November 2003 Newsletter
Dear Fellow Phi Betes:
The Phi Beta Kappa Northern California Association's membership year runs from January-December. All current memberships will expire on December 31, 2003. This November newsletter is the Northern California Association's notice to its 2003 members to renew your membership for 2004. Lapsed members and other Phi Betes now living in Northern California are also encouraged to join.
Membership in our Association is an opportunity to fund scholarships and teaching excellence awards, meet new people, attend fun, intellectually stimulating programs, and enjoy the prestige of an award winning organization. At the Phi Beta Kappa Society Triennial held in Seattle last August, PBK NCA was recognized as the most outstanding association of those with memberships over 300. A copy of the award is on this web site and more information can be found on page 5 in the current (Fall 2003) issue of National's newsletter, The Key Reporter. We won this award because of the quality and variety of programs we offer our members and because, through your generosity, we are leaders in providing scholarships and teaching excellence recognition awards.
Membership contributions and participation in our programs are at the root of our success. Therefore, we can remain an outstanding association only if our members continue to pay their dues, contribute to our scholarship fund and participate in our fundraising activities.
Because we have no paid employees, most of your $25 membership fee and other contributions will contribute directly to our scholarship fund and teaching excellence awards, so every membership is significant. So that you can get a sense of the outstanding talents of the people PBK NCA assisted or honored by the awards you have funded, this newsletter provide brief profiles of our 2003 Scholarship recipients, and also profiles of our Teaching Excellence award winners.
Membership in our Northern California Association also offers the opportunity to meet new people and participate in enjoyable and educational activities. Consider signing up for our always delightful Asilomar Conference or one of our special events. I think that you will find, as I have, that those you meet at our events tend to share the traits of "lifelong learners" - i.e., talented people with eclectic interests, who are intellectually curious and love to ask questions and learn something new. We also have a "Young Phi Betes" group for those under age 40. If you want more information about the benefits of joining the Northern California Association, browse through this website.
Please join PBK NCA in 2004 by sending in the membership application envelope enclosed with your newsletter, or contact us by email. After participating in some of our activities and making the acquaintance of some of your fascinating fellow Phi Betes, I truly believe that you will be happy that you joined!
Person making a reservation MUST BE a Phi Beta Kappa Member, but need not be a member of the Northern California Association.
Thanks to all those who signed up for the programs listed in our September newsletter. Steve Kaufhold is now a partner at the law firm of Akin Gump in Los Angeles and will no longer be able to serve as First Vice President-Programs. I'm sure you join me in wishing him the best and thanking him for the great programs he organized last fall and this year. Although Jean James and I managed to put together the winter and early spring programs you will find listed in this issue, we would be delighted if someone were to step forward to serve as Program Chair for the remainder of the year. Even the offer to host a late spring or summer program or a referral to someone who could offer us a unique tour or program opportunity would be welcome. For now, however, we hope you will be intrigued by, and sign-up, for the programs offered in this newsletter. Be sure to sort your coupons before sending them in so that Jean gets the ones for her events and I get the ones for the events I am hosting.
Here is a reminder 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 can only accommodate one member and one guest per enrollment. As for refunds, if you call in advance they are usually available unless PBK NCA will lose scholarship money - that is unless we are financially committed to an organization at which the event will be held, based on your enrollment, and we cannot find someone to fill your space. Anyone who is a "no-show" will not receive a refund and the PBK NCA Board is most grateful to those who prefer to donate the program fee to the scholarship program in lieu of a refund.
The descriptions of events follow. No confirmations or additional details will be sent; be sure to save your newsletter or reference to this web site.
San Francisco Christmas Walk
Do you think of Christmas decorations in San Francisco as Macy's windows and Union Square? Are you suburban types longing for an adventure? Then you are in for a treat. Please plan to join us for a guided tour of the San Francisco holiday scene you have probably never before experienced. Tom Filcich, who regularly leads walking tours of San Francisco for the College of Marin, will be our guide to places most of us never see - at least not during the holidays. We plan to meet under the clock tower at the Ferry Building at 10 a.m. During our three-hour walking tour, we will explore the new Ferry Building, visit hotel lobbies, and see business decorations that you never dreamed existed. We will end our tour with lunch, at your own expense, at the San Francisco center, which offers a variety of choices and prices - not to mention shopping opportunities. After that, you are on your own to shop or return home at your leisure. The cost is $18 per person and our group is limited to 30 people. Dust off your comfortable walking shoes and plan to join us on Friday, December 5, 2003 for a holiday experience you will not soon forget.
Date: Friday, December 5, 2003
Time: 10:00 am
Deadline: November 3, 2003 (limited to 30 participants)
Price: $18.00 per person
Directions: Ferry Building Clock Tower, Embarcadero at the foot of Market Street, San Francisco. The Ferry Building is best reached using public transportation. Marinites can take the 9:15 Larkspur Ferry. Those with access to BART or MUNI can take either to the Embarcadero Station. The historic trolley cars (Line F Market) stop directly in front of the Ferry Building. If you must drive, there are parking lots at the north end of the Ferry Building at Pier ½ and the Pier 3 Washington at Embarcadero Lot. There is limited metered parking on area surface streets. There is also a reasonably priced parking lot at Bay and Embarcadero near Pier 33 but you will have a bit of a hike to the Ferry Building.
The Bay Area community is very fortunate that Stanford University graciously opens one of its greatest treasures, the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts to the public. The Cantor Center owns and exhibits some remarkable pieces of art from several continents and cultures but it is best known for its superb Auguste Rodin indoor galleries and outdoor sculpture garden. Stanford, in fact, owns the largest group of Rodin sculptures outside of the Musee Rodin in Paris. A private 65-minute guided tour of the indoor and outdoor Rodin collections has been arranged for us. You can expect to come away with a greater knowledge of Rodin's life and times and his legacy to the art of sculpture. After our private tour of the Rodin galleries, you have the option of taking a free 2 PM public tour of a special exhibition at the Cantor Arts Center that is on loan only through January 18th. This exhibition titled, "Hudson River School: Masterworks from the Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art", features a selection of 55 paintings by some of the world's foremost painters of the Hudson River School, artists who painted magnificent scenes of America's untamed wilderness. Among the painters represented in this exhibition are Thomas Cole, Albert Bierstadt and Frederic Church. Other options include lunching on a gourmet salad or sandwich at the Museum's 'Cool Café', checking out the Museum's delightful gift shop and bookstore, or just wandering the campus where one can't go far without admiring a lovely building or spying an intriguing piece of public art.
Date: January 11, 2004
Deadline: January 2, 2004 (limited to 30 participants)
Time: Gather at 12:30 p.m. so tour can start promptly at
(Cool Café is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
Directions: Stanford University, Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, 328 Lomita Drive at Museum Way, Palo Alto. From the East Bay: Take the San Mateo Bridge, then go south on US 101. From either the North or South: Take US 101, then take the Embarcadero West/Stanford University exit. Go for about 3.5 miles on Embarcadero. Continue on as the road changes its name to Galvez. Turn right at Campus Drive, left at Palm Drive and right on Museum Way. The Museum's parking lots are free on weekends.
Participants at our Asilomar Conference this year will have the pleasure of seeing a one-man show on Eugene O'Neill performed by actor/scholar Kurt Gravenhorst. Visiting the Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site would make a perfect follow-up to that program. O'Neill, winner of four Pulitzer Prizes, and the only Nobel Prize-winning playwright from the United States, lived at Tao House in the hills above Danville from 1937 to 1944. O'Neill's interest in Eastern thought and his wife Carlotta's passion for Asian art and décor inspired the name Tao House. It was at this site that he wrote his final and most successful plays: "The Iceman Cometh"; "Long Days Journey into Night", and "A Moon for the Misbegotten". At this 13-acre site, the National Park Service has been restoring and preserving Tao House, plus its courtyard and orchards, and telling the story of O'Neill, his work and his influence on American theater.
Access to the property is limited. Visitors who are part of a pre-arranged tour group are transported to this Historic Site by Park Service mini-bus from a Park & Ride Lot in Danville. So, here is a rare opportunity for a 3-½ hour visit to the Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site. The visit will include a guided tour of Tao House, a self-guided walk around the grounds, a chance to shop at the bookstore featuring writings by and about O'Neill, and time to socialize over a picnic lunch with your fellow Phi Betes. Bring along your own beverage and bag or box lunch since food is not sold on the property.
Date: Saturday, March 6, 2004
Time: 10:00 AM
Deadline: February 17, 2004 (Limited to 28 people)
Directions: Sycamore Valley Road Park & Ride Lot, Danville From any direction, take the best route to Interstate 680. From 680, exit at Sycamore Valley Road, go east (towards Mt. Diablo). At the first traffic light after the 680 entrances and exits, turn left into the Park & Ride Lot (the right turn is Camino Ramon - don't go that way, make sure you turn left at the light). In the parking lot, look for the brown Park Service sign where people first park on the right hand side. That's where the Park Service van will meet our group. You will be returned to the Park & Ride Lot about 1:30 PM.
About the Asilomar Conference Center
Asilomar was designed by Julia Morgan, who also designed Hearst Castle
Read more about Julia Morgan
Note that our Asilomar Conference now has a special URL www.asilomar.pbknca.org
*** We had a wonderful time in 2003. Read more about the event...
The 2003 recipients are:
Jorge Jose Bravo III, History and Archaeology, UC Berkeley
Jorge Jose was graduated from Princeton with highest honors in Classics. He is pursuing his Ph.D. at Berkeley in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology, fields in which, his mentors tell us, he has already made important discoveries. His dissertation focuses on the hero shrine of Opheltes of Nemea and the light it throws on hero cults in ancient Greece. One of his teachers at Berkeley writes, "I have never come across a student whose work is so uniformly stellar".
Arianne J. Chernock, History, UC Berkeley
Arianne is a magna cum laude graduate of Brown University. A historian, she is finishing her dissertation on "Men and the Rights of Women: British Political Culture and the Origins of Modern Feminism, 1780-1825", demonstrating that there was a network of men in this period who felt it was their moral obligation to promote egalitarianism. A lively and graceful writer, she has published more than half a dozen book reviews in Lingua Franca, the Times Literary Supplement, and the New York Times Book Review.
Hsuan Lin Hsu, English, UC Berkeley
Hsuan Lin Hsu is a summa cum laude graduate of Harvard University. He is a graduate student in English language and literature, but his dissertation and other writings seem to focus on the nexus of literature and cultural history. The dissertation is entitled "Scales of Identification: Geography, Affect, and U.S. Literature, 1803-1908". He has already published eight articles and chapters for scholarly journals and university press books.
Elaine K. Musgrave, English, UC Davis
(Norall Family Scholarship in Memory of Cordie and Max McLain)
Elaine graduated summa cum laude with a double major in English and Music from Scripps College in Claremont, California. As a graduate student in English, she is focusing on Victorian literature in its cultural context; her dissertation is entitled "'Shadowing Out' Colonial Violence: Englishness, Masculinity, and Traces of the 1867 Indian Uprising in the Cultural Imagination." She finds that allusions to the Uprising were frequently used to revive the notion of a coherent English national identity, a concept brought into question by the dispersal of English people and other British citizens around the globe.
Eric Schnell, Neuroscience, UC San Francisco
Moved by the mental deterioration of a beloved grandmother, Eric concentrated on psychobiology as an undergraduate at Harvard, graduating summa cum laude. The goal of his research, as a student in the MD-PhD. program at UCSF, is to understand the biological basis of memory formation and to develop new therapies for disorders of learning and memory. After Harvard, he studied pharmacology at Cambridge University for two years, winning a prize for his research on neuronal potassium channels. He has coauthored eleven articles in scientific journals, and will be entering a neurology residency in fall 2003.
Shelby Wynn Schwartz, Comparative Literature, UC Berkeley
Shelby graduated from Berkeley with Highest distinction in general scholarship. In her dissertation for the Comparative Literature department, she weaves the threads of historical scholarship and manuscript research she has conducted to close readings of medieval poetry, particularly the work of a 13th-century Tuscan poet, Cecco Angiolieri. One of her letter-writers praises her "marvelously personal approach" to what might seem to be dauntingly esoteric material. Another describes her as "likely the very best student" he has seen in nearly forty years of teaching.
Kevin Chun-Kai Wang, Neurobiology, UC San Francisco
Kevin majored in biological sciences at Stanford University, where he was elected to PBK in his junior year. A native of Taiwan, he enjoyed the opportunities for creativity that American schools offered. At Stanford he was drawn to developmental biology, did two years of graduate research at Harvard, then a year at Cambridge as a Fulbright Scholar, and is now completing medical school. His main research interests center on degenerative diseases of and injuries to the central nervous system, and he has been coauthor of more than a dozen scientific articles.
Boris Yanislav Wolfson, Slavic Language and Literature, UC Berkeley
Boris was born in Yalta and emigrated to the United States as a teenager. He graduated with general honors from the University of Chicago, majoring in 'Fundamentals: Issues and Texts'. His dissertation, 'Staging the Soviet Self: Literature, Theater, and Stalinist Culture, 1929-1939," investigates the genesis of the new, specifically Soviet, concept of the self in the decade in which Stalinist culture took shape. His erudition, we are told, is astounding, and his breadth of vision is rare among specialists in Russian Literature.
Professor Aiken, a full professor at UC Berkeley, received his BS in Music & Computer Science from Bowling Green State University and his MS and Ph.D. in Computer Science from Cornell. His research is primarily on the construction of reliable software. His nominator wrote: "Professor Aiken presents a balanced and lucid approach to practical computer science with strong emphasis on current industry practice and academic research while illuminating the theoretical underpinnings. It is very rare to find someone who can tie together theory and actual practice, and show how each is dependent on the other".
Professor Conkey is the Director of the Archaeological Research Facility affiliated with UC Berkeley. She received her BA from Mt. Holyoke College in Ancient History & Art, and received her MA and Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Chicago. In 1996 she was awarded a "Doctor of Humane Letters" degree from Mt. Holyoke College. Two students nominated Professor Conkey. One of them wrote: "Professor Conkey possesses a rare and infectious excitement and dedication towards not only the subjects she teaches but also for the process of teaching. Her pedagogical approaches are innovative, well-crafted and very clearly of vital importance to her broader intellectual commitments". This is the second time Professor Conkey received a PBK NCA Teaching Excellence Award, a rare honor.
Professor Gronert received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from UC Berkeley. A student wrote: "I never imagined that Organic Chemistry could be so much fun, but Dr. Gronert, a PBK member himself, has definitely transformed this difficult subject into something clear and easy to understand. The last day of class, all of his 150 students gave him a standing ovation".
Caroline Kane, Adjunct Professor, Department of Molecular & Cellular Biology, UC Berkeley
Professor Kane received her BS from Ohio University, her MS from North Carolina State and her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. A student wrote, "Caroline Kane influenced my undergraduate career at UC Berkeley more than any other individual because she truly believes in the principles she advocates and in the students she supports. She has dedicated her life to recognizing potential in other people and then doing everything she can to help them succeed". Professor Kane thanks students for recharging her intellectual and emotional batteries. Professor Kane has received a number of other awards including UC Berkeley's College of Letters and Sciences Awards for Distinguished Research Mentoring of Undergraduates.
A student wrote: "Professor Sweetser is a faculty member of world-class caliber. She has struck me with her amiability and obvious approachability. She was concerned that we walk away from the course with more than a grade-an ideal and perhaps even a passion." Professor Sweetser has commented that "Teaching happens best when the teacher has deep knowledge and genuine love of the material being taught, and can communicate that passion along with the material". Besides Linguistics, Professor Sweetser also takes delight in opportunities to teach Celtic Studies and Cognitive Science classes.
, Teaching Excellence Chair
Mary Hanel and Jean James, along with our Association Past President and outgoing Western District Chair Mel Shattuck, recently returned from four days of meetings and discussions in Seattle with Phi Beta Kappa chapter and association delegates from all over the United States. Mel Shattuck presided over a Western District meeting at which Mary Hanel served as Secretary. John Churchill, Secretary of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, made a special point to compliment Mel on his hard work for the Society and hopes to find ways to use Mel's myriad talents. (So do we!) Jean James was a panelist for a workshop on fundraising ideas for associations.
This gathering occurs every three years and is an opportunity to experience the politics and personalities affecting the Society's management, to vote for PBK Senators and to ratify Committee recommendations as to which additional colleges should be given the right to shelter a Phi Beta Kappa chapter. These newly approved chapters are Alfred University, Eckerd College, SUNY Geneseo, Roanoke College, St. Michael's College, University of San Diego, Texas A & M at College Station, and Valparaiso University.
Delegates constantly reminded us about how special our Association is, as we repeatedly encountered delegates who remarked: "Oh, your Society is so active. How do you do it?" We don't do it; it is our dedicated Board and our generous members who make us such an outstanding organization.
Representing PBK NCA as delegates to the Triennial Council was an honor to us both.
Attention new initiates and members under the age of 40! Here is another reason to renew your membership in PBK NCA. You are eligible to join the Young Phi Betes, a group that has its own email-list and has recently enjoyed such activities as lunch at Cliff House, dance lessons, fruit picking, wine tasting and barbecues. To find out how to get on the Young Phi Betes mailist, send an email to to sign up.