Apr 13, 2009

April ’09 University News Highlights

Virginia hires Washington State’s Bennett
SOURCE: JERRY RATCLIFFE AND WHITELAW REID, DAILY PROGRESS


Tony Bennett
Photo: VirginiaSports.com

No, not the singer. The University of Virginia shocked the college basketball world Monday by hiring Washington State University’s Tony Bennett as its new coach.

This past season, the 39-year-old led Washington State to a 16-13 record and a trip to the National Invitational Tournament, following two seasons with 26 wins each. He replaces Dave Leitao, who resigned March 16.

While fans on the East Coast may be unfamiliar with Bennett and his Washington State story, the basketball world hailed Virginia’s move.

“For anybody who doesn’t appreciate the hire, they haven’t see his teams play. ... He’s a great coach,” said former Virginia All-American Wally Walker, formerly president of the now-defunct NBA Seattle SuperSonics. “I’ve seen his teams play a lot and several of my friends are former Washington State players and alums and they’re heartsick over losing him.”

All along, Virginia’s top candidate was believed to be Minnesota coach Tubby Smith. READ MORE »


U.Va. accepts 6,331 from record pool of applicants
SOURCE: DAN HEUCHERT, UVaTODAY

The University of Virginia is about to make 6,331 high school seniors very happy.

U.Va.’s Office of Admission will officially post its anxiously awaited decisions online at 5 p.m. EDT today and drop the envelopes in the mail to those hoping to join the class of 2013.

“We’re excited about the students we’ve admitted this year,” said Gregory Roberts, who is overseeing his first admissions cycle as U.Va.‘s new dean of admission. “We believe they will bring many different thoughts, ideas and opinions to Grounds. They’ll make an impact.”

The record pool of 21,839 applicants this year was up 17 percent from the 18,598 who applied a year ago, Roberts said. He attributed the sharp increase to two factors: the University’s move to join the Common Application, an online process that makes applying easier than ever; and the state of the economy.

“U.Va. has always been seen as a great bargain, both in-state and out-of-state,” Roberts said. “Compared to peer schools, our costs have always been lower.”

The larger applicant pool also meant that the admissions process was more competitive. Twenty-nine percent of applicants were offered admission, compared to 35 percent last year.READ MORE »


Cognitive decline begins in late 20s, U.Va. study suggests
SOURCE: FARISS SAMARRAI, UVaTODAY


Timothy Salthouse
Photo by Dan Addison

A new study indicates that some aspects of peoples’ cognitive skills — such as the ability to make rapid comparisons, remember unrelated information and detect relationships — peak at about the age of 22, and then begin a slow decline starting around age 27.

“This research suggests that some aspects of age-related cognitive decline begin in healthy, educated adults when they are in their 20s and 30s,” said Timothy Salthouse, a University of Virginia professor of psychology and the study’s lead investigator.

His findings appear in the current issue of the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

Salthouse and his team conducted the study during a seven-year period, working with 2,000 healthy participants between the ages of 18 and 60. READ MORE »


In National Headlines: David Baldacci’s 16 books were all bestsellers. Why do people have such a problem with that?
SOURCE: LOUISA THOMAS, NEWSWEEK


David Baldacci

David Baldacci (Law ’83) needed to figure out a way to kill the head of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division at the Library of Congress. In the past, he’d turned to MP5 submachine guns, knives, pistols, lethal injections and a custom-built semiautomatic SR75 rifle. But inside the vaults of the Library of Congress, guns and daggers were hard to come by, and so Baldacci had to be creative. Baldacci is a novelist, and so his license is great, but he likes to do things right. He followed Mark Dimunation, the library’s head of rare books, past a collection of early American medical texts and up to the mezzanine, where children’s books are housed. At the top of the stairs Baldacci patted the head of a small marble bust and then walked into the middle of the narrow room, unsure, exactly, of what he was looking for. Suddenly he spotted a gas nozzle on the wall between the tall, tightly packed shelves. “What’s that?” he asked.

The nozzle did its dastardly deed on page 38 of “The Collectors,” one of Baldacci’s immensely successful political thrillers. Jonathan DeHaven, the fictional head of the Rare Book collection, dies of carbon-dioxide poisoning after the killer swaps a canister of Halon 1301—the gas used at the time as the fire suppressant inside the vaults—with the deadly CO2. (The murder originally took place even earlier in the story, but Baldacci decided to grant Dimunation’s alter ego a few more pages “for being such a nice guy.”) Baldacci tells this story, three years later, with a boyish delight. He’s back at the Library of Congress, visiting a curator who helped him understand the inner workings of the library—and, as always, he’s on the lookout for plot devices for the novels he cranks out about twice a year.

“Who would have thought of setting a spy operation at the Library of Congress?” Baldacci asks, bouncing his leg as he speaks. Actually, a number of authors: think of “The Da Vinci Code,” “The Rule of Four” or “The Secret History.” But it does take some swagger to write about a team of misfits—an obsessive-compulsive technological genius, an ex–Defense Intelligence Agency employee who’s a recovering addict, a mousy Library of Congress curator and a rogue government “eliminator”—cracking conspiracy after conspiracy. “The Collectors,” the second book in Baldacci’s Camel Club series, was a bestseller. This, for Baldacci, is not unusual. All 16 of his novels (including two nonthrillers) have been New York Times bestsellers. His latest, “Divine Justice,” debuted at No. 1, six months after “The Whole Truth” did, too. It’s probably safe to look for his next, “First Family,” on the list when it hits stores in late April. READ MORE ON NEWSWEEK »

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