To You – Summer 2016

Published: Aug 15, 2016

(30th annual umbc alumni awards banner)

Richard Byrne

 My favorite part of this job is telling stories. Writing the story of our founding faculty in this issue is among the most enjoyable tales I’ve told so far. Some highlights for me:

* Listening to Robert Burchard, emeritus professor of biology, talk about launching a research lab in the earliest days of the university, with basic equipment at UMBC and the use of more specialized equipment at USDA labs in Beltsville: “The most important thing in my toolkit was a microscope,” he said. “I was asking interesting questions. I adapted.”

* Talking with Marilyn Demorest, emerita professor of psychology, who was delighted by a question about UMBC students. “We had the thrill of working with some really fine undergraduates,” she said, “who self-selected into our research teams and laboratories.”

* Sharing a table with Phillip Sokolove (who took his Ph.D. at Harvard University) at UMBC’s annual commencement dinner, and watching the emeritus professor of biology beam with pride as UMBC President Freeman A. Hrabowski, III introduced Victoria D’Souza ’02, Ph.D., biochemistry and molecular biology as the first UMBC alumna to be tenured at Harvard University.

* Hearing Walter Sherwin and Jay Freyman – emeritus professors of ancient studies – talk about their collaboration with students and staff in 1969 on a musical (Keep the Peace, Baby) based on their joint translation of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata. “The play was funny as all get out,” says Freyman, recalling that Myrrhina’s seduction of her husband Cinesias to entice him to commit to making peace was done as a striptease.

* Talking with Joan Korenman, emerita professor of English and women’s studies, and founder of the Center for Women in Technology (CWIT). “When I think of what was important to me during my career at UMBC,” she told me. “Women’s studies and information technology, The necessity I felt to combine those. At many universities, I don’t think I could have worked in those areas and done what I did. It says something about UMBC that they were open to all of this.”

* Sitting with Willie Lamousé-Smith, emeritus professor of Africana studies, as he spun stories about academic governance past and present. Lamousé-Smith was tremendously eloquent about the difficult road one must traverse to achieve knowledge: “If you want to put the discipline of learning into yourself, or into somebody, you have to cultivate asceticism in yourself. That is what I try to put into my students. Self-cultivated asceticism. So you can focus and do the work. And that is uncomfortable.”

I invite you to tell us your story at Retriever Stories ( and I also invite you to return to campus to participate in the 50th Anniversary celebration September 16-19, 2016. See page six of this issue for a full guide to the weekend’s festivities – and check out our 50th anniversary website ( for all the events associated with this milestone event.

— Richard Byrne ’86

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