There I was—standing in an inconspicuous place in a crowded common area on the second floor of the Integrated Science Center 1. Rob Hicks, an economics professor, was speaking about Project-Level Aid to an audience that included Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, members of his cabinet and William and Mary Rector Michael Powell.
Students were dishing up ice cream, made on the spot with liquid nitrogen in the traditional chemistry department way. On one side of the room, there was a table holding trays of ice cream. On the other side, there were dignitaries sitting around tables, the tops of which were conspicuously vacant of ice cream.
There was a breakdown in the supply chain. The chem students kept dishing up two flavors of ice cream—peach and Oreo—while a team headed by Associate Professor Lisa Landino was stirring up even more. But ice cream was not getting across the room to the honored guests, who no doubt felt constrained from getting up in the middle of Hicks’s talk to help themselves.
There was only one thing to do. I pocketed my tape recorder and excused myself past several people who were standing between me and the ice cream. I grabbed a tray and threaded my way (as inconspicuously as possible for a large bearded man) toward what I had identified as Table #1, as it held Governor Kaine and Rector Powell.
Swallowing my horror at the prospect of dumping eight servings of lab-made ice cream into the gubernatorial lap, I extended the tray with such elegance as I could muster and murmured a single word: “peach.”
I took my tray back to the table and reloaded. Across the room, Dennis Manos, the vice provost of research, caught my eye and indicated another table that should be given priority service. By this time, other people, including Manos himself, had joined in ice cream distribution, so that all were soon served and no one had to drink his or her portion.
Kaine, Powell and the group visited the brand-new ISC 1 on Aug. 20. It was one of those events in which much was accomplished in a short amount of time. ISC 1 holds chemistry and part of biology, so Kaine visited two labs, chatting with chemist J.C. Poutsma and biologist Margaret Saha and with students working in both labs. Ice cream, accompanied by presentations from Hicks and School of Education Dean Virginia McLaughlin, was the capstone.
Landino called Kaine up to help, loaning the governor a requisite pair of lab glasses. “My science classes weren’t like this,” Kaine said as we all watched the mesmerizing sight of boiling nitrogen vapor spilling over the bowl’s edge, across the table and onto the floor.
“You didn’t go to William and Mary!” called a voice from the audience, sounding like it may have been Provost Geoffrey Feiss.
Applause all around.