Laurie Kenney

Wesleyan Thinks Big Dec. 8

Wesleyan Thinks BigOn Dec. 8, Wesleyan will hold Wesleyan Thinks Big, a biannual TED-talk style event featuring Wesleyan faculty and administrators giving 10-minute speeches on an experience, a personal passion, an existential question or another topic of their choosing. The event will take place at 5 p.m. in Memorial Chapel.

This year’s event is being coordinated by Catherine Wulff ’18, with help from Rachel Godfrey ’19 and Kaiyana Cervera ’19.

“Wesleyan Thinks Big is a way to bring the community together outside of the classroom, by shedding light on the strength of personal testimony and human connection,” said Wulff. “Our main goal is for the audience to leave energized and hopeful.”

Wesleyan Thinks Big will feature:

  • Iris Bork-Goldfield, adjunct professor of German studies and chair of the German Studies Department: “Thank you for Smoking. The Unintended Consequences of Lucky Strikes;”
  • Danielle Vogel, visiting assistant professor of creative writing in English: “Narrative & Nest;”
  • Renee Johnson-Thornton, dean for the Class of 2018: “How to Excel in College by Cultivating Membership in a Community of Practice;” and
  • Khalil Johnson, assistant professor of African American studies: “Settler Colonial Blues: Musings from the Margins of Black and Indigenous History.”

Wesleyan Exceeds Giving Tuesday Goal

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On Giving Tuesday, Nov. 29, members of the Wesleyan community joined together to support Wesleyan students. This was Wesleyan’s fourth year participating in the global campaign, which encourages people to support their favorite organizations during the holiday season.

This year, Wesleyan’s Giving Tuesday goal was 3,000 gifts received between Nov.1 and Nov. 29. By the end of the day on Giving Tuesday, Wesleyan had received a total of 3,674 gifts.

“Our sincere thanks to everyone who gave in support of students this year, including the Frank-Kim Family—John Frank ’78, P’12, Diann Kim P’12, and Peter Frank ’12—who generously inspired others to give with their gift of $300,000 to financial aid,” said Chuck Fedolfi, director of annual giving for the Wesleyan Fund. “And a special thanks to the hundreds of volunteers who continue to humble us with their dedication, their time, and their passion for Wesleyan,” he added.

Wesleyan Students, Staff Participate in Middletown Community Thanksgiving Project

On Nov. 21, Wesleyan students and staff helped stuff 1,000 boxes with everything families will need for a Thanksgiving dinner celebration.

On Nov. 21, Wesleyan students and staff helped stuff 1,000 boxes with everything families will need for a Thanksgiving dinner celebration.

This fall, Wesleyan students and staff took part in the Middletown Community Thanksgiving Project, an annual collaborative effort to provide Thanksgiving meals for families in need. Wesleyan was one of 70 community partners for the project, led by Fellowship Church in Middletown. The university’s involvement in the project was coordinated by Cathy Lechowicz and Diana Martinez, director and assistant director of the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships.

MCTP 3For this year’s project, the Wesleyan community donated stuffing, gravy, pies and other foodstuffs; students and staff from the Allbritton Center helped register families at Amazing Grace Food Pantry from Oct. 31 to Nov. 18; students and staff, including the men’s crew and women’s lacrosse teams, helped with packing almost 1,000 boxes of food at Fellowship Church on Nov. 21; and staff from Wesleyan’s Office of Student Activities and Leadership Development helped distribute the food to Middletown residents in need on Nov. 22. The women’s lacrosse team also collected more than $600 to contribute to the project.

Horwitz ’02 Documents Hamilton for PBS

hamilton1On Saturday, Oct. 29, members of the Wesleyan community gathered at the Goldsmith Family Cinema during Family Weekend 2016 to watch a screening of Hamilton’s America, directed by Alex Horwitz ’02. While Horwitz was not able to attend the screening, we were able to catch up with him for an exclusive Q&A. If you missed the screening, Hamilton’s America is streaming on PBS through Nov. 18.

Hamilton’s America was several years in the making. When did you approach Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 and Thomas Kail ’99 with the idea to document the making of what became Hamilton: An American Musical—and what prompted you to do so?
I approached Lin and Tommy about rolling cameras on Hamilton in 2012, and we were rolling by 2013. Really, all I needed to hear was a demo of that first song, “Alexander Hamilton,” and my interest was piqued. 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.

What kind of access did you have to Hamilton: An American Musical when filming the documentary? What was most interesting or surprising to you about the process?
The focus of Hamilton’s America was always going to be on history-as-told-by-the-show, rather than on the behind-the-scenes aspect of show business. That meant that we would lean on the words—on the writing process and the finished product—rather than on backstage access. I invaded Lin’s space as he wrote, but only because he was open to it. The only thing I bothered the cast for was interviews and the field trips to sites of historic significance. We did film a little backstage material, but the drama of history was always of more interest to me than the “five, six, seven, eight . . .” of rehearsals. What delighted me was how deep the cast wanted to get into the history. I think they were happy to get out of the theater.

Hamilton’s America, Directed by Horwitz ’02, Debuts on PBS Oct. 21

On Friday, October 21, at 9 p.m., PBS will debut Hamilton’s Americaa behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the smash musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02. The documentary is directed by Miranda’s Wesleyan roommate, Alex Horwitz ’02, and features footage from the Broadway show along with interviews with Miranda, Hamilton director Thomas Kail ’99, and an array of others, including President Barack Obama, President George W. Bush, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Questlove, Black Thought, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Sondheim, and more.

 

Office for Equity and Inclusion Coordinates Pathways to Inclusive Excellence Initiative

Wesleyan's Posse Foundation Veteran Scholars Program offers a four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarship to military veterans.

Wesleyan’s Posse Foundation Veteran Scholars Program offers a four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarship to military veterans.

The Ronald E. McNair Post Program assists students from under-represented groups in preparing for, entering and progressing successfully through postgraduate education.

The Ronald E. McNair Post Program assists students from under-represented groups in preparing for, entering and progressing successfully through postgraduate education.

This fall, the Office for Equity and Inclusion will coordinate five Wesleyan cohort programs: the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, the Wesleyan Math and Science Scholars Program (WesMaSS), the Upward Bound Math-Science Program, and the Posse Veteran Scholars Program. The initiative is called Pathways to Inclusive Excellence (PIE).

“It makes sense organizationally to place these programs under the same umbrella, in order to increase a sense of community amongst students, faculty and staff,” said Antonio Farias, vice president for equity and inclusion/Title IX officer. “Our vision is to increase the flow of students in grades 9 through 16 from historically underrepresented backgrounds and to provide opportunities and access by way of pathway programs that require complex thinking but also a complex interdisciplinary understanding of belonging in the pursuit of excellence.

$1 Million Cardinal Challenge Exceeds Expectations

Cardinal Challenge thank you
Last month members of the Cardinal community joined together to secure an additional $1 million for financial aid for students during Wesleyan’s $1 Million Cardinal Challenge. The success of the challenge provided a strong finish to Wesleyan’s THIS IS WHY fundraising campaign, which came to its close on June 30.

The Cardinal Challenge was funded through the generosity of John L. Usdan ’80, P’15, ’18, ’18, 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 for financial aid. The challenge inspired 2,831 Wesleyan Fund gifts for a total of $3,178,864—plus the additional $1 million from Usdan.

“As an institution, we’re lucky to have such consistent and generous donors who understand how important their giving is to the lives of students,” said Chuck Fedolfi ’90, director of annual giving for the Wesleyan Fund. “And it’s extra-special when someone like John Usdan steps forward to inspire our alumni and parents with such a generous challenge.”

Campaign Celebrated at Grand Central in NYC

More than 200 members of the Wesleyan community—decked out in red and black—gathered in Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal in New York City on June 16 to celebrate the success of the THIS IS WHY campaign, which draws to its end on June 30, 2016. The event was hosted by THIS IS WHY campaign chair John Usdan ’80, P’15, P’18, P’18.

At the event, President Michael Roth ’78 acknowledged some of the campaign leaders—including Usdan; Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, ’09, retiring chair of the Wesleyan Board of Trustees; Ellen Jewett ’81 P’17, trustee emerita; Alan Dachs ’70, P’98, Hon ’07, chair emeritus of the Board; and Donna Morea ’76, P’06, chair-elect of the Board—and thanked the entire Wesleyan community for its support.

“Thank you all for being generous donors to and supporters of this campaign,” said Roth, addressing the crowd. “We have faculty here who have mentored for decades, coaches who have helped athletes thrive, and parents whose kids have discovered what they love to do at Wesleyan. We are a family of people who support one another—not just for the sake of alma mater but also to send people out into the world to do great things.”

Photos of the event are below and the full gallery is in this Wesleyan Flickr album. (Photos by Robert Adam Mayer)

Wesleyan University and Campaign Chair John Usdan ’80 P’15, P’18, P’18, hosted a THIS IS WHY Campaign Celebration at Grand Central Station, New York, N.Y. on June 16, 2016. (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer)

THIS IS WHY campaign chair John Usdan ’80 P’15, P’18, P’18 hosted a campaign celebration at Grand Central Terminal, New York, N.Y., on June 16, 2016.

Wesleyan University and Campaign Chair John Usdan ’80 P’15, P’18, P’18, hosted a THIS IS WHY Campaign Celebration at Grand Central Station, New York, N.Y. on June 16, 2016. (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer)

Pictured, from left: John Usdan ’80 P’15, P’18, P’18; Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78; and Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, ’09.

Wesleyan University and Campaign Chair John Usdan ’80 P’15, P’18, P’18, hosted a THIS IS WHY Campaign Celebration at Grand Central Station, New York, N.Y. on June 16, 2016. (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer)

From left: Wesleyan trustee David Resnick ’81, P’13, with Helen Haje P’13 and Peter Haje P’13.

Wesleyan University and Campaign Chair John Usdan ’80 P’15, P’18, P’18, hosted a THIS IS WHY Campaign Celebration at Grand Central Station, New York, N.Y. on June 16, 2016. (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer)

Pictured, from left: Connie McCann ’76, trustee emerita; Alan Dachs ’70, P’98, Hon ’07, chair emeritus of the Wesleyan Board of Trustees; and Karl Scheibe, professor of psychology, emeritus.

From left: Barbara-Jan Wilson, vice president for university relations; John Usdan ’80, P’15, P’18, P’18; and Eva Usdan P'15, P'18, P'18.

From left: Barbara-Jan Wilson, vice president for university relations; John Usdan ’80, P’15, P’18, P’18; and Eva Usdan P’15, P’18, P’18.

Wesleyan University and Campaign Chair John Usdan ’80 P’15, P’18, P’18, hosted a THIS IS WHY Campaign Celebration at Grand Central Station, New York, N.Y. on June 16, 2016. (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer)

From left: Cristhian Escobar ’00, Miguel Guadalupe ’98 and Jamie Novogrod ’02.

Wesleyan University and Campaign Chair John Usdan ’80 P’15, P’18, P’18, hosted a THIS IS WHY Campaign Celebration at Grand Central Station, New York, N.Y. on June 16, 2016. (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer)

Amy Appleton ’83 P’16, ’19 sports her homemade Wesleyan University dress.

Wesleyan’s $1M Cardinal Challenge Is On!

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This month, the Cardinal community is joining together to secure up to $1 million for financial aid for Wesleyan students by taking the $1 Million Cardinal Challenge. “Thanks to the generosity of John L. Usdan ’80, P’15, P’18, P’18, this is the perfect time to make a gift to Wesleyan,” says Chuck Fedolfi ’90, director of annual giving for the Wesleyan Fund. “John will give $500 for financial aid for every gift of any amount to any Wesleyan cause received this month—for a total of up to $1 million.”

So far, more than 568 people have accepted the challenge, which translates to $284,000 so far for financial aid. The challenge ends June 30, 2016. Please join fellow Cardinals and give now at $1 Million Cardinal Challenge. 

Wesleyan Staff Perform in Beatles Benefit Concert

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Wesleyan’s Andy Chatfield and Shona Kerr performed along with 21 other singers and musicians at the second annual “Blackbird” Benefit Concert for the Stephanie Nelson Scholarship Fund on June 18.

On June 18, a 23-piece all-star band performed the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album in its entirety at Chapman Hall at Middlesex Community College at a benefit concert in memory former Wesleyan Center for the Arts intern Stephanie Nelson, of Middletown, who passed away last year at the age of 25. This was the second annual benefit concert held in Nelson’s name. The first, held last summer, featured the Beatles’ White Album and raised almost $5,000 to establish the Stephanie Nelson Scholarship at Middlesex Community College (MCC), Nelson’s alma mater.

This year’s concert was organized by Andy Chatfield, press and marketing director for Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts. Nelson was Chatfield’s intern at the CFA. “This year, we played all of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which is one of my favorite Beatles albums. Stephanie’s dad requested that we hold the event on the Saturday before Father’s Day, and clarinet player Catherine Rousseau, one of the musicians returning to perform with us this year, told me that June 18 also happened to be Paul McCartney’s birthday. So we played ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ the day that Sir Paul turned 74.”

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.