Cynthia Rockwell

Cynthia Rockwell MALS ’19, P’11 is the managing editor of Wesleyan magazine.

“Understanding Russia: A Dramatic Return to the World Stage” Topic of 2019 Shasha Seminar

RussiaThis year’s Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns, “Understanding Russia: A Dramatic Return to the World Stage,” will be held Oct. 11–12. It begins on Friday with a keynote address by Andrew Meier ’85, a former Moscow correspondent with Time. On Saturday, a full day of panel discussions led by Wesleyan professors and alumni who are leaders in their field will be available to registrants.

The Shasha Seminar, an educational forum for Wesleyan alumni, parents, and friends, explores issues of global concern in a small seminar environment. Endowed by James Shasha ’50, P’82, the Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns supports lifelong learning and encourages participants to expand their knowledge and perspectives on significant issues. Last year, for example, the seminar explored suicide and resilience.

Peter Rutland

Professor Peter Rutland is directing the 2019 Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns.

In this Q&A, we speak to Shasha Seminar director Peter Rutland, Wesleyan’s Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought. Rutland frames the seminar in terms of providing discussion and insight into the recent aggressive behavior we’ve seen from Russia—military interventions in Ukraine and Syria, and interference in elections from Macedonia to Michigan, for instance.

Q: How did this year’s topic for the Shasha Seminar come about?

A:  I think this idea came from Marc Eisner, Henry Merritt Wriston Chair in Public Policy, who was dean of the social sciences last year, and who suggested a Shasha Seminar focused on Russia since it was in the news.

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News
1. Inside Higher Ed: ‘Safe Enough Spaces’

President Michael Roth is interviewed about defending free speech, inclusion on campus, and affirmative action, among other topics, in connection with the forthcoming publication of his new book, Safe Enough Spaces: A Pragmatist’s Approach to Inclusion, Free Speech, and Political Correctness on College Campuses, due out Aug. 20 from Yale University Press.

2. The New York Times: “The World’s Smartest Chimp Has Died”

William Griffin Professor of Philosophy Lori Gruen writes in this op-ed about the legacy of the “world’s smartest chimp” Sarah, who died recently in her 50s after a long career working with researchers. Sarah taught the world about animal cognition, including chimps’ understanding of the thoughts and desires of others. Her career showed us that “not only do chimpanzees have complex thoughts, but also distinct personalities with strong preferences and prejudices,” Gruen writes.

Wesleyan Boasts Two Alumni in Democratic Debates: Bennet ’87, Hon. ’12; Hickenlooper ’74, MA ’80, Hon. ’10

Among the Democrats who have joined the race to become the nominee for the party’s Presidential candidate are two Wesleyan alumni, both from Colorado: Michael Bennet ’87, Hon. ’12, and John Hickenlooper ’74, MA ’80, Hon. ’10.

Michael Bennet ’87, Hon. ’12

Bennet, who was appointed to the U.S. Senate in 2009, with a subsequent election to a full six-year term in 2010, had previously served as superintendent of Denver Public Schools. Prior to that, he was chief of staff to then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. He was re-elected to the Senate in 2016.

John Hickenlooper ’74, MA ’80, Hon. ’10

Hickenlooper, who had served as mayor of Denver, was elected governor of the state in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. Initially pursuing a career in geology, he later became a brewpub entrepreneur, revitalizing a neighborhood and serving as a community advocate.

Both have qualified for inclusion in the second Democratic debates. Hickenlooper appeared as one of the 10 candidates on July 30; Bennet is on the roster for the 10 set for the July 31 session.

A New York Times “Meet the Candidates” site offers succinct descriptions of each candidate’s stance:

“. . . Mr. Bennet is a moderate Democrat who recently gained national attention after delivering a fiery speech on the Senate floor during a government shutdown. A member of the so-called Gang of Eight that crafted a sweeping immigration reform bill in 2013, he said that legislation still could be the basis of fixing our immigration system.”

Mr. Hickenlooper . . . has been running as a Western pragmatist in a field of liberals. A successful brewery owner, he warned that the American economy was tilted in favor of large companies and ‘making it much harder for smaller companies to succeed.’”

Additionally, the site, titled “18 Questions. 21 Democrats. Here’s What They Said.” provides responses from each on such topics as “In an ideal world, would anyone own handguns?” and “Does anyone deserve to have a billion dollars?” and “What do you do to relax?”

 

 

 

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

  1. The New York Times Magazine: I’m 20. I Have 32 Half Siblings. This Is My Family Portrait.

Eli Baden-Lasar ’22 always knew he was conceived using a sperm donor, but he didn’t discover he had half siblings until he was 19. He went out searching for them and found more than 30 young men and women around the country. In this photo essay, he writes about the experience of meeting his half siblings. Photo portraits he took of each of them are featured along with their quotes about meeting blood relatives they hadn’t previously known existed.

2. American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS): Geologist Embarks on 60-Day Voyage to Study Past Climates

Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Suzanne O’Connell is featured in this blog post. She has studied paleoceanography for more than 30 years and recently sailed to the Subantarctic Ocean just north of the Antarctic Circle to drill for and study ocean sediment samples on the JOIDES Resolution research vessel. She talks about dodging icebergs, and how she hopes the data she helped collect will be useful for climate modelers working to figure out how fast the ice will melt in the future.

President Emeritus Bennet ’59, P’87, ’94, Hon. ’94, Remembered at Memorial Chapel Service

After President Bennet’s memorial service on May 25, 2019, Joe Fins ’82, MD, captured this image, which he thought represented three important areas of commitment in Bennet’s life. (Photo by Joseph J. Fins ’82, MD)

On the Saturday of Reunion & Commencement Weekend, May 25, 2019, the family of President Emeritus Douglas J. Bennet Jr. ’59, P’87, ’94, Hon. ’94 welcomed extended family and a host of friends from the Class of ’59 and other alumni, as well as Wesleyan faculty and staff to gather in Memorial Chapel to remember the life of their husband, father, brother, and grandfather. Bennet died on June 10, 2018, at the age of 79, which was noted in Wesleyan magazine last summer. As this was the Reunion year for his class, the setting provided an opportunity for those who had known him 64 years ago, as a Wesleyan first-year student, to assemble with his family in the chapel, where they had installed a plaque to their “classmate, friend, inspired leader of the College on the Hill“ on the occasion of their 60th Reunion.

Bennet, whose distinguished career prior to the Wesleyan presidency had included service as assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs under President Clinton, chief executive officer and president of National Public Radio, and head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, was noted for his commitment to public service. He was also known for his dedication to family and his love for sailing. All three facets were well represented in Saturday’s program.

Speakers at the service included President Michael Roth ’78; Alan Dachs ’70, P’98, Hon. ’07, who had chaired Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees during a segment of Bennet’s presidency; Bennet’s brother John; and his son Michael ’87, Hon. ’12, who offered remembrances on behalf of his siblings, Holly ’94 and James, as well. Dachs noted that Bennet “took joy in working for the greater good. He had ambition for Wesleyan, not himself. We could, and would, follow him with confidence and a sense of purpose.” The Wesleyan Spirits provided their a cappella “Amazing Grace,” and four of Bennet’s grandchildren delivered a poem by Philip Booth: “Chart 1203: Penobscot Bay and Approaches.”

Alumni Honored for Distinguished Achievements, Outstanding Service at Annual Assembly, Meeting

The award winners stand on stage in two rows.

President Roth, far left, and members of the Alumni Association Executive Committee joined the alumni receiving awards on the stage of Crowell Concert Hall before the Annual Meeting of the Alumni Association. Front row (l. to r.): Secretary of the Alumni Association Cecilia Pohorille McCall ’91; Distinguished Alumni Bozoma “Boz” Saint John ’99, Rob King ’84, and Jeffrey Deitch ’74; Outstanding Service Award recipient Daphne Kwok ’84; and Distinguished Alumnus Gordon Crawford ’69. Top row (l. to r.): Chair of the Alumni Association Muzzy Rosenblatt ’87, Distinguished Alumna Jenno Topping ’89; Outstanding Service Award recipients Bert Edwards ’59 and Edward Murphy ’59; James L. McConaughy Jr. Memorial Award recipient Alexander Chee ’89; Distinguished Alumnus Scott Gottlieb ’94; and Distinguished Alumnus Thomas Kail ’99, who spoke on how “Finding Your People Matters the Most.”  (Photo by Tom Dzimian)

At the Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Wesleyan Alumni Association on May 25, seven alumni received Distinguished Alumnus Awards. Three Outstanding Service Awards were presented, along with the James L. McConaughy Jr. Memorial Award, which is given to a member of the community whose writing conveys “unusual insights and understanding of current and past events.” Thomas Kail ’99, renowned and award-winning director and producer for theater, film, and television, delivered the keynote, “Finding Your People Matters the Most,” tracing the path that led him to his current position through a dedication to service and surrounding himself with others who shared his vision.

Muzzy Rosenblatt ’87, chair of the Alumni Association, delivered the citations honoring the alumni.

The award recipients are:

THOMAS MICHAEL KAIL ’99: Thomas Kail is a director and producer for theater, film, and television. The winner of two Emmys for producing and directing Grease: Live for Fox television, he won a Tony for directing Hamilton in 2016. His latest project is the limited series Fosse/Verdon, on which he served as executive producer for the series and as director of five episodes. He serves as honorary co-chair of the University’s Hamilton Prize Selection Committee.

GORDON CRAWFORD ’69: Gordy Crawford retired at the end of 2012 after a 41-year career with the Capital Group’s Capital Research and Management Company. He is the chairman of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation, as well as a lifetime active trustee and past chairman of the board of Southern California Public Radio.

JEFFREY W. DEITCH ’74: In the art world, Jeffrey Deitch has performed nearly every role: artist, art critic, curator, museum director, and art dealer. Now operating galleries in New York and Los Angeles, he is the author of a new book on figurative painting, Unrealism, which will be published by Rizzoli in the fall of 2019.

President Roth (left) and Distinguished Alumnus Rob King ’84 listen as Muzzy Rosenblatt ’87 cites King’s accomplishments at the ceremony.

ROBERT F. KING ’84: As senior vice president at ESPN, Rob King is an influential multimedia architect at the biggest brand in sports, directly overseeing ESPN’s entire portfolio of storytelling assets. A six-time Sports Emmy award-winner and a past Pulitzer judge, King is a member of the Associated Press board of directors, the Center for Investigative Reporting board, and the Poynter Institute’s board of trustees.

JENNO TOPPING ’89: As current president of Film and Television at Chernin Entertainment, Jenno Topping oversees all of the company’s development and production, including the Oscar-nominated Hidden Figures (2016). This past year, Ms. Topping spearheaded “Who’s in the Room,” Time’s Up Entertainment’s mentorship program designed to increase the presence of individuals from underrepresented groups in the producer and executive ranks.

SCOTT GOTTLIEB ’94: Scott Gottlieb is a physician and health policy expert who served as the 23rd commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from May 2017 to April 2019, during which he focused on a wide variety of issues, including drug pricing, medical product innovation, and vaccination promotion. Currently, he has returned to his role as a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C.

Q&A: Sienkiewicz ’03 on Dual Interests: Comedy and Global Media Studies

Visiting assistant professor Swapnil Rai stands beside her colleague from Boston College, alumnus Matt Sienkiewicz, who gave a guest lecture

Visiting Assistant Professor of Film Studies Swapnil Rai invited Matt Sienkiewicz ’03, associate professor of communication at Boston College, to speak to her class about broadcast media in the Middle East. (Photo by Cynthia Rockwell)

Earlier this semester Visiting Assistant Professor of Film Studies Swapnil Rai invited Matt Sienkiewicz ’03 to be a guest lecturer in her class, FILM 328: Beyond the West. The course “examines the role that film…and other media play in shaping our sense of global, national, and local cultures and identities.”

Sienkiewicz, associate professor of communication and chair of the department at Boston College, teaches courses in global media cultures and media theory. One of his eclectic areas of research looks at the West’s investment in Middle Eastern broadcasting initiatives. In 2011 he produced a peer-reviewed documentary film, Live: From Bethlehem, which explored this topic, based on work that included six months of on-location research.

For Rai’s class, Sienkiewicz discussed his book The Other Air Force

Matt Sienkiewicz is teaching at the front of the class

Sienkiewicz spoke about his research on the West’s involvement in broadcast initiatives in the Middle East.

(Rutgers University Press, 2016), which looks at American influence on radio and television programming in the Middle East. He explained how he evaluates programming by using a scale, placing on one end U.S. influence as “soft power” (money supporting the programming but little attention given to oversight of the message), and on the other, “Psy-Ops” programming (marked by a more invasive interest in psychologically influencing the viewer toward adopting a pro-American point of view).

Additionally, Sienkiewicz also studies and teaches classes in the politics of contemporary American comedy. He is coeditor (with Nick Marx) of The Comedy Studies Reader (University of Texas Press, 2018).

He spoke to the Connection about his seemingly unlikely dual academic interests.

Q: When did you get interested in comedy?
A: I’ve always loved comedies. When I was 10 years old, my sister and I would perform Roger Rabbit routines on video. Alf was a must-see appointment each week.

Krishnan’s Company inDANCE Presents New England Premiere SKIN at Wesleyan

Hari Krishnan, associate professor of dance, celebrated the success of his New England premiere of SKIN during a Spring Faculty Dance Concert on April 26 at the Center for the Arts Theater.

Hari Krishnan, associate professor of dance, brought his Toronto-based company inDANCE to the Center for the Arts Theater for a Spring Faculty Dance Concert on April 26–27, with the New England premiere of SKIN. InDANCE is a progressive Canadian dance company whose work transcends boundaries of the familiar and culturally traditional. Offering, instead, surprising juxtapositions in styles, manner, and dress, inDANCE “subverts clichéd representations of ‘classical’ Indian dance, and speaks with an ‘obscenely loud,’ inimitable, and unorthodox global voice,” as noted in the program Krishnan prepared for the event.

SKIN, composed of five pieces, brought together on stage several members of Krishnan’s Toronto company and a select group of Krishnan’s current students: Mickey Kieu ’19, Amira Leila ’20, Gita Ganti ’21, Aditi Mahesh ’21, Luna Mac-Williams ’22, and Spenser Stroud ’22. Noteworthy also: first-year member of the inDANCE company, Eury German ’16, a dance and biology double major while at Wesleyan, was back on the CFA stage, as a dancer in “Holy Cow[s]!” the fifth piece of the evening. Professor Emeritus of Theater John Carr created the lighting design. A preshow performance, “Fantastic Beasts Meet on a Whimsical Beach…” included audience participation through phone texts.

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

  1. The New Yorker: “The Shapeshifting Music of Tyshawn Sorey”

“There is something awesomely confounding about the music of Tyshawn Sorey [MA ’11], the thirty-eight-year-old Newark-born composer, percussionist, pianist, and trombonist,” begins this profile of Sorey, assistant professor of music. Sorey was recently featured in the Composer Portraits series at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre.

2. The Register-Mail: “Video Slots Take Heavy Toll on Some Players”

In this article exploring the expansion of video slot gaming in a region of Illinois, Assistant Professor of Psychology Mike Robinson shares what he has learned through his research about how gambling affects our brains through the pleasurable release of dopamine. “You hear gamblers talk about chasing losses,” Robinson said. “Basically, they are talking about how gambling and uncertainty can even change how you respond to losing. It sounds counterintuitive, but for gambling addicts losing money triggers the rewarding release of dopamine almost to the same degree that winning does.”

3. The St. Thomas Source: “V.I. Studies Collective Asks, ‘What Is a Virgin Islander?'”

Professor of English Tiphanie Yanique, a core member of the Virgin Islands Studies Collective, recently led a workshop on St. Thomas at the Virgin Islands Literary Festival. A poet, essayist, and fiction writer who teaches creative writing at Wesleyan, Yanique comes from St. Thomas and has written fiction about life in the Virgin Islands.

4. The Forward: “8 Practical Tips on How to Lead a Progressive Seder This Year”

Asked for advice on leading a “progressive seder” for Passover this year, Wesleyan’s Director of Religious and Spiritual Life and University Jewish Chaplain David Leipziger Teva suggested adding a shoelace to your seder plate to express solidarity with the migrants fleeing their homes to cross into the U.S. “In thinking about the 92,607 migrants and refugees who in March of 2019 alone were detained after crossing the US Mexico border, I was struck by the fact that one of the first things that our US Customs and Border Patrol (USCBP) does is force these tired and vulnerable people to remove their shoelaces,” he explained. “Apparently anything, even the shoelaces of young children, considered ‘nonessential and potentially lethal’ is confiscated.”

5. Reading Religion: “Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Bias”

“Through the medium of cartoons, Gottschalk and Greenberg examine complicated concepts such as Islamophobia and stereotypes in a manner that is both accessible and comprehensive,” according to this review of Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Sentiment: Picturing the Enemy, coauthored by Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk and Gabriel Greenberg ’04 and recently re-released in an expanded and revised second edition. “This book is accessible enough to include on an undergraduate introductory syllabus, but also specialized enough for readers who are familiar with the concept of Islamophobia, or the study of the Muslims in the United States, to benefit from.”

Alumni in the News

  1. PeabodyAwards.com: Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart (PBS/WNET TV)”

Randall MacLowry ’86 is the producer and editor; Tracy Heather Strain is the filmmaker for this documentary, which PBS notes as “the first in-depth presentation of Hansberry’s complex life, using her personal papers and archives, including home movies and rare photos, as source material.” The couple cofounded The Film Posse, Inc., to work together in creating documentaries of high quality, and according to a press release, “spent more than 14 years raising money to develop the independently-produced film, which the couple produced with Strain serving as director and writer, and MacLowry and Chad Ervin as editors. Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart had its world premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and its television premiere on the PBS biography series American Masters in January 2018.”

2. Women and Hollywood: “Tribeca 2019 Women Directors: Meet Bridget Savage Cole [’05] and Danielle Krudy [’07]Blow the Man Down” 

“Wesleyan University graduates Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy met on a film set in Coney Island. They immediately bonded over a shared love of character-driven stories and juicy filmmaking styles. They have collaborated on numerous music videos, shorts, and writing projects. Blow the Man Down is their first feature-length film,” writes Gabriela Rico, who follows with the directors’ candid Q&A. Blow the Man Down premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival on April 26.

3. Vanity Fair: Fosse/Verdon: 5 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets from the Cast and Creators”

Vanity Fair editor Radhika Jones, who moderated a panel that included Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15, provided excerpts of the conversation: “‘I picked up a book off the shelf, and my job was to read the book and put it in Tommy Kail’s [’99] hand,’ said Miranda. The Hamilton creator had gone to Wesleyan University with Sam Wasson [’03], author of the 2013 biography Fosse—on which the FX series is closely based. In June 2016, Hamilton director Kail and Miranda began planning a way to bring Fosse back to the screen.”

4. Broadway World: “MCC Launches Season with Ross Golan’s The Wrong Man Directed by Thomas Kail [’99]”

The Wrong Man (“the wrong man meets the wrong women in the wrong place at the wrong time”) is a new stage musical, written by multi-platinum songwriter Ross Golan (book, music, lyrics), Tony Award–winning director Thomas Kail and three-time Tony and four-time Grammy Award–winning orchestrator Alex Lacamoire. Performances begin on Wednesday, September 18, 2019.

5. Boston Globe: “Cape Air on Course for Seaplane Takeoff in Boston”

Jon Chesto ’93 writes: “Dan Wolf [’79] needed to get his hands on an amphibious aircraft before he could fulfill his yearslong quest to bring seaplane service back to Boston Harbor.

“Now, the chief executive of Cape Air has an entire squadron.”

In this tale of Wolf’s acquisition of the seaplanes, Chesto notes some Wes-related history: “Wolf first learned to fly a seaplane at the Goodspeed Airport along the Connecticut River, while going to school at nearby Wesleyan University. That was nearly 40 years ago, but there’s a connection to this latest deal. Shoreline Aviation was run by John Kelly [MALS ’70], who taught Wolf during his college years. They obviously stayed in touch: Cape Air has used Shoreline planes during its Boston Harbor test runs.”

 6. MIT News: “Candid Conversation about Race: In MIT Talk, Beverly Daniel Tatum [’75, P’04, Hon. ’15] Urges Direct Discussion about Racial Issues at a ‘Polarized’ Moment in U.S. History”

Peter Dizikes, of the MIT News Office, writes: “Candid discussions about race relations are vital at a time of ‘pushback’ against social diversity in the U.S., said Beverly Daniel Tatum, the former president of Spelman College, in a talk at MIT on Thursday.

“‘It seems to me pretty clear we’re living in a pushback moment,’ Tatum said, referring to resistance against both political progress by blacks and a diversifying population. She added: ‘I think that today, most people would agree, we are more polarized than ever.’”

Tatum’s talk at MIT’s Wong Auditorium covered topics including the difference between race and racism, what is possible in the political arena, and the “long-running conditions of material inequality in the U.S.”

7. WBUR.org— “WBUR Announces Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize Winner”

From the website: “WBUR announced today that Hannah Dreier [’08] is the winner of the 2019 Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize. The winning segment was produced at This American Life in partnership with ProPublica, where Dreier serves as an immigration reporter.

“Dreier’s winning entry, ‘The Runaways’ is an hour-long investigative report that documents how the Suffolk County Police Department in New York failed to investigate a series of gang murders when the victims were immigrant teenagers. Days after the story aired on This American Life, the Suffolk County legislature forced the police department to conduct an internal investigation into how it had handled the MS-13 murder cases. ‘The Runaways’ proves that investigative reporting continues to effect change.”

Dreier ’08 of ProPublica Wins Pulitzer for Feature Writing

Hannah Dreier ’08, a journalist with ProPublica reporting on immigration issues, received a 2019 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. (Photo by Carlos Becerra)

Hannah Dreier ’08, a journalist with ProPublica, was announced the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing on April 15.

The New York Times reported: “Ms. Dreier’s detailed portraits of Salvadoran immigrants were cited for exposing how their lives had been destroyed ‘by a botched federal crackdown on the international criminal gang MS-13.’ After Ms. Dreier, 32, heard President Trump tie immigration to gang violence, her reporting revealed that immigrants were often victims of the crime groups. ‘What was so cruel was that this population was being preyed upon,’ she said. The series was published jointly with The New York Times Magazine, Newsday, and New York magazine.” ProPublica calls itself “a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power.”

Dreier, who was awarded the James L. McConaughy Jr. Memorial Award at Reunion last year for writing that conveys “unusual insights and understanding of current and past events,” also spoke on a WESeminar panel about journalism today, highlighted in Wesleyan magazine. Dreier had worked in Venezuela several years ago and spoke about the polarized atmosphere in that country, comparing it to our current political climate.

She told the WESeminar attendees, “My approach has been to try to focus on telling concrete personal stories and trying to just pile enough detail that people can decide for themselves what they think is happening and how they feel about it.” As an undergraduate, she majored in the College of Letters.

Read a Q&A with Dreier in this Wesleyan Argus article.

Woodcarver Yorburg ’77 to Speak on Jewish Immigrant Carvers

In his workshop, he carves a new leg and hoof for an antique carousel horse. (Photo by Melissa Rocha)

In his workshop, Bob Yorburg ’77 carves a new leg and hoof for an antique carousel horse. Yorburg will be speaking on “Coney Island Jewish Immigrant Carvers” at the Bushnell Park Carousel on April 28. (Photo by Melissa Rocha)

Bob Yorburg ’77, a master woodcarver renowned for his antique restorations of turn-of-the-20th-century carousels and calliopes, notes that the Jewish immigrant carvers of that era “raised the art of carousel carving to a new level.”

“Their realism and extraordinary ornamentation defined the Coney Island style of carousel carving,” he writes.

Additionally, these brilliant carvers translated their secular art into ornamentation that graced the historic synagogues of Brooklyn.

Offering a photographic journey into the workshops of some of these artists—Marcus Charles Illions, Charles Carmel, along with Solomon Stein and Harry Goldstein—Yorburg will be speaking on “Coney Island Jewish Immigrant Carvers” at the Bushnell Park Carousel in Hartford, Conn., at 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 28. Tickets are $10 by reservation only and may be purchased by calling 860-585-5411.

Who Are the Great Americans? Paintings by Lahav ’00 Spark Conversations

This portrait of George Washington by Jac Lahav ’00 is part of the project, The Great Americans, now on exhibit at the Florence Griswold Museum in Lyme, Conn., until May 12. (Photo by Tammi Flynn)

The paintings: Oprah is elegantly coiffed, gowned in a long blue dress, into which a portrait of her in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks has been etched. Lincoln, his sad visage rising above the American flag that envelops him, stands in front of a reproduction of a painting by Henry Ogden, “The Battle of Spotsylvania.” Afong Moy, the first woman from China to arrive in the United States, is clad in a culturally traditional red wedding dress, hands primly—or nervously?—clasped at her waist; her head entirely concealed by a veil. We’ll never see her face—which the artist hopes might prod us to consider: Would we have remembered it anyway?

These are just three from The Great Americans, a show by artist Jac Lahav ’00, on exhibit at the Florence Griswold Museum in Lyme, Conn., until May 12. The work is attracting interest from both critics and schoolchildren alike, sparking dialogues among patrons responding to an implicit question behind the title: What makes someone “great”? Do the Americans shown here fit these criteria? 

While he was still in grad school, that question was the starting point for Lahav. He’d been watching a Discovery Channel miniseries, Greatest American, and his attention was captured by the debates that arose around naming a top-10 group. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln easily made the list. But the audience was divided between Jonas Salk or Oprah Winfrey, illustrating the difficulty: What is the definition of “great.” While Salk is the creator of the polio vaccine and might initially be a shoo-in, his legacy is more complicated, notes Lahav: His vaccine is no longer the one in use today, and his collaborators felt that Salk had ignored their contributions in favor of personal celebrity.