Herbst Update Newsletter

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From the Co-Director

I wanted to take a moment today to say goodbye to my co-director. This is Wayne Ambler’s last year in the Herbst Program. He came from the University of Dallas to Boulder in 2003 to direct the program. Since then, he has made a lasting impression through his leadership, his promotion of the humanities, his success at teaching Herbst seminars, his vision for the future — and his talent for hosting the college’s best parties!

In addition to teaching the Herbst seminars (HUEN 1010 and HUEN 3100), Wayne also designed and taught two signature courses: Engineering, Science, and Society, which addresses the ethical and social implications of powerful new technologies, and Culture Wars in Rome, his Maymester excursion to Rome. Culture Wars has become legendary for its breadth, its richness, and its power to transform students. No wonder, since Wayne spent roughly 10 years living in the Eternal City himself! As a result, Wayne knows Rome better than most of us know Boulder.

Wayne’s departure will leave a huge gap. We will miss his intellectual rigor and his ardent love of the classics; his principled concern about the consequences of technological progress; his staunch friendship and generous collegiality; his steady, sober judgment and his wry, quirky sense of humor. Farewell and good luck to Wayne Ambler: scholar, teacher, colleague, and dear friend.

Other Changes at Herbst

Goodbye to Michelle Visser. After many semesters as an indefatigable and well-loved instructor, Michelle has left the Herbst Program to pursue other ventures. Some of you alumni might remember Michelle as the librarian in the Special Collections department of Norlin Library; Paul Antal and Anja Lange both brought their HUEN students to see rare books there. In 2010, Michelle came to teach in the Herbst Program, fearlessly accepting as her first assignment a Maymester version of HUEN 3100. She taught an entire semester’s worth of material in three weeks! With 14 class meetings of three hours each, it was a roller-coaster of a ride. She then began teaching HUEN 1010, where she had a tremendous impact on dozens of first-year students. In recent years, she was teaching four consecutive sections of this course on Tuesdays and Thursdays. What stamina! We all miss her spirit, dedication, and insights. Good luck, Michelle!

Hello to Paul and Andrea. Last year’s job search resulted in a double hire of two highly qualified and extremely talented instructors, Paul Diduch and Andrea Kowalchuk. You will read about them in the faculty updates section of the newsletter. They are both Canadian, both interested in philosophy and literature, and both passionate about their teaching. Moreover, these two, who topped the field of nearly 100 candidates, just happen to be married to each other! We joke that their infant son is being raised to be a member of the third generation of Herbst instructors.  

Lori Walker joined the Herbst team in August 2013 as the new program coordinator. She is a CU-Boulder alumna, with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in piano performance. Lori has had close ties to the College of Engineering and Applied Science since working for the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research (CCAR) as a student. She also worked in the Aerospace Engineering Sciences department before spending four years in the Dean’s Office. Outside of work, Lori has played violin with the Boulder Philharmonic for 21 years and used to play in several heavy metal bands in Los Angeles. During her time in L.A., she also worked for an entertainment law firm, where she spoke with Leonard Nimoy on the phone nearly every day (check out her office for signed photos). Lori said she is excited to be part of the Herbst Program because “I have a really strong conviction about how important the humanities are to engineers. It’s so important to have those ‘soft’ skills going into careers, especially communication skills.”

Laura Vidal is no longer the administrative assistant for Herbst, but she has not disappeared entirely!  She now works in the Engineering Dean’s Office, at Lori’s former job and phone number; Lori now has Laura’s former job and phone number.  It makes things very convenient: if one of the two has a question, the answer is usually only a phone call away.  

Juggling office space. Hardy Fredricksmeyer has moved from 205 to the “grotto,” the basement office next to the piano room. Wayne Ambler, for his last year with the program, has moved from 206 to Hardy’s old office. This change makes it possible for Paul and Andrea to move into and share Wayne’s old office; Paul and Andrea teach on alternate days, so they hope to stay out of each other’s way. Outside of the Lesser House, Anja Lange still has her office on the fourth floor of the Office Tower — she has a much better view than she used to have when she was housed in the grotto. Diane Sieber has moved from the fourth floor of the Office Tower to the Idea Forge.  Scot Douglass has his office in Andrews Hall.

Making Lesser Even Greater

The inside of the Lesser House has had a recent facelift! The basement classroom has been completely repainted. The piano room — that odd space next to the classroom that now houses an upright piano — was also repainted. Painting has improved the first floor as well, with new yellow walls in the kitchen and new white trim in the living and dining rooms. Throughout the ground floor, we have replaced our 20-year-old window shades with new white cellular shades, which are both better looking and more energy-efficient.

We invite you to stop by Lesser any time and see what changes have been made since you were here!

A Lesser House History

Many visitors to the Lesser House assume that its name is meant to contrast with some “Greater” house. Not true! The Lesser House takes its name from its previous owners, George and Helen Lesser. After they donated their home to the university, it was used first as the headquarters of the CU Development Office, but was later given to the Herbst Program.

When Herbst took over the house, the biggest concern was creating a seminar classroom that could meet modern building codes. We decided to convert the south half of the basement into a classroom. To make the classroom wheelchair accessible, we sacrificed part of the lawn on the east side of the building. Excavators dug a driveway from 26th Street to the new classroom, and retaining walls were erected on either side.

Once the classroom was built, our own Scot Douglass, now director of the Engineering Honors Program, took on the task of building the seminar table. A skilled woodworker, Scot designed an octagonal table that would fit perfectly in the available space. The table would be much too big to move into the classroom, so Scot simply built it in the classroom. The job took weeks, and Scot sawed so much wood most days that the pale sawdust settling on his head and beard made him look like Santa Claus. As a finishing touch, he added a 10-foot inlay of Lyons sandstone. The result is simply beautiful.

What about outside the house? Wayne added many shrubs, notably along the southeast and south perimeters, and they are doing well. Helen Lesser would have been pleased, for she was a wonderful gardener; she cultivated fruit trees and raspberry bushes (periodically raided by neighborhood children), as well as flowering shrubs and multiple flower beds.  She must have spent hours every day on these.  Today, however, the campus landscapers found such flowerbeds daunting, so just last year, they transformed the back yard. It now features a beautiful rock garden and a large patio area. Instructors of seminar classes can use this space for small group work, and many students have come back after class to enjoy this lovely setting.

No Herbst student ever met the Lessers. Nevertheless they have left a lasting impression on hundreds of students after Herbst moved to this location in 1999. Those students have learned to love the Lesser House, not only because of its own charm, but also as an escape from the institutional surroundings of the Engineering Center.  In fact, for many students, the Lesser House has become a symbol for the humanities, and for everything that “Herbst” has meant to them.

The Herbst Family: True CU Fans

Did you know that Clancy Herbst attends every Buffs football game? Once, he even flew home from a vacation in Germany for a game – now THAT’S a true fan!

Linda and Clancy Herbst started the Herbst Program of Humanities in 1989 with tremendous vision and with a generous endowment. As the program has grown and diversified, Linda and Clancy have continued to support it, with encouragement, inspiration, and yet more financial assistance.

Now, we’re asking for your help, too. If you valued your Herbst experience, please consider making a financial gift to help others share the experience. A gift of any size can contribute to program goals. Your gifts can subsidize a student visit to the CU Opera, contribute to framing an exceptionally fine student art reproduction, or help pay for course readers to keep student book costs down.

There are many easy ways to support Herbst, including automatic payments from your credit card, a pledge over three to five years, or an online gift now!

Faculty Updates & Intros

Wondering what your favorite Herbst faculty or staff member is up to? We’ve got updates from everyone, as well as some introductions from new folks. 

> Click here to read their updates!


Make the Humanities Part of Your Life

Many of you have told us how valuable it was for you to encounter the humanities through your Herbst courses. You performed scenes from Shakespeare; you copied a piece of artwork; maybe you even went to the opera! If you enjoyed exploring the humanities then, you will like it even more now, when — chances are — you have more disposable income and more free time.  

Attend a performance. A play, a ballet, a symphony concert, an opera. If you like doing that once, consider buying season tickets. You’ll be helping support the group that stages these performances. For a different kind of involvement, volunteer to help backstage: build a set, paint a backdrop, sew a costume, etc. You might even try out for a part! 

Join (or start) a book club. Whatever you like to read – the classics, bestsellers or memoirs – chances are you will find someone in your social or professional circles with the same interests. LitLovers.com has a great checklist for organizing a club.

Join (or start) a film club.  Everyone has a favorite film—a film that you want to introduce to other people.  Get together with your friends to watch and discuss those favorite films. If you want advice about a particular period, director, actor, etc., consult the film department at your local college.   

Take an architectural tour. In almost every town, there is something of architectural interest. Sign up for a tour, and explore what makes your community unusual and interesting. 

Find out about local events in the arts. Here in Boulder, Chautauqua and the Dairy Center for the Arts always have something interesting going on. Other cities have their own arts and performance centers. The arts do not have to be expensive: look at gallery tours and art walks; free days at local museums; and free lectures and movies at public libraries. All of these organizations want you to stay involved in the arts, so give them a try! 

Important Announcements

CUEngineering is here!

The 2015 edition of CUEngineering magazine is hot off the press! Check it out online.

Engineering Recognition Ceremony to be held at 9am at Coors Events/Conference Center on Friday May 8, 2015

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