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On the Road

 

“People keep asking me what we’re doing for the millennium," remarked Dr. Dilys Pegler Winegrad Gr’70, director and curator of Penn’s Arthur Ross Gallery, earlier this fall. If the question made her a bit testy (it seemed it did, perhaps), it was understandable. The exhibit that was about to open at the time, "Treasures of Uzbekistan: The Great Silk Road"—selections from which appear in our cover story—actually ranges over four millennia of artwork and other objects from the cultures along the fabled trading route that originated in the Bronze Age but did not get its evocative name until the 19th century.
    Along with the exhibit itself, which will be at the gallery until mid-February, several events were organized for the opening in November. One was a symposium, "Unraveling the Silk Road," at the University Museum, at which scholars debated how and why the route came to be called the silk road. Our senior editor, Samuel Hughes, was there and provides the details in a short piece that accompanies the images.
    Growing up, Dr. Robert F. Giegengack, chair of the department of earth and environmental science, was fascinated by voyages of discovery and travel to far-off places. In geology, he found a career that supported his wanderlust, allowing him to spend extended periods in Egypt, India, much of Africa and South America, and the Antarctic, among other places.
    As a member of Penn’s faculty since 1968, he became a popular and much-honored teacher (recipient of the Lindback Award, Ira Abrams Memorial Award and CGS Distinguished Teaching Award), a key volunteer in efforts to strengthen education at Penn (most especially, by founding and directing the environmental studies program for all of its 25 years and counting) and all-around administrative gadfly. College Dean Richard Beeman calls him "the embodiment of what arts and sciences stand for in the community of learners." (He calls him some other things, too; see page 30).
    In "Rebirth on the River," assistant editor Susan Lonkevich describes an ongoing effort involving several alumni to restore the long-neglected Fairmount Water Works as an interpretive center and museum. The notion of converting waterfronts and other once-industrial areas to tourist attractions is common; the Water Works, though, attracted visitors from around the world in its first incarnation as a working facility—including Charles Dickens, who liked it much better than the Eastern State Penitentiary, his other major stop in Philadelphia.
    Ignorance of foreign cultures—specifically, the assumption that the loyalty of people of Japanese ancestry was suspect—was one factor in the University’s decision at the start of World War II to permit no new admissions of Japanese Americans to its academic programs, as Greg Robinson C’88 writes in "Admission Denied." A doctoral student in American history at NYU, Robinson was researching his dissertation when he learned of the case of Naomi Nakano CW’44, an undergraduate honor student whose application to Penn’s graduate school was refused. The resulting negative publicity and protests from alumni across the country led the University to rescind the exclusion policy in June 1944. Almost as surprising as the policy itself is the fact that Nakano, now Naomi Nakano Tanaka, bore no grudge; she returned here later to teach, and several other family members followed her to Penn. Robinson quotes her explanation: "It was my university."
    Finally, for some of us, the nicest thing about travel is coming home. See page 48 for a sample of Homecoming 1999. And this year’s Alumni Award of Merit winners appear on page 58.
    Speaking of the millennium, if you’re reading this, then any Y2K glitches that occurred were presumably minor—unless, of course, you’re settling down to peruse your copy by candlelight after a hard day of foraging for unspoiled food. Whatever your plans, all best wishes for the year ahead.

    —John Prendergast C’80


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