Tufts seal
The online edition of Tuft's quarterly publication Contents Back Issues Subscribe Contact Us
Selected Features
Professor's Row
Talk to Us
Send a Letter
Send a Classnote
Update your Records
Related Links
Tufts E-News link
Tufts Journal link
Tufts University link
link to Alumni Office
Tufts Career Network link
Support Tufts



University news

  Active citizens
  Progress Report

ARMSTRONG: "We all have good fights we need to fight."
photograph by Jodi Hilton

Live strong
Champion cyclist Lance Armstrong inspires grads with a message

The seven-time winner of the Tour de France delivered the Tufts commencement speech, his first ever, at the all-university graduation on May 21. Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor who has raised millions of dollars for cancer research, urged graduates to find their own path of active citizenship. Following are excerpts from his address.

You know, for a guy who barely made it out of high school, I find it incredibly ironic that I am standing up here as a doctor. I would just ask that somebody send the photos to the principal at Plano East Senior High and let him know that I, in fact, graduated from Tufts and that he has to call me Dr. Armstrong now.

All joking aside, this is an interesting day for me. I have never done this before; I have never done a commencement speech. I have done a lot of speeches, but never one like this. I have to tell you that [I], as a 35-year-old, and you guys as, I suppose, younger people . . . we have a lot in common. You are graduating today and heading out into the world and will find new challenges and new difficulties and new horizons, and I am the same way. I have done professional sports for 20 years. I only know one thing and that is how to suffer on a bike. It's all over and now I have graduated to another level in my life in which I'll also face new challenges.

I love to tell the stories, of course, of winning. But in 1998, when I decided to come back, there really were no guarantees. I was a year and a half off the bike. . . . I figured if I ridded my body of all the cancer, I would come back on the bike and I would win immediately. I had abdomen, lung, and brain metastases and [I thought], let's get rid of all that stuff [and] I'll win everything. I trained that way and I raced that way, at least I started to race that way.

The sad news is, or the reality is, that I didn't win. I didn't win at all. I was completely disillusioned. I fell out of love with the sport. I fell out of love with the bike. I didn't like my job. I didn't like Europe. I quit and I came home in the spring of '98. That's a story that nobody tells. I was done with cycling forever. I proceeded to hang out with my friends, drink a few beers, play golf. I certainly was not living the life of a professional athlete until, one day, a group of friends sat me down and said, "You can't go out like this. You've got to get back on the bike, at least finish the year. You made a commitment to your team and to a whole population of cancer survivors that you'll try this. You have to at least finish the year."

So I did that and I went and found a remote training camp in Boone, North Carolina, with a coach and a friend. For eight days in the pouring rain, 40 degrees, I fell back in love with the bike. That was the start of the comeback and the rest is history there.

At the end of '98, I decided to try and focus on one thing: the biggest bike race in the world. I'm not sure how you go from not sure whether or not you want to do it to, "Why don't we just win the hardest bike race in the world?" But we did it. It was all about risk; it was all about taking chances. But at the same time it was an incredibly peaceful time because when nobody has any expectations of you, and you don't have many expectations of yourself, there's no risk. That was easy. . . .

Now I have graduated from cycling. My education has been on the road. My education has been through illness. My education has been on a death bed. I realized that the only way to live life and to lead life is actively and as active citizens.

I finished chemotherapy in December of 1996, and, when I was leaving the hospital, my doctor pulled me aside . . . and he said, "I want to talk to you about something. I want to talk to you about the obligation of the cured."

I realized, at that time, that he was being very serious. I, of course, loved the idea that he wanted to talk to me about something that even mentioned the word "cure," thinking he might want to tell me he snuck me the secret stuff that works every time. But it was nothing to do with that. It was about how you walk out of the hospital, how you walk out of the building. Which side do you walk out on? Do you walk out the side as a private citizen that never shares his story [and] never gets involved, but hopes he lives and goes on and leads a normal life? Totally acceptable.

Or do you go out the other side of the building? And from the minute you walk out, you stand up and you say, "You know what, I'm a cancer survivor and I'm proud of it. It changed my life forever and I'm going to tell that story as long as I have to." While I say that I hope there comes a day when I don't have to tell that story anymore, I chose that side of the building. I chose that path. I chose active citizenship. And I challenge you all to choose that as well. Of course, remaining private and staying at home and being a true individual is also fine. But the group effort and the active effort is much better.

When I walked out of that building, I never thought that I would ever get back on the bike. I never thought I would come back. I never thought I would win a stage in the Tour, or one, or two, or seven. But it gave me the opportunity to stand here . . . I feel really blessed and humbled that I have been given that opportunity. Not all of us will have that opportunity on a global level, but we'll all have that opportunity on a local level and especially in your homes.

[Two] years ago . . . Nike came to me and they said, "We want to make a yellow band for your cause." The funny part of it was that they had already made these yellow bands. They had made these bands for basketball players. For those of you who don't know, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1996—not something as a 25-year-old kid in Texas you really love to talk about. But they came to me and they said, "We actually have these bands and ironically enough they are called ‘ballers.' " They make them for basketball players; that's a true story. [Nike said,] "And we want to make some yellow ones and put your flagship program, ‘LIVESTRONG,' on there. We are going to make five million of them and give them to you and you can sell them for a dollar."

I wish you could have been in the room when we all sat around and joked about what we were going to do with 4.9 million yellow bands that say "LIVESTRONG." But the truth of the matter is that we went through 5 million quickly and 15, 20, 25, 50, and now north of 55 million yellow bands somewhere around the world. We could not keep up with the demand. . . .

I tell people all the time—actually I don't tell people, my friends tell me, "Lance, what are you going to do now? You are a guy who races through every city limits sign with your friends. You are a guy who can't stand to lose at anything. What are you going to do now that you don't have sports to fill your life?" The answer is very simple. I've got something because of past circumstances that will be so much greater and give me such an opportunity to make seven Tours look absolutely small. That's this idea of active citizenship and mobilizing an army of people that come together and effect change now and forever. . . .

I just challenge you to find your own "obligation of the cured." You don't have to be diagnosed with cancer today or tomorrow or next year. But you might be because the numbers are startling. Or your mom might be or your dad might be. But somehow find it within you, if you can follow my drift, what it means, this obligation of the cured. Walk out that side of the building. Be active. Be involved. Be heard.
Be aggressive. Be smart. Don't be afraid.


NEW DEAN: Deborah Turner Kochevar, noted researcher in the field of veterinary pharmacology, will head the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

Veterinary dean named
Tufts taps "inspiring mentor" from Texas A&M

Deborah Turner KochevaR, an associate dean at Texas A&M University's College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, has been named the fourth dean of Tufts' Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Kochevar is also a professor of veterinary physiology and pharmacology at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M, with a joint appointment in medical physiology.

"After a comprehensive, national search, I am delighted that we've hired the best candidate in the country," said Tufts Provost and Senior Vice President Jamshed Bharucha. "Dr. Kochevar is passionate about research and teaching, and is the perfect leader to take our veterinary school into the future, building on the successes of former Dean Phil Kosch and Interim Dean Sawkat Anwer."

"The students, faculty, and staff at the Cummings School are among the best in the nation," Kochevar said. "I am thrilled to serve as dean for such a dedicated and talented group. From its beginning in 1978, the school has served as a model for progressive and innovative scholarly activity. I hope to nurture and expand those traditions to the benefit of the school and the veterinary profession."

Heralded as an inspiring mentor to her students, Kochevar holds the Wiley Chair of Veterinary Medical Education at Texas A&M. She has won many teaching awards and participated in educational outreach projects funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Science.

Kochevar's research focuses on pharmacology and cellular and molecular biology. She has received research grants from the American Heart Association, the United States Department of Agriculture, and corporate sponsors.

President of the American College of Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology, she is active in the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Kochevar graduated from Rice University in 1978, Phi Beta Kappa, with degrees in English and biology. She received a doctor of veterinary medicine degree from Texas A&M University in 1981, and a postdoctoral degree in cellular and molecular biology from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in 1987.

She was a National Institutes of Health National Research Service Award Fellow in 1984–86.

The search for a new dean began in 2005, after Dean Philip C. Kosch announced his decision to take a one-year sabbatical before returning to Tufts to assist the Provost's Office with special research projects. Dr. M. Sawkat Anwer, distinguished professor and chair of Tufts' department of biomedical sciences, has served as the veterinary school's interim dean since July 1, 2005.


LEADERS CONGREGATE: From left to right, former president of Guatemala Vinicio Cerezo Arévalo, Andrea Petersen, A06, and Mauricio Artiñano, A06.

Peace ambassadors
At students' behest, Central American leaders talk

After a decade of peace in Central America, leaders on both sides of the civil wars that gripped the region in the 1980s and '90s gathered in Toledo, Spain, this spring to engage in a civilized exchange. The occasion, a conference entitled "Lessons Learned on Regional Peace-Building: The Experience of the Central American Peace Process," was arranged not by professional diplomats but by Tufts students. Despite their lack of official standing, the organizers brought together such figures as José María Figueres, former president of Costa Rica, and Vinicio Cerezo Arévalo, former president of Guatemala, as well as General Joaquín Cuadra Lacayo, once the top general of the Popular Sandinista Army, and Joaquín Villalobos, a former Salvadoran guerilla leader.

The conference was the brainchild of Mauricio Artiñano, A06, an international relations major from Costa Rica. "The peace process in Central America was largely ignored by the international community because it was so successful," he says. "People like to pay attention to what doesn't work." In his sophomore year he met Timothy Phillips, an expert in conflict resolution who was then an INSPIRE Scholar at the Institute for Global Leadership. Phillips inspired him to think of ways to highlight what does work. "I thought there was a lot from that peace process that could help people in other conflicts," Artiñano says.

With funding from the Tisch College Scholars Program and Tufts' Institute for Global Leadership, Artiñano organized a group of students to work on developing a conference. Artiñano, along with Sebastian Chaskel, A07, Pedro Echavarria, A09, Cynthia Medina, A07, Andrea Petersen, A06, and Molly Runyon, F06, traveled to Central America and persuaded former presidents and other leaders to attend. Back home, they worked on the logistics of the conference and wrote most of the agenda.

At the conference, the original goal of learning from the Central American peace process quickly evolved into discussions of what still needed to be done. Several attendees proposed updating the peace treaty known as Esquipulas II, which had
been adopted by all Central American countries. "I felt the hairs on my arms stand up when this was announced," says Artiñano. "To think that this conference could help lead to an Esquipulas III is unbelievable."

For Sebastian Chaskel, A07, a native of Colombia, the conference held special importance. "The fact that these people were able to accomplish peace and that their ideas could be brought back and used in my country gives me hope," he says.

While the other students work on archiving important conference documents, Artiñano is planning a follow-up conference to take place this fall in Vancouver. "What's most important is to keep the momentum going," he says. "We've discussed what needs to be done; now we have to come up with results."

photograph by Melody Ko
Oppenheimer biography awarded Pulitzer
For co-author Martin Sherwin, it's the "ultimate review"

Tufts historian Martin Sherwin (below right) was working in his study in his Washington, D.C., home on April 17 when he got the big news: his biography of A-bomb physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, American Prometheus, had won the Pulitzer Prize.
"I received a call from an editor at Knopf who sounded as if she was at
a very noisy party, and I guess she was," Sherwin recalls. "Everyone at Knopf was cheering. I called my co-author, Kai Bird, who lives nearby—then both our phones began to ring."

Sherwin, the Walter S. Dickson Professor of English and American History, and Bird, a contributing editor of The Nation, shared the limelight for a book that has been acclaimed a definitive biography of the complex genius who guided the Manhattan Project during the Second World War, only to have his security clearance revoked during the McCarthy era.

For his part, Sherwin devoted a quarter century to the project. "After 25 years of work, the best part of the publishing experience was seeing American Prometheus in print," he says. "The second-best part was to see it appreciated by reviewers. Winning the Pulitzer Prize is the ultimate review. It is also a ticket to a trip down memory lane. I have received letters, phone calls, and emails from people I haven't seen or talked to since high school."

Sherwin wouldn't hazard a guess as to why the Pulitzer judges favored the Oppenheimer biography. "You have to ask the judges. I can only say that I am glad that they did." But he said the story of the physicist who helped usher in the nuclear age, only to run afoul of the national security apparatus, resonates today: "Oppenheimer's experiences are frighteningly relevant both with respect to the dangers associated with the proliferation of nuclear weapons and also with respect to government misconduct."

What's next? "I am writing a book about the Cuban Missile Crisis," says Sherwin, who prepared for nuclear war as a U.S. Navy Air Force officer in October 1962. "In American Prometheus one of my primary concerns was Oppenheimer's failed effort to abolish nuclear weapons. I want now to write about the episode that almost made Oppenheimer's worst fears a reality. If I have the time, I may try to publish a collection of the 60 or so Oppenheimer interviews I recorded and transcribed, sort of ‘An Oral History of J. Robert Oppenheimer.' But the Cuban Missile Crisis book is my first priority."

ROW UPON ROW: Standardized cargo containers await shipment in the port of Singapore.

Port connoisseurs

WHAT: The Neptunes, a loose assortment of alumni—and, occasionally, current students—of the Fletcher School's Oceanic Studies Program who accompany Professor John Curtis Perry on periodic trips to study the world's major seaports.

Why ports matter: "Most Americans don't know that their shoes come by sea, and their computer screens come by sea, and virtually everything we use comes to us by sea," says Perry, the Henry Willard Denison Professor of History. "The sea sustains us
and makes our cheap consumer goods possible. It's a great wealth generator."

No two alike: To a connoisseur, each port has its own charms. Perry enumerates:

Lisbon. "An old port. It is in the middle of the city, on the banks of the Tagus River. It was once Europe's gateway to Asia, yet it's a rather small port in the world today."

Felixstowe. Britain's largest container port (most cargo these days is shipped in standardized steel boxes), "located in a seedy former North Sea resort. There is a lot of open land, deep-water anchorage, and sheltered anchorage, the three requisites of a container port."

Newark. "A decaying industrial city that has now embraced a port. Manhattan doesn't have the space, so Newark has become the port
of New York."

Hong Kong. "It's built around saltwater space. You smell the water and you feel the salt on your skin, and you hear the gulls crying."

Singapore. "All of that is absent in Singapore—it's on the edge of saltwater space. There you see the containers tucked neatly behind a fence. And the fence will be covered with vines and flowers."

Action Plan: Today, all prospective farmers go through intensive 18-week training during the winter. Friedman students, mainly from the Agriculture, Food and Environment, and Food Policy and Applied Nutrition programs, helped develop the curriculum under the directions of product coordinator Jennifer Hashley, G05. Students also have assisted with fundraising, outreach, and finding farmland, as well as engaging in their own research projects and directed studies.

George Schil / Getty images

Rainbow of abilities
A trial admissions program will gauge applicants' creativity

Tufts is planning to test some innovative changes to the application for undergraduate admission. The initiative grew out of the research of Robert Sternberg, who was appointed dean of Arts & Sciences last fall. In work known as the Rainbow Project, Sternberg, a psychologist, has developed methods of assessing students' creative and practical abilities in order to better predict how well they will do in college and to create more equity in the admissions process.

"It's called ‘Rainbow' because it looks at diverse abilities and different bands of the spectrum," Sternberg said. "The goal is not to replace the SAT but to supplement it."

Lee Coffin, dean of undergraduate admissions, said, "The plan is to introduce—in a pilot form—elements of Dean Sternberg's ‘Rainbow test' to the admissions process" for the Arts & Sciences students who will enter Tufts in September 2007.

During the next few months, Coffin, Sternberg, and others will create supplemental admissions materials unique to Tufts. Students seeking admission to the Class of 2011 will have the option of completing the additional material along with the required "standard application." For example, Coffin said, candidates may be asked to write a caption for a New Yorker–style cartoon, or a short story based on an intriguing title, or an essay on an unconventional topic.

Both Sternberg and Coffin stressed that these new methods of assessing students' abilities will never overshadow the importance of standardized test scores and grades in making admissions decisions at Tufts. "Academic achievement has been—and will remain—the most important part of the process," Coffin said. "Any introduction of new elements will help us learn more about that pool [of qualified students]. We are not going to leave out high-academic-achieving students and replace them with low-academic-achieving but more creative students," he said. The new materials, he said, will provide "additional indices" on which to evaluate candidates for admission.

"The people who were at the top of the admissions stack before will stay at the top of the stack," Sternberg said. "The people who were at the bottom will remain at the bottom. The new assessments will be most useful, we believe, for students in the middle—for whom it is not clear whether the decision should be to admit or not."

Sternberg's research examines three types of "intelligence" that can be predictors of success: analytical, creative, and practical. Analytical skills are those that are most rewarded in the American educational system and that are best reflected in the SAT or ACT, the existing standardized tests high school students take as part of the college admissions process. However, those who are gifted in other areas, such as creative or practical thinking or artistic expression, can excel in college and in life, Sternberg said.

It is also hoped the amplified admissions materials can help increase the diversity of the undergraduate student body at Tufts. As a group, African-American and Latino students do not tend to do as well on the SAT as white or Asian-American students, Coffin said. "The Rainbow questions are another way of looking at those applicants," he said. "They can help us, I hope, increase the representation in our class."

This past year, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions received 15,291 applications from prospective students for the Class of 2010. Acceptance letters were sent out to 26 percent of them.

The idea of using Tufts-specific material on the admissions application is not new to the university. Applicants for the class that will matriculate this fall were offered the chance to respond to any of four optional essays, which were designed to showcase their intellectual curiosity, creativity, and personal background, Coffin said.

The essays asked students to pretend they were at their retirement party and to reflect on what they hoped their legacy of active citizenship would be; to write a newspaper editorial about an overlooked issue; to talk about the three books they considered essential to their personal libraries; or to explain how they "self-identified."

The essays were added to the Tufts application as a result of the work of the Task Force on the Undergraduate Experience, which sought ways to increase the sense of intellectual vigor and energy on campus, Coffin said.