Cynthia Rockwell

Butler ’90 on JFK’s Legacy

With the approach of the centennial of John F. Kennedy’s birth, it’s fair to ask: Will his legacy endure?
By Tom Kertscher

Emily Jennett Butler '90, a grant writer at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston, believes the JFK legacy is enduring and relevan today.

Emily Jennett Butler ’90, a grant writer at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston, believes the JFK legacy is relevant today.

Last July [2016], President Barack Obama signed a law creating the John F. Kennedy Centennial Commission, which will develop and carry out activities to mark the 100th anniversary of Kennedy’s birth on May 29, 2017.

Kennedy, polls have shown, continues to be among the most highly regarded presidents. But only about a third of Americans were alive when he was assassinated in 1963.

So, it’s fair to ask: Will Kennedy will remain relevant?

Emily Jennett Butler ’90, a grant writer at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston, says “yes” and offers data to prove her point.

While not everyone, of course, recalls the Kennedy years as an idyllic time, his appeal endures:
● In 2015, the library released an iPad app for kids—“The JFK Challenge”—that was featured as a best new app in the Apple Store. It has been downloaded more than 100,000 times.

● Of the library’s 80,000 Twitter followers, more than 40 percent are age 34 and under; and of its 80,000 Facebook fans, 35 percent are in that age group. On Facebook, the 25-34 age group is the most engaged with the library on Facebook.

● The library recently launched the New Frontier Network, a group for young professionals in the Boston area. Its membership of 350 has doubled in the past year.

“I think most of the people who join the network are looking for ways to give back, and certainly JFK’s call to ‘ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’ still resonates today,” Butler said. “Part of the New Frontier Network’s focus is service projects in the community. So by joining this group, many members are fulfilling a very strong desire to stay engaged and to make a positive contribution to society, locally and globally. A lot of the people currently in the network are involved in politics and believe strongly, as JFK did, that government can be a force for good.”

“I do think it’s probably good for the national psyche to remember a great leader who brought people together.”

Tom Kertscher is a PolitiFact Wisconsin reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the author of two sports books.

Jasper ’98 Writes/Directs Sundance Hit Patti Cake$

The cast of Patti Cake$: Mamoudou Athie, Cathy Moriarty, Siddharth Dhananjay, director Geremy Jasper, Danielle Macdonald, and Bridget Everett, which was a Sundance hit. (Photo by Daniel Bergeron)

The cast of Patti Cake$: Mamoudou Athie, Cathy Moriarty, Siddharth Dhananjay, director Geremy Jasper, Danielle Macdonald, and Bridget Everett, which was a Sundance hit. (Photo by Daniel Bergeron)

Patti Cake$, the debut film from writer-director Geremy Jasper ’98, has earned the second-highest deal of Sundance so far this year, with a bid of $9.5 million for distribution rights from Fox Searchlight. Producers are Dan Janvey ’06 and Michael Gottwald ’06; Matthew Greenfield ’90 is senior vice-president of production at Fox Searchlight—all Wesleyan film majors.

Jasper’s film tells the story of Patricia Dombrowski, (played by Danielle Macdonald)—also known as Killa P and Patti Cake$—an aspiring rapper in New Jersey. In his review, IndieWire’s Eric Kohn called the film the “best hip-hop movie since Hustle & Flow.”

The film premiered at Sundance’s Eccles Theater on Monday afternoon, receiving two standing ovations, rave reviews—and the Fox Searchlight deal.

Indiewire’s Chris O’Falt ’99, who was also a film major, interviewed Jasper for “How Patti Cake$ Director Geremy Jasper Went from Indie Rocker to Breakout Filmmaker” and Jasper told him, “It’s probably about as autobiographical a story as I’m capable of telling.” O’Falt described Patti Cake$ as “one of the most-anticipated films hitting Sundance this year, ” which” has put Jasper on Hollywood’s director watchlists.”

In tracing Jasper’s biography, from boyhood in a New Jersey suburb, O’Falt notes the similarity to that of the fictional Patricia Dombrowski.

Jasper, who was an American Studies major, had returned to his parents’ home after college. After touring with his band, Fever, Jasper was introduced to Benh Zeitlin ’06—a Wesleyan film major—through a mutual friend. Zeitlin, who was headed to New Orleans to make his first short film, Glory at Sea, invited Jasper to star in the 2008 project. (Zeitlin’s first feature film, four years later, was Beasts of the Southern Wild in 2012, which won the Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic, at that year’s Sundance Film Festival—among numerous other awards.)

Hurricane Sandy in 2012 again brought Jasper back to parents’ house—this time to help with cleanup—and he began writing rap lyrics, along with the initial version of the Patti Cake$ screenplay. Accepted into the Sundance Writing Lab, with Quentin Tarantino as his first advisor, Jasper wrote nearly a dozen more drafts of his screenplay and was invited back to their Directors Lab.

Reflecting on the process, Jasper told O’Falt, “This has been the most fun, intoxicating and rewarding year of my life making this film….I’m so thankful for the winding path that got me here, but there’s something about it that feels so right about it.”

Neufeld ’79 Named St. Jude Physician-In-Chief, Clinical Director

Ellis Neufeld ’79, MD., PhD, joins St. Jude Children's Research Hospital to lead clinical efforts and patient care programs.

Ellis Neufeld ’79, M.D., PhD, joins St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to lead clinical efforts and patient care programs.

Ellis Neufeld, M.D., PhD., was appointed clinical director, physician-in-chief and executive vice president of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, an internationally renowned center that pioneers research for and offers treatment to children with catastrophic illnesses. He will begin his new position at the Memphis medical center in March.

Neufeld, a pediatric oncologist with a global profile, is a longtime Harvard Medical School faculty member, serving most recently as associate chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. He was also medical director at the Boston Hemophilia Center and held the Egan Family Foundation Chair in Transitional Medicine at Harvard Medical School as a professor of pediatrics.

In a press releaseSt. Jude President and Chief Executive Officer James Downing, M.D., said: “Dr. Neufeld’s leadership and experience will help steer St. Jude clinical operations as we expand our patient care programs, increase the number of patients treated and work to set the standard for pediatric cancer care delivery.”

A biology and chemistry major at Wesleyan who was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, Neufeld earned his doctoral degrees at Washington University in St. Louis. He completed specialty training in pediatrics and medical genetics at Boston Children’s Hospital and in pediatric hematology/oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Boston Children’s.

 

Bissell ’88 Balances Social Impact, Scale in Ethnic Goods Retailer Fabindia

William Bissell is on the cover of Forbes Magazine in India.

William Bissell ’88 is on the cover of Forbes India.

William Bissell ’88, managing director of Fabindia, a retail enterprise begun by Bissell’s father, John, in 1960, is featured on the cover of Forbes India on Jan. 20, a special issue on social impact. “A Fab New World: Not Only is Ethnic Goods Retailer Fabinidia Spreading its Wings, It Continues to Shape the Lives of Thousands of Rural Artisans,” the cover line reads.

The article, by Forbes India staff writer Anshul Dhamija, details the beginnings of the company, as an exporter of hand-loomed fabrics and furnishings with only one initial retail store, which opened in New Delhi in 1976. The second opened in the same city in 1994. William Bissell took the helm in 1999, after his father’s death in 1998. The younger Bissell had returned to India after graduating from Wesleyan, establishing an artisans’ cooperative, the Bhadrajun Artisans Trust.

Forbes India charts the astronomic—yet socially conscious—growth of the company since the turn of the century. William Bissell, with a vision to redesign the stores as “retail experience centers” (more than tripling the size, offering cafes, “children’s zones,” and on-site tailoring), plans to open 40 of these centers across the country in the next year-and-half, many as franchise opportunities—all the while maintaining the company’s commitment to local artisans and traditional crafts. Of particular interest is the high percentage of women who are employed by Fabindia in a country not noted for providing financial opportunities for females.

Nowell ’48, Lasker Prizewinner for Cancer Chromosome Finding, Dies at 88

Acclaimed cancer researcher Dr. Peter C. Nowell ’48 died Dec. 28, 2016. He was 88.

Acclaimed cancer researcher Dr. Peter Nowell ’48 died Dec. 28, 2016. He was 88 and was a trustee emeritus of Wesleyan.

Acclaimed cancer researcher Dr. Peter Nowell ’48, the Gaylord P. and Mary Louise Harnwell Emeritus Professor and former chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine, died Dec. 26, 2016, of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 88.

A biology and chemistry major at Wesleyan, Nowell earned his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine in 1952. He joined the faculty in 1956 as a member of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, later serving as chair. He was also the first director of the University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center, now known as the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1960, Nowell and colleague David Hungerford, then a graduate student working at the Fox Chase Cancer Center’s Institute for Cancer Research, “made a startling observation that the number 22 chromosome in the tumor cells of individuals suffering from chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) was abnormally small,” explains writer Bonnie Cook in the Philly.com obituary for Nowell. “The research broke new ground because it was the first consistent chromosome abnormality found in any kind of malignancy.” This came to be called “the Philadelphia chromosome.”

To put the enormity of the discovery in perspective, New York Times writer Denise Grady spoke to Mark Greene, director of the Immunobiology and Experimental Pathology Division at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, who told her that, back in this era, “The notions of cancer were so bizarre. It was a total conundrum. There was no consistent theory at that time that was even recognized.”

“The finding,” wrote Grady, “published in 1960, took cancer research in a new direction, leading to an extraordinary advance by other scientists three decades later: the drug Gleevec. For many patients, Gleevec transformed chronic myeloid leukemia from a fatal disease to a chronic one that can be kept under control for many years.”

In 2007, Nowell reflected on his work in a paper published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, “Discovery of the Philadelphia Chromosome: A personal perspective.” Nowell’s son, Michael, told Philly.com writer Cook, “He lived long enough to see it developed into treatment to allow individuals to lead longer lives.”

Nowell was named a Distinguished Alumnus of Wesleyan in 1968. Among the many other honors and awards Nowell received were the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award, the 1998 Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award (often called “the American Nobel Prize”), and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science. He served on Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees for 15 years and was elected trustee emeritus of the university.

Ainspan ’88 Receives Katzell Award for Work with Veterans, Research-Based Insight

Nathan Ainspan ’88, the editor of The Handbook of Psychosocial Interventions for Veterans and Service Members and When the Warrior Returns: Making the Transition at Home, received the Raymond A. Katzell Award in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

Nathan Ainspan ’88, the editor of The Handbook of Psychosocial Interventions for Veterans and Service Members and When the Warrior Returns: Making the Transition at Home, received the Raymond A. Katzell Award in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

Nathan Ainspan ’88, an industrial-organizational (I-O) psychologist with the Department of Defense’s Transition to Veterans Program Office, has received the Raymond A. Katzell Award in I-O Psychology from the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) for his work improving the lives of military veterans and for his commitment to promoting research-based insights designed to improve organizations and the lives of individuals.

Ainspan’s work has focused on influencing policy and educating service members, veterans, clinicians, and corporate leaders to improve the military-to-civilian transition process. The editor of When the Warrior Returns: Making the Transition at Home, The Handbook of Psychosocial Intervention for Service Members, and Returning Wars’ Wounded, Injured, and Ill: A Reference Handbook, he has just begun editing another handbook to guide private-sector human resource professionals on hiring and retaining military veterans in their companies.

An American Studies major at Wesleyan, he earned his doctorate from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He attributes his interest in I-O psychology to a course he took at Wesleyan and traces his work with veterans from there.

Christopher ’54 Remembered for Playing Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H

William Christopher’54 was Father Francis Mulcahy on the hit 1970s-1980s TV series “M*A*S*H.” (Credit 20th Century Fox, via Everett Collection.)

William Christopher’54 was Father Francis Mulcahy on the hit 1970s-1980s TV series “M*A*S*H.” (Credit 20th Century Fox, via Everett Collection.)

Actor William Christopher ’54, best known for his role as Father Francis Mulcahy in the popular television comedy/drama series M*A*S*H, died Dec. 31, 2016, at his home in Pasadena, Calif. Christopher’s Mulcahy was a gentle Roman Catholic chaplain assigned to a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War on the CBS series, which aired from 1972 through 1983.

A theater major at Wesleyan, Christopher began his acting career in New York, playing in Broadway and Off-Broadway productions before moving to Los Angeles, where he worked in television and appeared in a number of popular shows.

In a New York Times article, writer Liam Stack quotes Loretta Swit—M*A*S*H nurse Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan—who called Christopher “‘TV’s quintessential padre… It was the most perfect casting ever known. He was probably responsible for more people coming back to the church.’”

Schwartz ’94 Provides Medical Assistance in Ecuador with Team Rubicon

during the hike to get one of these villages.  Some of the villages in Ecuador are rather remote in Jungle locations.  There are no roads.  Getting to these locations means walking through the Jungle to get there.  Many of the locals do it on Donkey back (we sorely regretted not taking more time to find donkeys, by the way).  It had recently rained the day before, and many of the usual trails were damaged or unpassable due to landslides and washout.  Where the trails were passable, the mud was as high as our hips and almost impossible to walk through.  We found it was easier to just hike IN the river at certain points rather than stay on the trails. 

“Some of the villages in Ecuador are rather remote in jungle locations,” says Dan Schwartz ’94, at right. “There are no roads. Many of the locals do it on donkey back (we sorely regretted not taking more time to find donkeys, by the way). It had recently rained, and many of the usual trails were washed out or damaged by landslides. Where the trails were passable, the mud was as high as our hips.  We found it was easier to just hike in the river at certain points rather than stay on the trails.”

Last spring, Dan Schwartz ’94 returned from Ecuador where he worked as a physician with Team Rubicon as a part of a rapid-deployment disaster medical assistance team after a 7.8M earthquake hit the area on April 16, 2016. Team Rubicon provided rescue, medical and reconnaissance aid to remote villages that could not be reached by the local government or non-governmental organizations.

“One of our mottos is, ‘We go where the others can’t or won’t,” Schwartz says.

Team Rubicon, a group of military veterans and first responders, was formed in 2010. In its first mission, the team brought lifesaving equipment and supplies to Haiti, which had been devastated by an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0.

Schwartz joined Team Rubicon in 2015, only a year and a half before getting that phone call on April 21. “‘Can you go to Ecuador? Let us know—your flight leaves in eight hours.’” He was on board.

Saint John ’99 Named Women in Music Executive of the Year

Bozoma Saint John, photographed on Nov. 7, 2016 at Smashbox Studios in Culver City. (Photo by Ramona Rosales, appearing in BillBoard.)

Bozoma Saint John, photographed on Nov. 7, 2016 at Smashbox Studios in Culver City. (Photo by Ramona Rosales, appearing in Billboard.)

Bozoma Saint John ’99, head of global consumer marketing for iTunes and Apple Music, was named Women in Music executive of the year.

In an article for Billboard.com, writer Shirley Halperin interviewed Saint John, describing the recent months that catapulted the music executive into the industry’s spotlight and beyond. “A year ago, she was the streaming service’s secret weapon,” Halperin wrote. “Now, after a headline-making onstage appearance and a series of high-profile, star-studded ads, she’s the (glamorous) new face of Apple Music.”

Previously at Beats, Saint John had been only three months at that the job when Apple music acquired the company in 2014 and invited her to head up Apple’s music marketing division. In June of 2016 when she took the stage at Apple’s World Wide Developer’s Conference, Saint John brought a whole new perspective to the conference, reaching beyond the engineers in the auditorium with an approach to music marketing that grabbed attention.

Saint John explained to Halperin: “’The strategy was to talk to the people outside—those who are going to be watching in their office or on the phone, the people on social media,’ she says. ‘They need to feel like their best girlfriend just told them about this cool new thing. It needed to feel fun because that’s what the ­experience of music is.'”

Active in the Wesleyan community, Saint John was recently announced as a member of the selection committee for the first-ever Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity. She is a member of the President’s Council and served as keynote speaker at WesFest 2016, the April event for admitted students and their families.

Sutton ’86 Nominated for Grammy with The Sting Variations

The Sting Variations, the latest album by The Tierney Sutton [’86] Band was nominated for a 2017 Grammy in the Best Jazz Vocal Album category,

The Sting Variations, the latest album by The Tierney Sutton [’86] Band, was nominated for a 2017 Grammy in the Best Jazz Vocal Album category,

Tierney Sutton ’86 has been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album. The Sting Variations is a collection of Sting and Police songs reinterpreted by The Tierney Sutton Band and released on the BFM Jazz label. Sutton had previously explored the music of Bill Evans, Frank Sinatra, and most recently Joni Mitchell, with her 2013 album, After Blue.

In a September interview for Billboard, Sutton told writer Melinda Newman that the choice to explore Sting’s work was a natural one: “‘[Sting’s] autobiography is full of references to Miles and Coltrane and the Great American Song tradition.’”

The Sting Variations includes both well known songs by the artist, such as “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free,” and “Message in a Bottle,” as well as lesser known pieces among the 14 tracks. The first track, “Driven to Tears,” is highlighted on Sutton’s website as a video of the band performing this song.

Also this year, Tierney Sutton and her band’s co-leader and pianist Christian Jacob collaborated with Clint Eastwood on the soundtrack to the movie Sully, about the pilot, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (played by Tom Hanks), who, in 2009, became a national hero after successfully executing an emergency water landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River. Sutton described the experience with Eastwood as “really collaborative. …very much ‘Clint joins The Tierney Sutton Band.'” The singer and actor-director have even discussed further collaboration, Tierney told Billboard. The Sully soundtrack was released in October by Varese Sarabande.

Sutton was also recently announced as a member of the selection committee for the first-ever Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity.

McCarthy ’75 Produces ‘Star-Studded’ Documentary Harry Benson: Shoot First

Stephen McCarthy ’75 is producer of the new documentary Harry Benson: Shoot First, opening this weekend.

Stephen McCarthy ’75 is partner/executive producer of the new documentary Harry Benson: Shoot First, opening Dec. 9, 2016.

Stephen McCarthy ’75, managing director at KCG Capital Advisors, is also partner/executive producer with Matthew Miele’s Quixotic Endeavors (QE) film production company, featuring corporate/individual biopics, such as Crazy About Tiffany’s (starring Jessica Biel and Katie Couric, among others) and Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorfs (starring Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen, among others). Their third film Harry Benson: Shoot First, will be in theaters—including New York City—and video on demand, starting Dec. 9, 2016.

Harry Benson: Shoot First is a 90-minute documentary on one of the most accomplished photojournalists of the past five decades. Benson’s work has captured cultural icons in defining moments of history—including Robert Kennedy’s assassination—as well as in moments of playful ease—the Beatles in the midst of a pillow fight—with compassion, elegance, and intimacy. His photographs have graced the covers of TIME, LIFE, and People more than 100 times, notes film critic Isaac Guzman in the Nov. 26, 2016, issue of TIME. In Guzman’s review, titled “A Star-Studded Tribute to a Lovable Lensman,” he warns viewers, “Don’t blink…Every flutter of an eyelid risks blocking out a wonder of the photographic world: Michael Jackson frolicking like the Pied Piper at Neverland Ranch with a retinue of children; Bill and Hillary Clinton on the precipice of a kiss on a hammock; Bobby Fisher being nuzzled by a wild Icelandic horse.”

McCarthy’s involvement in QE (“a wonderful sidelight at this stage of my career”) began almost six years ago when director Matthew Miele, one of the QE founders, approached him through a mutual friend about the Bergdorf project. “I immediately got in touch with my dear friend/late classmate Seth Gelbum ’75, a prominent Broadway lawyer from Loeb and Loeb and worked with his partners on the first two film projects.” In addition, after a Homecoming visit to campus, McCarthy brought Miele to meet Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies Jeanine Basinger, “who was been interested in and supportive of their ventures,” he says.

“To date, I’m enjoying this industry from the business side, but given the breadth and depth of ‘the Wesleyan mafia’ in Hollywood, you never know whom you’ll meet to potentially collaborate on upcoming projects (like our Norman Rockwell film in the works)!” As for his thoughts on Harry Benson: Shoot First: “To my mind, the film is the equivalent of walking through a fantastic gallery and instead of just looking at the photos, you are having the entire experience curated by someone who had been there at the exact historical moment each photo was taken—it’s riveting.”

Photographs by National Geographic Photographer Yamashita ’71 on Exhibit in Beijing

Acclaimed photographer Michael Yamashita ’71 captures the Meili Snow Moutains in all of their breathtaking grandeur. The photograph appears in the Return to Tea-Horse Road exhibition in Beijing.

Acclaimed photographer Michael Yamashita ’71 captures the Meili Snow Mountains in all of their breathtaking grandeur. The photograph appears in the Return to Tea-Horse Road exhibition in Beijing.

Return to the Tea-Horse Road, an exhibition by acclaimed National Geographic Magazine photographer Michael Yamashita ’71, will be featured in the Sony U Space in Beijing, from Dec. 6, 2016, to Jan. 8, 2017.

An exhibition by acclaimed photographer Michael Yamashita ’71 will be held in Beijing, starting Friday, Dec. 9, 2016.

An exhibition by Michael Yamashita ’71 will be held in Beijing, starting Dec. 6, 2016, and running through Jan. 8, 2017.

Drawn from a series of photographs created for a 2010 National Geographic article, “Tea Horse Road,” Yamashita traces the legendary trail of grand vistas, where both Chinese tea and Tibetan horses were traded. His photographs offer cultural highlights rendered with intimacy—equestrian festivals revealing pageantry and brightly-colored flags, travelers sipping tea by yak-butter candlelight, men squatting to gather worms for herbal healers—as well vast landscapes of distant mountains traced with switchback trails and breathtaking majesty.

The exhibition highlights and features large-scale prints of his work, some two-by-three meters in size. Multiple Sony 4K television monitors will play a 200-picture slide show.

Additionally, Yamashita will be on hand for portions of each day this upcoming weekend (Dec. 9–11, 2016). He’ll be at a reception on Friday, Dec. 9, signing books from 1 to 6 p.m., and on Saturday afternoon he will offer a slide show, as well as attending the show on Sunday. Admission is free, Yamashita notes and adds, “I hope to see many Wesleyan alumni.”

The gallery is located at Jiuxianqiao Road No. 2, 798 Art Zone, Taoci 3rd Street E05-8, Chaoyang, Beijing, China.