Update: Steve Boom, 67-68

Editor’s note. Steve has surfaced after four decades on the lame, via Jim Kelly, class of 1969. Here’s an update on Steve, cobbled together from fragments of e-mail.

 John Akers was my roommate in ’67-68.  We live on Bainbridge Island, Washington, a short ferry ride from Seattle. (We’ve) lot’s of mountains and water with the added pleasure of lots of rain this year.
 My sweetie of 12 years is Marge, and she helps research our old friends.

I’m waiting for my first granddaughter to enter the world. We are semi-retired. We have photographs on the classmate web site, most, I believe, under the Singapore-American School, where I spent my last high school year. Also Tehran. Had a great time at the Villa.
My old hometown is Bellevue, Wa. We were there since the mid-50s; a much smaller town then. I have been talking to Jim Kelly, Jhon Akers and Mary Bosworth. Also, I’ve been reading up on the Villa site. After all these years, it’s just been insane.
Brian Lawler (class of 1968) lives on the island. It turns out that our kids went to school togather.

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Update: J. Akers, Villa, class of 1969.

Editor’s note: This is our second “where-are-they-now” feature. The first, about Thomas Brew, Villa class ’69, is at the bottom of this post. Send yours today to villastjean@gmail.com and include a picture.
Let your classmates know what you’re up to…

Dr. Jhon C. Akers, associate professor in foreign languages and associate director of the Success Initiative, came to Wofford in 1993 from North Carolina State University where he was the coordinator of the Spanish section in the department of foreign languages and literatures. He is a cum laude graduate of Middlebury College, Vermont, and earned a Ph.D. in Hispanic languages and literatures from UCLA.

The author of several articles on Spanish and Mexican American literature, he has presented research to the Modern Language Association, the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese, the Philological Association of the Carolinas, and the state language organization of North Carolina. He has also published articles on Carl Sandburg’s love of the classical guitar and has compiled a collection of all of Sandburg’s guitar-inspired writings.

Along with his work in the Success Initiative at Wofford, Prof. Akers teaches in the department of modern languages and has led January Interim groups to Cuernavaca, Mexico. He is the advisor to the Wofford chapter of Sigma Delta Pi Spanish Honor Society and was elected as the national organization’s vice president for the Southeast. Recently, he began a chapter of Rotaract at Wofford, working as a Rotarian with the downtown Spartanburg Rotary to develop career and service opportunities for Wofford students. 

An avid classical guitarist, he has presented more than eighty programs at Wofford, The University of South Carolina School of Music, Furman, Notre Dame University, Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC, the North Carolina School of the Arts, etc. He has been at Carl Sandburg Home as a featured performer of the annual Poetry Celebration and the Folk Festival in May—the only classical artist to bridge the two events, most recently in May 2006. He appeared in Cuernavaca, Mexico, as a guest of the Cultural Institute of the State of Morelos and has traveled to Winterthur, Switzerland, with a group of Spartanburg Philharmonic soloists, representing Spartanburg in a cultural exchange. He has taught courses at Wofford on the evolution of the classical guitar and its ties to the Spanish vihuela. Recently, his transcription of an original composition of Andrés Segovia composed for Carl Sandburg was published by the Columbia Music Company of Chapel Hill, NC, and with permission of Segovia’s widow. Spring 2005 he performed the opening event at Sandburg’s birth home for the annual Carl Sandburg Days festival in Galesburg, Illinois, sharing the stage with Illinois poet laureate Kevin Stein and releasing his collection of Sandburg’s guitar-inspired writings, A Small Friend—Carl Sandburg’s Guitar, published that spring as well.

Dr. Akers received recognition from the Wofford Campus Union in 1997 as “Faculty Member of the Year.” He is also twice recipient of a Western North Carolina Regional Artist grant to produce his CD on Sandburg and Segovia and publish his book. 

He resides in Saluda, North Carolina, with his wife Karen Schinke of Berea, Ohio; their daughter Alessandra; son Isaías Emiliano; and twins Belén and Matías. Jhon is a member of the Unity Church of Arden, NC; he performs monthly at the Saluda Presbyterian Church.

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Villa Vox Populi… (Steve MacIntyre)

Welcome to Villa-St.-Jean-On-The-Web, Version 2.0.    So, what shall we call it?   “Villa Vox Populi”?

We’ve been noodling this for months, for reasons you may already know or have at least inferred.  And now that Tom Brew has us up and actually running, I sit this Saturday night, with Prairie Home Companion on the box and a beer — not Feldschlossen or Cardinal mind you, but Fat Tire — on the desk, ruminating about how we got here and where we’re going.  Yeah, beer and rumination, dangerous combo, but I promise no lengthy pontifications are about to pour out.


By the way, please don’t think that the introduction of Version 2.0 means the death of Version 1.0.  It means no such thing:  WWW.VillaStJean.com will continue to live on the web long, long into the future.  But already it’s long, long in the tooth, aging as it does, not on a scale marked in human or even in dog years, but in internet years.   Come to think of it, even in human years, though it seems but a blink of the eye, it has been awhile — a decade I would hazard — since Kevin DiPalma first created our website.  Time flies.  Internet technology flies too.  It’s the rapid passage of the first which has posed the challenge we face.  It’s the rapid passage of the second which we hope offers the solution.

When Villa St. Jean closed its doors over 35 years ago, the Villa community shattered into diaspora, a diaspora profoundly fragmented and thinly stretched owing to two principal facts:  First, we are a pretty small community to start with, only several hundred living members tops.   Second, it is impossible,  on a single planet anyway,  to be more geographically far-flung than we.  Then in the 1980s along came e-mail, and in the 1990s, the internet, and then Kevin created our website, and, freed from the constraints of geography, the fragmented community knit itself back together.

And as time has continued its march, the internet model of website-as-community-hub is itself passing into obsolescence, especially as relates to a group whose members are as few as we.  You’ve noticed the signs, you can see our site going stale:  No fresh dialog going on there. Rosters, articles, references frozen in time.  Links going dead.   The issue is this:  at its core, a website is a centralized method for running a community hub.  It’s top down, requiring very active management by a small corps of dedicated people.  It places the burden narrowly on the shoulders of a few — which is no big deal if you’re a large enterprise with your own IT department, but that’s not us.

It took us all awhile to notice, because we were so lucky as to have Kevin DiPalma shouldering an extraordinary and outsized burden.   But Kevin has now moved to China where he barely even has access to the internet, and it has become plain that it is not reasonable to ask one or two people to so dedicate themselves.   So we’ve sought a new solution.

As it happens, we are by no means the only ones facing this challenge.  In fact, so widespread is this dynamic that it has given rise to an entire new class of web-based community services, so-called social-networking sites, and their first cousins, the blogging sites.   (And it has made some people very rich:  Facebook.com was recently sold for over a billion dollars.)  Remember when everybody was being encouraged to establish a “personal website”?   When was the last time you saw that?  It’s history.   The website model is too inefficient for small and medium-sized groups.

In essence, this new model we intend to leverage is based on “distributed processing”.  Rather than placing the burden on one or two central people, everybody does his small part.   It is less centralized, it is more fluid and dynamic.  Something needs to be added?  No problem.  Add it.   Something needs to be changed?  Just go ahead and update the file.  In effect, we all mutually become the webmaster.

That’s the hope, anyway.  So far, Tom Brew has done an awful lot of heavy lifting, so we’ve seen no benefits of distribution yet.   Moreover, since none of us has done this before, we don’t know what bumps and bugs we are going to encounter.   Going to be a learning experience for us all.

By the way, before selecting Vox, we considered a half dozen or so other similar sites, which were eliminated for various reasons.   Facebook, for example, has proved absolutely impossible to deal with (and we lost a couple of months wrestling with them), MySpace seems targeted at kids, and so forth.   Vox was recommended to Tom by one of his colleagues, and we’ve concluded it’s the best option.

And also, in case you haven’t yet noticed, along with this, we’ve added a Villa St. Jean entry to Wikipedia.  If you haven’t seen it already, go check it out.

Well, I see my Fat Tire is drained.  That’s it from me.  But maybe you can help me with one question:   Just what was the function of the Spiritual Cultural Committee, anyway?

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Material Support Committee II … & T. Brew (class 69) update

Fellow Chamois:
When considering a V2 of the villa community for this century, I thought of my Bossuet years and that odd Material Support Committee. Even now, I don’t think I could say what we accomplishing in those committee meetings. And I suspected, even then, that it was mostly an empty gesture, intended for the yearbook and college applications.
Now, in 2007, we’re making amends.  
In tandem with Steve MacIntyre (68) and Kevin DiPalma (67), I’ve pitched the Wikipedia and Vox blog projects as the resurrection of the Material Support Committee, this time, though, with purpose.

Every high school and college on the planet has an alumni group, many of them plotting reunion weekends and persistently soliciting donations. For good measure, our neighbors have Facebook, school alumni sites, football games, sweatshirts, caps and, of course, flashy school web sites.
And what we do have? The campus is gone, there’s no alumni weekend, not even an official web site. There’s nothing tangible of the Villa anymore, no there there.

We do — thanks to Mr. DiPalma — have a slew of black and white photographs and some wonderful correspondents.
To sustain a digital villa community in this century, we concluded that we needed a collaborative site. Kevin’s site is a treasure of invaluable photographs, reminisces and chatter. However, it can only be sustained by Kevin, now (curiously) locked away in rural China.
With a new generation of Internet tools, we can all add contributions to this blog, making it (I hope) a living, breathing entity.
Further, I’m hoping the site will enable us to do more than recall distant days.
I’m hoping we can solicit short bios (200-300 words or so?) from villa graduates, a sort of “where-are-they-now” feature. In other words, what’s happened to you since 1970? Tell.
Isn’t this more ambitious that those Bossuet committee meetings?
Tom Brew (’66-’69)

A postscript: As an example, here’s my brief bio.
After the villa, I attended Mount St. Mary’s College in Maryland, another Catholic boys school, mostly lacking in any charm. Afterward, I attended graduate school (journalism) at the University of Florida, which was a dreamy 18 months of swimming pools, parties, girls and, yes, some classes. Also beer.

I graduated in ’76 and married my wife, Dawn, in ’77. (Here’s a photo of us from two weeks ago — 12/30/06.)
I worked in newspapers as a reporter and editor in Florida and in California, the last 12 at the San Jose Mercury News. (Our staff won a Pulitzer in ’89).
I left the Mercury News and the print business in ’95 for online journalism and have worked at msnbc.com for a decade now.
Dawn and I have two boys (Graham, 15, and Brad, 13) and live in the Pacific Northwest (specifically, Sammamish, Wa.) near the Microsoft campus, which houses MSNBC.
I’m 55 now and used to blame the tricky light in the Northwest for what appeared to be flecks of gray in my hair.
(As an aside, in a very curious way, it was the Villa and a friendship there in Sapinière that introduced me to my wife-to-be in northern Florida a decade later. That story is in the comment section here.)


Send your bio to us at villastjean@gmail.com and I’ll publish it. Embellishments, exaggerations and retouched photos are fine.  

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the VSJ links collective…

 A woefully incomplete list of Web pages with a connection to the late Villa, skewed, unfortunately, toward the years the authors attended…
Note: contact us at villastjean@gmail.com.

history of the Villa (Wikipedia)



The Villa St. Jean alumni site 

Fribourg tourism: Art & history

Saint-Exupéry: A Biography

360-degree panorama of Fribourg

King Juan Carlos I official page

Why did the Villa close? A Reminiscence

John Akers, guitarist/professor, class of 69

Anson Dorrance, coach, class of 69

Radio Fribourg

Mike Litton, class of ’68, chocolate mogul

Current weather in Fribourg

Selim Deringil, professor, class of 69

Stuart McClintock, vsj ’70, on St. Exupery

Students of the Villa, by name and year

The Villa site, photographed 1993

Nightlife in Fribourg(?)

Virtual Tourist Fribourg photo collection

Private schools in Switzerland

Informal reunions of Villa alumni from the school’s last years have been held erratically since Kevin DiPalma launched his Villa St. Jean site in the mid-1990s. Among the many photographs are those from June 2000 in Austin, Texas, September 1999 in Fribourg and May 2001 in San Antonio.
New link and photo suggestions accepted, especially those reflective of
earlier Villa years  and alumni. Please mail nominees to the VSJ vox site.

  In addition, please feel free to comment and correct postings.

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Rue de Botzet revisited …

Or what you can do..

All: We’d like to hear from you. What have you done with your life since your last walk down Rue De Botzet decades ago? College? Career? Wife? Family? the full catastrophe..

Write us as much (or as little) as you’d like and mail it to the gmail account for this site: villastjean@gmail.com. And attach photos, too.

Be sure to identify yourself and your years at the Villa.

If you’re feeling ambitious, sign up for a private (and free) account at vox.com.. Even if you do nothing more than establish a personal page with a photo of yourself, it will allow you to comment on this blog and retain your ID.

Aside from the “where are they now” feature, I’m particularly interested in anyone who might provide an account of the villa’s final days. What was it like?  

In the meantime, don’t forget to bookmark the  thorough history of the school at Wikipedia, as well as to Kevin’s durable and deep original Villa alumni site.


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