Introduction of the Faculty Speaker, Provost and Dean of the Faculty Teresa Amott
August 29, 2007
You have heard many times today that this is the second anniversary of the devastation wrought on the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina as it made landfall. As a community, Hobart and William Smith Colleges has responded to that tragedy with fundraising measures, with volunteer efforts, with coursework and panel discussions. If the Gulf Coast is to recover, it will take continued efforts, to which we are committed as an institution.
But this anniversary should also remind us of the devastation wrought in that region and worldwide by deep structures of poverty and racism that determine people’s susceptibility to weather and climate and of the need for a response that goes beyond charity to justice. How fitting, then, that our honored guest today is Congressman John Lewis.
Congressman Lewis, in a message to faculty members earlier this week, I described your life’s work by quoting Dr. King’s profoundly hopeful statement that “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Through your life’s work, you have bent the arc of the moral universe, and, on behalf of the faculty, I thank you for gracing us with your presence, especially as we remember the victims of Hurricane Katrina who lost lives or livelihoods, property or pride.
It is my privilege in this convocation to introduce a member of our faculty whose work as a scholar and teacher has also shed light on the deeper causes of devastation and suffering, in this case environmental devastation. Our faculty speaker today is the recipient of the 2006 faculty award for distinguished teaching, Prof. Tom Drennen of the Economics Department and Environmental Studies Program.
His faculty colleagues describe him this way:
Tom Drennen is known affectionately to his students as “Captain Carbon, Defender of the Ozone Layer,” … As a teacher, he never tells students something he can show them. Any object that cannot make it into the classroom becomes the inspiration for a field trip. His students have had encounters with M&Ms, bananas, coins, and Coca-Cola; they have visited the Niagara Falls power plant, the Dresden coal plant, and local wind farms. He is also an internationally known scholar who, during the past few years, has created and continues to perfect interactive computer models that explain the relationship between energy use and climate change. These research projects, funded by the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., have been presented to members of Congress to facilitate analysis of policy options that would aid in limiting global warming.
So it is fitting that he speak to us today as we initiate another academic year in which what is unseen will be illuminated, what is unimagined will be created, what is inexplicable will be understood, and what is unjust will be called to account.