Johns Hopkins Magazine - June 1996 Issue

In Short - On Campuses

By Sue De Pasquale, Elise Hancock, Melissa Hendricks, and Parag Nene '97
University names new president Hopkins left reeling after student murder new digs for Nursing men's fencing goes undefeated

New president named: William R. Brody

After a lengthy international search, Johns Hopkins has elected its 13th president--one who is already intimately familiar with the university. President-elect William R. Brody, who comes to Hopkins from a position as provost of the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center, is also a former Hopkins professor.

Moreover, while director of the Department of Radiology at the School of Medicine from 1987 to 1994, Brody had chaired a university-wide faculty group called the Committee for the 21st Century, or C-21, that was charged with devising a strategic plan to ready Hopkins for the new century. Then-president William C. Richardson instructed the committee to think freshly, remembering that the same old answers might no longer apply in the face of growing competition for research funding and healthcare dollars.

Since 1994, when C-21 issued its 23 detailed recommendations, pressures have intensified. "The issues of cost, quality, and access are going to hit all of higher education," Brody told assembled faculty and staff on April 8. Addressing these concerns while maintaining high standards of research and education will be critical, Brody said.

The 52-year-old president-elect called Hopkins an "extraordinary university," and said it is "well-positioned" for the future. He said that while he needed to catch up on Hopkins events and to confer with faculty and staff, he expected to find the C-21 recommendations "a very good blueprint for where we need to go."

Brody will take office in the summer, bringing to the position a mix of experience in both academe and business. He holds a PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford, as well as his medical degree. Before he came to Hopkins in 1987, he was professor of radiology and electrical engineering at that university and founder of Resonex Inc., a medical imaging company. He served from 1991 until this year on the MIT Corporation, the institute's board of trustees.

As health provost at the University of Minnesota, Brody developed a reputation for "radical change," while facing a medical market that is heavily penetrated by managed care. He oversaw a budget of $750 million and was responsible for 5,000 students and 14,600 faculty and staff in two medical schools, five other schools for health professionals, and a hospital and health system.

Much of that experience will be directly relevant to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the new administrative entity that is working to streamline healthcare delivery by Hopkins Hospital and the medical faculty. More than one-third of Marylanders receive healthcare through managed care.

"Bill Brody understands delivery systems and the application of technology," said Morris W. Offit, chairman of the Hopkins board and of the search committee that recommended Brody to the trustees. "Cost of delivery is critical for education, just as cost of delivery has made managed care critical for health care," Offit said. "With new technology, how are you going to educate more effectively and efficiently? What is a classroom going to be? What is a campus?... Bill Brody really understands these issues. He is the president for all of Johns Hopkins...a leader who will take us past the challenges and toward the opportunity."

Brody and his wife, Wendy, have two children, a 21-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old son.

Daniel Nathans, interim president since June 1994, will return to the School of Medicine, where he has been on the faculty for more than 30 years. A Nobel laureate, Nathans is University Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics.

Student's murder is "unspeakable tragedy"

Minutes after he was elected chairman of Hopkins's College Republicans on the night of April 10, sophomore Rex Chao was shot and killed on a dirt pathway just south of the MSE Library. Hopkins student Robert Harwood Jr. '96, former chair of the organization, was arrested for the slaying and is awaiting trial in the Baltimore City jail with bail denied.

News of the murder has left the Hopkins community reeling with shock and grief. Chao, a political science major and violinist, had performed in the Hopkins Symphony Orchestra. He had formerly been good friends with Harwood, a devout Catholic and "post-senior," who was waiting to graduate in May and pursue a career in patent law.

At a crowded press conference held the day after Chao's death, interim president Daniel Nathans described the killing as "an unspeakable of the most terrible occurrences in the history of this university."

Stunned classmates tried to find solace by talking with Hopkins counselors and with one another (see opposite page) and by gathering to remember the talented political science major described by his Peabody conducting professor as "very gentle...very sweet." Two busloads made the six-hour trip to Chao's hometown of Port Washington, New York, for his funeral service on April 15. More than 300 students and many university officials turned out for an evening memorial service held at Homewood's Glass Pavilion one week after his death.

Rabbi Shira Lander, who serves the Jewish student community through Campus Ministries, said that many of Harwood's friends have expressed disbelief at his alleged actions. "They're saying, it can't be. The Bob I know wouldn't do something like that," she said. "But sometimes you don't know what people will do."

The friendship between Chao and Harwood began to break down sometime last fall, according to Larry Benedict, dean of student affairs. By early this semester, the rift had widened to the point that Chao complained to Dean of Students Susan Boswell that Harwood was "bothering and pestering him," with e-mail messages and as many as 20 phone calls per day.

Boswell twice called Harwood and told him to refrain from contacting Chao; on March 11 she handed him a letter saying that before returning to campus, he must first inform her or campus security, and give a reason for his visit. Chao's mother called Boswell in March to express her concern about her son, mentioning at one point that she knew Harwood owned a gun. When a security officer questioned him about the gun, Harwood said that it was back in Rhode Island, where he had been living since completing his Hopkins coursework in December. The fact that Harwood owned a gun did not mean he posed a danger, Boswell said; he never threatened to harm anyone.

On April 10, Harwood took the train to Baltimore to attend the College Republicans meeting at which Chao's unopposed bid for chair was up for a vote. (He had called Boswell the night before to inform her of his visit.) At that meeting in the basement of Shaffer Hall, according to police reports, Harwood distributed a flier denouncing Chao's character and charging him with sexual misconduct. The 25 or so members of the group "gave it no credence at all" and elected Chao as chairman, says College Republican Peter Yarbro '96. Once the meeting ended, Chao left with his girlfriend, Suzanne Hubbard '98.

The two were on their way back to the Wolman Hall dormitory around 10:40 p.m. when Harwood approached and shot Chao, once in the head and then in the chest, witnesses said. Harwood fled the scene and was detained by campus security at Wolman and arrested by police. Chao was transported to Union Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

On the spot where Rex Chao fell, beneath a gnarled sourwood, his friends and classmates put together a memorial: tulips, carnations, and daisies lay in bunches. During the days and weeks following the tragedy, the site has been a place for students to gather, alone and in small groups, to mourn their losses and muster strength.

First permanent home for Nursing

Twelve years after enrolling its first students, the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing is getting its first permanent home. On June 6, the school is breaking ground for a $17 million building, which will house all its laboratories, classrooms, faculty offices, and a community nursing center.

The new building, which will be constructed on Wolfe Street directly across from Johns Hopkins Hospital, will consolidate the school, whose rented offices and classrooms are currently scattered throughout Hopkins's East Baltimore and Bayview campuses.

"We're bursting at the seams with very talented faculty and students," says Dean Sue Donaldson. "We can't go one student more, although we're turning away extremely well-qualified students." Classrooms are cramped. As many as five faculty members share an office, working in shifts, says Donaldson. As for research space, "we're maxed out." When the school first opened to students, in 1984, it had 28 students and 10 faculty. Now, 514 students are enrolled, and 54 faculty teach and do research at the school.

In addition to classrooms, offices, and wet labs, the new building will feature computer and video technology for long-distance teaching, something the school currently lacks but which is vitally needed, says Donaldson. Such technology could be used to reach nurses in geographically remote sites, or to teach nursing students, many of whom must continue to work full time while attending school.

The building's architectural plan calls for a facade of red brick, to complement the exterior of the hospital, and caststone, to echo the lighter brick and limestone of the School of Medicine's buildings. A courtyard will feature a large lawn ringed with trees, a fountain, and a collection of medicinal plants. The building is planned for completion in fall 1997.

Written by Sue De Pasquale, Elise Hancock, Melissa Hendricks, and Parag Nene '97.

Foiling their opponents

In a Hopkins fencing feat unequaled since 1936, the men's team this year posted an undefeated regular season. The 22-0 squad went on to sweep all four team trophies at the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Fencing Association (MACFA) championships, and finished second to the juggernaut New York University squad at the UAA finals.

"The most exciting times came when we beat teams that we, frankly, had no expectations of defeating," says captain Carl Liggio '96. "When we went up against Haverford and Virginia Tech in dual meets, we had no intentions of walking away with an upset. But in both cases, we surged away in the final round." The team's tenacity was exemplified by Tim Meyer '96; after breaking his fencing hand, he finished out the season fencing with his left hand.

Unlike top fencing programs at many other colleges and universities, Hopkins's is virtually built from scratch.

"Ninety-five percent of the players start competitively fencing at Hopkins. We cram three years of fencing into one, and they put in hard work," says coach Dick Oles, who has been teaching and coaching the sport since 1958, when it was part of the university's mandatory physical education curriculum.

Oles has a history of turning out top squads at Hopkins. This year, for the ninth time, he was named MACFA Coach of the Year.

"They Were Like Us"

By Keri Lynn Hicks '97

It seemed as if everyone on campus knew within an hour. Tragedy travels fast, they say. And the shooting took place in such a central location. Students in the computer lab and the library and many in the sophomore dorms heard the shots. The news hit an off-campus diner by midnight, and it was national by early morning Thursday. Our campus was reeling.

Reeling from a double blow. Not only was one of our own dead. Another of our own had allegedly done the killing. It was all so incomprehensible. They were like us. Both of them.

I live off campus and knew no one involved, so it took 50 minutes for the news to reach me. I heard at 11:30 p.m., through the phone tree of the peer counseling program that I am part of. The news seemed abstract--terrible and unreal.

Twelve hours later, on Thursday morning, I feel compelled to do something. I still feel distant from the tragedy, but this is the sort of situation peer counselors are trained for and I want to help. So I am postering the campus, walking with fliers in one hand and tape in the other. A Place to Talk, the counseling program, wants students to know that we are providing emergency services.

I have made it as far as the library. I tape a flier to the flagpole just outside the building when suddenly I see two reporters heading toward me. I realize now how close I am to the spot where Rex died. This is the first time I've seen it, the first time I've seen the solitary arrangement of flowers that marks it. I'm crying as I turn away from the camera.

It's been pretty quiet in the AMR I counseling room, but the food is almost gone. Comfort food, we call it--doughnuts, cookies, coffee. All night students have wandered in to eat. Most linger, some even sit down. They don't realize that they've come to talk, but all mention the shooting. Most leave once they've finished their doughnuts.

Right now no one's here but the counselors on shift. There are two of us, and we have another hour before the room closes at 2 a.m. My partner, Katie, hasn't slept much the last two days, and weariness pulls at her eyes. She has been listening to others grieve and now I'm glad we're alone, because it's her turn to talk. I can see her face cloud over in remembrance as she begins, slowly: "People were just shocked. Some just wandering around outside without coats. I don't think they even knew what they were doing. They were like robots."

She pulls her knees to her chest and continues. "I was in Wolman," she says, referring to the sophomore dorm where Robert Harwood turned himself in. "And people were standing in groups clumped together. Just so they wouldn't be alone, I guess." She stops, and staring hard at nothing in front of her, says, "But no one was talking."

You just can't escape something like this at a college. Not when home and work and play are so entwined. The platitude "life goes on" is tough to accept. I am in a writing class watching Mike--a fellow counselor and a close friend to Rex--struggle to sit and discuss editorial styles. His eyes seem tortured and he looks distant, seeing only his memories. I wonder if the rest of our class notices.

Afterward, I ask him softly, "How are you?" He shrugs and we leave together. Outside, he looks at me, and then to the sky. He suddenly starts away and then comes back, making a desperate three-foot circle. He says, "It won't go away, you know?" With his eyes wide and filling now with tears, he says, "It's everywhere with me."

And with the enormity of that statement, the sobs that have marked these six days overwhelm him again. I hold him, because there is nothing else to do, until they pass. We walk slowly onto the lower quad, where the grass has been fenced off for Spring Fair. We reminisce, for this is the weekend when we met three years ago as eager prospective freshmen. Mike was the first person I knew who was also coming to Hopkins. Now, three years later, I watch him as he looks at the green plastic fencing and the magnolia trees lining the path. I watch him as he says, "Everything has changed."

Two busloads of mourners left from the library at 4:30 a.m. on a Monday morning to attend Rex's funeral in New York. Now, two nights later, there are roughly 300 people at the campus memorial service. Rex as stubborn, as sweet, as perpetually late--these are the stories we are told in remembrance. His girlfriend's final words--"Good-bye Rex..."--are just a whisper. And as a recording of Rex playing his violin fills the Glass Pavilion, we light candles. Three hundred flames illuminate the tears, eerily quiet, that fall everywhere as the dark campus--forever changed--looks on.

Keri Lynn Hicks '97 is a Writing Seminars major and a member of the A Place To Talk peer counseling program.

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