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March 21, 2013

Personal Mention

For his research and expertise in public finance and public policy, Robert Strauss has been invited to serve as a member of the Arizona Department of Economic Security Academic Advisory Board, which aims to improve the state system serving the socially and economically challenged. “I believe your voice will be a powerful one as we realign our department’s resources to focus on the improvement of the human condition,” wrote Clarence Carter, director of Arizona’s Department of Economic Security, in a letter to Strauss. Carter said the new initiative will shift the focus of social services from the administration of services to the promotion of better individual outcomes. Strauss is a professor of economics and public policy at the Heinz College.

Huiwen Li
, instructor of Chinese in the Department of Modern Languages and a Chinese calligrapher, recently had several pieces of work shown at The Duquesne Art Show, hosted by Duquesne University’s McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts, and the journal “:Lexicon.” Next semester, Li will be teaching a course at CMU on Chinese calligraphy. To view one of his pieces, visit

The City of Pittsburgh declared Tuesday, March 19 “Dr. Lori Holt Day” to recognize her for winning the prestigious National Academy of Sciences Troland Research Award. The honor is given annually to two psychology researchers under the age of 40 to recognize extraordinary scientific achievement and to further promote empirical research on the relationship between consciousness and the physical world. Holt, who is being honored for “studies advancing our understanding of the sensory and cognitive processes that are fundamental to the perception of speech,” will receive the award on April 29 in Washington, D.C. Read more at

Jendayi Frazer
, distinguished service professor in CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences and Heinz College, wrote an opinion piece for the Daily Nation about Kenya’s recent presidential election. Frazer was a leading architect of U.S.-Africa policy over the last decade, most recently serving as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from August 2005 to January 2009. Read “ICC has fallen from high ideals of global justice, accountability” at

The winners of the 2012 Turing Award, MIT’s Shafi Goldwasser and Silvio Micali, have significant ties to Carnegie Mellon. Both earned doctorates in computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, where each was advised by Manuel Blum, now a CMU professor of computer science and himself a Turing laureate. Micali has been a frequent lecturer here and maintains close ties to the ALADDIN/Theory Group. Goldwasser earned her bachelor degree in mathematics at CMU in 1979. The Turing Award is considered to be the Nobel Prize of computer science.

Obituary: Brian Johnston, professor emeritus, School of Drama

(by Jim Niesen)

Brian Johnston, an internationally recognized authority on the plays of Henrik Ibsen, died on March 2 in Pittsburgh. He was 80. His life's journey was as interesting as it was improbable.

Born into poverty, he left home at the age of 13 after dropping out of elementary school. After searching for various unskilled labor jobs in England, he joined the RAF and served three years in Malaya. Following his discharge in 1953, he worked at other unskilled employment, and spent a year at Fircroft College, Birmingham. He earned a scholarship to Cambridge University, and received a First Class Honors Degree in 1960.  From 1964 to 1968 he taught at Northwestern University, followed by positions at the University of California, Berkeley, and Santa Barbara.

Unable to secure a teaching position following his return to Britain, he worked for the postal service while writing his first book "The Ibsen Cycle." He went on to teach at Cambridge; Norges Laererhøgskolen in Trondheim, Norway; Jordon's Yarmouk University; the University of Amman; and Beirut University College.

In 1986, while teaching at the American University of Beirut, he was warned repeatedly by the State Department to leave. But he remained until he was forced to flee the country following his attempted kidnapping by the Islamic Jihad. That same year he joined the CMU School of Drama faculty and taught there until his retirement in 2007. 

In addition to "The Ibsen Cycle," he published two other critical studies of Ibsen: "To the Third Empire: Ibsen's Early Plays" (1980) and "Text and Supertext in Ibsen's Drama" (1988). Both books offered radical correctives to traditional Ibsen scholarship, and their initial critical reception ran the gamut from hostility to grudging acceptance. They are now regarded as classic texts.

His translations of Ibsen include "A Doll House," "Ghosts," "An Enemy of the People," "Hedda Gabler," "The Lady from the Sea," "Rosmersholm," "Little Eyolf," "Emperor and Galilean," and "Peer Gynt." They have been produced at major professional theatres across the United States.

Following his retirement Johnston continued to write, traveled frequently to Britain, launched an educational website, "Ibsen Voyages," and devoted much of his time to human rights issues, especially those of Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories.

A celebration of his life will be held at Carnegie Mellon this spring.

Read the obituary in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.