In Memoriam

Posted in History, Life at 10:00 am by

For the first year since 1916 (the year my great-grandparents were married), none of the four Ardissons of Export—all of whom answered the call of their country and served overseas in branches of the United States Army and then were lucky enough to return home safely—are with us any longer.

Ardisson siblings, 1943
Eugene, Edward, Gerald, and Dorothy Ardisson
Uncle Clem’s farm, Delmont, 1943

My great-uncle Gene, the youngest and last of the four siblings, passed away in December after falling while playing with his great-grandchildren. Many, many years ago, in March 1943, he was the first married man from Export to be drafted. Trained as an artilleryman, he landed in Normandy shortly after D-Day and later marched down the Champs-Élysées after the liberation of Paris. Sometime in 1944 he was transferred to another unit, which in December was part of the Allied counteroffensive in the Battle of the Bulge; sadly, his original unit was also involved in the Battle of the Bulge, but it was all but wiped out, losing 90% of its men. From there, he moved across Germany, eventually linking up with the Russians on the Elbe before ending the war pointed towards Berlin.

This Memorial Day, not only do we reflect on the life and service of these brave men and women, but especially all of those—like Uncle Gene’s comrades-in-arms in his original unit, decimated in the Battle of the Bulge—who did not make it home to live out their lives, to see children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. We remember, and honor, the fallen.


A Few Words on Dr Lawler

Posted in History, Life at 5:36 pm by

Dr Peter Augustine Lawler, Dana Professor of Government at Berry College (a small college nestled in the hills of northwest Georgia, and my undergraduate alma mater) passed away quite suddenly earlier this week. When I arrived at Berry some decades ago, Dr Lawler was already a towering figure at the school and its most high-profile scholar. He was a standout in the field of American political philosophy who additionally worked on bioethics and the future of higher education, and he was also an exemplar of a manner of postmodern conservatism.

I did not know Dr Lawler well, although I had many interactions with him during my time at Berry (beginning my freshman year when I went begging to various departments for funds to support Berry’s new-born Model Arab League delegation), but he was, for a large number of my collegiate friends, one of, if not the, most significant professors and intellectual influences in their academic lives. Through them, as well as his presence on campus and in the department, he still managed to permeate my life.

I remember one day in the fall of my junior year, as I was walking through Evans Hall between classes, Dr Lawler flagged me down (“Oh, no, what have I done?” I wondered) to inform me that he wanted to nominate me for the Truman Scholarship. It was shocking to me at the time, though I was to realize it was part and parcel of the kind of professor and person he was, that he was familiar with, and thought highly enough of, someone who had never taken any of his classes and who, by then, had abandoned the department’s majors entirely, to select me to be a Berry nominee for this prestigious scholarship.

In one of the stranger interactions, in the spring of my senior year, my Honors Thesis committee commandeered his office for my thesis defense, it being large enough to accomodate all of us (and, at the time, not terribly far removed from the move from Green Hall, quite tidy by Lawlerian standards). Later that spring I was belatedly inducted into Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honor society (I began my time at Berry as one of the then-Political Science Department’s international studies majors, was inducted into the “rival” history honor society, Phi Alpha Theta, my sophomore year, and left the international studies major about the same time, although I continued to take government and international studies courses throughout my time at Berry); I remember Dr Lawler’s befuddlement at the fact that I had not been inducted earlier and his apology for my having been missed.

When I think back on Dr Lawler, I remember his quiet, thoughtful voice, his constant conversations with students—in his office, in the halls, wherever they may meet—and the admiration and respect with which my friends always spoke of him and his classes; as my friend and former Berry Model Arab League colleague Dan Alban wrote earlier this week, Dr Lawler’s classes were more intellectually challenging than Dan’s later studies at Harvard Law School. Dr Lawler was a kind of gentle giant, a renowned scholar yet equally at home in the classroom and Rome’s various cafés and porches. There was no ivory tower around Dr Lawler. He was always accessible and committed to our education and success—even those of us who were on the periphery of his field and department.

So the untimely passing of Dr Lawler comes as a great blow, not just to his family, the Berry community, and his former students and those who knew him, but also to humanity, which has lost a great mind, a champion of virtue, and wonderful human being.


Courtyard and Minaret of the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, Cairo

Posted in History, Travel, التصوير at 12:17 am by

I’m privileged to have some very talented photographers among my friends, but my photos are generally rather pedestrian. However, this is one of my favorite photos I have ever taken (in spite of having cut off the top of the arch).

Courtyard and Minaret of the Mosque of Ibn Tulun
Courtyard and Minaret of the Mosque of Ibn Tulun
Cairo, Egypt, June 27, 1994

Taken with a mid-1980s point-and-shoot Kodak VR35 K10(?) on Ektrachrome

Scanned in the mid-to-late-1990s, probably with Photoshop 5 on some version of a Nikon Coolscan, in an era when when 640×480 screens were pretty standard and 1024×786 was positively huge, hard disks were measured in megabytes, and no-one foresaw Retina or 4K displays (so, sorry it’s so small :-P It filled about ⅓ of a standard screen back then)

More information about what’s depicted can be found on my Egypt pictures page.


Grandma Porczak at 90

Posted in History, Life at 11:21 pm by

Today would have been my Grandma Porczak’s 90th birthday, had she not been ripped from us far, far too soon by cancer.

Effel Gertrude (Benner) Wright with Jean (age 2)
Effel Gertrude (Benner) Wright with Jean (age 2), July 13, 1929

Jean Wright high school graduation portrait
Jean Wright high school graduation portrait, ca. 1945

Norbert R. Porczak and Jean Wright wedding portrait
Norbert R. Porczak and Jean Wright wedding portrait, outside St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Newark, OH, June 6, 1948

Porczak Girls, Easter 1963
Porczak girls outside Grandma and Grandpa Wright’s house on Prospect St., Newark, OH, Easter 1963

Porczak family, July 1990
Porczak family, Mansfield, OH, July 1990

Happy 90th birthday, Grandma!