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Memorial Service Planned for David McAllester


Posted 08/24/06
Wesleyan’s Music Department will sponsor a memorial service for David McAllester, professor of music and anthropology, emeritus, at 2 p.m. in the Memorial Chapel Sept. 24.

McAllester, a founder of the Society for Ethnomusicology, died April 29, 2006, after suffering a stroke. He was 89.

“David had a huge impact on generations of Wesleyan students, many of them not music majors or grad students,” says Mark Slobin, professor of music, who worked with McAllester for 15 years. “When I was hired at Wesleyan in 1971 and looked at a college guide, the only course singled out was McAllester’s exciting course on American Indian Music, complete with a pow-wow on Foss Hill.”

A graduate of Harvard University, McAllester studied at the Juilliard School of Music and earned his doctorate in anthropology at Columbia. He began his career at Wesleyan in the Psychology Department, and soon established the Anthropology Department, where he was an instructor of anthropology. In 1957, he was promoted to a full professor and in 1971, he moved to the Music Department, where he co-founded the program in World Music. He remained in the Music Department until his retirement in 1986.

“The twin career in anthropology and music is the work of a man who, faced with the choice between art and science, embraced them both,” wrote Richard Winslow, professor of music, emeritus, in the summer 1986 issue of Wesleyan magazine.

One of the founders of the Society for Ethnomusicology in 1952, McAllester served the organization in a number of positions, first as its secretary, and later as the president and editor of the society’s journal. His particular field of interest was Native American ceremonial music, especially that of the Navajos of the American Southwest.

Known internationally for his scholarly works and publications, he was a recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for research in new Native American music and of a Fulbright grant that provided him with a senior lectureship in Australia. He was a member of the board of trustees for the American Indian Archaeological Institute in Washington, D.C., and did extensive fieldwork with several native American groups, with books that include Peyote Music (1949), Enemyway Music (1954) and Navajo Blessingway Singer (1978).

With a longstanding commitment to nonviolence, he served in conscientious objector work camps during World War II. He was a founding member of the Middletown Quaker Meeting, as well as the South Berkshire Friends meeting, where he set up a tipi on the grounds, as well as helping to construct a swamp trail around a beaver pond.

Predeceased by his first wife, Susan McAllester, in 1994, he is survived by his wife, Beryl Irene Courtenay, a daughter, a son, two granddaughters, and a son-in-law.

“Up Against the Wall” Featured in Gallery Exhibit


Artist Mary Lum works on her painting, which is part of the exhibit “Up Against the Wall” opening in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery on Sept. 8.
Posted 08/24/06
“Up Against the Wall,” an exhibit featuring art that relies exclusively on the interior surfaces of architecture for inspiration and material support, will open at the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery on Sept. 8.

Organized by Nina Felshin, curator of Zilkha Gallery, the exhibition includes work by William McCarthy, gallery supervisor of Zilkha Gallery and Davison Art Center gallery supervisor, as well as artists Shoshana Dentz, Elana Herzog, Mary Lum and Mary Temple. Also on exhibit is a collaboration between artist Sol LeWitt and Alvin Lucier, the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music. The collaboration is executed by Wesleyan students.

Though the stylistic tendencies, technique and method of application or engagement vary, in each case the work becomes an integral part of the Zilkha Gallery’s architecture. When the exhibit is over, the gallery walls will be soaped down and repainted, and the works of art will cease to exist.

“The idea for the show has been percolating for some time,” Felshin says. “Finally, a critical mass of artists coalesced in my thinking and summer seemed to be the perfect time to invite artists to visit the gallery and execute their new work. The unique architecture of Zilkha Gallery continues, as it has in the past, to provide a rich source of artistic inspiration.”

The collaboration between LeWitt and Lucier, “Zug III,” is based on the Alpine ridge, as viewed from Zug, Switzerland, and consists of lines that repeat the ridge in a variety of colored markers. It was created in response to a composition by Lucier, in which he transcribed the mountain range into musical notation. Lucier’s musical piece accompanies the Lewitt wall drawing (click image at right to open a larger version of this painting).

The work of Lum and Herzog is more concerned with culture than it is with nature. Herzog’s wall-embedded multi-color chenille bedspread is simultaneously seductive and violent. Lum’s expansive acrylic painted drawing takes inspiration from the architecture of Zilkha Gallery and from her ongoing concerns with spatial illusion, the opposition between fact and fiction and the vagaries of human nature.

Dentz’s gouache drawing on Zilkha’s huge, wall-sized windows comments on how viewing art can sharpen one’s perception of his or her environment in general and specifically, in this case, beyond the gallery.

McCarthy, known for his landscape paintings, also applies his talent to Zilkha’s windows. And finally, a fleeting moment from the past is frozen in time in Mary Temple’s trompe l’oeil painting of mysterious shadows.

The public is invited to attend the opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 8 in the gallery. The event will include a talk by Felshin and comments by several of the artists.

The gallery is open noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday Sept. 8 through Oct. 8. Admission is free of charge.
 

By Lex Leifheit, press and marking coordinator. Photos by Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Protestant Chaplain Leads Services, Religious and Social Discussions


Posted 08/24/06
Classes, sport teams, social groups, community outreach, advocacy groups and studying consume a student’s time and energy. Gary Comstock, university protestant chaplain, believes being part of a spiritual group can provide a sense of calmness to the hectic college student lifestyle.

“Students’ spiritual community allows them to get away from it all, to unwind, to relax, to de-stress,” he says. “It gives them the opportunity to contemplate and reflect and to enjoy some peace and quiet.”

Comstock, one of four University Chaplains, says he’s always “on call” to help students through any issues, religious in nature or not. In fact, most students come to him for relationship concerns – problems with friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents – and with studies, especially stress and feeling overwhelmed by work and responsibilities.

“I think students may see me as a mentor, but probably more often as an older-adult friend, as someone who doesn’t have power over them but has some professional and personal skills to help them tap into their own power,” he says.

Comstock came to Wesleyan in 1990 after receiving his Ph.D and being ordained by the United Church of Christ. He chose college chaplaincy over the parish setting to pursue academic and ministerial work. Since college ministry is a profession with its own array of conferences, organizations, and publications, it accepted by his denomination.

“There are surprises in any kind of ministry, but a parish has a more fixed population and set of expectations,” he says. “The student population is ever-changing; and the 18-to-22-year-old stage of spiritual development is typified by exploration, uncertainty, searching – qualities that I find appealing and rewarding to work with. Students pose a lot of different challenges and also express a lot of gratitude for the help I can provide.”

As the protestant chaplain, Comstock holds an Ecumenical Protestant Service every Tuesday at the Chaplain’s Lounge. He describes the meetings as small and informal, and dinners follow the service.

But Comstock extends his chaplain services beyond those in the protestant branch of Christianity. Although approximately 21 percent of Wesleyan’s undergraduates are protestant, 35 percent do not claim to be part of any religious community.

Comstock holds weekly dinner-meetings for Vespers, a group for people with any or no religious background. In these meetings, Comstock or the students design a different ritual or activity each week that addresses and meets the needs, mood and tenor of things going on during the semester.

“Vespers is uniquely a Wesleyan tradition because it is so successfully inclusive,” Comstock explains. “I enjoy working with students and am always thrilled and impressed by their creativity in creating rituals. Making sure that we do a different ritual each week is a challenge, but it keeps me on me toes and ensures variety and freshness.”

He also sponsors, or takes part in, the Discussion Series, addressing timely or urgent social and spiritual issues. In the past, examples of topics have been community organizing, multi-faith dialogue, many Christian identities, building one’s own theology, body theology, womanist theology and queerness and religion. Next year, the series will include discussions on women in the Bible and religion and social class.

In addition, he has teamed up with the Office of Community Service and Volunteerism to co-found the Believing In Service, a meeting that connects religious beliefs with community service. As part of this service, participants make Thanksgiving and Valentines Day cards for senior citizens, volunteer at soup kitchens, hold work compost-restoration sessions at the Middletown Recycling Center, and sponsor a discussion series with religious and community leaders. This year, the Believing In Service will turn its attention to habitat restoration with small-scale projects to help restore wildlife in urban, suburban and campus settings.

And in conjunction with the other University Chaplains, he helps organize the annual Spirituality Week, which allows the chaplains to highlight and draw attention to all of the weekly religious and spiritual events that routinely occur on campus – those sponsored by the Chaplains and students groups.

Comstock is also a visiting professor of sociology, and has taught Introductory Sociology, Sociological Analysis, Ethics of Leadership, Ethics, Policy, and the Triage Society, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered People in Society.

Comstock, who holds a Ph.D. from the Union Theological Seminary and a Master of Divinity from Bangor Theological Seminary, completed the first national study of anti-gay violence as his thesis. This study, Violence Against Lesbians and Gay Men, was published by Columbia University Press. It was the first of six books he authored within a decade. Other include A Whosoever Church: Welcoming Lesbians and Gay Men into African American Congregations; Gay Theology Without Apology; Que(e)rying Religion; Unrepentant, Practicing, Self-Affirming; and Becoming Ourselves in the Company of Others.

“I started to write these in the mid-1980s, when queerness and religion was breaking into the academia, and there was a lot of excitement and encouragement generated by the enthusiasm for and interest in such work,” he says. “The issues are still hot, but I’m more interested in what younger and newer scholars have to say.”

Nowadays, Comstock has turned his writing interests to Wesleyan students. Last year, he put together a day-by-day reflection guide each semester for Protestant students – a Biblical passage with brief commentary for each day of classes. For this coming semester, he’s compiled a multi-faith, spiritual, secular reflection guide with favorite quotes submitted by students who attend Vespers.

Comstock had an interest in the church from an early age. He was raised in the Congregational Church, which later joined with other Protestant denominations to form the United Church of Christ. The central tenet of the liberal Protestantism is to have a responsibility to ask continually who isn’t included and to go about finding how to include and be affected by them.

The denomination is pro-gay, and Comstock, who is openly gay, says he never has to worry about being de-frocked or excommunicated.

“Wesleyan, of course, is independent of my or any other denomination’s policies, but there’s certainly a similar emphasis on inclusively here,” he says. “I do feel comfortable being an openly gay chaplain here, but the real fit for me has to do with the multi-faith, inter-spiritual dimension of my work – and, of course, our amazing students who always keep things interesting, challenging, and rewarding.”

Comstock and his partner of 23-years, Ted, enjoy spending time together with their German Shepard, Gus.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Leaf, Brain Neuron Analysis Among Studies at Hughes Poster Session


Grigori Enikolopov ’08 was one of more than 50 students to present their research at the Hughes Program in the Life Sciences Poster Session in the Exley Science Center.
Posted 08/24/06

When Grigori Enikolopov ’08 studied the leaf economics in river, swamp and upland areas, he found that the wetter the area, the more ridges – or teeth – the leaves of woody tree species possessed.
 
During the Hughes Program in the Life Sciences Poster Session Aug. 4, Enikolopov, explained that 70 percent of the trees in a swamp have teeth compared to 60 percent in the upland areas. He posted his findings on a poster board and titled his work, “Relating Leaf Economics to Sizes and Shapes of Leaves: Potential Proxies for the Fossil Record.”
 
“This was a great way to study science,” he explains. “We had the opportunity to do real research. I hope in the long term I can apply what I’ve done with a career in conservation or scientific documentaries.”
 
Enikolopov was one of 50 undergraduate research fellows who presented their research in the Exley Science Center. He and his peers have been working on their projects during the past 10 weeks under the tutelage of Wesleyan faculty advisors. Enikolopov and his project partner, Margo Fernandez-Burgos ’09, studied with Dana Royer, assistant professor of earth and environmental science.
 
The poster session allowed the research fellows to present their research to faculty, graduate students, fellow undergraduates and other visitors. This year, area high school teachers and prospective undergraduate applicants also attended the event.
 
“The poster session provides a sense of the spirit and accomplishments of our undergraduates’ research experience this summer,” explains Michael Weir, professor of biology and director of the Hughes Program in the Life Sciences. “Stepping back to communicate the logic of your research in a poster presentation is very important for thinking about where you have traveled in your research field and where you might go next. Students feel the excitement of discussing and interpreting their research, and experience what it can be like to be part of the community of scientists.”
 
Chemistry Major Katrina Adams ’07 presented her project “Oxidation of 1-Trimethylslyl-2-Phenylethane and 1-trimethylsilyl-3-Phenylpropane,” with the help of Albert Fry, professor of chemistry. Adams hoped to see if a primary carbocation – a short-lived highly reactive molecule – is formed when the compound is oxidized. 
 
“Most chemists think a primary carbocation cannot be made,” Adams explains, pointing to diagrams of chemical models. “We hope to show that the primary carbocation is possible for these two molecules.
 
Adams, who began similar research in 2003, plans to continue the study until she graduates.
 
Psychology major Azeb Gebre ‘07 studied “The Association between Age of Immigration into the United States and the Prevalence of Substance Use among Foreign-Born Youths in America,” with associate professor of psychology Lisa Dierker as her advisor. She analyzed data presented in a 2002 survey on drug use and health database.
 
“What I found is that the age of entry to United States is related to substance abuse. The younger someone is when they come to the country, the higher chance they have of using nicotine, marijuana or alcohol,” Gebre explains, peering over graphs on her poster. “I think this is because it becomes more socially acceptable for them.”
 
Among the other 54 projects displayed at the poster session were Phil Zegelbone’s ‘08 study on embryonic, larval, juvenile and adult myogenesis; Renee Sher’s ’07 study on hydrogen fuel storage safety; Rebecca Straley’s ‘07 study on the tectonics of Tellus Regio, Venus. Zegelbone worked with Stephen Devoto, associate professor of biology and neuroscience and behavior; Sher worked with Fred Ellis, professor of physics; and Straley worked with James Greenwood, visiting assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences.
 
Students from the biology, molecular biology and biochemistry, math and computer science, chemistry, psychology, earth and environmental sciences and physics departments participated.
 
The Hughes grant is funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to encourage participation and interest in the life sciences by undergraduates. The grant supports summer research and includes a stipend and participation in Hughes activities.
 
For more information on the Hughes Program for Life Sciences, visit http://www.wesleyan.edu/hughes/.

 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Wesleyan Receives $500,000 Challenge Grant from Kresge Foundation


Posted 08/24/06
The Kresge Foundation of Troy, Mich., has awarded a challenge grant in the amount of $500,000 to Wesleyan University. This grant will be applied toward the purchase of equipment for several Wesleyan science departments, including biology, chemistry, molecular biology and biochemistry, earth and environmental sciences and physics.

To apply to the Science Equipment Program, Wesleyan had to raise $500,000 and now must raise an additional $1 million to meet the terms of Kresge challenge grant and establish an endowment for repair and replacement of science equipment. According to the tenets of the grant, Wesleyan must raise $1.5 million to meet the challenge and establish an endowment for the repair and replacement of science equipment. To date the university has already raised $500,000 toward this goal.

Wesleyan’s planned purchases of advanced scientific equipment with the grant and additional money raised include:

– LC-Mass Spectrometer for Biology ($158,000)

– Gel Permeation Chromatograph for Chemistry ($148,000)

– Telescope Control System for the Astronomy department’s telescopes ($60,000)

– ICO-Mass Spectrometer for Earth and Environmental Sciences ($203,000)

– YAG/Dye Laser for Physics and Chemistry ($89,000)

– Microplate Reader for Biology ($61,000)

– Photosynthesis System for Biology and Earth and Environmental Sciences ($31,000).

In the next few years, Wesleyan will construct a state-of-the-art facility for teaching and research in the life sciences. The new facility will add roughly 80,000 square feet of departmental and community space that will enable Wesleyan to continue its academic leadership in the sciences.

The Kresge Foundation is a national foundation with $3 billion in assets that seeks to strengthen nonprofit organizations by catalyzing their growth, connecting them to their stakeholders, and challenging greater support through grants.

Physics Professor Studies Exotic Atoms


Tom Morgan, the Foss Professor of Physics, developed a laser lab in the basement of Exley Science Center. He uses a control panel to fire atoms and study quantum mechanics. His atom research is supported by a recent National Science Foundation award of $200,000.
Posted 08/24/06
In outer space, some protons and electrons can travel millions of years alone before colliding, forming super-excited exaggerated atoms. Tom Morgan, the Foss Professor of Physics, wants these atoms to come back down to earth.

For the past 20 years, Morgan, an atomic and molecular physicist, has experimented with these excited atoms known as Rydberg atoms.

With the help of Wesleyan’s Scientific Support Services, he’s designed and created two accelerator collision systems in the basement of Exley Science Center. By shooting a laser beam at a series of regular atoms, he can create Rydberg atoms, which escalate the electron’s orbit 10,000 times further than in a regular atom. These giant atoms, with elusive properties, are ideal to study to gain insight into the connection between quantum mechanics and classical physics.

“What I’ve always been interested in is what I learn about an atom or molecule on a fundamental level,” Morgan says from his second floor office in the Exley Science Center. “I want to learn about their structure, their dynamics, and how the size of an atom affects its behavior.”

Over the years the Research Corporation, the Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation have supported his research. On Aug. 15, the NSF awarded a grant of $200,000 for laser research equipment.

Morgan began his career at Wesleyan 33 years ago by studying properties of fast protons colliding with alkaline atoms magnesium, calcium, strontium and barium. In the mid-80s, he began investigating Rydberg atoms in hydrogen and helium. Recently, his research interests include molecular spectroscopy and dynamics of highly excited Rydberg states in strong electric fields and plasma environments. His most recent contributions include studying Rydberg argon dynamics and the first measurement of a scaled-energy recurrence spectrum for molecules.

Morgan says he is among about a hand-full of researchers in the world studying scaled-energy laser-excited atoms in strong electric fields and the first to apply the technique to hydrogen molecules.

“When you’re doing cutting-edge research, it’s not going to be easy,” he says overlooking his self-designed laser-accelerator control panel. “Everything has to be perfect to get the right conditions and results. Doing this type of work requires not only brains, but a lot of patience and good hands.”

Lutz Huwel, chair of the Physics Department and professor of physics, says Morgan’s positive and constructive attitude in the classroom stands out just as much as his love for physics.

“Tom loves physics of all kind ­ above all the Rydberg atoms and molecules he and his dedicated group of students are investigating in his lab,” Huwel says. “He is always on the lookout for interesting things to do and to talk about. He has a knack for getting students excited about physics.”

In October, one of Morgan’s undergraduate students, Jack DiSciacca ’07, will be presenting his research results at a national laser science conference in Rochester, N.Y. DiSciacca is a Goldwater Scholar for the academic year 06-07 and is writing his senior honors thesis on Rydberg hydrogen molecules.

Morgan, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., says his interest in physics came about in high school, when his algebra teacher said he had “quite the ability in math.”

“I perked up at this, because this person thought I was actually good at something. That was my defining moment. It gave me the confidence to pursue math, and later physics,” he says.

He studied math and the sciences at Carroll College in Helena, Mont. and Montana State University, Bozeman and received his Ph.D from the University of California, Berkeley in 1971. His thesis covered the collisional formation and destruction properties of excited hydrogen molecules.

In 1973, after two years at Queen’s University of Belfast, N. Ireland, Morgan came to Wesleyan, and began teaching general physics classes, more advanced classes for majors and graduate level courses. Morgan has published more than 85 articles in leading physics journals. He’s overseen dozens of students pursuing Ph.D degrees and senior honors theses, who often report their findings at national conferences and publish in scientific journals.

Morgan, who also is Wesleyan’s Academic Secretary, served as the Chairman of the Physics Department for five years, and the Dean of the Sciences and Mathematics for three years. He has held several visiting research appointments at other universities, including the University of Paris, France, the University of Colorado, Boulder, the University of Mexico, Mexico City and at Dublin City University, Ireland, where as a Fulbright Senior Scholar he established a physics undergraduate student exchange program with Wesleyan.

“Wesleyan was great when I arrived here, and it’s great now,” Morgan says. “The teaching and research environment is wonderful and my colleagues are superb, but what I really love about Wesleyan is the students. It is the bright students in the classroom and in my lab that have kept me here all these years.”

He is presently a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he is collaborating on research programs devoted to plasma physics. He’s also a fellow of the American Physical Society and the Institute of Physics in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

He’s also a four-time marathon runner, a big New York Yankees fan, and a singer/musician for an Irish Celtic band.

Morgan is one of three in his family to work at Wesleyan. His wife, Janet, retired in 2003 from Information Technology Services, and his son, Brent Morgan, is an instructional media specialist for ITS and the Center for the Arts. But after more than three decades here, Tom has no plans to leave Wesleyan just yet.

“No, I can’t even think about (retirement),” he says, turning the knobs on his laser lab control panel. “I am having too much fun.”
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Tennis Coach Ken Alrutz Brings Experience, Excellence and Passion to Sport


Wesleyan tennis coach Ken Alrutz, right, teaches his son, Graham, a few techniques on the Wesleyan tennis courts Aug. 24.
 
Posted 08/24/06
Q: Ken, you will be entering your third year as the men’s and women’s head tennis coach. What attracted you to Wesleyan?

A: When my wife and I contemplated a move, I decided I wanted to coach both women and men, to work at an academically distinguished school, and to finish my career at a small institution similar to the place where I began my professional life.

Q: What months does the tennis season span? When do you begin NESCAC Championship playoffs?

A: Wesleyan’s tennis season commences the first day of classes in the fall, runs through the New England Women’s Invitational Tournament in late October. It begins again on February 15, and concludes with the NESCAC tournament the final weekend of April. Of course, the NCAA championship tournament takes a month longer, and my teams plan to qualify for that event as well.

Q: Who are your leading student-athletes? Do they play other sports as well?

A: Last season, six first-year women played significant roles on the team that posted an 11-4 record: Rachael Ghorbani ‘09, Ania Preneta ‘09, Madalina Ursu ‘09, Alexandra Sirois ‘09, Emily Fish ‘09 and Lizzie Collector ‘09. They, along with Tori Santoro ’07, who spent last spring in Paris, will form the nucleus of the squad, though I expect important contributions from newcomers Anika Fischer ‘10, Meredith Holmes ‘10, and Casey Simchik ‘10, who will also be a member of the squash team.

Among the starting men returning from the team that went 10-5 are Jack Rooney ‘07, Tallen Todorovich ’07, Michael Frank ‘08, Pauri Pandian ’08, Matthew O’Connell ’09, Alejandro Alvarado ’09, and Paul Gerdes ’09. Joining them and their teammates are two tremendous first years: George Pritzker ’10 and Miles Krieger ’10.

Q: Where were you coaching prior to Wesleyan?

A: Immediately before joining the Wesleyan staff, I served as the head men’s and women’s tennis coach at Miami University-Hamilton for three years, while also acting as a tennis professional at the Riverside Racquet Club in Hamilton, Ohio. I was the head men’s tennis coach at NCAA Division I Miami University in Oxford, Ohio from 1996 to 1999, and began my head coaching career at NCAA Division I Virginia Military Institute from 1987 until 1996.

Q: What were some of your biggest achievements at these schools?

A: At Miami-Hamilton, my women’s and men’s teams won Ohio Regional Campus Conference Championships in 2002 and 2004. I led Miami University in Oxford to the Mid-American Conference men’s title in 1997. My coaching colleagues honored me with the conference’s Coach-of-the-Year Award in 1999, and the Midwest section of the United States Professional Tennis Association, of which I am a certified member, named me Team Coach of the Year a few months later. During the spring of 1990, VMI honored me with the Institute’s Distinguished Coaching Award; in 1992, I received the Southern Conference’s Tennis Coach-of-the-Year Award as well as the Mid-Atlantic Professional Tennis Association’s Collegiate Coach-of-the-Year Award in 1995. I am the first coach of any sport in VMI’s long athletic history to win one hundred contests, and my Division I squads at VMI and Miami saw twelve straight winning seasons.

Q: What is your overall coaching record?

A: My cumulative coaching record stands at 199-116, or 63 percent. More important than anything else, though, all of my teams boast a 100 percent graduation rate.

Q: You received a Distinguished Teaching Award in 1994 from the Virginia Military Institute and Honored Professor Awards from 2000-04 from Miami’s Associated Student Government. What were you teaching?

A: At VMI and Miami, I taught English full time in addition to coaching tennis. While my ostensible specialty is Victorian literature, I especially enjoy offering various courses in prose fiction, including Modern and Contemporary American Novels, Nineteenth-Century British Novel and International Short Fiction. In fact, I earlier taught English at Ripon and Lynchburg Colleges; at the former, I was also a volunteer English professor in the Wisconsin prison system.

Q: Where did you go to college and what are your degrees in?

A: I earned my undergraduate degree in English education at California State College, which I attended on a tennis scholarship, and did my graduate work in English at the University of Pennsylvania. My dissertation subject was the Victorian novelist Charles Kingsley.

Q: For the non-tennis audience, can you what skills are needed to be a tennis player, and can anyone basically do this?

A: Tennis is an attractive spectator and participatory sport for a number of reasons. Playing the game at a high level demands keen hand-eye coordination, fast reflexes, excellent physical conditioning, and the ability to remain calm under pressure. One of the most appealing aspects of tennis for the non-professional is the many levels of the game; that is, no matter players’ ages or ability levels, they can find suitable practice partners or opponents.

Q: Is teaching the sport difficult?

A: I have given thousands of hours of tennis lessons in the past 26 years, and I guarantee that I can teach anyone to have fun with the game. When do you want to do a lesson?

Q: What classes do you teach as an adjunct professor?

A: I teach beginning and intermediate tennis courses here. My students are eager to learn, to improve their skills, so we have a great time.

Q: You have been on the Prince advisory staff for 18 years? What is involved in this?

A: My relationship with Prince has been a very happy one. Throughout the year, Prince sponsors clinics at tournament sites. Many times, I have worked these events with such world-ranked players as Michael Chang, Guillermo Coria, Albert Costa, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Jan-Michael Gambell, Xavier Malisse and Vince Spadea.

Q: Have you coached anyone who went on to be a “famous” tennis star?

A: Quite a few of my collegiate players have broken into the touring professional ranks. I am especially proud of coaching two young men while they played Davis Cup for their countries: Tunisia and the Bahamas. All fans recognize the four major tournaments—The Australian, the French, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open—but Davis Cup, the international team competition for men, and the women’s Federation Cup, strike me as the most significant events of the tennis calendar. Being selected to play for one’s country transcends all other tennis accomplishments.
Q: Do you have any tennis plans for the larger Wesleyan community?   A: Yes. I want to involve as many members of the Wesleyan family in tennis as possible in the coming year. First of all, my teams are dedicating our fall season to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Next, I want to initiate some type of tennis tournament open to everyone at the school. People can pair with varsity team members!  My teams and I will also donate a Saturday of introductory tennis lessons.Finally, my daugher, Rikki, and I want to offer Cardio Tennis classes here. Sponsored by the USTA, this activity combines tennis and fitness.

Q: What are your other interests?

A: I still follow my hometown Pirates and Steelers, though I am more interested in attending athletic contests at Wesleyan and supporting my colleagues’ efforts.
My major hobbies, if that is the correct term, are reading and writing. I am always in the middle of reading a novel or some type of history. Might I recommend such contemporary novels as Ellen Miller’s Like Being Killed, Mary Gaitskill’s Two Girls, Fat and Thin, and Alice McDermott’s Charming Billy. I also have four completed novels of my own in my desk drawer. My students and family continually urge me to publish them. Who knows? That might soon happen.

Q: Tell me about your family. Any young tennis players?

A: My wife, Kellylee, and I will celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary on September 5. She is a classical pianist, a woman of remarkable talents and the person who gives my life meaning. Our daughter, Rikki, attended a university in Paris and is now doing graduate work at Harvard. In addition to being a tremendous teacher and tennis player—she won a major tournament at Forest Hills, the former site of the U.S. Open, last summer—she speaks seven languages and is a professional interpreter. Our 11-year-old son, Graham, lives for art and tennis. He inherited his mother’s artistic ability, and he is an extremely accomplished tennis player, who dreams of playing on the international circuit in a few years.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Department of Religion Welcomes New Assistant Professor


Mary-Jane Rubenstein, assistant professor of religion, will teach Modern Christian Thought and the Problem of Evil during the fall semester.
 
Posted 08/24/06
Mary-Jane Rubenstein has joined the Department of Religion as an assistant professor.

Her primary research interests are continental philosophy and Christian theology. She also focuses on post-colonial Christianities; literary and critical theory; and race, gender and sexuality studies.

Rubenstein comes to Wesleyan from the Department of Religion at Columbia University in New York. There, she taught Contemporary Civilization and co-taught the courses, “Religions in the Modern World” and “Religion and Its Critics.” She was awarded the Core Curriculum Teaching Award in 2006.

Rubenstein received a bachelor of arts in religion and English from Williams College; a master’s degree in philosophical theology from Emmanuel College, Cambridge University; a master’s degree in philosophy of religion and certificate in comparative literature and society from Columbia University; and a Ph.D in philosophy of religion from Columbia. Her dissertation was titled “Wondrous Strange: The Closure of Metaphysics and the Opening of Awe.”

Having studied at a liberal arts college, Rubenstein says she is deeply committed to the kind of learning that takes place at an institution where teaching and scholarship are equally valued.

“At Wesleyan in particular, one gets the feeling that students and faculty consistently encourage one another to maintain a certain intellectual openness, to be ready to be surprised, even amazed, by new possibilities for thought and collaboration,” she says. “I am delighted to be coming to Wesleyan; honestly, I couldn’t have dreamed up a better job.”

Rubenstein is the author of a dozen articles and book reviews, some on the topic of philosophers Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Derrida and negative theology and global Anglicanism. In recent years, her article “The Unbearable Withness of Being: On the Essentialist Blind-Spot of Anti-Ontotheology,” appeared in Theology and the Political, published by Duke University Press, and “An Anglican Crisis of Comparison: Intersections of Race, Gender, and Religious Authority with Particular Reference to the Church of Nigeria,” was published in the Journal of American Academy of Religion.

In the fall, Rubenstein will be teaching two courses, Modern Christian Thought and the Problem of Evil. In the spring, she will teach Introduction to Philosophy of Religion and a course on the death of God. Meanwhile, she is busy settling into her new office in the Department of Religion.

When Rubenstein isn’t teaching, she practices yoga, and enjoys running, singing and exploring second-hand bookshops. She resides in Middletown.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Noah Simring ’07 Dies at Age 21


Posted 08/15/06
Noah Lior Simring, originally a member of Wesleyan’s class of 2007, died recently in New York City, his hometown. He was 21.

Noah, who was on leave from Wesleyan for the past two years, graduated from the Horace Mann School in New York City where he enjoyed fencing. His interests included the sciences, theater, music, wilderness living, animation and rocketry and volunteerism.

He is survived by parents Ruth and James Simring and sister, Mia Simring.

Donations in his memory may be made to the Horace Mann School or Children International.

Field Hockey Coach is Leading by Example


Patricia Klecha-Porter, head women’s field hockey coach, offers her team advice during half-time. She also is the assistant squash coach, and has worked at Wesleyan for more than 20 years.
 
Posted 07/28/06
Q: How were you first introduced to field hockey and squash, and at what age did you begin playing?

A: My older sister was involved in the sport of field hockey. After her practice she would play with me. Organized training began in ninth grade. Squash was introduced to me at Wesleyan under the Head Coach Don Long. He mentored and gave me a solid foundation of skills, strategy and coaching.

Q: At Ithaca College, you were a team captain and MVP in both field hockey and lacrosse. What were your secrets to success?

A: My strongest asset as a captain was the ability to show by example. I was determined to always compete hard every minute of the contest no matter what the score was. Respect the rules, respect your teammate and respect your opponent. Work at what is most productive and difficult for the opponent. I enjoyed communicating, encouraging my teammates to rally, do their best in both field hockey and lacrosse. What remained a constant with all three sports was my reminder that what effort you put into the sport, practice, game, was what you were going to achieve. My teammates knew that.

Q: What did you major in and why did you decide to pursue a career in coaching?

A: At Ithaca College I received a bachelor’s of science in physical education with a minor in psychology. At Springfield College I received a master’s of science in exercise physiology and cardiac rehabilitation. The coaching field had become an extension of my desire to pursue field hockey at the national level. Having the knowledge and training at a high level gave me the opportunity to teach and coach the sport.

Q: You’ve been at Wesleyan 21 years, 15 of which you were head coach of the squash team. What keeps your job interesting?

A: I truly enjoy watching players develop from the beginning of a season to the end, and their long term development, from their freshmen year to their senior year. Each fall, the team must pull together, from the early stages of the game to the end of postseason play. It is what gets them there that I have a passion for. I like to employ new ways of training, set a goal for that team for the season and create practices to make it happen. My gratification comes from observing their talent come together and over all improvement.

Q: What physical education classes do you teach at Wesleyan?

A: I teach Step Aerobics and Advanced Strength Training.

Q: In 1999, you were honored as the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) field hockey coach of the year.

A: I was honored to be selected by my colleagues and to be honored as the Coach of the Year. I do credit the 1999  Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championship team for this recognition. They were a solid team.

Q: As a field hockey coach, you guided the lady Cardinals to their most regular-season victories in team history with 11 in 2005, and have led the team to two ECAC New England Division III titles in 1999 and 2000. What are your other major accomplishments?

A: I was inducted into the Ithaca College Sports Hall of Fame and the New York State Section 5 Hall of Fame. In 2005 I was awarded the Chickie Possion Award for Service in Field Hockey in Connecticut.

Q: When does the field hockey season begin and how do you help prepare the team? What coaching lessons do you stress year after year?

A: Field Hockey season begins Sept. 1. Programs are set up for players to develop their fitness level. When the season begins we strive for players to play their best, work hard no matter what the score is, no matter how much time is on the clock. I stress to the team to be accountable for your actions, respect others, judge the situation and make the best decisions.

Q: You’ve taken your team to Bermuda, Barbados and the Netherlands. What is the advantage of these trips?

A: Tours are a definite perk for a team to develop bonding, friendship and camaraderie. To travel 10-12 days with each other, playing a sport you have a passion for in different countries makes the unknown exciting. Experiencing different customs and different styles of play allows the individual to go out of their comfort zone and accommodate, change and be charged with new ideas. Traveling allows for the students to become sports ambassadors for the U.S. and Wesleyan.

Q: You hold an International Umpiring rating, the highest level for umpires in the game of women’s lacrosse. Where have you umpired?

A: Besides numerous college games and NCAA playoffs here in the states, I have umpired for the International Federation of Women’s Lacrosse Associations World Cup during the summer of 2001 in Wycombe, England, the 2005 World Cup at the Navel Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, and the International Owl tournament in Oshawa, Canada.

Q: What is the Cardinal Field Hockey Camp and what is your role with this camp?

A: The goal is to offer a fundamental clinic that exposes high school players to current techniques and skills of field hockey. The Cardinal Field Hockey Camp is an evening camp for 7-12th grade players. I direct, create the curriculum, manage the coaching staff and I am involved in the daily coaching. The camp has been running for over 10 years.

Q: At Wesleyan, who is your assistant coach?

A: Jen Shea is the field hockey assistant who played at Amherst College. She also is our head softball coach here at Wesleyan.

Q: You have competed at the Olympic Sports Festival.

A: The Olympic Festival was a great experience for me. It was an extensive selection process for athletes who where chosen by performing in the United States Field Hockey Association Developmental camps. I truly enjoyed the level of play and was honored to be selected twice in the 80s. I also had the opportunity to play with my younger sister on those teams.

Q: What are your hobbies and interests aside from sports?

A: I enjoy gardening, exercising, reading and doing home improvements.

Q: Tell me about your family, and do they enjoy sports, too?

A: I have a wonderful husband, Scott, who keeps me well balanced, two sons, Nathan and Andrew, and a daughter, Logan. All are involved with sports and keep me entertained!
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor. Photos by Brian Katten, sports information director.

Students, Alumni Bring Fatal Fire Story to Life through Play


The American Story Project, a theater company comprised of Wesleyan students and alumni, will perform We Can’t Reach You, Hartford at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival held in Edinburgh, Scotland Aug. 7-19.
Posted 07/28/06
In 1944, the Hartford Circus Fire caused more than 150 deaths during an afternoon circus performance. Although the cause of the fire remains officially undetermined, five employees of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus were charged with involuntary manslaughter, and the circus was forced to accept full financial responsibility for the fire that occurred during their show.

This tragic, yet compelling story, will be retold and performed by the American Story Project, a new theater company comprised of Wesleyan students and alumni. The seven-member group will premier We Can’t Reach You, Hartford, a play by Jess Chayes ’07 and Stephen Aubrey ‘06, at the Bedlam Theatre during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival held in Edinburgh, Scotland Aug. 7-19.

Under Chayes’s direction, the audience will witness the story of sad clowns, unlikely heroes and the forgotten tragedy under the big top. Performers include Annie Bodel ’08, Edward Bauer ’08, Elissa Kozlov ’08, Mike James ’07 and Hayley Stokar ’06.

In We Can’t Reach You, Hartford, Bauer plays the role of Emmett Kelly, a sad clown from the Depression-era 1930s who once performed as an actual member of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1942 to 1956. One of the most memorable pictures to emerge from the Hartford Circus Fire depicted Kelly, in full sad clown makeup, attempting to extinguish the flames that had already engulfed the entire circus behind him. Even until his death in 1979, Emmett Kelly never discussed what he saw that day in July.

James plays Meryl Evans, a band director who continued to conduct during the fire until the flames forced his musicians to flee.

“Jess really wanted to make the play a living document without following docudrama rules,” James says. “She and Stephen made something surprising. The play focuses mostly on the disaster’s periphery; it’s an eerie stage poem.”

This will be a second venture to the Fringe Festival for Chayes, James, Stokar and Kozlov. Last year, the American Story Project’s production of Tone Clusters premiered at the Bedlam Theatre and brought critical acclaim. The American Story Project has also performed at venues in Connecticut and New York.

“Each of our plays strives for honest, powerful expression among the more bizarre channels of the human experience,” Chayes says. “Each piece tackles difficult, haunting questions, striving not for answers, but for illumination, insight and a journey into the human condition.”

In 2001, a comprehensive history of the Hartford Circus Fire was published. Novelist Stewart O’Nan, author of “The Circus Fire: the True Story of an American Tragedy,” attended the company’s workshop performance in May. Afterwards, he wrote of the production: “We Can’t Reach You, Hartford re-imagines the tragedy of the Hartford Circus Fire with a strange and compelling immediacy. It’s a weird, nearly overwhelming tale, but director Jess Chayes, writer Stephen Aubrey and the players bring an intimate scale and bracing range to the material. Creepy, funny, touching–it’s a tour de force.”

A benefit performance of We Can’t Reach You, Hartford runs in Manhattan, N.Y., Aug. 2; and in Scarsdale, N.Y. on Aug. 3. For more information visit americanstoryproject.com.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Wesleyan to Host Summer Institute on U.S. Citizenship, Race


Posted 07/28/06
Immigration, race and the history of U.S. citizenship are just a few of the topics that will be discussed during a summer institute presented by the Center for African American Studies for secondary school teachers from Aug. 7-10.

“Race and Membership: A History of United States Citizenship,” has pre-registered more than 20 social studies teachers, most hailing from Connecticut. The four-day institute is open to all secondary school educators (grades six through 12), support staff, curriculum specialists and school librarians.

The institute aims to foster a sustained and in-depth discussion among the participants about how to teach United States history, how to bring many different racial groups into the historical narrative, and how to connect historical issues to contemporary problems in Connecticut’s secondary school curriculum. Last year, the institute focused on the Civil Rights Movement.

Participants will examine some of the most recent scholarship on the history of several different racial groups, including Blacks, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Hispanics. With its focus on the theme of citizenship, the Institute will draw connections between historical debates about what it means to be American, how membership in the nation has been regulated, and contemporary debates about immigration and Native sovereignty rights.

“The summer institutes are so much fun for the Wesleyan faculty,” says Renee Romano, associate professor of History, African American Studies and American Studies and the institute’s director. “The teachers we work with are so dedicated and engaged and they are just a joy to work with.”

The following Wesleyan faculty members are participating in this summer’s institute: Demetrius Eudell, associate professor of History and African American Studies, Gayle Pemberton, professor of English, African American Studies and American Studies, Melanye Price, assistant professor of government, Kehaulani Kauanui, assistant professor of American Studies and Anthropology and Romano.

Besides engaging in activities and discussion with scholars, participants will also be split into four curriculum development groups to translate content into usable classroom lesson plans.

“It’s helpful to meet with teachers from different school districts and to discuss what effective materials and techniques are being used in their classroom,” says institute participant Doris Duggins, an eighth grade teacher of U.S. History at Silas Deane Middle School in Wethersfield, Conn. “The institute affords me the opportunity to absorb information in the hopes of continually improving myself as a teacher.”

Romano says it is particularly important to explore the history of U.S. citizenship laws and practices given the current political debates about immigration, border control, and how the nation should deal with illegal immigrants.

“This institute will ask what it means to be a full member of the state, how the United States government has sought to control, which people can be considered a member of the nation, and how groups that have been excluded from membership or who have faced restrictions on full citizenship rights have fought for inclusion,” Romano says.

“Race and Membership: The History and Politics of United States Citizenship” is funded by Humanities in the Schools, a program of the Connecticut Humanities Council, the We The People initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities and Wesleyan University.

For more information about the Summer Institute, please contact Professor Renee Romano at rromano@wesleyan.edu or 860-685-3579.

 
By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations