Laurie Kenney

Hamilton Wins 11 Tony Awards

(Photo by Joan Marcus/The Public Theater)

Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15, center. (Photo by Joan Marcus/The Public Theater)

Hamilton, written by and starring Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15 and directed by Thomas Kail ’99, won 11 Tony Awards, including the award for Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical (Kail), Best Actor in a Musical, Best Book (Miranda), Best Original Score (Miranda), Best Featured Actor in a Musical, Best Featured Actress in a Musical, Best Costume Design of a Musical, Best Choreography, Best Lighting Design of a Musical, and Best Orchestrations, at the 70th Annual Tony Awards ceremony held at the Beacon Theater in New York on June 12.

The award-winning musical, which tells the story of the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton, received a record-breaking 16 total nominations.

Wesleyan Awards 731 BA Degrees at 184th Commencement

Wesleyan celebrated the graduates of the Class of 2016 at its 184th Commencement Ceremony on May 22. (Photo by Jonas Powell '18)

Wesleyan celebrated the graduates of the Class of 2016 at its 184th Commencement Ceremony on May 22. (Photo by Jonas Powell ’18)

Graduates, their families, and other members of the Wesleyan community who gathered for the 184th Commencement ceremony on May 22 were offered advice on how to change the world by Bryan Stevenson, this year’s Commencement speaker, a human rights lawyer and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative.

(Photo by John Van Vlack)

(Photo by John Van Vlack)

Weaving in stories from his decades of work fighting racial injustice and discrimination in the criminal justice system, Stevenson told the Class of 2016 that changing the world requires four things: Getting proximate to the places “where there’s suffering and abuse and neglect”; “changing the narrative” about race in this country; staying hopeful; and being willing to do uncomfortable things.

“I wish I didn’t have to say that because it’s so nice if you can only do the things that are comfortable,” he said. “But the truth is we can’t change the world by doing just what’s convenient and comfortable. I’ve looked for examples where things changed, where oppression was ended, where inequality was overcome, when people did only what was convenient and comfortable, and I can’t find any examples of that. To change the world, you’re going to sometimes have to make uncomfortable choices, to be in uncomfortable places, and be proximate and be hopeful and change narratives. But know that if you do it, there is some great reward, all of that knowledge that you have accumulated will resonate. You will have ideas in your mind that match the conviction in your heart.”

Stevenson concluded, “There is a different metric system for those of you who want to change the world.” Success won’t be measured by grades or by income. He recalled an older black man he met after giving a talk. The man showed him cuts, bruises and scars he got while working to register people of color to vote in the south in the 1960s.

“There aren’t my cuts, these aren’t my bruises, these aren’t my scars,” the man told Stevenson. “These are my medals.”

Read the full text of Stevenson’s speech.

Wesleyan conferred an honorary doctor of humane letters degree upon Stevenson. Also recognized with honorary degrees were Kwame Anthony Appiah (doctor of letters)—a professor of philosophy and law at New York University who is renowned for his insights into moral theory and practice, racism and identity, cultural differences, and political development; and Patti Smith (doctor of fine arts)—a writer, performer, and visual artist whose recordings include her seminal album, Horses (1975), and whose books include Just Kids, winner of the 2010 National Book Award. Read more about the honorary degree recipients here.

(Photo by John Van Vlack)

(Photo by John Van Vlack)

This year, Wesleyan conferred 731 bachelor of arts degrees; 33 master of arts degrees, including 4 in the new master of arts in performance curation; 28 master of arts in liberal studies degrees; 2 master of philosophy in liberal arts; and 15 doctor of philosophy degrees.

Three faculty members were honored with the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching: Sally Bachner, associate professor of English; Demetrius Eudell, professor of history; and James Lipton, professor of computer science. These prizes, made possible by gifts from the family of the late Frank G. Binswanger Sr. Hon. ’85, underscore Wesleyan’s commitment to its scholar-teachers, who are responsible for the university’s distinctive approach to liberal arts education.

In addition, John Lemberg Usdan ’80, P’15, P’18, P’18, was awarded the Raymond E. Baldwin Medal, the highest honor presented by Wesleyan’s alumni body for extraordinary service to Wesleyan or for careers or other activity which have contributed significantly to the public good. Usdan is president of Midwood, a New York-based real estate investment and development firm. His remarkable record of service to Wesleyan over more than three decades has included 12 years as a trustee as well as serving as chair of the THIS IS WHY campaign—the most successful fundraising effort in Wesleyan’s history. Read more about Usdan here.

Also recognized were four retiring faculty members who were given emiriti status. They are: Abraham K. Adzenyah, adjunct professor of music; Philip H. Bolton, professor of chemistry; Alex Dupuy, John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology; and Mark Slobin, Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth. (Photo by Tom Dzimian)

Wesleyan President Michael Roth. (Photo by Tom Dzimian)

In his remarks to the graduating class, President Michael Roth spoke about Wesleyan’s core values of justice, generosity, and care.

“Justice, generosity, and care—these are the core values at Wesleyan. Students at this university demand that their school stand for justice—in words and in actions—and over the past four years your demands have included making our academic core more diverse and our residential life free from sexual violence that has become a scourge on college campuses across America,” he said.

Roth added, “Just as the aspiration for justice has been a powerful feature of campus culture, so too has recognizing that not everyone has the same view as to what constitutes justice, which means that part of the work of political engagement includes discussions in which we can build on our commonalities and explore our differences without fear. A university is a place to have one’s opinions tested—not protected.”

Roth also acknowledged, “As loud as calls for justice sometimes are, the soft but persistent voice of generosity has also been a feature of the student culture that you have created. Many of you work in the community . . . . And a number of you gave your time and labor to ease the plight of refugees—helping those in camps in the Middle East and smoothing the way for refugee families settling here in the United States. I am inspired by all your efforts.

“Linked to these acts of generosity—and to the calls for justice—is, I think, a deep ethics of care. . . . I very much admire the ways in which you have looked after one another, inspired one another, or simply cheered each other on. It may well be that the quest for justice and the impulse for generosity depend on this ethics of care, this commitment to seeing those around you fulfill their potential, flourish. . . . It builds our community and makes the work we do relevant beyond the university.”

Wesleyan celebrated the graduates of the Class of 2016 at its 184th Commencement Ceremony on May 22. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

Tahreem Khalied ’16. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

Roth challenged the graduates of the Class of 2016 to put what they’ve learned at Wesleyan to promote positive changes in the world. “We Wesleyans have used our education to mold the course of culture ourselves lest the future be shaped by those for whom justice and change, generosity and equality, diversity and tolerance, are much too threatening. Now we alumni are counting on you, Class of 2016, to join us in helping to shape this culture, so that it will not be shaped by the forces of violence, conformity, and elitism.”

In her Senior Class Welcome, Tahreem Khalied ’16, who came to the U.S. from Pakistan four and a half years ago, shared some of the many firsts she experienced at Wesleyan.  She also spoke about how her experience at Wesleyan taught her about the beauty and power of diversity. “As a student studying race and ethnicity as part of my American studies major, I was introduced to the possibility that there can be more truths than the one I believe in. . . . I learned about colonialism, indigenous politics, queer politics, anarchy, racial and ethnic politics, latinidad, South-Asian diasporic writing, all as part of this one, very inclusive major. I was learning that diversity, whether in thought, or in person, is indeed beautiful.”

The full Reunion & Commencement Weekend photo gallery is here.

The Commencement gallery is here.

The text and video of Bryan A. Stevenson’s address is here.

The text of Kwame Anthony Appiah’s address is here.

The text and video of Patti Smith’s address is here.

The text and video of President Michael S. Roth’s address to the Class of 2016 is here.

The text and video of the senior class welcome by Tahreem Khalied ’16 is here.

Information on the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching recipients is here.

Information on alumni receiving Distinguished Alumni, Outstanding Service, and McConaughy awards is here.

 

Hamilton Breaks Tony Award Nomination Record

Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 and Thomas Kail ’99. (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer

Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 and Thomas Kail ’99. (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer)

Hamilton, written by and starring Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 and directed by Thomas Kail ’99, received a record-breaking 16 Tony Award nominations on May 3, including nods for Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical (Kail) Best Actor in a Musical (Miranda and Leslie Odom Jr.), Best Book (Miranda), Best Original Score (Miranda), Best Featured Actor in a Musical (three nominations), Best Actress in a Musical, Best Featured Actress in a Musical, Best Scenic Design of a Musical, Best Costume Design of a Musical, Best Choreography, Best Lighting Design of a Musical, and Best Orchestrations. The 16 total nominations broke the previous record of 15, shared by Billy Elliot (2009) and The Producers (2001). The Producers holds the current record for most Tony Award wins for a musical, with a total of 12.

The 70th Annual Tony Awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, June 12, 2016, at the Beacon Theater in New York. The event will be televised live on CBS from 8 to 11 p.m. ET.

Last month, Miranda won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Hamilton. 

Art Studio Seniors Exhibit Theses at Zilkha

On April 6, artists and visitors gathered at the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery for a reception for week three of the Senior Thesis Exhibition. This week’s exhibition features work by seniors Sophie Becker, Casey Herrick, Samantha Ho, Gla, and Zach Scheinfeld from the Department of Art and Art History’s art studio program. The exhibition will be on display through April 10. (Photos by Hannah Norman ’16)

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Casey Herrick’s senior thesis, “Safe Conduct.”

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“Wednesday,” by Gla.

Connect@WES Helps Students Develop Networking Skills

On Friday, April 1, almost 70 students and 38 expert advisors (including 31 Wesleyan alumni and parents) came together for one-on-one speed networking sessions during Connect@WES: Creating Connections in Beckham Hall. Sponsored by the Gordon Career Center, the annual event is designed to teach students how to develop professional relationships outside of the Career Center and Wesleyan.

This year’s event included advisors representing Peatix, RNSights, Northeastern, JP Morgan, NBC Universal, Merrill Lynch, Planned Parenthood, the State of Connecticut, Aon Hewitt, Epsilon, Perella Weinberg, FCTRY, Citi and many others.

Southard ’78 Receives Lukas Book Prize

Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear War, by Susan Southard ’78, has been awarded the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, administered by the Columbia University School of Journalism and Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism.

Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear WarOne of three annual Lukas Prizes honoring the best in American nonfiction writing, the Book Prize is given to a book exemplifying “the literary grace, commitment to serious research, and the social concern that characterized the distinguished work of the award’s namesake, J. Anthony Lukas.”  The prize comes with a $10,000 award.

“I couldn’t be more honored that Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear War has been included among the remarkable books of narrative journalism that have received the Lukas Book Prize since 1998,” said Southard. “And I am elated that, 70 years after the atomic bombings of Japan, the survivors’ stories have been recognized in this way.”

The judges in their citation noted, “Susan Southard’s Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear War will upset you. With lean and powerful prose she describes the indescribable taking the reader almost minute by minute through the bombing of Nagasaki and then the aftermath. With thorough careful research she exposes a half-century of lies and half-truths about the reasons for the bombing and the results, even denying that radiation poisoning was real. Seventy years later, following the lives of survivors, she reaches the final chapter and at last tells the complete story. Without diatribes or polemics she leaves the reader with a resolve that such a thing must never happen again.”

Jewett ’81 P’17 Honored with Naming of Center for Community Partnerships

Wesleyan honored Ellen Jewett '81 P'17 with the naming of the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships on February 26. Left to right: Ellen Jewett, Wesleyan President, outgoing board chair Joshua Boger and JCCP director Cathy Lechowicz.

From left: Ellen Jewett ’81, P’17; Michael S. Roth ’78; Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, P’09; and Cathy Lechowicz cut the ribbon at the official naming ceremony for the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships.

On Feb. 26, Wesleyan honored Ellen Jewett ’81, P’17, a former trustee and incoming co-chair of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, for her many years of service to the university with the naming of the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships (JCCP) during a ribbon-cutting ceremony outside of the center, located on the third floor of the Allbritton Center. The ceremony was part of the university’s Board of Trustees reception.

The event was attended by more than 150 guests, including Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78, outgoing board chairman Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, P’09, and JCCP director Cathy Lechowicz, as well as by current, former and emeriti trustees; faculty, staff, students, alumni and local community members; and Jewett’s family and friends.

Kail ’99 Directs Musical Extravaganza Grease: Live

Grease: Live

Thomas Kail ’99, far right, oversaw the stage direction for Grease: Live.

Thomas Kail ’99, who is currently directing the blockbuster hit Hamilton on Broadway, written by and starring Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, brought the energy of live theater to the small screen as he set the stage direction for Grease: Live, a musical extravaganza starring Julianne Hough as Sandy and Vanessa Hudgens as Rizzo, along with Aaron Tveit as Danny, Carly Rae Jepson as Frenchy, Mario Lopez as Vince Fontaine and Boys II Men in the role of Teen Angel. The musical, which was staged in front of a live audience, aired on Fox on Jan. 31. 

Wesleyan Recognizes Boger Family’s $20M Gift with Naming of Boger Hall

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Next May, the building located at 41 Wyllys Avenue will be named Boger Hall in honor of the Boger family’s $20 million gift to Wesleyan.

#THISISWHY

Wesleyan University President Michael Roth ’78 has announced a $20 million gift from outgoing Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Joshua ’73, P’06, P’09 and Dr. Amy Boger P’06, P’09 to the university’s THIS IS WHY fundraising campaign. In recognition of the Boger family’s generosity and leadership, the building located at 41 Wyllys Avenue on the university’s College Row will be named Boger Hall.

The Bogers are the largest donors to the campaign. Their gifts include $11 million to establish the Joshua ’73 and Amy Boger Endowed Wesleyan Scholarship Program, which has already benefited more than a dozen Wesleyan students and will provide access to Wesleyan to many more in the coming years; $3 million to endow the Joshua Boger University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics, currently held by Professor of Chemistry David L. Beveridge; and $2 million for the Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, P’09 Endowed Fund for Student Research, which provided lead funding for 50 faculty-mentored student research fellowships in 2015.

“It is truly gratifying to honor a family that exemplifies Wesleyan’s ideal of passionate, generous, forward-thinking individuals who believe in the importance of a pragmatic liberal arts education,” Roth said. “The Boger family’s commitment to Wesleyan will provide students now and in the future with an opportunity to face 21st century challenges head-on to make positive and profound changes in the world.”

Wall Street Journal Names Fossel ’73 Book a “Best Book for Science Lovers”

telomerase revolutionThe latest book by Michael Fossel ’73, The Telomerase Revolution: The Enzyme That Holds the Key to Human Aging . . . and Will Soon Lead to Longer, Healthier Lives, published by BenBella Books, was recently selected as one of the Best Books for Science Lovers in 2015 by the Wall Street Journal. Fossel has been writing about the telomerase theory of aging for 20 years and is considered the foremost expert on the clinical use of telomerase for age-related diseases.

“As a doctor, my emphasis has always been on clinical results,” says Fossel in his introduction. “Understanding the nature of aging is essential, of course. But the goal isn’t simply to achieve understanding. The goal is to develop techniques to extend lives, cure diseases, and reduce suffering.”

Each time a cell reproduces, its telomeres (the tips of the chromosomes) shorten, decreasing the cell’s ability to repair its molecules. While most of our cells age in such a way, sex cells and stem cells can reproduce indefinitely, without aging, because they create telomerase, which re-lengthens the telomeres and keeps the cells young. In The Telomerase Revolution, Fossel describes how telomerase might soon be used as a powerful therapeutic tool, with the potential to extend lifespans and maybe even reverse human aging.

Fossel earned both his PhD and MD from Stanford University, where he taught neurobiology and research methods. A past recipient of a National Science Foundation fellowship, he was a clinical professor of medicine for almost 30 years, executive director of the American Aging Association and the founding editor of Rejuvenation Research. He wrote the first ever book on the telomerase theory of aging, Reversing Human Aging (1996), followed by Cells, Aging, and Human Disease (2004), and The Immortality Edge (2011). He currently teaches The Biology of Aging at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., and is working to bring telomerase to human trials for Alzheimer’s disease.

Season’s Readings!

alu_books_2015-1210214425+Every year we review dozens of books and publish several author essays, and a book excerpt or two, by Wesleyan alumni in the pages of Wesleyan magazine. With the holidays upon us, ’tis the season to take another look at just a handful of the many selections made by Wesleyan magazine Arts and Culture Editor David Low this year. Happy reading!

PhD Candidate Colwell Speaks on Throat Singing as Part of Graduate Student Speaker Series

Andrew Colwell, PhD candidate in ethnomusicology, presented “The Conditions of Audibility: Cultural Heritage, Pastoral Sensibility and Global Ambition in Mongol Xöömeí (Throat-singing),” a lecture based on his dissertational research, on Dec. 2 in Exley Science Center.

Andrew Colwell, PhD candidate in ethnomusicology, presented “The Conditions of Audibility: Cultural Heritage, Pastoral Sensibility and Global Ambition in Mongol Xöömeí (Throat-singing),” a lecture based on his dissertational research, on Dec. 2 in Exley Science Center.

In his lecture, Colwell focused on the performance of xöömeí, its conditions of audibility, and the critical questions it poses to ethnomusicology and Mongolian studies’ treatment of places, circulation and belonging.

In his lecture, Colwell focused on the performance of xöömeí, its conditions of audibility, and the critical questions it poses to ethnomusicology and Mongolian studies’ treatment of places, circulation and belonging.

In western Mongolia a project is underway to rehabilitate a once-sacred place into a “natural theater” for the promotion of xöömeí (throat-singing). According to elder generations, a nearby crevice called xavchig was once a venerated site for the pastoral community, due to a sonorous rivulet of mountain water that flows through it. But sometime during the socialist collectivization of herders’ pastoral encampments, the nationalization of their expressive practices, and the censorship of animist or Buddhist spiritual practices in the 20th century, the crevice fell into neglect.

In western Mongolia a project is underway to rehabilitate a once-sacred place into a “natural theater” for the promotion of xöömeí. According to elder generations, a nearby crevice called xavchig was once a venerated site for the pastoral community, due to a sonorous rivulet of mountain water that flows through it. But sometime during the socialist collectivization of herders’ pastoral encampments, the nationalization of their expressive practices, and the censorship of animist or Buddhist spiritual practices in the 20th century, the crevice fell into neglect.