| The following iare John Hope Franklin’s commencement remarks presented during Wesleyan 174th Commencement Ceremonies on May 28. Franklin is professor of history, emeritus at Duke University.
A video clip of Franklin’s speech can be found at: http://condor.wesleyan.edu/openmedia/ur-media/video/comm_06/FranklinSansIntro.mov.
This is a glorious, memorable, exciting occasion and each time that I have the opportunity to participate in this ritual, even after my 50th anniversary of receiving my own bachelors degree, my excitement has not abated. I am greatly honored, therefore, Mr. President, that you and your colleagues have invited me here, not only to say a few words to those particularly, but to join them in becoming an honorary classmate as they leave this hallowed institution. I join with them in appreciating once more the benefits, as well as the challenges, of higher education.
Although I could envy you who graduate today for your academic achievement, I will not do so. That would be both selfish and unseemly. Instead, I will add my congratulations and best wishes for what you have done and hope that what you have learned here will bring credit to you and to those whom you will serve, so that your efforts will redound to the benefit of society in general.
You have had a remarkable opportunity here to receive an education comparable to that of any place that you could have obtained anywhere. That is because Wesleyan University and its benefactors have assembled here a faculty and facility of which we can all be proud and of which you have every reason to be grateful. Higher education in the United States is a modern miracle. A century ago only a very tiny fraction of Americas men and women had access to higher education. Most were compelled to be content with secondary school education, and in some rare instances, ad hoc training to prepare for a career in industry or business.
Today, those who have little idea of what they wish to do with their lives postpone the decision until after college or later, a luxury that some would regard as frivolous. Some say as casually as they remark about the weather, that they will take a year off to rest and to play and to think. Congratulations. Be my guest!
As you pursue your own careers and pause to contemplate the future, I very much hope that you will find time — take time — to work for the improvement of our society. Not long ago, a victorious presidential candidate said during his victory speech that for the next four years his agenda would be “putting people first.” I am not persuaded that this was his watchword for the ensuing four years, but I sincerely hope that “putting people first” will be your resolution for a much longer period of four years.
It is difficult to imagine, for example, a situation where our schools could be worse than they are at present. It has been a source of great embarrassment for our schools at all levels to rank far below the standards that a great nation can reasonably expect to maintain. And it is equally embarrassing to discover that most of the nation’s educational system could well be designated a disaster area.
You know the scenario as well as anyone: ungovernable students, rampant gangs, drug and alcohol abuse extending down into the middle schools, an over-emphasis on athletics and an under-emphasis on serious study and academic achievement. And the best our government in Washington can do is to pay a private publisher a quarter of a million dollars to write a column praising No Child Left Behind. And others similar in attitude, are using the resources of the government to develop a viable, workable program to improve education and its accessibility to all of our children.
We wring our hands and wonder how and why the Asians surpass us in some things and the Europeans have the edge in other things. This need not be. What better way for you who graduate today to make a proper beginning than to make a solemn resolve to rescue our schools from their present degraded status, and thus assist in providing our students with the opportunity to start a better life.
One of the most rewarding experiences you can possibly have is to guide some child or some adult in education, even the ability to learn to read and write. I had that experience when I was 20 years old, during my first year as a graduate student at Harvard University. One evening, during my first month in Cambridge, a man twice my age, who lived a floor above me in the rooming house that I lived in, rapped softly on my door and I invited him in. He said that he needed help in making out the words in the poorly written letter that he had received that day and he wondered if I could help him in reading it. When I looked at the letter, I saw that it was well-written, and I wondered, to myself of course, who had been reading his letters to him.
When I completed the task of reading the letter to my visitor, I suggested to him that it would be a good idea if he and I could work together and brush up on his reading. He protested that I did not have time, but it was obvious that he welcomed the invitation. I told him that I would take the time. If he would come to my room at five o’clock each evening, I could work with him for about 45 minutes, just before I would leave to wash dishes at a club where I earned my evening meal. For the next eight months he and I worked together six days a week, and by the end of the term, I who knew nothing about the teaching of English had transformed a person from illiteracy to one who could read and write simple sentences. Two days before I received my Master of Arts degree, my student for the first time in his life wrote a letter to his family in Virginia. During the week that I graduated from Harvard, I can tell you that the most exciting thing that happened to me that week was not receiving my own degree but to read a letter that this older man had written to his family. It was this experience, more than any other that inspired me to dedicate myself to the educational enterprise.
Thus, I did not need to leave my rooming house to step down from the ivory tower and engage in a modern time for improving the community. You may not have the privilege of teaching an illiterate person to read, but you can certainly be a voice for your concern about the school system in your community, about the need to make it organized in order to give evidence of your strength as you make representation about the needs of your community.
Those of us who are not physical scientists can do little more than stand on the sidelines, wringing our hands knowing and caring that this world of ours can go and what a bright place, or to go slowly from strangulation or suffocation. If you are a social scientist, you know that our institutions at home seem unable to preserve their own integrity, while the crises in the larger world seems susceptible to greater disruption than they have ever witnessed in the last four years.
Whatever your fields are and whatever the specifics subjects you have received you have pursued, you are infinitely better prepared for a career than any preceding generation. Not only is there more to know, but you in fact know more than your own predecessors. And if the ivory tower ever existed, it existed in the minds of those who never understood the nature and mission of Wesleyan University.
For those of you who graduate today, act as if the ivory tower will never exist. So in the days ahead, if some selfish heckler or demigod implores you to get down from the ivory tower, I hope that you will them that you were never there and you dont even know what it is. You can tell him what the task of the educated man and woman are and where they do their work. Tell him that your role will be to walk among your people, as philosopher kings would want to do, to work with them and to share the great storehouse of the worlds knowledge that youve helped to open.
Something has brought about the recrudescence of racism in this country. What triggered this bizarre demonstration of a trait that has too long been a portion of Americas life? I do not know. Perhaps it was the competition for the limited employment opportunities between recent immigrants and long-time citizens, such as African Americans who have been mistakenly regarded, and treated, as recent immigrants. Perhaps it was the view held by some that the civil rights movement had ended, and thus no longer holding all of us accountable for this incipient racism. Perhaps it was the mistaken view that the best way to preserve American values is for each American to take the law into her or his own hands. Perhaps there were other forces at work: the sense of insecurity in the workplace on the part of some, the palpable re-segregation of the public schools in many of our cities, the resistance to racial equality that has ever been present at all levels of American life and in every period of American history, and the mistaken belief by some that African-Americans should be made to understand that their rightful place in American society is one of subordination. But what better way for you to take on your role as responsible, mature citizens than to insist that the American ideal of equality of race, sex, religion and ethnic groups be adhered to because the ideal was bought for and paid for, was fought for and died for by all Americans, regardless of race.
And so, congratulations to those of you who graduate today. It has been a high honor and a great privilege to participate in this ritual, and especially to become an honorary member of this graduating class. May your days and years ahead be filled with the light by which truth is revealed. May you become activists in the promotion of the highest ideals of learning and service that are central to what you have experienced here at Wesleyan University. And may you take with you those ideals as you assume your respective roles in life as you go down from this place.
Congratulations, best wishes and God speed!
by Olivia Drake •
The following is President Douglas J. Bennet’s 174th Commencement Remarks presented during Commencement Ceremonies May 28.
Last weekend Midge and I attended a commencement at a different institution. The graduate in question was a niece who had chosen not to attend Wesleyan for obvious reasons. It was a glorious affair, as this commencement will be, but it reminded us of the value of brevity so I will be brief.
First, let me echo enthusiastically Jim Dresser and Pacho Carrenos welcome to you, and thanks to your families and the faculty. I really thought that Pacho captured all my hopes for Wesleyan in his powerful statement. This is Jims first commencement as chair of the Wesleyan board of trustees, and we particularly welcome him to this platform.
Second, let me point out that todays commencement coincides with the 175th anniversary of Wesleyans charter, which was granted on May 26, 1831, so this year we celebrate our septaquintaquinquecentennial.
In this anniversary year we will study Wesleyan history with renewed attention. It is a history that goes back to the early years of the Republic. It is a history of consistent educational purpose and of successful renewal to meet changing times. It is a history both of privilege and of commitment to social good.
In recent decades we have broadened our commitment to access and to racial equality, recognizing that these are still uphill battles in America. It is a great honor to be able, in just few minutes, to yield back the balance of my time to a person who has kept the reality of racism in America before us throughout his scholarly and personal life.
Let me just conclude with a word to the class of 2006. You represent over 700 individual scholarly and personal outcomesaccomplishments of imagination, inspiration, perspiration, obsession, focus, sportsmanship, passion and intellect. At the same time, your engagement with each others points of view and backgrounds, has allowed you to think and rethink who you are and who you want to be. Our small global university nurtures an environment in which encounters with each other, between disciplines and points of view, let us learn from each other.
You care a lot about other people, and you have shown that you will be part of the solutions. I know this because of your responses to Katrina, to the Indian Ocean tsunami, to the genocide in Darfur, and to your Middletown neighbors. Where existing institutions seem not to be getting the job done, you have created new not-for-profit organizations to foster everything form micro-credit in Nepal to nonpartisan debate on global issues in America.
Theres something special and powerful about a Wesleyan education. You have contributed mightily to it. I am confident that you embody Wesleyans strengths and its commitments. Keep up the great work. Stay in touch as we turn the corner toward our bicentennial. We will miss you very much.
Congratulations to you, the class of 2006.
by Olivia Drake •
|Edgar F. Beckham was Wesleyan’s first African-American dean of the college. In 1991 he received Wesleyan’s Raymond E. Baldwin Medal for service.|
| Edgar F. Beckham, one of the nation’s most influential and beloved leaders in higher education, died Wednesday in Middletown at the age of 72. He was a resident of North Haven.
As the first African-American dean of the college at Wesleyan University, Beckham led efforts to build understanding that diversity is integral to excellence in American education. While he served as dean, Wesleyan University became a national model for excellence in education for students of diverse backgrounds. Beckham also served as the chair of the Connecticut Board of Education, working to bring the lessons learned at Wesleyan to the public schools of Connecticut. In the 1990s, he headed one of the most far-reaching and effective change efforts ever launched in higher education: the Ford Foundation’s Campus Diversity Initiative. Then in 1998, he joined the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) as a senior fellow, where he continued to guide colleges and universities throughout the United States on matters of educational quality.
Beckham’s civic contributions were many. In addition to his service to Connecticut education, he served as chair of the boards of Middlesex Hospital, the Donna Wood Foundation, and the Connecticut Humanities Council. He also served as a trustee to the Connecticut Housing Authority, Mount Holyoke College, Vermont Academy, Connecticut Public Broadcasting and the Association of International Educators.
Beckham was honored with numerous awards. In 1997 he received the Outstanding Contribution to Higher Education Award from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. In 1991 he received Wesleyan’s Raymond E. Baldwin Medal, awarded for extraordinary service to Wesleyan and to the public good. In 1996, he was named Dean of the College Emeritus, and in 1998 the Wesleyan Alumni Association honored him with its Distinguished Service Award. Beckham received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters in 1997 from Olivet College and in 2000 from Clark University.
“Edgar Beckham’s legacy is his message that diversity is about much more than adding people of color to white campuses,” said AAC&U president Carol Geary Schneider. “He led a movement to enlarge the content of the curriculum, create intercultural community on campus, add new dimensions to liberal education, and build new civic capacity for democracy. He enriched us all with his life, his work, and his love.”
Edgar Beckham was born August 5, 1933 in Hartford, Conn., the son of Willabelle Hollinshed and Walter Henry Beckham. He grew up in a diverse neighborhood in Hartford and attended Weaver High School.
In 1951, Beckham enrolled at Wesleyan University, the recipient of the Lewis Fox Scholarship for his outstanding academic record at Weaver High School, and of several other named scholarships. He pursued a pre-med course of study, and was editor-in-chief of the Argus, Wesleyan’s student newspaper, a member of the choir, and a fraternity member of Delta Sigma. Between his junior and senior years at Wesleyan, he served for three years in the U.S. Army in Germany where he trained as a neuropsychiatric technician. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1958 with a bachelor’s degree in German. That same year, he married Ria Haertl of Stuttgart, Germany.
He earned his master’s and completed his doctoral course work in Germanic languages and literatures at Yale University. He began his academic career at Wesleyan in 1961 as an instructor of German. He spent 28 of the next 29 years at Wesleyan, serving in various posts including lecturer in German, director of the language laboratory, associate provost, and, from 1973-1990, dean of the college. “Edgar Beckham guided Wesleyan through the very difficult and utterly transformational period when we learned the hardest lessons about what it meant to be a diverse community,” said Wesleyan President Doug Bennet. “He succeeded by keeping us focused on what we could accomplish for ourselves and the larger society as we succeeded.”
Beckham also taught Freshman Humanities and courses in African-American studies at Wesleyan. While at Wesleyan, Beckham was the coordinator of Explorations in the Black Experience, an experimental high school course in black history designed and taught by Wesleyan undergraduates. He was also coordinator of studies for Wesleyan Upward Bound, an anti-poverty program for high school students.
Beckham spent the 1966-1967 academic year abroad in Germany where he taught English language and African-American history and literature at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. He also lectured extensively at America Houses throughout the Federal Republic of Germany on the state of civil rights and racial consciousness in the United States.
In the fall of 1990, Beckham accepted a position as program officer for the Ford Foundation’s Education and Culture Program. In this capacity, he affected the curriculum and co-curricular activities at hundreds of American college campuses. He organized international seminars on campus diversity in India, South Africa, and the United States, and he wrote and edited materials for the three volumes of essays based on the seminars. Beckham’s singular contributions to the Foundation’s work on access, diversity as an educational asset, and multicultural education earned him the unprecedented title of Senior Program Officer. “Edgar was the philosopher-king and the moral conscience of the Education and Culture Program,” said Alison R. Bernstein, a current vice president of the Foundation who worked closely with him.
Beckham is survived by his wife, Ria; son Frederick and daughter-in-law Julie; a sister, Ruth Beckham Holloman; a brother, William Beckham; a niece, Merle Holloman; and a nephew, Wendell Holloman.
A service was held May 30 at Wesleyan University’s Memorial Chapel.
by Olivia Drake •
|Wesleyan students received 145 awards during the Academic Awards and Prizes Reception at the Russell House May 9. The event was organized by the Dean’s Office. (Photos by Olivia Drake)|
by Olivia Drake •
Sophie Pollitt-Cohen 09 is the co-author of the book The Notebook Girls published in April.
| Sophie Pollitt-Cohen 09 is co-author of The Notebook Girls by Warner Books. The book began the journal with her friends, Julia Baskin, Lindsey Newman and Courtney Toombs at Stuyvesant High School in New York City in 2001.
The journal provided a way for the high school freshmen to stay in touch despite demanding class schedules, extracurricular activities and busy social lives.
Formatted as a reproduction of the girls journal, the book is stocked with hand-written notes on lined-notebook paper, doodles and pasted-to-the-page photographs.
It can be a lot easier to write something down than to have to admit it in words, she says. We’ve spent a significant portion of our adolescence trying to figure out who we are. The notebook is the closest we’ve come.
Since the books debut April 13, the young authors have been featured in New York Magazine, OK! Magazine, Vanity Fair, the cover of the Daily News, the cover of the Los Angeles Times calendar section, the Boston Herald, as well as on The Today Show, Good Morning America, ABC News Now, Sirius Radio, CNN Inside Showbiz, the WB11 morning news show, and a few other TV shows as well.
|By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor|
by Olivia Drake •
Gay Smith, professor of theater, speaks about upcoming art events during the 2006-07 Center for the Arts season in World Music Hall May 9. Pictured below, far right, Nina Felshin, curator of exhibitions and adjunct lecturer in art history, speaks with guests following the CFA’s season announcement.
| A fusion of Japanese drumming and jazz, clown-theater, Brazilian guitar, creative conversation and West African dance are all in the Center for the Arts (CFA) pallet for the 2006-07 season.
During the CFAs annual Season Announcement May 9, Pam Tatge, CFA director, announced the centers upcoming highlights.
We are very proud of what we and Wesleyans faculty, students and staff have created for next year, Tatge says.
New this year will be online ticketing, a deepened interest in engaging students, and creating a partnership with Middletowns Luce eatery and the Green Street Arts Center.
In addition, the Dean of the College Office will collaborate with the CFA next year to allow first-year students to interact with guest artists. Through the new “Engage and Imagine program, students can exchange views, discuss art and culture with guest artists choreographer Bill T. Jones and playwright Charles L. Mee.
This is going to be an amazing initiative and we hope its first of many, Tatge says.
BREAKING GROUND SERIES
Compagnie TchéTché, an all-female dance troupe from Abidjan, Côte dIvoire, will perform Dimi Nov. 17 and 18. In Dimi, the troupe explores the inner conflicts of contemporary African women.
The Joe Goode Performance Group will perform Deeply There (stories of a neighborhood) and Stay Together on Feb. 2 and 3. Deeply There is an intimate exploration of the AIDS crisis and the work widely acknowledged to be Goodes masterpiece.
CROWELL CONCERT SERIES
Sérgio and Odair Assad, the Assad Brothers perform Brazilian Guitar on Oct. 21. Hear the brothers fine blend of styles, time periods, and cultures ranging from gypsy melodies and American tangos.
The FLUX Quartet, featuring the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music Alvin Luciers world premier, performs Nov. 3.
Paul Brady, one of Irelands most enduringly popular artists, will perform Feb. 16. Brady continues to push out the boundaries of Irish contemporary music in the new millennium.
Eight-time Grammy award winner Eddie Palmieri will perform The Sun of Latin Music on March 3. At Wesleyan, he will play with his ensemble, La Perfecta II.
OUTSIDE THE BOX THEATER SERIES
Connecticut resident and OBIE-award winning playwright Charles L. Mee will hold Creative Conversation Feb. 22. His works, including bobrauschenbergamerica, Big Love and the rock-musical True Love, often draw inspiration from the Greek classics.
GREEN STREET ARTS CENTER
Shes also allowing Wesleyan students to perform their own talents for the centers students.
Wesleyan has some amazing performers from tap dancers to cellists, and the kids love to interact with the Wesleyan students, Astor says. We really want to boost the collaboration between Green Street and Wesleyan students this year.
|By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor and Lex Leifheit, Center for the Arts press and marketing coordinator|
by Olivia Drake •
|Holly Wheeler, head women’s lacrosse coach, also coaches women’s soccer.|
|Q: Holly, what year did you come to Wesleyan as a lacrosse coach?
A: I arrived at Wesleyan in the fall of 1999, as the part-time coach of the womens lacrosse team, directly after graduating from college. I had a couple of other jobs until the lacrosse season started in February. The next year, I got the full-time job as the head soccer and lacrosse coach.
Q: Wesleyan ended its lacrosse season April 30 with a winning 9-8 overall record. How does this record compare to the other seven years you have coached?
A: It is always difficult to be happy when your season ends on a loss, but this years team did achieve some great things. It is an exciting experience to make the NESCAC tournament, which we did for the fourth consecutive year. We play against the best teams in the country being in the NESCAC, eight of which were ranked at some point this year, and some of which are still playing in the NCAA tournament. Playing against that competition always gets you better. We return most of the team next year which will make for a thrilling year.
Q: Tell me about this years lacrosse team. I understand you had seven veterans this year.
A: We returned six starters from last year.. Kate Jones did a nice job in goal, making important saves throughout the season; Becky Meredith, second all-time on the points list at Wesleyan, who scored some big goals this year; and captain, Laura Siegle who has been a ball of fire, racing up and down the field for four years. We lose three seniors this year. They will leave some holes, but I know that the returnees will work hard to fill those gaps, along with the help of a strong class of 2010s.
Q: Please describe the objectives of lacrosse. What other sports can you compare it to?
A: Lacrosse is a lot like many sports. The settled attack and defense is much like basketball and hockey and the midfield is a lot like soccer. The objective is to get the ball in the back of the net and to do that more often than your opponent.
Q: What classes do you teach as an adjunct professor?
A: I teach Beginning Strength Training and Beginning Tennis.
Q: What sports did you play growing up and when did you become serious about lacrosse and soccer? I understand in high school, you were a soccer team captain and qualified for a high-school all-star team that toured England, Scotland and Ireland?
A: I played lots of sports growing up like soccer, basketball, lacrosse, tennis, swimming and football, some of them on teams, most of them in the backyard with my three older brothers. I began playing soccer when I was three and started lacrosse in high school. Because I was a decent athlete, I quickly found success with lacrosse and continued playing and improving in college. I wasnt quite talented enough to play both sports in college, and as a better lacrosse player, I stuck with that!
Q: At Princeton University, what did you major in?
A: Art history with a certificate in Italian.
Q: At Princeton, you were a starting defender in lacrosse for the Division I Tigers, helping Princeton to capture two Ivy League titles and qualify for the NCAA Division I tournament three times between 1996 and 1999. Do you still play lacrosse competitively anymore or are you focused on coaching?
A: I play on a club team pretty infrequently and in a summer league tooneither of which are too competitive. I play more often before practice, very competitively, with my players. It can get pretty ugly, but it is a great teaching tool and its also a way to get the players in order.
Q: What is the Connecticut Cup, and for how long has Wesleyan had the award?
A: The Connecticut Cup has made the rivalry between Connecticut College, Trinity and Wesleyan even fiercer. The Cup has been in Middletown, in my office, often with candy or remote controls, for the past three years.
Q: To you, what makes an ideal lacrosse player?
A: I always tell recruits it is important that they have athletic ability – being fast, agile and strong; the necessary skills and that they are coachable. As long as they are dedicated and willing to work hard, we can take care of the rest.
Q: What months does the lacrosse season span, and when does training begin? Do your student-athletes play other sports?
A: Lacrosse officially begins Feb. 15. That is the first time the team and I can work together. Before that, they work hard on their own and as a team to get ready for the short, upcoming season. We always have a few players who do play another sport.
Q: Are there any special lessons that you stress year to year with your team?
A: I often talk about taking care of the little things, like skills-catching and throwing, fitness, and beyond lacrosse, going to class, being timely and being respectful. These are all lessons that I hope to instill on the lacrosse field, but which apply to situations off it as well.
Q: Tell me about The Lacrosse School, of which you are co-director. What do you hope the girls get from this experience?
A: The Lacrosse School is a camp I run with the Yale lacrosse coach. It is a fun and intense camp for middle school and high school girls. We do a lot of teaching and playing, and often find a number of our recruits there. It is also a great way for high school players to see the Wesleyan campus, be coached by our staff and players, and play against college players. For more information visit http://www.thelacrosseschool.com/.
Q: What are your hobbies aside from sports?
A: Right now, one of my hobbies seems to be getting ready for two GLSP classes I will be taking this summer. We already have lots of homework and papers due! I do like to read, so thats ok. I have a really cool mountain bike, but only have used it in the last few years to bike from my office to the tennis courts for class.
Q: What are some outdoor activities you and your husband, Geoff, enjoy doing with your 1 and 1/2 year-old son, Sam? Do you think he will be a star athlete too, like mom and dad?
A: Sam is really our biggest and best hobby! When Geoff and I are not coaching, and sometimes when we are, we are with our He is a bundle of joy and we love nothing more than spending lots and lots of time with him. His first word was ball, but he also loves to draw on coffee table books, play his little piano and dance.
|By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor|
by Olivia Drake •
|John Meerts, vice president for Finance and Administration, has been working with budgeting, energy-saving initiatives and people management issues from his office in North College.|
|John Meerts is a technical guru. He loves computers. He loves numbers and budgeting. But most of all, he loves people.
These are all reasons Meerts was promoted to Vice President for Finance on May 1.
I love managing people, Meerts says from his office in North College I love helping them overcome obstacles, make decisions, offer advice about projects and being there to answer questions.
In this position, Meerts has responsibilities for the Office of Finance, Human Resources, Facilities and Construction Services, Legal Affairs and Auxiliary Services. The former director of Information Technology Services stepped out of this role in July 2005, but has continued to oversee the department during his role as interim vice president for Finance and Administration.
Meerts schedule is chocked full of meetings, meetings and more meetings. Some days he convenes with more than 20 people, several of whom are department heads.
Sometimes they just want to inform me of whats going on in their department, or other times Im needed to help make decisions about a policy, discuss negations, or handle funding requests for various departments, among other things, he says.
Overseeing the universitys budget is one of Meerts primary functions as VP of Finance. In that role he works with senior staff members and their designees to allocate appropriate funds to university needs such as faculty and staff salaries, classroom renovations and operating costs, payment of building and construction debt, and energy costs. Another big portion of the total budget is taken up by student financial aid which now exceeds $40 Million.
While interim vice president for Finance and Administration, Meerts developed a five-year plan to substantially reduce Wesleyans reliance on its endowment. This includes a way to save the university as much as $500,000 a year on energy costs. He also oversaw the reorganization of Human Resources, Benefits and Payroll offices.
“In his interim role, John quickly demonstrated the ability to manage a complex budget situation,” says Wesleyan President Doug Bennet. “John’s colleagues give him credit for great personal integrity and the transparency with which he conducts business. He will provide the financial and administrative leadership we need to implement the next phases of the university’s strategic plan.”
Meerts holds a bachelors degree in political science and psychology from Southern Connecticut State College, a masters in political science form Columbia University and has completed the coursework for a Ph.D in political science at Columbia. But it was a love for computers that drove Meerts into academia.
After college, Meerts began programming IBM mainframes using the language FORTRAN. He took up computer-related jobs at the Department of Juvenile Justice in New York City, Wang Inc., and the New York Institute of Technology. In 1989 he went to Yale as director of the universitys Science and Engineering Computing Facility and Director of Administrative Systems. In 1996, he came to Wesleyan as the director of Information Technology Services.
Back then, programming was all about having patience and perseverance and I guess I had enough of both, he says. Now, we use different programming languages, but the logic behind them still remains about the same. Ultimately youre still working with a machine that at its most basic level understands binary logic. You may not think this, but programming can be very creative. You design a product for your customer and when youre done, hopefully you have a happy customer using your application.
Meerts continues to oversee the ITS Department in his VP role. Hes still interested in technology. He loves gadgets. His Personal Digital Assistant, with phone capabilities included, chimes the Wesleyan Theme song when he gets a call. And if thats not around, hell pull out his iPod to head-bop a few tunes while playing Flight Simulator on his PC. Oh, but hes a Mac user too.
Netherlands native Meerts, a father of three, enjoys motorcycle riding and playing blues harp and guitar in his band, The Irrationals.
Being a VP of Wesleyan University is a role hes still settling into. While passing the Memorial Chapel on a midday stroll last week, he noticed that the towers clock had stopped.
I knew that clock had to be fixed, and then I realized, hey, that is now my responsibility to have it fixed.
The clock is ticking on time today.
|By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor|
by Olivia Drake •
Lirra Schiebler ’07, right, speaks on her community research project at “From the Field: First-Hand Reports of Wesleyan Service-Learning Projects” May 12 in the Center for Community Partnerships. Rob Rosenthal, center with blue shirt and tie, is director of the Service-Learning Center.
| As part of a Service-Learning project, Lirra Schiebler 07 learned that some residents in Middletown’s North End spend about 47 percent of their monthly earnings on heating and electric bills during the winter season.
Schiebler presented her group’s study, “Energy Costs in the North End: The Rise in Utilities and its Effect on a Low-Income Community” during a meeting at the Center for Community Partnerships May 12.
This is a statistic I find shocking, she says. Our results show that the rise in energy bills has not only affected residents, but affected them to a staggering and dire degree. I hope that local agencies, will be able to use this data in a persuasive way, garnering support from governmental and other assistance programs to filter more directly to those who are in need of immediate aid.
Schiebler was one of nine students who made presentations at the public event, titled “From the Field: First-Hand Reports of Wesleyan Service-Learning Projects.” Rob Rosenthal, professor of sociology and director of the Service-Learning Center coordinated the event. He is the instructor for the course, Community Research Seminar, in which small teams of students carry out research projects submitted by local groups and agencies.
Each student presented 10-minute talks, followed by brief opportunities for questions and answers. Several of the students were part of the course.
Jeff Stein 08 presented his study, Defining and mapping conservation priorities in the Maromas area of Middletown, Connecticut. He and his classmates evaluated the unprotected, wildlife-rich, 3,000-acre area known as the Maromas, in terms of its ecological value, and then ranked its parcels in terms of their value to the conservation movement.
Advocacy groups can use Steins data to apply for grants, fund further studies, and focus efforts on conserving the areas top priority parcels. The Middletown Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction approached Stein after the meeting and suggested incorporating the schools science classes with the Maromas.
Considering that most of us had never even heard of Maromas, we were awestruck that such an incredible resource with such extensive biodiversity existed so close to campus, Stein says. We’re all very excited about the awareness we’re raising about the area.
Julie Bromberg 06 presented her groups study, Disabilities and School-Based Arrests: Local Connections.
The study was designed to determine whether the national trend of an overrepresentation of students with disabilities getting arrested holds true in Meriden and Middletown. The study involved collecting collecting statistics from the school districts, police, and juvenile court as well as conducted interviews with special education teachers, school resource officers arrested students, and their parents. Bromberg and her co-investigators found that there were a disproportionately large number of students with disabilities getting suspended in both Middletown and Meriden. Twenty-five percent of suspensions in Middletown and 31 percent in Meriden were special education students, while they only made up about 13 percent of the student population in these districts.
Other students and their studies include: Kara Schnoes 07 with Implementation of Evidenced-Based Practices at The Connection; Laura Ouimette 06 with Why Student Graduate From–or Drop Out of- Upward Bound; Julie Kastenbaum 06 with Report from the Field, an Integration of Clinical Experience and Life Science Learning; Gretchen Kishbauch 07 with Predictors of Repeat Child Maltreatment among Families Involved with Child Protective Services; Kaneza Schaal 06 with Peer Mediation as a Model for Student Empowerment; and Craig Thomas 06 with Analyzing the North End Landfill.
Schiebler says the service learning course has brought her closer to the Middletown community, and also has taught her the importance of finding solutions to problems on a micro level.
Its important to look at these problems close to home before we offer grandiose solutions to global issues, she says. World poverty is clearly important, but how are we supposed to tackle that beast when its equally scary step-brother resides next door?
|By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor|
by Olivia Drake •
Ruby-Beth Buitekant 09 and Rebecca Chavez 08 read from the Torah for the first time as part of their Adult B’nei Mitzvah ceremony April 29.
| In Jewish tradition, when a child reaches the age of maturity (12 years for girls, 13 years for boys) that child becomes responsible for following Jewish law. The Jewish families hold celebratory ceremonies Bnai Mitzvah for boys, Bnei Mitzvah for girls which acknowledge that the child has become son or daughter of the commandment.
Nowadays, however, not everyone follows these traditions and some Jewish children go on to adolescence without going through the ceremony. But for Wesleyan students Ruby-Beth Buitekant, 09 and Rebecca Chavez 08, now is better than never.
On April 28-29, Buitekant and Chavez shared a Bnei Mitzvah through Wesleyans Adult Bnai Mitzvah Project. They attended a Shabbat dinner and celebrated at a campus-wide party in their honor. They were lifted in chairs and honored. Most importantly, the students had the opportunity to lead a morning Torah service in front of their friends, family and Jewish community, which involves reciting their D’var Torah. This service links segments of the Torah to their personal journey of exploring their Jewish identity.
We hope the Adult Bnai Mitzvah Project will guide students like Ruby-Beth and Rebecca as they explore their Jewish identities, says Rachel Bedick 08, who co-organized this years Bnei Mitzvah with Lillian Siegel 08. We also hope that the project makes them feel supported and embraced by the Wesleyan Jewish community so that they can go on to feel comfortable in other Jewish communities that they may encounter later in life.
The student-run Adult Bnei Mitzvah Project was created three years ago by Daniel Heller 06 and Ari Fagen ’07. The students who elect to have a Bnai/Bnei Mitzvah ceremony as an adult spend the year studying Judaism and Hebrew. They also design a Tikun Olam or Healing the World community service project.
Each week, a different student, professor, or Rabbi from Wesleyan or the greater Middletown community comes to lead a class about a topic in Judaism. This year the 14 speakers including Henry Goldschmidt, assistant professor of religion, who taught a class on chosenness in Judaism; Rabbi Seth Reimer from Adath, Israel, who led a text study on the laws of purity; and Wesleyan Rabbi David Leipziger Teva, who led a class on lifecycles in Judaism.
In addition to class work, Buitekant and Chavez were matched up with a Hebrew student tutor, and they learned how to chant from the Torah.
Chavez, who joined the project to educate herself about Judiasm, says she now has an incredible sense of ownership of her Jewish identity. She was not raised in a Jewish community.
“I have really valued this process not only as a rite of passage into the Jewish community but as a vehicle for learning about myself through studying this aspect of my heritage,” she says. “I genuinely feel like a part of the Jewish community at Wesleyan, which has been a wonderful discovery. It is not a purely individual process, but one in which I’ve been supported by a group of really motivated, caring people.”
The Adult Bnei Mitvah Project culminated April 28-29 with activities devoted to the Bnei Mitzvah ceremony/service and celebration. Buitekants mother, Beth-Ann Buitekant, traveled from Atlanta, Georgia to attend the ceremony.
I especially appreciate that Ruby-Beth was able to receive, at Wesleyan, the benefit of the teachings that I never fully learned myself and could not pass on to her, Beth-Ann Buitekant says, who raised her daughter Quaker and Jewish. It was a wonderful experience.
|By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor|
by Olivia Drake •
| After attending a digital image workshop, six Wesleyan staff members are seeing picture-perfect.
During the April 24 North East Regional Computing Program conference at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., participants had the opportunity to learn about digital image resource development, meeting the image demands of scholars in a changing environment, using digital maps in the classroom, creating and managing institutional digital image collections and visual storytelling among other topics.
The hope is that by assessing current practices in the classrooms, methods for more effective use of these images can be identified and implemented, says conference organizer Dan Schnaidt, academic computing manager for Arts and Humanities. While it would have
Schnaidt was joined by Valerie Gillispie, assistant university archivist; Mary Glynn, applications technology specialist; Susanne Javorski, art and reference librarian; Rob Lancefield, manager of museum information services and registrar of collections; and Susan Passman, slide librarian.
Topics of the day-long conference were The Use of Digital Images in Teaching Today, Digital Image Resource Development, Getting it Right: How Well Can Image Suppliers Determine and Meet the Image Requirements of College and University Users? Open Archive Initiative’s Protocol for Metadata Harvesting in collecting and distributing NSDL resources, Maps, GIS and spatial data: Maps Entering the Classroom in New Ways, Creating and Managing Institutional Digital Image Collections, Supporting Faculty in Developing and Deploying a Personal Digital Image Collection, Gather Ye Images: Negotiating Multiple Collections for Teaching, Critical Literacies, Visual Story Telling, Grammar, Cognitive Aesthetics, Teaching Visual Rhetoric and The Threat of Media Illiteracy.
The attendees also received the results of a six-month digital image study, which examined how digitized images of all sorts are used by faculty at 34 teaching and research institutions. Wesleyan and the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE) spearheaded the study.
Wesleyan spearheaded and sponsored the workshop, which was first sparked with a $15,000 Fund for Innovation grant. NITLE provided significant additional funding which allowed the program to expand the number of participating schools from 10 to 33.
The conferences principal speaker was David Green, a consultant hired to conduct the research. His final report will be made available on the Academic Commons site on June 2. The link is http://www.academiccommons.org/group/image-project.
The Wesleyan participants attended the conference for different reasons, but all hope to implement some of their new-gained knowledge at Wesleyan.
Lancefield attended the conference to hear the studys results, and learn from the diverse perspectives on various image-related topics.
Findings reported at the conference may well affect the approaches and tools we at Wesleyan use to deliver digital images, made here or elsewhere, to students and faculty for use in the classroom and in other learning contexts, Lancefield says. This defining focus on pedagogical use, rather than the more common topic of image production, was the really exciting aspect of the event. The conference and the study could have appreciable effects on our thinking at Wesleyan.
Gillispie says she gained some new insights into how faculty members are using visual resources in their teaching, and how other schools are managing personal and institutional collections of digital images. These ideas will be put to the test in Wesleyans Special Collections and Archives. There, more than 40,000 photographs of Wesleyan University and Middletown, and rare illustrations, are available and could be digitized for academic use.
The conference has encouraged me to think about how we in Special Collections and Archives can work with faculty to encourage use of our unique visual materials, she says. It was interesting to see how other liberal arts institutions are managing collections of visual images, and how they are using them to teach undergraduates.
|By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor|
by Olivia Drake •
| Interim Vice President for Finance John Meerts has become Wesleyan’s permanent vice president for Finance and Administration effective May 1.
Meerts has responsibility for the Offices of Finance, Human Resources, Facilities and Legal Affairs. The Board of Trustees will act on a resolution to appoint Meerts as treasurer of the university at its annual meeting this month. In addition, he will continue his oversight of the Office of Information Technology Services, which he has led since coming to Wesleyan in 1996.
“In his interim role, John quickly demonstrated the ability to manage a complex budget situation,” says Wesleyan President Doug Bennet. “He successfully developed a five-year plan to reduce substantially Wesleyan’s reliance on its endowment, and he communicated the key issues with great clarity to faculty and staff and ultimately to the Board. John’s colleagues give him credit for great personal integrity and the transparency with which he conducts business. He will provide the financial and administrative leadership we need to implement the next phases of the university’s strategic plan.”
Meerts joined the Wesleyan administration in July 1996, from Yale, where he had been director of administrative systems since 1991. As director of information technology services at Wesleyan, he led a substantial overhaul of the organization, as well as the university’s technology and applications. He became vice president for information technology in 2002.
After Vice President for Finance and Administration Marcia Bromberg retired in July 2005, Meerts assumed interim responsibility for Wesleyan’s finances. His permanent appointment follows a national search for Bromberg’s successor.
“It has been tremendously rewarding for me to serve Wesleyan in this broader capacity over the past several months,” Meerts says. “I look forward to continuing as part of the team that delivers on Wesleyan’s promise of educational excellence.”