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Assistant Plans Environment-Related Events, Writes Grants, Markets Wesleyan Program

Valerie Marinelli, administrative assistant for the Environmental Studies Certificate Program, recently helped plan and coordinate the local BioBlitz science event in Middletown.
Posted 06/20/07
Q: Valerie, when did you come to Wesleyan and what brought you here?

A: I started as a temporary employee in August 2006 in the Environmental Studies Certificate Program. In late October 2006, I became the department’s full time administrative assistant.
Q: Broadly, what is the Environmental Studies Certificate Program, and who is able to receive this certificate?

A: The Environmental Studies Certificate Program, known as ESCP, is an interdisciplinary certificate program for undergraduate students that includes but is not restricted to natural science, public policy, philosophy and economics. This program is similar to a ‘minor’ at some other institutions and implies that one chooses a major and then takes a set of additional courses in areas concerned with environmental studies. A certificate is given upon graduation and completion of the assigned courses. During the 2006-07 academic year, we had 15 seniors complete the ESCP, our largest number yet.
Q: Who else works in this program?

A: Currently, this department consists of Barry Chernoff, Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies and director of the Environmental Studies Certificate Program, and myself. Together, we are working to expand this department. This summer, we have four interns that are funded by the Robert Schumann Grant and four Hughes/Mellon interns. We will have two other interns in the fall.

Q: The ESCP and Wesleyan was one of the sponsors of BioBlitz 2007. What was this event?

A: For the 180-plus scientists involved, this was basically an exciting event where they gathered together for a 24-hour period on June 8 and 9 to comb the area of Middletown in search of particular species. It may have been fish, butterflies, spiders, bats, moths, spiders, plant pathogens, beetles, fungus, bacteria, or others species. For the junior scientists and teachers, this was a fantastic opportunity to be exposed to hands on science. They had the chance to work side by side and learn with these scientists over the 24 hours. For the general public, this was an opportunity to view what scientists uncovered right in their backyard. The amazing discovery was that there were 2,231 different species found right here in Middletown.

Q: What was your role in planning the event?

A: In October 2006, I was asked to represent Wesleyan on the Bioblitz Steering Committee and report back to some of the key participants within the university. Mainly, the committee would meet once a month to organize all the logistics that would lead up to this 24 hour event. I started as a member and before long, I was one of the principal organizers and coordinated all the logistics for this year’s event. My key roles were coordinating the Friday Night Dinner for the sponsors, scientists, campers and volunteers; working on the press releases to the media and community; assisting with the banners and posters; keeping a handle on the overall budget, which was a major feat in itself; soliciting sponsors and donations; working with the exhibitor committee; organizing the photographer and Wesleyan University video crew, and many of the behind the scene logistics and last minute happenings. I must say though, I enjoyed every minute of it and hope someday to get involved in the next Bioblitz, where ever and whenever that happens!

Q: What are your principal duties in the ESCP?

A: The ESCP is funded by the Robert Schumann Grant. My main responsibilities are to manage the department and its events. I coordinate and manage all the details for major campus events, such as lectures, symposiums, the Earth Day Keynote Address, just to name a few. I design and print posters for these events. I work closely with the press and other universities/colleges in the Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York area by informing them through press releases and e-mails about upcoming ESCP events. I assist student groups with planning and organizing all details for themed events for the program. I work in promoting the ESCP program in order to increase awareness to the Wesleyan University students. I act as a liaison to administration and other Academic Departments. I maintain our department’s budget and website. Currently, I am supervising several interns that are funded by our new Mellon Grant, as well as the students that are working at Long Lane Farms.

Q: What are other events you have helped plan? Are there any up and coming?

A: Over the last year, I had been instrumental in planning, the 2006 Pumpkin Festival with the Long Lane Farm Students, Where On Earth are We Going III, which was our huge Environmental Symposium, various day and evening guest speakers, our Earth Day Keynote Address which was given by Connecticut General Richard Blumenthal and just recently, Bioblitz 2007. Right now, we are in the midst of planning the 2007 Pumpkin Festival and this year’s Environmental Symposium. We hope to have more lectures for both students and faculty over the 2007-08 academic year.

Q: What aspects of your job are the most challenging?

A: When planning an event, it is most challenging to understand what type of audience I will get. Should I plan for 50 or 200? I have had night lectures, where there were very few students and faculty in attendance, but at the same time, I have had daytime lectures, where the rooms were packed to capacity. What I hear is that students love the luncheon lectures and tend to squeeze those talks into their busy daytime schedules more often than the evening events.

Q: What is your educational and professional background?

A: I graduated in 1983 from the University of Hartford. My degree was in marketing and computer science. I’ve worked for Data General Corporation, Xerox, Apple Computer and just recently, The Bushnell. In 1990, I started my own typesetting business out of my home, in order to work and be with my children.

Q: And who are they?

A: Gregory, who is 16 years old and Ryan, who is 13 years old. My family means the world to me. My husband, Richard and I have been married for 21 years. We live a very active life. When we are together, we enjoy vacationing, going to Boston; especially seeing a Red Sox game, visiting my family in New Jersey, socializing with our friends, watching a good movie or going to a theater production. I usually like to spend my free time relaxing, shopping, helping my friend’s plan their Bar/Bat Mitzvah’s, watching a “chick flick”, volunteering, taking walks with my husband or just hanging out with family and friends.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

WesCard Coordinator Helps Students, Staff Gain Access to Buildings, Meal Plans

Cathy-Lee Rizza, WesCard coordinator, creates and programs all student, faculty, staff and special-occasion identification cards for the university.
Posted 06/20/07
“Smile for the camera.”

That’s a phrase Cathy-Lee Rizza may say a dozen times a day in Wesleyan’s WesCard Office. As WesCard coordinator, she creates Wesleyan’s faculty, staff and student ID cards and manages the information provided by ID holders.

“This card gives students access to their dorms, provides them with meals on campus, it also serves as a library and gym card. If the student is part of the Middletown Cash Program, they can purchase meals off campus at our downtown Middletown merchants, do laundry on campus, purchase chemistry supplies and it even lets them pay for transportation to Bradley International Airport or the New Haven Train Station,” Rizza says. “It’s a pretty important card and should be treated with care, just like a driver’s license or credit card.”

When a new student, staff or faculty requests a card, Rizza takes his or her photo, digitally places it into the proper template, inserts the person’s ID number and information, and adds in a meal plan, a Middletown Cash account and security access information as needed.

The photography part is her favorite.

“I enjoy taking people’s pictures, and trying to make them laugh for the photo,” she says. “Some people come in so tense because it’s their first day. I try to help them relax. I always like to tell them, ‘Welcome aboard!”

Everything is stored on – or inside– the card, Rizza explains.

WesCards are “smart ID cards.” The card contains a flexible printed circuit with a microprocessor and memory circuit. Among other data are embed security information which allows cardholders access to certain buildings, such as student residences or the Freeman Athletic Center.

Along with a photo and the holder’s name, the front of the card has a barcode, which contains information such as a student’s Wesleyan ID number and issue number. This is the same code used to check out material at Wesleyan’s libraries. The card’s backside has a magnetic strip that contains students’ campus meal plan information. It’s also separately encoded with information that allows users to create a cash pool for the Middletown Cash Program, for use at participating on-campus and off-campus merchants. Card holders can make deposits on their card with a credit card, check their balances or freeze their card if it is lost through a Web site Rizza helped initiate, Rizza is the site’s co-webmaster and adds new information about the card frequently.

Rizza’s busiest time of the year occurs during the first two weeks of each semester when students need new cards, or need to change their meal plans. And for the next 13 weeks in comes “a never-ending stream of students who have lost their IDs,” she says.

“I’ve had some students who I would see standing in line for the fourth or fifth time and I would get the paper work started on them ahead of time, because I just knew what they were back for. But then last week I had a graduate student come in, and for all those years he kept the same card. I told him I was so proud of him,” Rizza says, smiling.

Replacement cards aren’t free, and when Rizza isn’t making cards, she’s busy billing student accounts. She also deposits funds into WesCard accounts and makes sure Middletown Cash transactions are correctly deposited using a program called Blackboard Commerce Suite.

As the system’s operation administrator, Rizza often answers questions, solves technical issues and troubleshoot problems related to the software or communication lines. She also serves as the contact person to the software and hardware companies.

“There’s a lot more going on in this office than just creating WesCards,” she says.

Rizza‘s ties to Wesleyan date back to 1979 when she worked as an office assistant for Wesleyan’s former food contracting service, Saga. In 1989, Wesleyan began their contract with Aramark. Rizza stayed with the food companies until 2004, she was offered the WesCard coordinator position, doing similar computing operations, where she seamlessly converted the previous meal plan system into the Blackboard Transaction System.

Rizza, a native of Cromwell, Conn. and 32-year resident of Middletown, is married to Joe Rizza. They have one son, Joe Jr., and one dog and two cats. Cathy-Lee Rizza enjoys gardening, cooking, cross word puzzles and managing her “lifestyle change.” Since August 2005, Rizza has dropped more than 100 pounds through Weight Watchers.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Pulitzer Prize Winner Keynote Speaker at Writers’ Conference

Posted 06/04/07
Edward P. Jones, pictured at left, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award, will be the keynote speaker at the 51st annual Wesleyan Writers Conference, held on campus June 17-22.

The Writers Conference welcomes experienced writers, new writers and anyone interested in the writer’s craft. One of the leading writers conferences in the nation, it has launched many writers’ publishing careers, notes Anne Greene, director.

“All of the programs are designed to offer you new perspectives on your work and the company of other writers who share your interests,” Greene says.

This summer’s program include seminars, informal workshops, guest speakers, manuscript consultations and publishing advice, as well as quiet time for writing. Topics include the novel, short story, graphic novels, poetry, memoir, journalism, long-form nonfiction, writing about social issues, mixed-media work, and new forms of publishing.

The conference faculty includes some of the nation’s most distinguished writers and promising new voices: fiction writers Robert Stone, Roxana Robinson, Alexander Chee, Richard Bausch, Paul LaFarge, and Josip Novakovich; poets Honor Moore, Laura Cronk, and Sherwin Bitsui; journalists Lis Harris, Jonathan Schell, Gayle Pemberton, Jennifer Gonnerman, Katha Pollitt and George Packer; and several panels of editors and agents. Also musician and small-press founder Johnny Temple, Allison Lorentzen of the award-winning journal N+1, and Ravi Shankar, founder of the Internet poetry magazine, Drunken Boat.

Three readings are open to the community free of charge:

Author George Packer will speak at 3 p.m. June 20 in the Center for the Arts Cinema. Packer is the author of The Assasin’s Gate: America in Iraq and is a New Yorker staff writer.

Novelist Robert Stone, winner of the National Book Award, will read from his best-selling new book, Prime Green: A Memoir of the Sixties, at 4:30 p.m. June 20 in the Center for the Arts Old Cinema.

Edward P. Jones will read from his recent work and answer questions. He received the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and the Lannan Literary Award for his novel, The Known World. He has also published two award-winning short story collections, most recently All Aunt Hagar’s Children. In 2004 he received a MacArthur Fellowship. Jones will speak at 8 p.m. June 21 in the Center for the Arts, Old Cinema.

For complete information and registration, go to the Wesleyan Writers Conference web site: or contact Anne Greene at 860-685-3604 or

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor. Photo by Bettina Strauss.

Scientists, Students Team Up for BioBlitz Event

David Wagner, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Connecticut, talks to Wesleyan faculty and Wesleyan Hughes and Mellon Fellows about the 2007 BioBlitz, to be held in Middletown June 8-9.
Posted 06/04/07
BioBlitz 2007 is coming to Middletown and Wesleyan faculty and students are playing key roles.

For those unaware, BioBlitz is a 24-hour environmental diversity survey that was originated in the state by the University of Connecticut and several partners. During BioBlitz, scientific specialists are partnered up with grade school students and others for field surveys and other activities. The idea is to get a snapshot of the biodiversity of a specific area in a 24-hour period.

This year, BioBlitz 2007 will focus on Middletown, taking place from June 8-9, with the public invited to attend between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. June 9.

Wesleyan has contributed $5,000 toward the survey and events. Wesleyan faculty, staff and students have been involved in planning, logistics, events as well as participating in the actual surveys. This includes Laura Appel, visiting associate professor of biology; Barry Chernoff, Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Sciences, professor of biology; Valerie Marinelli, administrative assistant for the Environmental Studies Program; Michael Singer, assistant professor of biology; and Michael Weir, professor of biology, director, Hughes Program in the Life Sciences. Both Chernoff and Singer will be leading field studies.

The fieldwork teams headed by Chernoff will survey three locations and identify and catalogue aquatic fish and invertebrates. He will be assisted by Kevi Mace ’07 and Nick Field ’09. Singer’s field teams will be in two locations identifying and cataloguing caterpillars. He will be assisted by Tim Farkas ’08, and Christian Skorik ’09.

As part of the ramp-up to BioBlitz 2007, the coordinator of the program David Wagner, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Connecticut, spoke to students on campus from the summer Hughes Program in the Life Sciences and Mellon Scholars, as well as others from the university community.

Along with Wesleyan, BioBlitz 2007 sponsors include the City of Middletown, University of Connecticut Center for Conservation & Biodiversity, the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History, Pratt & Whitney, the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education, and Middletown Public Schools.

For more information go to:

By David Pesci, director of Media Relations

Class Uses Local Lake as Laboratory

Posted 06/04/07
About 30 years ago, unnatural and excessive biological growth started occurring in the small, man-made Beseck Lake six miles southeast of Wesleyan’s campus.

Septic systems from lakeside homes deposited nutrients into the water, altering the biogeological cycles of carbon, sulfur, nitrogen and phosphorus in the aquatic ecosystem.

By 2002, the problem was remedied by connecting the homes to a city sewer system and the quality of the lake water improved. However, excess algae growth continued to form, proving that some unwanted nutrients continued to exist.

“What was still polluting the lake?’” asked Tim Ku, assistant professor of earth and environmental science. Ku and 18 Wesleyan students volunteered to help find the answers.

As part of Wesleyan’s Service Learning Course, Environmental Geochemistry Laboratory, the students had an opportunity to research the lake focusing on cultural eutrophication – or the result of nutrient pollution in an ecosystem.

Prior to conducting the actual research, Ku taught the class a variety of geochemical analytical techniques. Classes were held on campus but the 116-acre Beseck Lake served as the laboratory.

The students broke into small groups to conduct individual studies. During the winter they cut holes frozen-over lake (pictured) and lowered probes into the water and sediment. The sediment measurements allowed the young researches to identify changes that have occurred in the lake since 1849, when the lake was created. Students also analyzed the lake’s water and the surrounding air.

Sarah Gillig ‘09, an earth and environmental studies major, worked on an organic sediment deposit study. Her goal was to find what was still causing the pollution in the lake, which can harm people and kill fish and natural aquatic life.

“We wanted to know if the problems were caused by outside factors, such as external organic pollution, runoff from a nearby mountain, or if they were internal,” Gillig explains. “We ultimately discovered they were internal.”

Jordan Schmidt ’08, earth and environmental sciences major, analyzed the amount of phosphate in the lake’s sediment. High phosphate levels can result in excess algae growth.

Emily Keeler ‘07, an earth and environmental sciences major, says she took the Service Learning Class because she’s interested in the ways that humans impact environments. Keeler focused her Beseck Lake studies on water chemistry.

By measuring the levels of dissolved oxygen, Keeler was able to investigate the magnitude of oxygen depletion and also whether the lake is overturning and mixing. She and her peers calculated alkalinity and measured ion concentrations in the water to determine existing contaminations.

“It’s difficult to look at this ecosystem and see how it’s being destroyed,” Keeler says. “People want to use it for recreation. They aren’t necessarily thinking about the fact that in order for the lake to not be eutrophic depends on a balanced lake ecosystem. That means they’re going to have to change parts of their lifestyle, like not using chemical fertilizers that run into the lake.”

Ku says once excess phosphate enters the lake, much of it is continuously cycled from the sediments into the water column. The Town of Middlefield has submitted a $100,000 bond proposal to the Connecticut State Bond Commission to improve the water quality and clarity of Beseck Lake. The bond has been approved by the Environment Committee and the Finance Committee, and is awaiting a vote.

To solve the algae problem, the class investigated the use of alum, a compound that binds phosphate. While this treatment could decrease the algae blooms at Beseck Lake the students cautioned that an alum application must be carefully designed and monitored. Too much alum may harm aquatic life such as fish; too little will not inhibit the algae growth.

“There is no easy solution for eutrophication at Beseck Lake, the nutrients can be very difficult to remove or inactivate,” Ku says. “Hopefully, the class research will lead to the remediation of the lake.”

The Service Learning project was held in cooperation with the Beseck Lake Association. Students took turns presented their finding to 35 members of the lake community on May 8.

“For a long time we have wondered whether the nutrients in the lake were caused by leaves washing down the mountain, farm animals that live on either end of the lake, or sewage that is stored in the sediment after 75 years of septic tank leakage,” says Richard Boynton, president of the Beseck Lake Association. “The students answered this question. Middlefield is lucky that Wesleyan provided this valuable research study, which would have otherwise cost us thousands of dollars.”

Gillig says the Service Learning program is a valuable addition at Wesleyan, and provides them with practical experience in things that are otherwise very abstract.

“Once you’ve done it yourself, you have a completely different comprehension and appreciation for things,” she says.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor. Photos contributed by Tim Ku and his class.

PIMMS Assistant Director Plans the Programs

Patti Miller, assistant director of programs, grants and marketing for the Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics and Science (PIMMS).
Posted 06/04/07
Q: Patti, when did you start working at Wesleyan and what were you hired in as?

A: I started in Fall 2000 and I was hired on a part-time/temporary basis to assist a wonderful woman who was diagnosed with a terminal illness to help her manage PIMMS workshop registrations and promotion.

Q: You are the assistant director of programs, grants and marketing for the PIMMS. What is the overall purpose of the program?

A: PIMMS mission is to provide high-quality professional development for mathematics and science educators – mostly at the Pre-K to grade 12 level. We accomplish this by offering workshops in the summer and throughout the academic year to improve teachers’ command of the subject matter, use of technology, and their pedagogical and leadership skills as well as foster colleagueship among educators. The PIMMS Fellowship program was initiated in 1983 for very dedicated educators by providing intensive training of over 200 hours and lasting 18 or more months. Since then, more than 600 PIMMS Fellows have been named. PIMMS also provides training for individual school districts with on-site and in-service workshops for staff as well as consulting services to help educational leaders evaluate their programs, curriculum and student progress.

Q: What are some of the PIMMS programs?

A: We are currently wrapping up a 20-month Connecticut State Department of Education grant project to train 43 math leaders in middle and high schools in 14 districts in the state. We are also one year into a 3-year CSDE grant for 25 middle school science teacher-leaders. This summer, we will continue our work with the eesmarts program sponsored by United Illuminating and Connecticut Light and Power, funded by the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund. This project provides training for K-8 teachers to enhance their knowledge of energy and energy conservation to improve delivery of instruction in their science classrooms and to promote an energy-efficiency ethic in our communities. PIMMS Chair, Bob Rosenbaum, will also return to the classroom this summer with two mini-mathematics courses for a small group of educators finishing their PIMMS Fellows training.

Q: What is your role as a grants writer and marketing person?

A: I am responsible for taking ideas about grant projects and putting them into a final form that, hopefully, results in funding for the project. These ideas may come from within the PIMMS House or from Wesleyan professors who wish to work with K-12 schools in their projects. Once we receive funding for a project, I oversee the operation of the project to make sure all staff and participants are informed about events and activities and I produce promotional materials needed for the project as well as gather data and evaluation materials for preparing final reports. I also maintain the PIMMS Web site, which houses information about all our current programs and, as needed, produce fliers and brochures for workshops and events hosted by PIMMS.

Q: Who founded PIMMS?

A: In 1979, Robert Rosenbaum, University Professor of Mathematics and the Sciences, Emeritus, convened a group of citizens who were concerned about the quality of mathematics education in the state of Connecticut. These meetings included mathematics teachers and faculty from the public school, community college, and university levels, as well as school administrators and representatives of business and industry. Their collaboration resulted in the formation of the Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics. PIMMS began in 1983 when the organization’s scope was broadened to include science.

Q: Who are the key people you work with in the office?

A: Our office is quite small and although we all work somewhat independently, we overlap considerably on our various projects. Included are Mike Zebarth, director; Bob Borello, associate director for Science; Sandie Coelho, associate director for mathematics; and Lorraine Karatkewicz, who holds everything together as our office manager. Bob Rosenbaum, chair and founder of PIMMS, is our stalwart consultant and guide in all matters pertaining to education, mathematics, science, and general good sense. My work generally supports everyone in the office.

Q: What do you do throughout your day and when does it become the busiest?

A: My day involves a lot of work at the computer – writing, communicating with project participants, Web site work, producing brochures and announcements, and processing workshop registrations or Continuing Education Units. Crunch time occurs when grant proposals or final reports are due or if we have a large number of workshops scheduled in a short time-span.

Q: What is the Early Childhood Mathematics and Science Leadership Institute?

A: We recently managed two grant projects intended to expose early childhood educators to new research and techniques for fostering mathematics and science thinking in the young child. This growing field is emerging as an important means for helping young children, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds, to develop skills and some “big ideas” about science and mathematics to get them ready for K-12 education. We hope to be able to continue work in this area.

Q: What is your background in?

A: I have an undergraduate degree in fine arts and a master’s degree in exercise science, not your typical combination. I have worked as an artist, a graphic artist, and as an exercise physiologist managing grant projects and training and certification programs.

Q: What are some the challenges of your job?

A: The most interesting “challenge” for me at PIMMS occurs during the exploratory stages when a new grant proposal is in the works. I enjoy the background research, especially, in gathering evidence in support of the intended goals and activities of the project and find that I learn an enormous amount about the topic in the process. Structuring a project so that it fits within a budget, meets the grantors objectives, meets the grantees goals and interests, and makes sense as a total package to the grant readers and funding agency is always a challenge, especially when many players are involved in brainstorming the possibilities.

Q: Where is your office located on campus, and what is the story behind this building?

A: PIMMS is located at 178 Cross Street, across from the softball fields and practice soccer and lacrosse fields. PIMMS House was built in downtown Middletown circa 1750 and moved to its present location in the early 1800s.

Q: Do you have children? What are some activities you enjoy doing together?

A: My husband, Jeff Miller, and I have three daughters 18, 20, and 22. Jeff is the associate director of facilities management at Physical Plant. All of us have been involved in running and track and field at some time and this summer I will continue to coach as a volunteer with the Connecticut Track Club which I founded in 2001 – a youth program for ages 9 and older and currently expanding to include adult distance runners.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: Exercise is a “hobby” I pursue as a necessary counterpoint to many hours in front of a computer. I also enjoy photography and stained glass.

Q: Anything else you’d like to say about your role at Wesleyan?

A: Wesleyan University is a fabulous institution in many ways, most notably in the educational experiences it provides but also in its relationship with and support of its employees. I consider working at Wesleyan a privilege.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Eclectic House Celebrates 100 Years of Campus Residence

The Eclectic Society house, located at 200 High Street, is 100 years old this year.
Posted 06/04/07
“Our reputation was one of respect from most everyone,” recalls Bill Moody ’59, P ’91.” We did not come across as rich or preppy or jock-filled or hyper-social or racist or nerdy. We did not dominate a given group or project or sport.”

Moody, author of the recently-published book, A History of the Eclectic Society of Phi Nu Theta, 1837-1970, shared memories with current and past Eclectic members during the 100th anniversary celebration of the completion of the Eclectic Society House May 26. The book is published by Wesleyan University Press.

Faces have come and gone, but the symmetrical brick house with a four-pillar façade at 200 High Street has changed very little.

“This house is truly what links the ever-changing society members,” says Eclectic Society member Omar Hunter Craighill ’09. “The house has very distinctive architecture and has been a very important part of campus for many generations of students.”

Formally named The Eclectic Society at Phi Nu Theta, the fraternity was established in the 1830s, when students began meeting for the purpose of helping each other with college studies, literary work and Saturday-evening social events. In 1837, the association became official, making it the first fraternity established at Wesleyan.

Now 170 years old, Eclectic is one of the oldest non-national fraternities in the United States. Many notable figures in Wesleyan’s history were members of Eclectic, including four who became Wesleyan presidents: Joseph Cummings, Class of 1840; Cyrus D. Foss, Class of 1854; John W. Beach Class of 1845; and Edwin D. Etherington ‘48.

Early Eclectic members gathered in a clubhouse; later they lived in a dormitory-like structure at 246 High Street. In 1900 they began extensive fund-raising for a home of their own, and in 1907, a house was completed. It was designed by Henry Bacon of New York City, who later designed the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. The house had the “largest and finest dance-hall of all the college houses,” wrote Billy North Rice, chairman of the organization’s Board of Directors in 1921.

“This building was the first step towards bringing a highly distinguished American architect to serve as de facto campus planner and architect for Wesleyan,” says Wesleyan Historian David Potts ’60, author of Wesleyan University, 1831-1910: Collegiate Enterprise in New England.

Bacon created Wesleyan’s first campus plan in 1913 and was the architect of the swimming pool addition to Fayerweather Gymnasium, the Skull and Serpent building, Van Vleck Observatory, Clark Hall, the Memorial Chapel Renovation of 1916, the South College belfry and the initial design for Olin Library. In 1923, Bacon won the highest award in his profession and Wesleyan’s campus “has by far the largest assemblage of his works, starting with Eclectic,” Potts says.

Nevertheless, the three-story brick building encountered several problems over the years. Just 13 years after it was built, the cost of house operations put the members $1,500 in debt. The house had a leaky roof and shower room, and the dining room ceiling required expensive repairs. In 1925, damages occurred from a lightning strike. In 1928, the house’s heating system failed completely. Repairs were made but financial troubles burdened the society for years to come. In the 1970s, the house had fallen into such disrepair that the Wesleyan bought the house from Eclectic alumni for $1 and began maintaining the house and bringing it up to safety standards.

Currently, the 200 High Street house has 18 single and three double rooms, a café, library, kitchen, television room and a large ballroom and dining room. The top floor of the house is used for society meetings.

Eclectic also continues its long tradition of hosting events that enrich the life and experiences of the entire Wesleyan community. Fundraising activities, film screenings, dance workshops, concerts, poetry readings, lectures, theatrical and creative art performances and student-run classes have all been held in open-spaced living room.

Alumni Pledge $5M to Create New Center on Campus

Elena ’93 and Trustee Robert L. Allbritton ’92 have donated $5M to Wesleyan, to help build the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life.
Posted 06/04/07
Trustee Robert L. Allbritton ’92, his wife Elena ’93 and family have pledged $5 million toward the renovation of Davenport Hall to house Wesleyan’s new Center for the Study of Public Life and to challenge younger alumni classes to contribute to the Wesleyan Fund. The Center will be named for the Allbritton family.

“Public life is changing, in part because new media have accelerated the exchange of ideas among leaders in government, business, the arts and sciences, and grassroots activism,” said Allbritton, founder of The Politico, a newspaper and web site already renowned for its coverage of Capitol Hill and national politics. “I am proud to think that The Politico supports and informs this exchange. I believe that the Center for the Study of Public Life at Wesleyan also can help us understand and elevate our evolving public discourse.”

The Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life is a response to significant changes across the social sciences, which include the creation of new interdisciplinary ventures, the use of multiple methodologies in research, and the rethinking of the idea of the public in a variety of intellectual and social movements. The Allbritton Center will build on evolving relationships between scholarly research and both the political process and the greater public. It will host courses taught by people who have had distinguished careers in public service, including law, business, government, the non-profit sector, and media. It also will house a Quantitative Analysis Center to educate students in the analysis and interpretation of large bodies of data.

Architectural planning is underway for the renovation of Davenport Hall, currently in use as a campus center, to house the Allbritton Center.

The Allbritton gift, in honor of Robert’s 15th reunion, is unprecedented in size for alumni of this generation. The Allbrittons have pledged a portion of their gift as matching funds to challenge members of Wesleyan’s younger alumni classes to give more.

The gift also honors two Wesleyan presidents: Doug Bennet, the University’s 15th president, who will complete a 12 year term this June, and Michael Roth, who will become the 16th president on July 1.

“Both Doug and Michael exemplify the finest qualities of the liberally educated,” said Allbritton. “Each has innovated across a range of activities and institutional settings. They are engaged, adaptive, and resourceful leaders.”

Bennet’s career has combined leadership roles at the U.S. Department of State and the presidencies of National Public Radio and Wesleyan. Roth, a historian, has shaped programs bridging scholarship, the arts and public life at Scripps College, the Getty Research Institute and California College of the Arts.

“This generous gift will help Wesleyan education keep pace with rapid changes in the workings of our democracy and our global society,” said Wesleyan President Doug Bennet. “I am grateful to Robert Allbritton for his own commitments to quality and innovation and to the Allbritton family for their willingness to help keep Wesleyan in the forefront.”

The Politico features intensive coverage by seasoned political reporters that is targeted both at decision-makers and the public at large. Its primary medium is the Internet, so important stories often are updated three or four times a day, said Allbritton. At the same time, it produces a print edition and news programming for television and radio.

Robert Allbritton is chairman and CEO of Allbritton Communications Company, headquartered in Washington, D.C. ACC is a family-owned company that owns and operates seven ABC-affiliated stations across the United States. ACC also owns and operates NewsChannel 8, a local 24-hour news cable programming service in the Washington metropolitan area.

Elena Allbritton is a physician and a member of Wesleyan’s Class of 1993. The pledge comes jointly from Robert and Elena Allbritton and from a family foundation established by Robert’s parents, Joe L. and Barbara B. Allbritton.

“Wesleyan has a grand tradition of connecting research and education to the improvement of our public life,” said President-Elect Michael Roth. “I am very excited by the prospects of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Political Life to advance our understanding of how to be more effective global citizens. I look forward to working to ensure its success.”

3 Faculty Awarded for Excellence in Teaching

Richard Slotkin, the Olin Professor of American Studies and English, was one of three faculty members to receive the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching by President Doug Bennet during Commencement Ceremonies May 27.
Posted 06/04/07
Joyce Jacobsen, the Andrews Professor of Economics; Richard Slotkin, the Olin Professor of American Studies and English; and T. David Westmoreland, associate professor of chemistry were the 2007 recipients of the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching. They received the prize during the 2007 Commencement ceremony May 27.

The Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching was inaugurated in 1993 as an institutional recognition of outstanding faculty members. One to three Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching are presented each year and are made possible by the generosity of the Binswanger family that counts numerous Wesleyan alumni, alumnae and parents in its ranks.

The standards and criteria for the annual prizes include excellence in teaching as exemplified by commitment to the classroom and student accomplishment, intellectual demands placed on students, lucidity, and passion.

Recipients are chosen by a selection committee of emeriti, current faculty members and appointed members of the Alumni Association’s Executive Committee. Recommendations are solicited from members of the last ten graduating classes, the current junior and senior classes, and current graduate students. Recommendations are based on any of the types of teaching that are done at the University including, but not limited to: teaching in lecture courses, seminars, laboratories, creative and performance-based courses, research tutorials and other individual and group tutorials at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Each recipient receives a citation and monetary prize made possible by the generosity of the Binswanger family. Previous recipients are excluded from consideration for seven years.

The credentials of this year’s honorees are extensive. Briefly:

Joyce Jacobsen joined the Wesleyan faculty in 1993. She received an A.B. in economics from Harvard University, a M.Sc. in economics from London School of Economics, and a Ph.D. in economics from Stanford University. Her main research interest is gender and racial/ethnic differences in employment and earnings patterns. Professor Jacobsen teaches courses on economics of gender, urban economics, econometrics, and microeconomic theory, and serves often as the CSS economics sophomore tutor.

Her books include The Economics of Gender (2007), Labor Markets and Employment Relationships (with Professor Gil Skillman, 2004), and a forthcoming reader on Queer Economics, co-edited with Adam Zeller ’00 (2007). She is the author of numerous book chapters and articles that have appeared in such publications as the Journal of Income Distribution, the European Economic Review, and the Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance. She is the editor of Eastern Economic Journal and the associate editor of Feminist Economics.

Richard Slotkin joined the Wesleyan faculty in 1966. He developed the American Studies Program and chaired it for 20 years, and also has been a major contributor to the development of film studies at the University. This is Slotkin’s second time receiving the award.

His latest book is Lost Battalions: The Great War and the Crisis of American Nationality (2005), the story of two World War I regiments: the African-American “Harlem Hell Fighters” and the “Lost Battalion” of the 77th Division, raised from the immigrant peoples of New York’s tenements, who fought heroically for a country which refused to recognize them as equal citizens. He is best known for an award-winning trilogy of scholarly books on the myth of the frontier in American cultural history. Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600–1860 (1973) was a finalist for the 1974 National Book Award and received the 1973 Albert J. Beveridge Award of the American Historical Association. The second volume, The Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800–1890 (1985) received the literary award of the Little Big Horn Associates, and has become a standard reference in the field of American studies. The final volume, Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America (1992) was a finalist for the 1993 National Book Award. Slotkin also has written three historical novels: Abe: A Novel of the Young Lincoln (2000), which received the Michael Shaara Award for Civil War Fiction (2001) and the Book Award (2000); The Return of Henry Starr (1988); and The Crater (1980).

In 1995 he received the Mary C. Turpie Award from the American Studies Association, for his contributions to teaching and program-building. He also received Wesleyan’s Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 1997.

T. David Westmoreland received a B.S. degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Before joining the Wesleyan faculty in 1989, he held postdoctoral appointments at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley. His research interests are concentrated in the area of inorganic chemistry. He and his research group are particularly interested in the functions of metal ions in biological systems. His research publications have spanned a number of topics in this area, from the relationship between electronic structure and spectroscopic features of molybdenum-containing oxidoreductase enzymes, to new manganese and chromium-based contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In addition, his work includes exploring fundamental aspects of atom transfer reactions that are related to biological and industrial oxidation processes. His work has appeared in The Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, and Organometallics.

Professor Westmoreland teaches introductory general chemistry as well as advanced courses on inorganic chemistry and on chemical applications of symmetry concepts. He also has taught general education courses on pattern formation in nature and on scientific research ethics. He has been a research mentor to 24 Wesleyan undergraduates and six graduate students over the years.

Photo by Bill Burkhart, university photographer.

The Wesleyan Connection: Campus Snapshot

ADVERTISING ALUMNUS: Darren Kapelus, Class of ’87, and Senior Partner and Executive Group Director of the advertising agency, Ogilvy and Mather, Worldwide, addressed the issue “Is Advertising Dead?” April 25 on campus.

Carol Crosby, associate director of the Career Resouce Center, speaks with Kapelus, whose world renowned agency has addressed issues of self esteem and beauty stereotypes with the Dove “Campaign for Real Beauty.” Kapelus discussed how the advertising industry is shifting from talking at to listening to consumers.
“Is Advertising Dead?” was ideal for students interested in careers in marketing, branding and advertising, as well as students who have an interest in how the “traditional” advertising industry is being forced to re-invent itself. The event was sponsored by the Career Resource Center. (Photos by Ben Rowland)

8 Recipients of Honorary Degrees, Baldwin Medal, Alumnus Award

Posted 05/27/07
Wesleyan’s 175th Commencement Ceremonies were held on Sunday, May 27.

Wesleyan conferred: 731 bachelor degrees, 25 master of arts degrees, 58 master of arts in liberal studies degrees and 14 Ph.D. degrees.

During that ceremony, the following people received honorary degrees:

Jewel Plummer Cobb is renowned as a teacher, a research biologist, and an advocate for the participation of women and members of minority groups in the sciences. A graduate of Talladega College, she earned her Ph.D. in cell physiology at New York University. Her scientific research has centered on factors influencing the growth, morphology, and genetic expression of normal and neoplastic pigment cells and on the changes produced in vitro by chemotherapeutic agents, by hormones, and by other agents known to disrupt cell division. She taught at NYU, Sarah Lawrence College, and Connecticut College before becoming dean of the college at Connecticut, then dean of Douglass College, and finally president of California State University at Fullerton. Currently president and professor of biological science, emerita, at Fullerton, Dr. Cobb continues to be active in promoting science education programs for minority youth and in promoting the greater representation of women in science. In 1993 the National Science Foundation honored her with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Contributions to the Advancement of Women and Underrepresented Minorities.

Alan M. Dachs ’70, P’98 served 14 years as a member of the Wesleyan University Board of Trustees and eight years as Board chair. In his role as chair of the Board, he led the fundraising for the Wesleyan Campaign, helping the institution to raise a record-breaking $281 million for academic programs and new faculty positions, financial aid, and an ambitious program of campus renewal. Through his close partnership with President Douglas J. Bennet, he helped to guide Wesleyan in its strategic planning and in promoting Wesleyan’s reputation for academic excellence. Mr. Dachs is a staunch advocate for the value of liberal arts education and a tireless proponent of Wesleyan. He was elected trustee emeritus and chair emeritus in 2005 upon his retirement from the Board. Mr. Dachs is a member of the boards of directors of the Bechtel Group and the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation. He currently serves on the boards of The Brookings Institution and The Conference Board and on the Corporation Visiting Committee for the Engineering Systems Division of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He recently was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Mr. Dachs also serves as chair of the University’s Development Committee. He is president and chief executive officer of the Fremont Group, a private investment company based in San Francisco. Mr. Dachs and his wife, Laurie, have four children and two grandchildren. Their son, Eric, is a member of Wesleyan’s Class of 1998.

Rosa DeLauro was elected to Congress from Connecticut’s Third District in 1990 and is currently serving her ninth term. She sits on the House Appropriations and Budget committees. In addition to her work on the full committees, Representative DeLauro chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, which is responsible for funding the Food and Drug Administration and the Food Stamps program. She also sits on the Labor – Health, Human Services – Education and Commerce – Justice – Science Subcommittees. DeLauro has built a reputation as an advocate for economic development, healthcare and education. She has been a strong proponent for student aid, advocating such measures as increasing the size of Pell Grants in order to restore their purchasing power, allowing the consolidation of student loan debt and cutting interest rates to make student borrowing more affordable, and defending against cuts in programs that help to increase students’ access to college , such as Upward Bound and TRIO. A frequent visitor to Wesleyan’s campus and to Middletown, DeLauro has shown herself eager to meet and talk with faculty and students. She has strongly supported Wesleyan’s efforts to establish and fund the Green Street Arts Center. Since she first came to Congress in 1990, DeLauro has put every pay raise she has received toward a scholarship program she founded in memory of her late father. To date, her scholarships have helped 420 students further their educations.

Jim Lehrer (who also gave the principal address at commencement) has anchored The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) since 1995. Lehrer joined PBS in 1972, teaming with Robert MacNeil in 1973 to cover the Senate Watergate hearings. They began in 1975 what became The MacNeil/Lehrer Report, and, in 1983, The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, the first 60-minute evening news program on television. Lehrer has been honored with numerous awards for journalism, including a presidential National Humanities Medal in 1999. In the last five presidential elections, he moderated 10 of the nationally televised candidate debates. Lehrer has written 15 novels, his latest, The Franklin Affair, published in April 2005. He also has written two memoirs and three plays. His daughter, Lucy Lehrer, is a member of Wesleyan’s Class of 1985.

Nobutaka Machimura, former Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs, currently serves as a member of the Japanese House of Representatives representing Hokkaido 5th District. As foreign minister of Japan from September 2004 to October 2005, his efforts were directed toward signing a treaty with Russia resolving a border dispute and toward investigating the whereabouts of Japanese hostages who had been kidnapped by North Korean agents during the 1970s and 1980s. Educated in economics at the University of Tokyo, he attended Wesleyan for one year as an exchange student. His career in public service has included appointments to the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry, the National Land Agency, the Japan External Trade Organization, and the Agency of Natural Resources and Energy (from which he retired as director of the planning division for petroleum). He also served as minister of Education, Science, Sports and Culture and director of the National Defense Division of the Policy Research Council. He has been elected to seven terms in the Japanese House of Representatives.

Thomas F. Malone, an environmentalist and expert on sustainability, is University Distinguished Scholar Emeritus at North Carolina State University. He has held a tenured faculty appointment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been a senior vice president and director of research for the Travelers Insurances Companies, and has been dean of the Graduate School at the University of Connecticut. A past president of Sigma Xi, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Meteorological Society, he has also been foreign secretary of the National Academy of Sciences and a vice president of the International Council for Science (ICSU). Recent publications have included “Toward a Knowledge Society in the Americas,” “A New Agenda for Science and Technology for the Twenty-First Century,” “Reflections on the Human Prospect,” “Global Change, Science and the Human Prospect,” and, with Gary Yohe, “Knowledge Partnership for a Sustainable, Equitable, and Stable Society.” Professor Malone has long been active in issues that combine economic development and environmental quality. He has participated in two environmental conferences at Wesleyan.

In addition:
Robert G. McKelvey, Wesleyan Class of 1959, and a Rhodes Scholar, received the Raymond E. Baldwin Medal. President of the George McKelvey Company, Inc., an investment and advisory firm, McKelvey also serves as a trustee or director for a number of philanthropic organizations, with his commitment to these organizations, ranging from 10 to 35 years.

McKelvey has a long history of dedicated service to Wesleyan. He has served as an alumni-elected trustee, as a Wesleyan charter trustee, and as vice-chairman of the Board of Trustees. During his tenure he chaired the Development Committee and served on the Facilities and Finance Committees, as well as on the Budget and Portfolio Subcommittees. In 1983, at the request of the Board, he became a director of Zygo Corp., a struggling high tech company in which Wesleyan had a small investment. In 1995, Wesleyan sold that holding as one of the university’s most successful investments ever. In 1996 he was elected trustee emeritus. He continued to serve as a member of the Board’s Portfolio Subcommittee until 2005. From 2000-2004, he was also a member of the Development Committee. He continues to be an active leader of Alpha Delta Phi. Throughout the 1970s, he headed the fraternity’s alumni organization as the chapter converted to coeducational membership. In the 1990s, when the Alpha Delt coed chapters broke with the national to form a coeducational Alpha Delt national, he returned to lead the national organization for its first decade.

Taft Armandroff, Wesleyan Class of 1982, received Wesleyan’s prestigious Distinguished Alumnus Award on May 26. Armandroff is the Director of the W. M. Keck Observatory, leading the organization that operates the world’s two largest optical/infrared telescopes, which are located on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Armandroff is a noted research astronomer with a specialty in deciphering the past history of nearby galaxies based on the stars that they contain today and an understanding of how stars evolve. His research has contributed to the recognition that galaxies like the Milky Way have been strongly influenced by past mergers with dwarf galaxies. He is also an expert in astronomical instrumentation, the complex technology that enables astronomers to analyze the faint light from distant stars and galaxies.

To view photos of the recipients, go to :

Jim Lehrer Delivers Commencement Address

Jim Lehrer P’85, anchor of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, delivered the commencement address during ceremonies May 27. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)
Posted 05/27/07
Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I am honored to be so honored, in such great company, by this great university.

It means so much to me personally because I am the devoted father of a Wesleyan graduate, Lucy Lehrer, class of 1985. And she’s sitting right over there.

My first encounter with Wesleyan was because of Lucy and it was a most memorable one. My wife Kate and I had come here to take Lucy to school as a freshman. And we took her to her room in the dorm at Foss 6.

Anybody here from Foss 6?

Well, there came a time and occasion for me to go to the men’s room. I inquired of someone about where one might be and I was told it was just down the hallway. There was a big swinging door, and I went to the door, swung it open and entered and there before me was a young woman. I quickly apologized and turned to run out and away.

“Oh don’t worry, sir,” said the young woman, “The rest rooms here are co-ed.”

And I said to myself silently, and later less silently to Lucy and to Lucy’s mother, “Welcome to the new world of Wesleyan.” And I thought, “At least they don’t have co-ed dorms.” But then I realized, no way will that ever happen.

I have personal Wesleyan connections also to two of the principal players in today’s commencement, both of them here on the stage: one of them a former president of Wesleyan, the other about to become a former president.

Colin Campbell, as was said, was president here for eighteen years; his reign including Lucy Lehrer’s splendid time as a student. We became close friends later through our association with Colonial Williamsburg and when he served as chairman of the board of PBS, the Public Broadcasting Service.

Doug Bennet, about the stand down as president, and I have know each other since his days as assistant secretary of state, and then president of National Public Radio. And that’s when I met Midge.

It is these two gentlemen that are included in what I said at the beginning about my pleasure in the company I am keeping here today.

It is in my capacity as commencement speaker that I acknowledge this honor for all of them. We are indeed honored.

You can relax about the speaker part of this assignment; commencement speakers should be mostly seen rather than heard and usually are. I have been present during the delivery of hundreds of commencement speeches as a graduate, proud parent, reporter, friend. I not only cannot remember what any of the speakers said, I can’t remember what most of them looked like. I have no doubt that this will be the case again now. Nobody comes to commencement to hear a speech, only to cheer and applaud a happy graduate. With that in mind, I promise not to keep you long.

There is one thing I am going to do however, right now, to at least increase the chances of your remembering today’s commencement speaker. I am going to call a bus to Houston, something I have been doing off and on regularly since the 1950’s. That’s because I worked as a ticket agent at the Trailways bus depot while going to a small junior college in Victoria, a small Texas city on the Gulf coast. One of my duties was to do this:

“May I have your attention please!
(Lehrer then went on to make his bus call, taking nearly half a minute and naming several small towns along the route) All aboard! Don’t forget your baggage please!”

Now, you may wonder, “Why in the world is he doing this?” I have done this in just about every commencement address I have given, and countless other speeches. It’s my good luck charm. It also proves: learn something early, well, and totally irrelevant, and you’ll never forget it.

But most importantly, I think I can count on the fact that there are no other commencement speakers, at Wesleyan or anywhere else, who have the skills needed to include a bus call in their remarks. So in other words, when you think of bus calls, think of me, your commencement speaker.

I have only a couple of real commencement-like messages to deliver, and then I will leave you be. First and foremost, graduates of the class of 2007, keep in mind that this is 2007 and next year is 2008, which in my professional opinion, may be the most important presidential election year of your, my, and several other generations.

We have a war going on, a conflict that has aroused passions that go to the heart and soul of what we are about as the United States of America. Sores and minds have been opened, as have mouths and wounds, about how we exercise the enormous power we have as Americans: political and economic and cultural power, as well as military. The debates, among pairs of people, one on one, and among thousands and millions, about it all must be raised. And I would strongly urge that every one of you, participate in those debates.

On the war.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the ages of most of the young Americans who are doing the fighting and dying in Iraq – 18, 19. 20, 21, 22 – your age, in other words, your generation. Whatever your opinion going into the war or now, four years later, I would urge each of you, as well as everyone else in this audience, and everywhere else, to keep in mind that each of us makes decisions about what to do with our lives. Those men and women chose a career in the military – that makes them no better, no worse than you or anyone else who chooses to do something else.

But they are in fact risking, some are giving, their lives and they do so in your name, my name, our names, in the name of our country. So, bottom line, please cheer them when they come home, no matter what your view on Iraq. Support what’s happening or hate what’s happening – cheer them when they come home.

And I would also urge each of you graduates of the class of 2007 to find ways to also serve. I don’t mean necessarily joining the Marines, to fight in Iraq or in the next war or two. I mean, no matter what you decide to do with your life, also serve.

Be rich or poor. Draw pictures, write novels, make movies, be single, be married, make babies, raise babies, try cases, treat sick people, teach people, drive buses, play baseball, play football, act, sing, play an instrument, bank, invest, invent, manufacture, experiment, compute, cook, research, pray. Whatever, wherever. But also find a way to serve – serve your neighborhood, town, city, county, state and country. To serve a common purpose beyond yourself and your immediate family and/or interests.

I happen to personally favor some form of mandatory national service. Not a draft, but a system for creating the shared experience of service for everyone, for us all. Service that could include civilian service – the Peace Corps, teacher corps, police corps and all kinds of corps besides the Marine corps.

But that suggestion isn’t going anywhere at the moment politically. Service is a voluntary act, so be it. You are graduating at a time when there are enormous opportunities to do great things, voluntarily. But also to do terrible things. The possibilities for good and evil have seldom been so limitless. We have, at the personal and political levels in our society, wrenching conflicts right now over race, health care, poverty, violence, as well as how we employ our military and diplomatic muscle.

Yes, those conflicts and others like it have always been there. But the difference now is that we – you and me and our respective peers – have a chance to solve them. If we are willing to simply accept that as a given and get on with it.

One way to serve of course, is by staying informed, by forming and expressing opinions, by questioning the opinions of others particularly those other people who hold public office or who otherwise exercise public power – including those who write and edit the newspapers and magazines and blogs you read; report on and produce the radio and television programs you listen to and watch. Complain about the things you do not like, praise those you do.

Ask questions about matters you do not understand. Be part of the dialogue, the debate, the decision making in our democracy. They are decisions that could literally set the course for our nation and our society for centuries to come. They are too important to be left to the experts, as smart as they are; to our public officials, as dedicated and honest as most are. We must all serve, with our minds and our voices and our hearts. I hereby implore you to do so.

Not just between now and election day, 2008, for now and ever more.

But as you do it, please, please be civil, be fair. One of the most serious losses we as a society have suffered in recent years, in my opinion, is that of civil discourse. There is a meanness of communication alive in the land right now. I see it in the mail and the e-mail we get at our program. I hear it on television and the radio, read it in the newspapers and magazines and on the blogs and elsewhere on the internet.

The controversies involving Iraq and the 2008 presidential election have and will continue to definitely heighten[ed] the passion of the rhetoric and the discourse at the moment. But there will always be differences because there must always be differences in a free and open democratic society. We are civilized people, we should disagree in a civilized manner. We should acknowledge the right of others to disagree with us. We should acknowledge the possibility that sometimes, some very rare times, we might be wrong. And strange as it may seem, we might learn more from listening than from talking, and more from talking than from shouting.

And speaking of being informed, let me say something about journalism, my life’s work, and the reason – aside from my skill at calling buses – that I have been awarded an honorary degree today.

I want you to know that I know that the honor is not so much personal as it is the kind of journalism I have and have continued to have the opportunity to practice on PBS. And for the record, a few years ago, I was asked by the sponsors of an Aspen seminar on journalism if I had guidelines I used in my own practice of journalism. I was not the only one they asked. Many journalists were asked. And they wondered if we would mind sharing them. Here is part of what I said then:

* Do nothing I cannot defend.
* Cover, write and present every story with the care I would want if the story were about me.
* Assume there is at least one other side or version to every story.
* Assume the viewer is as smart and as caring and as good a person as I am.
* Assume the same about all people whom I report on.
* Assume personal lives are a private matter until a legitimate turn in the story absolutely mandates otherwise.
* Carefully separate opinion and analysis from straight news stories and clearly label everything.
* Do not use anonymous sources or blind quotes except on rare and monumental occasions. No one should ever be allowed to attack another anonymously.
* And finally, I am not in the entertainment business.

And now, let me tell you what I tell all graduates of every college or university I have had the pleasure of addressing. Do not make a mistake about what is happening here today. The fact that you are receiving a diploma from one of America’s finest institutions of higher learning does not mean you are educated. Some of the dumbest people I know received diplomas from great institutions of higher learning. They took their diploma in their hot little hands, pronounced themselves educated and proceeded to never read another book, entertain another fresh or new idea. And most tragically for their society and country, never again paid attention to much of anything other than themselves, to much of anything that was happening around them or to others.

Please, please do not do that. It goes back to what I said about serving.

I’m going to take a pass on giving you any further advice. Mainly because I read what my friend, the famed humorist, playwright, cartoonist Jules Feiffer said once about advice: “Be warned against all ‘good’ advice because ‘good’ advice is necessarily ‘safe’ advice, and though it will undoubtedly follow a sane pattern, it will very likely lead one into total sterility – one of the crushing problems of our time.”

I felt it was important to quote Jules is on this particular day; a most important person. He’s a parent, with his wife Jenny, of Halley Feiffer, a member of today’s graduating class of 2007.

And finally I have something similar to pass on that comes in the form of the ultimate recycled quote. It is what a fictional lieutenant governor of Oklahoma said in a commencement speech to a fictional graduating class at a fictional state college in the fictional town of Hugotown, Oklahoma. He said:

“As you search for your place in life, I hereby advise you to take risks. Be willing to put your mind and your spirit, your time and your energy, your stomach and your emotions, on the line.

“To search for a safe place is to search for an end to a rainbow that you will hate once you find it.

“Take charge of you own life. Create your own risks by setting your own standards, satisfying your own standards. Take charge.

“Congratulations to you all. It is unlikely that any of you will have occasion to remember either me or my commencement address and I don’t blame you. But if by chance, something does linger, I hope it’s just that there was a lieutenant governor guy up here who kept saying ‘Risk, risk.’ The way to happiness is to risk it, risk it.”

It is the ultimate recycled quote because it is from a novel published in 1990 called The Sooner Spy. I wrote that novel. I stole those lines verbatim from a commencement speech I made myself in 1984 to the graduating class of our oldest daughter, Lucy’s sister Jamie. So it’s a quote of a fictional quote that began as a real quote. Like I say, the ultimate recycled quote.

But I mean it as much today as the day I said it the first time in 1984. My fictional lieutenant governor of Oklahoma – I spoke to him recently – asked me to tell you he still feels that way too. He also joins me in congratulating each and every member of the Wesleyan University class of 2007. He also joins me in adding the word “serve” to the work “risk.”

Serve, risk.

I’ll see you at our reunions – class of 2007. And please remember, those two important points I made at the beginning: Don’t forget your baggage, please. And the restrooms at Wesleyan are co-ed.

Thank you for the honor you have given me today, and congratulations to all.