The Dish: Alums named MacArthur Fellows; Stanford's Facebook page inspires poetry; undergrads start a marriage equality movement

A weekly column about Stanford people on the move and in the spotlight  – on the Farm and around the world

They may cheer for the Golden Bears or the Tigers or the Crimson now, but they have roots with the Cardinal and the Tree. Four Stanford alums are among the 24 newly anointed winners of 2009 MacArthur Fellowships, commonly known as "genius grants." DANIEL SIGMAN, professor of geological and geophysical sciences at Princeton, earned his bachelor's degree from Stanford in 1991. L. MAHADEVAN, a professor of applied mathematics at Harvard, holds master's (1992) and doctoral (1995) degrees from Stanford. LIN HE, assistant professor in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at Berkeley, received her PhD from Stanford in 2003. MANEESH AGRAWALA, associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at Berkeley, received a bachelor's degree from Stanford in 1994 and a doctorate from the Farm in 2002. . . .

Urvi Nagrani Equality rings

Chrysanthe Tan ('09), left, and Alexis Ortega ('09) show off their Equality rings at Commencement.

In a new twist on "How I spent my summer vacation," here's what some Stanford students didn't do: tie the knot. In response to the passage last November of Proposition 8, a group of undergrads launched the National Marriage Boycott (NMB) and have vowed to swear off marriage until the federal government repeals the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Their slogan: "We won't, until we all can." Members of the movement encourage allies, including straight married couples, to wear "Equality" rings on their left ring finger. In an interview with the Huffington Post in June, ALEXIS ORTEGA, '09, one of the boycott's directors, cited findings that show that "gay (and questioning) youth are four times more likely to commit suicide than the national average. The repeal of DOMA is one step of many in moving toward social change, and it can't wait. We hope that by creating a visible, nationwide movement committed to marriage equality, not only will our voices be heard, but also, we hope that our strong, visible support will produce an environment where these kids feel safer and more supported." NMB members began recruiting branches at schools across the country last spring, and according to junior SARAH MASIMORE, the group's chief operating officer, there now are about 20 campus branches including Columbia, Dartmouth, University of Alabama, UCLA, University of Miami and several high schools across the country, including Gunn High School in Palo Alto. On Sept. 15, the boycott garnered a $10,000 grant from ideablob, a social entrepreneurship website that connects grassroots organizations with those willing to contribute seed money. The proposal was submitted by sophomore KENZIE SEAL, the NMB's chief financial officer, who said the boycott sold about 80 rings per month on Stanford's campus last year, and has sold about 70 rings per month on their website. "I hope to get similar numbers from our other branches," Seal said. . . 

Hugging and kissing are sooo last year. On Sunday, just before introducing The Peace, a segment of the University Public Worship service in which members of the assembly in MemChu traditionally greet one another with hugs and handshakes, the Rev. JOANNE SANDERS, associate dean for religious life, asked congregants to think about other forms of greeting, such as bowing toward one another with hands together as in prayer. The concern, of course, is the spread of H1N1 virus. Now, GREG BOARDMAN, vice provost for student affairs, has announced that he is putting the kibosh on Full Moon on the Quad, the decades-old Stanford tradition of lip-locking under a night sky. "Curtsey on the Quad" just doesn't quite have the same ring. . . .

Fans of Stanford's Facebook page  were invited to answer the question "What was the best book you read this summer?" and asked to submit a short poem or haiku on their favorite summer book. ANDREA LUNSFORD, professor of English and director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric, judged the contest. Among the more than 80 entries, she chose her three favorites and a couple of honorable mentions. The winners, who included alums CARA HOLMAN, '78, MS '81, and CECILIA TOM, '93, AM '94, each received a signed copy of a book by author and medical Professor ABRAHAM VERGHESE, who also was one of the authors who participated in this year's "Three Books" program.

Tom wrote:

Gaiman's Neverwhere
Puts me neither here nor there.
Summer, transcended....

Holman's entry:

On Pride & Prejudice:
Her pride offended
His manners haughty and proud
An age-old story

The third winner, Travis Plummer, wrote:

Read Murakami's
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Curled up in a well


Congratulations to . . . Stanford and SLAC physicist AHARON KAPITULNIK, who received the 2009 Heike Kamerlingh Onnes Prize for Outstanding Superconductivity Experiments earlier this month at the Ninth International Conference on Materials and Mechanisms of Superconductivity in Tokyo. Kapitulnik, who is chair of the Department of Applied Physics, shared the prize with Brookhaven National Laboratory physicists J. C. Seamus Davis and John Tranquada. "[The Onnes] is one of the most eminent prizes in the field of superconductivity," said ZHI-XUN SHEN, director of the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Science. "The award recognizes the outstanding scientific contributions Aharon has made." . . .

BILL LARSON, who coordinates the Department of Public Safety's crime prevention and risk management efforts, was awarded the 2008-2009 California Crime Prevention Officers' Association Practitioner of the Year Award for Region 11, which includes all agencies in Alameda, Monterey, San Benito, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. . . .

JAYNE APPEL, captain of the women's basketball team, was named one of Glamour magazine's top 10 college women for 2009. According to the article, Appel, a senior, devotes seven hours a day to basketball, but the psychology major's other passion is advocacy work on behalf of the mentally ill.

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