All posts by Lee Smithey

My Swat Story: Luke Neureiter ’22

[This piece was published as part of the College’s Meet Swarthmore initiative on April 26th, 2021]

Majors: Engineering and Peace & Conflict Studies
Hometown: Denver, Colo.

He Never Saw Himself at Swarthmore

“My dad went to Swarthmore and was part of the class of ’87. As I like to say on my admissions tours, for 18 of my 20 years, I did not want to come to Swarthmore. This is the last place I thought I would end up. I really thought that my college experience would be my own and I would do my own thing. That was until I actually visited Swarthmore and had an overnight with the soccer team, and it totally changed my opinion. I realized that the community that you could build here and the people you interact with daily were things that you couldn’t really find a lot of other places.”

He Wants to Blaze a Trail in Peace Engineering

“To me, peace engineering is like the poster child of a liberal arts education. When I first came to Swarthmore, I was introduced to the Peace & Conflict program through a teammate of mine who knew Professor Sa’ed Atshan very well. I had come to Swarthmore for engineering and wanted to do that from the start, so those two came naturally. I try to think about peace engineering as trying to reframe the way that people go about problem solving. So whether it is an issue with community building or reconstructing a building, it’s all about reframing the way that you’re looking at a problem to not only incorporate issues of optimization or efficiency, but also issues of community, inclusion, diversity, and equity. Blazing the trail for peace engineering after graduation is something that I’m definitely interested in.”

Soccer and Design Help Him Give Back

“Design FC was started by Omri Gal through the Lang Center about two years ago. It’s an afterschool program for design thinking work in an afterschool setting at Stetser Elementary in Chester. We teach design thinking skills to 5th and 6th graders. Now that Omri’s graduated, I’ve taken over the program and I’m in charge of it. Being there really, one, inspired me to work in Chester. It’s an incredible place and an incredible community. And then two, to get involved in a lot of things that I never thought I would get involved with here, like tutoring, mentoring, as well as learning how to use Illustrator for design.”

Religion, Race, and Environmental Activism after Standing Rock

All are invited to an event on Tuesday (April 20) at 7:00 p.m.: “Religion, Race, and Environmental Activism after Standing Rock” at Montclair State University. Professor Smithey will participate in the panel that follows a screening of Half-Mile, Upwind, On Foot.

Some of you will remember a similar film screening at Swarthmore College in 2019.

All are welcome, and you can register to attend online (or in person) using this link

“Abolishing the Death Penalty with Sister Helen Prejean: Justice, Dignity and Faith”

Sister Helen Prejean Flyer.png

All are welcome this Wednesday, 2/24, 7-8:30 pm EST for
“Abolishing the Death Penalty with Sister Helen Prejean: Justice, Dignity and Faith” a talk and Q&A with one of the country’s leading advocates against capital punishment. Immediately afterwards you can join a conversation with Swarthmore students who provide academic tutoring to incarcerated youth through the Petey Greene Program, event co-sponsors.

Use this Zoom info for both events:

Meeting ID: 832 2476 7883
Password: K16de6

You can stream Dead Man Walking, a film about the work of Sister Helen, through Tripod with this link.


This event is sponsored by the Interfaith Center, the Petey Greene Program, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Peace and Conflict Studies and the Urban Inequalities & Incarceration Program at the Lang Center.

Change-Makers

We are thrilled to share this article reprinted from the Swarthmore Bulletin [Spring 2020 / Issue III / Volume CXVII] that features Peace and Conflict Studies Major, Jasmine Rashid ’18.


Change Makers

By Elizabeth Redden ’05

Morgan Simon ’04 (left), co-founder of the registered investment adviser the Candide Group — where Jasmine Rashid ’18 is also part of the team — traces her interest in impact investing to her experiences with strategic activism at the College. “It was really because Swarthmore had faith in young people to not only think about how to make a difference but get real experience,” Simon says. Photo by Jennifer Leahy.

Through impact investing, Swarthmoreans put their money where their values are

Morgan Simon ’04 wants you to know one thing about money: Investing it wisely can help bring about social change. 

For almost 20 years, she’s done just that as a pioneer in impact investing, or the practice of investing not only for financial returns, but for social or environmental returns, as well. As a founding partner of the Bay Area-based Candide Group, a registered investment adviser, Simon and her team provide custom advice to families, foundations, athletes, and actors “who want their money working for justice,” she says.

It’s an ambitious endeavor that traces back to Simon’s Swarthmore days, when her shareholder activism led several Fortune 500 companies to amend their nondiscrimination policies. But Simon’s not alone in this burgeoning field, where monetary value meets Quaker values. Through impact investing, numerous Swarthmoreans are changing the world, one dollar at a time.

Purpose at the Center

Amit Bouri ’99 knew from a very young age that he wanted to do something that helped improve the lives of others. Raised by a single mother who put herself through school to bring the family to a basic level of middle-class stability, Bouri was keenly aware that most kids from similar backgrounds didn’t have access to the same kinds of educational opportunities that he had. 

“I wanted to have purpose at the center of my career,” says Bouri, who holds an MBA from Northwestern and a master in public administration from Harvard. “But at the time I was in school, I did not have a very clear view of what that purpose would be.”

After working for a consulting firm and helping to author a report about investing for social and environmental impact, Bouri co-founded the nonprofit Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), “the global champion for impact investing,” he says. “We’re trying to develop a market that steers massive amounts of investment capital to address the world’s most pressing social and environmental problems.”

And from Bouri’s experience, interest in impact investing is booming — in the U.S., Asia, Europe, and elsewhere.

“We see more and more investors who want to put their money to work to have a positive impact on the world,” he says. “This ranges from big institutional investors, pension funds, and university endowments, all the way down to individuals who want their money to be invested in the world that they want to live in.”

A Meaningful Difference

Tralance Addy ’69 has seen a similar trend. The Ghana native is in the process of launching Yaro Capital, a private equity and venture capital firm that will invest in African companies in fields like health care services, clean technology, renewable energy, and food and agriculture.

“One of the most effective ways of addressing the needs of the developing world, especially poverty, is by much stronger engagement with private enterprise and entrepreneurship,” says Addy, who holds an engineering Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. For his present venture, he’s drawing from his past experience as executive director of Stanford University’s Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies and as CEO of WaterHealth International. 

Addy is passionate about Yaro’s potential for using business solutions to solve social problems.

“Our thesis is, there should be no conflict between making a return and having an impact,” he says, explaining that once a problem is solved in a way that is profitable, the solution can be sustained even after project leaders or philanthropists leave the scene.

“For instance,” he says, “with clean water, what we had to do was say we have to find a way to provide clean water that is affordable for people who earn $2 a day. Once you can make that a sustainable business, you have solved the problem.” 

Sampriti Ganguli ’95, CEO of Arabella Advisors, says philanthropists are increasingly looking to move beyond grant-making to invest in socially conscious businesses.

“It’s part of a broader trend in philanthropy,” says Ganguli, whose company advises individuals, corporations, and foundations on philanthropic giving and impact investing. “There’s a transition into the next generation of donors who want to be much more actively involved, and they want to think more creatively about their giving strategy.”

Ganguli — who was born in India, grew up in the Philippines, and speaks five languages — holds an M.A. in international affairs from Johns Hopkins and an MBA from Wharton. Before joining Arabella Advisors, she had roles in finance and consulting. But something was missing.

“The greatest value — and, in some ways, the greatest burden — of being a Swarthmore graduate is you always wrestle with that existential question of ‘How am I making a difference in this world?’” Ganguli says. “I always felt dissatisfied with where I was until I could answer that question: ‘Do I feel like the work that I’m doing is making a meaningful difference in the world?’ I now feel myself finally at peace from a career perspective.”

Making a Real Impact

Those existential questions are also at the center of  the Candide Group, where “we’re able to invest in things like solar energy for low-income households in Louisiana, or direct-trade cacao that can give farmers three times the income,” says Simon, who in 2017 released Real Impact: The New Economics of Social Change. Other investments made through Candide assisted a media production company in telling positive stories about people of color, or helped Black hairstylists increase their income by selling products directly to customers. 

More than half of the companies and funds in Candide’s portfolio are led by women or people of color. That fact makes Simon particularly proud. 

“Less than 2% of global assets are managed by firms owned by women or people of color,” she says. “Now, I’m managing a team that’s majority women of color, managing an investment portfolio that’s majority women and/or people-of-color led, and being able to exercise my values while deploying over $30 million a year.”

Among her teammates is Jasmine Rashid ’18, whose upbringing in a highly class-stratified community on Long Island sparked her interest in exploring economic inequality. Working with Simon, Rashid helped develop Candide’s Real Money Moves campaign to encourage divestment from private prisons. She also helped launch the $40 million Olamina Fund, focused on lending to “historically disinvested communities in rural America, the deep South, and Native country.” 

Rashid named the fund after the protagonist of Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, a novel she fell in love as a senior at Swarthmore. 

“I actually started out Swarthmore as an economics major,” she says. “But I learned fairly quickly it was hard for me to stay focused just working with equations.” Instead, she wanted to talk about capital in the context of power, history, and society. “A special major in peace & conflict studies allowed a more nuanced exploration of that for me,” she adds, “and prepared me to begin drawing clear connections between money and justice — or lack thereof — in any social issue I encountered.”

For Simon, a similar connection was made in 2002, during her sophomore year in college. Troubled by the lack of protections offered to LGBTQ employees at Lockheed Martin, which was part of Swarthmore’s investment portfolio, Simon proposed that the College file a shareholder resolution with the aerospace and defense company. The resolution was hugely successful: Lockheed added sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policy, and — through persuasion from Simon and other activists ­— three other large companies in the College’s portfolio made similar changes, as well.

“It was really because Swarthmore had faith in young people to not only think about how to make a difference but get real experience,” she says. “I was the first student since the apartheid era to have filed a shareholder resolution, and that led to students across the country reaching out and saying, ‘This is amazing. How can we do that?’” 

The actions motivated Simon to found the Responsible Endowments Coalition, which at its height was on more than 100 U.S. college campuses influencing more than $150 billion. They also created a career path for Simon, “even if I wouldn’t have known it at the time,” she says. 

“My objective was always strategic activism,” she adds, “and I learned that impact investing was an incredible way to do that.”  

Two Swatties Earn National Award for Work in Peace & Conflict Studies

— by Ryan Dougherty via Swarthmore News and Events, January 8th 2021

Vanessa Meng ’20 (left) and Lucy Jones ’20 were honored at Peace and Justice Studies Association’s annual meeting, held remotely in November.

For the first time in its history, the Peace and Justice Studies Association’s (PJSA) award for best paper went to two students this year — and they’re both Swarthmoreans.

The selection committee honored both Lucy Jones ’20, who explored the experiences of Central American migrant women on the U.S.-Mexico border for her thesis, and Vanessa Meng ’20, who examined the debates surrounding colonialism in contemporary Chinese-African relations.

The students, who graduated in May with high honors, were honored at PJSA’s annual meeting, held virtually in November.

For Jones, it was an opportunity to properly celebrate her thesis, “Resistance, Resilience, and Survival: Central American Refugee Women Across the U.S.-Mexico Border,” which she completed while in quarantine during the pandemic.

“It was a huge honor, and very exciting to have my work recognized and to be able to talk about it with peace scholars from around the country,” says Jones, who majored in peace & conflict studies at Swarthmore and is now a legal assistant at an immigration law firm in Philadelphia.

For Meng, it was particularly rewarding to be recognized for her thesis, “The Middle Kingdom Dreams: Understanding and Reframing China-African Relations,” at what she considered a time of heightened hostility from the Western media toward her native China.

“I hoped to show that there is an opportunity for peace between the U.S. and China, because the values and ideas that I was taught at Swarthmore, specifically the American revolutionary dream from activists in the United States, are in fact aligned with the dream of the country I grew up in,” says Meng, who majored in peace & conflict studies and has been writing a children’s book on environmental science. 

Both students expressed gratitude for the faculty and students of the Peace & Conflict Studies Program, citing its depth of collaboration and support. They follow PJSA thesis award winners from Swarthmore in 2013 and 2014.

“Research and writing are important in our program, so we are understandably thrilled when colleagues in our field recognize that our students are doing important and often cutting-edge work,” says Lee Smithey, professor and program coordinator. “Lucy and Vanessa exemplify student scholarship in peace & conflict studies.”

Assistant Professor of Peace & Conflict Studies Sa’ed Atshan ’06 advised both students on their thesis projects, and offered comments on their behalf at the awards ceremony.

“Lucy arrived in my office in August 2016 from Birmingham, Ala., where she was born and raised,” Atshan recalls. “In our very first meeting, she expressed palpable enthusiasm for peace & conflict studies, reflecting on her Irish heritage, and proved to be a brilliant student.”

Atshan says Meng joined the College community “with a very clear consciousness regarding peace and environmental justice, speaking eloquently about climate challenges she witnessed in her hometown of Beijing.”

Observing Nonviolent Action for Climate Justice

On Wednesday, a group of students from Professor Smithey’s Climate Disruption, Conflict, and Peacemaking course observed a nonviolent action mounted by Earth Quaker Action Team. EQAT has called on the private electric utility PECO to distribute 20% of its electricity from local solar installations by 2025. Currently, solar makes up less than half of one percent of PECO’s energy portfolio.

Swarthmore students watch on as EQAT blockades a driveway

Activists blockaded PECO service centers in Phoenixville, Coatesville, and Warminster saying that PECO is not preparing for the climate disruption crisis and is not properly investing in the region it serves. EQAT’s campaign is called “Power Local Green Jobs”.

Swarthmore students watch as EQAT blockades a driveway

Four activists were arrested at the Phoenixville site, where Swarthmore students observed. News coverage, including statements from EQAT and PECO, are available here and here. EQAT’s press release is here.

Bill Ehrhart ’73 and Soldiers for Peace

This morning, I listened to a radio documentary titled “Soldiers for Peace” by Kate Ellis and Stephen Smith via APM reports. The documentary (accessible below) details the participation of veterans and active duty soldiers in the anti-war movement during the Vietnam War. You can find a rich didactic page with photos and excerpts on the APM website.

Bill Ehrhart '73
Bill Ehrhart ’73

The documentary includes Swarthmore alum, writer, and poet Bill Ehrhart ’73, who was a veteran and student of Prof. Thompson Bradley, who passed away this semester. Earlier today, I posted a poem Ehrhart wrote in honor of Bradley. Another poem by Ehrhart and clips of interviews with him appears on the “Soldiers for Peace” page about the radio documentary.

Prof. Lee Smithey

Soldiers for Peace – Part 1:

Soldiers for Peace – Part 2:

 

Remembering Professor Thompson Bradley

Before the semester is out, we want to take a moment to remember Prof. Thompson Bradley, a passionate and gifted teacher and activist for peace and justice at Swarthmore College, the local region, and the world.

President Val Smith informed the Swarthmore community of Prof.  Thompson’s passing on October 3, and the Communications Office provided a rich remembrance of his life, work, and activism. We reprint that below, along with a poem honoring Prof. Thompson by Swarthmore alum Bill Ehrhart that appears on the Veterans for Peace website.


Thompson Bradley wearing beret
Professor Emeritus of Russian Thompson Bradley

 

Dear Friends,

With deep sadness, I write to share the news that Professor Emeritus of Russian Thompson Bradley died peacefully Sunday, Sept. 22, at his home in Rose Valley, Pa., after a long illness. Tom is remembered for his deep and abiding love of Russian language and literature, his commitment to generations of students, and his devotion to decency and justice in all of his pursuits. He was 85.

Tom is survived by Anne, his wife of more than 60 years, their three daughters, and two grandchildren. A celebration of his life will be held at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 21. in Upper Tarble in Clothier Memorial Hall.

I invite you to read more below about Tom, his remarkable life, and his innumerable contributions to our community.

Sincerely,
Valerie Smith
President

In Honor of Professor Emeritus of Russian Thompson Bradley

The Swarthmore community has lost one of its most influential and beloved faculty members, Professor Emeritus of Russian Thompson Bradley, whose teaching and passionate intellectual engagement with Russian language and literature were inseparable from his lifelong commitment to and advocacy for peace and social justice.

“No one in this life is indispensable, but Tom came awfully close,” says longtime friend and colleague John Hassett, the Susan W. Lippincott Professor Emeritus of Modern and Classical Languages. “He was a born teacher, completely dedicated to his students. His preferred space was always the classroom.”

“I recall Tom’s gift for making his interlocutor feel heard and appreciated,” says Professor of Russian Sibelan Forrester. “His face would light up in a very affirming way when he heard a good idea or an interesting story.”

Tom was born in New Haven, Conn., and raised not far from there on a farm in Cheshire. His love of languages first took hold at the Hotchkiss School, where he studied French and Latin. In his senior year, he was introduced to Russian, an encounter that ignited his love of the language and its literature. At Yale University, where Tom earned a B.A. in Russian, and later, at Columbia University, where he pursued graduate work in Slavic languages and literatures, this love deepened and took on literary and historical dimension.

Tom’s recognition of the complex dialectical nature of the relationships between Russia’s language and literature and its revolutionary history inspired his impassioned intellectual and social commitments and was the vital current that found expression in all that he did as a teacher, activist, colleague, and friend.

In 1956, Tom married Anne Cushman Noble. That same year, a few months after graduating from Yale, Tom was drafted into the U.S. Army. In keeping with his moral convictions, he made the principled decision to enlist rather than seek a deferment, then afforded to students continuing on to graduate school. He served for two years at an American base in Germany, where he had been recruited for military intelligence for his language skills.

After completing his service and returning to the U.S., Tom resumed his academic career at Columbia. He then spent a year in Moscow as one of 35 American scholars on a cultural exchange. While working in the Lenin Library and the Gorky Institute of World Literature, Tom witnessed the gradual shift from the Stalinist regime to that under Nikita Khrushchev. He also met with and befriended members of the Soviet dissident movement, whose courage he greatly admired. Years later he invited one of them, well-known human rights activist Elena Bonner, to speak on campus.

After teaching briefly at New York University, Tom joined Swarthmore’s faculty in 1962 as an instructor in Russian. Here, he connected with an earlier generation of scholars, especially those in the Modern Language and Literatures (MLL) Department, who had been displaced by World War II and other major conflicts and had immigrated to the U.S.

In Russian, he notably joined, among others, section head Olga Lang, the quintessential intelligentka and a fount of poetry who had worked with major figures in the Communist Party, and Helen Shatagina, who had been born to an aristocratic St. Petersburg family but politically, Tom said, was an anarchist.

“It was a rich culture and wonderful, cosmopolitan world they brought with them,” he once said. “At Swarthmore, we were the fortunate beneficiaries.”

At the College, Tom also found students whom he described as having a “real commitment” to living the intellectual life. His Russian novel class became legendary, invariably drawing the most students of any MLL course at the time.

In their reflections and testimonials, colleagues recognize Tom’s gifts and dedication as a teacher, as well as his capacity to communicate the beauty and power of literature to broaden and deepen the scope of our moral imagination.

Marion Faber, the Scheuer Family Professor Emerita of Humanities and Professor Emerita of German, says she was “astonished to learn that Tom regularly met individually with every one of his students both before and after each assigned paper—a uniquely generous investment of time and a sign of his devotion as a teacher.”

“More than anyone else I knew here at the College,” says Professor of German Hansjakob Werlen, “Tom’s love of literature always came through in his superb teaching, as did his ability to convey the essence of what literature’s particular aesthetic form can do: free up the imagination for the ways other people live and lived in various places and times and make us empathetic participants in those worlds with all their diverse inhabitants. That empathy extended to everyone living in this world.”

“Tom’s grasp of literature was profound, and profoundly moving,” writes Philip Weinstein, the Alexander Griswold Cummins Professor Emeritus of English Literature. “I never knew anyone so passionate about his beliefs who nevertheless refused steadfastly to demonize others whose views he rejected. He didn’t speak much about love—at least not in my hearing—but his whole embodied stance radiated love. Political passion is common enough, but its being humanized and enlarged by love is passing rare. I know of no one else who embodied both these realities so well.”

Tom received tenure in 1968 and chaired MLL for several years. Throughout his career, he never separated his teaching from his social and political activism. Tom spoke of this when he retired in 2001: “I think there are fewer and fewer people in academia today who think of their lives as having to do with a practice outside of academia.  I can’t imagine only doing activism, or only teaching. To me they seem as indivisible as literature and history.”

Tom embodied this understanding in his teaching and his activism—both on campus and off—and was at the forefront of efforts to extend the reach of the College curriculum to the larger community.

 “Tom was devoted, personally and politically, to decency and justice, and virtually everything he did reflected those commitments,” says Professor Emeritus of Philosophy Rich Schuldenfrei, a longtime colleague and friend. “He was politically active on the left for his whole adult life [and] a leader in mobilizing the College against the war in Vietnam. He mentored conscientious objectors and arranged for training for the faculty to do so. He was active for many years with Veterans for Peace.”

Before opportunities and support for connecting the curriculum to the community were common, Tom forged that path in his own teaching. As Professor Faber notes: “He not only brought contemporary poets like the Vietnam War veteran W.D. Ehrhart ’73 to the College but also taught literature classes in prisons.”

Adds Hugh Lacey, the Scheuer Family Professor Emeritus of Philosophy: “He was always there when it mattered—speaking, organizing, and teaching countless students outside of the formal classroom setting and inspiring them to think and act in new ways.”

Professor Lacey credits Tom with generously participating in, and often leading, many of the activities that made Swarthmore College “live up to its claim to be a community.” Those efforts included organizing a full day of talks and activities to celebrate the first Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day; engaging in the Faculty Seminar on Central America in the 1980s to educate the general public about the wars and U.S. foreign policy in the region; supporting the Sanctuary Movement for refugees from those wars; developing a faculty exchange program with a university in El Salvador; and, in the 1990s, helping to create and sustain the Chester-Swarthmore College Community Coalition, which planned educational and other collaborative programming and opportunities for students from Swarthmore and Delaware County Community Colleges and residents of Chester, Pa.

After he retired in 2001, Tom became what one alumnus describes as a “foundation stone” of the College’s Learning for Life program (LLS). Three years later, colleagues and former students published Towards a Classless Society: Studies in Literature, History, and Politics in his honor. Counting his additional years of teaching Russian literature to legions of devoted alumni in New York and Philadelphia through LLS, Tom’s Swarthmore teaching legacy extended nearly 50 years.

Tom was always generous with his time and knowledge. In a 2014 interview, he provided a powerful perspective, unheard until that time, on the division among faculty members during the 1969 Admissions Office takeover.

Tom once said of his European colleagues, several of whom he counted as teachers (and “luckily” as friends): “I always felt, when one of them died, as if more than a person or colleague had gone, but a whole world.” It is not a stretch to say that Tom’s death has left a similar void.

“I’ll always remember him as a loving man, a convivial host at his home, encircled by his beautiful family,” Professor Faber says. “And I’ll always remember him as a man of great élan, in his long black winter overcoat, beret and red scarf, striding to a classroom or a meeting.”

As Professor Schuldenfrei writes, Tom “leaves behind family, friends, political allies, and colleagues who will miss him and forever think of him as a model of political commitment and integrity, and personal loyalty and love.”


In memory of Thompson Bradley, a poem written by Bill Ehrhart after Tom’s death.

Thompson Bradley

He looked like Lenin. Really.
I’ve never forgotten the first time
I saw him, fifty years ago; I had
to do a double-take, knowing Lenin
had been dead for nearly fifty years.

He’d pace back and forth, gesticulating
to a classroom full of college kids
while rolling a cigarette, explaining
Russian Thought and Literature
in the Quest for Truth.

What Lenin took for truth, I’ve
no idea, but through the years
I came to know that truth meant
justice, peace, honesty and fairness,
decency and generosity to Tom.

You name the issue, Tom was always
on the side you wanted to be on:
wars in Asia, the Americas, the Middle East;
civil rights, prisoners’ rights, women’s rights,
gay rights, the right to live with dignity.

He looked like Lenin, but he lived
a life that Lenin would have envied,
or certainly should have. If Tom had led
the Revolution, I’d have followed him
to hell and back and into heaven.

 – W. D. Ehrhart

As a radical Swarthmore professor, Tom developed a friendship with Ehrhart, then a returning Vietnam combat vet who felt like a fish-out-of-water on the Swarthmore campus.