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The Word Along Appian Way Open Mike Ask the Owl
Mark Your Calendar Just for Alumni Newsline Archive
We'd Like to Hear From You KSC Connections      

This issue of KSC Newsline traces the connection between a famous crime and Keene State, celebrates student achievement and heroics, and invites you to important events on campus.

(For information on subscribing or opting out, please scroll to the end.)

The Word Along Appian Way

From Appian Way to the Great White Way
In 1905 in rural Herkimer County, New York, Grace Brown fell in love with Chester Gillette, her co-worker in a skirt factory. He, aspiring to escape the grinding poverty of small-town life, kept their relationship quiet while courting wealthier women. Grace Brown became pregnant and beseeched the young man to marry her. They met near Big Moose Lake in the Adirondacks early in July 1906 and Gillette took her out in a rowboat. Brown's body was found in the water the next day; Gillette was apprehended a few days later. A jury convicted Gillette of Brown's murder and he was executed in the electric chair in 1908 at age 24.

In 1925, American novelist Theodore Dreiser fictionalized the crime in An American Tragedy, considered his greatest work. In 1951, the novel was adapted as the screenplay for the Oscar-winning film A Place in the Sun.

Keene State's Craig Brandon, who teaches journalism and writing and advises the KSC yearbook and newspaper staffs, is probably the world's leading expert on the historic details of the murder. In 1981, as a reporter for the Utica Observer-Dispatch, he was assigned to write about the case. He started digging into the details and became fascinated. Five years later, his book Murder in the Adirondacks: An American Tragedy Revisited (now in its 15th printing) was published.

Photo: Craig Brandon (right) at the Met, with opera composer Tobias Picker (left) and librettist Gene Scheer. In December, an opera based on An American Tragedy premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Brandon was a key advisor to the opera production crew, and the composer and librettist told him they referred to his book constantly. He also supplied many historic photographs that were used by the set designer. Brandon attended a performance of the opera on December 16. "I knew the plot pretty well," he joked. "Actually, I was concentrating so hard on the words that I barely remember the music. At the beginning of Act II, an aria quotes directly from the heart-wrenching letters Grace wrote to Chester. It was very effective."

To mark the 100th anniversary of the crime this summer and publication of a special edition of his book, Brandon will be lecturing and signing books at several schools and historical societies in upstate New York and the Adirondacks, including an author's dinner at Big Moose Lake. He's hoping they don't expect him to sing.

KSC Student Honored for Lifeguarding Heroics
Photo: Alexandra (AJ) RichardsAlexandra (AJ) Richards, a KSC junior from Connecticut, was captain of her swim team at Berlin High and swims backstroke for the Owls. She's been lifeguarding for five years. But last May, on her first day of work at Wadsworth Pond in Middletown, she may have set a personal speed record as she raced into the murky water to pull out a frightened eight-year-old who was thrashing in water over his head. "I heard him scream, saw him flailing, and I grabbed a flotation can and just went in fully clothed, pushing people out of my way. He was exhausted and also was asthmatic, but as soon as he saw the Red Cross emblem on my shirt, he calmed down. I had a big adrenaline rush, but I was pretty scared when it was over," she said.

Later in the summer, she was watching the pond from her chair. It was a busy day and she kept counting heads, especially keeping track of people who were not strong swimmers. "I had my eye on one little boy who couldn't swim at all but wanted to keep up with his cousins. I told him to stay in the shallow water, but he didn't. From my chair, I saw him bob up and go down." Again, AJ went in at top speed and found the boy under water. She quickly brought him to shore. "He was fine, but I was shaking all over," she said.

For her attentiveness and quick action, AJ was one of 13 lifeguards honored this month by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection for outstanding service. "It's not a fun-in-the-sun job," she noted. "It is hard and takes a lot of concentration." Her hometown newspaper, the Berlin Citizen, recently featured AJ and the other honorees. AJ's mother and many other relatives have also served as lifeguards, so it is something of a family tradition.

AJ is majoring in nutrition and minoring in journalism at Keene State. She loves writing and hopes to apply her pen professionally to science and nutrition subjects. We know she has the will to succeed.

Academic Service-Learning: Inspiring Citizenship
Keene State students and faculty have been doing service-learning for years, but now the program is gaining momentum and support as an integral part of education here. Academic service-learning is a way for students to apply classroom knowledge to the real world by collaborating with community partners in useful service projects. Last fall, Polly Chandler was hired as KSC's first official service-learning coordinator, helping students, faculty, and community members develop projects, and coordinating with similar activities at Antioch New England Graduate School in Keene.

You can read about Keene State's service-learning program at, or better yet, plan to attend the Academic Service-Learning Summit on Friday, Feb. 3, to hear joint presentations by students, faculty, and community partners about meeting learning goals and community needs at the same time. For more information on the Summit, e-mail Polly Chandler,

Ask the Owl
Newsline's Question of the Month

What were the names of the three mini-houses that were taken down for construction of the Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery in 1991? (Any good anecdotes triggered by the memories of living there are welcome, too!)

Please send your reply to The first person with the answer will receive a genuine KSC baseball cap, courtesy of our director of Alumni and Parent Relations, Mr. Mike Maher.

Answer to last month's question.

Last month's "Ask the Owl" wondered who was the all-time leading men's basketball scorer. Our e-mail dinged five times in a row, just about a dead heat, with answers from Deb Butler, Raynor Smith, Deirdre Walsh, Frank Dolan, and David Stack. Everyone knew the right answer: Al Hicks with 2020 points (accomplished before the era of the three-pointer, no less).

Ask the Owl graphic    Suggestion graphic

Mark Your Calendar

  • Now-Feb. 26 – KSC Art Faculty Exhibition, Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery.
  • Saturday, Jan. 27 – Martha Graham Dance Company, Main Theatre, Redfern Arts Center on Brickyard Pond, 7:30 p.m. Box office: 603-358-2168.
  • Thursday, Feb. 2 – Student presentations on the genocide in Darfur, Sudan, Mountain View Room, 7:30-9 p.m. Presenters are taking Therese Seibert's course in Sociology of Genocide. Free and open to the public.
  • Friday, Feb. 3 – Academic Service-Learning Summit, Mountain View Room, Student Center, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Thursday, Feb. 23 – Lecture by author Tracy Kidder, Mabel Brown Room, Student Center, 7 p.m. Kidder is the author of Mountains Beyond Mountains, which describes the life and career of Dr. Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health and advocate for quality and equality in health care around the world. Free and open to the public.
  • Saturday, April 8 – 15th New England Conference on Storytelling for Children, Redfern Arts Center on Brickyard Pond, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Keynote address by Jay O'Callahan; workshops all day. Registration and fee required; Free public storytelling session at 3 p.m.
  • Friday, April 28 – Inauguration of Dr. Helen Giles-Gee as president of KSC, 2 p.m., Spaulding Gymnasium. Information:

For a details of all events go to

Just for Alumni
Mark Hildebrandt, who taught in the Upward Bound program at KSC, will spend seven months at Kathmandu University in Nepal under a Fulbright grant. Hildebrandt, son of Judith and Charles Hildebrandt, received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Kent State University in Ohio and his doctorate in geography from Arizona State. His wife, Kristine McCrady '92, has a doctorate in linguistics, specializing in the Himalayan languages; she is teaching at the University of Manchester in England and will join her husband in Kathmandu. In Nepal, Hildebrandt will teach meteorology and climatology, and will train students to monitor air pollution. He currently teaches at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville.

Open Mike
Mike Maher, director of Alumni and Parent Relations, has good news and bad news.

Interested in going to a Boston Celtics game with KSC? How about a Manchester (N.H.) Monarchs hockey game against the Providence Bruins? Not all alumni events take place on campus or in Keene. We have purchased blocks of tickets for a Celtics game on Friday, March 10, and a Monarchs game on Saturday, February 11.

Visit the alumni page ( on the Keene State website to learn more about each of these events. Tickets are only $10 for the Monarchs game (reservations due by February 6) and $20 for the Celtics (reservations due by February 21).

I have some bad news for those alumni who went to our Red Sox game last summer. I was unable to get group tickets this year. Kay MacLean and I dialed the tickets number hundreds of times; I finally got through to find only scattered seats available. So let's go to a New Hampshire Fisher Cats baseball game instead. The Fisher Cats are a minor league affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays and often play the Portland Sea Dogs, the Red Sox affiliate. Playing in a beautiful new stadium in Manchester, N.H., the Fisher Cats are within an easy drive for more than 50 percent of all Keene State alumni. Would you come to a Saturday afternoon game against the Sea Dogs if you could get great seats for $15 or less? Let me know at If you have more ideas for places for KSC alumni to gather, please contact me.

KSC Connections
Alumni to Alumni

Please send your news to your class secretary (see any print issue of Keene State Today), or to Barbara Hall, class notes editor (

We'd Like to Hear from You
KSC Newsline is sent monthly by e-mail because it is fast, up-to-date, and (let's be honest) saves on printing and postage. We hope it will be a good way for you to stay current on campus life and feel connected to the College community.

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Updated: October 9, 2006 KSC Photos on SmugMug Subscribe to the KSC RSS news feed Keene State on Facebook Keene State on Twitter Keene State on YouTube

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