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Mel Watkins ’62
Elise DeRoo ’12
Kevin Rusch ’85
Krista Moser ’11
Mark Nozette ’71
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Assistant Dean for Multicultural Affairs, Director of International Services, Director of the ALANA Cultural Center
(photo by Andrew Daddio)
It doesn’t matter where you are from, it’s what you do while you are here.
For many international students, once they come to campus, their life is here, so we’ve developed an initiative providing support, like meals, mall trips, and other activities during breaks — about 45 students came to a Thanksgiving dinner that was put on by Gerry Nash, the chef from Theta Chi.
On working with students:
They keep you young and engaged in everything they do. The cultural center alone had 174 events last year, 90 percent of them put on by students. There can be 500 people there, but they know if I’m not there. It’s important to me to be true to them. I also get involved in intramural sports — basketball and baseball. I came to Colgate weighing about 250 pounds and, four years later, I’m 207 pounds!
I had the opportunity to go to Japan last summer, and that was something completely out of my comfort zone. I want to be sure I am not catering to one particular group, but am reaching out and being diverse in what I’m doing and how I lead my life.
Roots of his work:
I wouldn’t be here if not for the access a college environment gave me. I’m a poor kid from Camden, N.J., a family of 11, where after high school, you went to work. College was never an aspiration for me until CHAMP [Creating Higher Aspirations and Motivations Project] — which gives 6th- to 12th-grade students math, science, and literature readiness and college tours — came around. I ended up at Muhlenberg College. I didn’t feel I fit into the eliteness of college from a socioeconomic perspective. What helped me was starting a group, Kid’s Council, that was similar to CHAMP. Those students helped me while I was helping them; they gave me a niche to fit into. That helped develop my character, finish college — and also gave me a job.
Path to Colgate:
I started working in sales for First Union National Bank before becoming an academic counselor for CHAMP. I secured my master’s in higher ed administration at Rowan University, and then was executive director of Kean University’s Gear Up program.
On being three-time champion of the campus tailgate barbecue competition:
This year, I won with some scalloped clams, but my signature dish is my ribs — it’s a secret marinade that I can’t share and traditional Goya seasonings. Cooking has kept my family together through the hardest of times, so being able to do that for other people is fun.
My fiancée, Rria Castillo, teaches sixth grade at Hamilton Central. She’s Dominican and I’m Puerto Rican, so we’ll get married in the Dominican Republic and honeymoon in Puerto Rico.
Tunes of choice:
I’m going to date myself: I grew up when MTV first started showing videos. In my car’s CD changer, I have Bon Jovi’s
Wu Tang Clan, and John Legend.
Mel Watkins ’62
NEH Professor of the Humanities, Department of English
(photo by Andrew Daddio)
When Richard Pryor died in 2005, after having revolutionized stand-up comedy with poignant yet profanity-laced examinations of race, The New York Times turned to a former employee to write his obituary: Mel Watkins ’62.
Pryor had been a catalyst for Watkins’s interest in African-American humor and how it reflected and shaped society. Watkins explored that topic in his seminal book
On the Real Side: Laughing, Lying and Signifying — The Underground Tradition of African-American Humor That Transformed American Culture
. That book, published in 1994, would solidify his research interest and transform him into a sought-after commentator on the subject of black humor for media outlets and academic conferences.
Watkins spent more than 20 years at the
, where he became the first African-American editor at the Sunday Book Review after having started at the paper as a copy boy. The Book Review section was a major focal point for literary life in New York City in the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, and Watkins was in the middle of it.
“Some people talked about a new black renaissance in writing at this point. You had a number of young writers coming along who were trying new things, who were doing Afro-centric writing, using African-American folklore in their writing,” he said in discussing authors such as Toni Morrison, Ishmael Reed, and Alice Walker.
While at the
, Watkins won an Alicia Patterson Foundation grant to research the history of black humor, which laid the groundwork for
On the Real Side
. The Colgate alumnus, who now teaches at the university, uses the book in his course. It provides context about the social influences that forced black performers to put on blackface to perform in a minstrel show, led Lincoln Perry (aka Stepin Fetchit) to cultivate the shiftless character that would make him a movie star and occasional NAACP target, and resulted in the strange situation in which one of the most popular radio shows in U.S. history —
Amos ’n’ Andy
— featured two white men portraying African-Americans. “When white America wanted to find something out about black people, they turned to that show,” Watkins said of the radio program that ran from about 1928 to 1960.
Watkins continues to study the evolution of African-American humor and share that with his students. He enjoys being in front of the classroom where he used to sit as an undergraduate.
“In many cases, students don’t know why there is a Dave Chappelle or hip-hop or racial tension because they have grown up in a time when people think — assume — that everything is on an equal basis. I think the course helps them see it on a broader level.”
— Tim O’Keeffe
to watch Mel Watkins discuss the evolution of African-American humor and comedians such as Bert Williams, Stepin Fetchit, Redd Foxx, and Chris Rock in a wide-ranging interview for the Colgate Conversations podcast series. You also can go to the Colgate Conversations page for more download options.
Elise DeRoo ’12
(photo by Andrew Daddio)
– Hometown: Newtown, Conn.
– Major: molecular biology
You had a great season, having broken the Colgate record for the 6K, winning the Patriot League Championships both individually and as a team, and winning Patriot League Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year, as well as running in the National Championship race. Share your thoughts.
This season has been the most fun season thus far in my collegiate experience. There was great camaraderie between everyone on the team and an incredible teamwide commitment toward working harder in practice. My proudest accomplishment was winning Patriots as a team. The memory I have of that October morning is one that I will look back on for the rest of my life.
What are your goals for next season?
I’d love to consistently be in the 19-minute range for 6Ks.
Where are your favorite runs on campus?
My favorite run is a semi-hilly 10-miler known to everyone on the team as “Bonney Hill with extension.” The views you get about halfway through definitely make running the hills worth it!
Tell us some of your team memories.
I have a lot of silly and bizarre team memories: running around a bend on one of our workouts far away from campus, only to find a bunch of hens, geese, and other barnyard animals right in our path (we decided to hurdle them to keep on pace rather than stop and go around); when our team got caught in a freak hail/lightning storm on the trails in early fall last year; the time my teammate and I accidentally showed up in jeans to the only formal function at nationals.
Your Scholar-Athlete of the Year award noted your 3.9 GPA in molecular biology. How do you balance your running and your studies?
Running helps me manage my time that I dedicate to school work and also serves as a release for me, so I don’t see it as another job. Running makes me stay balanced. These are the two activities I’ve chosen to pursue in college, and I strive to do them to the best of my ability.
Do you have any good-luck rituals before competition?
I quadruple-knot my shoes because I have a somewhat-irrational fear of my spikes coming untied and losing a spike (or two!) during the race.
What’s your favorite song to run to?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Matt and Kim. I like to run to the songs “Don’t Slow Down” and “I’ll take us home.”
What’s one of your pastimes?
I enjoy cooking and baking. I try to cook something nice or bake something fun at least once every week.
— Kate Hicks ’11
Kevin Rusch ’85
– Alumni Council member since 2010; Real World; class gift committee; Presidents’ Club Membership Committee, Member in Perpetuity
– Maroon Citation 2010; Athletics Hall of Honor 2001 (still holds 100-yard butterfly record!)
– Portfolio manager, Mariner Silvermine Fund, Mariner Investment Group
What was your biggest Colgate moment as a student?
Breaking the 50-second barrier in the 100-yard butterfly at the state championships.
Why were you interested in serving on the Alumni Council?
I was drawn to, and now really enjoy, the ongoing interaction with students and sharing their experiences with other alumni.
You’re the nominations committee chair — describe the selection process for new members.
We’re given a list of 300-plus candidates who have been nominated by members of the Colgate community. Through conference calls, we chisel the list down to 8 to 15 candidates for each era and regional slot. Then, at the fall meeting on campus, we discuss the individuals in depth, and select a finalist for each slot. The recommended slate is announced in the winter Scene [at right], and unless the ballot is contested, these nominees will be ratified for the open positions.
What criteria or qualities are you are looking for?
We’re looking for engaged alumni who love Colgate, who volunteer their time, who give back financially. We look at their consistency, years, and type of service — whether it’s through district clubs, engaging students through the workforce, or philanthropy. We try to incorporate a cross-section of alumni not only based on their eras, but also from different walks of life and backgrounds.
What aspect of your job gets you up in the morning?
The daily excitement of trading. Much like on the athletic field, it’s about winning and losing, and that’s what really attracted me to it.
How does your family like to spend time together?
My wife, Dina, and I have four daughters: Tory, 17; Ali, 16; Maddie, 15; and Olivia, 13. They are all very involved athletically, but our favorite way to spend time together is going to Broadway shows.
Do you have any special talents?
I have a certain whistle that, when I need to get the attention of my girls in a loud place, they know it’s me. I just curl the tongue and let it rip.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I am a junkie for
Krista Moser ’11
Krista Moser ’11, on a Galapagos research cruise, waxing parts that were dropped to the sea floor to collect glass from broken rocks.
– Hometown: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
– Major: geology
– Becoming certified to teach in geology/earth science
– Basketball team, power forward, #50
Tell us about last summer’s research cruise to the Galapagos with Professor Karen Harpp after taking the Galapagos Seminar: Geology 321 Analytical Methods.
On the cruise we were mapping the sea floor to look at the interaction between the mantle plume and mid-oceanic ridge, in order to gain a better understanding of how the islands and seamounts are formed. We collected rocks off the bottom of the sea floor through dredging (dragging a large metal basket with teeth across the ocean floor). We are now analyzing these rock samples. As the trip progressed and we mapped more of the region, we began to look at the different trends and how they corresponded to what we learned in class. The scientists on the boat had different theories, so we had to decide for ourselves what made the most sense.
How are you furthering research from the cruise for your senior thesis?
I’m taking the imagery, which includes both bathymetry and sonar maps of the seamounts, and putting them into a program to make 3-D images so that high school students can see what the ocean floor looks like. Using the GPS coordinates from a tagged shark that swam paths around the area we mapped, I’m making a virtual 3-D fly-through as if you were the shark going over the ocean floor. We’re trying to see if the seamounts influence where the shark paths are, because seamounts are a good source of biodiversity, fish, and nutrients.
We heard you coordinated the blog for the trip.
Yes. I’m not what you would consider technologically savvy, so Professor Harpp wanted me to get more comfortable through the blog, especially because I am in the process of putting my project online and creating a website. It was fun — everyone participated and wrote on different days. It’s nice to have a scrapbook of what happened on the cruise.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Chocolate! Ask my coaches who comes into their office the most to get peanut butter–chocolate M&Ms.
What might people be surprised to learn about you?
I danced for eight years: tap, ballet, jazz, lyrical, and funky jazz. I still do a mean pirouette.
How do you recharge your batteries?
I either sleep — something I can never get enough of — or go for a run while blaring the greatest hits from the ’90s on my iPod.
— Aleta Mayne
Mark Nozette ’71, Colgate Trustee
– Board member since 2005; chair, audit committee; student affairs and legal affairs committees
– JD, with distinction, Cornell, ’74;
– Vice chairman, president, CEO, Attorneys’ Liability Assurance Society, Inc.
Tell us about your work.
Basically, I’m a lawyer for lawyers. Attorneys’ Liability Assurance Society is a group of 230 of the largest U.S. law firms who formed their own insurance company to cover malpractice claims generated from more than 60,000 lawyers. I oversee a staff of about 100 people. I spend a lot of time on loss prevention and risk management, talking about how to avoid conflicts of interest and other things that lead to claims. We are waiting to see if claims arise from the foreclosure mess.
You had a brush with Major League Baseball back when you were a litigator?
I was part of the team that represented Commissioner Bart Giamatti in the investigation of Pete Rose that led to his lifetime suspension for gambling. It was a very sad situation because he had such great talent, but the integrity of the game was the most important thing.
Describe what serving on Colgate’s Board of Trustees means to you, and what you hope you bring to the table?
It’s exhilarating because it’s intellectually challenging but totally different from what I do every day. In practicing law, I have seen so many different walks of life and issues; that experience has been very helpful. For example, I have seen a lot of corporate governance issues, which translates to what we do on the audit committee in terms of how we deal with risks Colgate may be facing in the years ahead.
Name a memorable Colgate experience.
I participated in the 100-hour sit-in at the administration building during my freshman year. Every year we had a major demonstration of some type. Those of us at Colgate during that tumultuous time realized that, even though we were in an idyllic setting, we couldn’t shut out the world. That’s what I carried away more than anything else: you’ve got to be part of the action and passion of your time.
What trait do you most value in your friends or colleagues?
The ability to admit a mistake. I try to do that, and I expect the same from others.
What do you do in your spare time?
I’ve got a place near the ocean on Maui.* I particularly enjoy mountain climbing and jet skiing. I’m a big nonfiction reader. Right now, I’m reading a biography of Justice Brennan, Jimmy Carter’s book, and Bob Woodward’s book about Obama.
What’s the most unique item in your office?
A baseball signed by Bart Giamatti. It says, “To Mark Nozette, Scholar” — because I was so deeply involved in the writing of the Pete Rose report. I really appreciated that from him.
Does your job require a lot of travel?
I’m sometimes on the road three to four days a week, so I have more than six million miles on American Airlines alone. I know so many of the flight attendants and gate agents. If you saw
Up in the Air
with George Clooney as a road warrior, he had a special card with a private number — I have one of those cards!
— Rebecca Costello
Click here for Mark's Maroon'd column tips on visiting the Hawaiian island