Editorial Staff

2020 Commencement Ceremony, Class Reunions Postponed

commencement

Wesleyan’s 188th Commencement Ceremony will be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 announced that Wesleyan will delay its 188th Commencement Ceremony, originally scheduled for May 24, 2020. Wesleyan’s reunion gatherings, typically held during the same weekend, will be celebrated in alternate formats.

“Although I’d been delaying this decision in hopes that we might still have an opportunity to gather together in late May, I’m writing now to let you know that we will have to find another time and place to celebrate the 2020 graduation. There is so much uncertainty about what the next few months will hold, and we don’t think it is responsible to plan to bring a large group together on Andrus Field in May,” Roth wrote in an all-campus email on April 2.

“I know this will be greatly disappointing for many, particularly for graduate students, seniors and their families, who were looking forward to the Commencement ceremony this spring. I do expect the Board of Trustees to vote (remotely) to award degrees at its May meeting. For official purposes, the University will graduate all those who qualify, and we will find a way to mark that event in some festive (if still virtual) way at that time. We will be writing again soon with our plans in that regard. Please know that we have every intention to bring people together in-person at some point in the future to celebrate this year’s graduates. We are reaching out to seniors to ask for their input in designing meaningful alternatives. Similarly, our colleagues in Advancement will work with the reunion committees to seek input regarding reunion celebrations. When this pandemic recedes, there will be plenty to celebrate together. Please stay safe, and take care of one another. I look forward to celebrating these important milestones with you in the future.”

Like President Roth, Frantz Williams ’99, vice president for advancement, hoped that the trajectory of the pandemic might be such that reunions could happen. But under current conditions, the University decided that gathering a large group of alumni, guests, students, faculty and staff in May would pose too large a risk to the health and safety of the community and beyond.

“We are keenly aware that many classes have been actively preparing for and anticipating their reunions and can assure you that we are working on alternate plans for in-person celebrations at a later date,” Williams wrote. “In the meantime, some classes have already been taking advantage of technology to gather remotely, and this spring Wesleyan will encourage and support more of these gatherings. In addition, we will find other new ways to come together at a time when we are physically separated but eager for connection.”

Wesleyan staff are currently reviewing a variety of options for the postponed ceremonies, and actively seeking input from both students and alumni on their preferences and recommendations for both. The University expects to finalize these plans in the coming weeks and in accordance with official local, state, federal and health officials’ guidance about the pandemic’s trajectory, and will be in touch with the Wesleyan community as soon as possible with updates.

NESCAC Announces Winter All-Academic, All-Sportsmanship Honorees

Andrew Schwartz

Andrew Schwartz ’20, of the men’s swimming and diving team, was named to the NESCAC Winter All-Sportsmanship Team. (Photos by Steve McLaughlin)

Coleen Castro,

Women’s hockey player Coleen Castro ’20 was named to the NESCAC Winter All-Academic Team.

Wesleyan’s winter athletic teams put a total of 80 student-athletes on the 2019–20 New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Winter All-Academic Team, while eight earned a spot on the 2019–20 NESCAC All-Sportsmanship Team.

In order to earn a spot on the All-Academic Team, a student-athlete must have reached sophomore academic standing and be a varsity letter winner with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.50 or equivalent on a 4.0 scale. Transfer students are eligible as long as they have completed at least one year of study at the institution.

Wesleyan ranked seventh out of 11 schools with its 80 honorees.

Wesleyan Transitions to Online Classes for the Safety of the Campus Community


For the safety of the campus community, amid the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting thousands of known cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) nationwide, Wesleyan is transitioning all classes to distance-learning models for the remainder of the spring semester.

“As hard as we work to make the on-campus Wesleyan experience the best it can be, we must apply that same diligence and care to protecting our community’s well-being in light of this growing threat,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 in a campuswide email.

While there are no confirmed cases at Wesleyan, there are five confirmed cases in the State of Connecticut, and Governor Ned Lamont declared a public health emergency.

After consulting with a variety of public health experts and other higher education institutions around the country, Wesleyan announced the following preventive measures:

  • In-person classes are suspended for the remainder of the spring semester; all courses will transition to distance learning models.
  • Effective immediately, all University-sponsored, connected, or funded domestic and international travel for students, faculty, and staff is prohibited. The University also strongly discourages all personal domestic and international travel by students, faculty, and staff, except for the purposes of students returning home.

Hockey Wins First-Ever NESCAC Championship

hockeyOn March 8, the men’s hockey team celebrated its first-ever NESCAC Championship with a 7-2 victory over Trinity College. Although the win secured the league’s automatic bid into the 2020 NCAA Tournament, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors decided to cancel all remaining winter championships as well as the spring sports season across all divisions (I, II, and III). Wesleyan had several winter sports scheduled to compete in their respective NCAA Championships, including men’s hockey, which are affected by this news.

The Cardinals scored seven goals in just over 30 minutes of action, erasing an early deficit to thunder past No. 8 Trinity at Lansing Chapman Rink on the campus of Williams College.

hockeyThe victory was a resounding one as the fifth-seeded Cardinals scored four unanswered goals in a span of just 10:25 between the second and third periods to take a commanding 4–1 lead that proved enough in the end. Six different goal scorers lit the lamp for Wesleyan while Walker Harris ’20 finished with four points (one goal, three assists) to tie the NESCAC Championship game record for the highest point total by a single skater. One night removed from making 40 saves in the Cardinals’ semifinal win over the Ephs, Tim Sestak ’20 was tremendous once again, posting 38 saves on 40 shots-on-goal from Trinity as he continues to deliver in the postseason for Wesleyan throughout his career.

Wesleyan Vows to Divest from Fossil Fuel Investments by the End of the Decade

At its most recent meeting on Feb. 29, the Wesleyan Board of Trustees discussed how to better align endowment investment practices with the University’s broad sustainability efforts.

In a recent campus-wide email, President Michael Roth ’78 and Board of Trustees Chair Donna Morea ’76, P’06 shared the following message:

Given the climate emergency, the investment and ecological risks associated with fossil fuels and the Investment Committee’s own environmental, social and governance guidelines, there was broad agreement among trustees not to make new fossil fuel investments and to wind down current investments in this sector as quickly as possible while minimizing the negative impact to the value of the endowment. The University will be divested from direct fossil fuel investments by the end of the decade.

Wesleyan has already made a climate commitment aiming at carbon neutrality and will now be accelerating work in this direction. This weekend, the Board authorized the first phase of converting our energy infrastructure from steam to hot water. When complete, this project will reduce Wesleyan’s carbon footprint by thousands of metric tons per year.

Students Discuss Recent Engage 2020 Experiences

Over winter break, 16 students traveled to a variety of locations around the United States to support voter registration, participate in political campaigns, and work with advocacy groups as part of the Wesleyan Engage 2020 (E2020) initiative. E2020 is a comprehensive university effort to support student learning via civic engagement and liberal arts education.

On Feb. 19, students gathered in Allbritton Hall to share their reflections on their winter session E2020 experiences. Some sought to educate young people about the electoral process and mobilize them to vote; others worked on issues such as immigration, criminal justice reform, housing justice, and reproductive rights.

Students wishing to volunteer in the public sphere over academic breaks may apply to the E2020 Fund for support for associated transportation and living expenses. Students awarded support, subsequently enroll in CSPL 494—a quarter-credit course that involves orientation, structured reflection, and a final paper.

Photos and information on the students’ winter break E2020 experiences are below. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Olivia Backal-Balik

Olivia Backal-Balik ’20 worked for Philadelphia Immigration and Citizenship Coalition (PICC) over winter break. PICC has an all-volunteer-run program that conducts voter registration at naturalization ceremonies in Philadelphia. “It’s an exciting day because there are a lot of people with their families, or older people who are finally naturalized after waiting for 25 years,” she said. “I’ve worked a lot on the other end of immigration policy, supporting people who are at risk of detention, so to be on the other end and to see people finally granted asylum is exciting. I didn’t realize how many people get naturalized weekly, and they came from so many different countries, so it was really amazing. … What I liked is that I had it in my head that the older generation is not that involved in activism or grassroots organizing, but that group was really run by older retirees who come to register people, so it was cool for me to see what they were doing.”

Wesleyan Student Jewell-Tyrcha ’22 Dies in Fatal Car Accident

Daniel "Danni" Jewell-Tyrcha

Daniel “Dani” Jewell-Tyrcha was a member of the Class of 2022. Jewell-Tyrcha died on Jan. 26 following a motor vehicle accident in Middletown. (Photo courtesy of wayup.com)

Daniel “Dani” Jewell-Tyrcha ’22 of Scituate, Mass., succumbed to injuries following a motor vehicle accident that occurred in Middletown on Jan. 25. Jewell-Tyrcha was 20 years old.

They were double majoring in American studies and African American studies.

In an all-campus email on Jan. 26, Wesleyan President Michael Roth and Vice President for Student Affairs Mike Whaley wrote: “It is with deep sadness that we write to inform you of the death of Wesleyan student Daniel Jewell-Tyrcha ’22. … We offer our condolences to Dani’s family, friends, and loved ones.”

According to Jewell-Tyrcha’s wayup profile, Jewell-Tyrcha’s interests were “creating progress and social change, traveling the world and learning about new cultures, helping end human rights abuses, and writing.”

Students struggling with this tragic event can contact the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), or a class dean. Faculty and staff who need support may contact the Employee Assistance Program at 800-854-1446.

“Wesleyan is a caring community. We are all here to help one another,” Roth wrote.

Expressions of condolence may be sent to Mike Whaley, who will collect and forward them to Jewell-Tyrcha’s family.

Tezén ’97 Appointed President, CEO of A Better Chance

Francisco Tezén

Francisco Tezén ’97 (Photo courtesy of A Better Chance)

On Feb. 1, Francisco Tezén II ’97 became the next president and chief executive officer of A Better Chance, a national nonprofit that places talented young people of color into the leadership pipeline through increased access to academically rigorous secondary schools.

Tezén, a first-generation Peruvian-American, will lead the nonprofit when racial equity, educational opportunity, diversity, access and inclusion are at the forefront of our nation’s collective conscience. He was formerly the chief development officer at the Food Bank For New York City.

“My parents, an immigrant father and a black mother from rural North Carolina, stressed the importance of education to climb out of poverty and realize our American dream,” Tezén said. “As an alumnus of a college preparatory program, I have experienced firsthand the transformative effect of efforts that open pathways of opportunity for people like me. I am honored to lead A Better Chance in writing the next chapter in its venerable legacy.”

Wesleyan Connection Celebrates 15 Years of News Distribution

Wesleyan Connection

The Wesleyan Connection newsletter is celebrating its 15th anniversary in January 2020.

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):

They are:
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.

obama

Senator Barack Obama delivered the Commencement Address in May 2008.

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.

black lives matter

On Dec. 8, approximately 1,000 students, faculty and staff participated in a Black Lives Matter March on campus and in downtown Middletown.

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.

2020 JCCP Student Innovation Fund Grantees Announced

This month, the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships announced the grantees of the JCCP Student Innovation Fund.

Students from a range of majors and backgrounds—all with shared interests in utilizing resources in innovative ways to positively impact the greater Middletown community—applied to this fund. The Student Innovation Fund provides up to $750 for spring or summer projects that prioritize:

  • Collaboration between student groups, faculty/staff, and/or community partners;
  • Investigation of the impact of our civic engagement efforts; and
  • Sharing of ideas and learnings in civic engagement on campus and beyond.

All student efforts are representative of the JCCP’s continued commitment to co-create mutually respectful partnerships in pursuit of a just, equitable, and sustainable future for communities beyond the campus—nearby and around the world.

This year’s Innovation Fund grantees are:

farmingMiddletown Urban Farming Symposium
by Syed Hussain ’21

The 2019 Middletown Urban Farming Symposium is a bold project that looks to build on the current local and national momentum around food justice. This symposium seeks to bring together disconnected but passionate forces in the local food justice movement: farmers (and prospective farmers/gardeners), municipal government officials, environmental and social justice activists, and Wesleyan students.

Musical Mentoring
by Mariel Baitenmann-Middlebrook ’20

A partnership between Oddfellows Playhouse and Cardinal Kids, this program provides individual music mentoring from a Wesleyan University student. These lessons are tailored to fit the individual needs of different learners, and the mentors work closely with their students to develop their musical skill and interest.

Pearl Creates MILTON, a Performance, Community Engagement Experience

miltonFrom Wisconsin to Massachusetts, Assistant Professor of Theater Katie Pearl has visited five small American towns named Milton and developed a series of performances, each focused on (and performed in) a particular Milton.

Since 2012, Pearl and Lisa D’Amour—known collectively as PearlDamour—have led the performance and community engagement experiment.

In November 2019, PearlDamour released MILTON, a book that includes the full text of PearlDamour’s North Carolina performance, along with photos and excerpts from performances in Oregon and Massachusetts, and essay reflections on the process and practice of community-based art-making.

For more than 20 years, Obie-Award winning PearlDamour has pushed the boundaries of theatrical experience both inside and outside traditional theater spaces. PearlDamour’s work also includes the 8-hour performance installation How to Build a Forestinspired by Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill and devised for traditional theatre stages; and Lost in the Meadow, created for a 40-acre hillside at Longwood Botanical Gardens outside Philadelphia, exploring the short-sightedness of humans. They were honored with the Lee Reynolds Award in 2011 for How to Build a Forest, and with an Obie Award in 2003 for Nita and Zita.

This spring, Pearl is teaching the THEA 381 course Directing II.

Professor of English, Emeritus Coley Dies at the Age of 96

William B. Coley, Professor of English, Emeritus, passed away on Jan. 7, at the age of 96.

Coley served in the US Army from 1942 through 1946, and then received his BA, MA, and PhD from Yale University. Arriving at Wesleyan in 1952, he taught English here for almost 40 years until he retired in 1991. Coley was a lifelong scholar, awarded fellowships by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies. He published numerous books and articles, including Hogarth on High Life (with A.S. Wensinger, Wesleyan University Press, 1970), and was the guiding force behind and the executive editor of the monumental edition of novelist Henry Fielding’s work published by Oxford University Press and Wesleyan University Press over several decades.

“Bill was a challenging, scrupulous instructor of small groups and thesis writers, and an invaluable developer of curriculum for the literary studies emergent at that time,” said colleague Richard Ohmann, Benjamin Waite Professor of the English Language, Emeritus. “He also worked to make Wesleyan a university in more than name. In particular, he was among the insurgents of the Junior Faculty Organization who drove the transformation of Wesleyan from a white, male, ‘Greek’-dominated campus into the more cosmopolitan and politically committed institution it became.”

Coley is survived by his wife, Emmy Coley; two daughters, Phyllis Coley and Katherine Coley; three stepdaughters, Soni Clubb, Mariann Clubb, and Elizabeth Clubb; his brother, Bradley Lancaster Coley; and nine grandnieces and grandnephews. The family will hold a celebration in the spring. (Please contact Sheryl Culotta for details if you are interested in attending.) Memorial contributions may be made to the Cancer Research Institute, 29 Broadway, NY 10006; or to the Sharon Audubon Society, 325 Cornwall Bridge Road, Sharon, CT 06069.