H. Bruce McEver has spent the better part of his life building connections between those things about which he is passionate: poetry, literacy, religion, and business.
He holds degrees from Georgia Tech, Harvard Business School, and Harvard Divinity School and is the Founder and Chairman of Berkshire Capital, a multi-national financial services advisory firm that pioneered the concept of providing independent merger, acquisition, and strategic advisory services to investment managers and securities firms.
It may come as a surprise to learn that Bruce believes that poetry formed the foundation of his business acumen and success.
Poetry has the capacity to transform and enrich the lives of both writers and readers of poems.
Bruce’s story, although rich in the prelude, begins for our purposes in 1968, the year he graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Industrial Engineering, a proficiency in mathematics, a reverence for nature, and, thanks to a great teacher, a newly found passion for poetry. In the intervening years, he has gone on to write three chapbooks and is the author of two books of poetry Full Horizon (Jeanne Duval Editions, 2005) and Scaring Up the Morning (C&R Press, 2013). In addition, his poems have appeared in many national publications including: Ploughshares, Westview, The Berkshire Review, Courtland Review, The Atlanta Review and others.
In 2002, giving back to the school that gave so much to him, Bruce, together with Henry C. Bourne, Jr., established Poetry at Tech, working to ensure that in a highly specialized and technological environment students’ aptitudes in the humanities are nurtured and supported as a foundation for life-long learning. Believing that access to the broader aspects of liberal arts, including poetry, literature, and travel, will better enable students to understand the context and impact of the specialized education they are gaining. The Poetry at Tech program has evolved into one of the premier showcases of poetry in the Southeast.
To listen to Bruce talk about Poetry at Tech in a video titled “Poetry at Work”, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDK_CflwyC8
Others agree: The poet Tony Hoagland, in an article written for Harper’s Magazine, makes the case that poetry, among other things, teaches the ethical nature of choice, respects solitude and self-discovery, and builds our capacity for imaginative thinking. Reference: Twenty Little Poems That Could Save America, found at: http://harpers.org/blog/2013/04/twenty-little-poems-that-could-save-america/
And former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins is involved in Poetry 180, a joint project with the Library of Congress that is working to bring poetry into American high schools. See: http://www.loc.gov/poetry/180
The study of religion has played an equally important role in his life, both personal and business.
From The Foundation for Religious Literacy (TFRL) website:
TFRL was created by Bruce McEver and Ronald Thiemann to foster inter-religious literacy and understanding among leaders in business, education, journalism, law, and politics. The Foundation supports educational outreach programs that assist leaders in realizing how religion affects the global society in which we live.
Religious literacy and inter-religious understanding enable a deeper appreciation of the cultures within which we conduct our work. Sympathetic understanding of the religious influences that shape the workplace enhance professional effectiveness, ethical leadership, and personal conduct.
He also was the visionary benefactor behind Harvard University’s Business Across Religious Traditions (BART) program, through which he and Ron Thiemann created educational modules on economic ethics in Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, Taoism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. Programs have been offered in Boston, London, New York City, and San Francisco, often in collaboration with local Harvard Business School Clubs.
Bruce will add his voice to the collection in June 2013.
Home Sweet Home
Story Preservation Initiative recordings have found a bricks and mortar home at the Library of Congress. Our collection will be housed in the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center. So now, in addition to being available for listening on our website, all recordings made to date – and all recordings yet to come – will be archived there – for true story preservation!
A complete listing of our recordings can be found by referencing the list of Categories to the right – or by scrolling down.
And watch for our new website design!
A remarkable story of survival and of a life spent making art speaking of the unspeakable.
Samuel Bak was born on August 12, 1933 in Vilna, Poland. A few years later the area was incorporated into the independent republic of Lithuania. He was eight when the Germans invaded in 1941 and established a ghetto for the Jewish population. At first he and his parents hid in a local monastery; when the Germans grew suspicious, they escaped to the ghetto. Bak began painting while still a child, and had his first exhibition (in the Vilna ghetto) in 1942 at the age of nine. From the ghetto the family was sent to a labor camp on the outskirts of the city. His mother escaped and took refuge with a distant relative who had converted to Christianity and was living undetected in Vilna.
Then Bak’s father managed to save his son by dropping him in a sack out of a ground floor window of the warehouse where he was working; he was met by a maid and brought to the house where his mother was hiding. His father was shot by the Germans in July 1944, a few days before Soviet troops liberated the city. His four grandparents had earlier been executed at the killing site in the Vilna suburb called Ponary.
After the war, the young Bak continued painting at the Displaced Persons camp in Landsberg, Germany (1945-1948) and also studied painting in Munich. In 1948, he and his mother emigrated to Israel, where he studied for a year at the Bezalel Art School in Jerusalem. After fulfilling his military service, he spent three years (1956-59) at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He then moved to Rome (1959-66), returned to Israel (1966-74), and lived for a time (1974-77) in New York City. There followed further years in Israel and Paris, then a long stay (1984-93) in Switzerland. Since 1993 Bak has lived and worked outside Boston, in Weston, Massachusetts. In 2001 he published a detailed autobiography, Painted in Words: A Memoir (Indiana University Press).
Samuel Bak’s paintings have been exhibited in museums and galleries and hang in public collections in England, the United States, Israel, Germany and Switzerland. Between Worlds: The Paintings and Drawings of Samuel Bak from 1946 to 2001 (Boston: Pucker Art Publications, 2002), a survey of more than a half-century of his work, summarizes the sources of his vision as follows:
Bak’s life has inevitably influenced his choice of images and themes. The particulars of Vilna and the Holocaust, of surviving and being a wandering Jew, are part of his individual biography; but all are also aspects of our shared human condition. Bak has always sought to find the universal in the specific. His ongoing dialogues with the long-dead members of his family, with his early teachers, with the great masters of all epochs, with contemporary culture, and with the Bible and the diverse host of Jewish traditions—all come from his desire to represent the universality of loss and the endurance of man’s hope for a tikkun.
This biography is taken from the Florida Holocaust Museum’s website, which can be found at: http://www.flholocaustmuseum.org/
AUDIO EMBEDDED. Click on links below.
Copyright Story Preservation Initiative. All rights reserved.
TRACK 01 INTRO TO RECORDING
TRACK 02 VILNA
TRACK 03 THIS THING CALLED WAR
TRACK 04 THE CONVENT
TRACK 05 THE CHILDREN’S ACTION
TRACK 06 THE ESCAPE
TRACK 07 THE RUSSIAN ARMY
TRACK 08 ISRAEL
TRACK 09 SPEAKING THE UNSPEAKABLE
TRACK 10 RETURN TO GERMANY
To view the video The Art of Speaking About the Unspeakable, copy the following link to your browser.
One of the greatest American sculptors and monument builders of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
As part of our Preserving a Legacy series, this coming May SPI will be recording John Dryfhout, the former curator and superintendent of the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site. Dryfhout has lectured and written extensively on the work of Saint-Gaudens. His books include: The Work of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Augustus Saint-Gaudens: American Sculptor of the Gilded Age, and August Saint-Gaudens: The Portrait Reliefs.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1848. The son of a shoemaker, Saint-Gaudens moved with his family to New York before he was one. Growing up in the city, he became interested in art, and after turning thirteen he left school to apprentice with a cameo cutter. While an apprentice, Saint-Gaudens took classes at Cooper Union and the National Academy of Design. When he was nineteen he moved to Europe, where he continued his studies in both Paris and Rome. Studying classical art and architecture, Saint-Gaudens began to work as a professional sculptor.
Returning to America, Saint-Gaudens received his first major commission in New York City. Still considered one of his important works, “Admiral Farragut” (1881) stands in New York’s Madison Square Park. Combining the technical proficiency learned in Europe with a free and flowing hand, Saint-Gaudens created bronze statues that represented the complexity and grandeur of the American heroes he portrayed. Saint-Gaudens was a master of the human form, perfectly representing the physical while bringing to life the personality of his subjects.
By the late 1880s and 1890s, Saint-Gaudens had produced some of his greatest work including a copper statue of Diana and the first of his bronze monuments to President Abraham Lincoln. He had also become part of a group of rising artists and architects including H.H. Richardson, Stanford White, Charles McKim and John La Farge. Working with the McKim, Mead, and White architectural firm he produced a significant body of monuments and decorative sculpture. Throughout his career, he would continue to work closely with architects, creating most of his work specifically for the sites.
Throughout the 1890s Saint-Gaudens continued to work while engaging in the greater art world through teaching and advocacy. Often taking on many private students at once, Saint-Gaudens also taught at the Art Students League of New York, and worked in support of the American Academy in Rome. During these busy times, however, Saint-Gaudens continued to work diligently on a number of projects, many of which took him upwards of ten years or more to complete. His bronze statue of General Sherman led by Victory, which stands at the entrance to New York’s Central Park took eleven years. Probably the most famous of this time however, was the sculpture of a bent and draped figure deep in thought and grief in the Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington D.C. This sculpture uniquely brings together the monumental and the personal for which Saint-Gaudens’ work has become known.
By 1900, Saint-Gaudens moved to his summer home in Cornish, New Hampshire. Joined by other artists including Maxfield Parrish, Thomas Dewing, and his brother, the sculptor Louis Saint-Gaudens created a community of artists there that supported and inspired him throughout his final years. On August 3, 1907, Saint-Gaudens died. Today, nearly one hundred years later, the technical grace and subtle beauty of his work remains an inspiration to artists everywhere.
“The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time.”
Author, Conservationist, Environmentalist Terry Tempest Williams will add her voice to the Story Preservation Initiative collection.
Terry Tempest Williams has been called “a citizen writer,” a writer who speaks and speaks out eloquently on behalf of an ethical stance toward life. A naturalist and fierce advocate for freedom of speech, she has consistently shown us how environmental issues are social issues that ultimately become matters of justice. “So here is my question,” she asks, “what might a different kind of power look like, feel like, and can power be redistributed equitably even beyond our own species?”
Williams, like her writing, cannot be categorized. She has testified before Congress on women’s health issues, been a guest at the White House, has camped in the remote regions of Utah and Alaska wildernesses and worked as “a barefoot artist” in Rwanda.
Known for her impassioned and lyrical prose, Terry Tempest Williams is the author of the environmental literature classic, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place; An Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the Field; Desert Quartet; Leap; Red: Patience and Passion in the Desert; and The Open Space of Democracy. Her book Finding Beauty in a Broken World, was published in 2008 by Pantheon Books. She is a columnist for the magazine The Progressive.
In 2006, Williams received the Robert Marshall Award from The Wilderness Society, their highest honor given to an American citizen. She also received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Western American Literature Association and the Wallace Stegner Award given by The Center for the American West. She is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in creative nonfiction. In 2009, Terry Tempest Williams was featured in Ken Burns’ PBS series on the national parks. She is also the recipient of the 2010 David R. Brower Conservation Award for activism. The Community of Christ International Peace Award was presented in 2011 to Terry Tempest Williams in recognition of significant peacemaking vision, advocacy and action.
Terry Tempest Williams is currently the Annie Clark Tanner Scholar in Environmental Humanities at the University of Utah. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Orion Magazine, and numerous anthologies worldwide as a crucial voice for ecological consciousness and social change. She and her husband, Brooke Williams, divide their time between Castle Valley, Utah and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Her latest book, When Women Were Birds, was released Spring 2012.
Gutzon Borglum was the Danish-American artist and sculptor responsible for creating Mt. Rushmore.
As part of the Preserving a Legacy Series, Story Preservation will be meeting later this year with Gutzon’s granddaughter Robin Borglum Carter to talk about this tremendously talented and complex man and artist.
John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum liked to tinker with his own legend, subtracting a few years from his age, changing the story of his parentage. The best archival research has revealed that he was born in 1867 to one of the wives of a Danish Mormon bigamist. When his father decided to conform to societal norms that were pressing westward with the pioneers, he abandoned Gutzon’s mother, and remained married to his first wife, her sister.
In 1884, when Gutzon was sixteen, the family moved to Los Angeles. His father, unhappy in California, soon returned to Nebraska, but Gutzon stayed behind. He studied art and met Elizabeth Jaynes Putnam, a painter and divorcee eighteen years his senior. Lisa Putnam became a teacher and mentor to Gutzon, helping manage his career and advising his education. They were married in 1889. While in California, Gutzon painted a portrait of General John C. Fremont and learned the value of having a wealthy and socially connected patron. Although the general died a few years after sitting for his painting, his widow provided Borglum with contacts to men such as Leland Stanford and Theodore Roosevelt.
The Borglums traveled to Paris to work and study, and there Gutzon met sculptor Auguste Rodin. As much as he admired Rodin, more than one historian has suggested that the reason Gutzon gave up painting was to compete with his brother Solon, who had been making his name as a sculptor. Gutzon’s talent was immediately apparent and he found a few commissions (certainly the fact that Solon had already associated the name Borglum with fine sculpture didn’t hurt). At the same time, Gutzon’s marriage was falling apart. He left Paris alone in 1901 and aboard ship met Mary Montgomery, an American who had just completed her doctorate at the University of Berlin. He and Mary wed as soon as Lisa granted him a divorce. They bought a house and farm in Connecticut and named it “Borgland.”
Borglum’s major work back in America included a bust of Abraham Lincoln, which he was able to exhibit in Theodore Roosevelt’s White House. The Lincoln portrait and other much admired works gave Borglum a national reputation, and he was invited by Helen Plane of the United Daughters of the Confederacy to carve a bust of Robert E. Lee on Stone Mountain in Georgia. Borglum’s conception was bigger than Plane’s and Stone Mountain became his first mountain carving project, and where Borglum developed some of the techniques that would later be used on Rushmore.
While at Stone Mountain, Borglum became associated with the newly reborn Ku Klux Klan. Whether this accorded with a racist world view, or if it was simply one way to bond with some of his patrons on the Stone Mountain project, is unclear. Frankly, Borglum had little time for anyone, white or black, who was not a Congressman or millionaire, or happened to be in his way. There is no indication, for example, that he treated his long-suffering black chauffeur Charlie Johnson any differently than any white employee — he owed him back pay just like everyone else. Stone Mountain was not finished by Borglum, but it inspired his next job: Mount Rushmore.
When South Dakota state historian Doane Robinson read about Stone Mountain, he invited Borglum out to the Black Hills of South Dakota to create a monument there. Borglum, perhaps realizing that Stone Mountain had only regional support, immediately suggested a national subject for Rushmore: Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson were added to the program soon afterward. Borglum had met and campaigned for Roosevelt, and by invoking that president’s acquisition of the Panama Canal and Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase, the Rushmore monument became a story of the expansion of the United States, the embodiment of Manifest Destiny.
Work on the mountain was not constantly supervised by Borglum. When he was at Rushmore, Borglum would be climbing all over the mountain and all over the hills, to determine the best angle for each feature, and advising the carvers on how to create the nuanced details that might not even be visible from below. But after creating the models, siting the sculpture, and developing methods for transferring the image to the mountain and carving the rock, there were long periods during which Borglum’s presence was not required. He would often leave his assistants, including his son Lincoln, to supervise the work and then travel. He would go to Washington, D.C. to lobby for more money, and he also traveled around the world, finding and completing other commissions, sculpting a Thomas Paine for Paris and a Woodrow Wilson for Poland, and meeting politicians and celebrities such as Helen Keller. (Helping her feel pieces by his old friend Rodin, he recalled her comment: “Meeting you is like a visit from the gods.” He sometimes felt the same way about himself, writing in his journal: “I must see, think, feel and draw in Thor’s dimension.”) When he returned to the Dakotas, a rock might have been roughly blasted into an egg shape and he would be back to looking over every detail.
Borglum’s stubborn insistence on having things done his way led to numerous confrontations with John Boland, who chaired the executive committee of the Mount Rushmore Commission. His temper and perfectionism caused him to fire his best workmen (who then had to be hired back by Borglum’s son Lincoln). Borglum’s ambition and hubris motivated him to recreate a landscape in his image (a tableau of prominent white men) rather than for the Native Americans who held the Black Hills sacred. Borglum was stubborn, insistent, temperamental, perfectionist, high-reaching, and proud — but these were also the characteristics that were required to carve a mountain. Big, brash, almost larger than life, only a man like Gutzon Borglum could have conceived of and created the monument on Mount Rushmore.
On March 6, 1941, Borglum died, following complications after surgery. His son finished another season at Rushmore, but left the monument largely in the state of completion it had reached under his father’s direction.
Top photo and the one shown below are courtesy of Robin Borglum Carter.
Environment | Art | Poetry
Story Preservation Initiative was both gently guided and consciously followed through its first full year as a nonprofit. Our ideas for the oral history collection and how to get it out into the world as an educational resource were not rigid – rather they were tested. We learned quite a lot simply by allowing things to unfold. When they worked, they were developed – and when they did not, we moved a few degrees in one direction or another, poked and prodded a bit, and abandoned dead-end pursuits until – slowly – our path has become clear.
The – now obvious – educational add-on of producing curriculum around the oral histories came into focus. Likewise the establishment of media relationships, such as that forged with TedEd, has become another area of concentration. We didn’t foresee either of these developments early on.
The collection of oral histories itself was originally – and by design – a broad collection. There was no one discipline that trumped another.
But now, even that is beginning to change in ways that we did not anticipate.
The sub-collections of oral histories of environmentalists, artists, and poets are deepening and helping us – yet again – to sharpen our focus.
While we will remain open to capturing and preserving the oral histories of those who have achieved a high level of significance in any and all disciplines, the Tao of Story is asking us walk a more clearly defined path.
We will now be actively seeking those with a life’s work to share and a story to tell in the fields of the Environment, the Arts, and Poetry.
And so onward we go.