Category Archives: February 9

Dartmouth and Maine honor a lifetime commitment to social justice and the environment

On January 26, St. George resident Leonard Greenhalgh was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from Dartmouth College, one of the social justice awards associated with the school’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration. Specifically, the award honors Greenhalgh’s pioneering work in developing executive education programs for minority, women and Native American business owners.

Greenhalgh is better known in St. George for his work transforming the old John Meehan Quarry (later the Alfred Hocking Quarry) on the Clark Island Road into a wildlife refuge that he eventually named the Wheeler Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. Coincidentally, Greenhalgh was also notified last month that he has been awarded a 2016 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award for that 30-year environmental restoration effort, which he financed almost entirely at his own expense.

Greenhalgh readily admits that in neither case did he set out to make a lifetime commitment to the work for which he is now being honored. Speaking of the Dartmouth award, he says, “That is how my career has been. It hasn’t been carefully planned but my heart has always gone out to women and minorities and poor people.” And, as he notes on the Sanctuary’s website, “I didn’t start out looking for an environmental restoration and preservation project.” In fact, he says, a chance—and at that time rare—encounter with an osprey carrying a fish in the summer of 1986 led him to a nest in the middle of a flooded quarry on the Clark Island Road. “As I was leaving I saw a small For Sale sign by the old quarry office. My only thought was that this unique nesting site had to be protected.”

Greenhalgh was born and spent his early years in a working-class neighborhood of Manchester, England. His parents had an opportunity to emigrate to the United States for work in 1959. “And then the whole world opened up to me,” Greenhalgh recalls. “In England they decided I had a future as a scientist so I was way ahead in science when I got to America. But I had no idea about colleges.”

On the advice of an adult mentor he applied to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a vague idea of pursuing a degree in chemical engineering. But almost as soon as he got there he realized that field wasn’t for him. “I went to a Jacques Cousteau movie that was showing on campus. There was this guy swimming around a coral reef with this woman in a bikini. So I said I wanted to become a marine biologist—anything would be better than being a chemical engineer! A distant relative said that the University of Rhode Island (URI) was a good school for oceanography so that is where I went.”

Greenhalgh’s time at URI went well academically, but the civil rights movement was also front-and-center during those years. “So it’s the 1960s and college campuses were caught up in the civil rights movement. I spent some time in the deep South with a roommate and I realized how bad people were being treated—whites-only drinking fountains and all the rest. I just thought this was wrong.” But at this point that conviction implied no particular vocational path. Then a car accident just before graduation from URI left him temporarily confined to a wheelchair, so he took a desk job with a corporation.

He did well in the corporate world and was rapidly promoted. One of his old URI professors suggested he should capitalize on this success and return to URI for a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree, which he did, using his business experience and the MBA to launch a career as a business consultant. “That’s when I first realized just how much the system was rigged against women and minorities.”

Eventually Greenhalgh burned out on business consulting. “I was good at it, but it began to be boring.” A friend who was a senior professor at Cornell University invited him to come there to get a PhD in business, with a focus on labor relations. “Basically I worked on civil rights projects,” Greenhalgh notes.

One such project was aimed at helping disabled people become integrated into mainstream workplace environments. Then the school’s dean gave him a job working with people who were going to lose their jobs as the State of New York closed its mental hospitals. “Nobody had ever studied job insecurity. In my travels interviewing people around the state I found that the people who were having the hardest time were blacks, hispanics and women. These were the people most recently hired and so were the first to be forced to leave in a layoff. Discrimination made it difficult for these people to find re-employment. So I got heavily involved with the employment risks for women and minorities.”

After earning his PhD in 1978 he was offered a faculty position at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. The next year the federal government’s Small Business Administration began talking to Tuck about the increasing proportion of minorities in the United States who needed to have jobs and needed to be incorporated into the country’s business system. “Minorities were starting up businesses but they were failing—they didn’t have the background because they had always been kept out of business ownership. So, given my experience at Cornell, I was asked to teach in the program.”

It wasn’t until Greenhalgh was faced with a decision about whether to take a job at another business school that he came to Tuck’s dean with a proposal to make Tuck’s small, once-a-year minority business program into a year-round part of the curriculum. He officially became director of Programs for Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises in 2002 and Director of Native American Business Programs in 2003. This year there are at least 11 short courses scheduled. “I’ve also been working with veterans and other communities—if anybody has faced historical discrimination I’m there to help. My portfolio has become more national over the years.”

Unlike with business consulting, Greenhalgh has never been bored by his civil rights work. “Every time I run a program, I learn like crazy.” His work with people in Indian country is a case in point. “Their language is different, their culture is different, every reservation is different and it starts with mistrust because there have been 550 treaties that the United States has signed with Indian tribes and the United States government has broken every one of them, all 550.”

Greenhalgh’s civil rights work and his environmental interests—even while at Cornell he was deeply involved with rehabilitating endangered species through the Peregrine Fund—have run a parallel course for more than 40 years. His environmental restoration work at the old quarry on Clark Island Road took up his summers and weekends, and eventually led him to sell his home in Hanover and make St. George his primary residence. “Most of the civil rights stuff I do is intellectual and somewhat intangible,” he says. “So physically building a new pond gives me a tangible sense of accomplishment. And I don’t have to go to a gym to keep physically fit.” On a more serious note he adds, “Here, the animals are my community. And my other community is the handicapped, the women, the minorities, the native people who I try to serve.”—JW

PHOTOS: Top, Julie Wortman, bottom, Jocelyn Paquette

A tale of ‘some serious mid-life rehab’

By Kevin Curtin
 Recently I found myself on the lower level of the Jackson Memorial Library practicing Chi Gong (Qi Gong) with 10 others, led by our instructor Tim English. I immediately felt the good energy and camaraderie of this circle. Why hadn’t I discovered these sessions sooner? To answer that, let’s recap the previous winter of 2015-2016. I had been teaching college English, and building stone walls all spring, summer, fall, and on towards Christmas time. The cold and the long season were starting to tell on my body and energy reserves. Home one evening, I felt a strange knot sticking out of my back that shouldn’t have been there. I thought, “I don’t want to finish every season stove up like a hunchback–another ex-waller forced to retire because their body’s given out.”

“Self,” I said, “You’re 58 years old and its time for some serious mid-life rehab.” So I went to that shelf of my library with all the yoga, accupuncture, Feldenkrais, Feng Shui, and meditation books—my wife calls it the “Weirdness Section.” I started with “cat stretches” each morning, 10 short Feldenkrais exercises that reconnect you with better movement and alignment. A lot of these exercises open up the back, hips, legs, feet, neck, etc. It was a start on the way back.

My next step towards curing the ogreish back and finding a younger me was crucial:  joining a weekly indoor tennis group. Over the years I had gotten away from tennis as walling jobs increased, laying on the couch weekends instead of getting aerobic exercise. With tennis, you cannot show up as a stiff hunchback and play with any pleasure—you have to be quick of foot, loose, and limber.  Indoor tennis also requires speed of hand and eye. I found I still could run better than my hitting partners, but once I got to the ball, it could get ugly. Timing and technique were way off. Enter Seth Meyer, hit-group and tennis guru. He gave me some lessons  to re-shape and shorten my forehand swing, and kept up constant encouragement and whispered tips as I struggled against better hitters. One day I was surprised that we were picking up the balls to end the hour—I hadn’t been watching the big clock over the courts at all. I was beginning to move like an athlete again, not some gasping gargoyle.

That inner voice inside me started clamoring, “I want to get better, I have to get better.” I wanted my old youthful energy back for good. Slowly, that knot sticking out of my back slipped back into its proper place. I began walling again, keeping my one weekly tennis session. Then,  I discovered a book about the health benefits of five Shaolin Chi Gong stances. I began practicing the stances and other Chi Gong swings each morning and night, which I credit for keeping me injury-free this past year—my busiest walling season to date.

From the Chi Gong tradition I also learned about “setting a gong,” 100 days when you vow to practice or discipline yourself with small things. It’s like New Year’s resolutions, but with lasting results. My gong was pretty simple: Practice Chi Gong in the morning and before bed; forego alcohol and caffeine. I picked these things to work on because my two-beer-a-night habit was slowing me down; and caffeine often made my hyper nature too jittery.

Starting in September, that was it. I got through the 100 days pretty easily. I substituted herbal teas for Starbucks, and “near beer” for I.P.A.s.  I started seeing the ball better in tennis, and I had more and more energy at work and play.  At the end of the gong, I realized that I didn’t miss the alcohol or caffeine, that my body and nerves performed much better without them—though now I am a wicked fan of non alcoholic beer spiked with fresh lime.

So it was many things that got me to Tim England’s Chi Gong class at the Jackson Memorial Library this winter. Sometimes it just takes a huge knot sticking out of your back to give you resolve. After class, all the people leaving have light in their eyes, many smiles, and the bubbling energy of an hour well spent raising the Chi with our guide.  I sense we are all glimpsing a way back to our birthright—good energy in abundance to share with the world.

Curtin, who lives on Hart’s Neck Road, builds stone walls and teaches college English for a living. A feature on his walling work, “When a love of language is the driving force behind a Waller’s art,” appeared in the November 3, 2016 issue of The St. George Dragon.

March

On Saturday, January 21, a word-of-mouth gathering of about 60 adults and young people marched from the St. George Town Office to the Post Office and back as part of the Women’s Marches occurring that day throughout the United States and world in support of women, the environment, civil liberties and justice for all.

PHOTO: John McConochie

St. George boys take Busline League championship

By Liam O’Neal

The boys St. George middle-level Dragons basketball team was made up of 7th and 8th graders, and we had a very satisfying, exciting season. We had 11 kids on the team, seven 8th graders—Sam Miller, Obie Miller, Kyle Arey, Hunter Rahkonen, Ethan Carballo, Zack Upham, and Logan Putansu—and four 7th graders: Gavin Young, Liam O’Neal, Parker Hilchey, and Matthew Tynan.  Our coach was Mr. Jeff Shaw. Our record was 12 – 2, only losing twice to the Woolwich Wildcats in our regular season. Every other game was a win.

In the playoffs, we beat Nobleboro in the first round for the southern division championship. Our next game was in Wiscasset against against the Lincolnville Lynx, the undefeated north division champions. Their record was 12-0. We knew we were going to have a competition. There were way more St. George fans than Lincolnville fans at the game. Sam Miller said, “It felt pretty wonderful. Having the support from the town was amazing, knowing that they were there cheering for us.”

In the first quarter, the Dragons realized that the Lynx were not the challenge that they thought they were going to be, but we still had to play hard. We took an early lead and kept it through the whole game. The Dragons won 48-31!

On the way home, the Dragons got a surprise police escort from Warren to the St. George School. The fire trucks met us at the town line by Beckett’s and joined the celebration. “It was awesome,” said Hunter Rahkonen, “because it might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” Zack Upham said, “We deserved it because we made history, being the first time both boys and girls won the championship.” We want to thank Randy Elwell for organizing this escort. Patrick Polky drove the police car. Others drivers were R.J. Polky, Candy Davis, Ben Caron, and others. We appreciated this show of support more than we can say.

(O’Neal is a 7th-grade student at the St. George School.)