Cynthia Rockwell

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

Ravenal ’81 President of Art Museum Association

John Ravenal '81

John Ravenal '81

John Ravenal ’81 is now president of his professional organization: the Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC).

The Sydney and France Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Ravenal has become the fourth president of AAMC since the organization was founded in 2001.

Ravenal joined the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in 1998, and his exhibitions have included Vanitas: Meditations on Life and Death in Contemporary Art; Outer & Inner Space, a history of video art; and Artificial Light, displayed at VCUarts Anderson Gallery and the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami.

In addition, he has recently completed a book on modern and contemporary art at VMFA and is planning a complete redesign of all modern and contemporary galleries, as well as the addition of a sculpture garden, to open this May.

An art history major at Wesleyan, Ravenal earned his M.A. and M.Phil in art history from Columbia University. Prior to his affiliation with the VMFA, Ravenal worked at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where he was associate curator of 20th-century art.

“Our profession is now more important than ever as we maintain the artistic vision of the museums we serve and engage ever broadening audiences,” he says in an AAMC press release.

To learn more about the Association of Art Museum Curators, see

Fins ’82 Elected President of Bioethics Society

Joe Fins '82

Joe Fins '82

Dr. Joseph J. Fins ’82 has been elected president of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities. His election to this two-year term, which begins in 2011, recognizes his major contributions to bioethics, as well as his broad expertise in the field.

Fins is chief of the Division of Medical Ethics and a faculty member at Weill Cornell Medical College. He is also director of medical ethics at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and chairs its ethics committee.

“I am honored to have been elected, and I look forward to encouraging the contributions of my esteemed colleagues in bioethics and the medical humanities as we work together to improve patient care, enrich medical education and inform health policy,” he says.

Fins is an authority on ethical and policy issues in brain injury and disorders of consciousness, palliative care, research ethics in neurology and psychiatry, medical education and methods of ethics case consultation. He is a co-author of the 2007 Nature paper describing the first use of deep brain stimulation in the minimally conscious state. His most recent book is A Palliative Ethic of Care: Clinical Wisdom at Life’s End (Jones and Bartlett, 2006).

A College of Letters major at Wesleyan, he received his medical degree from Cornell University Medical College, now known as Weill Cornell Medical College, in 1986. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine.

Fins served on the Wesleyan Board of Trustees and chairs the Wesleyan Alumni Association.

Ballon ’01 Serves as California Legislature Advisor

Beginning this month, Daniel R. Ballon ’01 will serve as a California legislature advisor,  one of 10 fellows taking part in a first-of-its kind statewide program designed to provide legislators with access to experts in science and technology to help them evaluate the proposals before them.

Ballon, a Phi Beta Kappa Wesleyan graduate with a double major in molecular biology and biochemistry and Russian language and literature, earned his Ph.D in molecular and cell biology from the University of California, Berkeley. He was previously a senior policy fellow in technology studies at the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. As a fellow, he will work the Assembly Minority Leader/Republican Caucus and serve a one-year term.

The program is administered through the California Council on Science and Technology in conjunction with universities and several foundations and operates at no cost to the taxpayers.

More information is in a recent edition of The Mercury-News and the Pacific Research Institute web site.

Little ’81 Speaks on Digital Media in Recent Mediabistro Article

Caroline Little ’81, the North American CEO for the U.K.-based Guardian News and Media, was the subject of the most recent, “So What Do You Do” Q-and-A for Previously CEO at The Washington, where she led the web sites for the Post, as well as for Newsweek, Slate, and The Root, Little had begun her career as a lawyer. She says that she made the jump in 1997 to digital media because, “when something’s new, there’s a lot of opportunities” and her background had given her an overview of the business.

Asked about the Guardian’s goals in the U.S., its appeal, and its potential sources of revenue—as well as details on her departure from the— Little is frank and upbeat. What drew her to the Guardian, she says, is that she “found their Web presence to be really innovative.” Noting that approximately a third of the site’s unique new visitors are from this country, Little says, “What I’m trying to do is help grow that audience and—I hate the word but—monetize that audience, because we’ve never had a direct sales force here.”

Noting that the greatest source of revenue for print media has always been advertising, she says that those in digital media are continuing to examine different financial models.

“Paying for content is just one revenue stream. I don’t think it’s going to be the silver bullet.” Instead, she considers the news media’s “assets… your writers, your voice and your sales team.”

Given those, “What can you do with a ‘feet on the street’ sales team? Is there something else they can sell, for example?” She also notes that other publishing companies have found special events to be revenue sources.

“I think it [digital media] has a bright future, but we have some work to do,” she says.

For an earlier article on Little’s career, go to Wesleyan magazine archives, spring ’02, for “Raising Sites:” The Growth of Online News” by William L. Holder ’75:

Pollitt ’43 Receives State Award

Daniel Pollitt ’43, University of North Carolina Kenan Professor Emeritus and longtime civil-liberties and civil-rights advocate, was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, one of the state’s highest honors, last summer.

Nominated for the award by state Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr., whose father, Floyd McKissick Sr., worked with Pollitt on a number of civil-rights issues, Pollitt was presented with the award by Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, with whom he was wed last April.

Bestowed for a lifetime of “integrity, learning and zeal,” the award recognizes his activism and commitment to the causes of social justice. In the 1950s, he served as defense council in a number of historic civil-liberty trials, including those of Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller before the House Un-American Activities Committee, helped lead a successful protest to integrate a downtown Chapel Hill theater in the 1960s, and continues to be active in his opposition to the death penalty.

An article in the Carrboro Citizen, quotes him proclaiming his motto: “Constant skepticism is the hallmark of a democratic society.”

For further information, see

Melillo ’65 Says Biofuels Emit More Co2 Than Gasoline

Jerry Melillo ’65, a senior scientist at the U.S. Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., says in a study published in Science that the new generation of biofuels will actually emit more carbon dioxide, averaged over the first three decades of this century, than gasoline—although the fuels were meant to be a low-carbon alternative.

A Reuters report on the study noted that governments and private industry are spending billions of dollars on research into making fuels from wood and grass in the hopes of cutting carbon emissions while not competing with food, as corn-based biofuels do.

Melillo and his team found, however, that these advanced “cellulosic” biofuels will actually lead to higher carbon emissions. They contend that the land required to plant poplar trees and tropical grasses would displace farmland and therefore lead to more deforestation to create new crop farmland. Deforestation is a significant source of carbon emissions. Additionally, these biofuel crops require nitrogen fertilizer, which itself produces two greenhouse gasses.

Melillo notes that the paper is not meant to negate the place for cellulosic biofuels.

“It is not an obvious and easy win without thinking very carefully about the problem,” Melillo told Reuters. “We have to think very carefully about both short and long-term consequences.”

Shumlin ’79 to be Honored by Civil Rights Group

Peter Shumlin ’79

Peter Shumlin ’79

Vermont State Senator Peter Shumlin ’79 will be honored at the 8th Annual Human Rights Campaign New England Dinner, to be held in Boston on Nov. 14. HRC New England, the largest GLBT civil rights advocacy group in the country, is this year presenting the marriage equality award to “those who were heroes in our fight for equality.”

As President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Shumlin is considered instrumental on the April 15, 2009 Vermont legislature’s vote to override the governor’s veto and pass same sex marriage into law for the state.

Shumlin spoke about his reasons to support the bill last March on Vermont Public Radio. He called the passage “one of the proudest moments of my life” on the UK’s Guardian web site, where he traces his involvement in this historic legislation back to 2000.

“I owe a lot of my commitment to helping promote social justice to my Wesleyan experience,” he says.

It is expected that on Nov. 16, he will announce his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Vermont Governor.

Report by Harrison MA ’08 Says Water Found on Mars

Tanya Harrison MA ’08, who studied with Martha Gilmore, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, and is now at Malin Space Science Systems in California, is first author on a report that says her team found evidence of liquid water flowing on the surface of Mars in multiple locations as recently as this year.

An abstract of the report, titled “Present-Day Activity, Monitoring and Documentation of Gullies With the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Context Camera,” was published in the Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 41, No. 7, p. 267. The findings were reported in a speech at the Division of Planetary Sciences meeting on Oct. 8, and the work also was presented at the 2009 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting Oct. 19-21.

According to the report, the group found evidence of six active gully flows that formed since 2001. Of the six new flows, three have formation dates constrained to within a single Mars year; these three formed during autumn to early spring, demonstrating that summer warming is not participating in creating the liquid involved in their formation.

“These efforts are focused on understanding how the gullies formed, how they have been degraded, and where they are active today,” the report says.

Cothran ’01 Discovers Rare 1870s Photography Book

A recent article in the Tennessean highlighted a notable discovery at Nashville’s Parthenon Museum: a rare and complete copy of William J. Stillman’s 1870 photographic book, The Acropolis of Athens, Illustrated Picturesquely and Architecturally in Photography.

Museum assistant curator Brenna Cothran '01 at the Parthenon — Nashville's full-scale replica of the Athenian temple — shows a copy of William J. Stillman's photographic works. (Photo by Jae S. Lee / The Tennessean)

Museum assistant curator Brenna Cothran '01 at the Parthenon — Nashville's full-scale replica of the Athenian temple — shows a copy of William J. Stillman's photographic works. (Photo by Jae S. Lee / The Tennessean)

Registrar and Assistant Curator Brenna Cothran ’01 came across it as part of an ongoing four-year-old project of inventorying every item in storage as other duties permitted. She told Tennessean journalist Janell Ross that when she saw the book, which had been stashed away in a storage room drawer, “The hair on my arms stood up. It was kind of this adrenaline rush.”

Stillman, an American painter, photographer, journalist, and diplomat had published this work at a time when photography was, one might say, in its adolescence, and tourism had just begun to flourish. Nineteenth- and early early-2oth century admirers of Stillman’s work often removed the pages of the album to frame and hang on their walls. Thus, finding a complete copy of his book is highly unusual and the museum set about raising funds to cover the cost of conserving and restoring it.

Now, the back story. The reason Cothran immediately knew this was an exceptional find: her Wesleyan education—specifically classes with Professor Andy Szegedy-Maszak, who admits, “I guess I talked a bit about William James Stillman, about whom I’ve written a fair amount.” Stillman was a natural subject for the Classical Studies professor who, with his wife, writer Elizabeth Bobrick, has assembled a noteworthy collection of photographs, a number of which have recently been on exhibit at the Getty Museum and were exhibited in 1998 at Wesleyan’s Davison Art Center.

Additionally, Cothran’s find has also served to reconnect the former student with Szegedy-Maszak her former professor. “She wrote me immediately,” he says, “and we’ve been back in touch ever since.” Recently she notified him that the Tennessean article sparked the interest of a donor who has agreed to underwrite the entire cost of restoring the album. “The whole thing is pretty cool,” Szegedy-Maszak says.

Cothran agrees: “When I took art history, Latin literature, and other humanities classes at Wesleyan, I took them for the love of learning. At the time, I never imagined that just a few years later, I would be lucky enough to have a job that allowed me to put what I learned to use. This experience has highlighted for me the value of the education I got at Wesleyan.”