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Poet Delivers Keynote Address at Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration


Civil rights activist Sonia Sanchez speaks during Wesleyan’s Celebration of the Life of Martin Luther King Jr. event Jan. 30 in Memorial Chapel.
Posted 02/01/07
Poet, author and civil rights activist Sonia Sanchez delivered the keynote address during Wesleyan’s Celebration of the Life of Martin Luther King Jr. event Jan. 30. She met King in 1957 and shared excerpts of King’s speeches with an over-flowing audience in Memorial Chapel.

Often in poetic rhythm, Sanchez spoke about her own life and the troubles she and her family faced as being poor, black Americans. She emphasized her years in New York City, and explained her struggle for identity. She talked about her involvement in the Civil Rights movement. She shared her opinions on war and offered advice to the students.

“My brothers, my sisters. This is your century. Demand that this world moves forward in peace,” she said. “This is your country. This is your time. … Learn what it means to walk upright as a human being in the 21st century. What does it mean to be human? You got to ask yourself that question.”

In addition to Sanchez’s talk, Ruby-Beth Buitekant ’09 and Melanye Price, assistant professor of government, offered a reflection; The Roadside Girls (pictured at right) and Ebony Singers provided song, and Kevin Butler, associate dean of Student Services, welcomed the audience.

Following an excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr.’s Wesleyan Baccalaureate Address June 7, 1964, President Doug Bennet delivered remarks on King Jr.’s history with Wesleyan.

To chronicle King’s visits, Bennet and staff consulted with several people who were part of the King era at Wesleyan and wanted to share their memories. Bennet thanked John Maguire, formerly a professor of religion at Wesleyan and president emeritus of the Claremont Graduate Schools; Willard McRae, an administrator at Middlesex Memorial Hospital, frequent adviser, and guide to Wesleyan students volunteering in Middletown; and Rick Tuttle, ‘62 who was a civil rights volunteer in Mississippi and Georgia in the summer of 1963.

The Wesleyan connection with King began when John Maguire joined the Religion Department at Wesleyan in 1960. As an 18-year-old student in Virginia, Maguire had by chance met and become a close friend of the then-21-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. who was studying at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. During the late 1950’s, King had begun coming to New England to speak and raise money for the civil rights movement. When he arrived at Bradley airport, Maguire, who was by then studying at Yale, would pick him up and drive him to his speaking engagements.

These weren’t King’s first visits to Connecticut. When he was 16, after his first year at Morehouse College, he spent a summer working in the tobacco fields near Hartford. He came north for the good pay and the chance to observe race relations in New England. King later reflected that he was elated to find that he could sit anywhere in a restaurant and order food.

In May, 1961, Maguire and his department chair, David Swift, joined the Freedom Riders. They were jailed briefly in Montgomery, and later met with King. Maguire invited King to preach at Wesleyan, and arranged it so that King’s first visit to campus. On Jan. 14, 1962, King preached to an overflowing chapel. He stayed overnight at the university guesthouse on High Street in order to be available most of the next day to the College of Social Studies students and faculty.

In February of 1963, King preached at Yale’s Battell Chapel in the morning, got a ride from Maguire to his house at 44 Home Avenue, took a brief a nap, then preached again that evening in the Wesleyan chapel.

Early in 1964 President Victor Butterfield asked Professor Maguire to see if King would be willing to be Wesleyan’s end-of-school Baccalaureate preacher and to receive the university’s honorary doctorate degree. King agreed, but said that he had to make it tentative since he was not always sure of his schedule.

Then, on the Monday before he was to arrive for the weekend ceremonies, King went to jail challenging segregation in St. Augustine, Fla. Maguire and King’s chief aide, Andrew Young persuaded King to post bail on Saturday afternoon and fly to Bradley, arriving early Sunday morning.

Following his baccalaureate address, Maguire presented King with his degree and they stood while the crowd gave King a long, standing ovation. As they made their way from the platform back to North College, there was continuous applause. On Monday, King flew back to St. Augustine and reentered jail for another few days.

In 1966, King paid his last visit to Wesleyan, again to preach at McConaughy Hall. The audience overflowed.

The Wesleyan Board of Trustees was meeting on the weekend following King’s death in 1968. President Ted Etherington asked the meeting to adjourn early the morning after the assassination and move to the Chapel where he asked John Maguire to provide an informal eulogy for King.

“The Wesleyan community has continued its commitment to civil rights and justice,” Bennet said. “Poet Sonia Sanchez keynote embodies that tradition.”

The Martin Luther King, Jr. commemoration received funding from the Office of the Dean of the College, the President’s Office, and the Office of Affirmative Action, with planning and support from a committee of staff, students and faculty.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor and Elan Barnehama, university writer

Pop Culture, Extremists and a Disco Beat at Zilkha Gallery

Robert Boyd’s Xanadu is on display in Zilhka Gallery through March 4.
Posted 02/01/07
A new exhibit at the Ezra and Cecile Zilhka Gallery tweaks, condenses, and re-frames contemporary events into montages of quick cuts, representing a history of apocalyptic thought as a series of MTV-style music videos within a setting reminiscent of a discotheque.

Robert Boyd’s Xanadu is a synchronized four-channel video installation that probes society’s self-destructive impulse and parodies avenues of popular culture such as documentaries, news media, cartoons, and pop music. Xanadu takes its title from the 1980 American pop musical starring Olivia Newton-John.

“One of the extraordinary things about Xanadu, beyond its content, is the way it engages the viewer physically and how that engagement actually relates to and reinforces its meaning,” says Nina Felshin, curator of exhibitions for the Center for the Arts. “In order to see all the projections, the viewer is forced to move around. The soundtrack of upbeat disco music not only provides a disjunctive counterpoint to the often horrific images of destruction but it makes you want to move your body to the beat of the music.”

’s installation in Zilkha Gallery features a photograph of a disco ball in flames, falling before a delicate pink background; three video projections on three free-standing walls; a fourth on the far wall of Zilkha’s contiguous North Gallery. Visitors become surrounded by stimuli.

Hundreds of hours of archival footage of doomsday cults, iconic political figures, and global fundamentalist movements were mined for the exhibition. Introducing the theme of the “Apocalypse,” Boyd’s video Heaven’s Little Helper (2005) begins with an excerpt from Masada, a 1981 mini-series about The Zealots, a sect of Jews who defended their right to be free from an oppressive Roman regime but who finally succumbed through an act of mass suicide.

Fast-forwarding into “family” footage of seemingly wholesome hippies and children dancing in natural settings, Boyd marks the end of sunny popular culture in the U.S. with iconic images of the Manson Family. Continuing in this vein, the video incorporates archival footage of some of the most infamous doomsday-cult gurus and their devout disciples.

“While this is not the intention of the artist, I came away feeling that if we don’t do something, if we don’t challenge what’s being served up to us, we will meet essentially the same fate as the victims represented in Boyd’s Xanadu,” Felshin says. “ There is a subtext to this work which, as an activist I would characterize as a call to action or resistance.”

Robert Boyd is an interdisciplinary installation artist who lives and works in Brooklyn, N.Y. Xanadu premiered at Participant, Inc., in New York in 2006, and has also been presented in Beijing and London. The artist suggests that Xanadu is a conglomerate of our fears, paranoia, and prejudices—an envisioned Apocalypse in the process of becoming reality.

Xanadu is on display through March 4 in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, 283 Washington Terrace. Gallery hours are noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and noon to 8 p.m. Friday. A New York Times review of Xanadu is online at

Administrative Assistant Aims to Know All 200 Graduate Students

Barbara Schukoske, administrative assistant for the Office of Graduate Student Services, is a lifelong Middletown resident and remembers sledding down Foss Hill as a child.
Posted 02/01/07
Q: Barbara, when did you come to Wesleyan and what led you to the Office of Graduate Student Services?

A: I was hired as a department assistant on Feb. 6, 1989 to the Physical Plant Department, where I worked for nine years. I then transitioned to my current position of administrative assistant for Graduate Student Services on Sept. 28, 1998.

Q: You’ve been acquainted with Wesleyan for many years. Why is that?

A: Wesleyan is an important part of my family’s life. My father worked as a “bouncer” at one of the Fraternity Houses on High Street in the 1930s and also delivered milk for Daniels Farm Dairy to faculty that lived on campus at that time. My older sister received her MALS from Wesleyan in 1999, so the university has been a part of my life since I can remember. I do remember using the ice skating rink at Wesleyan and also sliding down Foss Hill a few times. In fact, my older sister once drove her Volkswagen Beetle down the steps by Olin until Public Safety caught her.

Q: Did you ever think you’d end up working at the university?

A: My father always spoke highly of Wesleyan and about the people from the university. He thought it would be a great place to work. So, with his thoughts and advice in mind, when there was a position open, I applied. When I got the job, he was ecstatic!

Q: What is your role with the graduate students, who do you work with?

A: I pride myself as being the information person for the grad students and Wes community. Because I have worked on campus for 18 years, I have acquired the knowledge and contacts. I also work closely, and in correlation with the director, Marina Melendez.

Q: How many graduate students are there at Wesleyan?

A: There are approximately 200 graduate students in the MA and Ph.D programs in various stages of their careers.

Q: What typical problems or questions graduate students come to you for?

A: Students often come to me to ask questions of whom to contact with problems in housing, or with health insurance issues. Those seem to be the biggest reasons for their inquiries. Other questions include those on loan deferments, enrollment and registration, how to audit a course, and graduation issues. I also assist with projects like the new graduate admissions project. I am the behind the scene person that helps with the testing of the new process to ensure it will work correctly once it goes live. I also correspond with the graduate departments concerning new student information, and at the other end, when students are ready to graduate; I assist them to their final journey from Wesleyan along with the day-to-day operations of the Office of Graduate Student Services.

Q: Why is it important to interact with the students face-to-face?

A: I encourage the students to come in, for whatever reason, and chat. I get to learn about the student and the different cultures and they learn about me. Knowing each grad student personally, helps me to assist them better with whatever problem or concern they might have.

Q: What keeps your job interesting?

A: The graduate students. I love working with them. Everyday brings something new and some of the challenge of my job is to find the answer to some of the questions pertaining to any number of issues, whether it’s health insurance, housing concerns, or even directions around town, there is always something new and different everyday. A good example of this is the recent Graduate Career Day (LINK TO SNAPSHOTS) that was hosted by our office in January. It was an opportunity to do something a little different than the everyday duties of the office and it helped to benefit the graduate students, which is the most important thing.

Q: What special events do you hold for these students throughout the year?

A: Starting in August, we have a “New Student Orientation” for the new grad students, a day full of information to help acclimate to Wesleyan and the Middletown community. Shortly after that, we have an “All-Graduate Picnic” welcoming all graduate students back to the Fall semester. Throughout the year our office holds workshops on Immigration issues and exiting procedures for those students that will be graduating in May. The Graduate Student Association also has an agenda of events derived from funding through their student activity fee.

Q: Tell us about your Middletown roots.

A: I was born at Middlesex Hospital in 1957, one of triplets, two girls, one boy, or as my mother used to refer to us as, “twins and a spare.” I went to Middletown public schools. After high school, I found myself working a full-time job at a local book bindery to feed my addiction to muscle cars. I also acquired a fondness for painting and pin-striping cars and motorcycle gas tanks. Connecticut Dragway was my home-away-from-home from 1976 until it finally closed in 1982. I also met my husband Jim while drag racing. He’s a Middletown native, too, and works in town at Paul’s Auto Body and Garage.

Q: What hobbies do you have?

A: Metal jewelry design, drawing, painting, singing, boating in the summer, wildlife rescue, collecting Santa figurines, and training, showing and using rottwilers as therapy dogs. I also enjoy long trail rides with my Pinto, Dakota. We bought a farm in 1994 that came with a four-stall barn and 3 acres of fenced property. I hadn’t ridden a horse in nearly 20 years, but I soon began boarding horses, expanded the barn to five stalls, built a riding ring, and have taught beginner’s Western riding lessons.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Swimmer is Two-Time All-American in 1650-yard Freestyle

Ben Byers ’07 wants to defend his title in the 1000 freestyle at NESCACs and also win the
Posted 02/01/07
Q: How did a young man from Seattle, Wash. become interested in attending Wesleyan University?

A: Both my parents grew up in New York, my dad in White Plains, my mom in
Brooklyn, so when I decided I wanted to come to the East Coast for college they suggested, among others, Wesleyan. Once I’d begun the application process I started talking to the swimming coach Mary Bolich and realized the program was a good fit for me.

Q: What did you think of the Wesleyan Natatorium the first time you saw it?

A: The pool is fantastic, I grew up swimming at the University of Washington pool, which is the home to a top 25 program nationally, and the Wesleyan Natatorium blows it away. It really is an amazing facility, and was a big part of why Wesleyan was one of my top choices.

Q: You accomplished something very few Wesleyan athletes have ever done – you set a team record in the 1000-yard freestyle during your very first event as a freshman. Were you surprised by that?

A: I was very surprised. What a lot of people don’t know is that I really wasn’t very good before I came to college. That swim was actually a best time for me by 15 seconds, which is a big drop under any circumstances, let alone in the first meet of the season.

Q: You have since set and broken numerous team records in distance freestyle races. You are a two-time All-American in the 1650-yard freestyle and a two-event NESCAC champion. To this point, what would you say was the highlight of your swimming career?

A: There are two moments in my career that really jump at out me when I think back. Both happened my sophomore year. The first was our tri-meet against Bowdoin and Colby. We were swimming at Bowdoin, and we were not doing very well. We were losing to Colby, a team we should have been beating, by a large margin with four individual events and one relay left to swim. Essentially the only way for us to win was to win every event left. We huddled up and tried to get everyone as fired up as possible. Jeff Stein won the 200-yard breaststroke, I won the 500 freestyle and Rob Mitchell finished 2nd, then Josh Tanz won the 100 butterfly. The final individual event was the 200 IM (individual medley), and Jeff Stein and I stepped up against one of Colby’s best swimmers. With the entire team behind our lanes screaming their lungs out we gave it our all. Going into the final 50 –the freestyle leg of the individual medley– I was a body length behind the Colby swimmer, but managed to make up the space and touch him out, and ended up going a best time, which to this day is still my fastest 200IM. Finally, our 200 Freestyle relay team won, giving us a win over Colby by 10 points, a slim margin in a dual meet. This was really special for me because it was a huge team effort, which is often something that is missing in swimming, which tends to be an individualistic sport.

Q: What is the other?

A: The other memory is the1000 freestyle at NESCAC championships later that same year, which were hosted at the Wesleyan Natatorium. Steve Spinelli of Williams and I swam pretty much dead even the entire time, but over the last 50 yards I managed to build a lead and win the race. This was my first NESCAC championships win, and to do it at Wesleyan in front of my friends and family was an amazing feeling.

Q: With the 2007 NESCAC Championships right around the corner and most likely a fourth trip to Nationals after that, what have you set your sights on?

A: I’d like to defend my title in the 1000-yard freestyle at NESCACs and also win the
1650-yard. Also, I’ve never really had a good meet at nationals, so this is my last chance to swim up to my potential. My goal is to be top three in the country in the mile, and make it back to the top 16 in the 500 and 200 free events at nationals.

Q: During your Wesleyan swimming career, the team took training trips to
San Diego and Puerto Rico. How would you describe those experiences?

A: These trips are really the widest range of pain and pleasure. Hanging out with the team in the sun is amazing, and brings us closer together than any other type of event could, but the training is intense and painful. On some days we’ll go 16,000 meters in the pool, over 10 miles of swimming, in four hours, along with a variety of dry land activities. Looking back I’m always glad I went, but while I’m there I can’t wait for it to be over.

Q: How would you characterize your head coach, Mary Bolich?

A: Mary is dedicated. She cares deeply about the team, both in and out of the pool. She has done a great job since she came to Wesleyan of drawing the potential out of swimmers, such as Josh Tanz ’06 or Mike Pepi ’08. I think it’s hard to try to compete with teams on a national level that can start training in September, and hard to recruit in a conference as deep as the NESCAC, but she has done a good job in building this team up to a level where it can be competitive. It will be interesting to see how the team is next year, since some unfortunate incidents have left us with some large holes, but the class that is coming in next year should do a really good job plugging those gaps and improving the team as a whole.

Q: What activities other than setting records and winning titles in the pool have kept you busy here at Wesleyan?

A: I’m a double major in economics and sociology, and I’m also trying to get the Certificate of International Relations. I play water polo in the fall for our several time Division III national champion club team, and I spend my spring recovering from swim season.

Q: You will be donning cap and gown this May. What plans do you have for the future?

A: I’m really not sure what I’m going to be doing immediately after college. Eventually I plan to return to school to get a joint JD/MBA degree, but as for what I’ll be doing for the next few years, I am open to suggestions.

Q: What else is there about Ben Byers we should know?

A: Along the same lines as my last answer, I need a job! If you know of anything, ideally with a large paycheck and minimal responsibilities I would love to hear from you.

By Brian Katten, sports information director. Photos by Katten and Mollie Parrish.

Daniel Stern Dies at Age of 79

Posted 02/01/07
Daniel Stern, former fellow in the Wesleyan Center for the Humanities, the Boynton Visiting Professor in Creative Writing in the College of Letters and a visiting professor in Letters and English, died on Jan. 24 at the age of 79. He was living in Houston, Texas.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Stern had taught in the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program, where he was a Cullen Distinguished Professor of English since 1992.

Wesleyan Professor of Letters Paul Schwaber has shared the following tribute to Professor Stern, which he wrote in 1991 when Stern was given the Cullen Professorship at the University of Houston:

“You already know of his extraordinary literary talent and productivity, that he broods on the moral catastrophes of the century and how they have been and may be rendered in art. He is a novelist, essayist, and dramatist of consistent and genuine accomplishment, and his commitment to the art and hard work of writing is inspirational. He is also a wonderful teacher–for he brings to bear in especially vital ways his loyalty to craft, his insider’s view of the literary world, his fascination with persons, his love of music, and his broad, lively experience in business. He talks easily with student and evokes from them a pitch of pleasure in words and a moral seriousness they may not have sensed in themselves. Very successful with lecture courses, seminars, and writing workshops, Dan is witty, kind, full of information, a superb anecdotalist, a splendid responsible, warm, and delightful colleague. He is also a fine listener. As you may imagine, I wish I could offer him a job here. Your students will be lucky indeed to be taught by him, to be inspired and encouraged by his presence.”

Stern grew up on New York City’s Lower East Side and began playing cello as a child. At 17 he skipped his high school graduation to go on the road behind jazzman Charlie Parker. He spent a year playing with the Indianapolis Symphony, during which time he began writing stories. Although he studied at various institutions, including Columbia University and the Juilliard School, he never earned a college degree.

In 1953 he published The Girl With the Glass Heart, the first of his nine novels. His most important novels include Who Shall Live, Who Shall Die? (1963), an early contribution to literature of the Holocaust, and After the War (1965), which focuses on postwar experimentation by young people trying to make up for lost time.

Stern held high-profile day jobs to support his writing habit. In 1963, he married Gloria Branfman and went to work in advertising, eventually becoming senior vice president of the McCann-Erickson agency. In 1969 he joined Warner Bros. as the studio’s vice president for advertising and publicity worldwide.

When Stern taught at Wesleyan he inaugurated the annual Philip Hallie lecture at the College of Letters. He worked at CBS before joining the University of Houston, where he succeeded Donald Barthelme in the prestigious Cullen professorship.

The late 1980s marked a watershed in Stern’s writing. He published Twice Told Tales, stories organized in a fresh, imaginative way. Stern took famous works like Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener or Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams and wove their themes into a new context. A second volume of twice-told tales, Twice Upon a Time, came out in 1992.

Stern numbered among his friends literary heavyweights such as Elie Wiesel, Joseph Heller, Frank Kermode, and Bernard Malamud. In a 2006 festschrift devoted to Stern and his work, Wiesel wrote, “To spend an evening with him without laughing is quite simply impossible.”

Stern is survived by his wife, Gloria Stern; son and daughter-in-law Eric and Beverly Branfman; and grandchildren Melissa and Joshua Branfman.

Burial was in Sag Harbor, N.Y.

Obit information adapted from the Houston Chronicle.

Music Director’s Ensemble Provides Updated Music for Classic Documentaries

Angel Gil-Ordóñez, Wesleyan orchestra music director, directed Virgil Thomson’s original soundtracks that accompany a newly-released version of The Plow that Broke the Plains and The River.
Posted 02/01/07
Wesleyan Orchestra Music Director Angel Gil-Ordóñez addresses the impact of humanity on the environment and chronicles the settlement of the Great Plains through music on a newly-released DVD.

His Washington D.C.-based orchestra, Post-Classical Ensemble, provides the soundtrack for director Pare Lorentz’s landmark New Deal-Era Classics documentaries The Plow that Broke the Plains (1936) and The River (1938).

The dual-film DVD, released Jan. 30 by classical music label Naxos, features the first modern recordings of Virgil Thomson’s original scores, performed by Gil-Ordóñez ‘s ensemble. Due to a small budget, the original soundtrack was recorded in one session with the poor sound-quality of the 1930s.

“What our effort demonstrates is that the music of Virgil Thomson is extraordinary,” Gil-Ordóñez says. “The documentaries can not be fully appreciated unless the music has the quality that it deserves. We re-recorded soundtrack recuperating parts of the score that were neglected in the original film, whose soundtrack besides was in very bad shape.”

The new restored soundtrack is already nationally-acclaimed.

“The Post-Classical Ensemble’s new recording of Virgil Thomson’s soundtrack and the fascinating supplementary materials all enhance the historic value of this wonderful DVD,” writes Paul Boyer, editor-in chief of the Oxford Companion to United States History.

Both The Plow that Broke the Plains and The River are artful evocations Midwestern America in the 1930s that address the impact of humanity on its environment and the use of the media to communicate political messages.

Between 1933-1937, the U.S. Government, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, enacted the New Deal programs with a hope to help the American public recover from the Great Depression. Under the direction of the Resettlement Administration, the government sponsored several public relations campaigns involving photography, radio and film. The Resettlement Administration paid Lorentz to film both The River and The Plow That Broke the Plains, and Virgil Thomson’s accompanying soundtracks rank among the composer’s greatest work. They set the trend in the 1930s and 1940s for a new style of film music.

The River, which was filmed in 14 states, tells the story of the Tennessee Valley Authority and building dams on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. It was named to the National Film Registry in 1990 and won best documentary at the 1938 Venice Film Festival.

The Plow That Broke the Plains retraced the history of the Great Plains and the abuse of the land that led to the creation of the Dust Bowl. The film, described by historian Neil Lerner as “the most widely publicized attempt by the federal government to communicate to its entire citizenry through a motion picture,” received denunciations as New Deal propaganda and was shunned by the commercial distribution movie system. Despite this impediment, the documentary reached people in over 3,000 theaters nationwide.

In The Plow that Broke the Plains, Thomson augmented the orchestra with saxophones, guitar, banjo, and harmonium, and used cowboy songs to depict the Midwest. Gil-Ordóñez mimicked this style.

Gil-Ordóñez first conducted the Post-Classical Ensemble in a live performance accompanying these two landmark documentaries at the American Film Institute’s “Silverdocs,” an annual documentary film festival in June 2005. With support from the Center for the Arts, Gil-Ordóñez again directed the soundtracks with Wesleyan University Orchestra as a benefit for Katrina’s victims in November 2005.

“We spent almost one month in the studio to add the narration and the sound effects, and look for a perfect balance because I never like my own recordings,” he says, smiling.

Gil-Ordóñez, a native of Spain, says the DVD’s release could not be more timely.

“The documentaries show a part of the history of this country essential to understand the present times,” he explains. “The River is Katrina 80 years ago. Who would have told us that Katrina would happen two months after we recorded the music.”

The DVD, produced with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Film Institute, is distributed in the United States by Naxos of America and can be purchased online at

“I wish every young American might be exposed to these documentaries, and that some politicians might learn that with imagination and art is how you really make a difference in a society,” he says.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Wesleyan, Community Prepares for Week of Play a Day

Nikhil Melnechuk ’07 and Jessica Posner ’09 are co-producing a week-long theater event based on Suzan-Lori Parks’ “365 Days/365 Plays.” The plays will be shown throughout campus and the Middletown community this month.
Posted 02/01/07
In November 2002, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks committed to writing a play a day for 365 days. Since November 2006, this year of new plays has been debuting across the country as “365 Days/365 Plays.”

Wesleyan is among 52 universities and more than 700 venues taking part in this project, and will perform eight of Parks’ plays Feb. 5-11.

“Wesleyan is making history,” explains co-producer Jessica Posner ’09. “This festival is the largest theater collaboration in U.S. history, and Wesleyan gets to be part of that. It is very exiting.”

According to Posner and co-producer Nikhil Melnechuk ‘07, Wesleyan’s take on 365 Days/365 Plays will use Parks’ plays as a centerpiece for a week-long festival that “attempts to re-contextualize every interaction as theater.”

Wesleyan students will act in the plays, changing roles each time the play is re-performed. Each one of Parks’ plays runs about 10 minutes long, and will be performed seven times a day at seven different venues.

“These plays are about finding connections – either with each other or within yourself,” says Melnechuk 07. “They manage social critique without being didactic because of their absurd humor and circumstances.”

Melnechuk and Posner have devoted more than 40 hours a week for four months preparing for the event. They are encouraging their actors to exercise their creativity so no play is performed the same way twice. The plays do not have sets; actors will rely on costumes and props to help tell the story.

Plays will take place all over the campus, such as in Pi Café, Davenport Campus Center and the Science Library. Olin Library will host and interactive piece titled “365 Tasks.”

The Opening Ceremony, scheduled at 8 p.m., Feb. 5, in the Center for the Arts Theater, will feature a talk by Metzgar and Rugg, and a performance by Gina Ulysse, assistant professor of anthropology and African American Studies. During the week of performances, prominent speakers will be brought to campus including the 365 National Festival producers Bonnie Metzgar and Rebecca Rugg. Lectures, performances and workshops will be offered by distinguished artists such as Joseph Roach, professor of theater and English at Yale University; Christine Mok, a Ph.D candidate at Yale’s School of Drama, and artist-in-residence poet/activist Amiri Baraka, who perform with his septet Blue Ark Feb. 9.

Wesleyan will also present a large scale, town-wide festival that showcases Wesleyan and Middletown life and culture. It will include workshops, performances, lectures, demonstrations and discussions—all free and open to the public. This festival includes “The Write-On Marathon” where Wesleyan students and members of the Middletown community can try their hand at Parks’ project by writing a play a day. Five winning entries will be performed on Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. in the Center for the Arts Cinema. Submissions will be accepted throughout the week (for more information on how to participate, visit

“We want people to see theater as an essential component of everyday life, using the plays by Suzan-Lori Parks as the point of departure,” Posner says.

A gala performance of all the plays will take place at 8 p.m. Feb. 10 in the Patricelli ’92 Theatre with a reception to follow. The plays will be performed by actors Michael Chandler ’08, Jennifer Celestin ‘07, Maya Kazan ‘09, Garrett Larribas ‘07, Jermaine Lewis ‘09 and Carter Smith ‘09. Steven Sapp, founding member of New York City’s acclaimed poetry/theater ensemble UNIVERSES, will be conducting an open theater workshop from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Feb. 10 and will open the performances at 6 and 8 p.m. with a solo piece.

Festival coordinators raised over $6,000 to put on the week-long event. Sponsors include the Center for African American Studies, Center for the Arts, Theatre Department, Second Stage, Wesleyan Student Assembly, Adelphic Education Fund, Community Development Fund, Feminist Gender and Sexuality Studies, Ethics in Society Program, Office of Affirmative Action, and the fund for Diversity and Academic Advancement.
For reservations of information, go to, e-mail: or call Jessica Posner at 303-919-5994 or Nikhil Melnechuk 413-230-0740.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Howard Bernstein Dies at 63

Posted 02/01/07
Howard Bernstein, a long-time visiting professor at Wesleyan, died Jan. 15, 2007 at the age of 63.

Bernstein was a member of the Wesleyan faculty from 1979 to 2001, during which time he taught in the College of Letters, the History Department, the programs in Educational Studies and Science in Society, and in Wesleyan’s Graduate Liberal Studies Program. Bernstein also was a major contributor to the Masters of Arts in Teaching Program. In addition, he supervised a large number of senior honors theses.

Bernstein earned a bachelor’s of arts from the City College of the City University of New York and a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University. Before coming to Wesleyan he taught at Brooklyn College, City College, York University and Yale University. For the past five years, Bernstein was a mentor and educator at Suffield Academy in Suffield, Connecticut.

Bernstein was a world-renowned expert on the work of the German scholar G. W. Leibniz and was a major contributor to a series of international conferences on Liebniz held in Germany in the early 1980s. He also published a number of works on Diderot, Einstein, and on Marxist philosophy. He was passionate about music, particularly classical choral music, and was an avid athlete.

A memorial service is scheduled from 1 to 3 p.m. Feb. 6 at St. Paul’s Chapel, Columbia University, in Manhattan.

In lieu of flowers, Bernstein’s daughter Christina has asked that those wishing to remember him consider a contribution to one of the many organizations Howard supported. These include The Center for Constitutional Rights, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, The Southern Poverty Law Center, The Innocence Project, Equal Justice Works, Lambda Legal, and Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Dean of the College to Leave Wesleyan, Become Fulbright Scholar in Peru

Maria Cruz-Saco, dean of the college, will leave Wesleyan to conduct a study at the Universidad del Pacifico’s Research Center in Peru.
Posted 02/01/07
Maria Cruz-Saco, dean of the college, will leave Wesleyan at the end of her contract in June 2007.

At the invitation of a United Nations office and Universidad del Pacifico, Lima, Peru, Cruz-Saco will lead a study on aging, equity and income security in Peru. While leading this study in 2007-08, she will be a Fulbright Scholar at Universidad del Pacifico’s Research Center. In 2008-09, Cruz-Saco will resume teaching as professor of economics at Connecticut College.

“My response when I heard the news was that as a former economic development person, I could only celebrate Maria’s mission,” says President Doug Bennet. “I want to thank Maria for her extraordinary leadership as Wesleyan’s dean.”

Under Cruz-Saco’s leadership, Wesleyan created the Office for Diversity and Academic Advancement, enhanced First Year Matters through collaborations with the Center for the Arts and the Office of Academic Affairs, introduced a new peer advising program, integrated orientation for new and international students and created opportunities for rich educational experiences outside the classroom. Wesleyan has established a task force that is articulating a vision for religious and spiritual life on campus, preparing the opening of the Usdan University Center, and better aligning student affairs with our educational mission. The dean’s office has grown in strength and has the capacity to handle a leadership transition.

“Wesleyan is an exceptional place, students are bright and creative, the educational opportunities are rich, and I have been honored to serve as dean of the college and work with a splendid group of professionals,” Cruz-Saco says. “I know that I will miss being part of this community. But, I will come visit since I will be down the road when I get back from Peru!”

Bennet intends appoint an acting dean for a year, allowing time for his successor to develop a sense of what the dean’s office requires and to organize a search for a permanent replacement.

“I believe the acting dean should be a current faculty member or staff person who is familiar with the institution and able to provide leadership for a strong, ongoing enterprise,” Bennet says.

Bennet welcomes nominations and volunteers, and will consult broadly with faculty, students, and staff as I review faculty and staff lists for candidates.

The Wesleyan Connection: Campus Snapshot

ON DEADLINE: From left, Laura Schick ’08, Sophia Kim ’08 and Jason Harris ’09 work on filing prospective student applications and transfer student applications in the Office of Admission Jan. 12. Jan. 1 was the Wesleyan Class of 2011 application deadline.

Reyson Punzalan ’07, in foreground, and Ellen Davis ’07 alphabetize frosh applications. Punzalan worked more than 35 hours filing applications during the week.

Jenna Juwono ’09, in foreground, works on filing Freeman Scholar applications, while Dmitri Lieders ’07 works on applicant data entry. The Office of Admission received more than 7,000 applications this year. (Photos by Olivia Bartlett)

Family Health Fair Set for Employees, Families

The Anderson Fitness Center will be open for tours during the 2007 Family Health Fair Feb. 3.
Posted 01/22/07
Yoga, skin analysis, blood pressure screenings and massages are all part of the 2007 Family Health Fair for Wesleyan’s faculty, staff and their families.

The free event takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 3 in the Freeman Athletic Center. It is sponsored by the Employee Benefits Office.

“All of us could use a little inspiration now and then when it comes to staying healthy and fit,” explains Pat Melley, director of Employee Benefits. “The Wesleyan Health Fair provides the opportunity for all of us to start or continue building healthy lives. It will be fun and informative for people of all ages to learn about fitness and well-being.”

Events of note include balance and rowing demonstrations; glucose, body-mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol screenings; a “How to Get Reliable Medical Information on the Web” presentation; and information on children’s health, skin analysis, nutrition, fire safety and more.

In addition, the Anderson Fitness Center will be open and tours will be offered. Demonstrations will be presented on how to use the athletic facility’s equipment. Attendees may go to open swimming, ice skating or squash.

The first 100 employees will receive a free T-shirt. Participants can also enter their name in a raffle. Prizes include a $60 gift certificate at Yoga at Middletown; bike helmets and tune ups from Pedal Power; a $40 gift certificate for Broad Street Books; a $25 gift certificate for It’s Only Natural Market; a golf basket from The Hartford Insurance Company; and a $50 cash certificate from WesCard.

Lisa Currie, director of the Health Education Program, says the health fair will highlight the various ways that the university and community organizations can support employees in being healthier individuals and families. This ultimately contributes to a healthier university, she says.

“There is great truth in the old adage, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’” Currie says. “Research has shown that employees who participate in prevention-oriented wellness programs in the workplace are more productive and enjoy their jobs more. Given how much of our lives we spend at work, it makes sense to make the most of it, especially given the great facilities and programs Wesleyan offers. “

Face painting will be offered for children. Parking is available in Q Lot behind the Freeman Athletic Center. Participants are encouraged to enter through the back lobby.

Some sessions will have limited space and will be filled on a first-come, first served basis. Some vendors will have items for sale.

For more information, e-mail or call 860-685-4889.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

New Directors Head Human Resources Department

Pat Melley, left, and Julia Hicks have been promoted to directors of Human Resources.
Posted 01/22/07
Julia Hicks and Pat Melley have been appointed to the position of director of human resources for Wesleyan University.

A national search for the head of Wesleyan’s Human Resources organization has been underway for the past few months, during which Hicks and Melley came forward to propose their partnership to lead the human resources department.

“I believe each has the credentials and leadership qualities we need and that together they have the experience to advance all aspects of our service to the campus community,” says John Meerts, vice president for Finance and Administration.

Hicks joined Wesleyan in May 2004 as associate director of human resources and was promoted to senior associate director in 2006. She has over 25 years experience in all areas of human resources and has held progressively responsible human resources positions with major organizations in Connecticut and New York. Hicks will be responsible for compensation, performance management, employee and labor relations, recruitment and staffing.

Melley was hired as director of employee benefits in July 2006. She will continue to be responsible for all employee benefits and now will oversee the payroll department. Melley has over 20 years of experience in employee benefits, payroll and human resources. In addition to a background in brokerage and reinsurance, she has been responsible for designing, implementing and leading the human resources departments of two companies.

Both Hicks and Melley have the skills and qualifications required to successfully lead human resources as we move forward with new initiatives, Meerts says. Although each will have specific points of focus as outlined above, employees may feel free to contact either of them for assistance. Ultimately, both are responsible for the performance of the Human Resources Department.

“Please join me in congratulating both Pat and Julia on their new appointments and wishing them continued success,” Meerts says. “I also want to thank the search committee for their hard work and Dan Michaud for having lead the Human Resources Department while the search was underway.”

By Justin Harmon, director of Public Affairs. Photo by Olivia Drake.