Oct. 20, 2005 • Volume 14 Number 4

Balkema Award winner Melanie McNally flanked by Deluca Professor Marc Muskavitch and Marilee P. Ogren-Balkema, wife of the late Grant Balkema.

Around Campus

Worthy honor

The Biology Department has selected Melanie McNally '06 as the inaugural recipient of an award named in honor of the late Assoc. Prof. Grant Balkema.

Balkema, who had taught for 17 years at Boston College and was graduate program director in Biology, died at his Higgins Hall office in November 2004.

The award, which will recognize excellence in undergraduate research - a field to which Balkema was devoted - was presented to McNally during Parents' Weekend.

"Melanie's independence, dedication, persistence in the face of impediments, and success in pursuing answers reflect the traits of a student dedicated to discovery and driven by curiosity about the biological world," said Biology Department chairman Deluca Professor Marc Muskavitch.

"As a student for whom research is clearly 'in the blood,' Melanie is exactly the type of student we want to recognize with the honor of the Balkema Undergraduate Research Award," he said.

The award carries a one-year membership in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, although Muskavitch said the department hopes to raise money so it can offer a more substantial prize to future winners.

Colleagues said Balkema, a leading researcher in the field of retinal neurobiology, had a passion not only for making discoveries but also for sharing them.

"That's one of the prime qualities that made him such a good scientist, and such a committed and inspiring teacher," said Prof. Anthony Annunziato.

"His influence within the department, and on the hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students he touched, is, without exaggeration, inestimable," he added.

McNally's research has focused on the pathology of Sandhoff's Disease, a disorder similar to Tay Sach's that leads to an accumulation of fatty material in the brain cells of children. No cure has been found for Sandhoff's, which, in its most common form, leads to death by 2 to 4 years of age.

Earlier this spring, McNally won a prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, one of only 320 awarded nationally for the 2005-2006 academic year.


Words and music

The word "interdisciplinary" is much in vogue on American college campuses these days, and at BC, crossing departmental lines has become a common practice for Prof. Thomas Oboe Lee (Music), who has worked with colleagues in two other departments on a pair of musical works premiering this month.

A text written centuries ago by a medieval mystic serves as the basis for a musical collaboration between Lee and Prof. Michael Resler (German Studies) that will have its world premiere on Oct. 29 at a concert in New York organized by the Foundation for Universal Sacred Music.

Lee has composed a cantata using excerpts from a text by Mechtild von Magdeburg written in an earlier form of German from the Middle Ages known as Middle High German. The ancient language happens to be one of Resler's specialties, and he agreed to translate the text into English and assist with pronunciation.

"It's fun to cross disciplines in this way," Lee says of his work with Resler. "It's completely different, and I've gotten to know a really nice colleague a lot better."

Resler says the term "ravings" would not be out of place in describing the text by the 13th century mystic, who spoke candidly about her love affair with God.

"It's very strange stuff - very beautiful in many ways, but very strange stuff," Resler says, who looks forward to hearing the work premiered at the New York Society for Ethical Culture in Manhattan.

Lee's other musical collaboration involved a project with Prof. Elizabeth Kirschner (English) that had its American premiere Oct. 14 at St. Paul's Church in Brookline. The song cycle, "Dichterliebe In Four Seasons," featured a rendering of poetry by Kirschner set to the music of Robert Schumann. Guided by Lee, the song cycle was sung by soprano Jean Danton with accompaniment by pianist Thomas Stumpf.


(Left) Pianist Micheal O Suilleabhain joined some of the featured performers in last Sunday's "Women in Music" event in Gasson 100 for a grand finale. O Suilleabhain was honored at the event for his role in bringing Irish and other Gaelic music to Boston College. Also appearing at the concert were the Keili Kids (right), a group of young musicians and dancers from Florida. (Photos by Justin Knight)

On land and sea

The 2005-06 season was arguably the most anticipated in Boston College athletics history, especially given the University's entry into the Athletic Coast Conference, and there's been little reason for disappointment.

One recent highlight was last week's night game at the Newton Campus Field pitting the BC women's soccer team against perennial power University of North Carolina, which boasts 17 national titles.

After weeks of build-up, game day turned out cloudy, cool and damp. So what happened? A record-breaking crowd of some 2,200 turned out - and about 1,000 other soccer aficionados were turned away - to watch the Eagles lost a hard-fought 4-1 game to the Tar Heels.

Except for the final score, BC administrators were certainly pleased with the event. But perhaps the best endorsement came from the opposition: "This reminded me of the games we used to play in the 1970s and '80s up here with everyone standing around the field," UNC coach Anson Dorrance told the Boston Globe. "We are going to big stadiums, but they lack intimacy, and I liked to be able to come back to this type of atmosphere."

Another athletic highlight: The BC co-ed sailing ranked No. 1 in last week's Sailing World poll, the first time in program history the Eagles earned the nation's top spot.

Preparing for a series of competitions this past weekend, sailing coach Greg Wilkerson said, "We're excited to be doing so well with such a young team. I've been impressed by the fact that the sailors seem to have this in perspective. As excited as they are, they're already focused on the work it will take to stay number 1."


Art of the world

For more than a year, an international art project directed by part-time faculty member Mary Sherman (Fine Arts) has been literally making its way around the world, and last week touched down in Boston, its home base.

On Oct. 11, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino joined Sherman, Boston school officials, parents and students - as well as diplomatic and trade representatives of France, Finland, Romania and Taiwan - in dedicating a new playground for the Pauline A. Shaw School in Dorchester. The playground's centerpiece are tiles donated by more than 100 artists from around the globe as part of "The Tile Project, Destination: The World," an initiative undertaken by the TransCultural Exchange, of which Sherman is founder and executive director.

The TransCultural Exchange is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting international art and the understanding of world cultures, through art exhibitions, cultural exchanges and educational programs. It has received awards from the International Art Critics Association and support from such world organizations as UNESCO, the State Department's Art in Embassies Program and the Asian Cultural Council, among others.

Students at the Pauline Shaw School write essays on a series of tiles installed at the school's new playground, as part of a project directed by BC faculty member Mary Sherman.

On land and sea

"The Tile Project" is one of the organization's most ambitious efforts. Begun in 2004, the project has recruited more than 100 artists to each create 22 tiles that will be installed during a two-year period in 22 sites around the globe, including Boston, Berlin, New York City, Sarajevo and Seoul.

"This installation is very special to me because it is at TransCultural Exchange's home base, and I have been working with this site for close to two years now" said Sherman, who recruited some current and former BC students to paint the playground graphics as a cost-saving measure for the school. "At the opening ceremony, the students greeted each of the international guests - the visiting artist and international consulates - in their native language. I believe everyone was touched.

"It was a very moving experience to see the world come together - at least, for one instance - that day."

Pictures of the tiles are available through the Shaw School Web site. For more information on the TransCultural Exchange, see


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