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This article was originally published in the October 2005 issue of CLASnotes

Ambassador Visits UF

French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte spoke to a 400 UF faculty andstudents on October 3. (Photo by Jane Dominguez)

French Ambassador to the US Jean-David Levitte spoke about relations between America and France, as well as the future of the European Union, to a crowd of more than 400 UF faculty and students on October 3. His visit was sponsored by the UF France-Florida Research Institute and organized by its director Carol Murphy, a professor of French.

Levitte, who has been a French diplomat for more than 30 years, discussed the need for France and the US to move on from their disagreements over the war in Iraq, stating that although the French people did not support the war, they remain committed to the US, as evidenced by the millions of dollars in aid the country has poured into the Hurricane Katrina ravaged Gulf Coast. “The events were covered in an extraordinary way by the French media, as though it were happening in France,” Levitte said. In addition to monetary contributions, France also is adopting jazz orchestras from the New Orleans area and paying them to travel overseas to play at venues across the country to raise money for Katrina relief efforts. Levitte’s campus visit came on the heels of a three-day diplomacy visit to Louisiana.

Latin America Writes Back

Latin America Writes Back RocketAuthors, filmmakers and critics from around the world will converge at UF on October 27-29 for Latin America Writes Back: Science Fiction and the Global Era, a symposium reflecting the growing interest in the science fiction of Latin America. Contemporary cinematic and literary works of Latin American science fiction and fantasy will be discussed, focusing on the genre’s challenge to the literary canon, its transformation of the concepts of city and urbanization, the growing presence of female characters and feminist approaches, and the role of technology in developing countries.

Visit for more information.

In Memory

James ButtonJames Button, Professor of Political Science

Political Science Professor James Button died on September 26 after suffering from a long illness. He was 63. Button, who was born in Rochester, New York, came to UF in 1973. He earned his PhD from the University of Texas in 1975 and specialized in the study of minority politics, urban politics and the process of social change.

Over the course of his career, Button authored numerous publications and books, including Private Lives, Public Conflicts: Battles Over Gay Rights in American Communities, Black Violence: Political Impact of the 1960s Riots and Blacks and Social Change: The Impact of the Civil Rights Movement in Southern Communities. He served as interim chair of his department in 1990-1991 and served on the editorial board of the University Press of Florida.

As a teacher, Button enjoyed offering courses such as Politics and Poverty, Minorities and Change, Urban Politics and Race, Gender and Politics. In 2004, he was named the CLAS Teacher of the Year.

Button is survived by his wife, Barbara Rienzo, a professor in UF’s College of Health and Human Performance, and sons Matt and Adam Bennett, both of Chicago. A scholarship fund in Button’s memory has been established, and checks made out to the “James Button Scholarship Fund” can be mailed to the political science department, PO Box 117325, Gainesville, Florida, 32611. A memorial service was held in Button’s honor at the United Church of Gainesville on September 30.

Irene Thompson, Founding Director of Women’s Studies

Irene ThompsonIrene S. Thompson, who served as the founding director of the Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research when it was created in 1977, died on September 17 of cancer in Syracuse, New York. She was 86. Born in New York City, she lived in Gainesville from 1955 until 2001.

Thompson was a 1939 magna cum laude graduate of Adelphi College in Garden City, New York, and earned master’s degrees from both New York University and UF, where she completed additional graduate study in American literature. She taught high school for many years, and then at UF for two decades, beginning in 1966.

As the university’s first Gender Equity Officer, Thompson wrote extensively in the fields of women’s literature and feminist issues. As a founding member of the Modern Language Association’s Committee on Women’s Concerns, she co-edited two books: Stepping Off the Pedestal: Academic Women in the South (1982) and The Road Retaken: Women Re-enter the Academy (1985).

Thompson is survived by her daughter, Margaret Susan; her brother, Eugene Siegel; and several nieces and nephews. The Irene Thompson Scholarship for undergraduate and graduate students has been established in her honor, and donations can be sent to the Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research, 3324 Turlington Hall, PO Box 117352, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Department News

African American Studies

William Conwill recently presented “The Black Community: Intersections of Gender, Race, and Class” at the 29th Annual Conference of the National Council for Black Studies. He also presented “Domestic Violence in the Black Community: Issues for the Training Curriculum,” a two-hour professional development workshop, at the 37th Annual International Convention of the Association of Black Psychologists.

In August, the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame honored him as the Martial Artist of the Year in a ceremony in Jacksonville.


Mike Heckenberger’s research in the Amazon is a prominent part of an article that appeared in a recent issue of The New Yorker. “The Lost City of Z: Can an Expedition to the Amazon Uncover its Secrets—and the Fate of a Vanished Explorer?” discusses the search for what happened to a 1920s-era explorer who disappeared while looking for an alleged lost city deep in the Amazon. The reporter concluded the piece with Heckenberger’s work, suggesting that he probably discovered the city the explorer was seeking. 

Anthony Oliver-Smith was recently selected to hold the MunichRe Foundation Chair on Social Vulnerability at the Institute for Environment and Human Security of United Nations University in Bonn, Germany for the 2007–2008 academic year. He and three other chair holders will comprise the team responsible for leading the training and research initiatives of the institute during the next four years.

At the recent Society of Ethnobiology meetings in Anchorage, Alaska, Richard Stepp was named editor-in-chief for the Journal of Ethnobiology. His term begins in the spring of 2006.

Communication Sciences and Disorders

Lori J.P. Altmann has received a $5,000 Advancing Academic Research Careers Award from the American Speech and Hearing Association for her project “Grammatical Sentence Production in Alzheimer’s Disease.”

Undergraduate Rachel Lauren Hogue has received a 2005 Minority Student Leadership Award from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association that will allow her to travel to San Diego this November to participate in the organization’s national convention. She will take part in a leadership-focused educational program with other undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in communication sciences and disorders programs across the country.

Linda Lombardino was a keynote speaker at the Rite Care Language and Literacy conference at Baylor University at the end of September. She also spoke at the Assessing Literacy and Language: Leadership Perspectives conference at California State University in Monterey, California in August.


Norman Holland and Andrew Gordon were the chief organizers of the 22nd International Conference on Literature and Psychology held at the University of Cordoba, Spain in July. Participants presented more than 50 papers from 17 countries. Peter Rudnytsky spoke in the keynote session, with a talk on “Facts and Interpretations: The Quest for Truth in the History of Psychoanalysis.” Gordon spoke on “Envy: Cynthia Ozick Meets Melanie Klein,” while Holland lectured during the closing session on “Don Quixote and the Neuroscience of Metafiction.” Also participating from UF was Martin Sorbille (Spanish), who spoke on “The Slaughterhouse: Echevarria and the Anxiety of Castration.” The 23rd International Conference on Literature and Psychology will be held in Finland at the University of Helsinki on June 28–July 3, 2006. For information, contact Andrew Gordon at


Paul Mueller and Dave Foster, along with a colleague from Montana State University, recently held a workshop funded by the National Science Foundation in Bozeman, Montana on EarthScope, a 10-year, multi-million dollar NSF project aimed at imaging the crust and upper mantle in the US through the use of thousands of seismometers. Ray Russo participated as an invited speaker at the event.


David Colburn has been elected to serve a two-year term as chair of the board of directors for the Florida Humanities Council. The non-profit organization, established in 1973, is the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities and uses the disciplines of the humanities to develop public programs and resources that explore Florida’s history, literary and artistic traditions, cultural values and ethics.


Guido Mueller has been selected to co-chair the interferometry working group of the Laser Inteferometer Space Antenna (LISA) International Science Team. LISA is a joint observatory between NASA and the European Space Agency, aimed at detecting low-frequency gravitational waves. The LISA International Science Team serves as the scientific coordinating and advisory committee to the Office of Space Science, NASA, European Space Agency and the LISA study office and has six groups, including the interferometry group, placing Mueller in charge of 1/6 of LISA science.

Political Science

Ido Oren traveled to China in June in connection with the recent publication of the Chinese translation of his book, Our Enemies and US: America’s Rivalries and the Making of Political Science. He lectured at Fudan University (Shanghai), Remin University (Beijing), Jilin University (Changchun, Manchuria), and Guandong University of Foreign Studies and Zhongshan University (both in Guangzhou).


Manfred Diehl has been appointed to serve a four-year term on the Behavior and Social Science of Aging Review Committee of the National Institute on Aging (NIA). This committee advises the directors of the National Institutes of Health and the NIA, providing technical review and evaluation of research, research training, grant applications, and contract proposals concerned with research on aging in the basic biological, clinical, biomedical, social and behavioral sciences.

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