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The Influence of Air Power
Upon History

Somewhere high above, they soar. The planes, E-3 Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS), help detect enemy targets as far away as 200 miles, some as small as the piston of a truck. The sentry flies silently, honing in on radar blips, helping fight a different kind of war against a different kind of enemy.

As recently as two decades ago, air wars weren’t fought this way. "Hundreds of planes would drop thousands of bombs aimed at a target," says aviation historian Walter Boyne (KGSB ’63).

In Operation Enduring Freedom, the United States faced a new fighting challenge—massive air strikes weren’t plausible against an underground terrorist network hiding in Afghanistan. "Now," says Boyne, "we can send one plane to drop 24 bombs upon 24 targets." The AWACS, with a near perfect effectiveness rating, were largely responsible for locating these terrorist targets in Afghanistan.

In The Influence of Air Power upon History (Pelican), Boyne discusses the history of air power, including warfare, and aviation’s effect upon national policies, industrial growth, and technological advancement dating back as far as the balloon, in 1783. —Keith Bandelin

Fallingwater Rising

The creaking began when the concrete was barely dry. Then came cracking. Cracks yawned into gaps. Gaps gave way to sagging beams. Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous house, Fallingwater, was teetering on collapse.

Fallingwater’s massive cantilever planes seem to float over a waterfall at Bear Run, the perfect marriage of man and nature. But the concrete beams supporting the house and its yawning balconies were ill-conceived says Franklin Toker. The Pitt professor of art and architecture history spent 18 years writing a biography of, perhaps, America’s best-recognized house.

In Fallingwater Rising: Frank Lloyd Wright, E.J. Kaufmann and America’s Most Extraordinary House (Alfred A. Knopf), Toker details how design and construction flaws caused the house’s concrete supports to sag seven inches. It seemed the house was held up by luck and little else.

Repairs in 2002 included ripping up the flagstone living room floor and reinforcing the failing beams with cables. The cables were wrenched tight with astonishing pressure—some 350,000 pounds per square inch. The floor was then reinstalled, covering the taut cables. "There’s a battle going on beneath those flagstones," says Toker. That battle is just one of the many intriguing tales of the historic structure that Toker recounts in Fallingwater Rising. —Kris B. Mamula

Don’t Miss the Bus!

It’s early September. School buses dot Cumberland Road in the North Hills suburb of Pittsburgh, traveling past houses and woods toward McKnight Elementary School. The back-to-school season is a perennial ritual as enduring as a harvest moon.

As she has done for many such seasons, Mary Ann Smialek welcomes another class of school children. This year, the experienced educator has a new learning tool. Her book, Don’t Miss the Bus! Steering Your Child to Success in School (Taylor Trade Publishing), gives parents guidance for helping children succeed in school. She wants parents to be full partners in the education process, creating a road map to help them get there.

"I wrote this," she says, "because I see parents struggling. Many parents simply don’t know what to do."

In addition to writing the book, Smialek (EDUC ’96G, ’76G, ’72) runs an education consulting firm, lectures nationally about improving the quality of education, edits an education journal, and chairs the Quality in Education Focus Group.

Most importantly, though, she is still a teacher. "I’m still in the classroom," she emphasizes. And you’ll find her there next year, too, as surely as a harvest moon rises. —Cindy Gill

The Handywoman Stories

Thick smoke billows from the steel mills outside the window of their second-floor apartment and settles in a dark, familiar fog on the streets of Pittsburgh. They walk together through these streets—to work at Gimbels, to attend classes at Pitt and Carnegie Tech, relieved to finally be together. In the closet of their small apartment is a box holding five years of their lives—daily letters that arrived in bundles, all soaked in love and longing, the most recent containing detailed plans for the wedding. He came home from the war on a train, delaying himself only briefly to visit his mother, before marrying and moving to Pittsburgh on a day the fog seemed thinner.

More than 50 years later, Lenore McComas Coberly (KGSB ’47) would remember her loneliness during those years when writing a series of interrelated tales, The Handywoman Stories (Ohio University Press). Inspired by characters and scenery from various points in her life, Coberly gives the reader a glimpse of her late husband in "Early Transparent"—a short story about a man released from a Japanese POW camp after the atomic bomb. She writes concisely and eloquently, "People live even with broken hearts. It is empty hearts that kill people, not broken ones." —Kate Dunfee

Sharks, Skates, and Rays
of the Carolinas

Eight miles from the North Carolina coast, the Atlantic teems with research treasures for Frank J. Schwartz and his crew of marine zoologists. Three-foot waves jiggle the 54-foot vessel. Nearby, shadows glitter from the baited hooks hanging from a two-mile- long line.

Two hours later, 120 sharks flop around on the fiberglass deck.

Schwartz (FAS ’54, ’52) has caught and yellow-tagged thousands of sharks to study their biology and migration patterns during the past 45 years. Most outings, the 70-something professor has a couple of catches. Some days, none.

That day in July 1998, he and his crew hoisted up 10 different species of sharks. Schwartz was working too feverishly to appreciate the moment. Measure. Check sex. Tag at the dorsal fin. Return to the ocean. All within a minute or two to ensure each shark’s survival.

Government conservation agencies and commercial fleets are interested in Schwartz’s tab-keeping on shark species. His research has also led to the University of North Carolina marine science professor’s fourth book, Sharks, Skates, and Rays of the Carolinas (University of North Carolina Press), an illustrated guide to the 91 species of these fish. —Jonathan Szish

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