June 17, 2008

Case Western Reserve's faculty team spells victory O-R-T-H-O-R-H-O-M-B-I-C in adult community bee

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Case Western Reserve University's faculty spelling squad has presented President Barbara R. Snyder with a trophy topped by a bee, the black and yellow flying insect -- the spoils of their recent first-place finish in the 17th annual Reaching Heights Adult Community Spelling Bee.

Patrick Crago, professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and associate dean of the Case School of Engineering; Jeffrey Janata, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and director of the Behavioral Medicine Program; and Lynn Singer, deputy provost and vice president for academic programs, spelled O-R-T-H-O-R-H-O-M-B-I-C -- which means relating to crystals with three axes -- correctly in the ninth round to clinch their first championship in four years.

"This is great," Snyder said upon inspecting the award. The large plastic bee is mounted on a block engraved with the names of previous community spelling bee winners. The trophy is expected to remain on display in the reception area of the president's office until next year's competition.

"It's wonderful that you'd take the time to do this, and it's wonderful for our neighborhood schools," Snyder said as she congratulated the team.

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This year's Adult Community Spelling Bee raised $15,000 for Reaching Heights, a group that supports the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school district. Over its four years of competing, the Case Western Reserve team, which calls themselves Upper Case, has led the competition in contributions with over $1,300 raised last year.

The Upper Case squad was anything but O-B-S-E-Q-U-I-O-U-S—the first-round word they spelled correctly, which means characterized by or showing servile complaisance or deference—when vying for the title against 23 other community-based teams. Although it's a friendly contest, Crago, Janata and Singer all competed in their academic regalia.

"We were looking for whatever advantage we could get," joked Janata, whose wife is a Cleveland Heights graduate and active supporter of the school system.

As the contest heated up in the mid-level rounds, Upper Case battled to remain in a state of N-O-R-M-O-T-H-E-R-M-I-A (one of the spelling bee words, a noun meaning a condition of normal body temperature). They were anticipating another win by the two-time, reigning champion Cleveland Orchestra team, known as OOPS (Orchestra Orthographers Prognosticate Success). Last year Upper Case lost to OOPS on the word bathyseism, an earthquake occurring at very deep levels of the earth.

Then, in the eighth round, Upper Case's remaining competition unexpectedly stumbled on the word O-U-A-B-A-I-N, a noun meaning a glycoside occurring as a white, crystalline powder obtained from the seeds of a certain shrub or from the wood of certain trees that is used in medicine chiefly as a cardiac stimulant.

"We were on the verge of packing it in when we won," said Janata, still sounding pleasantly surprised. "Now we have to defend our title."

The three members of the Upper Case team, who collectively have double-digit years of combined schooling, meet prior to each bee to discuss strategy. They also have personal interests that factor into their potential for subsequent success. Crago, for instance, is a fan of crossword puzzles.

Although Crago, Janata and Singer are the only squad officially representing Case Western Reserve in the competition, Singer said she found it "amazing" how many other people from the university were present in the audience to cheer Upper Case as well as other teams.

For members of the Case Western Reserve community who may have missed the Upper Case upset, the spelling bee is currently airing at various times on the Cleveland Heights public access channel.

For more information contact Kimyette Finley, 216.368.0521.

Posted by: Kimyette Finley, June 17, 2008 01:03 PM | News Topics: Administration, Awards, Community Outreach, Faculty, HeadlinesMain

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