Johns Hopkins Magazine -- February 1999
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Campus mourns deaths of three students... a new leader for the Press... scholarship aid gets a jumpstart... lacrosse business... prehistoric toolmaking ... sports action in cyberspace

Car accident claims lives of three

Thanksgiving weekend ended in tragedy when three Hopkins graduate students died in a single-car crash and two others were seriously injured.

The five, whose families live in India, were returning from visiting a friend in North Carolina when their car crashed near the junction of Interstates 95 and 895 in the predawn hours of Saturday morning.

Killed in the accident were Bhavesh Vijay Gandhi, 21; Swaminathan Jayaraman, 26; and Jithesh Parameswaran, 24. The two survivors of the crash, Veera Venkataramani and Abhishek Agarwal, were released from Maryland Shock Trauma in December and are recovering from their injuries.

The accident left members of the Hopkins community reeling, particularly those in the Whiting School of Engineering, where all five were enrolled.

"We are raw and we are stunned," said university chaplain Sharon M.K. Kugler, at a memorial service held December 2. "Three beautiful, vibrant young people, three sons from families who are aching and far away, are gone. Two more beautiful young souls suffer the torment of what is left behind."

The memorial service at Homewood's Glass Pavilion drew more than 400 friends faculty, and administrators.

In spoken and written remarks, friends remembered Jayaraman, known as "Swami," as a dedicated scholar and gifted athlete; his six-foot five-inch frame was a familiar sight at cricket matches held regularly on the Upper Quad.

Parameswaran, who was just two weeks away from completing his master's degree, was known for his competitiveness on the field and off; he excelled in quiz competitions all the way to the national level.

Gandhi, recalled as warm-hearted and lovable, had arrived at Hopkins just this past September. He was remembered for his great fascination with fundamental theory, physics, and mathematics.

All three men were very dedicated to their studies; it was their desire to get back to work at Hopkins, in fact, that prompted them to make the long trip home in the middle of the night. In his eulogy, Professor John Goutsias, Gandhi's faculty advisor, lamented that decision: "A message should go out to the entire Hopkins community that while devotion to work and studies is important, they aren't worth putting one's life at risk," Goutsias said.

Friends have established two memorial funds. For information contact Homewood Student Affairs at (410)516-8208.
--Sue De Pasquale

Photo by Doug Hansen
The "best kind of publishing"

The Johns Hopkins University Press recently announced the appointment of its sixth director in 120 years: James Jordan. He replaces Willis Regier, who was dismissed last May when differences in how the Press should operate could not be resolved.

Jordan spent 21 of the last 25 years at W.W. Norton, one of the last independent publishing houses in New York. He worked primarily in Norton's college book division, which is best known for its literary anthologies but also has published trade books by intellectual heavyweights Jonathan Spence, Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins, and Peter Gay. Jordan was operating his own literary agency in Baltimore when he learned of the opening at the Press.

"University press publishing, to me, is the best kind of publishing in today's climate," he says. "There are agents and authors who find it increasingly difficult to get the attention of commercial houses for projects that are of enduring intellectual value. This is a good time for a publishing program like the Press, which has a healthy trade and general publishing program, to do more books of that sort, what I call scholarly trade books."

Says Jordan, "I think the primary challenge is doing the kind of scholarly publishing that lives up to the reputation of this institution in a fiscally responsible way, when the market for scholarly books has consistently declined over the last several years."
--Dale Keiger

A big boost in scholarship money

Incoming students won't have to wait long to reap the benefits of Michael R. Bloomberg's recent $30 million gift toward financial aid.

Scholarship aid will increase by 25 percent for next year's freshmen, and the average debt they face at graduation will be cut by more than a third, university administrators announced in mid-November.

Currently, the average graduation-day debt for undergraduate aid recipients in Arts & Sciences and Engineering is $16,600, about double what it was 10 years ago. Indebtedness was projected to grow to an average $21,000 by the time next year's freshmen are seniors.

Under the new plan, scholarships will be increased--by an average of $4,000--to replace some loan money. Students whose parental contributions are calculated to be $3,500 or less will not be required to take any loans their first year; as upperclassmen they'll be offered loans well below federal maximums. All other aid recipients will receive packages with smaller loans and larger scholarships than previously. Most students won't be required to borrow more than an average of $4,000 annually throughout their four years.

Another change to existing policy: Students who win non-Hopkins scholarships will no longer see a corresponding reduction in their Hopkins scholarships.

Though the money given by Bloomberg (Eng'64), chairman of the university's board of trustees, will be aimed only at newly admitted students, administrators say they are actively seeking ways to reduce the debt load for current students as well.

The Thunder's Townsend
Photo by Mike Ciesielski
Lacrosse business

Lacrosse got in the way of Dennis Townsend's Hopkins education. So it's fitting that Townsend's success in business has allowed him to buy a lacrosse team.

The Baltimore Thunder plays professional indoor lacrosse in the National Lacrosse League (NLL), and Townsend is the team's newest owner. He bought the team just before the 1997 season, and took what had been a perennial loser to the NLL championship game. The former Hopkins player and coach hopes to improve on that record this season. He also hopes to improve the team's balance sheet, which lately has been filled out in red ink.

Townsend entered Hopkins in the mid-1960s as a physical sciences major, before switching to economics. He played varsity soccer and lacrosse, and concedes he was not much of a scholar. "Studying was not something I ever learned to do," he says. He left Hopkins after two years and worked a series of jobs as he took courses at various Baltimore universities. In 1975 he formed his own company, which has grown into Townsend Capital, a successful property investment firm that does $200-300 million in annual business, by Townsend's estimate.

Now he's a sports mogul, on a small scale. At a Thunder pre-season practice in the Freestate Indoor Sports complex northeast of Baltimore, Townsend grabs a stick and trots onto the field. He corners players for some one-on-one instruction, drilling them on how to fake a defender out of position, and how to execute a pick-and-roll. The players, mostly former collegiate stars now in their mid- to late-20s, need to hone new skills for the indoor, six-player game, which is more popular in Canada than in the U.S. Townsend works with his head coach, John Tucker, whose wife, Janine, is the Hopkins women's lacrosse coach.

So far, the Thunder has performed better for Townsend on the field than as a profit center. The NLL has seven teams that form a pretty good map of where lacrosse matters: Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, and Toronto. The league has profitable franchises and is doing best in Philadelphia and Buffalo, Townsend says. But the Thunder has not been profitable. "Last year we lost a lot of money," he says, noting that several losing seasons on the field have dampened fan enthusiasm. He believes he has to do better at marketing the sport and the Thunder than his predecessor was able to do.

For now, he seems happy to have a stick in his hand and younger players to teach. One of them wanders into practice late and apologizes, saying he just got out of class; he is trying to finish his degree. Townsend, Hopkins dropout, smiles approvingly.

A prehistoric quarry

When urban archaeologist Esther Doyle Read dug a series of small pits on the site of the forthcoming Hopkins Student Arts Center (Hopkins Magazine, November 1998), she thought she might turn up 19th-century artifacts: some glassware, some buttons, maybe a clay pipe. What she found was much older.

Long before the Carroll family owned the land--and we do mean long before--prehistoric man came upon stone deposits and began chipping away at them. Read found what's known as a "lithic scatter": stone flakes produced by toolmaking in the Archaic Period, 7500-2000 B.C. She recovered 133 artifacts, mostly fragments of quartz and quartzite obviously worked by hand. That makes the wooded land near the Merrick Barn the fourth such site found in Baltimore City.

Read did not recommend further excavation, noting the lack of cultural features such as pits, hearths, or structural post holes. Furthermore, the site was graded in 1906, destroying its integrity from an archaeological standpoint. She did suggest having an archaeologist present when the land is graded for construction of the arts center later this year, in case anything of further interest turns up when the upper strata are removed.

Sports action in cyberspace

For the latest sports scores, stats, and other up-to-the-minute information about Hopkins's 27 varsity teams, visit The soon-to-be unveiled Website also promises to cybercast all men's lacrosse action throughout the spring.