Along I-95

I’m from New Jersey, a fact that I relate to everyone I meet with immense pride and satisfaction. (we don’t pump our own gas!) The responses I get after I tell people this generally range from, “I’m sorry!” to “Ah, the armpit of America!” This can get a little trying, as I love my home, but I find it in my heart to forgive people because I know on what they are normally judging The Garden State. For the vast majority of people, their experience of NJ is limited to Newark airport (notorious for construction, delays, and lost luggage) or the New Jersey Turnpike, also known as I-95 (notorious for construction, delays, and lost motorists), also known as the ugliest road I’ve ever seen. 95 is the main corridor between DC and New York, and anyone who drives between those two cities is cursed to spend at least part of their drive on this asphalt, a fact which helps explain the low regard for New Jersey among, well, almost everyone. However, despite this, I was not without a sense of homecoming when we got on 95 for the drive north from Richmond to DC. I knew we were close to the greater mid-Atlantic and a few short miles (and long long hours of traffic-laden highway) from home.

Our last three stops on the Expedition – DC, Baltimore, and Philly – were the only cities which I had been to prior to the trip. We arrived in DC in late afternoon and jen and I dropped Ko and Emily off where they were staying in Georgetown, and then drove over to Tenleytown where we were staying with our classmate and class VP, Liz Hirschhorn. Liz is a Bethesda native originally, and she went back to DC after graduating to work in a Psych lab at the NIH. She’s also a fantastic Rugby player and jen and I spent a lot of time trying to convince her to try out for the national team. Liz is one of our directed friends and classmates who makes jen and me feel even more directionless than usual.

We were eventless that first night in DC, so Liz invited over Ben Bullitt and Jeremy Doernberger, a few of the Williams ’08 crew residing in DC. Jeremy is in law school and is planning his wedding in a year and a half with Liz Upton, another one of our classmates. Congrats you two!

The next day we took the Metro into the mall to meet up with Emily and Ko as well as Aroop Mukharji ’09. We stayed with Aroop’s parents in Kansas City while he was in India, so it was great to see him again in DC. He just moved there to start work at a DC think tank. The five of us walked around the mall and stopped by the Washington Monument, the new World War II memorial, the Lincoln memorial, and the Vietnam Veteran’s memorial. After that walking tour it was round about lunch time, and so we met up with Becky Staiger ’09. Becky works at the Fed and, after a series of background checks, was able to get us in to have lunch in the Fed dining room. What with her checkered past, I’m amazed jen was able to get in. That was definitely very cool, although we didn’t see Ben Bernanke while we were there.

After walking around in the oppressive humidity all afternoon, we returned to our respective chateaus to shower and put our faces on for the event. (My shoes were locked in the van and I didn’t have the keys, so I ended up wearing crocs to the event – not the height of fashion) Then we made our way over to the hotel for professor Burger’s talk.

Rob Swann ’90, the director of off-campus programs in the Alumni Relations office, was born and raised in DC, so he came down to the capital to see his family and also to greet us at the hotel with a smile and a Williams college banner. Also greeting guests as they arrived was Drew Newman ’04. Drew is a lawyer and the new president of the DC regional association. He just recently chaired his class’ fifth reunion and broke the all-time reunion attendance record, so now Drew is expected to break the regional event record this coming year. No pressure, Drew.

Professor Burger gave a great two-part talk to the regional group. For the first half he spoke about the beauty and virtue of mathematical thinking, using the classic “Monkeys with typewriters writing Hamlet” problem in an attempt to convince the whole audience to think like a Mathematician. Then, Ed discussed a curricular idea he’s exploring as the current Williams Gaudino Scholar and requested feedback from the audience. In an attempt to encourage students to take classes they’re interested in outside their major field, Ed wants to give students an option to take the class with the “Gaudino option” which translates into no grade on the transcript. It’s a little more complicated than that, but his talk managed generate some spirited dialogue among the 50 or so people in attendance, including the poor pre-frosh who Ed consistently called on during his talk. If you’re interested, definitely e-mail Ed and ask him about the “Gaudino Option.” I’m sure he’d love to chat about it and get some feedback.

That’s all for now. Pictures to come soon (when I get back onto the team computer) as well as Baltimore, Philly, and some closing thoughts!