Page 6,The Institute Report, June 2013
‘A Pleasant and Spontaneous Evening’
Cadets and Faculty Share an Evening of Poetry in Many Languages
One evening in late April, Taylor Rafaly
’15 read a poem by Federico García Lorca to
an audience of more than 50 people in the
language in which it was written – Spanish.
The international studies major – who
has completed a minor in Spanish and now
intends to take on the major – has come
a long way since he left his high school
Spanish classes and worked his way through
writing-intensive classes in Spanish at VMI.
Used to be, he understood some vocabulary
and grammar, but he really didn’t speak the
language at all.
“I would get red,” Rafaly said, recalling
those high school classes. “It was not only
public speaking, but public speaking when I
wasn’t sure what I was saying.”
At this year’s Foreign Language Poetry
Night, the 10th annual event sponsored by
the Department of Modern Languages and
Cultures, Rafaly was one of 25 cadet readers in seven languages. He
read a poem called “La luna asoma” (“When the Moon Comes Forth”)
– a poem he thought funny.
Lorca, he said “had kind of a strange life,” a life reflected in a poem
that claims one should not eat oranges but green fruit and ice when the
moon is out.
“I wanted something to just make people laugh,” he concluded.
Making people laugh in a foreign language is not such a stretch after
reading, discussing, and writing in Spanish all semester.
“I kind of look at it like a puzzle,” said Rafaly. “We don’t think when we
Taylor Rafaly ’15 reads a poem by Federico García
– VMI Photo by H. Lockwood McLaughlin.
speak English. … I started [by] translating;
now … I can express my point, say what I
want to say.”
Being able to say what he wanted to say
was a very real problem for Nickolaus
Cox ’16 for his entire life. As a small
child speaking Spanish with his Mexican
mother, he had trouble communicating
with his English-speaking father. Later, after
developing his English language skills in
school, communicating with his grandmother
in Mexico was difficult.
Cox, who has studied German and Spanish
at VMI and plans to add minors in Arabic
and French, read the poem “Die Lorelei” by
Heinrich Heine in German.
Having taken German in high school, Cox
wondered if 300-level German classes at VMI
would be too challenging for him. During
this first year at VMI, he studied German
literature with Col. Donald Sunnen and modern German culture with
Patricia Hardin. The classes offered ample opportunity for discussion
in German, with English as a backup.
“Studying language at VMI is amazing,” said Cox. “With Frau Hardin
I can stay after class and speak with her in German. I don’t think you’re
going to get that in other places.”
Competence in reading and speaking German has opened up a new
world for Cox.
“They have their own literature,” he noted, and it’s in the original
Please see page 8
A New Record
Presenting their 50th reunion gift to Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III
’62, VMI superintendent, at the Reunion Parade April 27 are (from
left) G. Gilmer Minor III, co-chairman, Class of 1963 Reunion
Campaign; Robert C. Troxler, campaign chairman; and M.B.
Walker III, campaign co-chairman. The check, representing gifts
and commitments made during the past five years by more than 80
percent of the class, set a new record for 50th reunion campaigns.
Accepting the gift on behalf of the VMI alumni agencies is Edgar
J.T. Perrow Jr. ’96 (far left), Alumni Association vice president.