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Wholly Hopkins
Matters of note from around Johns Hopkins


Medicine: The Sweet Smell of a Nobel

International Studies: Mourning Paul H. Nitze

Humanities: Theater Program Finds a Home

Students: Food and Fun on an Autumn Weekend

Humanities: More on Mark Twain

Books: Celebrating a Certain Joie de Vivre

Mathematics: Adding Up Good Vibrations

Public Health: Bloomberg School Looks for Leaders

Engineering: Water Treatment to Bank On

Students: Frank Talk About Student Sex

Community: Reading a Community's Needs

Professional Studies: Academic Approach to Real Estate

Wholly Hopkins Departments: Bottom Line | JHUniverse | Here & Abroad | Academese | Findings | Syllabus | Up & Comer | Forever Altered | Vital Signs | Vignette | Investigations |

The Sweet Smell of a Nobel

Smell has long been regarded as one of the most enigmatic of the senses. For years, the basic principles for recognizing and remembering some 10,000 different odors were not well understood by scientists.

Last month, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine alumnus Richard Axel, Med '71, was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for explaining how the olfactory system works.

Axel, a professor at Columbia University since 1978, shares the $1.36 million prize with Linda Buck. In 1991, he and Buck, then a postdoctoral student, jointly reported discovering a large gene family comprised of 1,000 different genes that were devoted to producing different odor-sensing proteins or receptors in the nose. Their research explained how we perceive thousands of smells, which identify foods, warn us of fire, and bring back memories from years before.

Alumnus Richard Axel won the Nobel Prize for his work explaining the olfactory system.
AP Photo / Jeff Chiu
Axel is the 31st person affiliated with Johns Hopkins to win a Nobel Prize. He told The Washington Post that he became interested in studying smell because he wanted to find an aspect of sensory perception that might be decipherable using his specialty, molecular biology. Smell was a good candidate because gene-finding techniques could identify the large number of genes he expected it might take to detect the entire group of odors.

In a telephone interview posted on the Nobel Prize Web site, Axel admitted that discovering the family of genes and receiving the Nobel were both surprises to him, and he offered advice to students dreaming of winning their own Nobel one day.

"I think the important message, if I were to talk with students, is that the joy of science is in the process, and not in the end," he said. "That science is a process of discovery, which unto itself should be a meaningful pleasure." — Maria Blackburn

Hopkins Mourns Paul H. Nitze, SAIS Co-Founder

Paul H. Nitze
Photo by Will Kirk
The Johns Hopkins community is mourning the loss of Paul H. Nitze, co-founder of Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies. Nitze, who helped shape America's cold war relationship with the Soviet Union, died of pneumonia on October 19. He was 97.

A leading expert on foreign policy and arms control, Nitze was an adviser to United States presidents of both parties. Throughout his long political career, which began in 1940, he served as director of the Department of State Policy Planning Staff, secretary of the Navy, deputy secretary of defense, and a member of the U.S. delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitations

Talks from 1969 to 1974. In 1962, he advised President Kennedy daily during the Cuban Missile Crisis. And, in the early 1980s, as head of the U.S. negotiating team at the Geneva Arms Control Talks, he took his now-famous "walk in the woods" with a Soviet negotiator, in which he attempted to break the deadlock between the two superpowers. President Reagan awarded Nitze the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor, in 1985.

Nitze co-founded the School of Advanced International Studies with Christian Herter in 1943 and maintained a relationship with the school throughout his life. The school became a division of Johns Hopkins University in 1950, and in 1989 the trustees renamed it the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies to recognize his extraordinary career and his service to the university.

"As co-founder of SAIS during World War II, he demonstrated in a private undertaking the wisdom and vision that was so much a part of his public life," university President William R. Brody wrote of Nitze in an e-mail announcing his death to Hopkins faculty, staff, and students. "The university relied over the years on his leadership and advice, and we are very much the better for it." — Catherine Pierre

Theater Program Finds a Home

Two nights before the opening of Johns Hopkins University Theatre's performance of Jeffrey Sweet's Bluff, English major Kateri Chambers '06 is gently prompting her co-star during rehearsal.

"I think you skipped a couple lines," Kateri says.

"Yes, yes, you're right," responds the actor, John Astin, A&S '52, as he thanks her and prepares to replay the scene for the fourth or fifth time.

Astin — alumnus, professor, and Bluff director — might be forgiven for the slip. After all, what are a few missed lines compared to the major overhaul he's made to the university's theater program?

John Astin, Kateri Chambers, and Loren Dunn in Jeffrey Sweet's Bluff
Photo by Raphael Schweber-Koren

Ever since arriving as a visiting professor in 2001, Astin has had a project: to revive the university's long-dormant drama program — the program he himself graduated from before going on to a healthy career in film and television, including his most notable role as Gomez Addams in the original Addams Family TV program.

"We were the only major school in the East without a theater program," Astin says. "Even MIT has a theater program." The Homewood community has proof that his work is paying off. Students can now study acting, directing, lighting design, and technical production through the Writing Seminars. And beginning next year, the Johns Hopkins University Theatre, formerly known as the Hopkins Studio Players, will have a permanent home in the Homewood campus's Merrick Barn, where Astin performed when he was a student. Theatre Hopkins, which has used the Barn for its community productions, will likely find a new home within Charles Village beginning next season.

Until now, says Astin, the biggest challenge in developing a formidable theater program has been the lack of an adequate space. "There was no place to work," he says. "I had to scramble for a place to do shows." (The troupe has rented performance space in the nearby Baltimore Museum of Art's 363-seat Meyerhoff Auditorium, where it will showcase its to-be-determined spring show as well.)

As the program prepares to settle into its new home, plans are in the works to enhance the Barn's performance space and to add classrooms for training and set production.

"Some of these students are very good," Astin says. "I want to build a theater here of a troupe of actors of a professional [caliber]."

Students with a flair for drama and the arts embrace the opportunity Astin is offering them.

"I never expected anything like this when I came to Hopkins," says Marshall Ross '05, a backstage tech on Bluff who started as a pre-med but is now in the Writing Sems. "I've always had a creative side, but never really explored it in this way."

Tarik Najeddine '05, a psychology major, agrees that there is value in having an outlet for creative expression. "People are realizing that is not healthy to sit in the library and stare at organic chemistry books for hours and hours," says Najeddine, who had two small roles in Bluff. "There's a lot of camaraderie here, instead of the usual Hopkins competition."

For Astin, the theater program is good for students — and for Hopkins in general. "I felt the school really needed this," he says. "I'm here out of love for Hopkins, as a service to the university." — Christine A. Rowett

Food, Fun, and Silliness on an Autumn Weekend

Susan Boswell, dean of students, would not be bribed — unless it was a particularly good bribe.

"I can get your kids into college," offered freshman Phoebe Quin, whose father works for the College Board.

Peabody Director Robert Sirota (left) and President William R. Brody add vaudevillian spice to Saturday evening's Variety Show.
Photo by Will Kirk
That seemed to persuade her. Boswell, official judge of the Crazy Cart Race (dressed in a Dr. Seuss hat to mark the occasion), named Quin's team the winner.

The race, just one event in the Homewood campus's first-ever Fall Festival, was designed to encourage teamwork and communication. Teams of six — including a blind-folded cart pusher and a navigator who shouts directions — competed to negotiate an obstacle course. The fastest team should have won, except that, according to the rules, extra points could be accumulated for a number of reasons, including those bribes. (That's to keep things silly, explains Ralph Johnson, associate dean of students and director of the Fall Festival.)

Participants in the Crazy Cart Race (right) received extra points for scooping up items, including these pink blow-up flamingos (below).
Photo by Will Kirk
The festival, which took place over the October 1-3 weekend, was created to give the Homewood community in general — and undergraduates in particular — a greater feeling of kinship with the school. "The idea is to bring together students, faculty, and staff to celebrate campus community," says Johnson.

The weekend kicked off with a Friday night cookout on the beach, attended by nearly 1,500 faculty, students, and staff from all the Hopkins campuses. There was a football pep rally, a "Video Shootout" in which students used provided video cameras to create five-minute documentaries about campus life, novelty events like Human Foosball, a water polo game, a Casino Night in Levering Lounge, and a five-hour scavenger hunt through Homewood and Charles Village, in which students had to solve 22 clues, including one given by a mock fortuneteller in Levering Hall. The weekend wrapped up with a 2 a.m. Sunday breakfast in front of Levering.

The festival was a success, according to students like junior Asheesh Laroia. "What the campus needs is more people talking to each other," she says.

Boswell believes the festival — considered a new campus tradition — will increase school spirit. And that's a good thing, the dean says. "Anything we can do to build and reinforce the community is important to Hopkins." — Jessica Valdez, A&S '04

More on the Man Who Never Let His Schooling Interfere With His Education

Larzer Ziff's newest book, Mark Twain (Oxford University Press, 2004), takes on a legend in a mere 116 pages. Clear, crisp, and concise, his book — first in the publisher's new Lives and Legends series — not only tackles the most beloved, most quoted, and most written-about American author of all time but also gives fresh critical insight into his work. "A sentence by Ziff is worth more than a paragraph by most other scholar-critics," one reviewer said of his work.

Ziff, a research professor of English at Johns Hopkins who retired in 1999 after 18 years on the faculty, is the author of six books on American literary culture. He sat down with Johns Hopkins Magazine just before his new book's release to talk about Samuel Langhorne Clemens.

Johns Hopkins Magazine: What sort of a challenge was it for you to write about such a larger-than-life literary figure in such a brief space?

Larzer Ziff: I had 35,000 words, but 100,000 would have been easier. You could write forever on Mark Twain. All of the books on him are very long. The criticism on him is endless. It was a real challenge to do it in 35,000 words and be original and say something. That's what intrigued me more than anything.

JHM: Twain was most well-known, both in America and overseas, for his sense of humor, and yet he was conflicted about being known as a humorist. Why?

LZ: He wanted to be taken as seriously as the famous writers of his day. In America, that would have been authors like William Dean Howells and Henry James. He wanted to feel as though he were in that class. He also felt some self-consciousness because much of his work was sold by subscription publications. Yet subscription publications reached his audience, his people.

JHM: It's hard to be funny in print. Twain was not only funny at the time he wrote, but his work still elicits laughter 100 years later. How come?

LZ: The great thing about Mark Twain's humor is that it's in the telling, not in the punch line. For Twain the humor is the humor of the storyteller, not the tale. That's why Hal Holbrook [the actor who plays Twain onstage] is so good, and why the average teacher of Mark Twain can't get a laugh from his class when he reads Twain's work. I don't even try anymore. I don't read Twain out loud to people. I tell them it's amusing and they should read it themselves.

JHM: Most people read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn in school. What lesser-known works of Twain's are worth a look?

LZ: Some of his short pieces here and there are not as easy to get to as his novels, but they are wonderful. He wrote a letter to Queen Victoria that's hilarious. His book Life on the Mississippi is a spin-off from a series he wrote for The Atlantic Monthly called "Old Times on the Mississippi." That series is marvelous. I would recommend that. And Pudd'nhead Wilson is probably the novel that I say should be reread.

JHM: Mark Twain once referred to himself as "the most conspicuous man on the planet." He remains one of the best-known American writers of all time. Why is he so famous?

LZ: There are people today who are much more famous than he was, but none of them has the staying power of his celebrity. Twain's celebrity goes beyond the magnetism of celebrity itself. There is something akin to love that Mark Twain attracted in people, a genuine kind of love that I don't think celebrities like Madonna attract.
— MB

Celebrating a Certain Joie de Vivre

Kay Redfield Jamison loves the word "galumphing." According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Lewis Carroll's coinage from The Hunting of the Snark conveys a sense of "marching on exultingly with irregular bounding movements." Children at play galumph. Joyful people galumph. To galumph expresses exuberance.

Jamison, a Hopkins professor of psychiatry and a best-selling author, reserves an index entry for "galumph" in her new book, Exuberance: The Passion for Life (Knopf 2004). Her previous work had explored darker emotional terrain, like bipolar disorder (Touched With Fire, An Unquiet Mind) and suicide (Night Falls Fast). In Exuberance, Jamison examines the lives of people who seem to go at life with a joy and boldness beyond most mortals. She discusses the psychology of exuberance, its evolutionary importance for both humans and animals (who, she argues, also exhibit it), and its risks and rewards.

Kay Redfield Jamison
Photo by Tom Wolff
"I had always been interested in enthusiasm, why some people are enthusiastic and others aren't," she explains. "So I just decided to look at it from a psychological point of view. I loved every minute of it."

Jamison's book discusses a remarkable variety of remarkable people, living and dead: Theodore Roosevelt; naturalist John Muir; physicist Richard Feynman; Arctic explorer Richard Byrd; the Puritans who sailed on the Mayflower; Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley, who devoted his life to photographing snowflakes; J. M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan; P. T. Barnum; soldiers going into battle; C. S. Lewis; astronomer Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin; and James D. Watson, co-discoverer of DNA. She selected as subjects individuals who exhibited the traits by which she defined exuberance: infectious high energy, unquenchable curiosity, a large capacity for joy, and a restlessness that differentiates it from mere happiness.

Jamison is particularly interested in exuberant scientists, and interviewed a number of them. She says, "I think scientists get unfairly painted as being robotic or uninteresting. In fact, most of the really great scientists that I know have been incredibly enthusiastic and can't wait to get back to their experiments and find out what's going to happen next."

Exuberant people are important, says Jamison. They're the ones who explore new territory, make scientific discoveries, create a bond among a species or social group, and nudge the more hesitant toward greater achievement. She says, "When people join together in high-mood, high-energy activities" — often around a central figure whose exuberance attracted them — "that forms a closeness."

Jamison acknowledges, however, that contagious enthusiasm can send people down the wrong path, such as ruinous financial speculation. Recall the 17th-century Dutch tulip mania in Europe, when people sold all their possessions to invest in tulip bulbs. "The very thing that causes people to take risks that are useful also causes people to take risks that are not," says Jamison. "For example, a lot of the scientists that I interviewed said that, on the one hand, [exuberance] allowed them to take a lot of risks intellectually that they wouldn't otherwise take because they got caught up in their work and followed that mood wherever it went. But it also increased the chances they would make errors or not use the kind of judgment they would ordinarily use."

She concludes, "What you need is this wide diversity of temperaments. You need some people who are anxious and shy and cautious. A certain number of people have to attend to life's necessities. That is enormously important to all of us. [But we need] other people who are uninhibited and wild and take all sorts of chances that the species couldn't afford to have everyone doing." — Dale Keiger

Hopkins Hospital on the WB

"Hello. This is Scott Patterson, and it's really terrific that you called. You have a great opportunity to help me do something very, very important. I'm involved in helping to build the best children's hospital at Johns Hopkins — one of the top hospitals in the country...."
— Fans of Gilmore Girls will recognize Patterson as the actor who plays Luke Danes on the series. When Luke got a new cell phone number this season, the show's creators decided to forgo the phony "555" area code and use a real one instead. Patterson chose the message, and when fans call the number,
Hopkins Children's Center gets a boost. (To hear the rest of the message, call 860-294-1986.)

Adding Up Good Vibrations

Illustration by John S. Dykes Everything vibrates. According to string theory, the entire universe is composed of vibrating filaments. The planet vibrates from earth tremors and the ocean's tides and the explosions of war. We vibrate from sound and the machinery around us and the swoosh of blood through our veins. The very atoms within us vibrate.

Yet much about vibration remains a mystery, unpredictable and inadequately defined. Mathematicians understand the simple, one-dimensional vibration of a violin string. But how does the shape of an object — a drumhead, for example — affect the way it vibrates? Mathematicians can't tell you, not with the exactitude that science and mathematics require. They can't predict exactly how the head will vibrate, because no exact formula exists. Enter Christopher Sogge and Steven Zelditch.

The Hopkins professors of mathematics recently received $402,000 from the National Science Foundation to tackle the problem. It's the largest grant ever awarded to Hopkins mathematicians, part of a $975,398 grant made to a team of five that includes mathematicians at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Washington.

The abstract for the grant, titled "Eigenfunctions of the Laplacian," states: "This proposal is concerned with estimates of solutions of wave equations on (both compact and non-compact) Riemannian manifolds, possibly with boundary." That's rather a lot to absorb if you are not a mathematician, so Sogge and Zelditch suggest that you imagine a pool table.

Strike a cue ball on a standard, empty rectangular billiard table. It's not that hard to predict its trajectory. The ball is going to collide with one side of the table at a specific angle, ricochet at a corresponding angle toward another side, and so forth. It's comparatively easy to predict the ball's path, which is why a pool hustler is able to run the table and take your money.

But now imagine a non-rectangular table, says Zelditch, something shaped, for example, like the floor of a stadium: a rectangle with rounded areas on each end. Strike a cue ball on that table, and after a few collisions, first with a flat boundary, then a curved boundary, the ball's motion quickly becomes chaotic. Says Zelditch, "After a hundred ricochets, try to guess where the ball is going to be. You can't really do it. People sometimes say, 'The ball forgets where it came from.'"

Predicting a drumhead's vibrations is even harder. They are just as random and unpredictable as the path of the second billiard ball. No doubt to the relief of their neighbors in Hopkins' Krieger Hall, Sogge and Zelditch will not be doing any actual drumming. Their research will consist of thought experiments and scribbled equations. Imagining a drum head is simply a useful model for visualizing a vibrating surface. Says Sogge, "At the core of what we're trying to do is the fact that, unlike the one-dimensional problem" — that vibrating violin string — "it is impossible to write down formulas that describe the exact properties of periodic vibration [the "eigenfunctions" of the grant's title]. We have to work indirectly with pretty difficult tools. We have to kind of invent the techniques while we're working on the problem." — DK

Bloomberg School Looks for Leaders

The Bloomberg School of Public Health is looking for a few good recruits.

Last spring, the school announced that an anonymous donor is giving $22 million over the next 10 years to create the Hopkins Sommer Scholars program. Named in honor of Dean Alfred Sommer, SPH '73 (MHS), the program aims to attract and educate the next generation of leaders in global health issues.

"This very generous gift is just an enormous benefit because it will allow us to recruit the best and brightest students," says James Yager, senior associate dean for academic affairs and a professor of toxicology in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences. Sommer Scholars will need not only an impressive academic background but "demonstrated leadership potential" as well, Yager says.

Beginning with the 2005-2006 academic year, up to 15 MPH students will receive tuition and living stipends for their entire course of study, and up to 15 doctoral students will receive stipends for five years plus two years of paid tuition. (The rest of their tuition will be covered by training grants and other sources.) In addition to their normal academic schedule, scholars will participate in seminars and internships designed to establish a network of public health leadership for years to come.

Students interested in a Sommer Scholarship, which the school likens to the Rhodes Scholarship, will apply as usual to individual programs, then the departments will nominate their best candidates. Applications to the MPH and doctoral programs are due in December, and scholarships will be announced in March. The school is getting word out now — with a Web site ( and ads in publications such as Science and The New England Journal of Medicine.

Yager says that the scholarship is a fitting tribute to Sommer, who is stepping down as dean next year to devote more time to his research: "Al has been a tremendous spokesperson for public health, and his own research has had a dramatic effect on improving the lives of people around the world." And it will enable the school to continue that good work in the future, says Yager. "We hope that when these individuals go out there and start to have an impact, others will be interested in coming in and supporting this program." — CP

Water Treatment to Bank On

Making river water safe to drink needn't be complicated nor costly, according to Johns Hopkins doctoral student Josh Weiss, who looked no farther than a river's banks for an effective filtration technique.

For more than 50 years, communities in Europe have known that a well sunk near a river provides water that has better odor and taste than water taken directly from the river. That's because the soil alongside the river serves as a natural filter, removing hazardous materials such as industrial solvents.

Hoping to better understand just how the process works, Weiss spent six years studying the output of water drawn from riverside wells in three U.S. municipalities. His findings, which he presented this summer at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, indicate that riverbank filtration does considerably more than just make water taste better — and that it could be used to cut water treatment costs within the United States.

Weiss analyzed water samples from municipal wells in Indiana, Kentucky, and Missouri. Back in his lab at Hopkins, in the Whiting School's Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering (DoGEE), he then purified, by the same methods used by conventional water treatment plants, water samples from the rivers that run beside those wells.

When he compared the results, he found that riverbank filtration was as good or better than conventional purification measures in cleansing the water of organic material, mostly decaying plant matter. Organic material is harmless on its own but reacts to chlorine purification by forming byproducts thought to be carcinogenic. Thus, the more such material can be removed prior to chlorination (which still has to be applied to the well water), the better.

Weiss also found that riverbank filtration showed promise at significantly reducing concentrations of microorganisms, including giardia and cryptosporidium, waterborne organisms that cause serious digestive ailments and are difficult to kill by standard means.

Weiss and his doctoral adviser, DoGEE professor Edward J. Bouwer, believe riverbank filtration could lower water treatment costs and reduce the risks of chlorination and waterborne diseases. "If you think about what it costs to build a full-scale treatment plant to make river water safe," Weiss says, "you can see how this could be very beneficial." — DK

Frank Talk About Student Sex

Jessica Beaton's sex advice column in the Johns Hopkins News-Letter raised a few eyebrows last year with its frank sexual content, sense of humor, and no-holds-barred approach to dealing with all aspects of relationships.

Now the international relations major has found herself a new audience: the 6 million readers of the national magazine CosmoGIRL! Beaton's bi-monthly column, "Ask College Girl," made its debut in the magazine's October issue. "No question's too heavy — or too naughty — for College Girl!" the editors proclaim in their introduction to Beaton's relationship advice column. That's not a stretch. The New York City native says that of the hundreds of questions she's fielded both at Hopkins and for CosmoGirl!, she's never shied away from a topic.

Jessica Beaton "I know that there are a lot of people with questions who just do not know how to ask or even begin a conversation about them," the 20-year-old Beaton says. "If I touch on one issue or another in a column that lets someone start a dialogue that they weren't able to before, I'm happy."

Beaton's career as a sex and relationship adviser began when she was an AIDS peer educator in high school. In 10th grade, after completing a semester of Health, she realized there were gaps in the sexual and reproductive health component and so proposed changes. She told her headmaster, "I believe in this new proposed curriculum so much that I would even teach it." He took her up on her offer, and Beaton taught Health to 10th- and 12th-graders at her school for two years.

Beaton's Hopkins friends knew about her sex-ed experience, and when one became News-Letter editor last year, she wanted Beaton for the sex columnist job.

"I really thought it would be fun," says Beaton, who plans to study law in the area of women's rights and development. "I talk about a lot of these topics with friends, why not talk with the campus about them?"

After Beaton wrote a freelance story on sexuality for CosmoGIRL! last May, the editors asked to see her News-Letter columns. They had been looking for an advice columnist, and Beaton got the job.

"There are so many questions that our girls come to us with that are better answered by someone who has recently been through it," says CosmoGIRL! executive editor Ann Shoket. "Jess couldn't be more honest and straightforward, and that is exactly what you want to get from your advice columnist."

Unlike her News-Letter column, Beaton's column for CosmoGIRL!, which targets females aged 13 to 23, is more about relationships and dating than sex. Nevertheless, her honesty is still there. As is Beaton's devotion to promoting safe sex. "Every column where I talk about sex gives a nod to safer sex," she says. "It is important to make safer sex the norm, and continually reinforcing that message is incredibly important to me." — MB

Reading the Needs of Greater Homewood Neighborhoods

Nearly every Wednesday night, David Engelhardt, a nationally ranked Scrabble competitor, leaves his downtown office and travels to Charles Village to share his fervor for words, reading, and comprehension. But his midweek task is no game. Engelhardt is one of about 60 regular tutors who participate in the largest volunteer literacy program in Baltimore City through the Greater Homewood Community Corporation (GHCC).

"Reading is essential for just about everything we do," says Engelhardt, 53. "Most of us take it for granted."

Engelhardt works primarily with David Williams, 52, who was born in Trinidad to a family with nine children. Though Williams attended school until the sixth grade, he never learned to read. "If you are blind, somehow you develop a different kind of sense," says Williams, who relied on friends and strangers to understand forms, applications, and other materials. "I developed smartness; I was always friendly with people. That is how I dealt with it."

That worked until he emigrated in 2001. "When I came into this country, I realized nobody would help me with anything," Williams says without a hint of bitterness. "I just smiled and made up my mind that I could learn."

Reading is fundamental for David Engelhardt (left) and David Williams.
Photo by Christopher Myers
When Engelhardt and Williams started their tutoring, Williams could not understand the street signs and billboards he encountered every day. Today, he works in a publications distribution warehouse and recently bought his first home.

GHCC's adult literacy and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs were created to attract immigrants to Baltimore City, which had been steadily losing residents. To date, the programs have helped more than 4,000 foreign-born city residents with basic reading, writing, math, and English skills. Instruction methods include regularly scheduled and facilitated conversation groups, where students practice everyday discussions and language tasks.

"When immigrants come into the area, they're intimidated to use their skills," says Todd Elliot, director of the adult literacy program. "If we can get them over that barrier, we can help them feel better about themselves."

Adult literacy and ESOL programs are just two of GHCC's many missions. The organization was established 35 years ago as a coalition of area activists and representatives from prominent institutions: the Johns Hopkins University, Union Memorial Hospital, and the Maryland Casualty insurance company. Retired Hopkins Vice President Ross Jones, A&S '53, is among those credited with creating the organization.

"Ross Jones was the one who saw that building relationships between neighbors and institutions would strengthen the community," says William Miller, GHCC's executive director. "And he was right. If you're a large institution like Hopkins, it's important to solidify the area around you."

Today, the group focuses its efforts on strengthening 40 neighborhoods in Greater Homewood through education and economic development. Its primary goal, Miller says, is to get people involved in their own communities; last year GHCC members logged 54,000 volunteer hours in area schools. Since its inception, the organization's scope has expanded to include areas farther north and south of Homewood.

Emeritus professor of biophysics Michael Beer, a longtime city advocate who spearheaded an effort to preserve the Jones Falls, is president of GHCC's board of directors.

While he takes pride in GHCC achievements, he is careful to give credit to the staff and volunteers who carry out the group's missions.

"They see some of the big problems that our society has and devise ways to do something about them," Beer says. "Some wonderful stories come out of their work."

David Williams is one of those stories. He recently traveled back to Trinidad and ran into an acquaintance who needed help reading instructions at the airport. Williams gladly complied.

"I'm helping people to fill out forms!" he says, still amazed at his own progress. "Isn't that great?" — CAR

Academic Approach to Real Estate

Hoping to better equip professionals who want to make their mark in real estate, Hopkins' School of Professional Studies in Business and Education will launch a full-time master's degree program beginning next fall.

Made possible by a $5.85 million commitment from donor Edward A. St. John, the full-time master's will complement the school's existing part-time program, one of just five in the nation devoted to real estate science. While that program is aimed at midcareer professionals, many of whom already hold degrees in law and business, the full-time program is intended for recent graduates, says Michael Anikeeff, chair of the newly renamed Edward St. John Department of Real Estate. "We believe this program to be unique in academia," he says.

SPSBE will recruit students both nationally and internationally for the 12-month program, which will include elements of the part-time program (including courses in design, construction, land use regulation, and real estate law) as well as an internship at an approved real estate company. — Sue De Pasquale

Return to November 2004 Table of Contents

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