Athenaeum Fellows Announced For 2007-08 Academic Year

In their first years at CMC, Brian Davidson and Ben Fidler worked as servers at the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum. Davidson recalls the Ath as a highlight of his freshman tour, and Fidler, without much wriggle room in his course schedule for literature classes, has since considered dinners with guest writers and poets as another path to creative enlightenment.

Come fall, the two seniors will continue their roles as Athenaeum veterans in a new, coveted capacity: as Ath Fellowsserving up introductions to each of the weekly speakers instead of the usual coffee and hot chocolate. Fidler beams. “No more camping out in the mornings!” he says, an allusion to the oft-competitive nature of landing reservations for popular events. (Recent visits by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, for example, booked within minutes of opening at the midnight hour for online reservations.)

With the job of Ath Fellow comes visibility across campus, and the pair has already experienced congratulations from classmates. “I’ve always enjoyed the atmosphere at the Athenaeum,” Davidson says. “It has always been a great institution and part of CMC. I have to say that when I did the interview for this job, it was the first time I felt nervous because I wanted it so much.”

The Athenaeum’s distinction as a convivial forum for dinner and intellectual discourse among students, faculty, and community members puts the role of Ath Fellow on many students’ wish-lists. Fellows eat at the head table with influential speakers from the fields of business, politics and the arts, and introduce the guests to Athenaeum audiences four times a week. Davidson and Fidler will also assist with writing and editing the Athenaeum’s bi-weekly newsletter, The Fortnightly. Additionally, the Fellows work with Athenaeum director, Bonnie Snortum, in developing themes and strategies for bringing speakers to campus.

Davidson, a Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) major and a self-described intellectual with interests in popular culture, trivia, and tea, and Fidler, who is interested in law, were selected following a process that included submission of a written application and prior consideration by the Athenaeum Advisory Committee.

“The opportunity to be there every single day and interact so closely with so many fascinating people is just astounding,” Davidson said.

Both students have kept a sharp eye on the Athenaeum’s lineup these past years. Fidler’s favorite guest thus far has been law professor and author Amos Guiora, who lectured last month on counterterrorism, and his dream guest is Muhammad Yunus, whose work in developing microfinance in Bangladesh won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.

“I would talk to him about why he think it works, and how it can be adapted to other environments,” says Fidler, an international relations major who enjoys opera, soccer, and singing in a 5-C a cappella group.

Davidson’s favorite Athenaeum guests have included Salman Rushdie, Thomas Pogge, author and military historian Victor Davis Hanson, and commentator and blogger Andrew Sullivan.

Fidler says he looks forward to helping “continue the balance between politics and the humanities” in his Athenaeum work.

“It is amazing to me that each year these wonderful students continue to appear, willing to commit the copious amounts of time and creative energy needed to keep the Athenaeum a viable entity at CMC,” says Athenaeum director Bonnie Snortum. “It is a privilege to work with students the caliber of Brian Davidson and Ben Fidlerand outgoing Fellows Nick Zosel-Johnson and Sara Roberson. It does keep one optimistic about the future!”