This January, The Wesleyan Connection newsletter celebrates 15 years of providing news about our students, alumni, faculty, staff, and campus happenings.
The Connection, spearheaded by the Office of University Communications, debuted in January 2005 as the University’s first electronic newsletter. It replaced the former Campus Report, a printed newsletter for faculty and staff.
“By going electronic, we were able to share institutional messages and stories with all students, alumni, and parents as well,” said Campus News Editor Olivia Drake MALS ’08, who has served as the publication’s editor since its founding. “The Connection continues to be a popular vessel for communicating highlights about and achievements of the Wesleyan community, and we’re very thankful for our loyal readership.”
To date, the Connection has published more than 7,590 articles.
In honor of the newsletter’s 15th anniversary this January, we looked back on 15 highlights from the past 15 years (in no particular order):
1. Wesleyan Establishes Hamilton Prize for Creativity (2016)
On June 15, 2016, Wesleyan announced the establishment of the Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity, a four-year full-tuition scholarship that honors Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15 and Thomas Kail ’99, who created and directed the hit Broadway musical for which the prize is named. The prize is awarded to an incoming student who has submitted a creative written work—whether fiction, poetry, lyrics, play, script, nonfiction, or another expression—judged to best reflect originality, artistry, and dynamism. Miranda and Kail serve as honorary chairs of the judging committee, which is composed of other Wesleyan alumni and faculty.
2. Prominent Speakers, Alumni Deliver Commencement Addresses
President (then-Senator) Barack Obama Hon. ’08 delivered the 176th Commencement Address in May 2008.
Award-winning writer, director, and producer Joss Whedon ’87 delivered the 181st Commencement Address in May 2013.
Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, lyricist, and performer Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15 delivered the 183rd Commencement Address in May 2015.
And Kennedy Odede ’12 delivered a profound Senior Class Welcome during the 180th Commencement Ceremony in May 2012. Odede created and co-directs the Kibera, Kenya–based organization Shining Hope for Communities with his wife, Jessica Posner ’09.
2. Wesleyan Selects Michael Roth as 16th President (2007)
Michael Roth ’78 became the 16th president of Wesleyan University on July 1, 2007. Roth is known as a historian, curator, author, and public advocate for liberal education. Roth’s call for a “pragmatic liberal education” is the cornerstone of both his scholarship and his administrative work at Wesleyan.
3. Students Lead Black Lives Matter March Through Campus, Middletown (2014)
Activism seems to run through the blood of many Wesleyan students, over many generations. One of the largest demonstrations in the past 15 years occurred on Dec. 8, 2014, when approximately 1,000 students, faculty, and staff participated in a Black Lives Matter March. The participants marched in a show of solidarity with national protests against discriminatory treatment of blacks in the criminal justice system and incidents of police brutality. The group started at Exley Science Center, marched across campus, and proceeded down Washington Street to the Main Street intersection, chanting “black lives matter,” “hands up, don’t shoot,” and “we can’t breathe.”
4. Wesleyan Raises $482 Million in THIS IS WHY Campaign (2016)
Wesleyan closed out its most successful fundraising campaign ever on June 30, 2016, with $482 million raised, far surpassing the original goal of $400 million. The biggest share, $274 million, went to financial aid, making a Wesleyan education possible for motivated and talented students who could not otherwise afford to attend. More than 36,000 donors gave to the THIS IS WHY campaign.
5. Wesleyan Demolishes MoCon Despite Pushback (2010)
On April 20, 2010, Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 wrote a blog post declaring that the University would not be able to maintain McConaughy Hall. The building, constructed in 1962 as the “Freshman Dining Hall,” closed in 2007 following the opening of Usdan University Center.
6. Wesleyan Student Wins New Monogram Design Competition (2019)
A design submitted by Gabriel Drozdov ’19 was selected by popular vote as the University’s next monogram in March 2019. Drozdov’s submission garnered more than 50 percent of the 6,200 votes cast by Wesleyan community members. On Aug. 15, Wesleyan also unveiled a new Cardinal—a modern and bold bird that looks to our future while paying tribute to our past.
7. Odede ’12, Posner ’09 Build School in Kenya (2005)
The Kibera School for Girls was built through a partnership with a community organization in Kibera, Kenya, called Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO). Kennedy Odede ’12 founded this organization in 2005 and has since registered it with Kenya’s Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs.
8. The Wesleyan Media Project Provides National Political Advertising Data (2010)
In 2010, Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler created the Wesleyan Media Project, which has become the go-to source for real-time, non-partisan information on the volume, spending, sponsorship, and content of political advertising across the United States. The project tracks all election-related advertising by source (group, corporation, union, party, or candidate) and has been cited extensively in the nation’s leading media outlets. WMP continues its success in 2020.
9. You’ll Go Nuts for Wesleyan’s New Mascot! (2017)
On April 1, 2017, President Michael Roth announced that Wesleyan University would be saying goodbye to the Wesleyan Cardinal and hello to Wes Squirrel! (If this news is troubling to you and you think we’ve gone completely nuts, please check the date.)
10. Belichick ’75 Leads New England Patriots to Super Bowl Victory (2017)
New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick ’75, Hon. ’05, P’07, led his team to the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history on Feb. 5, 2017, beating the Atlanta Falcons by a score of 34-28 in OT—the first time an overtime period was ever needed in the 51-year history of the NFL’s annual championship game. The win made Belichick the winningest coach in Super Bowl history. Belichick has won eight Super Bowl titles in total, from his combined time as an assistant and head coach. In November 2017, Wesleyan dedicated Belichick Plaza to Bill and Amanda Belichick ’07, in honor of their leadership and generosity. At Wesleyan, Belichick, an economics major, was a football, squash, and lacrosse letter-winner, serving as a team captain for the 1975 lacrosse squad.
11. Wesleyan Welcomes Posse Veteran Scholars (2014)
During the 2014 fall semester, Wesleyan welcomed its inaugural cohort of Posse Foundation Veteran Scholars. Since then, 10 scholars are funded every year by The Posse Foundation, which supports students with a four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarship. While typical college freshmen are 18 years old and straight out of high school, the average veteran entering college is in their late 20s or early 30s, and has spent time in Afghanistan and Iraq.
12. New Resource Center Celebrates Multicultural, Diverse Identities (2017)
In September 2017, Wesleyan’s new Resource Center opened its doors at 167 High Street with the intention of providing an “intellectually grounded mission in social justice and a focus on intercultural development and literacy.” The impetus for the center arose in 2015, when many student groups united and demanded that changes be made to address “the daily effects of white supremacy in academia” as part of the “IsThisWhy?” protest that fall. President Michael Roth responded by commissioning the Equity Task Force to investigate historic and ongoing injustice on campus, and to make recommendations that would enhance equity and inclusion. Among the task force’s recommendations in its spring 2016 report was the development of a Resource Center.
13. Center for Prison Education Hosts First Graduation for Incarcerated Students (2018)
Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education was founded in 2009, and has since offered accredited Wesleyan courses to students at Cheshire Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison for men. Wesleyan faculty teach courses ranging from English to biology to philosophy, which have the same rigor and expectations as courses on Wesleyan’s Middletown campus. About 50 Wesleyan students volunteer in the program each semester, working in study halls at the prison or on campus, filling research requests and serving as project assistants. The program was expanded to serve incarcerated students at York Correctional Institution in the spring of 2013.
14. Wesleyan Undergoes Major Campus Construction
In the past 15 years, significant physical changes have been made to campus.
The 13,000-square-foot Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore, located at 413 Main Street in Middletown, opened in May 2017. The bookstore houses approximately 18,000 books, with a special section highlighting authors from the Wesleyan community. In addition to books, the store sells a wide range of both Wesleyan-themed and general apparel and merchandise.
The Wesleyan community celebrated the grand opening of 41 Wyllys—later renamed Boger Hall—during a reception and ribbon-cutting ceremony in February 2012. The building, which formerly housed Wesleyan’s squash courts, is now home to the College of Letters, the Art History Program, the Gordon Career Center, and multiple classrooms. In 2013, Boger Hall was named one of the “Greenest Buildings in the World.”
In October 2009, the former Davenport Campus Center—which was replaced by the new Usdan University Center—was renovated and reopened as the Allbritton Center for Public Life, the hub of civic engagement at Wesleyan. The center currently houses the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship; The Jewett Center for Community Partnerships; Instructional Media Services; the Science in Society Program; the Quantitative Analysis Center; Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies; the Center for Faculty Career Development; and the Wesleyan Media Project.
The Suzanne Lemberg Usdan University Center opened in September 2007 on the site of the razed Alumni Athletic Building. The three-story, triangular brick building, which neighbors Fayerweather, boasts airy dining facilities for students, faculty, and staff, the Wesleyan Station post office, ample meeting spaces, the box office, student organization offices, retail space, and a café. A rear terrace provides a view of Andrus Field, Olin Library, Foss Hill and College Row. Usdan celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2017.
15. Wesleyan Community Walks in Middletown’s Inaugural Pride Parade (2019)
In celebration of Pride Month, more than 50 members of the Wesleyan community showed their support for LGBTQ communities by participating in Middletown’s inaugural Pride Parade on June 15, 2019. The parade was jointly coordinated and sponsored by the City of Middletown, the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, and Wesleyan University. In 2018, the City of Middletown formed an LGBTQ advisory committee to work on the inclusion of Middletown’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning residents.
There are also stories that are perennial favorites. They include:
New Students Welcomed to Campus on Arrival Day
Students Elected to Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society
Faculty Awarded Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching
Snowstorms Blanket Campus
Wesleyan Welcomes New Faculty
Students Graduate at Commencement
Wesleyan Athletic Teams Earn Little Three Titles
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