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Bendall Remembered for Teaching Philosophy 29 Years at Wesleyan

L. Kent Bendall, professor of philosophy, emeritus, died on May 15 at the age of 88.

Bendall received his BA from Rice University and his MA and PhD from Yale University. He arrived at Wesleyan in 1963, where he taught philosophy until his retirement in 1992. During his 29 years at Wesleyan, Bendall was an integral part of the University and the Philosophy Department. He served many terms as chair of the Education Policy Committee and of the Philosophy Department; he also served as chair of the University Senate and was a member of the planning committee for the new African American Institute in 1974.

He was a philosopher who was devoted to the ideal of truth and a rigorous search for it. Joe Rouse, Hedding Professor of Moral Science and Professor of Philosophy, recalled: “Kent Bendall was an excellent logician and philosopher, and a generous colleague and friend. Two considerations will always stand out in my recollection of Kent: his extraordinary clarity of thought and expression, and his utterly unquestionable personal and intellectual integrity.”

“You Just Have to Read This…” Books by Wesleyan Authors: Meyerson ’04, Card ’04, and Fink ’77

In this continuing series, we explore a selection of the latest books by Wesleyan alumni. The volumes, sent to us by the alumni authors themselves, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

The Imperfects coverAmy Meyerson ’04, The Imperfects (HarperCollins/Park Row Books, 2020)

Generations of secrets loom large in this novel about the dysfunctional Miller family. When the eccentric family matriarch, Helen, passes away, the items she leaves behind—including a 137-carat diamond hidden in her bedroom—stir up old resentments, new tensions, and plenty of questions among her daughter and grandchildren. As the family races to determine whether they are the rightful heirs to the precious gemstone, they make startling discoveries about Helen, who immigrated to the United States from Austria, and her family’s tragic past.

A fast-paced and engaging read, The Imperfects is based on the true story of the Florentine Diamond, which went missing around 1918, after the fall of the Austrian Empire.

Amy Meyerson ’04 is an associate professor of writing at the University of Southern California. The Imperfects is her second novel. Her debut novel The Bookshop of Yesterdays, an international best-seller with translations in 11 languages, was featured in a 2018 Connection article.

Aaron, Autry, Shinohara Honored with the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching

Every spring, Wesleyan recognizes outstanding faculty with three Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching.

This year’s recipients include Gloster Aaron, associate professor of biology, Robyn Autry, associate professor and chair of sociology, and Keiji Shinohara, artist-in-residence.

Made possible by gifts from the family of the late Frank G. Binswanger Sr., Hon. ’85, these prizes underscore Wesleyan’s commitment to its scholar-teachers, who are responsible for the University’s distinctive approach to liberal arts education.

Rosenthal to Receive Baldwin Medal

Rob Rosenthal

Rob Rosenthal

At the University’s 188th Commencement on May 24, Wesleyan will present the Baldwin Medal, the highest award of the Alumni Association, to Rob Rosenthal, John Andrus Professor of Sociology, Emeritus.

The Baldwin Medal pays tribute to the late Judge Raymond E. Baldwin ’16, the only man to have held the offices of Connecticut governor, U.S. senator, and chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court. First awarded Sept. 20, 1981, during the opening convocation of Wesleyan’s Sesquicentennial, the Baldwin Medal is the highest honor Wesleyan’s alumni body presents for extraordinary service to Wesleyan or for careers and other activities that have contributed significantly to the public good.

Rosenthal served as Wesleyan’s provost and vice president for Academic Affairs from 2010 to 2013, and as director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life from 2014 to 2017. He returned to serve as interim provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs again from July 2019 through May 2020.

Students Pitch Social Benefit Business Ideas

Be Better

Blake Northrop ’22, won the Wesleyan COLLISION Spring 2020 pitch competition on May 5 with his venture, Be Better, a clothing brand focused on producing sustainable products.

A clothing brand that promotes education and discussion of mental health and wellness is the winner of the Wesleyan COLLISION Spring 2020 pitch competition sponsored by the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

Created by Blake Northrop ’22, Be Better consists of the clothing brand itself—which highly values customer participation and artist collaboration—as well as an online community forum for followers and members to connect, discuss, and share their stories about mental health.

On May 5, Northrop and more than dozen other aspiring student entrepreneurs pitched their social benefit business ideas. Watch a recording of the Pitch Night online here.

Wesleyan to Hold Virtual Commencement Ceremony on May 24

monogramWesleyan’s 188th Commencement Ceremony, honoring the graduating Class of 2020, will be held through a virtual setting at noon on May 24.

(View the Commencement website here.)

The commencement address, honorary degree recipients, and the senior class address will be pre-recorded and offered for viewing on Commencement Sunday. The conferral of degrees and remarks made by Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 will be presented live. The Binswanger Awards for Teaching will be presented on a future occasion.

The Class of 2020 will be invited back to campus next year for an in-person ceremony.

“We will miss the marching, the music, and the mortarboards in the air,” President Roth wrote in a campus-wide email on May 6. “Nonetheless, there will be much to celebrate: primarily, the resiliency of our seniors and our graduate students who managed to hold the course in the face of unforeseen difficulties and disappointments.”

A formal e-invitation to graduating students and their families and the Wes community is forthcoming.

“Normally at Commencement, celebrants sit close together on Andrus Field, or up behind the podium on Denison Terrace or over on Foss Hill,” Roth said. “May 24 will be different, but even if we sit far apart from one another, the power of togetherness will be strong.”

Moezzi ’01 Shares Reflections, Advice on Applying Rumi’s Wisdom to Modern Life

Melody Moezzi

In The Rumi Prescription, Melody Moezzi ’01 shares her story of studying and learning from the wisdom of 13th-century mystic poet Rumi, whose verses she found relevant even in today’s world. Moezzi majored in philosophy at Wesleyan.

The timing of the release of The Rumi Prescription: How an Ancient Mystic Poet Changed My Modern Manic Life (Penguin Random House, 2020) was far from ideal. Officially out March 3, the new book by Melody Moezzi ’01 was barely in readers’ hands before social distancing restrictions were imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Moezzi was able to participate in a handful of events near her home in Wilmington, N.C. . . . and then the remainder were canceled or rescheduled in virtual form.

The Rumi Prescription coverHowever, The Rumi Prescription is the sort of book that people with extra free time on their hands—and the inclination to obtain meaning from difficult experiences—might value. Moezzi’s third book, The Rumi Prescription details how she came to interpret and apply the lessons of the 13th-century mystic poet Rumi to her modern-day world, a process that was ultimately life-changing.

An Iranian-American Muslim author, attorney, activist, and visiting professor of creative nonfiction at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Moezzi has also written about mental health in her 2014 memoir Haldol and Hyacinths: A Bipolar Life. On May 18, she will participate in a live Zoom conversation about The Rumi Prescription with fellow mental wellness activist and illustrator Ellen Forney ’89, as part of a series offered by Literati bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Click here to join the event on May 18.

Moezzi recently answered questions about The Rumi Prescription, how Rumi’s words can apply to today’s world, and her advice for taking care of your mental health during a pandemic.

First of all, how’s The Rumi Prescription doing? What a time to launch a new book.

Melody Moezzi: It’s not the best time to be releasing a book, but it turns out that the topic of this book is actually something that is helpful for people right now, so I’m glad for that. At least people seem to be finding comfort in it.

Traveler’s Lab Creates Map of COVID-19 Cases in the NYC Commuting Region

COVID-19 map

Wesleyan’s Traveler’s Lab released a time-enabled regional map of COVID-19 cases in the tri-state area surrounding New York City.

In late March, as New York City’s coronavirus infection rate skyrocketed to five times higher than the rest of the country, members of Wesleyan’s Traveler’s Lab explored a movement-focused approach to the rapid spread of the disease.

Rather than focusing on political borders, lab members depicted major freeways, highways, and commuter rail lines out of New York City, and examined counties within a 2.5-hour drive from the City.

“While New York City may be the center, it is the travel region immediately surrounding the city that provides the true context of how COVID-19 has spread and is spreading to, and from, the City,” said Traveler’s Lab manager Jesse Torgerson, assistant professor of letters. “Informed by geographic and historical methods, this approach provides a truer context for human interactions.”

Wesleyan Announces 2020 Honorary Degree Recipients

At the University’s 188th Commencement on May 24, Wesleyan will present honorary degrees to three recipients whose work exemplifies inclusive engagement.

Jacqueline Woodson, an award-winning and best-selling author, is this year’s speaker. Actor and political activist Bradley Whitford ’81 and William Joseph Barber II, a social justice advocate and pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church, will also be honored. The recipients were chosen on the basis of their significant contributions to civic life in the United States, including the example they set in bringing new voices into the public sphere and spurring others to productive dialogue and action.

“I am honored to celebrate at Commencement three remarkable individuals whose work has educated people across the country,” President Michael Roth ’78 said. “Through their creative and inspiring contributions, they empower and encourage us to work toward creating a better world.”

Rich Honored Posthumously with the 2020 Morgenstern-Clarren Social Justice Employee Prize

brooke rich

Bon Appétit cashier Brooke Rich, center, pictured here with her three children, is the posthumous recipient of Wesleyan’s 2020 Morgenstern-Clarren Social Justice Employee Prize. Rich died March 4.

Brooke Rich, a former employee of Wesleyan’s food service provider Bon Appétit Management Co., was honored posthumously with Wesleyan’s 2020 Morgenstern-Clarren Social Justice Employee Prize.

The award was created in 2009 in memory of Peter Morgenstern-Clarren ‘03, who pursued social justice while a student at Wesleyan. Morgenstern-Clarren’s activism included securing benefits for Wesleyan custodial staff, participating in the United Student and Labor Action Committee, and contributing his leadership to the campus chapter of Amnesty International.

Sumarsam Participates in “Reflections from Quarantine” Conversation

Sumarsam

Sumarsam demonstrated how to use a Wayang Kulit puppet during his “Reflections from Quarantine” interview with the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale.

sumarsam song

Sumarsam concluded his reflection by singing the Indonesian songs “Guardian at Night” and “The Song of Disposal.”

Sumarsam, Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music at Wesleyan and a Fellow at Yale Institute of Sacred Music, is an expert on the history, theory, and practice of Indonesian music and theater, and a performer of Javanese gamelan and puppetry.

Sumarsam’s presentation was part of ISM’s “Reflections from Quarantine” series. He was interviewed live through the Zoom platform by ISM Fellows Program Director Eben Graves.

Sumarsam explained that his current research focuses on how “people—commoners—use performing art, and life of passage rituals for practicing their religion in their everyday lives.” From that angle, he looks at the early existence of performing arts during the period of Hinduized Java from the 9th to 15th centuries, and then proceeds to Islamized Java from around the 15th century onward.

In his reflection, Sumarsam explained the characters in a Wayang Kulit shadow puppet play: The demon is a sensual image of raw nature; the prince and princess are elements of traditional Java; gods and goddesses show a cosmological element of power; and clowns are used as a modern pragmatic element of survival. Sumarsam ended his interview with prayer incantation through song poetry.