R.I.P. Dr. S. Allen Counter, 63, Noted Neurophysiologist, Ethnographer and Founding Director of Harvard Foundation of Intercultural and Race Relations 

S. Allen Counter (photo via news.harvard.edu)

by Rachael Dane via news.harvard.edu

S. Allen Counter, the founding director of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations and a noted neurophysiologist, educator, and ethnographer, died on July 12.  According to wikipedia.com, Counter was also known for his achievements as an explorer. In 1971, he located a group of people living in the rain forest in northern Brazil, Surinam and French Guiana; the group was descended from African slaves who had escaped from slave ships. In 1986, Counter located descendants of earlier U.S. explorers of the arctic, Matthew A. Henson and Robert E. Peary. Counter was elected to The Explorers Club in 1989. Counter also designed Arthur Ashe‘s memorial at Woodland Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, dedicated on what would have been Ashe’s 50th birthday on July 10, 1993.

“Harvard has lost a great champion of inclusion and belonging in Dr. Allen Counter,” said President Drew Faust. “Through his leadership of the Harvard Foundation, he advanced understanding among members of our community and challenged all of us to imagine and strive for a more welcoming University and a more peaceful world. We remember today a campus citizen whose deep love of Harvard, and especially our undergraduates, leaves a lasting legacy.”

“During my years as president of Harvard, no one did more than Allen to make minority students feel welcome and at home at Harvard, to promote fruitful interaction among all races, and to serve as understanding adults to whom many undergraduates could turn in order to register their concerns, answer their questions, and have their legitimate problems communicated to the Harvard administration so that they could be understood and acted upon in appropriate ways,” recalled Derek Bok, who led the University from 1971–91 and from 2006–07. “Much of what he accomplished was unrecognized, but his contributions were invaluable, and I will always feel a great debt of gratitude for his service to the University.”

Counter did his undergraduate work in biology and sensory physiology at Tennessee State University and his graduate studies in electrophysiology at Case Western Reserve University, where he earned his Ph.D. He earned his M.D. at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. He came to Harvard in 1970 as a postdoctoral fellow and assistant neurophysiologist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Early in his University career, Counter lived in a student residence hall as dormitory director, resident tutor, and biological sciences tutor.

In the early 1970s, the U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (now the Department of Health and Human Services) named him to the National Advisory Mental Health Council of the National Institute of Mental Health. In 1975, several proposals came before the council requesting funding for projects involving psychosurgery and electrode implants in human brains. At that time, the government’s rules protecting human subjects were still evolving, and Counter believed the projects were inherently racist. He insisted the council not approve them, and they were not acted upon.

In the same decade, Counter taught inmates at MCI Concord with the Massachusetts Correctional Concord Achievement Rehabilitation Volunteer Experience, where he said he gave inmates the same advice his grandmother had given him: “Read a book. Develop your mind.” A later study showed that participants in the program had a lower recidivism rate than prisoners who did not take part. After a sabbatical fellowship at UCLA with neuroscientist Alan D. Grinnell in the late 1970s, Counter returned to Cambridge, where his research at Harvard Medical School focused on clinical and basic studies on nerve and muscle physiology, auditory physiology, and neurophysiological diagnosis of brain-injured children and adults. Continue reading

Tracy K. Smith Named New U.S. Poet Laureate by Library of Congress

Tracy K. Smith (Photograph © Rachel Eliza Griffiths)

by Sophia Nguyen via harvardmagazine.com

Tracy K. Smith has been named the new U.S. Poet Laureate by the Library of Congress, succeeding Juan Felipe Herrera. While the role doesn’t carry many specific official duties, it has traditionally involved raising awareness of, and increasing access to, poetry. “I am excited about the kinds of social divides that poetry may be able not just to cross but to mend,” Smith said in an interview with the library.

“One of my favorite things in the world is to sit and talk quietly about the things poems cause me to notice and remember, the feelings they teach me to recognize, the deep curiosity about other people’s lives that they foster. I am excited about carrying this conversation beyond literary festivals and university classrooms, and finding ways that poems might genuinely bring together people who imagine they have nothing to say to one another.” Smith has authored four books of poetry, the most recent of which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2012. Her memoir Ordinary Light was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2015.

In later chapters, she describes going to Harvard (where she joined the Dark Room Collective) as her mother’s health began to fail. In poetry workshops, she writes, “I had discovered that sitting down with an idea and letting it unfold in words and sounds offered me not just pleasure but an indescribable comfort.” Her new collection, Wade in the Water, comes out next April.

To read full article, go to: Library of Congress names Harvard alumna Tracy K. Smith as new Poet Laureate | Harvard Magazine

Harvard Design School Graduate Dana McKinney Merges Architecture and Social Justice

Architect Dana McKinney (photo via news.harvard.edu)

article by Christina Pazzanese via news.harvard.edu

When Dana McKinney was a girl, her family drove every week from their small town in Fairfield County, Conn., to Sunday dinner at her grandmother’s home in Newark, N.J. To a child who loved dance and art, the changing scenery on those trips revealed stark contrasts that stung of economic inequality.

“I was going back and forth between a very comfortable lifestyle in Connecticut to a very depressed environment in Newark and became really inspired to look at how people can affect the built environment,” McKinney said. “I want to be able to fix this! — That was my immediate reaction — I’ll be an architect!”

After studying architecture at Princeton University, McKinney went to Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) to earn master’s degrees in architecture and urban planning. It’s an unusual and demanding course of study, but one McKinney felt would merge her design work with her interest in social change, social justice, and the power of architecture to transform people’s lives.

“I want to make beautiful spaces and buildings, but I don’t want … the pitfall of only working with elite clients, and I think a lot of times architects end up serving a very high-income population. A majority of housing is done by developers in the U.S., [so] good architecture barely reaches outside a certain economic class,” McKinney said.

Much of her academic work has focused on institutional change: improving elderly housing and studying the effects from the abrupt closure in 2014 of a large homeless facility in Boston. But with one in four Newark residents likely to spend some time in prison, McKinney’s thesis focused on “sensible and sensitive” design alternatives to prison that would help break the cycle of incarceration and poverty.

It was an unconventional choice. When she put her idea before her faculty advisers, “I could hear the crickets in the room,” she said. But “by the end of it, they were all about it.” While McKinney doesn’t believe architecture alone can end homelessness or poverty or incarceration, she does believe the field has something important to offer.

“Everyone has a role in social development and in making sure that our society is a reflection of what we want it to be.”Indeed, though “spatial justice” is often thought of as an enterprise in the public realm, like the construction of parks and community centers, it’s not as frequently addressed in the private realm. Because housing is essential to well-being, McKinney hopes to eventually create spaces that promote not just equality, but equity. “Your self-worth and what you need to do well as a person starts with the safety and comfort you feel in your own home,” she explained.

Outside the classroom, McKinney has been active in bringing together African-American students at GSD and shining a spotlight on black women and men in a field where only 1 percent of architects are African-American. Having sometimes found herself one of only two black students in a class of 80, McKinney was among the earliest members of the African-American Student Union five years ago, serving last year as its president.

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Ohio Quadruplets, Nigel, Zach, Aaron and Nick Wade, All Earn Spots at Harvard and Yale

(Courtesy of Aaron Wade/The Wade brothers, from left: Nigel, Zach, Aaron and Nick)

article by Sarah Larimer via washingtonpost.com

Nick Wade was at track practice late one afternoon last week when he found out. The 18-year-old checked his phone and learned that he had made it into the Ivy League. “One by one,” he said. “I found out I had gotten into my schools.”

Wade is a quadruplet, though, with three brothers on his high school track team who had also applied to Ivy schools. So about that time on Thursday, they were learning their fates, too. There was Aaron, who was in the locker room when he logged on. And Nigel, who was stretching when his brothers told him to check. Zach was going to wait until practice was over, but his brothers weren’t having it.

“It would have taken like 20 more minutes,” said Zach, whose siblings checked for him. “But they couldn’t wait that long.”That is how the Wade quadruplets, of Liberty Township, Ohio, learned that all four had been accepted at Harvard and Yale universities — offers that added to a pretty impressive pile of potential college destinations.

“We’re still in shock, honestly,” Aaron said this week. “I don’t think it has sunk in yet.”“I just felt blessed at that moment,” Nigel said. “It was an unreal feeling, I guess.”“Honestly, to have one child from a family be accepted to a school like this is amazing,” Zach said. “But for all four to be accepted — I just don’t, I don’t know how it happened.”

Besides Harvard and Yale, the Wade brothers have loads of options for the next four years. Nick got into Duke, Georgetown and Stanford. Aaron is in at Stanford, too. Nigel made the cut with Johns Hopkins and Vanderbilt, and Zach with Cornell. That list does not cover all the schools that offered them admission. But you get the idea.

These seniors at Lakota East High School are in high demand.“The outcome has shocked us,” Aaron said. “We didn’t go into this thinking, ‘Oh, we’re going to apply to all these schools and get into all of them.’ It wasn’t so much about the prestige or so much about the name as it was — it was important that we each find a school where we think that we’ll thrive and where we think that we’ll contribute.”

To read more, go to: Accepted, 8 times over: Ohio quadruplets earn spots at Yale, Harvard – The Washington Post

Tomi Adeyemi, 23, Lands Big Publishing and Film Deals from Macmillan and Fox 2000 for Debut YA Novel ‘Children Of Blood And Bone’

Author Tomi Adeyemi (photo via deadline.com)

article by Michael Fleming Jr. via deadline.com

In a remarkable pair of deals for a debut author who is just 23, Fox 2000 has just made a preemptive acquisition of Children of Blood and Bone, the first installment of a fantasy novel trilogy by Tomi Adeyemi that will spawn a trilogy.

Temple Hill’s Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey are producing with Karen Rosenfelt. Word is this deal landed at or near seven-figures, and so did a whopping publishing deal that just closed at Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.

The novel is unusual in that the fantasy trilogies studios usually buy for big bucks are built around white characters. This one weaves in African culture and characters and mixes it with magic to create an intriguing mythology that is otherworldly but somehow familiar. It is being called a Black Lives Matter-inspired fantasy.

The protagonist is Zélie, who at six years old watched the king’s guards hang her mother on a tree outside her home. She never forgot it. In the beginning, every Orïshan was a magi: born with dark skin, stark white hair and the blessing of the god’s magic once they reached adulthood. Yet over time, their population dwindled and they became Orïsha’s minority. Magic became a thing to loathe, dark skin transformed into a thing to hate. Ten years after the raid that killed her mother and took away magic forever, Zélie Adebola has one chance to bring magic back. Through a fortuitous encounter with the Princess Amari, Zélie comes into possession of a sacred scroll necessary to restore a connection to the gods and secure magic for another hundred years. This sets the young women on a quest to end the senseless violence and oppression by the lighter-skinned royal class.

Danger lurks in this west-African inspired world, where lionnaires and cheetanaires roam, and the beautiful villages built over oceans, out of sand or forged in iron hide a dark underbelly of slavery and corruption. They find themselves pitted against a crown prince bent on wiping out magic for good.

Adeyemi is a Nigerian-American writer and creative writing coach based in San Diego, who graduated from Harvard before receiving a fellowship to study West African mythology and culture in Salvador, Brazil.

To read full article, go to: Fox 2000 Lands ‘Children Of Blood And Bone’ In Splashy Book Deal | Deadline

USC Professor Raphael Bostic Named 1st African American President of a Federal Reserve Regional Bank

Raphael Bostic (photo via latimes.com)

article by Jim Puzzanghera via latimes.com

USC professor Raphael Bostic made history on Monday when he was named president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, becoming the first African American to lead one of the Fed’s 12 regional banks. The choice of Bostic, 50, director of the Bedrosian Center on Governance at USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy, comes after members of Congress and advocacy groups have sharply criticized the central bank for a lack of diversity.

They had pushed for a diverse choice to head the Atlanta region, in part because it has a large African American population. Bostic acknowledged the significance of his appointment, which he said “is a very big deal” that made him the answer to a “Jeopardy” question.

“It’s not lost on me that I …am the first African American to lead a Federal Reserve institution,” he said in a short video released by the Atlanta Fed. “It’s kind of daunting. It’s an overwhelming thought. It’s a tremendous privilege.” “I look forward to this being a stepping stone for many others to have this opportunity as well,” Bostic said.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), who was among four prominent African American House members who urged a diverse choice for the Atlanta position, hailed Bostic as an “outstanding choice” and called his selection a “long-awaited first step towards building diversity among the Federal Reserve’s senior leadership.”

Bostic’s appointment was approved by the Atlanta Fed’s board of directors and the Board of Governors in Washington. He will take over on June 5, succeeding Dennis Lockhart, who announced his resignation in September and stepped down on Feb. 28.

The job involves overseeing about 1,700 employees in the Atlanta region — Alabama, Florida, Georgia and parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee — and participating in monetary policy deliberations in Washington.

To read full article, go to: USC professor named first African American president of a Fed regional bank – LA Times

Rihanna Named the 2017 Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year 

Rihanna (photo via news.harvard.edu)

article via Harvard Gazette

Rihanna has been named the 2017 Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year, and is accepting the Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award at a ceremony today. “Rihanna has charitably built a state-of-the-art center for oncology and nuclear medicine to diagnose and treat breast cancer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown, Barbados,” said S. Allen Counter, the Harvard Foundation’s director.

“In 2012, she founded the nonprofit the Clara Lionel Foundation Global Scholarship Program [named for her grandparents] for students attending college in the U.S. from Caribbean countries, and supports the Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen Project, which provides children with access to education in over 60 developing countries, giving priority to girls, and those affected by lack of access to education in the world today. ”

An international musical phenomenon, the Barbados-born singer, actress, and songwriter — whose full name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty — has sold more than 200 million records. The Harvard Foundation recognizes prominent public-spirited leaders each year in honor of the late Rev. Professor Peter J. Gomes.

Past honorees include physician-statistician Hans Rosling; actor James Earl Jones; Nobel Peace Prize Committee chairman Thorbjørn Jagland; U.N. Secretaries General Ban Ki-moon, Kofi Annan, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and Javier Pérez de Cuéllar; gender rights advocate Malala Yousafzai; anti-child-labor spokesman Kailash Satyarthi; tennis player and activist Arthur Ashe; former Health and Human Services Director Louis W. Sullivan; and farmworker rights advocate Dolores Huerta.

To read more: Rihanna named Humanitarian of Year | Harvard Gazette