Professor Doug Dunston of NM Tech to Speak at Phi Beta Kappa Banquet Honoring LAHS Scholars

Dr. Doug Dunston is the featured speaker at the April 27 Phi Beta Kappa Banquet. Courtesy/PBK

By JOYCE ANN GUZIK, president
Los Alamos Phi Beta Kappa Board

On Sunday evening, April 27, the Los Alamos Phi Beta Kappa Association will hold its 58th annual banquet to honor the top graduates of Los Alamos High School. Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest undergraduate honor society in the United States and has about 255 members in Los Alamos County (1.5 percent of the county’s population). 

The banquet for the honor graduates, Phi Beta Kappa members and their guests, will be held at Fuller Lodge in Los Alamos starting at 5:30 p.m., and catered by The Blue Window.

The 35 students of the Class of 2014 who will be honored this year are Daniel Ahrens, Elena Atencio, George Barnum, Charlotte Berg, Alexandra Berl, Stephanie Blair, Haley Bridgewater, Lauren Burr, Ethan Clements, Alison Crane, Bridget Daughton, Matthew Davenport, Justin Dunn, Hannah Dye, Nicole Graham, Kristen Haertling, Alexandra Hehlen, Colin Hemez, Richard Jia, Sakura Kawano, Darby Knoll, Ariel Koh, Emma Lathrop, Ju Hyun Lee, Amanda Mercer, Charles Melke, Mirelle Naud, Nathan Phillips, Emily Pittman, Caroline Schramm, Alyssa Tedder, Lauren Tencate, Sarah Tripplehorn, Anna Wermer, and Jing Xie.

At the banquet, the Los Alamos Phi Beta Kappa Association will award a $1,000 scholarship to a student who has demonstrated a commitment to the humanities and sciences, and who plans to pursue that interest in college. The annual Jay Woodward Memorial book award, commemorating an outstanding LAHS student body president and scholar, will also be presented at the banquet. This award was initiated in 1957 by Jay’s parents, John and Miriam, both founding members of the local Phi Beta Kappa Association.

This year, Dr. Doug Dunston, Professor of Music and Adjunct Professor of Chemical Engineering at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro, is the featured speaker at the banquet. His talk is titled Improvising, A Life.  According to Dunston, “Improvising in music seems like a highly specialized, inherently risky activity, an artistic high-wire act. Perhaps unexpectedly, improvising is present wherever music is being made, and, to those who are listening, it contributes greatly to the experience of the music as meaningful. But music is here only a starting point. There are implications for an individual’s personal, practical philosophy, and an understanding of improvising, even a tentative or provisional understanding, contributes to an individual’s experience of meaning in life.”

Dr. Dunston is a professor in the humanities department where he teaches courses in music, creativity, and interdisciplinary problem solving. He holds advanced degrees in physics and music from U. California at Berkeley and Claremont Graduate University.  For his teaching material, he also draws from his training as a pilot, his experiences as an apprentice trumpetmaker in Switzerland while on a Watson Fellowship on a Wanderjahr, and his triumphs and travails as a conductor of music ensembles in the southwestern United States, Austria and Hungary. He has recently self-published a novel and is now working on a very short book about creativity.

NOTE: Members of Phi Beta Kappa who have not received an invitation to the banquet are encouraged to contact the organizers to attend or to sponsor a student’s attendance. The banquet cost is $35 per person. Please contact Linda Hull by phone at 505.662.7950 or by E-mail at, or Ross Lemons by E-mail at by Wednesday, April 16, 2014 to reserve a place. Phi Beta Kappa members may also download the invitation and RSVP form at


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