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Basketball court dedicated to Thomas G. Stemberg ’71

Posted: 09 Feb 2018 05:26 PM PST

Harvard Athletics and the men's and women's basketball programs have announced the dedication of the court in the newly renovated Lavietes Pavilion as the Thomas G. Stemberg '71 Court.

The dedication was officially announced tonight during the men's home game against Princeton, and comes on the heels of Stemberg's selection as an Ivy League Legend of Basketball.

According to his family, "Tom was always Harvard basketball's No. 1 fan. Aside from raising a family of six sons and three stepdaughters, his proudest achievement came in serving as the 'Godfather' of the Friends of Harvard Basketball."

Stemberg's association with Harvard dates back to 1967. He earned his undergraduate degree from the College in 1971 and business degree from Harvard Business School in 1973 as a George F. Baker Scholar. During his time in Cambridge, Stemberg co-founded The Harvard Independent, a student-run newspaper, took on business management roles with Harvard Student Agencies, and supported the basketball team as a member of the Harvard band.

Stemberg helped establish the Friends of Harvard Basketball in 1974 and served as its longtime chairman. His unwavering support of the Crimson basketball program led to his family endowing the men’s head coaching position in 2015.

"Tom supported the program for more than 40 years, mentoring student-athletes and helping them pursue their passions beyond the court," continued the Stemberg family. "He was instrumental in the turnaround of the men's basketball program and encouraged the University's athletic department to hire head coach Tommy Amaker. He looked on proudly as the team then went on to win five consecutive Ivy League titles. We know he would be floored by the generosity of those who have contributed to the game-changing renovations to Lavietes Pavilion. It was an amazing tribute to Tom and to Ray and Estelle Lavietes."

As part of the larger pavilion renewal project, 34 of Stemberg's closest friends, Harvard classmates, and business partners came together to raise $10.6 million in his honor. Earlier this evening, this same group of donors gathered with members of the extended Stemberg family — as well as Estelle Lavietes (widow of Ray Lavietes '36) and her two sons — to celebrate Harvard basketball and hear from Harvard President Drew Faust.

"Tom Stemberg was an exceptional person. His truly passionate commitment to Harvard basketball and our students was unique and longstanding," said John K.F. Irving '83, M.B.A. '89, a longtime friend of Stemberg. "It is only fitting that the Crimson will practice and play on the Thomas G. Stemberg '71 Court."

The Stemberg family remains incredibly active in and dedicated to supporting the Harvard basketball program today.

"We were blessed to know Tom as a wonderful friend and are pleased to see his memory live on in this most appropriate way," continued Irving, "What a tremendous way to recognize his dedication and life!"

To view the photo gallery, visit the Harvard men’s basketball website.

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Junot Díaz reads at Harvard conference

Posted: 09 Feb 2018 01:04 PM PST

"You don't have to be a Harvard student to be aware of what's happening with migration and immigration." With that nod to his audience, novelist Junot Díaz launched a freewheeling evening of reading and discussion Thursday at the Graduate School of Design's Piper Auditorium.

Awareness of these issues is key, said Díaz, whose "Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008.

"It's no accident that the folks who could most tell us about global conditions are being silenced in such profound ways," he said. "This increases our lack of understanding about what is going on."

The author, who is also a professor of creative writing at MIT, was speaking at the inaugural Migration and the Humanities conference, sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. His talk and an ensuing discussion with New York Times book critic Parul Seghal and Homi Bhabha, director of the Mahindra Humanities Center, followed a musical interlude by a trio from the Silk Road Ensemble, with Edward Perez '00 on bass, Martin Thomas '18 on viola, and Hadi Eldebeck on oud. The music drew from multiple cultures.

"Migration is a central and even a defining issue" of our time, said Harvard President Drew Faust in introductory remarks. "The right of movement is one of the most fundamental of human rights."

For Diaz, "an immigrant from the Caribbean," the political is personal. "I'm really interested in the ways that my multiple identities are playing out," he said, in "this global anti-migrant, anti-immigrant mood."

For his reading, Díaz picked a short story called "The Money." Narrated by a young Dominican-American, the piece, which originally ran in The New Yorker, deals with property and security, the debt newcomers owe to the people they've left behind, and a young boy's expectations of both his new American friends and the family who brought him here.

Opening the discussion, Seghal — an Indian-American whose parents were Partition-era refugees — talked about how migration narratives have changed.

Homi BhabhaParul Sehgal, New York Times book critic

Image 1: Homi Bhabha and New York Times book critic Parul Seghal engaged in a discussion. Image 2: President Faust opened the conference before Diaz's address, declaring "The right of movement is one of the most fundamental of human rights."

Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

"For a very long time, there was this idea that the drama was the immigrant coming to this country, and, however reluctantly, adjusting to it," she said. "In the last 10 years a very different kind of note has entered literature." Describing the new focus as "much darker," she mused that this new focus is "not what do we do with these refugees in our midst, but what creates them?"

"Migration," she noted, citing writers such as Salman Rushdie on place and identity, "is a kind of death."

This experience, and how it can skew an individual's sense of self, is also what engages Díaz. He observed how his students, like many of his fictional characters, try to carve out authentic identities while being buffeted by violent or hypersexual stereotypes.

"A community that can't generate a lot of love is emblematic of a community with a lot of trauma," he said. Ultimately, his work — and the questions facing a world in which so many people are on the move or displaced — must ask itself: "How do we survive the surviving? How can we create healthy intimacies?"

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Harvard hockey star Ryan Donato heads to Winter Olympics

Posted: 09 Feb 2018 09:00 AM PST

Every player on Harvard's men's hockey team knows the plot; many can recite the lines by heart.

The 2004 film "Miracle" tells the underdog story of the U.S. team that defeated the Soviet Union — the defending gold medal champion and overwhelming favorite — in the semifinals of the men's hockey tournament in the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y.

"Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" shouts Al Michaels, famously losing his TV commentator's cool in a surge of national pride as the buzzer sounds and U.S. players swarm the ice to celebrate their 4‒3 win over the Soviets, many of whom were on break from the National Hockey League. The U.S. team, the youngest in the competition and made up entirely of amateurs, would go on to win the gold.

"It's one of my favorite movies," said Ryan Donato '19 on a recent morning at Harvard's Bright-Landry Hockey Center before suiting up for practice. "Every bus trip we have 'Miracle' with us."

Donato will bring his dream of real-life glory onto the ice on Feb. 14, when he and his teammates face Slovenia in the group stage of the men's ice hockey tournament in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. While the center's talent earned him a spot on the U.S. team, he knows one other factor was in play: The decision by the N.H.L. not to send any of its players to the games, which cleared the way for college athletes and players from other pro leagues.

"Obviously it's something I might not have had the opportunity to do," said Donato. "I think our team is going turn a lot of heads."

For Donato, who got the confirmation phone call about a week before the team was officially announced on New Year's Day, the news was a welcome Christmas present. But it wasn't entirely unexpected.

Harvard University hockey player Ryan Donato said his dad "doesn't really talk about the games … [but]  the stories he has … and the connections that he has built along the way … that's something I want to emulate." Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer
The 21-year-old Scituate native had already hit some major milestones. He was a standout at Dexter School, and took part in USA Hockey's National Team Development Program. When he was 18 the Boston Bruins selected him in the second round of the N.H.L. draft. As a freshman at Harvard he received the George Percy Award for enthusiasm, sportsmanship, team spirit, and loyalty. Last year he helped the Crimson win the Beanpot for the first time in 24 years.

USA Hockey officials told Donato that his Olympic tryout would be his performance during the College season. If he has been feeling the pressure, it hasn't shown. Donato is one of the top offensive players in the country — a leader in goals and assists — and a contender for the Hobey Baker Award, hockey's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.

Donato counts his "hockey sense" as one of his biggest strengths: "Just my head for the game, knowing where the puck will be and being in the right position to score." And it's safe to say he's honed that sense with a little help from someone close to him, and to Harvard — Ted Donato '91, his father and the men's hockey coach since 2004.

"Sometimes I have to take my coaching hat off and put my dad hat on," said the elder Donato, who competed in the Olympics in 1992 and played 10-plus seasons in the NHL. "Certainly when Ryan told me [he made the team], as a parent I was just over the moon."

The coach planned to keep it simple when offering Olympics advice to his son. "I would just say understand the incredible opportunity you have, play the best you can … and enjoy it."

Ted Donato said that his own experience was about much more than going for gold. He recalled high-fiving American figure skaters who attended hockey games, watching Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards in the ski jump, and connecting with a range of athletes from all over the world. Those encounters turned out to be the most memorable part of the competition.

Donato discusses drills and strategy with his father Ted, The Robert D. Ziff '88 Head Coach for Harvard men's ice hockey and member of the U.S. men's ice hockey delegation in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

Donato also remembers how his respect for the Olympics was inspired in part by Harvard coaching legend Bill Cleary '56, a two-time Olympian who won gold as part of the 1956 U.S. team.

"To him, the Olympics was the highest honor anybody could ever achieve playing hockey, or any sport," Donato said.

Cleary, who remains adamant that Olympic competition should be reserved for amateurs, turned down the opportunity to play professionally so he could represent the U.S. He's never regretted it.

"I could have won 10 Stanley Cups and it would not have equaled marching in the Olympic parade," said Cleary, who spent 19 years as coach of the Harvard men.

"You want others to have that kind of experience … I am delighted for Ryan and for the whole Donato family."

Following the example of his father, Ryan Donato knows that whether or not he wins a medal, he'll return to the U.S. changed by the experience.

When recalling his hockey career, Donato said his dad "doesn't really talk about the games and the highlight reel goals that he had. The main thing he talks about are the friendships and the stories he has with those friendships, and the connections that he has built along the way … that's something I want to emulate."

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Master potter encourages students to refine craft

Posted: 09 Feb 2018 07:57 AM PST

"The most difficult part about being a potter is having that steady hand to work the clay," master potter Ben Owen III tells an appreciative crowd at a recent workshop at the Harvard Ceramics Building in Allston.

The third-generation artisan from North Carolina dispensed advice and stories from behind the wheel as he shaped vases and teapots. "Major in the minors," he said, encouraging the student and community potters to pay attention to the details.

"I have never seen a visiting artist make as many works in such a short amount of time," said Kathy King, director of education for the ceramics program. "This enthusiasm for his craft and generosity in sharing his techniques was impressive."

Owen said his grandfather began teaching him pottery when he was 9 years old. He would say, "Each pot is a sketch for the next one."

"Ben Owen III is an example of a traditional potter with a deep connection to this country," says Kathy King, director of education at the Harvard Ceramics Program. "Countries such as Japan, Korea, and China all celebrate their family potteries and the work is considered to be part of a lineage. In the U.S., we also have these families, oftentimes originating in the Southern U.S. The importance of the skills and craft of working with clay being passed down is certainly something to be celebrated, and Ben embodied that pride, as seen in his stories and visual presentation."

Owen recalled being 13 when his grandfather was bedridden with arthritis and leg pain from years at the kick wheel, worsened by a cold. The teenager snuck out to the studio with one of his elder's teapots to use as a model, and made three of his own.

"I did the best I could with my skill," Owen said. "I took them into the house to show him. I was so proud to show him I made three teapots.

"He sat right up, and he had been in the bed most of the day. … 'You made your knob too small. You made your handle too thin. You made your spout too big.' And the next day he was right back out there with me. 'We're going to try these teapots again.'" Owen laughed. "The reason why my grandfather lived longer was he never knew what I was going to do next. He was such a great mentor."

Graduate student Ana Paula Hirano, a relative newcomer to pottery, said she learned new techniques from Owen, such as using a potter's tool called the rib to dry the clay.

"He talked about how he wedges, and how that creates a certain spiral on the clay," added Alex Kim '21. "He then showed us how putting that spiral on the wheel in the wrong direction can have an effect on the structural quality of a clay piece. … I am eager to apply this new method to my craft."

Erika Novak (left) of New Britain, Conn., and Christa Bennett, a potter from the Harvard Ceramics Program, watch from the front row as Owen throws a vase.

During the four-hour workshop, Ben Owen throws an impressive number of forms, showing the gathered potters how to refine their skills. "Simple forms can be the most complicated to make," he says.

"The most difficult part about being a potter is having that steady hand to work the clay," Ben Owen says, "not to abruptly bump it, the way that you touch the clay with the rib or your fingers, and the way you release the clay and take your fingers off."

Ben Owen says attention to detail allows potters to take their skills to another level.

"How does one become a master potter? Well, you must be deemed a master by another master potter," Kathy King says, "which typically entails being part of a system of apprenticeship that involves years of study and dedication."

"In my opinion, this moniker [of master potter] reflects not only his skill set but his ability to keep the pottery thriving in a world where handmade objects are not as necessary to daily life as they once were," says Kathy King. "Being located where potters are still digging clay directly from the landscape, processing it, and making pots to sell is very impressive in this day and age."

Graduate student Ana Paula Hirano watches Ben Owen craft a teapot. Altering the surface, Owen says, "begins to give a different life to the clay, something like you would see in the garden, a cantaloupe or a pumpkin form."

"My impression of his work is that every step is important to him; from start to finish he pays attention to each detail, and I think that adds a refined and unique quality to his outcomes," says Alex Kim '21. "I loved listening to him talk about his background of coming from a long line of dedicated potters, and how impactful the relationship with his grandfather was to Ben's artwork."

Derek SooHoo, a potter with his own studio in Lowell, takes a close look at Owen's finished pottery on display. An experienced potter always lifts a pot to find the right form, weight, texture, base, and glaze.

"In the past decade, I have been struck by the great desire within our own society to work, once again, with our hands — to make things regardless of material. At the Ceramics Program, we have seen a marked increase in enrollment and have had classes fill in a matter of hours," says Kathy King, director of the program. "The number of Harvard students taking classes for credit and being part of for-credit projects in our studio has also doubled just in the last year. I believe Ben inspired those who have made working with clay and forming a studio practice a part of their lives."

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