Editorial Staff

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.

Hawkins Remembered for Teaching English at Wesleyan for 20 Years

Sherman Hawkins, professor of English, emeritus, died on Dec. 3 at the age of 90.

Sherman received BA degrees from both Harvard University and the University of Oxford and his PhD from Princeton University. He served in the US military at the conclusion of the Korean War. Arriving at Wesleyan in 1971 after teaching at Princeton, Bryn Mawr, and University of Rochester, he taught English here for 20 years until he retired in 1991. For decades, his essay on college as a green world experience was given to every freshman entering Wesleyan.

“Sherman was an unforgettable colleague and presence at Wesleyan,” said Professor of English and Letters Kach Tölölyan. “As a teacher, he combined a dramatic style that captivated students and a sense of responsibility that made him scrupulous in every aspect of teaching. I have never forgotten our conversations concerning Shakespeare.”

Theater’s Francisco Directed International Productions, Interdisciplinary Workshops

William “Bill” Francisco, professor of theater, emeritus, died on Friday, Nov. 22,  at the age of 86.

Francisco received his BA from Amherst College in 1955, and his MFA in directing from the Yale School of Drama in 1958. He joined the Wesleyan faculty as an artist-in-residence in 1974 and as an associate professor in 1975. He taught theater here for 28 years until he retired in 2002.

Francisco was an active director throughout his career, working in theater, opera, television, and film. He directed productions off-Broadway, at Hartford Stage, Long Wharf Theatre, San Francisco Opera, and many other prominent theaters across the U.S. and Canada. At Wesleyan, in addition to directing productions, he taught courses in voice, acting, and directing. He also taught a number of interdisciplinary workshops, including a screenwriting workshop with Kit Reed.

His colleague, Gay Smith, professor of theater, emerita, said: “What a gifted director! His productions of Waiting for GodotWho’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf, and Évita are emblazoned in my memory, as I’m sure they are in the memories of his students, his most renowned and grateful for Bill’s tutoring being Lin-Manuel Miranda.”

Jack Carr, professor of theater, emeritus, said: “When I think back on my time with Bill, I immediately recall how he invested himself totally, intellectually and emotionally, in every production he directed and every student he mentored… He was the most inventive, innovative and inspiring director with whom I have ever collaborated. Bill also was a most supportive and loyal colleague/friend. I miss him every day.”

Francisco is survived by his nephew, Aaron Francisco and Aaron’s wife, Jennifer.

Fontanella Ebstein Reflects on 30 Years at Wesleyan

(By Ann Bertini)

Gemma Fontanella Ebstein is leaving her role as Wesleyan’s Associate Vice President for Advancement at the end of December, following a 30-year career at the University.

During her tenure, Fontanella Ebstein has helped the Office of Advancement expand and foster lifelong alumni and parent loyalty and support for Wesleyan. An important part of this work has come through facilitating local and global events, and overseeing the merging of Reunion and Commencement weekends (2000) and Homecoming with Family Weekend (1995). Fontanella Ebstein also led University Communications and the Gordon Career Center through leadership transitions, and has helped cultivate a culture of Wesleyan pride among her teams and anywhere her work has taken her.

“My entire time at Wesleyan has been spent under Gemma’s leadership and tutelage,” said Director of Special Events Deana Hutson, whom Fontanella Ebstein hired 21 years ago to help centralize Reunion and Commencement. “I have learned so much from her—from her innate ability to problem-solve through collaboration to the importance of empowering her team in a way that is genuine, nurturing, and respectful. I am so appreciative of how much she has contributed to my experience at Wesleyan and for the friendship that resulted from this journey.”