by Lauren Rubenstein •
Wesleyan University closed out its most successful fundraising campaign ever on June 30 with $482 million raised, far surpassing the original goal of $400 million. The biggest share, $274 million, went to financial aid, making a Wesleyan education possible for motivated and talented students who could not otherwise afford to attend. More than 36,000 donors gave to the THIS IS WHY campaign.
Not only was the THIS IS WHY campaign the most successful in Wesleyan’s history, but this past fiscal year was Wesleyan’s biggest fundraising year ever with $79 million raised in gifts and pledges. In the month of June alone, Wesleyan received 3,400 gifts, spurred by the $1 Million Cardinal Challenge. John Usdan ’80, P’15, ’18, ’18 donated $500 for every gift made during this challenge. In the last five days of the campaign, donors stepped up with $30 million in new pledges.
The campaign could hardly have started at a more inauspicious time, just before the financial markets collapsed at the start of the Great Recession in late 2007. Yet the Wesleyan community banded together to make a Wesleyan education their cause, with nearly 80 percent of alumni donating to the campaign. Wesleyan parents also donated $51 million.
“I am overwhelmed by the generosity of the extended Wesleyan family during the course of the THIS IS WHY fundraising campaign,” said President Michael Roth ’78. “In traveling around the world and speaking to alumni and parents about why they choose to make a Wesleyan education their cause, I have been so impressed by the loyalty and ambition of this community. The loyalty comes from a sense of belonging to an institution that decisively affected one’s life, and the ambition comes from the desire to see that institution continue to grow and provide to others a liberal education characterized by boldness, rigor and practical idealism.
“I have been able to describe to them how their gifts to Wesleyan enable us to strengthen the things they care so much about. This being Wesleyan, our supporters are not primarily interested in replicating the past. Instead, they tend to want to recreate the conditions of change that have allowed our University to have a powerfully transformative impact on its students.”
The three goals of the campaign were to increase funding for access, inquiry and impact. Of the funds raised, $286 million went to the endowment, to ensure future financial stability, while $196 million went to current use. The more than $274 million raised for access included the creation of 152 new endowed scholarships. About half of all students at Wesleyan receive financial aid. The two other focal points of the campaign were inquiry—more than $145 million in new resources to recruit and retain the most talented faculty—and impact—more than $61 million to advance students’ opportunities to deepen their learning through the creative interaction of scholarship and engagement with their community.
Highlights include the launch of four new interdisciplinary colleges—in the areas of film, East Asian studies, environmental studies, and integrative sciences—as well as the Center for Pedagogical Innovation, and endowment support for the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, the Shapiro Center for Creative Writing, Center for the Humanities, the Gordon Career Center, and the renovation of Boger Hall.
At a gala in Grand Central Terminal in New York City on June 16 to celebrate the success of the campaign, President Roth recognized the campaign leaders, including Campaign Chair and Trustee Emeritus John Usdan; Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, ’09, newly-retired chair of the Wesleyan Board of Trustees; Ellen Jewett ’81 P’17, trustee emerita; Alan Dachs ’70, Hon. ’07, P ’98, chair emeritus of the Board; and Donna Morea ’76, P ’06, chair of the Board—and thanked the entire Wesleyan community for its support. He also credited Vice President for University Relations Barbara-Jan Wilson and her team for their work throughout the THIS IS WHY campaign.
by Lauren Rubenstein •
Hannah Levin ’19 recently interviewed Peter Cambor ’01, an actor on Showtime’s Roadies, about his career and his time at Wesleyan. The interview appears on Master Chat Mag, a website Levin has been running since her sophomore year of high school, which serves as a resource for students who are passionate about TV, film, theater and comedy and wish to work in the field one day.
Cambor has starred in television series including Notes from the Underbelly and NCIS: Los Angeles. In the interview with Levin, he talks about catching the acting bug in high school, and about how his time at Wesleyan fueled his creativity:
I guess that the best thing for me was the faculty at the time was great, Bill Francisco was a great teacher who has since retired. A litany of great actors had come out of Wesleyan before my going there, like Bradley Whitford and Frank Wood. The ’92 Theater [Wesleyan’s student theater] had a play going on every weekend. Some of the plays were quite good, including In the Heights, as you know. There were things like that going on all the time.
There are two sides to working as an actor professionally. There’s the creative side where you’re making all the fun stuff, making theater, which is great. But you also have to have a business acumen. Just like in any other business you have to know how to work on a team, how to work with other people, what’s realistic under great constraints and how you can find freedom within those constraints. You’re forced to creatively think your way out of problems. I think that little microcosm of the ’92 Theater really taught me that thing. People took big swings and sometimes things were great, sometimes things were awful. But there were always big, bold swings. Learning how to work together, fail together, succeed together was great.
I was also working with a great group of people. I was good friends with Thomas Kail (’99) who directed Hamilton, Lin-Manuel [Miranda] (’02) and I were in a play together, I did a film with one of the executive producers for Brooklyn-Nine-Nine. There’s just so many more: Zack Whedon, Joss Whedon’s younger brother. All those guys were there. That’s a pretty hefty group of people to be working with, which of course I didn’t realize at the time.
Read the full interview here.
by Olivia Drake •
Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, recently completed a collaboration with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights in Florence, Italy. The center asked Jenkins to stage a play in a Florentine prison on the theme of human rights.
The play, which was based on Dante Aligheri’s 14,000 line epic poem, “The Divine Comedy,” was performed on July 14 and featured Coro Galilei, a choir that specializes in Gregorian chants, and actors from a local prison. The script consisted of texts written by the prisoners on the theme of justice intertwined with fragments from the “Divine Comedy” and interviews with human rights activists from around the world.
“Dante’s Inferno” is the most famous section of “The Divine Comedy” and is based on Dante’s real life in 14th century Italy, where he was a city official, diplomatic negotiator, and a man who dared to cross the Pope. Dante also was a convict and convicted of crimes, and Jenkins uses Dante to connect with incarcerated men and women.
“Dante was condemned to death, but we do not remember him as a convict,” Jenkins told the audience at Sollicciano prison in his prologue to the play. “We remember him as writer and philosopher who denounced the lack of justice in his society. After having seen our play, we hope you will remember the performers, not as convicts, but as writers whose words are born from the wisdom of experience, as Dante said, ‘Men of great value…. Suspended in this limbo.'”
Jenkins has already taught “Dante’s Inferno” and acting to inmates in Connecticut and Indonesia. Jenkins encourages incarcerated men and women to make connections between their own life stories and the experiences of the characters in classics like “Dante’s Inferno.” Their thoughts are used to create play scripts that are performed inside a prison. Wesleyan students also perform the scripts at other colleges and in the community, and engage in discussions about issues related to reforming the country’s criminal justice system.
by Bill Holder •
The following employees received Cardinal Achievement Awards in April, May and June for their efforts in demonstrating extraordinary initiative in performing a specific task associated with their work at Wesleyan University.
This special honor comes with a $250 award and reflects the university’s gratitude for their extra efforts:
Liliana Carrasquillo-Vasquez, area coordinator, Residential Life
Olivia Drake, editor and campus photographer, University Communications
Terry Emmons, accounting specialist, Chemistry Department
James Huerta, senior assistant dean, Admission Office
Elizabeth Mainella, serials administrator, Olin Library
Jeffrey McDonald, assistant football coach, Physical Education
Emily Pagano, area coordinator, Residential Life
Paul Turenne, senior associate registrar, Registrar’s Office
Joy Vodak, associate director, Academic Affairs
Randy Wilson, library assistant, Olin Library
by Lauren Rubenstein •
Kindergarten Kickstart, a research-based, summer pre-K program for children in Middletown created by Associate Professor of Psychology Anna Shusterman and her students, is celebrating its fifth year. It’s marking the occasion with an event July 20 at the Middletown Roller Skating Rink (free for any current or past Kickstart family, 4 to 6 p.m.) and using a new grant to further develop student innovation in the program.
Shusterman and three of her students first launched Kindergarten Kickstart in summer 2012 as a pilot program with 15 children at MacDonough School. They designed the curriculum and taught the program together with a MacDonough teacher. Today, this five-week program serves 35 children at Bielefield and Farm Hill schools (who will be entering kindergarten at those schools plus MacDonough), with six Wesleyan undergraduates and recent alumni leading the classes and developing the curriculum. A certified teacher continues to work at each site. Funding comes from a variety of sources, including a small budget from Wesleyan’s Provost, the Foundation for Greater Hartford, Safe Schools/Healthy Students, and a seed grant from Wesleyan’s Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship.
The program is intended for children who could benefit from an extra pre-school experience before beginning kindergarten in the fall. Through a partnership between university-based research labs, Middletown Public Schools and local community organizations, Kindergarten Kickstart aims to bridge the research-to-practice gap and improve participants’ school readiness skills through a short-term, high-impact, low-cost preschool program.
According to Shusterman, children in low-income neighborhoods start kindergarten with academic skills up to two years behind their peers. Research shows that quality early childhood education makes a huge difference in helping to shrink this achievement gap. In fact, economists estimate a $7 return for every $1 invested in early childhood education, resulting from lower spending on school remediation, incarceration, unemployment and other programs that become necessary when children do not start out on the right foot.
Shusterman said Kindergarten Kickstart was started as a way to put early childhood research into practice.
by Olivia Drake •
Norman Shapiro, professor of French and the Distinguished Professor of Literary Translation, is the author/translator of The Gentle Genius of Cécile Périn: Selected Poems (1906-1956), published by Black Widow Press, 2016. This comprehensive bi-lingual anthology covers the full expanse of Périn’s (1877-1959) works.
“A reader of Cécile Périn’s work cannot help being struck by the spontaneous and intuitive nature of her poems, effortlessly flowing from one subject to another, touching the reader by their unstrained yet profoundly beautiful images and sounds,” Shapiro said.
Despite limited bibliographical resources available on Périn’s life, The Gentle Genius provides readers with sufficient material to embrace fully her talent and confidently identify her as a significant femme de lettres. For contemporary readers, this work gives renewed access to the world of female imagination in the mostly male-dominated field of early and mid-20th-century French poetry. Her images of female sexuality, free and uncensored, are placidly combined with descriptions of nature and human emotions-not overly romanticized-to create a harmonious and warm verse, candid and authentic, yet no less profoundly artistic.
Shapiro is an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la République Française and a member of the Academy of American Poets.
by Lauren Rubenstein •
Associate Professor of Economics Abigail Hornstein and James Hounsell ’11 are the authors of a new paper published in The Journal of Economics and Business titled “Managerial investment in mutual funds: Determinants and performance implications.”
In the paper, Hornstein and Hounsell examine what determines managerial investments in mutual funds, and the impacts of these investments on fund performance. By using panel data they show that investment levels fluctuate within funds over time, contrary to the common assumption that cross-sectional data are representative. Managerial investments reflect personal portfolio considerations while also signaling incentive alignment with investors. The impact of managerial investment on performance varies by whether the fund is solo- or team-managed. Fund performance is higher for solo-managed funds and lower for team-managed funds when managers invest more. These results are consistent with the higher visibility of solo managers, and less extreme investment returns of team-managed funds. The results suggest investors may not benefit from all managerial signals of incentive alignment as managerial investments also reflect personal portfolio considerations.
Read the full paper here.
by Cynthia Rockwell •
Josh Lockwood ’93, CEO for the American Red Cross in Greater New York and co-chair of the national LGBT affinity group, is no stranger to disaster and tragedy in his workday. Heading the organization’s efforts within an area that is home to 13 million persons, he estimates that his chapter receives between five and 20 serious incident-calls each day. Red Crossvolunteers also travel to other states to help out. Lockwood recalls his response when the country awoke to the horrific news about the mass shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on June 12, 2016.
“I’ve been on a disaster scene countless times and I’ve met families who have lost loved ones and had terrible moments,” he says. “Just seeing the images on that Sunday morning of what had happened at the Pulse nightclub was particularly affecting…and it seemed to be a moment where, if I could be helpful and play a role, I certainly would want to.
“I have a husband and I have a young son, and so I sat down with them that morning to explained where I was going and what I was doing. Our son is 6 years old, so we couched it for him. Then I headed to the airport—after stopping by our church and saying a prayer.”
Once in Orlando, he settled in at the Family Assistance Center, where the city of Orlando and the Red Cross were partnering to offer information and support to survivors, family and friends.
“It’s an incredibly challenging environment,” Lockwood explains. “We had large extended families, almost exclusively Latino families, huddled together, desperate to hear information. And not one family that was there when I was there received good news. It’s a special kind of person who can stand alongside someone receiving that news. Part of my role there was just to support the caregivers and support our team who was doing this very difficult work.”
Yet in the difficult work and heartbreaking sorrow, Lockwood remembers moments of awe. “I was at a small vigil a day after the shootings. The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Orlando convened a meeting and a young man, Adrian, shared his story: He had been at the nightclub with his husband and their friends. When the shooting started, he thought he had been shot and raced out of the building. When he realized his husband wasn’t with him, he ran back into the club and the gunfire. In those desperate moments inside, he made eye contact with the shooter but couldn’t find his husband. Somehow he got out again. Then, 35 minutes later, as he stood behind a police barrier, he saw a solitary figure limping out of the back of the nightclub and it was his husband, Javier. But none their friends appeared. They all were murdered inside the club. What was so amazing about this young man was that he implored the audience to not act out of vengeance or anger. He kept saying ‘We’re all just people. We all just need to love each other a little bit more.’
“I was so inspired and moved by this young man who had the grace to share his story and a world view that challenged the audience to not react out of revenge and anger but from our better angels. Listening to Adrian helped to temper the confusion and anger that one feels after an attack like this.”
Now back in New York City, Lockwood continues to work with his colleagues in Orlando, hoping to provide some longer term mental health support for Adrian and his husband through the American Red Cross.
Additionally, he offers his reflections on service to the community, which was reinforced through his work in Orlando. “All of us feel the pressures of our busy schedules, between family, friends, and our work, but we all need to make time for something larger than ourselves. When people do engage that way, it enriches their lives and creates something they are proud of and really thrilled to have done. But—it does requires intentionality.”
by Lauren Rubenstein •
In a July 11 Roth on Wesleyan blog, President Michael Roth responds to two recent killings of black men by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the murders of five police officers in Texas. In the blog, titled, “On What Matters” Roth shares his own thoughts and the reflections of others that he found meaningful. He writes:
Too often I have written blog posts about tragedies, violence, injustice. From attacks in other parts of the world to devastation right here in the USA, I have expressed sorrow, anger—and often a feeling of solidarity with those who have suffered, are suffering. Readers have pointed out that my compassion, like other forms of attention, is selective. There are plenty of injustices that have gone unremarked in this space, either because of my own ignorance or my judgments about what I should be writing about in this Roth on Wesleyan blog.
I have followed the news reports and commentaries closely over the last week. What horror unfolds before us! The brutal killings by police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana and the vicious murders of police officers in Dallas that followed have underscored how violence can destroy individual lives while shaking communities to the core.
In her latest piece in The Huffington Post, Gina Athena Ulysse, professor of anthropology, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, responds to the recent killings of black men.
My optimism wanes and my patience continues to be tried with each new extra judicial killing, each exoneration. Each one is more confirmation of the deep rootedness of our inequality. We bear the weight of history so unequally. It is written on our bodies and etched in the color of our skin. Human chattel. Property. Slaves. That is the undue burden, the inequity we live with, that simply cannot be undone unconsciously. Its transformation, if that (I am not naïve), requires so much more than will. To bring about a modicum of change we must not only intentionally attempt, but also be determined, to shift. It will not happen par hazard. Because history has seen to it that the exchange, use, and sign value ascribed to Black lives remains unequal to that of Whites. We are differentially positioned and invested.
What story do you tell yourself to assuage the comfort you find in the social luxury of being in an unmarked body. Your silence is your complicity. Where is your outrage as we all bear witness to this moment?
Read more here.
by Olivia Drake •
Two Wesleyan students, one recent alumna and a faculty member contributed to a groundbreaking discovery of the first Philistine cemetery, a crowning achievement of more than 30 years of excavation in Ashkelon, Israel. Archaeologists and scholars have long searched for the origin of the Philistines, and the discovery of the cemetery is poised to offer the key to this mystery. Findings from the cemetery, dated to the 11th–8th centuries BCE, may well support the claim – long inferred and recorded in the Bible – that the Philistines were migrants to the shores of ancient Israel who arrived from lands to the West around the 12th century BCE.
Kate Birney, assistant professor of classical studies, assistant professor of archaeology, assistant professor of art history, is the assistant director of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon and has been bringing Wesleyan students to the site since 2011 to participate in the research and excavation. The 3,000-year-old site, located in the southern district of Israel on the Mediterranean coast, offers clues to the Philistines’ way of life. Little is known about their origins.
This summer, Joy Feinberg ’19, Jaimie Marvin ’19 and Sarah McCully ’16 worked on the Philistine cemetery. McCully ’16, who came to Ashkelon with Birney years ago, is now a staff member for the Leon Levy Expedition. In addition, Sam Ingbar ’16, Hannah Thompson ’17, Maria Ma ’17 and Sabrina Rueber ’18 are also in Ashkelon this summer working on the excavation of a 7th century merchants’ neighborhood.
by Cynthia Rockwell •
For the July 4 PBS News Hour, hosted by John Yang ’80, Sebastian Junger ’84 offered a video essay, his reflections on American heroes.
“Several years ago,” Junger begins,” I spent much of a deployment with a platoon of combat infantry at a remote outpost called Restrepo. It was named after a medic, PFC Juan Sebastiàn Restrepo, who was born in Columbia, emigrated to America as a child, and died fighting at the bottom of a hill in Afghanistan…. The platoon was in several hundred firefights that year. And everyone out there was almost killed. Yet over and over, I watched perfectly normal people risk their lives to keep others safe. No one was more important than anyone else—and race religion and politics had absolutely no relevance at Restrepo. It was the most profoundly egalitarian place I’d ever been.”
From these experiences, Junger and his colleague, the late photographer Tim Herrington, had created and directed a feature-length documentary about the Afghanistan war, Restrepo, in 2010.
In his essay, Junger uses this lens to consider the ideal that is America, offers examples of everyday heroism, and urges all of us—including those in “the halls of power”—to remember the promises of equality and justice on which the country was founded.