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- Wake Forest University president Nathan Hatch's keynote address at the Sesquicentennial symposium "Religion and the Liberal Aims of Higher Education" (pg. 34)
- David B. Couturier, OFM Cap., on "New Evangelization for Today's Parish" (pg. 42)
- Guerilla Orchestra: the Callithumpian Consort and student musicians rehearse John Zorn's Cobra (pg. 10)
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“The startup,” “Prince of a man,” “Immersion,” “The habit,” “Thank you, Moses,” “Portrait of the artist,” “Book’s mark”
The Winter 2011 issue of Boston College Magazine contained an excellent article by David Reich entitled “Solasta, Chapter One” concerning the efforts of three Boston College professors, Mike Naughton, Zhifeng Ren, and Kris Kempa, to commercialize a novel approach to solar photovoltaics. Most journalistic reports on science and engineering miss the mark by engaging in hyperbole (e.g., “this invention will totally revolutionize and change our lives by. . .”) and, in an effort to make things readable to the general public, by oversimplifying the science to the point of being plain wrong.
Reich’s article was different: it painted a compelling picture of the tensions between scientists and venture capitalists, criticizing neither but conveying their different needs, desires, and approaches to life. The vignettes of the legendary, but fallible, Bill Joy and Solasta’s CEO were also quite interesting. The article got the science essentially right and conveyed the difficulties of getting materials to behave as one would like. It also got the human drama, if not perfectly right, certainly readable, understandable, and poignant.
Hank Smith, Ph.D.’66
The writer is a professor of electrical engineering and associate director of the NanoStructures Laboratory at MIT.
The article on Solasta by David Reich points to a number of mistakes that others can learn from:
One should never take funds from VCs before the technology works well. Solasta’s founders took funds from VCs at the idea stage (well before they had a working technology) and this doomed them, since technology development is not fully predictable and VCs want a fully predictable exit in three to five years.
At the idea stage it is far better to accept smaller amounts from foundations that offer grants without extracting equity and that are patient to see the technology development through its cycle. True, the development process can take longer, but at the same time there are no VCs to close the company.
As a general rule, a university that wants to spin off companies should have its own incubation fund and strong connections to foundations awarding grants to early-stage technology development teams. Once the technology starts working, it is better to engage a strategic partner who can become the user of the technology/product and who will fund the project. This is a much healthier relationship than one with VCs.
Thanks to Joe Sparacino ’00, who passed the Solasta article on to me.
The writer is co-founder and CEO of Bio-Tree Systems.
“Solasta, Chapter One” is a cautionary tale of gown meets town. Only one in eight venture-financed endeavors ever make it to round two. Along with dreams of riches and of changing the world comes a ticking clock. Science works to Deaderline’s Law: “Things take longer than they do.” The venture capital tyranny of time dictates short cuts and quick fixes. Legendary all-nighters are not done willingly, but rather to beat the clock. The article was a good but predictable read. Across the quad from Physics is Business. It is a greater distance than it appears.
Jack Falvey ’60
Londonderry, New Hampshire
Prince of a man
Re “Campanella’s Way” and the recollections by J. Donald Monan, SJ, and Jack Neuhauser (Winter 2011): Frank Campanella behaved like the ultimate Renaissance prince when he took tricky economic times for Boston College (I was there!) and created the new Boston College. When I look at the photograph in his death notice, I see the best that humanity offers a few times in each generation. His likeness could be painted with the campus behind him.
Rose Doherty, MA’68
Walls. Topped with barbed wire or shards of glass stuck upright into cement. . . . Walls to tell stories. Walls to keep in. Keep out.
Elizabeth Graver begins her account of a recent trip to Nicaragua (“Distance Education,” Fall 2010) with words that bring back vivid memories of my own immersion experience in El Salvador 13 years ago. I too remember being struck by those shards of glass and barbed wire atop the walls of San Salvador—and by the crude but effective way they separated the harsh realities of street life from the warm, generous hospitality that invariably awaited our group on the other side.
I look back at the 10 days I spent in El Salvador as the most formative time of my adult life. Although my initial plans to learn Spanish and be a serious scholar of Latin America never panned out (at least not yet), El Salvador did give me an abiding hunger to better understand the world, to challenge my own culture and position of relative privilege, and, most important, to lead a deliberate life (borrowing from Thoreau, and now Graver).
I am delighted to see that Boston College is still actively supporting and indeed expanding these cultural immersion trips, especially for the University’s faculty and staff. Though certainly valuable for 19-year-old undergraduates, they have a lot to offer all members of the University community who are searching for professional, personal, and spiritual growth.
Adam Fuss ’01
“Rate of Change,” by Mark Massa, SJ, in the Fall 2010 issue is an interesting though not complete history of the onset of the demise of traditional habits for religious women.
I have seen first hand the results of Perfectae Caritatis, having been employed for many years by a congregation of hospital sisters. They were dramatic and unique in their medieval garb. When they decided to modify their dress, an important part of their originality was lost. Now that congregation has not had a new member in over 20 years and is rapidly dying out. It seems to me that Holy Mother Church doesn’t care.
Vito F. Tamboli ’56
St. Louis, Missouri
Thank you, Moses
Re “Urban Legend,” by William Bole (Fall 2010): Whenever I think of Robert Moses what immediately pops into my mind is listening to a concert at Lincoln Center, or walking along the boardwalk at Jones Beach, or driving over the beautiful Robert Moses Causeway to relax on the pristine Fire Island beach at the state park named after him. One of Robert Moses’s gifts to New Yorkers was to provide a haven for urbanites to get a much-needed break from the heat, crowds, and pressures of the city. It is through his insight that a bit of Long Island’s magnificent beaches was preserved for all, not for the rich or developers.
Having said this, I was enlightened, and a bit saddened, when I read the article about Jane Jacobs and her fight with Moses. Although true, the story showed a rather deceitful side of the man who was called the “master builder of the 20th century.” I wish that it had included some of the genius of Robert Moses, as well.
Michele Boccia, MA’99
New York, New York
Portrait of the artist
Re “Bloom’s Way,” by Matthew Battles (Fall 2010): I was introduced to James Joyce’s Ulysses as an undergraduate at Boston College under the tutelage of the remarkable Adele Dalsimer, and it challenged and captivated me like no other work of literature before or since. While Joyce may not have had much use for organized religion, it is impossible not to see him as a man and an artist imbued with spirituality.
His deep (some may say obsessive) love for Nora Barnacle is evidence that he saw the beauty and the power of that most divine gift—love. Joyce’s work is ultimately a celebration of the artistic imagination and a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. I can think of few themes more divine.
Joseph Moran ’77
Glen Ridge, New Jersey
The Church in the 21st Century Center’s The Catholic Intellectual Tradition: A Conversation at Boston College (“Core Curriculum,” Fall 2010) is a small yet important booklet, an inspiration to further discussion. Thank you to its many contributors from across the University.
Jessica Lynn Salefski, MA’10
Editor’s Note: In the Digest column of the Winter 2011 issue, it was reported that Dining Service’s Jimmy Vo won $1 million on a scratch ticket. What was not known at the time, and not reported, is that Mr. Vo is a 2008 graduate of Boston College’s Woods College of Advancing Studies. Thanks to James McNamara ’09 for pointing this out.
And this amplification regarding the licensing of Solasta technology to South China Normal University (“Solasta, Chapter One,” Winter 2011): Because SCNU failed to meet the terms and obligations of its license, according to Catherine Ives, director of University technology transfer and licensing, its license was ended in June 2010. Says Ives, “Boston College retains the underlying patents to the nanocoax technology and continues to look for research and commercialization partners.”
And, lastly, a correction: Due to an editing error, several letters in the Winter 2011 issue appeared with the wrong “signature.” The letter titled “The bOp” was actually sent in by Adam Shulman ’07 of Cos Cob, Connecticut, not Jim Scannell ’69; the letter “Joyce’s Way” was submitted by Patrick Walsh ’82 of Quincy, Massachusetts, not Jim O’Brien ’60; and the letter “Facing Family History” was written by George Comeaux ’65 of North Easton, Massachusetts, not Tom Lloyd, Ph.D. ’96. Apologies to all—with thanks for their enlivening contributions.
BCM welcomes letters from readers. Letters may be edited for length and clarity, and must be signed to be published. Our fax number is (617) 552–2441; our e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.