Olivia Drake

Director of Major Gifts Leads Regional Campaigns


Andy McGadney, director of Major Gifts, travels nation-wide to recruit gifts in the form of cash, stock, planned gifts, property or rare collections.
 
Posted 05/23/05
Q: When did you come to Wesleyan and were you hired in as director of Major Gifts?

A: I started at Wesleyan on August 4, 1994 as an assistant director within the Wesleyan Annual Fund.

Q: What is your background that led you to this job?

A: Mostly sales. I was working for Otis Elevator Company as an account representative for service sales out of the Stamford office. I interned with Otis during my last three years as a student at Wesleyan University. I graduated from Wesleyan in 1992 with a double major in sociology and African American Studies. I am currently beginning my third semester at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in pursuit of an executive MPA.

Q: Please define what a ‘gift’ is in university terms.

A: A gift to the university could consist of any type of monetary contribution or object that could be sold for cash. For example cash, stock, planned gift like a charitable remainder trust, bequest, unitrust, or property, art, rare books or rare collections. On occasion, Wesleyan will accept an item that may be beneficial to our own collections.

Q: What is a ‘major gift?’

A: Gifts of $50,000 in value and greater are considered major gifts.

Q: What are your responsibilities as director of Major Gifts?

A: During the campaign, which ended on January 13, 2005, my major responsibility was to lead the various regional campaigns across the country. I went to Boston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland. Outside of the campaign, I am responsible for raising major gifts from our major gift prospect pool of approximately 2,500 prospects. I articulate solicitation strategies, talking points and travel agendas for the chairman of the board, the president and the vice president of University Relations, Barbara-Jan Wilson, my fearless leader. I lead and manage the Major Gifts team, which consists of major gift officers, researchers, a development writer and administrative assistants.

Q: Where do fund raised through Major Gifts go?

A: Our team plays a large role in securing the $31 million dollar annual goal needed to meet our institutional goals. Funds raised by our team goes towards the Annual Fund, various campus approved projects like the College of Social Studies, Turf field, Science Center, financial aid and facilities to name a few.

Q: Do you travel much for work?

A: I visit with 75 prospects annually, down from a high of 100 visits. I spend two to three weeks on the West Coast and the rest of the travel is done with one to three day trips to various locations such as New York, Boston, Philly, D.C, and Florida. The other members of the team each have visit goals of 100-125 visits per year and they have specific areas of coverage. I try to visit each major city area every year.

Q: Who generally donates major gifts? Do they always have a Wesleyan tie?

A: Most of our major donors are alumni and that is the group I focus on, although we receive gifts from corporations, foundations and friends, current and past parents. Most gifts have a tie but not all.

Q: Is finding major gifts a collaborative effort?

A: Major gifts are a complete collaborative effort. Gifts raised today may be because of solid work from previous fundraisers, administrators or faculty. A prospect, for the most part, just does not wake up one morning and say I want to give a million bucks. A tremendous amount of planning and work goes into a successful solicitation. Our alumni programs and events staff, the Career Resource Center & annual fund staff, reunion programming and many other departments play a major role. I have had the pleasure of working closely with Barbara-Jan Wilson, Midge and Doug Bennet, other members of senior staff, and several volunteers across the country – Mary McWilliams ’71, Bob Coleman ’68, Susan Sutherland ’82, Sanford Livingston ’87, Bruce Corwin ’62, Peter Hicks ’72, Kofi Appenteng ’80, Alan Dachs ’70, Renny Smith ’78 and John Nelson ’53 to name a few.

Q: What are the hours like?

A: When I am in the office I work a fairly normal day, although I tend to be a night owl. So, it is not uncommon to find me in front of computer at home in the early am or the late evening. When I am on the road, my day starts at 5:30 a.m. and if I have a dinner engagement it is not unlikely to return to the hotel until well after 10 p.m.

Q: What is your involvement with the Administrators and Faculty of Color Alliance?

A: I am currently the co-chair of this group with Lucy Diaz. This is a rewarding experience to serve this group. We are currently in the middle of a strategic planning session that I look forward to sharing with the greater Wesleyan community once it is completed.

Q: Are you involved in any other Wesleyan or community groups?

A: I am the vice president of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Hartford Alumni Chapter, a former board member and keeper of records for this organization. My relationship with Kappa began at Wesleyan in 1989 and I have continued to play a leadership role with this organization since the late 80s.

Q: What are your interests outside of work?

A: Golf! I love the game, but I need a tremendous amount of work to improve. I joined a golf league last year that plays weekly at Keeney Golf course in Hartford. The organizer is a good friend and mentor, Evans Jacobs, class of 1973 from Wesleyan.

Q: Do you have a family?

A: My number one priority is my beautiful and loving family. They are Camille, my bride and sweetheart, also a Wesleyan alumnus class of 1993, and my two boys Kyle, 5, and Maxwell, 3.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Students Discover Hunger Problem in Middletown Children


Amelia Long ’06, Tiffany Lo ’05, Beth Coddington ’05 and Maria Nankova ’05, students in the Community Research Seminar, completed a study titled “Hungry Children in Middletown.”
 
Posted 05/23/05
Four Wesleyan students have discovered that one out of five local children lives in a household that suffers from food insecurity.

Beth Coddington ’05, Tiffany Lo ’05, Amelia Long ’06 and Maria Nankova ’05 presented results of their study, “Hungry Children in Middletown” on May 12. The students were enrolled in the Community Research Seminar taught by Rob Rosenthal, professor of sociology.

The Middlesex Coalition for Children commissioned the survey. The project’s purpose was to assess the rate of food insecurity among Middletown households with children under 18.

The USDA defines food insecurity as: “a limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or limited or uncertain ability to acquire these foods in socially acceptable ways.”

The students found that 20.1 percent of Middletown children (1,883 children) were living in food-insecure households during the past 12 months. Of those children, 15.5 percent (1,452 children) experienced food insecurity in their household but were shielded from actual hunger. However, the other 4.6 percent (431 children) experienced food insecurity with hunger within the past year. The rest of Middletown’s children, an estimated 79.9 percent (7,481 children) lived in houses that were food secure.

“We tapped into a fantastic team of young researchers,” says Betsy Morgan, director of the Middlesex Coalition for Children. “Thanks to our research team, we know there is a serious problem.”

They also found food insecurity is about as prevalent in Middletown as it is in the U.S. as a whole – nationally with 16.7 percent of households with children were food insecure — but food security with hunger among Middletown households with children exceeds the national average of 3.8 percent.

The results are based on 329 telephone and paper surveys, administered by the students and local organizations. The survey was designed by the USDA and is currently used by the federal government to measure food insecurity at the state and national level. The students made calls between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. through 4 p.m. Sunday.

Lo, an earth and environmental science major, chose to take part in the research project to integrate herself in the Middletown community.

“The results were rather surprising as I didn’t expect to see so much hunger going on in Middletown,” she says. “But finding this out was definitely the first step towards ending hunger here.”

The students also asked people about their coping strategies for when they were running low on food or money to buy food. The students found a trend of higher usage of food pantries than food stamps among Middletown’s more food-insecure and lower income households, something that differs from the national tendency.

Long, a government major, said the food-secure families surveyed were surprised to hear so many households in their own community were having trouble affording food.

“Also, a lot of people seem to think that individual factors like laziness and poor spending habits are the biggest factors contributing to hunger in families as opposed to bigger structural issues like outdated income qualifications for food stamps,” Long says.

The research project grew out of the past year’s work by the Middletown Childhood Hunger Task Force. The Task Force was prompted by the discovery that some Middletown families with pre-schoolers didn’t have enough food. Composed of local anti-hunger agencies, the Task Force is co-sponsored by the the Middlesex Coalition for Children and Middletown Mayor Domenique Thornton, who attended the student’s presentation.

Now that the students have documented their findings, they are working on ways other Wesleyan students can further help the reduce or eliminate problem in the future.

“We’re going to need everybody in Middletown to help these children,” Morgan says. “It’s going to be a long-term project to build up and strengthen our charitable food programs. We’ve got out work cut out for us.”

 
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Wesleyan’s 173rd Commencement Features Inspiring Speakers, 718 New Graduates


More than 700 students graduated from Wesleyan May 22.
 
Posted 05/23/05
During the last four years, Wesleyan University students have generated responses to the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the war in Iraq, the genocidal crisis in Darfur, the Tsunami of 2004 and several other events. In his commencement address on Wesleyan’s campus on Sunday, May 22, Wesleyan President Douglas J. Bennet `59 urged the 718 undergraduates from the Class of 2005 to continue their good work.

“My commencement wish for each of you is that you never lose your instinct for challenging the society around you,” Bennet said.

Bennet exhorted the students to take special interest in those around them who struggle economically

“In our parents’ time, we had a patchwork of social legislation, tax policy, public programs, including some foreign aid, to provide help and hope so that families could move up,” Bennet said. “There does not seem to be a consensus in the public today about what we can or should do for the have-nots…I am counting on you, everyone here, not to ignore this issue. There is a moral imperative to address it so that the outcomes are not decided by default.”

The commencement speaker, Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania, echoed Bennet’s remarks but also asked students to adapt an attitude of mutual respect.

“Mutual respect is not about walking on eggshells,” Gutmann said. “It is not about playing down differences. Rather, it is about giving serious consideration to our differences and disagreements and working through them. It is about pursuing common goals in a constructive spirit of engagement, even when many differences remain.”

Gutmann added that mutual respect is “the life blood of democracy” and yet has become more scarce in a society that seems increasingly polarized and partisan.

“Without mutual respect, democracy is dead, and so are your prospects for living in a just and peaceful world,” she said.

Students also heard from New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick `75, P `07, who received an honorary doctorate from the university during the ceremony. Belichick urged the graduates to give heed to their passions rather than taking the easy way out.

“Follow your dreams,” he said. “Resist the opportunity to take the job that might pay a little more in the short term but offer nothing in the long term. Pursue the thing you really love. Do that, and the rest will come.”

Along with Belichick and Gutmann, Pulitzer prize winning author Edward P. Jones and William Barber, the Andrews Professor of Economics Emeritus at Wesleyan also received honorary degrees.

Wesleyan bestowed the Baldwin Medal, the highest alumni honor presented by the University, to John F. Woodhouse, `53, P `79, a Wesleyan alumnus, former president and CEO of Sysco Corporation, and trustee emeritus, chairman and leader of the first-ever Wesleyan Capital Campaign that raised $287 million.

The Baldwin Medal pays tribute to the late Judge Raymond E. Baldwin of Wesleyan’s Class of 1916. Baldwin was the only man to have held the offices of Connecticut governor, U.S. senator, and chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Along with the 718 bachelor of arts degrees, Wesleyan also awarded 14 Ph.D. degrees, 40 master of arts degrees in individual fields, 65 master of arts in liberal studies degrees and two advanced certifications. Wesleyan also honored and recognized its alumni from the World War II era during the ceremony.

For the full text of the speeches visit:

Full text of Amy Gutmann’s speech

Full text of Doug Bennet’s speech

Belichick receives honorary degree at Wesleyan

To see photos of the weekend visit:

http://www.wesleyan.edu/newsletter/snapshot/0505randc2005.html

 
By David Pesci, director of Media Relations

Behind the Scenes: Reunion & Commencement Weekend Result of All Departments


]]>
At top, hired students worked stuffed 3,000 packets and created nametags in preparation for Reunion & Commencement Weekend at University Relations.

At left, Gemma Ebstein, director of Alumni and Parent Relations and Deana Hutson, director of Events, look over Reunion & Commencement Weekend schedules prior to the four-day event.

Posted 05/23/05

It all starts the day after.

Deana Hutson, director of Events, began planning for the 2005 Reunion & Commencement Weekend the day after the 2004 Commencement Weekend ended. On the agenda: Hire 150 student workers. Print 20,000 brochures. Rent 10,000 chairs. Block 900 local hotel rooms. Contact 50 vendors. Plan events for 9,000 guests.

“There is so much going on behind the scenes of Reunion & Commencement Weekend,” says Hutson, who has been critical to the success of six R&Cs so far. “It starts with a small team of staff meeting and program planning and culminates with a team of 1,000 making it happen. We want alumni, parents and seniors to walk away with wonderful memories of the weekend.”

On May 16, just three days before the big weekend, Hutson and Gemma Ebstein, director of Alumni and Parent Relations, spend their day going through a pen-scribbled list and an 80-page flow document. The document details who is in charge of each event, the time of the event and a description.

The duo coordinates more than 150 individual events including picnics, dinners, parties, academic department tours, senior projects, campus walking tours, 36 WESeminars, 15 class reunions, a parade, an annual meeting and assembly, a grandparents gathering, a children’s day camp, class photos and of course, the 173rd commencement ceremony.

“We just go with the flow,” says Ebstein, who has co-coordinated 14 reunions and six reunion and commencement events. “These lists may look crazy, but it explains everything we need to do to run the weekend.”

Ebstein says virtually all the university’s departments contribute to the weekend in one way or another. Physical Plant staff spends Saturday night setting up chairs for commencement. Campus Dining prepares more than 90 percent of all meals. The Office of University Communications writes, photographs and edits the brochures and award citations. The Wesleyan grounds crew grooms the campus lawns and flower beds. And all academic departments plan open houses for the weekend.

Even students get involved. More than 500 students apply for R&C Weekend employment, but only 150 are hired. They often cover odd-hour shifts, some beginning at 6 a.m. and ending at 2 a.m. the next morning.

“Students want to be here working for commencement,” Hutson says. “They enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun. And we want them here. They’re representing Wesleyan, and they’re proud of their school. Alumni love talking to the students, and for the students, meeting Wesleyan alumni on this weekend puts it all into perspective for them.”

When planning more than 150 events throughout the weekend challenges are sure to arise. The staff, however, is accustomed to expect the unexpected.

About 670 alumni registered for 2005 reunion, however, an additional 350 can show up depending on the weather. The coordinators keep their eye on the numbers, which can affect last-minute food orders, rental orders, tables and table cloths, napkins, tables, chairs, silverware, plates, glasses and even the number of flower and balloon arrangements.

And in recent years, challenges have run the gamut:

Brochures and nametags were delivered incorrectly printed. the University Relations staff stayed up throughout the night to get them finished days before the event. 

  • A picnic ran low on turkey sandwiches forcing, students, staff and campus dining crew to scramble to locate lunchmeat and make sandwiches during the picnic.
  • When rain poured for seven days before commencement, the Wesleyan grounds crew laid a makeshift mulch road so vendors could get onto the flooded field.
  • A water main broke one year forcing the coordinators to reroute shuttles through campus at the busiest time of the weekend.
  • A tent fell over just before an all-campus picnic.
  • When the 2000 fireworks show went off with a bang, it left a blanket of soot on the commencement chairs and stage overnight. Physical Plant staff had to hand-wipe all 10,000 chairs clean before morning.
  • “We’re constantly problem solving,” Ebstein says. “Even with the best laid plans, things go awry. The key is to stay calm, be pleasant, assess options and take action.  We strive to do everything possible to make this weekend a positive experience for alumni and parents. Some alumni may not return to campus for another five years, so this experience really matters.”

    Members of University Relations and Physical Plant are assigned different tasks, but among the most important are to be the eyes and ears of the university. All problems and questions are communicated through cell phones and radios. Seventy-two of them to be exact.

    Crunch time for University Relations begins in March when brochures are mailed off, a Web site is developed and registration begins. In May, the staff begins working longer hours and weekends. During the R&C weekend, some of them sleep an average of two hours a night. The staff includes Makaela Steinberg, associate director of Alumni Relations; Linda Kavan, associate director of Events, Suzanne Kampen, administrative assistant with Alumni and Parent Relations; Gail Briggs, associate director of Alumni Education, Meg Zocco, director of Parent Programs and Camille Dolansky, assistant director of Parent Programs. Jean Shaw, now coordinator of University Lectures, was the overall coordinator from 2000-2003, helping to combine the once separate reunion and commencement celebrations into one event.

    The hectic schedule affects their personal life, and Hutson and Ebstein say it takes an understanding family to get through it.

    “My husband knows I’ll be coming home late every night, and my sons know I can’t make it to their basketball and soccer games this time of year,” Ebstein says. “But when they come and see what the weekend is all about, then they get it.”

    Hutson compares planning for R&C Weekend like a running up a hill.

    “It can be agonizing trying to get up and over that hill, but once you’re on top you’re so proud of what you’ve accomplished, you forget how hard it was to get there.”

    After R&C Weekend, the University Relations staff sends evaluation assessments to alumni. Feedback lets Wesleyan know they’re efforts pay off in the end.

    “Although we offer many ways for alumni to stay connected, reunion weekend is one of the more traditional programs and has a unique appeal, ”Ebstein says. “Sometimes alumni won’t have much contact with Wesleyan for many years, then return for reunion and gradually become re-engaged. There’s really something special about the reunion experience; it has a lasting impact.”

    And then on Monday, the planning starts for 2006.

    By the Numbers:

    562
    The number of steps in parade route

    2
    The average hour of sleep per night by events staff

    48
    The hours to clean and prep dorm rooms

    300
    The number of student workers

    10,000
    The number of chairs used/rented

    300
    The number of hours to plan, cook and set up post-commencement reception

    3,000
    The number of hours student staff works during the weekend

    20,000
    The number of brochures printed

    72
    The number of two-way radios used]]>

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Wesleyan Professors Lecture to Local High School Students


     
    Above, Rob Rosenthal, professor of sociology and director of the Service-Learning Center, draws a troubadour to illustrate how the message of music is perceived differently during a lecture to high school students.

    At right, high school students listen to Rosenthal’s lecture during the High School Humanities Program.

    Posted 05/23/05

    This semester, local high school students read “The Odyssey,” and watched “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” but it wasn’t with their high school English teachers.

    As part of the High School Humanities Program, more than 80 high school students had the opportunity to participate in six discussions at Wesleyan. Wesleyan faculty members facilitate the lectures. Students were bussed in from Vinal Technical High School and Middletown, Killingworth, Mercy and Xavier high schools.

    Rob Rosenthal, professor of sociology and director of the Service-Learning Center, lectured about social music and culture on May 6. He played music samples for the students including songs by Woody Guthrie and Aretha Franklin.

    “R-E-S-P-E-C-T. What kind of respect is Aretha asking for here,” Rosenthal asks the students. “If you study this stuff, you can’t simply listen to the lyrics. Think about the style, the voice, the year it came out.”

    Rosenthal sketched a troubadour and other people on the chalkboard to illustrate how the music, or the message, is interpreted differently. One person may really favor the lyrics, another may like the beat and rhythm, and still another may not really be paying any attention, he explained.

    “It’s difficult to pin-point the real connection between music and social movement, he says. “Individuals take this in and react, as well as reflect, differently,”

    Other viewings this year included “Glory,” “Monsoon Wedding,” “Slam,” “The Godfather: Part II,” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

    The High School Humanities Program is supported by Community and University Services for Education, most commonly known as CAUSE.  Established in 1967 by Marjorie Daltry Rosenbaum, CAUSE facilitates the implementation of cooperative programs and projects between Wesleyan, the Middletown community and the public and private schools in the Middletown area.

    In addition to the High School Humanities Program, CAUSE also supports the following:

  • The Art Show, a unique exhibition of more than 1,200 artworks of Middletown students in grades K-12 at Wesleyan’s Zilkha Gallery. This annual event in April showcases the art curriculum in Middletown public schools and attracts hundreds of students and their families to the Wesleyan campus each spring.

  • Silent Sounds, a collection of selected literary works submitted by students in Middletown Public Schools grades 6-12. Categories include poetry, short stories, literary analyses and personal essays.

  • Mini-grants to local Middletown teachers to develop innovative and creative short-term projects to engage their students in learning.

    Rosenthal is one of six professors involved with the High School Humanities Program. Other lecturers this semester have included Andy Szegedy-Maszak, the Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, professor of classical studies, and the director of the Center for Faculty Career Development; Richard Slotkin, the Olin Professor of English and professor of American Studies; Indira Karamcheti, associate professor of English, associate professor of American studies and associate professor of women’s studies; Kate Rushin, adjunct assistant professor and visiting writer of African American studies; and Sean McCann, associate professor of English, associate professor of American studies and chair of the American Studies Program. Peter Frenzel, professor of German Studies Emeritus, served as faculty director of the program and Frank Kuan, director of Community Relations, offered administrative support for the program.

  • For more information, call 860-685-2245 or 860-638-1401.

     
    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Director of Administrative Applications Makes Systems More Efficient for Users


    Ed Below, director of Administrative Applications helped develop systems on the electronic portfolio.
     
    Posted 05/02/05

    Q: When did you come to Wesleyan?

    A: I came to Wesleyan in 1987 as the director of Financial Aid. In 1998, I became the project manager for the PeopleSoft Student Administration System, and later the director of administrative applications. It was a new position.

    Q: What does it mean to be “director of administrative applications?”

    A: I have overall responsibility for how the Student Administration System (SFIS) and the Human Resources Management System (HRMS) are used by the functional offices around campus. My job is to develop better and more efficient ways to use systems in office operations.

    Q: What is your interaction or overlap with Information Technology Services and Human Resources, or other departments of note?

    A: ITS has responsibility for all the technical aspects of the systems, but I work with offices to make this technology more efficient. We work closely with ITS to help us implement the system improvements for the offices that use the PeopleSoft systems. In addition to my work with various student services office, I also work with with Human Resources, the Financial Planning Office, Payroll, Academic Affairs and other offices that use the HRMS side of the system. All of our projects are done cooperatively with ITS and the user office that will use the enhancement.

    Q: What are some examples of projects that have extended the efficiency of these systems?

    A: One is the InfiNet Web payment system for the Students Accounts Office, GLSP and University Relations. A new online-registration system for GLSP went live last week, and we have also developed a new Budget Management and Planning System that allows senior staff areas to see and enter more detailed information about their budgets. An application that will be live this week is a new on-line compensation system where managers can make their recommendations for the July 1 increases for their staff.

    Q: How did you get into this type of work?

    A: I have a master’s in higher education administration, and I spent 25 years working in financial aid offices at three other institutions. Working in financial aid has given me a good perspective on how other departments operate, so I learned what was needed in administrative systems. I may not know the payroll process or how Human Resources does their budgeting, but I am able to sit down with experts and figure out how to implement a useful system that can make things easier for them.

    Q: What is your involvement with the electronic portfolio, and how often should people log into the system and why?

    A: People should log in every day. From this portfolio, you can see your time off or vacation time, change your address, elect health and life insurance, establish retirement funds and see if there are any campus-wide alerts such as snow parking bans. We established this system for faculty and staff in 2003 to save paper and a lot of hassle. No more filling out papers and physically brining them to an office, and no more calling around to change your mailing address. People can submit all this information now on the Web. Also, since you have to sign into your portfolio, we know it is the right person getting into the system.

    Q: Any upcoming projects?

    A: We’re currently working on making a better system for all hourly employees who have to report time. The one now works, but we can make it better by extending capabilities for online time recording. We’re also designing a recruiting module for new employees, so they can submit their applications and resumes online. On the student side, we’re looking at re-writing the student online registration system. That’s our big project for next year.

    Q: How do you spend most of your day?

    A: I’m usually going to quite a few meetings or working on plans here at my desk. I’m on the phone sometimes, but mostly I work through e-mail communication.

    Q: What have you liked best about working at Wesleyan?

    A: I like the variety of people I come in contact with. I’ve met many students and staff and faculty and it interests me to see the variety of things people do. I also like the athletic facility and the cultural resources here at Wesleyan. It’s a really good atmosphere.

    Q: What about your job?

    A: I like that I’m always working on something different and that can be very challenging. And it’s nice to see how something I made improves the way someone else works.

    Q: Do you have family?

    A: I am single, but I have two grown children. Molly is a grad student at the University of South Florida in clinical psychology and Kate is a paramedic in Hartford. She’s engaged to be married next summer.

    Q: What do you do after work?

    A: I am a singer. I’ve been singing about 10 years, three of which have been with the Hartford Chorale. We put on about three to four concerts a year and sing with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. I also like to see opera in New York City. I play bridge every week and I like to just putter around my house doing small projects.

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    18th-Century Man: Assistant Professor of History Researches a Revolutionary Tale


    Kirk Davis Swinehart, assistant professor of history, specializes in early American history. (Photo by James Ward Swinehart, Jr.)
     
    Posted 05/02/05

    Kirk Davis Swinehart, assistant professor of history, has been spending most of his time in the 18th century with an Irish knight and a Mohawk woman.

    Swinehart’s research and teaching focus on events from the period just before and leading up to the American Revolution. He has also done extensive research on the New World soldier-adventurer Sir William Johnson (1715–74) and his families, Irish and Mohawk, both of which fought for Britain during the American Revolution. Funded by an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Faculty Career Enhancement Grant, Swinehart will spend next year finishing his book on Johnson and his Mohawk common-law wife Molly Brant.

    “Sir William’s story is easily one of the eighteenth century’s most seductive—a story of setting out and making good, a story reenacted for centuries throughout the British Empire,” Swinehart says. “Monarchical, rich, and sexually corrupt in the eyes of a fledgling nation, this unlikely couple represented all that America struggled to define itself against after winning independence from Britain.”

    Swinehart’s book, tentatively titled “Molly’s War,” is a narrative that recounts an intimate history of the Crown’s uneasy military alliance with the Mohawk Indians of central New York. The story chronicles Sir William Johnson’s 20-year relationship and domestic life with Brant (1736–96), a powerful Mohawk woman who struggled to maintain the Mohawks’ allegiance to George III after Johnson’s death.

    The book is under contract with Houghton Mifflin in North America and Hodder Headline in the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth. 

    Swinehart’s “Molly’s War” derives its narrative verve from the events and places that shaped Brant and Johnson’s lives: their childhoods in the New and Old Worlds; the circumstances of their meeting and subsequent two decades together; the building of the estate they shared uneasily with their eight children and with Johnson’s three white children; and the two decades Brant spent without Johnson, waging war and living as a single mother confronted with heartbreaking blows.

    Many have written about Johnson since his death in 1774 but too often he has been depicted as a caricature of the British colonial official. Swinehart says his research, conducted in British and American archives–including the British Library, the Public Records Office in London, and in Sir William’s own published papers–suggests a more complicated portrait than the ones offered by previous biographers and scholars. Swinehart says Johnson was a devoted father, a great lover of fun, and a man of tremendous intelligence and empathetic powers.

    To complement his research, Swinehart spends time in physical locations where Johnson and Brant lived. He has spent extensive time at the house they shared, Johnson Hall, which still stands, 45 miles northwest of Albany. This summer, he’ll be in London, searching for the family’s banking records, and in Dublin, visiting Johnson’s childhood house.

    Swinehart’s interest in Johnson and Brant dates back six years. After earning a master’s degree from the University of Delaware, where he studied American decorative arts, he pursued a Ph.D. in American Studies at Yale University. While at Yale he studied with prize-winning colonial historian John Demos, who changed forever how Swinehart writes history. That is when he began his doctoral dissertation on Johnson.

    “Writing narrative history is for me a way of enriching our sense of the eighteenth century,” Swinehart says. “So, too, is reconciling the history of early America with the history of the British Empire.”

    Swinehart says he hopes to spend his life doing work that combines scholarly rigor and accessibility in equal measure, inside the classroom and on the page. Students, he finds, learn best about early American history when people and life stories are placed front and center: when enormous social and economic changes can be discerned in the life of a James Boswell or a Benjamin Franklin or a Molly Brant.

    At Wesleyan, Swinehart has taught all self-designed courses. These include the survey of early American history, narrative nonfiction and historical biography and the British Empire, a seminar on the Puritans, and another on early American furniture and art.

    “I believe in reaching intelligent, curious people, in opening up worlds to people who may never become scholars but who — if you can persuade them of a book’s capacity to transport and transform — may become discerning adult readers of serious literary nonfiction,” Swinehart says. “It’s always a marvel to watch young readers connect for the first time with people who lived over 200 years ago.”

    In addition to the Mellon Foundation Career Enrichment grant, Swinehart is the recipient of a Yale College Teaching Prize and of fellowships from the University of Pennsylvania’s McNeil Center for Early American Studies, the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, the Huntington Library in Los Angeles, and the New York Public Library. Prior to coming to Wesleyan in 2002, he was the Mellon Research Fellow in American History at the University of Cambridge.

    “That’s my vocation,” he says. “To reach those who will never become professional historians, teach them that reading books is a lifelong pleasure — and the cheapest vacation they’ll ever take.”

     
    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Telfair Paints from Memory Via Her Heart


     
    Above, Tula Telfair, professor of art, sits near her students’ work inside her office in Art Studio South. At right, Telfair’s oil on canvas, “Obscured to the Eye Apparent on the Map,” measures 79 by 100 inches.
     
    Posted 05/02/05
    Many people who see Tula Telfair’s landscape painting titled “To Make Space Distant,” are confident the artist painted a place familiar to them. However, before she painted it, the grassy field, split by a pond highlighted in fire brush existed nowhere but in Telfair’s mind. It’s part of a world that the professor of art at Wesleyan creates from her life experiences.

    “The paintings trigger a connection in people,” says Telfair. “Two people, one from Florida and one from Maine will swear they grew up near there, and they know these places.”

    Telfair’s work is nationally recognized. Her large-scale paintings have been shown in dozens of solo and group exhibitions in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, Chicago and other large city galleries. They are also held in numerous public collections including MasterCard Corporation, General Electric Corporation and The New Orleans Museum of Art.

    The scenes she creates are expressions of metaphoric visual short stories. She invents landscapes with skies blazing with white, golden, gray or saffron clouds. In her square format paintings, skies often make up most of the image. Others include water, which leads viewers through the picture to an indefinite end. The water reflects the light in the sky, as it cuts through the shifting land surface, contributing to the mood of the scene.

    “I work from my own memories and feelings,” she says. “I don’t paint on location. I paint in my studio where I can determine the colors. Colors are so meaningful to the expression.”

    Telfair recently exhibited work at the Forum Gallery in Los Angeles. Many of those multi-paneled pieces are set off with wide bands of color, which lead views around the painting. Telfair says these self-invented bands – which wrap around or cut through an image – are painted with colors found within the landscapes contained in the painting itself.

    The bars also add depth. “The Relationship is Symmetrical,” is actually painted on five canvases, each at a different elevation.

    “The bands have their own intensity that yields a sensual roadmap to the scenes they contain,” says Robert Fishko, director of the Forum Gallery. “They magnify our approach and deepen our desire to penetrate the suggested story of the landscape.”

    Telfair is currently Wesleyan’s only painting instructor, and describes her lessons as “challenging and demanding.”

    “See these paintings? These are all done by students who have never painted before,” she says, pointing at finished work on display in Art Studio South. “I teach each student real technical skills and help them foster unique expression. I am thankful for that privilege.”

    David Schorr, professor of art, says his colleague is known for her toughness and “extremely high” standards.

    “Tula demands and gets the most from everyone: her students, her colleagues, and above all herself,” he says. “Sometimes she scares people or puts them off but she never worries about that, because her standards matter and because they always like her in the end for making them perform to their utmost.”

    Telfair never intended on becoming a painter. In fact, she entered into a required art course in high school and felt overwhelmed. Frustrated by her ignorance, Telfair decided to teach herself how to draw and began copying the drawings of Michelangelo and DiVinci. Two years later, she went to college with aspirations of becoming a medical illustrator.

    Six years later, she ended up a painter, with a bachelor’s degree from Moore College of Art and a master’s of fine arts degree from Syracuse University. In 1989 she was hired by Wesleyan University as an assistant professor of art. She soon became the chair of the Department of Art and Art History and then served as acting academic dean for the Arts and Humanities.

    Telfair currently teaches all levels of painting, introductory drawing and senior thesis, while she continues to work from her studio in New York. Teaching and painting go hand in hand, she says. She’d never want to do one and not the other.

    “Teaching to me is essential,” she says. “I am stimulated by the challenge to teach students how to paint.”

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Center for the Arts Director Brings the Arts to Campus, Town


    Pamela Tatge is Director of the Center for the Arts and spearheaded the development of the Green Street Arts Center.
     
    Posted 05/02/05

    When Pamela Tatge became the director of the Center for the Arts (CFA) six years ago, Wesleyan had a golden reputation in the arts.  Unfortunately, not enough people in the community – or on campus  –  were taking notice.

    “We were an undiscovered gem,” Tatge recalls.” I saw the richness in this institution and believed the resources should be shared with the community.”

    Tatge would spend the first five years of her Wesleyan career raising the public’s awareness of arts at Wesleyan. By 2004, the CFA increased its attendance by the general public by 70 percent, while increasing student attendance by 18 percent and faculty-staff attendance by a staggering 1,720 percent. Overall ticket sales climbed 14 percent and revenues for CFA sponsored events went up 24 percent.

    Tatge also spearheaded the development of the university’s Green Street Arts Center, which opened in January of 2005 in Middletown’s North End. She conducted feasibility studies, focus groups and derived the business plan.

    “Nothing in my working life has been as tremendous as creating the Green Street Arts Center,” she says. “I know the institution is here to stay, and it will only grow and continue to assist children and adults.”

    Her efforts have not gone unnoticed. In 2003, she was awarded the Elizabeth Mahaffey Fellowship for Arts Administration from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts. In March, the Connecticut Dance Alliance honored Tatge and the CFA with an achievement award.

    In addition, the Center for the Arts was recently named a Hub Site for the National Dance Project in recognition for their ongoing commitment to the creation and presentation of new dance work. As a result Tatge will serve on the NDP Board.

    But these are just the extras that Tatge takes on. As director, her main duties are to oversee programming in an arts complex that includes a theater, cinema, two music halls and a contemporary art gallery. Offerings include the Crowell Concert Series, the Breaking Ground Dance Series and Outside the Box, a series of theater performances and talks, well as several professional and student installations annually in the Zilkha Gallery.

    LiLy Milroy, Dean of the Arts and Humanities program and professor of American studies and art history says her colleague devotion to promoting arts in the Middletown community is signaled by such projects.

    “I think Pam is a dynamic director of the Center who has developed an exciting and innovative program of events for the Center and has as a result significantly raised the profile of the Center for the Arts both on campus and in the wider community,” Milroy says. “I enjoy working with her immensely.”

    Working in the CFA is not Tatge’s first experience with Wesleyan’s fine arts. After growing up in Bethesda, Md., and Milan, Italy, the bilingual student enrolled at Wesleyan in 1980 to pursue a degree in history.

    But in between courses on 20th Century Europe with Professor of History Nat Greene and psychohistory with Professor of History Phil Pomper, she took an interest in Wesleyan’s overabundance of art, dance and music classes. She acted in a play every semester, took several dance classes and sang in the concert choir. These experiences, along with a year abroad in Paris, led to a deep love for international cultures.

    “These four years here were a precious time for me to take advantage of the arts and the arts faculty here,” she says. “I aimed to be a triple threat. I was going to be an actress, singer and dancer and I was determined to make my fame in New York,” she says.

    After graduating in 1984, she worked for two years as an actor in New York, supporting her career by grant writing and fund-raising for several arts organizations. In time, her home life and administrative interests in the arts outweighed her desire to be cast in roles that would require her to travel.

    From 1989-99, she was the Director of Development at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, where she spent 10 years developing the theater’s fund-raising  and community outreach programs, including mounting what was at the time, the most successful single year fundraising campaign in the theater’s history.

    While at Long Wharf, she ran fund-raising workshops for arts organizations throughout the state, worked to create the Arts Industry Coalition and the Regional Cultural Plan for Greater New Haven, and was hired by the Connecticut Commission on the Arts to mentor first-time arts managers.

    “My life experiences had taken me in many different directions, so I came back to Wesleyan, looking at it through new eyes,” she says.

    She oversees a staff of 15, including an exhibitions curator, technical operators, an art director, box office manager, art studio and audio-visual technicians and the staff of the Green Street Arts Center. She’s also been recruiting artists for Middletown Dances!, a town-wide dance festival which will feature the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange. As a result of Tatge’s efforts and the interest of the dance and science Departments, GLSP and the Continuing Studies Program, among others, the dance exchange will be in residency throughout the year, culminating in world premiere of Ferocious Beauty: Genome as part of the Breaking Ground Dance Series.

    “Pam has done wonders in bringing the Green Street Arts Center to life, establishing important arts connections between Wesleyan and its surrounding community,” says Eric Charry, associate professor of music. “Her great energy has helped to bring a wide array of musical events to campus that gives Wesleyan its distinctive character.”

    Tatge lives in Madison, Conn., with her husband, artist Jerry Zinser, her two children and two step-children. She also spends time as a Madison Foundation board member, a volunteer at her children’s schools, and attends events that the CFA sponsors.

    She regrets not having the time to sing, dance or perform. However, she still sneaks in an occasional jam session with her family.

    “I still love to dance,” she says. “I still love to rock out.”

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Assistant Dean of Admission Reads Applications, Recruits Students, Plans WesFest


    Leah Kelley, assistant dean of admission, looks through a student’s file in the Office of Admission.
     
    Posted 05/02/05

    Q: When did you come to Wesleyan?

    A: I came to Wesleyan as an assistant dean last fall after graduating from Yale in the spring.

    Q: What led you into working in an admission office?

    A: I have a bachelor’s of arts in psychology, but in college, I became very involved in college awareness and SAT prep outreach programs. The different programs that I worked with opened up my eyes to the complexity of admissions. After working with high school students for three years, I knew that I wanted to work on the inside as well to get a better understanding of the process before returning to the advising/counseling side again someday.

    Q: What are you enjoying most about working here so far?

    A: Wesleyan is a wonderful place to work, but what I enjoy most about this job is the opportunity to travel and interact with students at their schools and in their communities.

    Q: Working in the Office of Admission, do you get to work face-to-face with the students and parents or are you behind the scenes?

    A: Both. All of the deans in the office spend time meeting students and parents at college fairs, school visits and information sessions. But of course a lot of the work in admissions goes on behind the scenes. We spend a lot of time reading applications, coordinating alumni outreach, planning travel and putting special programs together just to name a few duties.

    Q: And what about that successful WesFest?

    A: It was a community wide effort that Wesleyan can be proud of!

    WesFest is our admitted student’s weekend, and I was involved with the planning of it. It could be thought of as a celebration of all things Wesleyan and requires coordination between the Office of Admission and dozens of faculty and student groups on campus. Around 400 admitted students visited that weekend and I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things from both parents and students.

    Q: What are your thoughts on the Wesleyan students?

    A: I absolutely love working with both our prospective students as well as our current students. One of the greatest parts of this job is getting to meet so many individuals and hearing their stories and plans for the future.

    Q: What are typical questions that high school students or parents have about Wesleyan?

    A: Our information sessions are driven by the audience’s questions so we get asked almost everything and anything about Wesleyan. Some common themes are social life on campus, study abroad opportunities, campus culture and academic programs. One of the neat things about our information sessions is that a current senior sits on the panel with an admissions dean. Having a student on the panel is invaluable to families that are trying to find out what it’s really like to be a student at Wes.

    Q: Students are also tour guides, correct?

    A: Yes. Our tour guides are also excellent and we get a lot of great feedback about them. The Cardinal Key Tour Guide Program is a volunteer program and so the students who give tours really do it for the love of the university, which makes for a wonderful tour. 

    Q: How does your job change throughout the year?

    A: Admissions is a cyclical process, so I’ll describe the different seasons of admissions. In the fall, the deans in our office travel all over the country — and the world — to visit high schools, meet students, work at college fairs and host receptions. It’s a hectic schedule where we visit up to five schools during the day and then host a reception or attend a fair at night. In the winter, you will find most of the deans reading applications. Once decision letters go out in the spring, our office gets busy planning for WesFest, reaching out to admitted students though phone-a-thons and recruiting the next year’s class. Throughout the year, we hold daily information sessions and answer questions from students, parents and counselors.

    Q: Is reading applications a pretty intense process?

    A: Yes. Last winter, I often found myself reading applications six days a week, sometimes from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Most of the deans work at home to avoid office distractions.

    Q: Are you involved with any Wesleyan activities?

    A: The on-campus activity that I am most heavily involved in is varsity softball. I played in college and jumped at the opportunity to volunteer with the team here at Wesleyan. It’s a great way to spend more time interacting with students and sharing a passion that they have. 

    Q: What are your hobbies?

    A: Probably the most interesting “hobby” of mine, if you can call it that, is football. This past winter I joined a women’s professional football team here in Connecticut called the Connecticut Crush (www.ctcrush.com).  Few of the women on the team have played full-contact football before, so we put in a lot of time practicing and learning the sport. I’m also active in my church in New Haven, Christ Presbyterian, and can often be found spending time with that family on the weekends.

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Flory joins Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department


     
    Mark Flory, assistant professor of molecular biology, studies genomic integrity in Hall-Atwater Laboratory.
     
    Posted 05/02/05

    Mark Flory joined the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department as an assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry in January 2005.

    Flory, a native of Roanoke, Virginia, completed his bachelor’s of science degree at the University of Richmond majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry in 1994. He earned his Ph.D. at the Molecular and Cellular Biology Program at the University of Washington, Seattle, in 2001. His dissertation was titled, “Isolation and Characterization of Calmodulin-Binding Centrosome Components Related to Sacharomyces cerevisiae Spc110p from the Fission Yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe and Humans.” Flory completed his postdoctoral research in proteomics and mass spectrometry in Ruedi Aebersold’s group at the Seattle Institute for Systems Biology in 2004.

    Flory’s research interests involve understanding the specific mechanisms that ensure genomic integrity. These mechanisms are fundamental to the prevention of chromosomal abnormalities that accompany carcinogenesis. A core set of proteins, conserved in yeast and human cells, protects telomeric chromosome ends by forming a physical cap structure, termed the “telosome,” that regulates access to chromosome ends. The low-abundance and biophysical properties of telomere-associating factors have hampered their identification and characterization, but he has successfully applied mass spectrometry to the identification of telomeric proteins in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe.

    “I hypothesize that the telosome serves as a repository for factors that dynamically function in an equilibrium balancing telomeric protection and DNA repair according to the needs of the cell under different conditions,” Flory says.

    While conducting postdoctoral research in Seattle, Flory also taught “Introduction to Biochemistry and Metabolism Parts I and II” at the University of Washington Extensions College for two years prior to coming to Wesleyan.

    “I value highly the merits of a smaller-campus environment, but did not want to sacrifice the quality of my research program,” he says. “Wesleyan provides a truly unique combination of high-level research with an intimate teaching environment ideally suited for effective training of undergraduate and graduate students. During my recent national job search, I found the Wesleyan life sciences environment is unique not only to Connecticut but across the country.”

    Flory is the co-author of nine articles, one technical report and a chapter in a book. He lives in Middletown with his partner Amy Sanchez, a chocolate lab named Ace, and a cat named Denson. He enjoys listening to and playing classical and jazz piano, kite boarding on water and snow and hiking.

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Director of Publications Says “Wesleyan” Magazine is Collaborative Effort


    Bill Holder, director of Publications, is the the editor of “Wesleyan” magazine.
     
    Posted 05/02/05

    Q: Your history with Wesleyan goes back more than three decades. How did it start?

    A: My story with Wesleyan begins in 1971, when I came here as a freshman, graduating in 1975. I ended up working here most of my professional career here in the Office of University Communications, formerly the Office of Public Information.

    Q: As director of publications, what are you in charge of?

    A: I’m the editor of “Wesleyan” magazine. I plan content for the magazine, write, edit and oversee production, but really, the magazine is a collaborative venture with a number of people here in communications, from beginning to end. I’m glad to be part of this publication, which has been very well received. Our office also produces most of Wesleyan’s publications: everything from invitations to the course catalog.

    Q: Sounds like a satisfying career.

    A: The opportunities that came with doing the magazine have been very gratifying. I’ve met so many wonderful people on and off campus, and the job presents unending opportunities for personal growth. There are always challenges ahead.

    Q: Who is the audience of the magazine?

    A: Both campus and alumni. The magazine has various names that reflect its history. The correct name is “Wesleyan: the University Magazine,” but many people still call it older names, such as ‘the Alumni Magazine,’ or ‘Alumnus,’ which I think originated in the single-sex era here. Some people still call it “The Bulletin,” and that name goes way back. It’s funny how these old names stick around.

    Q: What was your degree, and what led you into journalism/publications?

    A: I actually graduated with a degree in chemistry, and then I went on to graduate school at the University of California at Berkley, wanting to become a research chemist. But after one year, I realized it wasn’t for me.

    Q: Then what led you into journalism?

    A: I learned mostly through on-the-job training. After I graduated, my Wesleyan connection served me well. I got a job as a science journalist with the American Chemical Society in Washington D.C. and my supervisor had a master’s from Wesleyan. Also, we both knew Max Tishler, who was a professor of chemistry at Wesleyan between 1970 and 1987 and served a term as president of the American Chemical Society. He influenced a lot of people, including me.

    Q: How did you end up working at Wesleyan?

    A: My wife, Elisabeth, and I wanted to move back to New England, so I came here and worked at the Middletown Press as a reporter for two years. My beat was covering Wesleyan, so I got to know many people here. And when a job opened up in Wesleyan’s public information office, I joined as a writer/editor.

    Q: What were you writing/editing?

    A: We had a newsletter for faculty and staff called the “Campus Report” and a tabloid for alumni called “WesNews.” I wrote for those, and the magazine, and later started WesOnline, which has since been replaced by the online newsletter.

    Q: How has the Office of University Communications changed?

    A: The public information office in South College was much smaller. There were only six or seven of us. Now there are 16, and the name changed to the Office of University Communications in 2000 when Justin Harmon was hired as the director. So back then I was doing a little bit of everything, including writing and editing stories for the magazine and writing a lot of press releases. Now there are three departments under the Office of University Communications: Media Relations, headed by David Pesci, which handles the media inquiries, press releases and the online newsletter; Web Management, headed by Jennifer Carlstrom, which handles the design of the bulk of the University’s Web pages; and my department, Publications, which produces the “Wesleyan” magazine and most of Wesleyan’s higher profile publication pieces.

    Q: You left Wesleyan for a few years. Where did you end up going?

    A: In 1990, I went to Cornell’s news bureau. I was a full-time science writer, and that was an interesting change, as Cornell is a much different institution. My beat was the College of Agriculture, and I wrote articles on everything from cows and apples to molecular biology. I was there three years, until the magazine editor job opened here at Wesleyan and I came back.

    Q: What do you enjoy doing after work or on weekends?

    A: I work out regularly at the Freeman Athletic center, read, and I like to travel. Recently, I went to visit my daughter in L.A.; other trips have included visits to friends in Ottawa and in Switzerland. Our Swiss friends have a view of Lake Geneva and the Alps to die for. I also am on the Middlesex County United Way board of directors and a member of the Rockfall Foundation, a local conservation and environmental group.

    Q: Tell me more about your family.

    A: My wife, Liz ‘76, teaches earth science at Rocky Hill High School. I have three children, Anne, who is at USC in LA now; Luke, who will graduate from Wesleyan this spring with the class of ’05, and Zoe, a freshman here at Wesleyan.

    Q: Any pets?

    A: We have two dogs, Acadia and Kona. We go on lots and lots of dog walks.

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor