Laurie Kenney

$1 Million Cardinal Challenge Reaches Its Goal

In June, the Cardinal community joined together to gain an additional $1 million for financial aid for students during Wesleyan’s $1 Million Cardinal Challenge.

This year’s Cardinal Challenge was funded through the generosity of the members of Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees, who pledged $500 for financial aid for every gift of any amount to any Wesleyan cause received during the month of June, for a total of up to $1 million. The challenge inspired 2,300 gifts from alumni, parents and friends—securing the additional $1 million for financial aid and bringing a $64 million fundraising year to a successful close.

Connecticut Walk Book, Published by Wesleyan U. Press, Blazes the Trail to Outdoor Fun

Just in time for summer, Wesleyan University Press has published the newest edition of the ultimate guide to Connecticut’s extensive public trails system, the Connecticut Walk Book: The Complete Guide to Connecticut’s Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail, by the Connecticut Forest & Park Association (CFPA), the primary not-for-profit organization that maintains these recreational trails in concert with partners, landowners, volunteers and countless supporters.

The comprehensive guide features detailed descriptions and easy-to-follow full-color maps for more than 60 trails (and many additional side trails and connectors) included in the over 825 miles of blue-blazed trails maintained by the CFPA statewide—from quick jaunts to long journeys, from hikes winding through state parks and forests to those meandering across private land.

“We hope folks will be inspired and become stewards of the great green places these trails intersect,” says Clare Cain, trails stewardship director at CFPA. “Whether a walker is looking for a loop hike, a family ramble, a summit destination or a beautiful waterfall, these trails offer access to the goodness of the great outdoors.”

“The blue trails are a special part of Connecticut and part of what makes Connecticut special. We are honored to be part of the new edition of this book,” said Suzanna Tamminen, director and editor-in-chief at Wesleyan University Press. “Now that the good weather is here, people are ready to get outside, and this book is a perfect way to start exploring the natural beauty right in our own backyards.”

The Connecticut Walk Book is available at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore (413 Main Street in Middletown), which offers a 10 percent discount on all books to Wesleyan faculty and staff (Wesleyan ID required). It is also available online.

Wesleyan Musicians “Come Together” in All-Star Beatles Tribute Band for Third Annual Benefit Concert

An 18-piece all-star band, including five members of the Wesleyan community, will perform the Beatles’ Abbey Road album in its entirety during a benefit concert at Middlesex Community College (MCC) on Saturday, June 24, at 6 p.m. Pictured (l to r): Nancy Brown, Andy Chatfield, Sarah McNamara, Shona Kerr and Peter Standaart.

An 18-piece all-star band, including five members of the Wesleyan community, will perform the Beatles’ Abbey Road album in its entirety during a benefit concert at Middlesex Community College (MCC) on Saturday, June 24, at 6 p.m. The concert is the third annual event held in memory of former Wesleyan Center for the Arts (CFA) intern Stephanie Nelson, of Middletown, who passed away in early 2015 at the age of 25.

The first two benefit concerts, held in 2015 and 2016, raised more than $6,400 to establish and fund the Stephanie Nelson Scholarship at MCC, Nelson’s alma mater. Each May, the scholarship is awarded to an MCC student with a desire to work as an intern at Wesleyan University in the field of broadcast communications or multimedia.

Horwitz ’02 Scores Peabody Nomination for Hamilton’s America

Hamilton’s America, the PBS documentary by Alex Horwitz ’02 that explores the history behind Hamilton: An American Musical, created and written by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15 and directed by Thomas Kail ’99, was honored as a finalist in the documentary category for the 76th annual Peabody Awards. The awards honor storytelling done well in film, television, radio, and on the internet.

The acclaimed documentary was several years in the making. Horwitz first approached Miranda and Kail with the idea in 2012—and cameras were rolling by 2013. “All I needed to hear was a demo of that first song, ‘Alexander Hamilton,’ and my interest was piqued,” said Horwitz in our exclusive interview from October 2016, when the documentary premiered on PBS. “I’m a history nerd and a musical theater nerd, so Lin was scratching a lot of itches for me. I told him that it didn’t matter to me if he was making an album or a show; I just wanted to make a movie about him dramatizing history. That was the angle from the beginning.”

Click here to read the entire interview with Alex Horwitz.

Horwitz and his crew pared down almost 100 hours of footage for the 1.5-hour documentary, using Alexander Hamilton’s life as one the film’s three threads. “Whittling down is just a matter of time and repeated viewings. But that wasn’t quite as hard as the interweaving. We had these three threads—the life of Hamilton, the creation of the show, and excerpts from the show itself—which we had to braid into one cohesive film. So it was a question of finding a lot of internal logic and segues in the footage,” said Horwitz.

The Peabody Award winners in the documentary category were announced on April 18. All of this year’s winners will be feted during an awards ceremony on May 20th that will air on June 2 on PBS.

Lonergan ’84 Wins Oscar for Manchester by the Sea

oscarnews_homepage2 copyKenneth Lonergan ’84 won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Manchester by the Sea at last night’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards ceremony, while Casey Affleck took home the Actor in a Leading Role award for his part in the film. Lonergan wrote and directed Manchester by the Sea, which also received nominations in the film, director (Lonergan), actress in a supporting role and actor in a supporting role categories. Jennifer Lame ’04 served as film editor for the production.

Other Wesleyan alumni receiving nominations this year included Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15., for Best Original Song for “How Far I’ll Go” from the Disney animated film Moanaand Jenno Topping ’89, who received a nomination as one of the producers of Best Film nominee Hidden Figures, the historical drama about a female team of African-American mathematicians who played a vital role in the early years of the U.S. space program.

In addition, Rick Nicita ’67 is an executive producer of Best Film nominee Hacksaw Ridge, the true story of World War II army medic Desmond T. Doss, who became the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot; David Laub, visiting professor in film studies at Wesleyan, is an acquisitions executive at A24, the distributor of Moonlightwhich took home the Oscar for Best Film; and Ines Farag ’11 was the archival researcher on O.J. Made in America which took home the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.

Manaster ’01 Exposes the Messiness of Life in New Book

the-done-thing-book-jacketIn The Done Thing (Tyrus Books, 2016), author Tracy Manaster ’01 introduces us to Lida Stearl, a newly retired widow growing more obsessed each day with her ex-brother-in-law Clarence, on death row for the murder of her sister almost 20 years earlier. We watch as Lida strikes up a correspondence with Clarence while posing as a naïve twenty-something in need of a friend. We witness the rawness of Lida’s pain when she realizes that her niece Pamela, whom she raised as her own, has been in contact with the man she has despised for all these years. And we stand by helplessly as we observe Lida’s obsession, once kept in check by her marriage and her career, spiral out of control—setting in motion a chain of events that threatens to destroy the one thing that matters most: her relationship with Pamela. Library Journal, in a starred review, says, “Manaster has written a deeply human and morally saturated novel, with captivating language. Don’t miss this sympathetic examination of how a tragic incident can irrevocably change a life’s course.” While Publishers Weekly says, “In this engrossing story about the effects that vengeance can have on love, Manaster refuses to take the happy, easy way out, instead leaving her strikingly relatable characters with just enough room to breathe.”

In this Q&A, Manaster talks about the characters she brings to life in The Done Thing.

Q: Where did the idea for The Done Thing come from?

A: The Done Thing had its inception in the worst short story written in the 80-year history of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.  In an attempt to settle a pretentious bar argument about whether or not a piece could have both a twist ending and emotional heft, I had a proto-Lida—I think her name was Joan—puttering about her house in a state of focused fury, knowing that miles away in Arizona a proto-Clarence was being executed for the death of her sister. The twist was that because Arizona does not observe Daylight Saving Time, she misses the actual moment of his passing.

It was a terrible story. I lost the argument. The twist robbed the narrative of emotional resonance. But the premise was a good one, meaty enough to carry a book, and I began to hone in on Lida: her voice, the world she navigates, the impossible resolution she craves. It took nearly a decade—and everything I learned from writing, editing, and publishing my debut, You Could Be Home by Now—for me to become an adept enough writer to be equal to that voice.

Q: Was it always your intention to create a character like Lida, with whom we empathize, even when she’s at her worst? Was it a creative struggle to keep that balance in mind—the fine line between righteous anger and going too far—as you moved through the story?

A: After the initial “hey, wow, this could be an actual book” inspiration, Lida’s essential character gave me very little trouble.

Wesleyan Editors Call for New Books by Alumni, Faculty, Students, Staff

WES_0411Wesleyan is known for its top-notch writing programs and for the accomplishments of its community of award-winning alumni, faculty, students and staff book authors, editors and translators.

Members of the Wesleyan community—alumni, faculty, students and staff—are invited to submit their latest books, as well as information about forthcoming and recently signed titles, and other literary news, to Laurie Kenney, books editor for Wesleyan magazine. Books and information received will be considered for possible coverage in Wesleyan magazine, on the News @ Wes blog and through Wesleyan’s social media channels, as well as through possible in-store display and event opportunities at Wesleyan’s new bookstore—Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore—which will open on Main Street in Middletown later this spring.

Fill out our simple Author Questionnaire to submit your book information now.

While the editors can’t guarantee coverage for any book, due to the sheer number published each year, they hope that gathering and sharing information about these projects through various university channels will help to better serve and promote Wesleyan authors and their work.

Advance reading copies and finished review copies can be sent to: Laurie Kenney, Books Editor, Wesleyan University, Office of University Communications, 229 High Street, Middletown, CT 06459.

Belichick ’75 Leads Patriots to Super Bowl Win

Bill Belichick '75

Bill Belichick ’75

Bill Belichick ’75, head coach of the New England Patriots, led his team to the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history on Feb. 5, beating the Atlanta Falcons by a score of 34-28 in OT—the first time an overtime period was ever needed in the 51-year history of the NFL’s annual championship game. The win made Belichick the winningest coach in Super Bowl history. All five of Belichick’s wins have come as head coach of the Patriots, a team he has coached since 2000.

Beginning his NFL career as an assistant coach with the Baltimore Colts in 1975, Belichick moved to the Detroit Lions in 1976, remaining there for two seasons before spending a year in the Denver Broncos organization before moving on the the New York Giants in 1979. In 1991 he was named the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, and also coached for the New York Jets before becoming head coach of the Patriots in 2000. He earned his 200th regular season victory as a head coach after the Patriots’ 30-7 win at Minnesota on Sept. 14, 2014. He became the sixth NFL head coach to reach that mark.

At Wesleyan, Belichick was a football, squash and lacrosse letterwinner, serving as a team captain for the 1975 lacrosse squad, He majored in economics.

Returning to Middletown for Commencement in May, 2002,Belichick received Wesleyan’s Raymond E. Baldwin Medal, the highest honor awarded by the alumni body for extraordinary service to the University and to the public interest. He also spoke to a group of prospective students and their parents during WesFest in April, 2004 and stayed to watch his daughter Amanda ’07 play in a women’s lacrosse game. During Wesleyan’s 2005 Commencement, Belichick received an honorary doctorate from his alma mater and in May, 2008, he became one of the inaugural members of Wesleyan’s newly established Athletics Hall of Fame.

New Book by Arndt ’92 Explores How the American Right Created Trump

The Right's Road to Serfdom, by Chris ArndtIn The Right’s Road to Serfdom: The Danger of Conservatism Unbound: From Hayek to Trump (Bulkington Press, 2016), Christopher F. Arndt ‘92 argues that conservatism is not what it pretends to be and that the American Right created Donald Trump. “There’s a destructive logic that has led the so-called ‘Party of Liberty’ to nominate an authoritarian like Donald Trump as its leader,” says Arndt, a former Wall Street executive and portfolio manager, in the press materials for the book. “I wrote the book to explain how this happened—to offer a readable, yet substantive account of recent political developments and do so in the context of the principles of political freedom that are common to us all.”

Below, News @ Wes talks with Arndt about the book, the subsequent election of Donald Trump, and the future.

What prompted you to write The Right’s Road to Serfdom?
There is a lot of confusion surrounding recent political developments, and in particular political developments on the American Right.  I wrote the book to clarify recent events, to offer a warning, and also to serve as a timely reminder of the American ideal of Liberty. That’s a pretty general answer so let me provide an example:

In early September of 2016, the Dallas Morning News—a famously conservative newspaper—wrote an editorial urging its readership to reject Trump’s bid for the presidency. In doing so, the editorial writers of the paper noted that “Trump is—or has been—at odds with nearly every GOP

Richardson ’60 Publishes Bio of Urban Development Pioneer Shepherd

Alexander Robey Shepherd, by John P. RichardsonAlexander Robey Shepherd: The Man Who Built the Nation’s Capital, by John P. Richardson ’60 (Ohio University Press, 2016), tells the story of urban development pioneer and public works leader Alexander Robey Shepherd, who was instrumental in building the infrastructure of the nation’s capital when it was knee-deep in mud and disrepair after the Civil War. In fact it was Shepherd’s leadership, says Richardson, that made it possible for the city to finally realize the vision of French architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant, some 80-plus years after George Washington appointed L’Enfant to plan what was then known as the new “Federal City.”

“Shepherd did not build the buildings, but he built the infrastructure that made it possible to develop the city we see,” says Richardson, a retired intelligence officer and Middle East specialist who spent more than 30 years researching Shepherd before writing his book. “Much of Shepherd’s work is below the ground but critical to a modern city.”

Alexander Robey Shepherd was born in Washington in 1835. After his father’s early death, Shepherd left school at the age of 13 and worked his way up from apprentice to owner of a plumbing company. After serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, he started a second career—in politics.

Sweren-Becker ’06 Creates a Brave New World in New Book

Daniel Sweren-Becker ’06

Book by Daniel Sweren-Becker ’06.

In The Ones, Daniel Sweren-Becker ’06 creates a vision of a not-so-distant future world in which a random group of babies is chosen each year to be the smartest, best looking, most athletic members of society. “The Ones,” as they are called, short for the chosen ones, enjoy the privilege of membership in this exclusive group during the genetic engineering program’s 20-year history until a society-wide backlash marginalizes their status and threatens to even outlaw their existence. Sweren-Becker’s fast-paced YA novel follows two of The Ones (or are they?): 17-year-old Cody and her boyfriend, James, who are forced to decide whether to stand up for their rights…and how far they’re willing to go to do so.

The Ones (Imprint, 2016) is Sweren-Becker’s literary debut. A television writer and playwright in Los Angeles, he originally conceived the book as a television series. “When I decided to switch gears into a series of books [the second is due in September], it felt natural to pick YA [Young Adult] because the main characters were teenagers,” he says. “I think this genre is read so widely because we’ve reached a point where these books are fun and accessible but also deal with really sophisticated issues that attract a more mature audience.”

Middle School Misfits Inhabit New Wilder ’88 Novel

Robert Wilder ’88

Book by Robert Wilder ’88.

Robert Wilder ’88 draws on his 25 years of teaching experience to paint a complex, funny, poignant picture of life in middle school in Nickel (Leaf Storm Press, 2016). The novel tells the story of two middle school misfits who bond over a mutual love for 1980s pop culture: Coy, whose mother is in rehab and whose stepfather is trying, but not always succeeding, to hold things together in her absence; and Monroe, his just-as-quirky female best friend whose braces have given her a rash that becomes a life-threatening illness. Booklist, in a starred review, says, “Wilder powers his classic coming-of-age narrative with a ferocious storytelling voice . . . A humorous, poignant, and formidable debut.”

The idea of Nickel stemmed from Wilder’s love of the quiet, quirky kids he’s taught over the years, as well as his teenage son, London. “I love teenagers, and I ask them questions daily,” says Wilder. “I take notes on their obsessions, dreams, fashion choices and language, and I learn something new from them every day without fail. I have to be subtler with my own children. They think it’s weird when I ask them a question that has to do with a character I’m working on. They want me to make them enchiladas and give them money.”

Wilder used the elements of storytelling he learned from studying fiction for his first two books—collections of comedic essays based on his own personal experiences as a teacher and a father. In writing Nickel, Wilder found some similarities but also one notable difference. “With nonfiction, you already have the world created for you. If something happened in my kitchen, I can refer to it anytime I need to,” he says. “When writing fiction, you need to create an entire world from the ground up.”

Robert Wilder ’88

Robert Wilder ’88

For Wilder, the process of writing Nickel began with the voice of the book’s main character, Coy. “I started with Coy’s voice and let it lead me,” he says. “Many of the kids I was thinking about when I developed that voice spoke in code and sound effects, so my early drafts were an attempt to try and emulate that shorthand manner of speech. When I sent the manuscript to my friend Christopher, he said, ‘This is great but totally unreadable.’ So I had to try to keep the core elements of Coy’s voice but allow the casual reader access to him and his world.”

Wilder drew on his own high school memories and experiences, as well as his experience as a teacher, to flesh out the book’s relatable, realistic characters and setting. “For the character of Coy, I tried to recall what it was like when I was his age and how hard it was being a relatively sensitive teenager who suffers loss, especially in a large school. When I created the school that Coy and Monroe attend, I drew on all the telling details I’ve gathered in my 25 years of teaching. Schools are such a rich environment and culture; it was a lot of fun trying to capture what it’s like being in that world day after day. I also allowed myself to see the challenges and absurdities of school life the way Coy and Monroe would.”

Wilder, an English major and soccer player during his years at Wesleyan, recently finished another novel, which he hopes to publish soon. He is also working on a television pilot loosely based on his two essay collections, Daddy Needs a Drink: An Irreverent Look at Parenting from a Dad Who Truly Loves His Kids—Even When They’re Driving Him Nuts, which the Los Angeles Times called “consistently hilarious,” and Tales from the Teachers’ Lounge: What I Learned in School the Second Time Around—One Man’s Irreverent Look at Being a Teacher Today, which Publishers Weekly called “honest and funny.”

“There is no doubt that I have far more empathy for the teenage species after writing Nickel,” says Wilder. “How couldn’t I? Writing is an act of empathy, after all.”