Obies Hasten to Provide Aid to Hurricane Victims
by Catherine Gabe
Photos by Roger Mastroianni

The Oberlin Chamber Orchestra took part in a Katrina benefit concert hosted by the Conservatory in October.

When Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast the weekend before classes began, Obies not only took notice, they began organizing relief efforts.

President Nancy Dye quickly initiated a campus-wide fundraising effort for storm-devastated Dillard University, a historically black college in New Orleans to which Oberlin has longtime ties. Three early graduates of Oberlin, all abolitionists, helped raise funds to establish the precursor to Dillard, Straight University, in 1869. “We are very glad to be able to carry on in their tradition, to rebuild this historic university,” says Dye.

Buildings at Dillard were submerged in as much as 10 feet of water, and several dorms were destroyed by fires. Stately elms that graced the campus, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, were swept away.

Dye has a personal connection to the school through her longstanding friendship with former Dillard president Michael Lomax, currently president of the United Negro College Fund. More than $75,000 raised by 650-plus members of the College community is being routed to Dillard through the United Negro College Fund.

Oberlin’s effort will continue for some time. Dye is planning a joint fundraising project next spring with Johnnetta Cole ’57, president of Bennett College in North Carolina. The Oberlin College Library has offered assistance to Dillard’s library, whose collection of about 100,000 volumes was threatened first by water and now by the resulting mold and muck.

“Dillard is a remarkable school, and it would be a crime if it never fully regained its glory,” says sophomore Udoka Chima, who spent time at the school and organized a hip-hop concert to raise funds.

Obies are also reaching out to help in other ways. OCOPE, the College’s clerical union, held a campus-wide bake sale and collected $2,235 for the American Red Cross. Sophomore Kate Mooney, a New Orleans native, organized a New Orleans’ brass band performance in Wilder’s ’Sco. Directing the band was junior jazz studies major Theodore Croker, a trumpet player and grandson of the famous New Orleans trumpeter Doc Cheatum. The event raised $900 for the American Red Cross.

Oberlin Jazz Septet members Allie Bosso '06, Theo Croker '07, and Johnny Butler '06

“I wanted to do something for my city that would honor the culture and the music,” says Mooney, whose family home was under nine feet of water. “I have strong memories of New Orleans’ brass bands; it’s a great tradition.”

Another benefit concert was held by the Conservatory, which hosted an evening of classical music and New Orleans jazz in Finney Chapel. Featuring the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra, the Oberlin Musical Union, and the Oberlin Jazz Septet, the concert was broadcast live on WCLV, Cleveland’s classical music radio station. An estimated $3,000 was raised at the door for the American Red Cross; the agency also reported a large spike in web and phone donations during the broadcast.

A campus-wide fast, held Oct. 13, was organized by student organizations with help from the Office of Chaplains. The date coincided with Yom Kippur and Ramadan. Campus Dining Services donated the money saved through the unused meals—which Rabbi Shimon Brand estimated could total several thousand dollars—to the American Friends Service Committee for hurricane relief.

Finally, one student felt compelled to take a personal and direct role in hurricane relief. Within days of the storm, senior history major Arthur Richards took a leave of absence and rented a 16-foot truck with friend Tyler Norman. By late September, they had raised more than $2,000. Several co-ops donated nearly 3,000 pounds of food, Richards says. The pair headed to Baton Rouge to work with Food not Bombs, a national, all-volunteer group.

For updates on hurricane relief efforts and to read posts from alumni in the affected areas, visit More information will appear in the winter issue of OAM. ATS

To contribute to Dillard University Hurricane Relief, send a check made out to Oberlin College to the Office of Development, 50 W. Lorain St., Oberlin, OH 44074. Please write United Negro College Fund/Hurricane Relief Fund on the memo line. Your donation will be credited also as a gift to Oberlin.

When School Is Out, Learning’s Still in Session
by Kehan DeSousa ’09

Emily Magorian '08 studies the protein CA-125 with Rebecca Wheelan.
Photo by Rebecca Lammons '06

Oberlin may not have a summer term, but that certainly doesn’t mean learning on campus comes to a stop.

This summer, some 30 faculty-student research teams worked on projects with topics as varied as African American life in western Kentucky and coral reef communities in the Dominican Republic. The research was funded by a variety of fellowships, including 27 Mellon and McNair grants, as well as grants from the Scholars and Artists Fund and Oberlin College.

Summer collaborations between faculty members and students are mutually beneficial; faculty members working on research rely on the help of talented undergraduates. For students, the collaborations can open minds to new knowledge and eyes to new career choices.

“Being a research assistant probably drove me in the direction I’m going now,” says senior Katie Weinberger. The biology and environmental studies major devised her honors project after spending a summer working with Associate Professor of Environmental Studies John Petersen. With her research assistantship—funded by grants from the EPA and the Department of Natural Resources—she and Petersen focused on determining which of several methods of planting and cultivation works best in wetlands-restoration projects.

For her honors project, Weinberger will use the data from the ongoing wetlands study to map the spatial patterns of vegetation. She plans to pursue a graduate degree in ecology.

For the past two years, Associate Pro-fessor of Anthropology Linda Grimm and several student assistants and volunteers have been undertaking a different but equally ambitious project. In 2003, at the urging of students in her museum anthropology class, Grimm and some student volunteers spent the summer cataloguing artifacts in a long-forgotten ethnographic collection gathered throughout the 19th century by several missionary alumni.

“The project wouldn’t have happened without the students,” says Grimm. This summer, Grimm, Erin Allen ’05, and Kathy McCardwell ’06 photographed and classified the estimated 16,000 objects; they hope to complete the digital archive by January. The ultimate goal is to make the archive available online, especially to scholars in locations where the artifacts were collected, including Mozambique and the Shansi province of China.

With the help of four student assistants, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry Rebecca Whelan focused this summer on finding ways to detect the protein CA-125 in blood. In many women who have ovarian cancer, levels of this protein become elevated. “I treated them like beginning graduate students, giving them a great amount of autonomy and responsibility,” says Whelan. “They all rose to the challenge beautifully.”

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