Allegheny College Receives National Science Foundation Grant in Support of Faculty Research

July 24, 2015 — Ivelitza Garcia, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Allegheny College, received a grant of $174,038 from the National Science Foundation in support of her project “Research in Undergraduate Institutions: Catalytic regulation of ribosome processing factors: Investigation of peripheral domain effects on the enzymatic capabilities of the DEAD-box protein Rok1p.”

The grant will provide funding for eight Allegheny students over four years to collaborate with Garcia to investigate how different structural elements within DEAD-box proteins can regulate the activity and initial structural state of a protein model. Understanding the regulation of DEAD-box proteins is of high medical interest since they are often over- or under-expressed in breast, cervical and prostate cancer as well as in T-cell and myeloid leukemia.

One hundred percent of the $174,038 cost of the project will be covered by federal funds through the NSF grant.

Photo: Winnie Wong at work in Ivelitza Garcia’s lab.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny College Receives National Science Foundation Grant in Support of Faculty Research

Winnie in Lab

July 24, 2015 — Ivelitza Garcia, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Allegheny College, received a grant of $174,038 from the National Science Foundation in support of her project “Research in Undergraduate Institutions: Catalytic regulation of ribosome processing factors: Investigation of peripheral domain effects on the enzymatic capabilities of the DEAD-box protein Rok1p.”

The grant will provide funding for eight Allegheny students over four years to collaborate with Garcia to investigate how different structural elements within DEAD-box proteins can regulate the activity and initial structural state of a protein model. Understanding the regulation of DEAD-box proteins is of high medical interest since they are often over- or under-expressed in breast, cervical and prostate cancer as well as in T-cell and myeloid leukemia.

One hundred percent of the $174,038 cost of the project will be covered by federal funds through the NSF grant.

Photo: Winnie Wong at work in Ivelitza Garcia’s lab.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Six Students Present Research at the 249th National American Chemical Society Meeting

Six Chemistry and Biochemistry students presented research at the 249th National American Chemical Society meeting in Denver. Haley Englert ’15 presented a poster at the Biochemistry section poster session, “Biological analyses of ATP binding and hydrolysis in DEAD-box protein,” based on her research with Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Ivy Garcia. Sean Carney ’15 presented a poster at the Physical Chemistry section poster session, “Probing the mechanism of DNA duplex formation in sequences with consecutive versus alternating purines and pyrimidines using stopped flow kinetics experiments,” based on his research with Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Alice Deckert. Four students presented their work with Professor Deckert at the Undergraduate Research poster session. Emma Bean ’15 and Matt Gray ’16 presented the poster “Progress towards SERS sensor for PAH’s,” and Bridgette McCauley ’15 and Shawn Kennemuth ’16 presented the poster “Investigation of Surface Chemistry on P-Si to form Potential Biosensors/Drug Delivery Devices.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Six Students Present Research at the 249th National American Chemical Society Meeting

Six Chemistry and Biochemistry students presented research at the 249th National American Chemical Society meeting in Denver. Haley Englert ’15 presented a poster at the Biochemistry section poster session, “Biological analyses of ATP binding and hydrolysis in DEAD-box protein,” based on her research with Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Ivy Garcia. Sean Carney ’15 presented a poster at the Physical Chemistry section poster session, “Probing the mechanism of DNA duplex formation in sequences with consecutive versus alternating purines and pyrimidines using stopped flow kinetics experiments,” based on his research with Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Alice Deckert. Four students presented their work with Professor Deckert at the Undergraduate Research poster session. Emma Bean ’15 and Matt Gray ’16 presented the poster “Progress towards SERS sensor for PAH’s,” and Bridgette McCauley ’15 and Shawn Kennemuth ’16 presented the poster “Investigation of Surface Chemistry on P-Si to form Potential Biosensors/Drug Delivery Devices.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Professor provides first documentation of chemical interaction

In a journal article currently under review by the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Mark Ams, assistant professor of chemistry, explains an interaction that has never been documented before. The interaction demonstrates the strength of a chemical interaction that happens with molecules containing a fluorine group above a ring structure, which is six carbons attached to each other.

Ams’ lab is currently studying the weak interactions that occur within one molecule. In the structure they use, called a torsion balance system, a long chain of carbons in the molecule fold in such a way that the end of the end is able to fold over the ring structure.

This torsion balance system is required to isolate the specific molecular force that they wish to study, a force that is so weak it is typically not able to be measured, according to Rosey Sheridan, ’15, who has worked on this project.

Read more.

Amanda Spadaro is co-editor-in-chief for The Campus. Photo contributed by Rosey Sheridan.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Professor provides first documentation of chemical interaction

Torsion-Balances-475x183

In a journal article currently under review by the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Mark Ams, assistant professor of chemistry, explains an interaction that has never been documented before. The interaction demonstrates the strength of a chemical interaction that happens with molecules containing a flourine group above a ring structure, which is six carbons attached to each other.

Ams’ lab is currently studying the weak interactions that occur within one molecule. In the structure they use, called a torsion balance system, a long chain of carbons in the molecule fold in such a way that the end of the end is able to fold over the ring structure.

This torsion balance system is required to isolate the specific molecular force that they wish to study, a force that is so weak it is typically not able to be measured, according to Rosey Sheridan, ’15, who has worked on this project.

Read more.

Amanda Spadaro is co-editor-in-chief for The Campus. Photo contributed by Rosey Sheridan.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Making homes healthier for children

Karina Sarver often finds herself poking around people’s homes.

The Allegheny College junior could be collecting dust samples from the floor. Looking at electric outlets on the wall. Or asking whether adults in the home smoke, how many pets they keep and how often the family burns wood in its fireplace.

Karina Sarver tests samples in a laboratory at Carr Hall.

Karina Sarver tests samples in a laboratory at Carr Hall.

She’s not just being nosey. It’s part of her work-study job.

What started as an idea for a class project almost 11 years ago has evolved into an Allegheny student-operated, nonprofit agency that helps safeguard the health of children throughout northwest Pennsylvania.

The Healthy Homes – Healthy Children program began in 2007 under the direction of Dr. Caryl Waggett, associate professor of environmental science, as a way to test older homes for lead paint residue that could cause cognitive and behavioral problems in children.

Fast-forward seven years and you’ll find three students, led by Sarver, who is the program coordinator, managing a free, in-home survey program in Crawford County. The students look for airborne health risks and nutritional and safety issues, too.

More than 1,750 homes have been tested since the program’s inception. Its scope has expanded to include educational outreach extending into the Erie area. The students also have become a resource for the region’s medical and social-service professionals.

“Personalized home visits are one of a suite of tools that we use to help families address these issues,” says Waggett.

Healthy Homes-Healthy Children was designed to:

  • provide targeted information to families and medical, educational, and social service providers;
  • address perceptions and attitudes that may be counteracting healthy outcomes;
  • support families hoping to make behavioral changes;
  • research and work toward better understanding of the key factors impacting children’s health in northwest Pennsylvania.

As the program leader, Sarver schedules the in-home tests with parents, coordinates the lab processing (part of which is done at Carr Hall) and shares results with the homeowners.

“I came to Allegheny as a pre-med student, but since joining this program, I’ve found that I want to make more of an impact on community-based health, not so much just individuals,” says Sarver, a biology major with minors in English and history.

Sarver and fellow students Jillian Gallatin ’16 and Katelyn Nicewander ’15 conduct the hour-long, in-home surveys. They do some of the laboratory testing of airborne samples themselves and send other samples to a Michigan laboratory to determine if, and how serious, mold-borne issues may be in clients’ houses. Pollutants, especially lead from paint in many of the Meadville-area homes built before 1978, can negatively impact development in children.

Mold spores from damp rooms, allergens from pets, secondhand smoke from parents, naturally occurring radon infiltration and home-heating units that burn gas, oil and wood can exacerbate asthma and pose other health problems in children.

Through the efforts of these Allegheny students, parents, community organizations, and professionals throughout Crawford County are learning about potential health threats in their homes and receiving practical suggestions for remediation.

The Healthy Homes – Healthy Children team gets its referrals in a variety of ways, but the students work closely with agencies such as Meadville Head Start, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Early Intervention and the Children’s Health Network of the Meadville Medical Center. In addition to the home surveys, the students conduct seminars at local schools and social-service agencies. They might discuss how to clean a home efficiently to reduce allergens and dust, and also suggest ways that children can adopt healthier lifestyles through proper nutrition and exercising regularly. They also staff a booth for a week distributing healthy-lifestyle educational materials at the annual Crawford County Fair.

Lorie Darcangelo, the Meadville WIC director, considers the Healthy Homes—Healthy Children program “a blessing” for the region.

“It is a wonderful service to offer to our community,” says Darcangelo.  “At WIC, we appreciate being able to make this referral to our participants.  Many live in older homes that do contain lead-based paint.  With limited income, and many are renters, the practical information provided to them by Health Homes—Healthy Children is invaluable.  We, at WIC, also appreciate the information and training that this program has provided to our staff so we are better prepared to make those referrals.”

“It’s really given me a greater appreciation for early intervention in children, to teach them healthy habits,” says Sarver. “It’s helped me to connect to Meadville in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise. Right now, we’re reaching the people who are interested in changing their lifestyles, but there is a whole demographic that hasn’t reached that point.”

“Change is hard for all of us, and in many instances, families have so many financial and time pressures that it is hard to identify or prioritize key issues,” Waggett says.  “HHHC works with families and can link them to other services that help them focus on key issues.”

Sarver says it’s important to focus on healthy homes for children because:

  • More than 80 percent of the buildings in Crawford County were built before 1978, the year that lead paint was banned.
  • Children under age 6 are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning because their neurological systems are developing and they often put objects, like toys that have been exposed to lead-positive dust, in their mouths. High lead levels in children can cause irreversible cognitive deficits and both learning and behavioral challenges in the classroom.
  • Levels of air pollution in the home can be two to five times higher than outdoor levels. This isn’t good for asthmatic children and can lead to respiratory ailments.
  • The average home contains 60 chemical products that can taint the inside air.

Sarver suggests some ways to make a home more child-friendly:

    • Vacuuming often with a device that includes a HEPA filter.
    • Dusting furniture and window sills regularly with a damp cloth.
    • Making sure electric outlets have safety guards on them.
    • If possible, making sure carpeting in a child’s room is newer or cleaned regularly.
    • Not allowing pets to sleep in bed with children.
    • Keeping the home, especially basements, dry and well-ventilated. Run a dehumidifier. If you see mold on the walls, clean it immediately with diluted bleach or vinegar.

If you think you might have lead paint that can’t be immediately removed by a lead safety certified professional, it’s beneficial to give children in the home a calcium supplement, some health experts advise. As Sarver explains: “Lead fills in for calcium in the body. Lead is especially dangerous in the calcium-dependent synapses in the brain. In children who don’t have sufficient calcium in their diet, or who don’t have sufficient vitamin D which is necessary to absorb calcium, lead can be absorbed into places where calcium is normally needed in the body.  When lead replaces calcium in neurological system, it interrupts synaptic communication and induces symptoms of learning disabilities. Lead can also replace calcium in bones, so it is innately important to make sure young, growing bodies are getting enough calcium in their diets.  So, two children who both live in older homes with residual lead dust may absorb different levels of the lead, and have highly different outcomes.  These exposure differences and health disparities tend to fall along economic lines.  In regions like Meadville, where nearly 40 percent of our children are living in families under the poverty line, food insecurity is a common problem that can lead to more significant problems like increased susceptibility to lead poisoning.”

The Healthy Homes – Healthy Children program has brochures available for parents, educators and social-service representatives.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Making homes healthier for children

20141016-Karina-0585

Karina Sarver often finds herself poking around people’s homes.

The Allegheny College junior could be collecting dust samples from the floor. Looking at electric outlets on the wall. Or asking whether adults in the home smoke, how many pets they keep and how often the family burns wood in its fireplace.

Karina Sarver tests samples in a laboratory at Carr Hall.

Karina Sarver tests samples in a laboratory at Carr Hall.

She’s not just being nosey. It’s part of her work-study job.

What started as an idea for a class project almost 11 years ago has evolved into an Allegheny student-operated, nonprofit agency that helps safeguard the health of children throughout northwest Pennsylvania.

The Healthy Homes – Healthy Children program began in 2007 under the direction of Dr. Caryl Waggett, associate professor of environmental science, as a way to test older homes for lead paint residue that could cause cognitive and behavioral problems in children.

Fast-forward seven years and you’ll find three students, led by Sarver, who is the program coordinator, managing a free, in-home survey program in Crawford County. The students look for airborne health risks and nutritional and safety issues, too.

More than 1,750 homes have been tested since the program’s inception. Its scope has expanded to include educational outreach extending into the Erie area. The students also have become a resource for the region’s medical and social-service professionals.

“Personalized home visits are one of a suite of tools that we use to help families address these issues,” says Waggett.

Healthy Homes-Healthy Children was designed to:

  • provide targeted information to families and medical, educational, and social service providers;
  • address perceptions and attitudes that may be counteracting healthy outcomes;
  • support families hoping to make behavioral changes;
  • research and work toward better understanding of the key factors impacting children’s health in northwest Pennsylvania.

As the program leader, Sarver schedules the in-home tests with parents, coordinates the lab processing (part of which is done at Carr Hall) and shares results with the homeowners.

“I came to Allegheny as a pre-med student, but since joining this program, I’ve found that I want to make more of an impact on community-based health, not so much just individuals,” says Sarver, a biology major with minors in English and history.

Sarver and fellow students Jillian Gallatin ’16 and Katelyn Nicewander ’15 conduct the hour-long, in-home surveys. They do some of the laboratory testing of airborne samples themselves and send other samples to a Michigan laboratory to determine if, and how serious, mold-borne issues may be in clients’ houses. Pollutants, especially lead from paint in many of the Meadville-area homes built before 1978, can negatively impact development in children.

Mold spores from damp rooms, allergens from pets, secondhand smoke from parents, naturally occurring radon infiltration and home-heating units that burn gas, oil and wood can exacerbate asthma and pose other health problems in children.

Through the efforts of these Allegheny students, parents, community organizations, and professionals throughout Crawford County are learning about potential health threats in their homes and receiving practical suggestions for remediation.

The Healthy Homes – Healthy Children team gets its referrals in a variety of ways, but the students work closely with agencies such as Meadville Head Start, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Early Intervention and the Children’s Health Network of the Meadville Medical Center. In addition to the home surveys, the students conduct seminars at local schools and social-service agencies. They might discuss how to clean a home efficiently to reduce allergens and dust, and also suggest ways that children can adopt healthier lifestyles through proper nutrition and exercising regularly. They also staff a booth for a week distributing healthy-lifestyle educational materials at the annual Crawford County Fair.

Lorie Darcangelo, the Meadville WIC director, considers the Healthy Homes—Healthy Children program “a blessing” for the region.

“It is a wonderful service to offer to our community,” says Darcangelo.  “At WIC, we appreciate being able to make this referral to our participants.  Many live in older homes that do contain lead-based paint.  With limited income, and many are renters, the practical information provided to them by Health Homes—Healthy Children is invaluable.  We, at WIC, also appreciate the information and training that this program has provided to our staff so we are better prepared to make those referrals.”

“It’s really given me a greater appreciation for early intervention in children, to teach them healthy habits,” says Sarver. “It’s helped me to connect to Meadville in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise. Right now, we’re reaching the people who are interested in changing their lifestyles, but there is a whole demographic that hasn’t reached that point.”

“Change is hard for all of us, and in many instances, families have so many financial and time pressures that it is hard to identify or prioritize key issues,” Waggett says.  “HHHC works with families and can link them to other services that help them focus on key issues.”

Sarver says it’s important to focus on healthy homes for children because:

  • More than 80 percent of the buildings in Crawford County were built before 1978, the year that lead paint was banned.
  • Children under age 6 are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning because their neurological systems are developing and they often put objects, like toys that have been exposed to lead-positive dust, in their mouths. High lead levels in children can cause irreversible cognitive deficits and both learning and behavioral challenges in the classroom.
  • Levels of air pollution in the home can be two to five times higher than outdoor levels. This isn’t good for asthmatic children and can lead to respiratory ailments.
  • The average home contains 60 chemical products that can taint the inside air.

Sarver suggests some ways to make a home more child-friendly:

    • Vacuuming often with a device that includes a HEPA filter.
    • Dusting furniture and window sills regularly with a damp cloth.
    • Making sure electric outlets have safety guards on them.
    • If possible, making sure carpeting in a child’s room is newer or cleaned regularly.
    • Not allowing pets to sleep in bed with children.
    • Keeping the home, especially basements, dry and well-ventilated. Run a dehumidifier. If you see mold on the walls, clean it immediately with diluted bleach or vinegar.

If you think you might have lead paint that can’t be immediately removed by a lead safety certified professional, it’s beneficial to give children in the home a calcium supplement, some health experts advise. As Sarver explains: “Lead fills in for calcium in the body. Lead is especially dangerous in the calcium-dependent synapses in the brain. In children who don’t have sufficient calcium in their diet, or who don’t have sufficient vitamin D which is necessary to absorb calcium, lead can be absorbed into places where calcium is normally needed in the body.  When lead replaces calcium in neurological system, it interrupts synaptic communication and induces symptoms of learning disabilities. Lead can also replace calcium in bones, so it is innately important to make sure young, growing bodies are getting enough calcium in their diets.  So, two children who both live in older homes with residual lead dust may absorb different levels of the lead, and have highly different outcomes.  These exposure differences and health disparities tend to fall along economic lines.  In regions like Meadville, where nearly 40 percent of our children are living in families under the poverty line, food insecurity is a common problem that can lead to more significant problems like increased susceptibility to lead poisoning.”

The Healthy Homes – Healthy Children program has brochures available for parents, educators and social-service representatives.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Kicking Off Allegheny’s Bicentennial on a High Note

For generations of Allegheny singers, 2015 means more than the Bicentennial.

It’s the 85th anniversary of the choir’s existence.

It’s the 50th anniversary of music program/choir director founder Morten “Luvy” Luvaas’ retirement.

And it’s a choir reunion year, meaning all past and present members of the Allegheny choirs are invited back for a special celebration during Reunion Weekend at the end of May. Historically, the triennial choir reunions have drawn the largest group of attendees among any reunion group.

For James Niblock ’97, assistant professor of music and director of choral activities, it’s certainly exciting.

“It’s very humbling to be in this position at such an exciting moment in Allegheny’s history,” he says. “We’re going to premier a wonderful commission; I already have chosen the music for the upcoming choir reunion. There’s so much to celebrate.”

A Kickoff to Remember
During the College’s initial Bicentennial planning, Niblock began thinking about how the music program could contribute to the celebration. That’s when he inquired about having a musical piece commissioned as part of the kickoff event.

“When the Bicentennial Committee approved the idea, one of the first people I thought of asking was alumnus Crawford Thoburn,” Niblock says. “His distinguished music career speaks for itself, and his family has a strong connection to Allegheny. It would be difficult to find someone who embodies that continuing connection to the institution as much as he does.”

Crawford Thoburn ’54

Crawford Thoburn ’54

During his time at the College, Crawford Thoburn ’54 studied theory, arranging, and conducting with Luvaas and sang with the mixed choral group called the Allegheny Singers. He is now emeritus professor of music at Wells College in Aurora, N.Y., where he served as Chair of the Arts Division and director of choral activities and taught voice, conducting, theory, composition, and music history.

Throughout the years, he has published more than 100 choral compositions, arrangements, and editions, including those that Allegheny choirs past and present have sung. He also is a recipient of Allegheny’s Gold Citation, in recognition and appreciation of the honor reflected upon the College by virtue of his professional achievements.

But Thoburn’s connection to the College goes beyond music; the Thoburn family legacy is a story all its own. More than 50 family members have attended Allegheny, starting with Thoburn’s great-grandfather, James Mills Thoburn, Class of 1857. Crawford Thoburn is among the fourth generation, and two of his daughters are part of the fifth. And, of course, generation after generation has sung in the choir.

So when Thoburn received the call from Niblock about commissioning the piece, he was touched.

“Although the Allegheny choirs have sung other choral works by me in the past, to be asked to write a piece celebrating the College’s Bicentennial is truly a special privilege and honor,” he says.

After the call, he immediately knew where he would draw his inspiration.

“Years ago I did a successful setting of a text titled ‘Wisdom Exalteth her Children’ for women’s voices, and more recently I had intended to compose a new version for mixed voices. When Professor Niblock called about the Bicentennial, I knew this was the text I wanted to use,” he says. “It’s always held a special place in my heart.”

“Wisdom Exalteth her Children”

Wisdom exalteth her children.

And gives help to those who seek her.

Whoever loves her loves life.

And those who seek her early will be filled with joy.

Whoever holds her fast will obtain glory.

And God will bless the place she enters.

-Wisdom of Sirach 4:11-13

After just a few months, Thoburn presented the composition to Niblock, who thought it would be appropriate for the College Choir to debut during a dinner celebrating the new Bicentennial Plaza in October.

“The piece is a great sentiment for celebrating the longevity of an institution like Allegheny that is all about the pursuit of wisdom and embracing that in a joyful way,” Niblock says.

According to Thoburn, “The text, written about 180 BCE by the Hebrew sage Joshua ben Sira, is highly appropriate for celebrating the longevity of an institution like Allegheny, where faculty and students have shared the academic quest for so many years. It joyfully and eloquently expresses the continuing role of this experience at Allegheny, extolling the cultivation and acquisition of wisdom (as opposed to knowledge), which I believe is the true purpose of a liberal arts education.”

When asked what certain lines of the piece mean to him, Niblock references the second line, “and gives help to those who seek her,” and says, “When you see students who have the light in their eyes to take on some new threshold in their discipline, to take on challenges, and they’re anxious for you to lay those challenges down before them, that’s a great example of what that line means.”

When he first shared the text with the Choir, Niblock was pleased with the members’ response. The students are equally excited about performing the piece as part of the Bicentennial kickoff.

“The group was immediately upbeat and positive about the piece,” Niblock says. “Something about the musical language is easy for them to speak.”

“The first day we sang the piece in rehearsal, I knew it was going to be great,” says Rosey Sheridan ’15, a choir member majoring in chemistry and minoring in music performance. “The year 2015 is my graduation year, so for me, the Bicentennial is something that has been talked about for four years. I feel very honored to be part of the event in this way.”

Having the opportunity to sing in front of Thoburn is special for the students as well.

“We are nervous,” admits Lauren Dominique ’16, a choir member who is double-majoring in English and women’s, gender and sexuality studies. “We sang one of Professor Thoburn’s pieces last year, and it was probably one of my favorites. To sing this piece in front of him, to meet him in person, and just to be there for this occasion will be an incredible experience.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Kicking Off Allegheny’s Bicentennial on a High Note

The College Choir rehearses “Wisdom Exalteth her Children.”

For generations of Allegheny singers, 2015 means more than the Bicentennial.

It’s the 85th anniversary of the choir’s existence.

It’s the 50th anniversary of music program/choir director founder Morten “Luvy” Luvaas’ retirement.

And it’s a choir reunion year, meaning all past and present members of the Allegheny choirs are invited back for a special celebration during Reunion Weekend at the end of May. Historically, the triennial choir reunions have drawn the largest group of attendees among any reunion group.

For James Niblock ’97, assistant professor of music and director of choral activities, it’s certainly exciting.

“It’s very humbling to be in this position at such an exciting moment in Allegheny’s history,” he says. “We’re going to premier a wonderful commission; I already have chosen the music for the upcoming choir reunion. There’s so much to celebrate.”

A Kickoff to Remember
During the College’s initial Bicentennial planning, Niblock began thinking about how the music program could contribute to the celebration. That’s when he inquired about having a musical piece commissioned as part of the kickoff event.

“When the Bicentennial Committee approved the idea, one of the first people I thought of asking was alumnus Crawford Thoburn,” Niblock says. “His distinguished music career speaks for itself, and his family has a strong connection to Allegheny. It would be difficult to find someone who embodies that continuing connection to the institution as much as he does.”

Crawford Thoburn ’54

Crawford Thoburn ’54

During his time at the College, Crawford Thoburn ’54 studied theory, arranging, and conducting with Luvaas and sang with the mixed choral group called the Allegheny Singers. He is now emeritus professor of music at Wells College in Aurora, N.Y., where he served as Chair of the Arts Division and director of choral activities and taught voice, conducting, theory, composition, and music history.

Throughout the years, he has published more than 100 choral compositions, arrangements, and editions, including those that Allegheny choirs past and present have sung. He also is a recipient of Allegheny’s Gold Citation, in recognition and appreciation of the honor reflected upon the College by virtue of his professional achievements.

But Thoburn’s connection to the College goes beyond music; the Thoburn family legacy is a story all its own. More than 50 family members have attended Allegheny, starting with Thoburn’s great-grandfather, James Mills Thoburn, Class of 1857. Crawford Thoburn is among the fourth generation, and two of his daughters are part of the fifth. And, of course, generation after generation has sung in the choir.

So when Thoburn received the call from Niblock about commissioning the piece, he was touched.

“Although the Allegheny choirs have sung other choral works by me in the past, to be asked to write a piece celebrating the College’s Bicentennial is truly a special privilege and honor,” he says.

After the call, he immediately knew where he would draw his inspiration.

“Years ago I did a successful setting of a text titled ‘Wisdom Exalteth her Children’ for women’s voices, and more recently I had intended to compose a new version for mixed voices. When Professor Niblock called about the Bicentennial, I knew this was the text I wanted to use,” he says. “It’s always held a special place in my heart.”

“Wisdom Exalteth her Children”

Wisdom exalteth her children.

And gives help to those who seek her.

Whoever loves her loves life.

And those who seek her early will be filled with joy.

Whoever holds her fast will obtain glory.

And God will bless the place she enters.

-Wisdom of Sirach 4:11-13

After just a few months, Thoburn presented the composition to Niblock, who thought it would be appropriate for the College Choir to debut during a dinner celebrating the new Bicentennial Plaza in October.

“The piece is a great sentiment for celebrating the longevity of an institution like Allegheny that is all about the pursuit of wisdom and embracing that in a joyful way,” Niblock says.

According to Thoburn, “The text, written about 180 BCE by the Hebrew sage Joshua ben Sira, is highly appropriate for celebrating the longevity of an institution like Allegheny, where faculty and students have shared the academic quest for so many years. It joyfully and eloquently expresses the continuing role of this experience at Allegheny, extolling the cultivation and acquisition of wisdom (as opposed to knowledge), which I believe is the true purpose of a liberal arts education.”

When asked what certain lines of the piece mean to him, Niblock references the second line, “and gives help to those who seek her,” and says, “When you see students who have the light in their eyes to take on some new threshold in their discipline, to take on challenges, and they’re anxious for you to lay those challenges down before them, that’s a great example of what that line means.”

When he first shared the text with the Choir, Niblock was pleased with the members’ response. The students are equally excited about performing the piece as part of the Bicentennial kickoff.

“The group was immediately upbeat and positive about the piece,” Niblock says. “Something about the musical language is easy for them to speak.”

“The first day we sang the piece in rehearsal, I knew it was going to be great,” says Rosey Sheridan ’15, a choir member majoring in chemistry and minoring in music performance. “The year 2015 is my graduation year, so for me, the Bicentennial is something that has been talked about for four years. I feel very honored to be part of the event in this way.”

Having the opportunity to sing in front of Thoburn is special for the students as well.

“We are nervous,” admits Lauren Dominique ’16, a choir member who is double-majoring in English and women’s, gender and sexuality studies. “We sang one of Professor Thoburn’s pieces last year, and it was probably one of my favorites. To sing this piece in front of him, to meet him in person, and just to be there for this occasion will be an incredible experience.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research