by Lauren Rubenstein •
Martha Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor and chair of earth and environmental sciences, joined legendary astronaut and engineer Buzz Aldrin and Hoppy Price of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a discussion on WNPR about the past, present and future of space exploration. The three were guests on The Colin McEnroe Show on May 25.
Aldrin, who was one of the first two humans to walk on the moon, is the author of a new book, No Dream is Too High: Life Lessons From a Man Who Walked on the Moon.
McEnroe asked Gilmore about our current level of understanding about Mars.
“Our knowledge of Mars has really increased over the last two decades, and that’s because of a sustained series of missions, a flotilla of spacecraft in orbit, roving and on the surface of Mars that have been able to learn upon each other’s discoveries and leverage each other’s assets. We understand now not only that it was habitable on Mars at the same time that life evolved on Earth, but also where it’s habitable. And so the last rover we landed on the surface of the planet has landed in a place where there was mud and there were rivers and there was sustained water over long periods of time. So we understand now a lot about the history of Mars and the history of water on Mars and the environments that exited on Mars at the same time life was evolving on Earth.”
by Lauren Rubenstein •
Registration is now open for the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center’s fall Discovery AfterSchool Program, a high-quality program for children in grades 1–5 offering a wide range of arts, culture and science classes. Faculty and staff receive a 50 percent discount on tuition.
The fall program runs from Sept. 12 through Dec. 9, and includes challenging and fun classes in music, art, dance, theater, science, and more, as well as optional homework help. Classes are taught by Wesleyan students and professional teaching artists. Children may be enrolled in classes Monday through Friday, or only one day of the week.
by Lauren Rubenstein •
Hilary Barth, associate professor of psychology, and Andrea Patalano, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, have received a major grant from the National Science Foundation. The $1,101,456 grant will support collaborative research on quantitative reasoning conducted in the Cognitive Development Lab (directed by Barth) and the Reasoning and Decision Making Lab (directed by Patalano). The research project will be conducted in collaboration with Sara Cordes at Boston College, which will receive an additional $177,496.
According to the NSF abstract, humans have an innate ability to estimate quantities yet their intuitions often contain biases that interfere with learning new ways to think about quantity. Weaving together strands of psychology, neuroscience, economics, and education, the researchers hope to shed light on the cognitive processes underlying our abilities to estimate 4 kinds of quantities: number, space, time, and probability. By comparing processes across these four distinct areas, the researchers aim to provide a unifying account of how children and adults estimate quantities, which has the potential to transform current understanding of the cognitive bases of how people learn in and across STEM disciplines. Achieving a simple unifying account is important because the ability to think well about quantity in all of these areas is fundamental to STEM learning.
by Lauren Rubenstein •
Wesleyan University has issued $250 million of 100-year, fixed-rate taxable bonds, refinancing the majority of its existing debt. University officials said the current market for “century” bonds offers a historically unique opportunity to obtain long-term debt at favorable rates (4.781 percent).
Over the last 30 years, bond rates have been below this point less than 2 percent of the time. Wesleyan is the first educational institution in over a year to successfully issue a century bond.
After refinancing the existing debt, the remainder of the proceeds will be invested alongside the endowment for future needs. The university has not made any commitments to specific projects. The sale also acts as an inflation hedge with a fixed interest rate for 100 years, and will help manage the university’s debt service costs. The bonds are payable in 2116.
“This is a move toward solidifying our economic future,” said President Michael Roth. “We have no immediate plans to spend these funds, but rather are restructuring our debt to ensure greater security and flexibility in years to come.”
“It is gratifying to see the high level of interest among investors in Wesleyan’s bond sale, signaling their confidence in Wesleyan’s future and fiscal sustainability,” said John Meerts, vice president for finance and administration.
The sale was approved by Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees.
Wesleyan’s excellent credit rating from Moody’s (Aa3) and S&P (AA stable) will not be affected by the bond sale.
Other schools have successfully issued 100-year bonds in recent years, including Hamilton College, Tufts University, Bowdoin College, the California Institute of Technology, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
by Cynthia Rockwell •
At the Wesleyan Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Alumni Association held during Reunion, alumni celebrate members of the community with a number of awards. This year, six were named Distinguished Alumni in recognition of their achievement in their professions; two alumni received the McConaughy Award for writing that conveyed “unusual insights and understanding of current and past events,” and two alumni were celebrated for Outstanding Service. Chair of the Alumni Association Daphne Kwok ’84 presented the awards at a ceremony in Memorial Chapel, which featured newly proclaimed Distinguished Alumnus Luke Wood ’91, president of Beats By Dr. Dre, offering thoughts on his Wesleyan education in “Come As You Are: A Liberal Arts Education Revisited.”
Those receiving awards at this ceremony were Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients Essel W. Bailey Jr. ’66; Michael E. Greenberg ’76, P’14; Luke Wood ’91; Meredith F. “Franklin” Sirmans, Jr. ’91; Jed D. Hoyer ’96; and Oyeshola “Shola” Olatoye ’96; James L. McConaughy Jr. Memorial Award Recipients Ethan S. Bronner ’76, P’10 and Ayelet Waldman ’86, P’17; and Outstanding Service Award Recipients; Robert “Rick” Crootof ’66, P’96 and David A. Hill ’86. Please see further information on each awardee below:
Essel W. Bailey Jr. ’66
Distinguished Alumnus Award
Essel Bailey is a lawyer, corporate executive, and private investor. Along with his wife, Menakka, Mr. Bailey has been a steadfast supporter of Wesleyan’s College of the Environment (COE), endowing the Menakka and Essel Bailey ’66 Distinguished Visiting Scholar Fund to bring outstanding outside scholars into the COE community.
A history major at Wesleyan who earned his JD from the University of Michigan Law School, Mr. Bailey spent several years in Michigan state government before serving 15 years with the Detroit law firm Dykema, Gossett, where he was a partner specializing in corporate and real estate finance. Over the course of his career, Mr. Bailey founded and ran two public companies and served as a director or chair of the board of three NYSE-listed companies. For the past 30 years he has been engaged in the capital markets, dealing with rating agencies, investment banks, and other global financial organizations. He has invested in, organized, and managed businesses in real estate and real estate finance, healthcare, and manufacturing in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. In recent years he has served as a director of several NGOs.
Mr. Bailey currently serves as a director or officer of several private companies related to healthcare and healthcare finance, where he is also a principal; of nonprofit organizations related to mental health, hospice, and elderly care services; and of the Michigan chapter of the Nature Conservancy. Born on a farm in Tennessee, he has in recent years acquired a farm in California that produces grapes used to make premium wines under the Knights Bridge label.
At Wesleyan, Mr. Bailey was a member of the Eclectic Society and the Student Judiciary Committee. He also ran hurdles for the track team. The Baileys reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Ethan S. Bronner ’76, P’10
Ethan Bronner is a senior editor at Bloomberg News, where he focuses on political features and analyses, mostly from overseas, and mentors young reporters. He joined Bloomberg after 17 years at the New York Times, where he was Jerusalem bureau chief, national legal affairs correspondent, national education correspondent, deputy foreign editor, deputy national editor, and education editor. Mr. Bronner also served as assistant editorial page editor. Right after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, he worked in the paper’s investigative unit focusing on Al Qaeda. He has been a frequent book reviewer for the paper and contributed to its Sunday Review.
A graduate of the College of Letters at Wesleyan and of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Mr. Bronner began his career at Reuters in 1980, reporting from London, Madrid, Brussels, and Jerusalem. He worked at the Boston Globe for a dozen years, including as its Washington-based legal and Supreme Court correspondent and as Middle East bureau chief.
He is the author of Battle for Justice: How the Bork Nomination Shook America, which was named one of the best 25 books of 1989 by the New York Public Library and awarded a Silver Gavel by the American Bar Association. Mr. Bronner is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former trustee of Wesleyan.
Mr. Bronner lives in New York with his wife, Naomi Kehati-Bronner, a psychologist. They have two sons.
Dr. Robert E. “Rick” Crootof ’66, P’96
Outstanding Service Award
Dr. Rick Crootof has chaired every reunion of the Class of 1966 since 1981, when he says he “fell into” the role. In this capacity, Dr. Crootof has maintained lifelong friendships with countless members of his class, keeping them connected to Wesleyan over the decades. For his 50th Reunion this year, in deference to the vagaries of age, Dr. Crootof has enlisted as a co-chair of the half-century celebration.
Dr. Crootof graduated from Wesleyan with a degree in chemistry. He continued his education with an MD from New York Medical College, followed by an internship in internal medicine at George Washington University and a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Yale–New Haven Hospital.
After two years in the Navy spent at its teaching hospital in Oakland, California, in 1977 Dr. Crootof joined two friends in private practice in Norwich, Connecticut. Over the next 30 years that practice, which grew to include eight physicians, withstood picketing and bomb and death threats to provide a complete range of obstetrical and gynecological services to women of all income levels from across eastern Connecticut.
Until his retirement, Dr. Crootof and his wife, Linda, lived in a historic home in Norwich, where they both served on the board and as officers of the Norwich Heritage Trust and the Downtown Revitalization Committee. More recently, Dr. Crootof has been on the board and served five years as president of the Wolfeboro (New Hampshire) Tennis Club. Each winter, Dr. Crootof plays tennis and takes advantage of the cultural offerings in Sarasota, Florida. He also is an active amateur photographer.
The Crootofs enjoy visiting their children, Matthew ’96 (in Bozeman, Montana), Sarah (in Manhattan), and Martha (in Los Angeles). They eagerly await the imminent arrival of their first grandchild, a boy, in late August, in Los Angeles.
Michael E. Greenberg ’76, P’14
Distinguished Alumnus Award
Michael Greenberg has spent the past 30 years investigating the molecular mechanisms that underlie the effects of sensory experience on the brain, helping us better understand how nature and nurture are intertwined during brain maturation. Most recently his research has explored the ways that neural activity controls the wiring of the brain, and how disruption of this process can lead to neurological disorders such as autism.
As a chemistry major at Wesleyan, Greenberg conducted honors research with Dr. Peter Jacobi. He received his PhD in biochemistry from Rockefeller University in 1982 and did postdoctoral research at New York University Medical Center. In 1986 he joined the faculty at Harvard Medical School, where he is currently chair of the Department of Neurobiology and the Nathan Marsh Pusey Professor of Neurobiology.
In recognition of his contributions to neuroscience, Dr. Greenberg has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences and has received numerous awards, including the Gruber Prize in Neuroscience in 2015 (with Dr. Carla Shatz). He is also widely regarded as a leading mentor and advisor for a generation of neuroscientists, and for this he has been honored with the A. Clifford Barger Award for Excellence in Mentoring and the Harold Amos Faculty Diversity Award.
Dr. Greenberg and his wife, Dr. Rosalind Segal, live in Brookline, Massachusetts, and have two children, Rachel and Daniel ’14.
David Anthony Hill ’86
Outstanding Service Award
A College of Social Studies major and member of the Cardinal football team, David Hill has given back to Wesleyan in many ways over the last 30 years, including as a member of the President’s Council and as the inaugural chair of the Alumni of Color Council. He also has been an alumni-elected trustee, a class agent for the Class of 1986, and a member of the organizing committees for his 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th, and 30th class reunions.
Mr. Hill is a partner in the national law firm of Wong Fleming, P.C., the largest woman-owned law firm and one of the largest minority-owned law firms in the United States. An accomplished lawyer and executive, Mr. Hill counsels clients, manages teams, and advances strategic objectives for businesses ranging from a Fortune 20 company to smaller for-profit companies and nonprofit entities.
Prior to joining Wong Fleming, Mr. Hill spent 17 years in the legal department of Bell Atlantic/Verizon, where he served as the general counsel of the Delaware, District of Columbia, and Maryland operating companies and as a liaison between Verizon and the Obama administration. Earlier he was associated with the law firm of Hogan & Hartson (now Hogan Lovells). While there, he was the lead counsel in Wilkins v. Maryland State Police, a landmark case that led to the end of the use of race-based drug courier profiles in Maryland.
Mr. Hill resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife, Lynn, and their two children, David and Gabrielle. His civic involvement includes service as the chair of the Commission on Social Action at the Reid Temple AME Church in Silver Spring and on the Executive Committee of the board of Leadership Montgomery (Montgomery County, Maryland).
Jed D. Hoyer ’96
Distinguished Alumni Award
Jed Hoyer is executive vice president and general manager of the Chicago Cubs. Throughout his career in professional baseball he has been lauded for outstanding analytic skills as well as scouting and recruiting acumen and thorough preparation. The Cubs in 2015 advanced to the National League Championship Series for the first time since 2003. Currently, they lead the Central Division of the National League with the best record in baseball.
Mr. Hoyer spent 2009–11 with the San Diego Padres. In 2010 the Padres posted only the fourth 90-win campaign in the franchise’s 42-year history and finished just two games behind in the National League West race, despite having the lowest payroll in baseball. Earlier in his career, Mr. Hoyer helped guide the Boston Red Sox to their first world championship since 1918 during the 2004 season and then to a second championship in 2007.
A history major at Wesleyan, Mr. Hoyer played on the baseball team as a shortstop, outfielder, and starting and relieving pitcher, with a .400 hitting average. He still holds the school record for saves. At Wesleyan he once started both ends of a doubleheader and got the win in each one. In 1994 he played on the Cardinal team that advanced to the Division III College World Series. Following graduation, Mr. Hoyer worked at Wesleyan in Admission and University Relations while also serving as an assistant baseball coach before taking his first job in professional baseball as an intern for the Red Sox.
Mr. Hoyer has remained an active Wesleyan alumnus, including as a member of the Athletics Advisory Council since its founding in 2007. In 2012 he gave the John W. Baird ’38 Lecture at Wrigley Field. He also spends time with the Cardinal baseball team each year during spring training in Arizona. He and his wife, Merrill, live in Chicago with their two sons, Beckett and Gray.
Oyeshola “Shola” Olatoye ’96
Distinguished Alumna Award
Oyeshola “Shola” Olatoye is chair and chief executive officer of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), which is the largest public housing authority in the nation, providing affordable housing to more than 620,000 low- and moderate-income New Yorkers.
Before her appointment to NYCHA in 2014, Ms. Olatoye was vice president and New York market leader for Enterprise Community Partners, a national nonprofit real estate investment company dedicated to furthering affordable housing and community development. In addition to other professional positions, Ms. Olatoye has served on the board of the Council for Large Public Housing Authorities and is founding board chair of the Fund for Public Housing.
Ms. Olatoye has won recognition from the Institute for Public Architecture, Urban Upbound, and Green City Force, as well as from Crain’s, which named Ms. Olatoye to its “40 under 40” list of New York’s “most talented, driven, and dynamic” young professionals in 2014.
A history and African American studies major at Wesleyan, Ms. Olatoye earned a master’s degree in public administration from the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU. She lives in Harlem, New York, with her husband, Matthew Strozier ’96, and their three children.
Meredith F. “Franklin” Sirmans Jr. ’91
Distinguished Alumnus Award
Franklin Sirmans is the director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). Prior to his recent appointment, he was the department head and curator of contemporary art at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) from 2010 until fall 2015. At LACMA Mr. Sirmans organized Noah Purifoy: Junk Dada; Variations: Conversations in and around Abstract Painting; Fútbol: The Beautiful Game; and Ends and Exits: Contemporary Art from the Collections of LACMA and the Broad Art Foundation, and co-organized the exhibition Human Nature: Contemporary Art from the Collection. He is the curator of the forthcoming LACMA exhibition Toba Khedoori.
From 2006 to 2010, Mr. Sirmans was curator of modern and contemporary art at the Menil Collection in Houston, where he organized exhibitions including NeoHooDoo: Art for a Forgotten Faith; Steve Wolfe on Paper; Vija Celmins: Television and Disaster, 1964–1966; and Maurizio Cattelan: Is There Life Before Death? In 2007 Mr. Sirmans won the David C. Driskell Prize, awarded for original and important contributions to the study of art of the African diaspora. He served as the artistic director for the arts festival Prospect.3 New Orleans from 2012 to 2014.
An English and art history major at Wesleyan, Mr. Sirmans was profoundly influenced by the dual interests in African and African American art of his faculty mentor, Peter Mark. He was also greatly influenced by professors John Paoletti and Robert O’Meally. With Professor Mark as his advisor, Mr. Sirmans wrote an honors thesis on Jean-Michel Basquiat. Shortly after graduating, Mr. Sirmans used that senior thesis to create the chronology for the 1992 Whitney Museum show and catalogue on the artist.
Mr. Sirmans lives in Miami, Florida, with his wife, Jessica, and daughter.
Ayelet Waldman ’86, P’17
Bestselling author Ayelet Waldman tackles her subjects—which range from motherhood and women’s issues to mental illness and the Holocaust—with honesty and verve. Her latest novel, Love and Treasure (2014), weaves a powerful story of love and loss around the history of the Hungarian Gold Train in World War II. Ms. Waldman’s next project, an edited collection of essays by prominent international authors about the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, will be published by HarperCollins in 2017. The book will be co-edited by her husband, the Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Michael Chabon.
Born in Israel, Ms. Waldman spent her first years in Canada before her family settled in the United States. After receiving a degree in psychology from Wesleyan, Ms. Waldman lived abroad in a kibbutz in Israel before returning to the United States and receiving her JD from Harvard Law School.
Ms. Waldman practiced law for several years before reimagining her career and becoming a writer. In addition to Love and Treasure, she is the author of Red Hook Road; the New York Times bestseller Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace; Daughter’s Keeper; the Mommy-Track Mystery series; and Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, which was adapted into the film The Other Woman, starring Natalie Portman. She has also contributed to several nonfiction anthologies.
Ms. Waldman’s personal essays and profiles of such public figures as Hillary Clinton have been published in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, Vogue, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. Her radio commentaries have been featured on All Things Considered and This American Life. She lives in Berkeley, California, with her husband and their children.
Luke F. Wood ’91
Distinguished Alumnus Award
Luke Wood is president of Beats by Dr. Dre, a premium brand of headphones and speakers that was acquired by Apple in 2014. A producer, guitarist, and music industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience, he has been involved with Beats since its early days, officially joining the company in 2011.
Prior to working at Beats, Mr. Wood served as chief strategy officer of Interscope Geffen A&M Records (IGA) and president of the imprint DGC Records, where he worked with many artists including Weezer, All American Rejects, Rise Against, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Mr. Wood began his career with Geffen Records in 1991 as a director of publicity, representing such bands as Nirvana and Sonic Youth.
A lifelong songwriter and musician, Mr. Wood signed a publishing deal with Universal Music Group in 1996, and during that year his band, Sammy, released its third album, Tales of Great Neck Glory, on Geffen/DGC Records. In August 2014, he joined the board of directors of Fender Musical Instruments, alongside U2’s Bono and The Edge.
Mr. Wood graduated from Wesleyan with a major in American studies. He lives in Los Angeles, California, with his wife, Sophia W. Nardin ’91, and two daughters.
by Lauren Rubenstein •
In its recent meeting, the Board of Trustees conferred tenure on four faculty members. They are Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, Professor of African American Studies Kali Gross, Associate Professor of English and American Studies Amy Tang, and Associate Professor of Chemistry Erika Taylor. They join eight other faculty members who were awarded tenure earlier this spring.
One faculty member, Louise Neary, was promoted to adjunct associate professor of Spanish.
In addition, six faculty members are being promoted to full professor:
J. Kehaulani Kauanui, professor of American Studies and anthropology
Matthew Kurtz, professor of psychology
Cecilia Miller, professor of history
Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento, professor of theater
Andrea Patalano, professor of psychology
Michael Singer, professor of biology
Brief descriptions of their research and teaching appear below:
Associate Professor Fowler specializes in political communication and directs the Wesleyan Media project, which tracks and analyzes all political ads aired on broadcast television in real-time during elections. Her work on local coverage of politics and policy has been published in political science, communication, law/policy, and medical journals. Most recently, she co-authored Political Advertising in the United States (Westview Press, 2016). Professor Fowler teaches courses on American Government and Politics; Media and Politics; Campaigns and Elections; and Polls, Politics and Public Opinion.
Professor Gross is a scholar of African American history whose research concentrates on black women’s experiences in the United States criminal justice system between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Her book, Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America (Oxford University Press, 2016), explores a crime and trial in 1887 against broader evidence of biased police treatment of black suspects as well as violence within the black community. Professor Gross will offer courses on race, gender and justice and Black Women’s Studies.
Professor Kauanui’s research lies in the fields of comparative colonialisms, indigenous politics, critical racial studies, and anarchist studies. Her book, The Paradoxes of Hawaiian Sovereignty (Duke University Press, due in 2017), explores the cultural and legal politics of the contemporary Hawaiian nationalist movement in relation to land, gender, and sexuality. Professor Kauanui teaches courses on Colonialism and Its Consequences; Race and Citizenship; United States in the Pacific Islands; Hawai’i: Myths and Realities; Decolonizing Indigenous Middletown; and Anarchy in America: From Haymarket to Occupy Wall Street.
Professor Kurtz’s research seeks to clarify the cognitive and social impairments associated with schizophrenia, to develop and assess behavioral treatments for these impairments, and to critically evaluate the history and current status of ideas regarding treatment of the severely mentally ill. He has received significant grant support from the NIH, and has received a Fulbright-Nehru U.S. Scholar Award for Academic and Professional Excellence. He offers courses on Schizophrenia and Its Treatment, Clinical Neuropsychology, Statistics, and Behavioral Neurobiology.
Professor Miller is a European intellectual historian with a focus on the long eighteenth century. Her recent book, Enlightenment and Political Fiction: The Everyday Intellectual (Routledge, 2016), examines five works of fiction to argue that the accessibility of political fiction in the eighteenth century made it possible for any reader to enter into the intellectual debates of the time and that ideas attributed to philosophers and political and economic theorists of the Enlightenment actually appeared first in works of fiction. She offers courses on European Intellectual History, Political Fiction, Theories of Society, and Contemporary Europe.
Professor Tatinge Nascimento is a theater artist and scholar with a special interest in experimental performance and Brazilian contemporary theater. She has performed and published internationally, and most recently is the author of a book manuscript, The Contemporary Performances of Brazil’s Post-Dictatorship Generation, under review with Palgrave Macmillan for the series Contemporary Performance InterActions. At Wesleyan she directs main stage productions and teaches courses on acting, theory, and performance studies.
Adjunct Associate Professor Neary teaches beginning and intermediate Spanish. She is currently collaborating with a colleague on an online Spanish course for the general public, titled Wespañol, and with McGraw Hill on a test bank project for an elementary Spanish language textbook. She has served as head of Spanish, has chaired the Romance Languages and Literatures Honors Committee, and has served on the Language Resources Center Faculty Committee.
Professor Patalano is a cognitive scientist whose research focuses on mental and neural processes involved in human reasoning, judgment, and decision making. Her lines of research address indecisiveness and decision deferral, clinical and neural correlates of discounting, numeracy and choice behavior, and the role of categories in thought. She teaches courses on Cognitive Psychology, Psychological Statistics, Decision Making, and Concepts and Categories.
Professor Singer is an evolutionary ecologist whose research focuses on the plant-feeding habits of caterpillars in the context of threats from predators and parasites of caterpillars. He uses this research focus to inform issues of broad biological interest, such as animal medication, dietary specialization, dynamics of ecological networks, and evolutionary diversification. He teaches courses on Ecology, Conservation Biology, Evolutionary Biology, and Plant-Animal Interactions.
Professor Tang’s research focuses on the relationship between aesthetic form and politics in Asian American literature and theory. Her first book, Repetition and Race: Asian American Literature After Multiculturalism (Oxford University Press, 2016), explores how Asian American writers use structures of repetition to register, and creatively inhabit, the impasses generated by multiculturalism’s politics of identity and recognition. She teaches courses on Asian American Literature, Afro-Asian Intersections, and Literary and Cultural Theory.
Associate Professor Taylor’s multidisciplinary research investigates problems at the intersection of biology and chemistry. Her work strives to advance medicine and environmental sustainability with two long-term goals – developing bacterial enzyme inhibitors and other small molecules with medicinal applications, and engineering microorganisms to improve the efficiency of biomass to biofuel conversion. Professor Taylor has received significant grant support from both the NIH and the Department of Energy, enabling numerous impactful publications in her field. She offers courses in Organic Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry, Biological Chemistry, and Biomedicinal Chemistry.
by Olivia Drake •
During Reunion & Commencement Weekend, the Wesleyan community celebrated the dedications of three prominent areas of campus with ribbon-cutting ceremonies. They include Boger Hall (formerly 41 Wyllys), the Gordon Career Center (located inside Boger Hall), and The West Wing of Usdan University Center.
by Laurie Kenney •
Graduates, their families, and other members of the Wesleyan community who gathered for the 184th Commencement ceremony on May 22 were offered advice on how to change the world by Bryan Stevenson, this year’s Commencement speaker, a human rights lawyer and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative.
Weaving in stories from his decades of work fighting racial injustice and discrimination in the criminal justice system, Stevenson told the Class of 2016 that changing the world requires four things: Getting proximate to the places “where there’s suffering and abuse and neglect”; “changing the narrative” about race in this country; staying hopeful; and being willing to do uncomfortable things.
“I wish I didn’t have to say that because it’s so nice if you can only do the things that are comfortable,” he said. “But the truth is we can’t change the world by doing just what’s convenient and comfortable. I’ve looked for examples where things changed, where oppression was ended, where inequality was overcome, when people did only what was convenient and comfortable, and I can’t find any examples of that. To change the world, you’re going to sometimes have to make uncomfortable choices, to be in uncomfortable places, and be proximate and be hopeful and change narratives. But know that if you do it, there is some great reward, all of that knowledge that you have accumulated will resonate. You will have ideas in your mind that match the conviction in your heart.”
Stevenson concluded, “There is a different metric system for those of you who want to change the world.” Success won’t be measured by grades or by income. He recalled an older black man he met after giving a talk. The man showed him cuts, bruises and scars he got while working to register people of color to vote in the south in the 1960s.
“There aren’t my cuts, these aren’t my bruises, these aren’t my scars,” the man told Stevenson. “These are my medals.”
Read the full text of Stevenson’s speech.
Wesleyan conferred an honorary doctor of humane letters degree upon Stevenson. Also recognized with honorary degrees were Kwame Anthony Appiah (doctor of letters)—a professor of philosophy and law at New York University who is renowned for his insights into moral theory and practice, racism and identity, cultural differences, and political development; and Patti Smith (doctor of fine arts)—a writer, performer, and visual artist whose recordings include her seminal album, Horses (1975), and whose books include Just Kids, winner of the 2010 National Book Award. Read more about the honorary degree recipients here.
This year, Wesleyan conferred 731 bachelor of arts degrees; 33 master of arts degrees, including 4 in the new master of arts in performance curation; 28 master of arts in liberal studies degrees; 2 master of philosophy in liberal arts; and 15 doctor of philosophy degrees.
Three faculty members were honored with the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching: Sally Bachner, associate professor of English; Demetrius Eudell, professor of history; and James Lipton, professor of computer science. These prizes, made possible by gifts from the family of the late Frank G. Binswanger Sr. Hon. ’85, underscore Wesleyan’s commitment to its scholar-teachers, who are responsible for the university’s distinctive approach to liberal arts education.
In addition, John Lemberg Usdan ’80, P’15, P’18, P’18, was awarded the Raymond E. Baldwin Medal, the highest honor presented by Wesleyan’s alumni body for extraordinary service to Wesleyan or for careers or other activity which have contributed significantly to the public good. Usdan is president of Midwood, a New York-based real estate investment and development firm. His remarkable record of service to Wesleyan over more than three decades has included 12 years as a trustee as well as serving as chair of the THIS IS WHY campaign—the most successful fundraising effort in Wesleyan’s history. Read more about Usdan here.
Also recognized were four retiring faculty members who were given emiriti status. They are: Abraham K. Adzenyah, adjunct professor of music; Philip H. Bolton, professor of chemistry; Alex Dupuy, John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology; and Mark Slobin, Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music.
In his remarks to the graduating class, President Michael Roth spoke about Wesleyan’s core values of justice, generosity, and care.
“Justice, generosity, and care—these are the core values at Wesleyan. Students at this university demand that their school stand for justice—in words and in actions—and over the past four years your demands have included making our academic core more diverse and our residential life free from sexual violence that has become a scourge on college campuses across America,” he said.
Roth added, “Just as the aspiration for justice has been a powerful feature of campus culture, so too has recognizing that not everyone has the same view as to what constitutes justice, which means that part of the work of political engagement includes discussions in which we can build on our commonalities and explore our differences without fear. A university is a place to have one’s opinions tested—not protected.”
Roth also acknowledged, “As loud as calls for justice sometimes are, the soft but persistent voice of generosity has also been a feature of the student culture that you have created. Many of you work in the community . . . . And a number of you gave your time and labor to ease the plight of refugees—helping those in camps in the Middle East and smoothing the way for refugee families settling here in the United States. I am inspired by all your efforts.
“Linked to these acts of generosity—and to the calls for justice—is, I think, a deep ethics of care. . . . I very much admire the ways in which you have looked after one another, inspired one another, or simply cheered each other on. It may well be that the quest for justice and the impulse for generosity depend on this ethics of care, this commitment to seeing those around you fulfill their potential, flourish. . . . It builds our community and makes the work we do relevant beyond the university.”
Roth challenged the graduates of the Class of 2016 to put what they’ve learned at Wesleyan to promote positive changes in the world. “We Wesleyans have used our education to mold the course of culture ourselves lest the future be shaped by those for whom justice and change, generosity and equality, diversity and tolerance, are much too threatening. Now we alumni are counting on you, Class of 2016, to join us in helping to shape this culture, so that it will not be shaped by the forces of violence, conformity, and elitism.”
In her Senior Class Welcome, Tahreem Khalied ’16, who came to the U.S. from Pakistan four and a half years ago, shared some of the many firsts she experienced at Wesleyan. She also spoke about how her experience at Wesleyan taught her about the beauty and power of diversity. “As a student studying race and ethnicity as part of my American studies major, I was introduced to the possibility that there can be more truths than the one I believe in. . . . I learned about colonialism, indigenous politics, queer politics, anarchy, racial and ethnic politics, latinidad, South-Asian diasporic writing, all as part of this one, very inclusive major. I was learning that diversity, whether in thought, or in person, is indeed beautiful.”
The full Reunion & Commencement Weekend photo gallery is here.
The Commencement gallery is here.
The text and video of Bryan A. Stevenson’s address is here.
The text of Kwame Anthony Appiah’s address is here.
The text and video of Patti Smith’s address is here.
The text and video of President Michael S. Roth’s address to the Class of 2016 is here.
The text and video of the senior class welcome by Tahreem Khalied ’16 is here.
Information on the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching recipients is here.
Information on alumni receiving Distinguished Alumni, Outstanding Service, and McConaughy awards is here.
by Lauren Rubenstein •
Bryan Stevenson delivered the following remarks during Wesleyan’s 184th Commencement ceremony May 22:
It’s a great honor to be a part of this celebration with you today. I hate to ask one more thing of you graduates but I can’t resist. I’m going to ask you to do something when you leave this college, and it’s kind of a big thing. I’m going to ask you to change the world.
And I hate doing this, I actually feel guilty doing this—I really do—but we need the world to change. We are living in a country where we need more mercy, where we need more hope, where we need more justice. In my work in the criminal justice space, I’ve seen some radical changes in this country over the last 40 years. In 1972, we had 300,000 people in jails and prisons. Today we have 2.3 million. The United States now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. We have 6 million people on probation or parole. There are 70 million Americans with criminal arrests, which mean when they apply to get a job or to get a loan, they are disfavored. The percentage of women going to prison has increased dramatically, 640 percent increase in the number of women being sent to prison, 70 percent of whom are single parents with minor children. And when they go to jails or prisons, their children get displaced.
We’re doing some terrible things in poor communities where there’s hopelessness and despair. I sit down with 12 or 13 year old children who sometimes tell me that they don’t expect to be free by the time they’re 21. They’re not making that up. The Bureau of Justice now predicts that one in three black male babies born in this country is expected to go to jail or prison during his lifetime. One in three. That was not true in the 20th century, it wasn’t true in the 19th century, it has become true in the 21st. The statistic for Latino boys is one in six. There is this distance between people who have the capacity to change things and the people who are suffering because of the lack of change, and I want to talk to you very briefly about what I think we need to close that distance.
There are four things I think you can do to change the world. And if you do them, I absolutely believe that whether the issue is criminal justice, whether the issue is food security, whether the issue is the environment, whether the issue is income equality or international human rights, I believe you can change the world.
The first thing I believe you have to do is that you have to commit to getting proximate to the places in our nation, in our world, where there’s suffering and abuse and neglect. Many of you have been taught your whole lives that there are parts of the community where the schools don’t work very well; if there are sections of the community where there’s a lot of violence or abuse or despair or neglect, you should stay as far away from those parts of town as possible. Today, I want to urge you to do the opposite. I think you need to get closer to the parts of the communities where you live where there’s suffering and abuse and neglect. I want you to choose to get closer. We have people trying to solve problems from a distance, and their solutions don’t work, because until you get close, you don’t understand the nuances and the details of those problems. And I am persuaded that there is actually power in proximity. When you get close, you understand things you cannot understand from a distance. You have been on this beautiful campus, and many of you have found ways to get proximate to issues and problems around you, but all of us have to continue to do that. There is power in proximity.
by Lauren Rubenstein •
Honorary degree recipient Kwame Anthony Appiah made the following remarks during the 184th Commencement ceremony May 22:
Nearly 35 years ago I came to this country to teach at a small college down the road in New Haven. Less than a year later, the first university to which I was invited to give a public lecture, was this one. Professor Gene Golob invited me to speak at the College of Social Studies, of which he was one of the founding spirits, and I gave a talk on “Other People’s Gods.” It was about understanding the traditional religions of West Africa. I thought it was a pretty good talk … but I was less and less sure as I waited to see if I’d be invited back to lecture here again. Well, just thirty-three years later, I got a message from President Roth asking me if I’d come back once more and join you today to receive an honorary degree. And my first thought was, “Finally, they’ve asked me back. Maybe, that talk wasn’t so bad after all.”
But actually it was all fated from the start. You see, I was baptized in the Wesley Methodist Cathedral in the center of Kumasi, capital of the Asante region of Ghana. And it was named, like this University, for John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. So I guess that I had an inside track to this day.
My father and grandfather were elders of that church. I grew up with a great respect for the Wesley brothers, John and Charles. In my father’s language, we have a proverb that runs:
Ösaman pa na yéto no badin.
It’s a great departed spirit after whom we name a child.
Same, of course, for a university. So, for me, as a child of Kumasi Wesleyan, today is an especial joy. And now that I’m going to be a proud member of the class of 2016, I guess I won’t need to wait 33 years for the next invitation.
So, thank you so much, for this great honor … and I’d like to leave you with one more of our wonderful Akan proverbs.
Abé se: wannya opuro dwonsö a, anka öremmere da.
The palm tree says: if it had not received the urine of the squirrel, it would never have ripened.
Pity. If I had more time, I could have told you what it means. But I guess I don’t need to. Everybody knows that Wesleyan grads are among the smartest people on the planet. May your curiosity advance with your knowledge, and may adversity only speed your ripening.
by Olivia Drake •
During the 184th Commencement Ceremony, John Lemberg Usdan ’80, P’15, P’18, P’18 was honored with the Raymond E. Baldwin Medal. The award was presented by Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, P’09, chair of the Wesleyan University Board of Trustees.
The Baldwin Medal, which pays tribute to the late Judge Raymond E. Baldwin of the class of 1916, is the highest honor of the Alumni Association, recognizing outstanding service to Wesleyan.
John Lemberg Usdan is president of Midwood, a New York-based real estate investment and development firm. Usdan also is president of the Lemberg Foundation.
Usdan’s remarkable record of service to the Wesleyan community over more than three decades has included 12 years as a trustee as well as serving as chair of the THIS IS WHY campaign—the most successful fundraising effort in Wesleyan’s history. He is one of Wesleyan’s greatest ambassadors, engaging scores of alumni and parents in the life of the University.
While serving alma mater, Usdan has led by example. He and his brother, Adam ’83, established the Samuel Lemberg Scholarship Fund in memory of their grandfather to support middle-income students. John and Adam also made the lead gift to construct the university center, which Wesleyan proudly named the Suzanne Lemberg Usdan University Center in honor of their mother and in recognition of their extraordinary service to the University.
John Usdan and his wife, Eva Colin Usdan, have three sons: Samuel, Wesleyan class of 2015, Joshua, Wesleyan class of 2018, and Simon, Wesleyan class of 2018.