Robert (Bob) Black – 1973
After graduating from Covell in 1973, I married Dale Young. We moved to Houston, where I worked for three years for Amigos de las Americas, traveling throughout Latin America. I left Amigos in 1976 and went to graduate school in public health at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, receiving my Master of Public Health (MPH) in 1979 (I was a little slow because I liked school too much.). We moved back to California in 1979 and I went to work as at the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto. I was with EPRI for 13 and a half years. For the bulk of that time, I was involved in managing epidemiologic and toxicological research on the health and biological effects of electric and magnetic fields from power lines.
Dale and I divorced in 1993 and I moved to the Atlanta area. I worked with decidedly mixed success as a freelance scientific writer and editor for three years, until circumstances forced me to get a real job with my current employer, Battelle Memorial Institute. For three years I was a contract Battelle on site at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). I worked as an editor for CDC’s public health bulletin, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. (Pretty clear why everybody calls it the MMWR, no?) I moved into Battelle’s Atlanta office in 1996 and have worked on a lot of different things for CDC and the National Institutes of Health since then.
After moving to Atlanta, I married Dr. Michele Lynberg and acquired two instant kids and a dog. Michele is now a senior epidemiologist at CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, where she works on prevention of intimate partner violence. The kids are now pretty much grown up. Shannon, 25, is the National Director of the Younger Women’s Task Force, a project of the National Council of Women’s Organizations in Washington, DC. She also runs a blog that aims to expose and street harassment of women in DC: http://hollabackdc.wordpress.com/ . Craig, 20, is about to be a junior at Kennesaw State University, outside Atlanta. He’s studying International Business and Chinese. Michele and I now spend a lot of our time at our mountain house in western North Carolina. Y’all come visit.
Although I certainly used every bit of what I learned at Covell in my first real job, I haven’t been directly involved with things Latin American since. Nonetheless, I’d say Covell taught me how to learn. The seminal event, I’d say, was nearly flunking economics in my freshman year. I got a “D” on the midterm. In desperation, I checked out an English version of Paul Samuelson’s introductory textbook from the library. It was then I discovered that I was not actually stupid. Todo lo contrario—el texto que usabamos en la clase era una “traduccion” de Samuelson que la habian cometido unos academicos espanoles, pero que traduccion! La prosa lucida de Samuelson la habian covertido en una selva impenetrable de clausulas dependientes y terminologia oscura. (Aparentemente, el retraso economico de Espana a mediados del siglo pasado se debia no solo al Franquismo, sino tambien a una falta nacional de talentos linguisticos.) So I studied Samuelson in English, then reread the “translation” and aced the final. This has been a recurrent pattern—dive into a new area, flail around, fail or nearly so, figure it out. Hecho la culpa por este comportamiento adictivo a la formacion academica que recibi en Covell. What can I say—it’s been the most fun you can have with your clothes on.