December 2016 Newsletter

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Asilomar 2017 31st Annual Asilomar Conference 
the weekend of February 10-13, 2017
Watch the website for more details

Sign Up for 2017 Now!

Beach header

“A faithful study of liberal arts humanizes character, and allows it not to be cruel.”  -- Ovid

If the news of the day is getting you down, take heart – it’s once again time to reserve your weekend of learning, inspiration and fellowship on the magnificent Monterey coast!

Past participants describe the weekend as “the best aspects of college, without the exams” and “the greatest high of the year – without drugs!”

If you have questions on this year’s program, please contact For registration or logistics matters, please contact Barry Haskell at Cost is the same as last year, $545 per person, double ocupancy, and includes all nine meals and parking. All registered participants will receive forms to reserve their Asilomar accommodations, including meals, during the month of October; please watch your email for more details.

Deirdre Frontczak, Asilomar Chair

A preview of 2017 speakers includes:

Just Announced: Fred Lawrence, our newly appointed Secretary of the PBK Society, will be speaking at Asilomar '17 on Sunday morning, February 12 More here

Anja ManuelDr. Anja Manuel, International Policy Studies, Stanford, Friday evening
India and China: The New Superpowers

n the next decade and a half, China and India will become two of the world’s indispensable powers—whether they rise peacefully or not. During that time, Asia will surpass the combined strength of North America and Europe in economic might, population size, and military spending. India and China will have vetoes over many international decisions, from climate change to global trade, human rights, and business standards.

From her front row view of this colossal shift, first at the State Department and now as an advisor to business leaders and as a lecturer at Stanford University, Anja Manuel takes us on an intimate tour of the corridors of power in Delhi and Beijing. We wring our hands about China, Manuel writes, while we underestimate India, which will be the most important country outside the West to shape China’s rise. Manuel shows us a different path: We can bring China and India along as partners rather than alienating one or both, and thus extend our own leadership in the world.

Lisa BradfordLisa Maldonado Bradford, Asilomar, Saturday morning
The Remarkable Women of Asilomar

Asilomar is an unusual state park – a mile of ocean front trail, a sandy State Beach, a 25-acre Natural Dunes Preserve, and a busy conference venue – approximately 107 acres in all. But even more, the site has played a key role in the evolution of many ideas that have shaped modern life, particularly the emergence of the women’s movement in California via the YWCA platform. This talk with accompanying PowerPoint, presented by Asilomar’s Cultural Resource specialist, offers a unique insight into the backgrounds of some of the notable women whose passion and commitment to the YWCA goals –  encouraging higher education for women and creating an environment of greater ethnic diversity –  have left an enduring mark on Asilomar from its inception in 1913 to the great resource we treasure today.


Molly KingMolly King Ph.D. candidate, Stanford, Saturday afternoon
Who Owns Knowledge? Information Inequalities by Class, Gender and Race

What do people know, and how do class, gender, and race affect that knowledge?  In this talk, we will explore demographic differences across all domains of knowledge (from health to religion, sports to history) and the implications of these inequalities for people's lives. For example, do women know more than men, or does the upper class know more the middle class? We’ll also look at whether there are certain domains in which the usual group hierarchies are subverted: Is the upper class, for example, omnivorous in the sense that it knows everything about everything, or is its knowledge restricted to certain specialized domains? In our modern information economy, inequalities in this “information capital” between groups are more critical than ever to individual outcomes.

A Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Stanford, Molly is a 2016 ΦBK-NCA Scholarship awardee.

Penelope BostonDr. Penelope Boston, NASA Ames, Saturday evening
The Astrobiology of the Subsurface:
Exploring Cave Habitats on Earth, Mars and Beyond

We are using the spectacular underground landscapes of Earth caves as models for the subsurfaces of other planets. Caves have been detected on the Moon and Mars and are strongly suspected for other bodies in the Solar System including some of the ice covered Ocean Worlds that orbit gas giant planets. The caves we explore and study include many extreme conditions of relevance to planetary astrobiology exploration including high and low temperatures, gas atmospheres poisonous to humans but where exotic microbes can fluorish, highly acidic or salty fluids, heavy metals, and high background radiation levels.

Some cave microorganisms eat their way through bedrock, some live in battery acid conditions, some produce unusual biominerals and rare cave formations, and many produce compounds of potential pharmaceutical and industrial significance. We study these unique lifeforms and the physical and chemical biosignatures that they leave behind. Such traces can be used to provide a “Field Guide to Unknown Organisms” for developing life detection space missions.

In 2015, Penny served as a national Visiting Scholar for the PBK Society, and as a guest speaker for the Denver Triennial – where she was truly a star!  Spend a weekend at Asilomar, and find out why 

Fred LawrenceDr. Frederick M. Lawrence Yale University School of Law,. Sunday morning
The Contours of Expression: Free Speech and Civility

Across the country, conflicting claims of free expression, civility, and safety raise complex issues on campuses, in communities, and throughout social media. How do we balance opposing values to enable free expression, yet foster a climate of mutual respect and a sense of personal safety in our discourse on important topics? Drawing on his scholar’s expertise on free expression and hate crimes, as well as his new role as Secretary of The Phi Beta Kappa Society, Fred Lawrence will explore the social aspects of “vigorous civility” as a solution to the challenges of determining proper boundaries of free expression, and the importance of an arts and sciences perspective in facing societal issues.

In addition to his role with ΦBK, Dr. Lawrence is also a Visiting Professor of Law and Senior Research Scholar at Yale Law School. 

Ed GreenDr. Richard (Ed) Green, U.C Santa Cruz, Sunday afternoon
Recent human evolution as revealed by Neanderthals

As Co-Director of the Paleogenomics Lab at UCSC – a role he shares with his wife, Dr. Beth Shapiro – Ed Green conducts research in genomics, computational molecular biology, human evolutionary genetics, ancient DNA, gene splicing and more.  In this talk he explores the implications of recent study of Neanderthal fossils – the best record of our closest extinct human relatives.

Elan PorterElan Portner, Ph.D. candidate Stanford, Sunday evening,
Open ocean food webs: how we study the largest habitat on Earth

The open ocean contains over 95% of the habitable space on our planet and is utilized by the most abundant organisms on the planet, many of which undergo the largest known migrations. Its expansiveness, and the fact that most of this habitat lies far beneath the ocean's surface, make it a particularly difficult system to study – but also make the potential for discovery immense. Scientists use nets, cameras, sound, and surprising assistants to learn about how organisms in these habitats interact and how they respond to natural and anthropogenic pressures. Dive in to an interactive seminar and get introduced to the hidden wonders of the open ocean.

A student of ocean ecosystems at Stanford University, Portner is a 2016 ΦBK-NCA scholarship awardee.

Stephen Palumbi Stephen Palumbi, Stanford Woods Institute, Monday morning

A senior fellow with the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, Palumbi studies the genetics, evolution, conservation, population biology and systematics of a diverse array of marine organisms. In particular, he is focused on the use of molecular genetic techniques in conservation, including the identification of whale and dolphin products offered in commercial markets. This talk will explore issues raised in his recent book, The Evolution Explosion: How Humans Cause Rapid Evolutionary Change, which shows how rapid evolution is central to emerging problems in modern society – and to efforts to resolve them.

Sign Up for 2017 Now!

Asilomar Chair, Deirdre Frontczak

From the President

Mary GillilandAs the holiday season again fills our lives with remembrances of the year past and hopes for the year to come, I wish each of you joy in your celebrations and happiness in 2017. ΦBK-NCA is fortunate to count you as a member of our organization.

November was the start of membership renewal season for ΦBK-NCA, so please remit your membership contribution via PayPal using your own PayPal account or credit card at, and save a stamp and a few trees. Or you may use the enclosed remittance envelope. Our membership year is January-December, so if you paid at ANY time through September 2016, your renewal is due now. Many thanks for supporting ΦBK-NCA. For your information: only members who pay their dues for the 2017 year will be included in our triennial directory!

If you are a 2016 inductee from one of the eight Northern California colleges which have a Phi Beta Kappa chapter – Mills College, Santa Clara University, San Francisco State University, Stanford University, the Universities of California at Berkeley, Davis, and Santa Cruz, and the University of the Pacific - you receive a free membership for a year and won’t need to renew until November 2017.

Every membership contribution is totally tax-deductible. Your generosity enables us to fund Graduate Student scholarships and Teaching Excellence awards, to be presented at our Annual Dinner in May 7, 2017. We do NOT receive any funds from the Phi Beta Kappa Society in Washington, D.C., and a donation to them does not confer membership in our Association.

As an active (dues-paying or first-year-free) member, you'll be able to enjoy monthly activities in various sites around the Bay Area. First Vice President – Programs, Judy Hardardt, has a wonderful array of excursions, museums, and behind-the-scenes visits planned. You'll meet other ΦBK-PCA members and discover hidden treasures in our own backyard. Join us the weekend BEFORE Presidents' Weekend (10-13 February 2017) at the beautiful Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove for our annual retreat weekend. Deirdre Frontczak has rounded up an amazing panoply of speakers to educate and entertain us. Information about signing up for activities, and their costs, may be found in this newsletter and on our website:

We also are recruiting volunteers for various Board positions. If you are interested in giving of your time to our Association, please contact a member of the Nominating Committee or myself. Time commitments can be as little as one day (Audit Committee, being host at an activity) to as many hours as you are able to give. All positions are rewarding and all volunteers are appreciated. It’s an opportunity to meet other dedicated members and to learn how this fine organization operates.

I look forward to meeting you at one of our activities, so I may thank you in person for supporting our Association. Our loyal members are what make ΦBK-NCA a superb organization. Thank you for your generosity.

Mary Turner Gilliland, President

Get the Newsletter Online and Save the Association Money

If you are receiving a hardcopy newsletter, why don’t you join the six hundred and twenty-five current members who have elected to receive the online newsletter? In 2016 we spent nearly $3,000 mailing hardcopy newsletters – that is nearly one-half of a scholarship! We send you an email with clickable links to the newsletter, in color, in mobile-optimized or PDF format for desktop or printing about two weeks before the hardcopy would have appeared in your mailbox. You can download and print it if you like reading hardcopy, you can store it on your computer for future reference, or you can read it online in color. Think about it – our potential scholarship recipients will really appreciate it! And you will be saving trees. Just check the box on your membership form, or send an email to, and we will add you to the list.

Ray Hendess, Communications Officer

Nominations for the Teaching Excellence award for Spring 2017 are being accepted now

The nomination form is available on the web at It can be filled out online (preferred) or a copy can be printed and mailed. You probably have had teachers who influenced your academic career; reward them with a nomination for our Teaching Excellence Award. Deadline Nov. 10.

Narcinda Lerner, Teaching Excellence Chair

Upcoming Events

Be sure to read this important information about our enrollment, refund and cancell­ation policies.  Most events can accommodate you and any friends or family you'd like to bring along. Occasionally an event will have a limited enrollment, in which case we may not be able to accommodate more than one member and one guest per enrollment. As for refunds, if you call in advance they may be avail­able unless ΦBK-NCA will lose scholarship money – that is, unless we are financially committed, based on your enrollment, to an organization at which the event will be held. If we can find someone to fill your space we may be able to refund your payment, but that is not always possible. Members who do not come to an event for which they have registered will not receive a refund. The ΦBK-NCA Board is most grateful to those who prefer to donate the program fee to the scholarship program in lieu of a refund. You will not receive written confirmation of your reservation for the events. Directions are available from the event websites,, your GPS, or on the day of the event by calling Judy at (707) 696-9498.
Judy Hardardt, First Vice-President, Programs

Friday, October 21, 2016
 Point Lobos Walking Tour.

Sunday, December 4th, 2016
Teatro Campesino, San Juan Bautista.

MOMAVisit to SF MOMA Saturday, January 14, 2017. Deadline December 21

Come and join us for a one-hour private tour of the new SF MOMA by a professional art historian. (The SF MOMA has recently reopened after a 3-year expansion and remodeling.) We will explore the highlights of the SF MOMA Permanent Collection, which includes painting, sculpture and works on paper from 1900 to the present. We will learn about the geographical centers and artistic trends that helped shape Modern Art. Notable works include Henri Matisse’s Femme au chapeau (Woman with a Hat), 1905; Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917/1964); and Mark Rothko’s No. 14 from 1960.

Cost:                $35 includes tour and entrance fee. For SF MOMA members the cost would be $20.
When:              Saturday, January 14, 2017 at 10:30 a.m.
Deadline:         December 21, 2016
Location:         151 Third Street, San Francisco, CA  94103

Get the coupon to register

From BART:
The museum is in walking distance from BART. The closest station is Montgomery. After exiting BART, head Southwest on Market St, turn left on 3rd Street.

Spirit WesternThe Spirit of the Old West – at The Blackhawk Museum, Saturday, March 18, 2017. Deadline: March 1, 2017

“You come here to tell us lies, but we don’t want to hear them.”  Sitting Bull

We return to the Blackhawk Museum in Danville for a very special Docent-led tour of Kenneth Behring’s collection of Western Memorabilia.  The collection started when Behring was only 12 years old and found an arrowhead at his home in Pennsylvania.  He eventually made his way “out west” as an adult, discovering in Cody, Wyoming a collection that more than seeded what now comprises over 9000 pieces.  This is a very special exhibit at a very special museum; after the tour, consider having lunch (not included in cost) as you can return to the museum afterward – our admission covers the entire day’s visit, not just the Behring exhibit.

Get the coupon to register.

Date:               Saturday, March 18, 2017
Time:               11:00 a.m. (plan to arrive no later than 10:45 am for check-in)
Minimum:        12
Maximum:       none
Deadline:         March 1, 2017
Fee:                 $13.00 per person
Directions:       From I-680 to Crow Canyon Road exit. Go east (right) on Crow Canyon Road 4.2 miles. Turn right on Camino Tassajara. The first left (at the Century Blackhawk Plaza Theater) is the entrance to Blackhawk Plaza. The second right takes you into the closest parking area. The Museum is on the hill behind the Anthropologie Building.


ΦBK Board July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017

Mary Turner Gilliland, President
Menlo Park, (650) 321-9966,
Judy Hardardt, First Vice President – Programs
Davis, cell (707) 696-9498,
Joanne Sandstrom, Second Vice President – Scholarships
Oakland, (510) 339-1352,
Patricia Kenber, Third Vice President – Membership
Danville, (925) 838-2296,
Duncan Missimer, Treasurer
Mountain View, (408) 368-0835,
Stacey Croll, Recording Secretary
San Ramon, (925) 355-1771,
Susan Jenkins, Corresponding Secretary
San Jose, (408) 532-6550,
Deirdre Frontczak, Asilomar Chair
Santa Rosa, (707) 546-4238,
Amanda Sanyal, Co-Chapter Liaison
Campbell, (650) 520-5419,
Luke Yancy, Jr., Co-Chapter Liaison
East Palo Alto, (248) 227-4762,
Ray Hendess, Communications Officer
Petaluma, (707) 763-2072,
Narcinda Lerner, Teaching Excellence Chair
Woodside, (650) 851-0137,

We passed Audit in September. Information is available here:

Duncan Missimer, Treasurer