20 episodes

Join voices of New College of Florida through the years as we share our stories and reflections on the cultural movement that has emerged from the small, quirky, public liberal arts college in Sarasota, Florida. Dig deeper into the history and meaning of the college that's been pulled into the Culture Wars being fought on U.S. campuses in these polarized times.

Palm Court Podcast Palmer Media

    • Society & Culture
    • 5.0 • 10 Ratings

Join voices of New College of Florida through the years as we share our stories and reflections on the cultural movement that has emerged from the small, quirky, public liberal arts college in Sarasota, Florida. Dig deeper into the history and meaning of the college that's been pulled into the Culture Wars being fought on U.S. campuses in these polarized times.

    Jono Miller | A 54-year Journey with New College, the Place and Its Trees

    Jono Miller | A 54-year Journey with New College, the Place and Its Trees

    In this episode of the Palm Court Podcast, we sit down with Jono Miller, a New College stalwart with a 54-year relationship to the campus. We explore Jono's origin story, from discovering New College in a catalog to wading into Sarasota Bay with John Morrill. He shares his experiences in student activism, environmental advocacy, and shaping the college's landscape.
    We delve into Jono's ongoing efforts to protect New College's natural heritage amid recent administrative changes, including the recently threatened Uplands area, the loss of historic trees, and the lack of transparency in campus development plans. In the wake of the "hostile takeover," he remains committed to preserving the college's unique character.
    In a rapid-fire segment, we uncover Jono's numerous contributions to New College, from naming dorms to designing tiles. His insights reveal how small, thoughtful changes can have lasting impacts on campus life. We also touch on Jono's wider environmental work in Sarasota County, particularly along the Myakka River.
    Throughout the conversation, Jono's deep connection to New College shines through. He sees the college as three intertwined elements: the program, the people, and the place. Jono may in fact be the human being most deeply embedded in New College's ecosystem. While the current situation is difficult, Jono's unwavering dedication inspires us all to keep fighting for the New College we know and love. 

    Jono Miller is a founder of NCF Freedom, which has been in headlines over the past year. 

    The first Earth Day was on April 22, 1970. The carpet-bombing of Cambodia lasted from 1969 to 1973. 

    Zorn’s Lemma has some relics of the Kingsley Hall experiment, and the journal Change mentions Kingsley Hall in a retrospective from the USF merger. 

    Part of the Uplands is listed as a National Historic Register District. 

    Map of the Uplands Preserve and an aerial photo with both Ringling estates. (Compare with cached construction plans presented Jan 2024, then quietly taken down. Note the pharaonic scale of the proposed Freedom Institute west of the pond.)

    Horseshoe crabs have prehistoric breeding rituals and are indeed bled for life-saving medications. 

    Deborah Rabinowitz, “Seven Forms of Rarity,” 1981.

    Port Manatee Jail has a floral legacy.

    The Caples Food Forest became an iconic part of student life. 

    Other colleges (some Catholic) have noted the alumnae/i Latin issue.

    The Summer 1988 Nimbus has pieces on the Lorax Rebellion (p. 7) and identifying by entering year (on p. 10). 

    Plant species: 

    LIve Oak (Quercus virginiana). “For centuries, it has been a symbol of safety, strength, and resilience.”

    Cabbage Palm (Sabal palmetto). ““To be in palmetto hammocks, coastal marshes, swamp forests, wet prairies, or revegetating cane breaks with Jono Miller is to walk into a world of wonder.” 

    Slash pine (Pinus elliottii) and loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) “are highly important to both Florida's ecosystems and its economy.” 

    Red (Rhizophora mangle), black (Avicennia germinans), and white mangroves (Laguncularia racemosa) “are important for local fisheries.” 

    Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia). “Also called flamboyant or flame tree, royal poinciana provides dappled shade in summer, with wide, spreading branches and brilliantly-colored flowers.” 

    Mango (Mangifera indica). Arecibo researcher Kit Reilly’s memorial “mango asterism” originally consisted of Graham, Mallika, Neelum, Fairchild, Cogshall, Torbet, Lancetilla, Nam Doc Mai, Manilita, and Parvin varieties. 

    The ACE Building “Spanish tile” tessellation was based on I.M. Pei’s design of a Minoan engraving.

    Poli-sci prof and Kentucky Colonel Peggy Bates lived in the dorms. 

    “Understanding Dentils” (inverted or otherwise). 

    Myakka River State Park is known to some as skunk ape habitat, to even more as a beautiful wilderness with a treetop boardwalk. 

    Sen. Bob Johnson was an early Uplands benefacto

    • 48 min
    Captain Jonathan White - The Lorax Speaks, A Career in Public Service, and Much More

    Captain Jonathan White - The Lorax Speaks, A Career in Public Service, and Much More

    Captain Jonathan White ('87) joins Mike, Grant, and Megan to share his origin story, in which he leaps straight from Lynchburg, Virginia's cradle of the religious right into a volatile time and place in New College history. We return to the story of the "Lorax Rebellion" student protest with a different perspective on how it came to be and the ways the destruction of the native grove represented a brutal defeat and loss of faith in institutions for so many. The lesson forged young Jonathan's steely resolve to quietly and steadily accrue power so that he could do good in the world.
    His transformative experiences participating in New College's first LGBTQ+ student organization and being a part of the 1987 "Second March on Washington" set the stage for his move to DC post-New College. However, the 90s were not without an uncanny series of career setbacks as Jonathan struggled to find his place in academia and beyond. He decided to try something different and reboot as a social worker, eventually getting his foot in the door at the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, slowly working his way up in the ranks—in uniform!
    It turns out Jonathan found his true calling in disaster management and crisis response at a time when the world most needed him. Many will remember then Commander White's brave testimony before Congress and his subsequent work reuniting families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. Jonathan urges those who care about New College to take care of each other and not to lose hope but to broaden our scope and adjust our efforts toward achievable goals.

    Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority was a keystone of conservative culture in the 1980s. 

    The October 1987 “Second March on Washington” was in part a response to the government’s lack of response to the AIDS crisis as a public health matter, as well as a call for lesbian and gay rights. 

    The SRQ authority is still doing deals with New College administrators. (In this case, the authority has some close, personal connections with the new administrators.) 

    Dean Robert V. Barylski has recorded his own memories of New College events. 

    Joe Caffentzis works as an administrator at Columbia University, and is also active in the Lovecraft fan community. 

    The Lorax is a children’s book by Dr. Seuss that not everyone has read. 

    There was an active aikido community, studying the Japanese martial art based on Taoist principles of reflection, redirection and circular motion; seiza is the formal sitting posture used to teach other body postures. . 

    Justice for Janitors is a movement, a campaign, and an organization. 

    “Kettling” is when police confine protestors (and anyone else on a particular sidewalk or street) for an extended period of time, not allowing anyone to leave. 

    Whitman-Walker has been serving health needs of the LGBTQ+ community since the 1970s. 

    The Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is a uniformed service of the U.S. government, active around the world. 

    Hurricane Ike was a large, wet, Category 2 storm that, due to widespread flooding, is the third-costliest hurricane to hit the United States, after Andrew and Katrina. 

    In 2019, White testified during congressional hearings regarding the Migrant Family Separation Policy. 

    Ventilator shortfalls were sort of a big deal in 2020. 

    The word “apocalypse” literally means “unveiling” (apo: “un” - kaluptein: “cover or veil”).

    • 1 hr 7 min
    Merlin Mann - Part 2: Lando, Olfactory Memories, "Gonna Break All the Windows..."

    Merlin Mann - Part 2: Lando, Olfactory Memories, "Gonna Break All the Windows..."

    In part two with Merlin Mann, the free-wheeling conversation picks up speed with the appearance of a special guest (code name: Lando, real name: Christian Pérez), discussing the cultural and creative passing of the baton and DIY inspiration between different New College generations. Merle pays homage to writing coach Jan Wheeler (who he was somewhat paradoxically referred to thanks to the intervention and urging of prof Pete Kazaks in the "Physics for Poets" class). Evocative smells and olfactory memories, both pleasant and painful, are evoked. Merle talks about revisiting the campus and the geography of Sarasota after decades away and everyone shares a surprising class they took at New College. The show wraps up in a Hegelian fashion, synthesizing the contradictions of the past and present, with hopes for progress and the perseverance of the New College spirit.
    Show notes:

    Other former Admiral Farragut Academy students include Stephen Stills and Lorenzo Lamas.  

    Merlin’s “On Not Writing About New College.”

    Miles Davis as a young musician, filled with ecstatic wonder. 

    William Zinsser’s On Writing Well. 

    The Church of the SubGenius now does ShorDurMars online. Photo of Reverend Stang’s TA Event.

    White Rain was sold to Florida-based Diamond Products in 2000.

    “Mornin’ Bob” was the beloved physical plant supervisor, a slender man with iron sinews and a sunshiny disposition. The kenning “Mornin’” came from his traditional greeting, no matter what depraved nonsense he happened to have stumbled onto after sunrise.  

    Guillermo Del Toro makes a model kit every weekend, and sometimes shows his work. 

    H.C. Bosman, great writer (compare with H.L. Mencken). The Afrikaner Broederbond, real conspiracy (compare with the SACR).

    Nadine Gordimer’s July’s People (1981) was Merle and Grant’s incoming-class reading.

    On Lovecraft and Sonia Greene. 

    Our Episode 11 kicked it with two canonical Surf Fux, throat and bass. Other New College bands mentioned: Ether Mice, Dog School, Skamena. 

    • 41 min
    Merlin Mann - Part 1: The Lorax Rebellion, Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, and the Sociology of Soloflex

    Merlin Mann - Part 1: The Lorax Rebellion, Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, and the Sociology of Soloflex

    Merlin Mann (NCF '86) joins Mike, Megan, and Grant for an entertaining spiel on his days at New College in the late 80s, including another facet of the story of the Lorax Rebellion tree-hugging protest that led to 43 arrests, including his own. It was a tumultuous time in many ways and Merle shares his trials and tribulations navigating it as an RA, student government rep, and member of the foundation board, including a clash with the terrifying General Heiser and remembrances of a huge cast of characters from his cohort. More details emerge about how it came to be that New College students were invited to breakfast with Kurt Vonnegut after creating an intensive 7-week module reading all of his works.
    Merlin opens up about the challenges of growing up in the "crushing machine" of Florida and the ways New College opened his eyes to perspectives far beyond the limited horizons of his prior education. Throughout, he looks back on his younger self, contemplating the growing consciousness that helped him uncover his privileged blind spots and move beyond the growing pains and traumas. Without veering too far into Proustian reverie, Merle opens up his "bag of hair" and ponders the meaning and importance of New College, where he "learned how to learn," started to fight "hegemonic ideology," and made lifelong friends.
    Show notes:

    A “kenning” is “a conventional poetic phrase used for or in addition to the usual name of a person or thing, especially in Icelandic and Anglo-Saxon verse, as ‘a wave traveler’ for ‘a boat.’” At New College, it was a way to distinguish between people with the same first name; e.g. “Big Jen, Little Jen, or Littlest Jen?” or “That was Adam Frisbee, not Adam Uniform.” 

    Merlin’s “On Not Writing About New College.”

    Merlin’s Awkward Hair Odyssey includes a hegemonic ideology T-shirt and mug shot

    1988 articles about the Lorax Rebellion

    Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions has been banned, occasionally. So it goes.  Unstuck in Time documentary mentioned.

    Hegemonic ideology.

    Ruskin, Florida, is famed for its tomatoes (and vegetable prepackaging technology), but was founded by the Millers as a cooperative community dedicated to the ideals of John Ruskin. 

    Commander (now Captain) Jonathan White testifying in the Senate on the family-separation policy. 

    Back to School, starring Rodney Dangerfield and Kurt Vonnegut

    The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, MD. 

    General Rolland V. Heiser, leading light of New College. 

    CGP Grey’s mind-splitting video “You Are Two.”

    New College zines mentioned: Red Beans and Rice and Crystal Method.

    • 1 hr
    From Pelicans to Healing - Susan Hirshberg's Unconventional Journey

    From Pelicans to Healing - Susan Hirshberg's Unconventional Journey

    This week, Susan Hirshberg joins the Palm Court Podcast to guide listeners through the twists and turns of her fascinating life story, which she sums up in the most quintessential New College way: "My life journey always made sense to me, even if it's never made sense to everybody else."
    She opens up about the positive and negative aspects of her New College experience, including her innovative self-designed animal behavior concentration and details of her legendary thesis research observing pelican behavior every day for over a year from the boughs of a tree on the bayfront—extraordinary scholarship that led her to present her findings at a national conference, while still an undergrad facing serious challenges and lack of support from her sponsor.
    Susan's post NCF life found her continuing her studies at grad school, doing advocacy work on radioactive waste in Los Alamos, New Mexico (where her uncle, physicist Richard Feynman, had worked on the Manhattan Project) and, along the way, finding and marrying her best friend from high school.
    Susan catches us up on her life after moving to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she has worked in healing as an alternative healthcare practitioner and started an organization, the Joan Feynman Climate Change Fund, to honor her mother, a renowned astrophysicist who cared deeply about climate issues and gender equality.
    At the end of the episode, Susan reveals that she bought land in rural Nova Scotia to create a healing center and issues an exciting invitation to current New College students to apply to a program she is designing for 4-8 students this summer, exploring embodiment in nature and healing. In closing, Susan discusses her participation in "the Lorax Rebellion" of 1988—which she emphatically cites as "life changing"—a brief teaser for a future episode on this seminal New College protest to save a stand of trees from destruction by SRQ.

    The Spring 1988 Nimbus has an article on Hirshberg’s pelican research as well as one on the airport expansion that led, months later, to the Lorax Rebellion. 

    Hirshberg’s pelican thesis and other, less estuarine work can be read here. 

    Cognitive ethology is the study of animal thought processes. 

    Susan Sapoznikoff is a senior attorney at the Florida Public Service Commission. 

    The Joan Feynman Climate Change Fund gives grants “to support innovative, community-based action.”

    Joan Feynman was a renowned astrophysicist. 

    Of her brother, Richard, she said: “Look, I don’t want us to compete, so let’s divide up physics between us. I’ll take auroras and you take the rest of the Universe. And he said OK! … It was nice of him to give me the aurora and to know that I would think it was wonderful.”

    In Oppenheimer, Richard was played by Jack Quaid, with bongos. In real life, he was a Manhattan Project group leader, as well as an author and popular lecturer.  

    Runoff from Los Alamos cooling towers was spilled into canyons on San Ildefonso Pueblo land from 1956 to 1972. “Some of the waste offers quite a challenge.”  

    Reiki and craniosacral therapy are complementary therapies using light touch to ease anxiety and pain; treat chronic pain and help in physical therapy. 

    • 49 min
    Covering the New College Story with Steven Walker

    Covering the New College Story with Steven Walker

    In this episode of the Palm Court Podcast, we are joined by Steven Walker, Education Reporter at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, who has been on the ground covering the “hostile takeover” of New College of Florida. Just as the battle for the Sarasota School Board was heating up, Walker arrived, excited to step into his first job after graduating from the University of Florida Journalism School and working as the Editor-in-Chief at the student newspaper, the Independent Florida Alligator.
    Dropped straight into highly politicized, polarizing and seemingly interminable school board meetings, Walker live-tweeted the scene, and published articles that would soon have national relevance. It was good preparation for what came next when Ron DeSantis announced the takeover of New College’s Board of Trustees. Walker’s prior experience with sports and political reporting became increasingly relevant in covering the evolving New College education beat. Walker highlights the importance of maintaining journalistic integrity, while presenting the many facets of a story without amplifying bigotry or misinformation.
    Initially unaware of New College and its unique history and philosophy, Steven quickly got up to speed. He details his process tracking the story's developments, from the removal of the president to the appointment of new trustees and the introduction of an athletics program. We learn about Walker's investigative approach, strategizing public records requests and building relationships with key sources.
    Steven emphasizes the challenges of balancing the sound and fury of daily reporting with in-depth, enterprise journalism, along with his desire to dig deeper to cover topics of educational substance beyond the political machinations.
    Steven encourages listeners to support local journalism, subscribe to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and follow him on Twitter for updates on both the New College story and his sometimes strident basketball commentary.

    The Independent Florida Alligator has an interesting history, vis-a-vis “Independent.”

    Walker’s athletics coverage became a key part of the overall picture at NCF.

    Walker received attention (and awards) for his coverage of the unfolding absurdity of the Sarasota School Board takeover, live-tweeting the meetings as the brand-new education reporter in May 2022.

    Bridget Ziegler, if you somehow missed this story, is the anti-gay GOP star who fell from grace when her taste for FFM threesomes came to light, as part of a (CW) assault investigation that ended her husband’s career as leader of the Florida Republican Party.

    Before the fall, she had fun with fundraising when Moms For Liberty was declared a hate group by the SPLC.

    Walker covers the drama surrounding her continued presence on the school-board.

    NCF remembers her as a member of the presidential search committee that certified Richard Corcoran as president.

    Walker plays Twitter pretty well, from livetweeting key events to the tougher game.

    The Nulls sailing team competed in the SAISA conference for more than a decade, and NCF intercollegiate athletes got rowing, swimming and powerlifting medals regionally, at the state level and competed nationally.

    Walker discusses the notion of newsworthiness and public interest, at times with pushback from radically different constituents, including the recent story about a New College student athlete accused of felony battery of a Sarasota police officer.

    The Jefferson County scandal is large and complicated and here is one way in. The prose is purple; the facts are solid.

    Florida had some of the first and strongest Sunshine Laws (thanks, Reubin Askew), but that’s been changing over the last year (thanks, Ron DeSantis).

    The MSNBC coverage of the NCF “hostile takeover” has been surprisingly thorough and long-running.

    The Catalyst couldn’t get a sit-down with Corcoran, and then it did … with “autonomous electric vehicles to shuttle students”?

    • 50 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
10 Ratings

10 Ratings

hermeneut grant ,

Real stories from an unusual place

A lot of people try to fit odd little place into one narrative or another. But this isn’t that - it’s truths told by the tellers, and it’s full of surprises. Recommended for listeners who like unexpected perspectives, strange juxtapositions, and free-flowing ideas that sketch out larger fields of meaning. Is this a philosophy podcast?

rlk2720 ,

Soul soothing

Soooo good to hear and be reminded of the innate goodness of curiosity and ferocious intellect wrapped up in memories of late night dancing under the stars. As an NC alum, I’m biased AND really enjoying the chance to catch a glimmer of our community’s kooky glory in these conversations. Look forward to more!

KK (native Floridian) ,


Can’t wait to hear all the voices speaking critically and perhaps even arguing in typical New College fashion—a great listen for all who care about the spirit of inquiry that New College embraces.

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