboard Olympics during January in its Faculty Development Lab, located in room 411 of the Gornto TELETECHNET Center. The Olympics will consist of three all-day marathons that rotate on different days of the week.

Faculty and TAs are encouraged to register for the day and then attend some or all of the day’s sessions – those that are most pertinent to their own Blackboard use.

The Blackboard Olympics include:

The Blackboard Content Marathon – “Managing the Course Contents and Introducing the Content System.” This workshop will focus on the differences between course content, local content, content from the content collection and podcasts, and when to use them. Content Marathon workshops will be held on Jan. 8, 17 and 23.

The Blackboard Collaboration Marathon – “Tools for Student Engagement.” This workshop will focus on the differences between Blackboard discussion, instant message chat, classroom chat and Adobe Connect (Breeze) online meetings, and when to use them. Collaboration Marathon workshops will be held on Jan. 9, 15 and 24.

The Blackboard Assessment Marathon – “Traditional and Alternate Methods.” This workshop will focus on traditional assessment tools such as the Blackboard Test Manager, Respondus and Questionmark, as well as on alternate methods of assessment such as group work, written papers and low plagiarism projects. Assessment Marathon workshops will be held on Jan. 10, 16 and 22.

Each of the daylong workshops will offer two sessions in the morning and two in the afternoon. First, there will be an “essentials” session so that those who are new to Blackboard can learn the basics of working with the Blackboard interface. Next, there will be an “information” session on the differences between the various tools related to the day’s topic and when to use them.

In the afternoon, the first session will typically focus on the mechanics for using Blackboard tools and the second session will focus on the mechanics for using the new tools available on campus.

All marathon workshops will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Faculty members and TAs can register for the day at or by calling 683-3172 and then attend some or all of the day’s sessions. Back to top

Lees book examines ethnicity, national security during World War II

Most historians will tell you that we can (or should) learn lessons from our past and that the study of history therefore is an important academic pursuit.

Other more fatalistic personalities believe that history repeats itself and that we are doomed to make the same mistakes made by our forefathers no matter how closely we examine our past.

To whichever philosophy one subscribes, a recent book by an Old Dominion history professor provides an interesting and informative historical look at national security issues during World War II and the relevance those experiences have on national policy issues today.

Lorraine Lees, University Professor of history, specializes in U.S. foreign policy and currently is researching the relationship between ethnicity, propaganda and national security during World War II and the Cold War. Her latest book, “Yugoslav-Americans and National Security During World War II,” explores the persistent tension between ethnicity and national security during the war, and provides insights into similar attitudes that have arisen throughout periods of crisis in American history, including recent events. It is published by University of Illinois Press.

“My interest in this topic is both professional and personal,” Lees notes. “My training in diplomatic history centered on exploring the domestic and ideological roots of American foreign policy; I also grew up hearing my German immigrant grandparents talk of the “government men” who came to the door during WWII, even though my grandparents had long since become citizens, and of the hostility expressed by neighbors.”

Lees first began exploring the government’s treatment of the Yugoslav-American community while writing an earlier book, “Keeping Tito Afloat: The United States, Yugoslavia and the Cold War,” published in 1997. During the Roosevelt administration, this community was identified as the most representative example of European ethnic groups in America that were rife with divided political loyalties and therefore requiring official attention.

“The research for the book was rewarding but long and difficult; much of the material had to be obtained from Freedom of Information Act requests, and often took years to appear,” Lees explains. “When I began this study, I did not know how timely the topic of ethnicity and security would be, and I regret that the nativism I explored during WWII has resurfaced in the wake of 9/11. However, as a historian, I have learned not to be surprised.”

Allan Winkler, author of “Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Making of Modern America,” calls Lees’ book “a first-rate contribution to our understanding of the home front dynamics of World War II. … In highlighting the American desire for harmony and unity during wartime, Lees demonstrates the very complexity of the effort to attain such a state of ‘national security’ and makes important connections to the contemporary United States.”

Asked if there were any research discoveries that she found particularly surprising, Lees remarked, “The surprise was finding that policy makers who were known as liberals and enlightened reformers were also deeply suspicious of ethnics and immigrants and fearful that they were disloyal.” Back to top

“The cynic in me says people say they value this, but how are we going to pay for it? There’s a challenging discussion ahead – do we want to pay more taxes for farmland preservation?” (Daniel O’Leary, lecturer of sociology)

– “Examination of farmland’s value comes none too soon”
Asheville Citizen-Times, Nov. 25

“It kind of gets everybody in the mood – school spirit and all like that. That’s what I hoped would happen. I always wanted to go to a school like that.” (Elizabeth Elwell, ODU junior from Philadelphia)

– “Monarch football will hit the turf to the sound of a marching band”
The Virginian-Pilot, Nov. 24

“We don’t want marketing of other sports to go backwards. Our goal is to convince coaches of our current teams that we aren’t going to de-prioritize.” (Jim Jarrett, director of athletics)

– “With spotlight on ODU football, will other teams bask or wither?”
The Virginian-Pilot, Nov. 15

“I never believed the Communist Party would do this. I decided that night to leave China. ... I had no interest in China’s future.” (Xiang Dong, 1993 ODU graduate, on the Chinese military response to the Tiananmen Square 1989 protests)

– “Chinese dissidents take on Beijing via media empire”
The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 15

“The events of 9/11 made it clear to most people, regardless of political orientation, that we must do a better job of understanding what is going on in a very complicated world. It is the responsibility of our schools, colleges and universities to ensure that all of our students understand other cultures and societies because, without such knowledge and background, they will not be able to make the necessary decisions and judgments required to lead us in the future.” (Michael Philson, executive director of international programs, in an op-ed commentary)

– “Opinion: Globalizing education”
The Virginian-Pilot, Nov. 10

“All I can say is I spent 18 years in Congress and politics and I saw stranger things than that.” (William Whitehurst, Kaufman Lecturer in public affairs)

– “Robertson endorses Giuliani”
WTKR-TV, Nov. 8

“The benefit for us is growing the algae, but it is also a benefit to the municipal facility because we can help reduce the nitrogen and phosphorus further in their treated waste water.” (Margaret Mulholland, associate professor of ocean, earth and atmospheric sciences)

– “Algae is fuel for thought on saving the environment”
WVEC-TV, Nov. 6

“I like to take the lesson and turn it into the practical. If we don’t bring in the students to practice theory, we’ve shortchanged the students.” (Patricia Edwards, lecturer of art)

– “Beach mural project links students from ODU and local schools”
The Virginian-Pilot, Nov. 6

Crab stocks “used to cycle back and forth. But in the mid-’90s, they went down and have stayed there.” (John McConaugha, associate professor of ocean, earth and atmospheric sciences)

– “Catch data suggest sustained crab harvest dip”
The Virginian-Pilot, Oct. 25
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