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From and About the Emeritus Faculty

Howard Hoffman
Lucien Platt
Bill Crawford

Howard Hoffman
The Bryn Mawr College Gallery presented Howard S. Hoffman's Laughing Matters II: Watercolors and Portraits in the Canaday Gallery, September 13 - October 9, 2002. Carol Campbell wrote about the exhibition:

The whimsical images in the Howard S. Hoffman exhibition represent visual interpretations of the many humorous life statements that Professor Hoffman has collected over the years. The statements always came before the image. Professor Emeritus Hoffman who has taught and published extensively in experimental psychology, has had an interest in art since boyhood. A veteran of WWII, he was supported by the VA to attend art school and studied painting with artist Moses Sawyer. A part time job with a nursery school where the factors of children's behavior drew his curiosity, led him to leave art school and pursue degrees in Psychology. At Bryn Mawr he did research into Social Attachment and into Reflexes and taught courses on Statistics and also Perception. As part of his courses on Perception, he developed techniques for teaching the art of drawing that tapped existing knowledge of how the eye and brain work together to enable one to visually isolate and ultimately, to identify objects. These efforts led to a book, entitled "Vision and the Art of Drawing." Throughout his career he has continued to paint and his portraits are part of the permanent collections of Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Rosemont Colleges, and the University of Pennsylvania. He has previously shown his humorous watercolors at Bryn Mawr College and Tyme Gallery.

Lucien Platt
Lucian Platt spoke about teaching earth eciencein city schools at a section meeting of Geological Society of America in March 2000. His abstract for the talk follows:

In public schools we should start lessons about geology by starting with something students can see and be comfortable with. Most students today are in cities. This is different from our childhood; we saw natural scenery. City kids do not see a natural stream. They do not see a natural hillside. They have never seen a forest, thought they have seen trees in a park. If they see "change" on TV, it is presented as a catastrophe, not a natural event like many others. Even high school students don't realize that floods are frequent, and that a dozen volcanoes are erupting at any moment. In short, city kids have little sense of the real natural world we are trying to explain to them; hence they receive misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and misapprehensions unless we recognize and adjust to the gaps in their knowledge.

Something called Clark's Third Law, dating from 1963, states: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. I propose a modern corollary: Any sufficiently advanced computer animation is indistinguishable from fantasy in a child's frame of reference. Students know from experience that computer games do not depict anything real, but when viewing a video of geologic processes, they may not perceive the distortions, e.g. vertical scale or time compression, even if these are stated. The vivid image persists after the caveats and qualifiers are forgotten.

My message is that concepts obviously true to us may be so esoteric to students, even to the teachers, as to be unbelievable. We must start with what they can see firsthand and thus accept as real. Otherwise we build in some misconceptions difficult to remove later on. Amusing experiences of mine in Philadelphia schools illustrate the gap between expectations and their actual understanding.

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William Crawford
William Crawford, Professor Emeritus in the Geology department, is well-known in the gym as a talented badminton player and the engineer behind a set of new and improved badminton stands. "I think his ingenuity is phenomenal," says Director of Athletics Amy Campbell of Professor Crawford who recently redesigned the gymnasium's badminton stands to make them more compatible with needs of the gym and badminton players on campus. Though Professor Crawford insists the redesign was a simple engineering problem, his volunteer efforts to refit the gym's equipment within a few months for a tiny fraction of the cost of new stands receive high praise.

The primary dilemma Crawford encountered was to make the badminton nets freestanding, rather than linking the nets across the gym, making movement between courts impossible. The basic stands for the nets existed, so Crawford re-engineered them to include rubber bottoms that would not scratch the gym floor, weights on the bases to prevent the nets from moving, and clothesline tensioners on the ropes to prevent them from sagging. Finding the correct combination of weight and net tension took a bit of tinkering, and at least one unusual find. "I went to the instrument shop to find material for weights, and they had something that was probably high pressure steam pipe acquired as stock forty or fifty years ago." Crawford's final addition to the new stands was a basket on each for storage. Altogether, Crawford estimates the total cost of the materials used at $30. "The great thing about this project," says Amy Campbell, "is that we have a very committed group of faculty. They had an idea about how to redesign our badminton standards and now [the standards] fit our needs." Says Professor Crawford with his characteristic humor, "We had a good time doing it. It kept us out of trouble."

While badminton may not be a high-profile sport, it has the unique ability to bring together members of different parts of the College community. Approximately twelve faculty and staff members regularly gather in the gym to play, and a few of the most skilled faculty, including Crawford, have enjoyed one friendly competition with two sets of top doubles players on the student team. "It was close," says Crawford. "In the first game, we won, but the students won the second." According to Amy Campbell, not only is the commitment to the game important, "there is also the wonderful connection between different members of the community." In an academic environment, athletics can bridge the gap between formal interactions and personal connections.

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Last updated November 2004 by the Office of the Provost.