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I met Dharman exactly where he said he would be, amidst a garden of golden rod, dianthus, echinacea, and hydrangea bushes off Maple Street in Arlington, Massachusetts. "I'll be weeding," he had said on the phone, and indeed his hands were filled with weeds when I first saw him.
Meeting up with Dharman - or Alan Stortz '70, as he was known at Gettysburg College - required stamina and faith. A Buddhist monk, Dharman spends nearly half of every year at Bukkoku-ji temple in Obama, Japan. Otherwise he stays in the Boston area, but has no fixed address.
In Boston he works as a psychiatric emergency services clinician and is on duty numerous days. In fact, he warned me, he could be called out on the Saturday we had arranged to meet. I kept my fingers crossed and hoped that wouldn't happen.
Saturday morning I drove up to Boston from New York with a photographer, not fully certain where I was going. I had an address for what he said was the Theosophical Society, but Dharman, by his own admission, isn't blessed with a good sense of direction. Thank goodness for Google maps. Even so, traffic and road construction delayed my arrival.
When I finally found Maple Street, I wandered around several minutes trying to find the Theosophical Society house. I called Dharman's cell, but no answer. I had almost started to panic when I saw him, head nearly shaven, dressed in what he called "casual temple clothes," serenely pulling weeds. That I was late - or perhaps more accurately, did not arrive to the minute when I said I would - was of no concern to Dharman. Offering some Japanese rice treats, he invited us to get into his car and asked if we would like to see the town of Concord - and so began a wonderful afternoon of peregrinations and conversation.
The path to Buddhism
Dharman almost didn't graduate from Gettysburg College twice. A biology major, he worked closely with professors Robert Barnes, John Winkelman, and William Darrah. "They were remarkable people," he said, "and I was very blessed to have them, along with my other teachers, including Dr. Loose of the Department of Religion who regularly exhorted me to avoid falling into superficiality." Dharman felt a special affinity for Prof. Darrah, his academic adviser, who encouraged him to become a professor - something Dharman seriously considered.
He also thought of becoming a doctor or training to be a musical conductor. "I was a classical musician and very interested in music," he said. He played several instruments, including bassoon and clarinet, and a girl friend's family had connections with several prominent contemporary composers and conductors. "I think my parents were hoping that was a direction I would go," he said.
But in the middle of his sophomore year Dharman dropped out of college. "One of the main reasons for coming to Gettysburg was to get some insight into fundamental truth that went beyond theory and speculation," he said. "But my academic career seemed to have become a barren ego trip." He was also troubled by the loss of his sister, who had died during his first semester at Gettysburg. "The approaching anniversary of my sister's unexpected death and the growing social unrest about civil rights and the war in Vietnam added fuel to an angst that I already felt. In addition, much of what I had learned at college had caused me to question my whole view of reality. Then one gray, overcast day
I found myself at the place where Pickett's division had launched their suicidal assault. The seemingly pointless slaughter there deeply affected me, and my doubts about everything went through the roof. I tried to continue with my studies, but just couldn't go on. I wasn't sure about the validity of what I was doing."
Dharman spent a year and a half at home with his parents in Baltimore, working as a lab technician and lifeguard - and engaging in a lot of soul searching. "I even considered getting a job aboard a freighter and sailing around the world," he said. He also seriously considered enlisting in the military and serving as a medic in Vietnam, but couldn't bring himself to trouble his family with the thought they could lose their only other child. He decided to return to Gettysburg and complete his studies.
In the middle of his senior year, Dharman was in the College Bookstore searching for "some sort of insight" when he happened upon a book, The Three Pillars of Zen, which impressed him with its emphasis on unbiased personal experience. Written by Philip Kapleau and first published in 1965, the book was one of the first in English to present Zen Buddhism as a pragmatic and salutary way of training and living. After "cautiously experimenting" with some methods described in the book, Dharman again considered leaving college for a training monastery, only six or so weeks before graduation. But Prof. Darrah convinced him to finish his degree.
The summer after graduation Dharman traveled to New York for a short public workshop given at the Rochester Zen Center, founded in 1966 by Kapleau. Subsequently, he enrolled in a one-month training program there.
Gettysburg College has a new vice president for development, alumni and parent relations.
Robert Kallin's first official day in the position will be Jan. 18.
Kallin has served as chief development officer at Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pa.; vice president for development and university relations at his alma mater, Bucknell University; and director of development at Bowdoin College, where he was responsible for a $136-million comprehensive campaign.
"Bob is a passionate advocate for the liberal arts," Gettysburg College President Janet Morgan Riggs, Class of 1977, said in making the announcement on Dec. 17. "As an active member of Gettysburg's Parents Advisory Board, he has developed an understanding and appreciation for the culture and values of the College. I am confident he will be successful in forging strong working relationships with Gettysburg's many constituencies."
Kallin holds a bachelor of science degree at Bucknell and did graduate work in educational administration at Bucknell and social work at Cornell University.
Kallin and his wife, Tory, have a daughter Abby, who is a member of Gettysburg College's Class of 2012, and a son Peter, who is a student at Susquehanna University.
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences. With some 2,500 students, it is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.