The Crowd: Putting knowledge in the spotlight

There is a lot of talk these days about the intentions of America's founding fathers (and mothers). As our nation comes to terms with many challenges, one of the sentiments of our ancestors does not get as much attention as some of the others. That ideal refers to the core necessity of a democracy that is based on an informed and educated mass citizenry.

It is curious that in a 21st-century world where American government, the private sector, and technology have joined formidable forces to provide what should be the finest education system known to man — a system that, despite flaws and inequities, does in fact reach all sectors of our society rich, poor and in between — America is sadly failing at creating a well-informed, educated society.

Why? We have replaced intellectual pursuit with the sole and singular pursuit of the dollar — at all cost. And the cost is staggering. Motivation to learn, to grow, to experiment has largely been replaced by entitlement, short cuts and, simply stated, a lazy complacency and Machiavellian work ethic.

But there is hope. It shines brightly in often-overlooked corners. Last week in the O.C., two events, one educational and another cultural, shone brightly for some to applaud. They were not big and splashy, but significant.

The 13th annual scholar awards presentation and dinner at UCI produced by the ARCS (Achievement Rewards for College Scientists) Orange County Chapter recognized some hard-working students advancing scientific discovery in America, for America and the world.

The National Academies of Sciences and Engineering and the men and women of ARCS OC led by chapter President Barbara Hamkalo honored an impressive roster of students pursuing graduate studies at UCI in biology, engineering, computer sciences, physical science and medicine. UCI dignitaries involved included Chancellor Michael V. Drake, Interim Executive Vice Chancellor Susan V. Bryant, Dean Albert F. Bennett, Dean Gregory Washington, Dean Hal Stern, Dean Ralph V. Clayman, M.D., and Dean Kenneth C. Janda.

The awards presentation was co-chaired by ARCS members Sue Alexopoulos, Diana Casey and Joan Torres and held at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center at UCI. Students recognized included Meredith Anne Chabrier, Andrew Newman, Annie Vogel-Ciernia, Claire J. Robertson, Melinda Simon, William R. Winter, Samuel Hallman, Dennis I. Park, Virginia Liu, William M. Gordon, Matthew Dawson, Anne E. Kelly, Angel Enriques Velasco and Monica Wood.


From the world of science to the humanities, the Pacific Club in Newport Beach welcomed the Hutchins Consort on St. Patrick's Day for an annual celebration and fundraiser. Chaired by Balboa Island's Barbara Woods, the event attracted a sold-out dining room of dedicated music-loving advocates supporting the unique talents of the consort musicians often referred to as "the fiddlers."

Consort founder and artistic director Joe McNalley joined his group of eight acoustically matched violins created by the late luthier Carleen Hutchins, whose designs are showcased in such museums as New York's Metropolitan as well as institutions in Europe. Following a marvelous Pacific Club St. Patrick's dinner of potato leek soup and Guinness-braised short ribs, the crowd was treated to a rousing musical romp.

Hutchins devotees included committee members Susan Beechner, Robert Burns and Ruth Ann Burns, Harry Fair and Sharon Fair, Armine Meghrouni, Shell Grossman, Sabra Bordas, Ruth Bedi, Denny Scholz, Bobbitt Williams, Jan Landstrom and the first lady of the consort, Joe McNalley's wonderful mom Sharon McNalley of Corona del Mar.

THE CROWD runs Fridays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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