All News

Stamp of Approval: Assistant Post Office Manager Celebrates 40 Years

Assistant post office manager Jerry Winzer hand sorts mail inside Wesleyan Station.
 
Posted 02/23/05
After working 28 years at Middletown’s U.S. Postal Service, Gerard “Jerry” Winzer decided to it was time to retire. Winter, he learned, is not the ideal time to call it quits.

“November was a bad time to retire,” the 62-year-old says. “I wasn’t too crazy about just hanging around. I needed to keep busy.”

To beat the winter blues, Winzer took up a part-time position at Wesleyan Station delivering mail. Part-time evolved into full-time work, and, this year, the assistant post office manager will celebrate 12 years working at Wesleyan, and his 40th year in the postal services profession.

Winzer’s workday begins at 7 a.m. when he’s greeted by heaps of unsorted mail. A mail messenger picks up the parcels an hour later to deliver.

“By 8, I’ve already sorted a lot of mail,” he says noting the dozens of wood shelves he packs with envelopes, papers, publications and packages. “You can’t be a slacker in the post office.”

Lisa Davis, the post office’s manager deals with budgets, equipment and bill paying. That leaves Winzer to oversee 20 student workers, two full-time office clerks and two full-time mail messengers, who each cover a specified route twice a day. They make approximately 80 stops per route, delivering and collecting mail at more than 100 departments.

Every letter or publication that comes through Wesleyan Station is hand sorted. With no mail delivery on the weekends, the postal workers have to deal with twice as much mail on Mondays.

“You should see it in here on a Monday. It’s crazy,” he says.

Campus mail used to be sorted alphabetically, but Winzer has since developed his own sorting system. Now, mail is bundled up inside Wesleyan Station in order of the carriers’ routes.

“It runs in order,” he says, glancing over the mail shelves. “If the carrier is in North College, he’ll go to the cashier’s office, then to the top floor for payroll, the trustees, academic affairs, then to the dean’s office, and then he’ll go over to where you’re at, in South College, to communications, to the president’s office, public information, and administration. He just follows that route, so it’s a pretty good system. It’s easy to follow.”

In addition to mail sorting, rerouting letters, managing the staff and working the window, Winzer spends a portion of his day on a postage metering machine.

Winzer examines the machine’s counter. It reads “337,062.”

“Three-hundred-thirty-seven thousand,” he says. “That’s how much money Wesleyan has spent on mailing through this machine, since we’ve got this machine. And the machine is going on its third year,” he said, while metering two envelopes from the Psychology Department.

Before any letter goes through the metering machine, Winzer types in a department code, to assure proper billing. Each department has its own six-digit code, but Winzer rarely sneaks a peek. He usually types in the codes by memory.

“I know a lot of them. I guess they’re just in my subconscious,” he says.

His good memory also is put to the test when he meets customers at the transaction counter.

“Somebody will say their name, and I just know what box number they have, and they are just amazed,” Winzer says. “It just becomes a habit.”

The post office has moved to different locations throughout campus. First in the Downey House, and then Fisk Hall, Wesleyan Station now occupies space in the Davenport Campus Center, formerly the John Bell Scott building’s science laboratory.

With barely enough room to pass a mail cart through, Winzer is eagerly awaiting the much larger mailroom that will be housed in the Usdan University Center. Construction will begin early this year.

According to Alan Rubacha of Construction Services, a mail receiving, sorting, distributing and package handling area in the basement will occupy 1,230 square feet. Another 1,700 square feet of space will accommodate 3,000 post boxes, two transaction counters and additional mail sorting space.

The postal workers can use the space. In the 2002-03 academic year, Wesleyan Station received and sorted more than 3.5 million pieces of mail and packages. Winzer and his staff handle approximately 8,000 pieces of campus mail every week.

The current facility is about 1,000 square feet.

“I wish more people from the departments would come over here and see what we do,” Winzer says. “We do a lot.”

After Winzer leaves the office at 3:30 p.m., he returns to his home in Middletown. He spends his leisure time jogging or with his wife, Missy, and nine grandkids. He’s also the vice chairman of the Board of Education, and hosts two television shows on public access television titled “Today’s Issues” and “Spotlight on Education.”

But Winzer never minds coming back to work — well, all but one day of the year.

“Valentines Day. It’s by far the worst,” he says. “Worst than Christmas time. Grandmas and grandpas and everybody is sending tons of candy and flowers here. There’s those chocolate kisses all over the floor. There’s lots and lots of mail around then.”

 
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Medical Aide Says Co-workers are Like Family

Robin Zup, a medical aide with the Health Services Department, is a Certified Medical Assistant and helps students seek medical care off campus.

 
Posted 02/23/05

Q: What does it mean to be a medical aide?

A: I really do not like the title medical aide. My actual title that I have earned through schooling is a Certified Medical Assistant. I have been trained both in clinical and administrative areas.

Q: What are your responsibilities?

A: I have many responsibilities here at the health center. Since I really enjoy working with numbers, I have been given the role of handling all of the accounting for all of the students who come into the health center. I also help students who seek additional medical care outside of the Wesleyan campus when needed.  Many projects come my way every week. Most say that I am the guru of everything depending on the situation. So yes, I do deal with the students each and everyday.

Q: What do you like most about your job?

A: It would first have to be my co-workers. They are really like my family. Some of them know me better than I know myself. The second thing would have to be the students. They are great, a lot of fun to deal with on a daily basis. Some of the kids I get to know pretty well.  I treat them as if they were my own. 

Q: Do you have kids of your own?

A:  I have two really nice kids. My daughter is Kayleigh, and she is 14, and my son is Cody, and he is 13. 

Q: How would you describe yourself? Your strengths?

A: This one is a hard one to answer. I would have to say that I am very much a perfectionist who is very smart with a really great sense of humor.

Q: When did you come to Wesleyan?

A: I was hired to work part time as a medical aide for 15 hours per week back in September of 1998. Over time I have been given additional hours, now I work 27 hours per week. I work every day, but the hours are scattered.

Q: Do you work anywhere else?

A: I do have another job outside of Wesleyan. I am a property manager for commercial real estate. I find this job to be therapeutic for me. It is a different type of job and I have different types of people to deal with. I do the work from home.

Q: You sound very busy. Do you have time for any hobbies?

A: My kids right now are pretty much my full time hobby. When I am not doing for my kids, there are a few things that I do like to do such as read, draw, ceramics or just hang out and do nothing. But most of all, I enjoy traveling.

Q: Where do travel? And when do you have time to travel?

A: Well, it’s nice, because I get the summers off, so I like to spend a month in Florida with the kids. We also try to go in April. My parents have a place there, so when we can get there, we go. We don’t like to stay at home.

 
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Michael Calter Joins Chemistry Department as Associate Professor

 
Michael Calter teaches organic chemistry and researches synthetic organic chemistry, which deals with making complex, useful organic molecules from simple starting materials.
 
Posted 02/23/05
Michael Calter joined the Chemistry Department as an associate professor of chemistry in June 2004. Calter completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Vermont and earned his Ph.D at Harvard University in the chemistry department. His dissertation was titled “First Total Synthesis of the Macrolide Antibiotic, Bafilomycin A1.”
At Wesleyan, Calter teaches organic chemistry and researches synthetic organic chemistry, which deals with making complex, useful organic molecules from simple starting materials.

 
“I’m interested in using the new molecules that my group synthesizes to study biological systems,” Calter said.   Calter chose Wesleyan based on the institutional commitment to education.
 
“The high faculty to student ratios, the involvement of most undergraduates in cutting edge research, and the rigorous course work required of the graduate students were just some of the manifestations of this commitment that were obvious even during the interviewing process,” he said. “There is also a real feeling of community among the faculty that is lacking at larger institutions.”   Calter recently co-authored a paper titled “Catalytic, asymmetric synthesis and diastereoselective aldol reactions of dipropionate equivalents,” published in the “Journal of Organic Chemistry” in 2004. He is currently organizing a symposium for the Chemistry Department that will bring together presentations by representatives from academia and industry. The symposium will be held on May 5. 

Calter lives in Middletown with is wife, Kimberley and children, Rachel, 12 and Christopher, 9. He has an amateur interest in the history of science, particularly where it intersects with the development of geometry, and the visual arts.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Students, Administration and Faculty Continue Dialogue

Posted 01/31/05

A forum on January 25 engaged more than 300 students, faculty and staff in a discussion of the administrative response to issues raised at a student-organized forum in December. The forum followed by a week the distribution of a report detailing student participation in University governance, itself a response to complaints from some students that they felt excluded from decisions that affect their lives on campus.

At the forum, held in the Chapel, senior administrators were joined onstage by leaders of the faculty and the Wesleyan Student Assembly. Professor of Philosophy Brian Fay moderated the session, during which students raised questions or made comments based on the report.

It appeared that most students had read the report, said Interim Dean of the College Peter Patton. “Some students expressed dissatisfaction about the status of specific issues they care about,” he said. “On the other hand, it seems  that most now realize that Wesleyan students do have significant opportunities to influence University decision-making.”

The issues that received the most attention during the forum were student interest in having a multicultural dean, accommodations in housing for incoming students who identify as transgender, and the future of the student radio station, WESU 88.1FM. Later in the week, President Doug Bennet emailed students to describe steps the University is taking to follow up on these issues. He reiterated his intention to engage the leaders of the WSA and the faculty in a follow-up discussion of governance and communication issues treated in the report.

Bennet informed students that he, Patton and Interim Director of Affirmative Action Michael Benn would meet with leaders of student of color groups to discuss the specific issues underlying students’ expressed desire for “safe spaces,” a dean of multicultural affairs, and diversity training for faculty.

Bennet reminded students that Patton would continue to work with the Undergraduate Residential Life Committee (URLC) and the Student Life Committee to identify acceptable solutions for gender-neutral housing. While returning students may select their own roommates regardless of gender, Residential Life currently accommodates transgendered first-year students in making room assignments. In making first-year assignments, the University does not support roommate pairing of students of different biological sexes. First-year students requesting accommodation are assigned to a single room or to a double room with another student requesting accommodation. Last year, the language describing “gender-neutral housing” was not clear to many first-year students, and the URLC is working to clarify the description for 2005-2006.

Communications Director Justin Harmon will continue to work with student leaders of WESU to help them develop plans that will enable the station to become financially viable and maintain its independence. Wesleyan has committed to hiring a full-time general manager who will help bring continuity to the station and build its fund-raising and operations.

“These will not be the only opportunities available for continuing the dialogue, but I think they are a good start,” Bennet wrote. “I welcome other suggestions about how to advance these issues.”

Students of Color Applications Up

Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Nancy Hargrave Meislahn told those present at the January 25 forum that applications to Wesleyan have risen approximately 5 percent from last year and that applications from students of color have increased at even higher rates.

As of January 21, Wesleyan had logged 6,848 applications, as compared with 6,509 on the same date the year before, Meislahn said. Applications from African-Americans had risen 18 percent, to 504 from 428; from Asian-Americans 13 percent, to 659 from 584; and from Latinos 7 percent, to 424 from 395. The number of applications from each of these groups represented at least an 8-year high for Wesleyan, Meislahn said. Final application numbers will be available later this month.

Wesleyan has gone to extra lengths to recruit students of color, Meislahn said, since experiencing a dip in applications from African-American students. Admission Office staff held a community forum and a follow-up meeting with interested students early in the fall to solicit their advice and to engage them in helping to recruit students, Meislahn said. In addition, a letter from the dean of admission and the vice president of University Relations was sent to alumni of color seeking their help in identifying and recruiting talented prospective students.

Meislahn invited everyone at the forum to be part of the solution. 

“As the admission cycle moves forward there will be many opportunities for students and faculty to assist the admission office in reaching out to admitted students,” she said. “Phonathons and plans for hosting students in April are underway.”

Anyone interested in being involved should contact the Admission Office, Meislahn said.

 

New Findings Center on Human Pheromones

Robert Lane, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, co-authored a study that indicates scientists may have overestimated the use of the vomeronasal organ in pheromone perception by animals.
Posted 01/31/05

A new study co-authored by Robert Lane, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, suggests that human pheromone detection may occur right under our own noses – literally.

In an article due out in the February issue of “Genome Research,” Lane provided new evidence that scientists may have overestimated the use of the vomeronasal organ, or VNO, in pheromone perception in animals. The VNO has been described as the predominant pheromone-detecting organ, based mostly on rodent studies that point to its role in evoking innate reproductive and social behaviors.

Lane, along with Wesleyan graduate student Marijo Kambere and his colleagues from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, discovered that one of the main putative pheromone receptor families expressed inside the VNO has been decimated in domesticated dogs. This finding suggests that the VNO may play a diminished role in dogs and perhaps other non-rodent mammals. 

 “As keen as the dog sense of smell is and as elaborate a pheromonal system dogs seem to have, it could be that the main nose, not the VNO, underlies elaborate pheromonal communication in dogs,” Lane said.

If this is true, then the observation that humans probably do not possess a functional VNO may not mean an inability to detect pheromones. “Our apparent lack of a functional VNO might not be a handicap if pheromone responses can be mediated by our main olfactory system,” Lane said.

 

By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations

History, East Asian Professor Explores Trauma Through Poetry

Vera Schwarcz, professor of History and East Asian studies, collaborated with artist Chava Pressburger for the book, “In the Garden of Memory,” published by March Street Press. The publication features 18 poems with accompanying paper-art images.
 
Posted 01/31/05

How does memory speak?

Not with words

in this small country of silenced song. Winter

is the native tongue

of children without food.

-words from Vera Schwarcz’s “In the Garden of Memory”

When visiting Jerusalem in 1991, a striking oil painting caught Vera Schwarcz’s attention. The Romanian-born daughter of Holocaust survivors instantly felt a connection with the artwork titled “Memories.”

“I was deeply moved by its abstract depiction of a shattered world,” Schwarcz said. “The painting evoked huge, shards of stone, a rubbled world held together by a fragile thread, lace and barbed wire that I envisioned as memory threads held onto by sheer will alone. In wake of total annihilation, that moved me as an act of spiritual courage.”

Schwarcz, professor of History and East Asian studies at Wesleyan and published author and poet, later met the painting’s artist, Chava Pressburger. Pressburger, a native of a Jewish community in the Czech Republic, was imprisoned in Terezin in1943-44. Her younger brother was killed in Auschwitz in 1944.

Although Schwarcz was born after the war, their similar backgrounds were the start of a friendship and professional collaboration. Six months ago, the duo released a book together titled “In the Garden of Memory,” published by March Street Press. The publication, which they consider “a conversation in paper, poetry and print,” features 18 poems by Schwarcz with accompanying paper-art images by Pressburger.

Pressburger’s artwork is created from paper she produced herself from plants cultivated in her garden and near her home in Nagev, Israel.

“As a Jew, as a China scholar, the past is not dead for me. It’s very alive, very important,” Schwarcz said. “I have been looking for ways to give it voice. Through this collaboration, we are putting into the world something that will seed reflection and pleasure. A garden is a bordered space for slow placed reflection. This is an invitation to come into the garden.”

Before going to print, Schwarcz and Pressburger exhibited the artwork in Prague, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The display explored the themes of historical trauma in contemporary life.

Schwarcz, like many children born in the generation following the war, was named after other children who had died in the war.

“Our parents often did not tell us about the earlier kin. We thus grew up carrying the name, the destiny of precursors who remained a haunting, vague nameless presence,” she said. “Hence, perhaps my compulsion as a writer to name things, as a historian to document truth. If something can have a name and place in the heart, mind the page, it may be somehow be laid to rest.”

“In the Garden of Memory” isn’t the first time she’s written about the holocaust. In her last book, “Bridge Across Broke Time,” she wove together her own family’s memoirs to with words of poets and historians to show how it is possible to maintain cultural identity in the face of the most disheartening events.

“What was new in this project with Pressburger was poetry, an art form I have been exploring for two decades. Here finally was a way to write about something historical and personal–using the craft of poetry I had been polishing for a while,” she said.  

After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Vassar College in 1969, a master’s degree from Yale in 1971, and a Ph. D. from Stanford in 1977, she wrote over fifty articles on Chinese intellectual history and comparative memory studies. She’s also the author of five other books titled, “A Scoop of Light,” “Fresh Words for a Jaded World,” “Time for Telling Truth is Running Out: Conversations with Zhang Shenfu,” “The Chinese Enlightenment: The Legacy of the May Fourth Movement in Modern China,” and “Long Road Home: A China Journal.”

Since the publication of “In the Garden,” several other artists – and photographers – have approached Schwarcz interested in similar collaborations.

She’s interested, but she’s already made a commitment with a 19th century Manchu Prince named Yi Huan. Huan (1840-1891) wrote poems in Chinese responding to the burning of Beijing’s princely palaces by French and British armies in 1860.

“I am adapting Yi Huan’s voice to the cadence of historical traumas in the 20th century, including the post September 11th scorched landscape that is our inheritance today,” said Schwarcz, who is fluent in Chinese, French, Hebrew, Romanian and Hungarian, and can read Japanese and German languages.

To date, Schwarcz has already published about 25 of these renditions and envisions publishing a collection of 50 poems in the next two years called “Sea of Shards.”

Recently, she’s working on a new book, “Truth in the Ruins of History: A Comparative Inquiry.” And her latest prose/academic book, “Singing Crane Garden; Art and Atrocity in One Corner of China,” was submitted to the University of Pennsylvania Press this month. It will be part of a series on the history of landscaped spaces.

 “I find myself wanting to write new books all the time,” she said. “In the Garden of Memory is available at Broad Street Books and http://www.marchstreetpress.com/.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Career Resource Center Director Helps Students Find Meaningful Careers by Exploring Their Interests and Passions

 
Mike Sciola, Career Resource Center director, helps Talya Marshall, ’07, find photography career opportunities.
 
Posted 01/31/05

Q: The Career Resource Center (CRC) aims to establish relationships with students and help them find jobs. If a student approaches you, how would you go about helping him or her?

A: We take a three step approach: self assessment, career exploration, and job search.  Most people, and not just students, think the first step to finding a meaningful career is to write a resume and start sending it out to job sites on the Internet. The problem with this approach is that folks tend to go with the familiar. 

For a lot of students, their knowledge of the world of work is fairly limited. Many have a short list of occupations of which they have a personal understanding, such as being a ­doctor, lawyer or teacher. In reality, taking the time to assess one’s interests and passions first, next exploring a wide-variety of options, and then crafting a targeted job search strategy yields a much more satisfying result.  We have a variety of career interest assessment tools, a very specialized collection of print and electronic resources covering a wide array of occupations, and an incredible network of alumni and parent volunteers available to share their knowledge and perspective.

Q:  Where do the students end up going?

A: That’s the beauty of a Wesleyan liberal arts education – it can take you anywhere in the world. Our students have been taught to think and to analyze. They have the tools to pull together disparate information into a new understanding of the world. These skills are highly valued by top companies and institutions. I believe a Wesleyan degree is more relevant at the beginning of the 21st century than ever before.

We often get the question about where do Wesleyan graduates go after leaving Middletown. The Career Resource Center Web site has a breakdown of where our alumni work.  We analyzed the alumni database. With information on 12,252 alumni, the top five occupations are business (28 percent), education (20 percent), health professions (9 percent), law (8 percent), and entertainment (6 percent). 

Q: What is your day like?

A: As director of the career center, I have two distinct roles: managing the office and staff and, at the same time, maintain a significant counseling schedule. These are often competing needs.  I work with an incredible group of talented and dedicated professionals. To date this year, the CRC has had 3,688 counseling interactions with 1,188 individuals. We’ve already organized 69 programs and events, and have had more than 60 organizations participate in our recruiting programs. And February is traditionally our busiest month!  It is a lot to coordinate. I have to say, though – I’ve got the best job at Wesleyan. Every single day, I get to talk with smart, articulate, motivated young people about their plans for the future and about the world they are about to change for the better. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Q: How long have you been at Wesleyan?

A: I’ve been at Wesleyan for nine years. I had been the associate director of Career Services at Brown University prior to coming to Wesleyan. Before that, I worked at California State University, Fresno, the University of Rhode Island and the University of New Hampshire in a variety of student affairs positions ­ residential life, student life, and fraternity and sorority affairs. My bachelor’s degree is in gerontology and my master’s degree is in human development, counseling and family studies. I knew that I wanted to work with students, and that I wanted to use my counseling skills.

Q:  Is your job rewarding? Do you keep in touch with the students after they leave?

A: Incredibly rewarding. I’m so impressed with Wesleyan students and alumni. Now that I’ve been at Wesleyan for a significant time, I have the joy of reconnecting with former students at reunion or getting an e-mail message of the blue.  I was in New York recently and was stopped by a member of the Class of 2000. It was thrilling to hear that he was happy and enjoying life and doing amazing things.  I learn something new about the world everyday by talking with our students and alumni.

Q: Do you have any interesting hobbies or tidbits that I should know about you outside of work?

A: I’m a singer and have been a member of the Greater Middletown Chorale since coming to Wesleyan. We once got a call to sing with Kenny Rogers at the Oakdale Theater. This December, we were Governor Rell’s guests at the Governor’s Mansion in Hartford. Mostly, though, we sing the classical choral repertoire. I’m also on the board of Oddfellows Playhouse in Middletown.

Q: Do you live in Middletown?

A: Yes, on Ridge Road, and our next door neighbors on three sides are Wesleyan faculty and staff. We call it ‘The Compound.’ Did you know that there used to be a horse-drawn trolley that started in the North End on Main Street, turned up Ridge Road off of South Main and came all the way up to Crystal Lake?  I would have loved to see that.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Wesleyan to Acquire 8 New Bells for South College

Chimemaster Peter Frenzel, professor emeritus of German studies, plays the keys of the bells, located at the top of South College. In August, the university will acquire eight additional bells. The new bells, Frenzel said, will enable him to play more complicated songs. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)
Posted 01/31/05

Wesleyan has signed a contract with the Verdin Bell Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, for the casting and installation in the South College belfry of eight additional bells. This new addition will upgrade the Wesleyan bells from the status of a chime (10-22 bells) to that of a carillon (23 or more). Acquiring a carillon for the university has been in the planning stages since 1999.

The installation will take place in August 2005 with a dedication during homecoming/family weekend.

The new bells will provide the Wesleyan bell players with two full octaves and one additional note. 

”Now I’ll have more notes, so I can play more songs, and more complicated songs,” said six-year chimemaster Peter Frenzel, professor emeritus of German studies. “We’re moving out of the minor league of bell playing and into the major league.”

 The new configuration will enable them to play songs such as Wesleyan’s Alma Mater, “Come Raise the Song,” written in 1894.

The bells are played in a way similar to a piano, except the chimemasters push wood handles. Some notes, such as a low C, can reverberate for 45 seconds and be heard for more than a mile away.

The new bells will be cast by Petit & Fritsen, the Royal Dutch Bell Foundry in The Netherlands, and then shipped to Cincinnati via New Orleans and the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. They’ll later be completed and fine-tuned by the Verdin Bell Company.   

Wesleyan’s first set of 11 bells was shipped across the north Atlantic from England, while dodging German U-Boats in 1918 during World War I. They were first played on campus on George Washington’s birthday in 1919 and donated by the seven surviving members of the Wesleyan class of 1863.

An additional five bells were donated to Wesleyan in 1966 anonymously. The donor was later revealed as Victor L. Butterfield, who was the outgoing president of Wesleyan at the time.

The new bells were all donated by Wesleyan friends, alumni and parents.

Each bell in South College has an inscription of a donor or a set of donors to Wesleyan University.

The bells are played nearly every weekday by dedicated members of the Wesleyan bell guild, Bell & Scroll. The chimemasters this semester have been Esther Cheung, ’06; Kathleen Day, ’07; Joel Ting, ’06; and Allison Torpey, ’07. They will be joined next semester by Jack Hagihara, ’05, and Meredith Steinberg, ’06.

 
By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations

More Than 250 People Attend Green Street Arts Center’s Grand Opening

Posted 01/31/05
A ribbon cutting on Jan. 5 marked the formal opening of the Green Street Arts Center (GSAC) L. to R. are: Middletown Mayor Domenique Thornton, GSAC Director Ricardo Morris, North End Action Team President Peggy Busari, GSAC Assistant Director Manny Rivera, Wesleyan University President Doug Bennet. The center is housed at the former St. Sebastian School at 51 Green Street in Middletown’s North End. More than 250 people attended the grand opening. (Photo by Lex Leifheit)
 
Children draw in one of the two visual art centers at GSAS. The facility also has a dance studio and a performance studio with 100 seat capacity. Pre-opening pilot classes have already drawn 3,000 participants. (Photo by Olivia Drake)
President Bennet speaks with guests as Ricardo Morris looks on. Funds for the school’s renovation were raised through a partnership involving Wesleyan, along with grants from the city, state and national level. Wesleyan also partnered with The North End Action Team, the  Macdonough School, Church of the Holy Trinity, Community Health Center and other organizations.  (Photo by Bill Burkhart)
The Kamau Trio performs urban jazz at the opening. Pictured left to right are George Blackman, Jr., saxophone; Lance “Kamau” James, djembe; and Kalim Zarif, keyboard. All three teach music classes at GSAC. (Photo by Olivia Drake)
 
Teens dance inside the GSAC dance studio after the grand opening ceremony. More than 50 students have already enrolled in the GSAC after-school programs. Wesleyan students also volunteer as academic tutors for the children. (Photo by Olivia Drake)
 
Mayor Thornton and Jennifer Aniskovich, executive director of the Connecticut Commission on Arts, Tourism, Culture, History and Film, greet guests during the grand opening. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)
 
For more information or to receive a spring catalog call 860-685-7871 or visit http://www.greenstreetartscenter.org/.

Olin Memorial Library Earns “Building of the Year” Award

Erhard Konerding, documents librarian, works inside the Olin Memorial Library, which was built in 1928.
 
Posted 01/31/05

When Wesleyan’s Olin Memorial Library opened in 1928, the classically symmetrical structure fronted with six marble columns stood out as a bold yet elegant structure. Nearly 80 years later, the building is still turning heads.

On January 13, The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of Greater Hartford awarded the library with The Office Building of the Year (TOBY) award in the historic building category. The TOBY award recognizes excellence in building management, operational efficiency, tenant retention, emergency planning and community impact. The Olin Library won in the “proper maintenance of the historical building,” category.

“It was built in 1928 and still has that old world charm,” said Pete Caniano, chairman of the TOBY award committee. “I could find myself getting lost in a great book in Olin all the time.”

Caniano, district manager for American Building Maintenance Janitorial Services of Danbury, Conn., provides janitorial services to Wesleyan and nominated the library for the award.

“I nominated Olin because I felt it had great architectural character and it has gone through some excellent architectural renovations throughout its history that add to its appeal,” he said. “Olin library is a wonderful landmark on campus.”

Caniano and members of the judging panel inspected the facility, grading it on physical attractiveness, cleanliness, mechanical functionality, aesthetics and standard building operation equipment and procedures. Each category had to receive a passing grade for the building to be considered for the award. Caniano said Wesleyan’s Physical Plant had a lot to do with the outcome of the judges’ findings.

“If the building had been simply attractive and architecturally marvelous but not maintained well and had antiquated maintenance systems, it would not have won,” he said.

Caniano noted many positive points while touring the library. The stacks, he said, are well organized; the building is kept in pristine condition; and the ambiance of the reading room “is exceptional.” He also favored the private alcoves used for student research and described the library’s staff as “very helpful.”

“The building is kept in pristine condition and is very practical for student use,” he said.

Olin Memorial Library was first opened as a memorial to Stephen Olin, Wesleyan’s president from 1842 to 1851, and his son Stephen Henry Olin, class of 1866, a Wesleyan trustee for 45 years and the university’s acting president in 1922 and 1923.

The original plans for the building were begun by Henry Bacon, who designed the Lincoln Memorial, and after his death were completed by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White. It currently provides Wesleyan’s 2,730 students and 1,060 staff and faculty members with 1.5 million publications and a variety of electronic and archival services.

A major renovation and expansion of the building, completed in 1986, was designed by Perry, Dean, Rogers & Partners. It nearly doubled the space available in Olin for study areas and collections.

The 163-foot wide façade surmounted by a pediment and capped by a balustrade. Marble, exterior and interior, amounted for 20 percent of the final construction cost of $727,000.

Now that the library has won at a local level, it has an opportunity to advance to the regional level in each of the eight North American regions of BOMA International. Regional winners advance to the international level.

 
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Tsunami Hits too Close to Home

Ganesan “Ravi” Ravishanker, director of Technology Support Services and adjunct associate professor of chemistry, explains where his home countries were struck by the December 26 tsunami.

 
Posted 01/31/05

Millions of Americans watched as the Dec. 26 tsunami obliterated south Asia’s coastal belts. But for Ganesan “Ravi” Ravishanker, the event was far more personal.

Ravishanker, director of Technology Support Services and adjunct associate professor of chemistry, is a Sri Lanka native and attended college in southern India where the tidal waves battered both shorelines for a half-mile inland.

“Those are both places where I have spent a lot of my childhood and teenage years and have vivid memories of,” Ravishanker said. “Most of my extended family members live in these two countries.”

The tsunami, triggered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off Indonesia, killed more than 170,000 people as it crashed the shores of 10 countries around the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka and Indonesia received the hardest hits.

Ravishanker, who lost his parents as a young child, grew up with his aunt, uncle, sister and 11 cousins in the country’s capital, Colombo. Three of these cousins are raising families in Sri Lanka and the rest moved to southern India.

“I was just getting back from vacation and I was still in a relaxing vacation mode, when they started flashing news about the tsunami damage on TV,” he said. “I immediately thought about my family. Many of them were living in area close to the coast.”

Relatives in Tamil Nadu, India, immediately e-mailed Ravishanker in America and let him know they were OK. His relatives in Sri Lanka, however, were still unaccounted for. Although his relatives lived inland in Kandy, he feared they may be traveling on a train that was derailed by the tsunami.

“All I could do is sit, watch and wait,” he said.

Sri Lanka, a pear-shaped island four times larger than the state of Connecticut, is located 18 miles southeast of India. With no communications available to his homeland, he waited as the death toll climbed to 30,000. The missing count hovered at 5,600. More than 200,000 families were displaced by the earthquake-spawned waves.

 “The Sri Lanka that I remember, that I grew up in, was one of the most enjoyable places. It was surrounded by the ocean, there were beaches, a perfect climate and the people were very friendly. It was a great place,” he said. “It was like paradise.”

Via Indian television channels, Ravishanker watched debris of fishermen’s wood shacks envelop the once pristine, palm-lined beaches. Disfigured bodies “in all forms and shapes” piled up near landmarks all recognizable to the Sri Lanka native.

 “It was heart-wrenching to watch,” he said. “I was thinking of my family, but also these poor children affected by this disaster. What’s so sad is that the first wave came in and pushed all these fish up on shore, and all the fishermen told their kids to come out and see and play with the fish. Little did they know that a bigger wave was coming to eat them all up.”

On Dec. 30, Ravishanker finally heard from his Sri Lankan relatives. Everyone was alive. With his family all accounted for, Ravishanker immediately pursued ways to help the victims of the disaster.

Rescue efforts are somewhat hampered by an ongoing civil war in the country between the Sinhalese and Tamil Tigers. Pockets of the northern and eastern areas are heavily mined. A physical presence of rescue workers in these areas carries a certain amount of danger.

The Sri Lankan government has urged donor nations to donate $15.6 billion to rebuild tsunami-affected parts of the country, but Ravishanker was advised to hold off and carefully explore more long lasting avenues to help those affected. He’s considering funding an orphaned child’s education for life. His brother-in-law, Shankar, is working with these orphaned children directly back in Chennai, India.

“I take great pride in my brother-in-law for doing this, and I think the outpouring of local support is a great thing to see. People are setting aside their religious differences and caste barriers are vanishing,” he said. “I can’t imagine people doing this 20 years ago. People are already setting up shops and makeshift schools. Recovery have been remarkable.”

 
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Women’s Studies Administrative Assistant Participates in Youth Mentoring Program and has Interest in Women’s Issues

Noreen Baris, administrative assistant for the Women’s Studies Program, stands outside her office on High Street. Baris serves as a liaison between the program’s chair, faculty and students.
 
Posted 01/31/05

Q: When did you become the administrative assistant in the Women’s Studies Program? Were you working at Wesleyan before then? 

A: Yes. I first came to Wesleyan in November 1986 and worked in the Romance Languages and Literatures Department until 1992. I’ve been at Women’s Studies since then.

Q: How would you describe a typical day? Are you mostly working at your desk, talking on the phone or meeting with people?

A: This position is rather diversified and I do all the above mentioned duties on a daily basis. I work closely with the chair of Women’s Studies and I serve as a liaison between the Women’s Studies chair and the faculty and majors.  I also coordinate the scheduling of  Women’s Studies meetings, luncheons and events, manage the budget, update the Web page, do other computer related duties and monitor Women’s Studies course offerings.

Q: What do you like most about your job and working in the Women’s Studies program in particular?

A: I have found the Women’s Studies faculty to be exceptional in many ways and I enjoy working with them. I also like the diversity of the position. In addition to my other duties, the Women’s Studies Program has two major events per year: The Women’s Studies Symposium in the fall semester, and the Diane Weiss Memorial ’80 Memorial Lecture during spring semester. I enjoy coordinating the many details required for both events.

Q: Do you, yourself, have any interest in women’s issues?

A: Yes, I am interested in women’s issues such as better medical research and health care of women, equal pay for men and women doing the same job, and better benefits for working mothers.

Q: What do you do after work? Do you have any hobbies?

A: My hobbies are knitting, quilting, and gardening, and I enjoy doing them in my spare time. I also enjoy and have been serving as a mentor for children for the past eight years. Originally I started mentoring teenage girls and being a “buddy” at the Cromwell Children’s Home.  I am now affiliated with The Children’s Center Youth Mentoring Partnership and have been mentoring the same young girl for the past four years, at least five hours per week. I’m very much involved with her life, her problems and her accomplishments.

Q: Tell me about your family.  

A: I have been married to my husband John for 35 years and we live in Durham.  I have two daughters, Laney, who is 30, and Carrie, who is 26. Laney is a veterinarian practicing in New Jersey and Carrie is a high school English teacher in California. I am very proud of them both.

Q: I understand you have the summers off. Do you travel much?

A: We have traveled extensively in the U.S. Up North, down South, out West. We’ve especially enjoyed Yosemite, Yellowstone and Zion national parks, and we’ve also gone to Hawaii. We’ve been to Canada — Montreal, Quebec and cities in-between — several times. Also traveled to Aruba and Europe. Last summer,  we traveled to Switzerland and Austria. We visited Italy, France and England in May 2002.

 
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor