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Category Archive for 'Alumni News'

Kenneth Kimmell ’82 will join the Union of Concerned Scientists as president in May. After graduating with a BA from Wesleyan, Kimmell received his JD from UCLA. His decision to become an environmental attorney was prompted by an experience assisting a United State District Court judge on a case in which the government misused science. He was a director and senior attorney at a law firm in Boston before joining the administration of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. As General Counsel of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Kimmell wrote and helped pass five groundbreaking environmental and energy laws. In 2011 he became the head of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the position he will leave to join the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Kenneth Kimmell ’82

Kenneth Kimmell ’82 will join UCS as president in May.

The Union of Concerned Scientists began as a collaboration between faculty and students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is now an alliance of more than 400,000 citizens and scientists who “combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.”

“We are pleased and excited to have Ken Kimmell on our team,” said Kathleen Rest, the executive director of the UCS. “He brings a wealth of experience, a deep passion for our issues, and a strong commitment to science-based policy and decision-making. He is a strong, strategic and energetic leader, and we couldn’t be happier with this appointment.”

Kimmell said, “Becoming the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists is the opportunity of a lifetime. UCS is a nationally recognized, mission-oriented group with a stellar staff and the credibility and resources to make a difference on the defining issues of our generation. It’s an honor and a privilege to join such a prestigious organization, and I look forward to working with the UCS board, staff and members to be even more visible and effective in addressing the difficult challenges ahead.”

For more information about the USC, visit their website.


Paul Tractenberg ’60

Paul Tractenberg ’60

The Institute on Education Law and Policy (IELP), an interdisciplinary research project at Rutgers University-Newark that director Paul Tractenberg ’60 established in 2000, has produced two major reports [see one and two] on school segregation in New Jersey in collaboration with The Civil Rights Project at UCLA. “The findings were sobering, even for a state that has long been home to some of the most segregated schools in the country,” wrote Tractenberg for NJ Spotlight.

Tractenberg, who is also the Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor and Alfred C. Clapp Distinguished Public Service Professor of Law at Rutgers School of Law-Newark, recently published Courting Justice: 10 New Jersey Cases That Shook the Nation (Rutgers University Press, 2013) which he edited, as well as authored two chapters. He discussed these cases on New Jersey Capital Report with Steve Adubato and Rafael Pi Roman. Adubato, who calls the book “provocative and fascinating,” brings up Tractenberg’s case number 10, Robinson v. Cahill, which declared that New Jersey’s school funding statute was unconstitutional because it violated the “thorough and efficient education” requirement of the state constitution. Tractenberg explains the genesis of the lawsuit:

“At the level of funding… urban kids were not getting a fair shake; they were not getting as much as advantaged suburban kids. … There was fundamentally unfair and unequal in taking the children with the greatest educational needs and giving them less resources, older buildings, weaker curricula…It was an effort to address a lot of things through funding.” [See it here: Tractenberg comes in at 9:40.]

A history major at Wesleyan, Tractenberg earned his J.D. from the University of Michigan and has been on the faculty at Rutgers Law School since 1973. He is spending his sabbatical year working on a comparative study of public education reform processes in Ontario, Israel and Finland, where he was appointed as a visiting professorial scholar at the law and education schools of the University of Toronto, Tel Aviv and Haifa Universities and University of Helsinki, respectively.

Robert S. Feldman ’70

Robert Feldman ’70

Robert Feldman ’70 was appointed deputy chancellor of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst by Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy. In this new role, Feldman, currently dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, will coordinate and facilitate campus-wide quality enhancement efforts, collaborating across campus areas including Academic Affairs, Student Affairs and Administration and Finance. He will also oversee implementation of campus-level strategic plan initiatives, as well as oversee administration of the Chancellor’s Office, including portfolios such as the Equal Opportunity and Diversity.

Subbaswamy praised Feldman, saying that he “brings to this position a wealth of skills and experience as an administrator, a nationally recognized researcher and an acclaimed teacher who has a deep knowledge of our campus.” Additionally, he said, “His insight and ability to lead a team will be extremely valuable as we continue to strengthen our university and demonstrate its importance as the Commonwealth’s flagship campus.”

Feldman noted that UMass-Amherst was “an extraordinary community” and that he “welcome[d] this opportunity to make a new contribution in this leadership role.”

Feldman, a professor of psychology, has served as dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Science since 2012; previously he was interim dean since 2009. He is a recipient of the College Distinguished Teacher Award, a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science, winner of a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar and Lecturer Award, and recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Wesleyan University.

President of the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences Foundation, which advocates for the social sciences, his research interests include deception and honesty in everyday life, work that he described in The Liar in Your Life, a trade book published in 2009. He is also the author of Understanding Psychology, now in its 12th edition and published by McGraw-Hill, and he serves on the board of New England Public Radio.

Feldman received his BA degree from Wesleyan University, graduating with high honors, and he earned his MS and PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Wesleyan alumni Bill Rodgers '70 (second from left with dark glasses) and Amby Burfoot '68 (second from the right), pictured in this 1967 men's cross country team photo, will reunite April 6 for a half marathon. The team's former coach, Elmer Swanson, is pictured looking over Burfoot's shoulder. Jeff Galloway '67 also will run the race.

Wesleyan alumni Bill Rodgers ’70 (third from left) and Amby Burfoot ’68 (second from right), pictured in this 1967 men’s cross country team photo, will reunite April 6 for a half marathon. The team’s former coach, Elmer Swanson, is pictured looking over Burfoot’s shoulder. Jeff Galloway ’67 also will run the race.

When Jeff Galloway ’67, Amby Burfoot ’68 and Bill Rodgers ’70 ready for the start of the Harvard Pilgrim Middletown Half Marathon Sunday, April 6 near Main Street, it will be a reunion of titanic proportions. The three haven’t been seen together since running as Cardinals 47 years ago.

“This might be the first time the three of us have been together since Wesleyan,” Rodgers said.

The trio of Galloway, Burfoot and Rodgers has given Wesleyan tremendous presence in the running world. Burfoot, as a Wesleyan senior, became the first collegian in the then 72-year history of the Boston Marathon, to win the event on April 19, 1968. He skipped a Wesleyan-UConn meet that day to make history in Beantown.  Consistently active in road races throughout his career, Burfoot has left quite a footprint in the field through his editorial involvement with Runner’s World magazine.

Rodgers, who roomed with Burfoot during the 1967-68 year and helped him train for Boston, went on to become the world’s top ranked marathoner for much of the mid- to late-1970s, winning both the Boston and New York marathons four times over the span. Over his career as a competitive road racer, Rodgers competed in 59 marathons, winning 22. He runs the Bill Rodgers Running Center in Boston.

Galloway has gone on to great fame as a writer and clinician in the world of running and was a member of the U.S. Olympic squad in 1972 alongside Frank Shorter in the 10k event. Both he and Rodgers identify Shorter as a major influence in their early post-Wesleyan running days. Rodgers qualifies him as a prime rival in the road racing circuit throughout the heydey of his career. Galloway had the chance to train at Yale during the winter as an undergraduate and was paired with Shorter.  The two were charter members of the Florida Track Club in 1970.

All three are quick to praise Wesleyan and their former head track and cross-country coach Elmer Swanson for helping shape their illustrious careers.

“What I remember most vividly about Wesleyan,” said Burfoot via email, “is the university’s incredibly tolerant, accepting ethos – that all manner of diversity was encouraged and endorsed.” He qualified some of his characteristics both as a runner and student as weird, but “astonishingly, I didn’t feel that weird as there we plenty of other wonderful weirdos at Wesleyan.  I felt very lucky to be a member of such a community.”

“Wesleyan in the 1960s offered a laid-back environment that inspired the pursuit of excellence for those who wanted this,” Galloway said.  “During my four years I adjusted my expectations in academics, running and life.  Elmer Swanson let us set our own training programs.  We didn’t feel the pressure that many of our friends experienced.”

“Coach Swanson was a unique kind of coach,” Rodgers echoed. “He didn’t have that win-at-all-costs attitude.  He just wanted us to do our best.  He helped us avoid injuries while following our own path.  It allowed us to have the careers we have today.  And most of all, it was fun!”

On April 6, the three will be looking for another fun time together in Middletown.

Laura Fraser '82

Laura Fraser ’82

Laura Fraser ’82, who majored in American studies, has cofounded and launched Shebooks, an e-publishing site dedicated to producing short e-books by and for women. The site went live in January, and it features exclusive memoirs, fiction and journalism by established authors like Hope Edelman, Marion Winik, Faith Adiele, Jessica Anya Blau and Suzanne Paola. Some contributing Wesleyan authors include Jennifer Finney Boylan ’80, who wrote an original novella for Shebooks and is on its advisory board, Virginia Pye ’82, who wrote an original novella, stories by Bonnie Friedman ’79 and some essays by Fraser herself.

All works, ranging from long articles to short books, are designed to be read in under two hours. They’re available on all major e-readers and soon by subscription directly from the shebooks.net site. Individually, each title costs $2.99.

“Women writers are looking for new outlets for their most personal work, and women readers crave great reads that fit into their busy lives,” said Laura Fraser, in a press release. “We are thrilled by the variety and quality of our first titles.”

Fraser’s own bestselling 2001 book, An Italian Affair, documented her post-divorce getaway to Italy and the romantic rendezvous that followed. Her more recent title, All Over the Map, continues the tale in Oaxaca, Mexico, where Fraser visited to celebrate her 40th birthday and reflect on her past experiences.

Any women writer can submit her own shebook for consideration, but be warned that it’s a carefully curated collection and a very selective process.

“Our main criteria for publication is that the writing is really good, and of interest to women,” reads the text on Shebooks’ submission page. “If you haven’t published anything elsewhere, it’s unlikely that we will be interested in your work, but not impossible. It all depends on how compelling your story is—whether we MUST keep reading.”

Tsampikos Kottos and Hamidreza Ramezani Ph.D. ’13.

Tsampikos Kottos and Hamidreza Ramezani Ph.D. ’13.

Hamidreza (Hamid) Ramezani Ph.D. ’13, recently won the Biruni Graduate Student Research Award. The award aims to promote and recognize outstanding research by a physics graduate student of Iranian heritage who is currently studying in one of the institutions of higher education in the United States, seeking originality, thoroughness, a teamwork spirit and ownership among the candidates. The honor comes with a cash award.

Before graduating with his Ph.D. from Wesleyan in November, Ramezani studied cosmology and gravitational physics while earning his master’s degree at the University of Tehran. He completed his bachelor study in solid state physics at Sahed University.

At Wesleyan, his mentor was Tsampikos Kottos, Douglas J. and Midge Bowen Bennet Associate Professor of Physics. Ramezani worked in the Wave Transport in Complex Systems lab and studied ways a macroscopic object is miniaturized. The lab’s objective is “to close the gap between the microscopic and macroscopic worlds and to develop models and theories that will help understand the interplay between quantum mechanics, interactions, and disorder, which dictate the dynamics on the mesoscopic scale.” More information on the lab and its research can be found on this website. Ramezani focused more specifically on the fundamental properties and application of complex optical systems with judicious balanced gain and loss.

Currently, Ramezani is a postdoctoral research assistant under Professor Xiang Zhang at the University of California – Berkeley. His interests are asymmetric transport phenomena in complex electronics, acoustics and photonics systems.

Max Perel-Slater ’11

Max Perel-Slater ’11

Max Perel-Slater ’11 has won an Advancing Leaders Fellowship from World Learning for the Tanzania-based project, The Maji Safi Movement (“maji safi” means “clean water” in Swahili; see majisafimovement.org).

Maji Safi is focused on disease prevention and health promotion and particularly aimed at empowering rural communities in their efforts to combat water-borne and water-related diseases. The Movement encompasses both a local NGO and a US-based 501(c)3; Perel-Slater is president and co-founder of the U.S. arm and treasurer of the Tanzania-based organization. He has worked on water projects in Shirati, Tanzania, since 2009, when he led the construction of a rainwater catchment system.

A College of the Environment (COE) major at Wesleyan, Perel-Slater studied abroad in Tanzania with World Learning’s School for International Training, dedicated to international development and exchange programs. He also completed a graduate-level field course in hydrogeology at Clemson University. While in Tanzania, he researched Shirati’s water challenges for his senior capstone project with the COE. In 2011, he worked in Nairobi’s Kibera slum with Shining Hope for Communities, a nonprofit organization founded by Kennedy Odede ’12 and Jessica Posner Odede ’09; there, Perel-Slater coordinated a water sanitation project and co-led their summer program for students from US universities.

Additionally, this summer Perel-Slater was named an associate fellow of the College of the Environment, noted Barry Chernoff, COE director and the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies at Wesleyan. The fellowship acknowledges both the formative and continuing relationship between Perel-Slater’s work and the COE: Wesleyan undergraduates in the College now serve as interns with Maji Safi in Shirati, and Perel-Slater returns episodically to campus to meet with COE students and faculty.

“Max is an inspiration to our COE undergraduates and alumni alike,” said Chernoff, who is also professor of biology, professor and chair of the environmental studies program, professor of earth and environmental sciences. “He has put his education—and idealism—to practical use in the world in an incredible way. We are so proud of him.”

Shola Olatoye ’96

Shola Olatoye ’96

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently appointed Shola Olatoye ’96 as chairwoman of the New York City Housing Authority. Olatoye’s last position was vice president at Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit organization that advocates affordable housing nationally.

The previous head of the authority was John Rhea ’87. The mayor made the announcement at the Abraham Lincoln Houses in Harlem, a complex of 1,282 apartments in which de Blasio and other Democratic candidates spent a night during the mayoral campaign in order to get a firsthand look at the “moldy walls and broken cabinets” that constitute the disrepair of public housing buildings in New York City.

The New York Times points out that Olatoye faces taking over an authority that covers more than 400,000 residents “as the city’s largest landlord.”

Olatoye and three others were appointed to their leadership positions as part of de Blasio’s plan to expand New York City’s affordable housing stock. Denise Miranda, who works for the Urban Justice Center, which takes legal action for tenants of public housing, says that “Mayor de Blasio and Ms. Olatoye have their work cut out for them,” according to the New York Times article.

Clifton B. “Kip” Anderson ’71

Clifton B. “Kip” Anderson ’71

Clifton B. “Kip” Anderson ’71 has written a full-length poetry book, Mortal Soup and the Blue Yonder, published by White Violet Press in 2013. Anderson was a gardener with the PBS show “The Victory Garden” for over 20 years and only began writing poetry in 2003, at the age of 54. He e-published an e-chapbook, A Walk in the Dark, with The New Formalist Press in 2007. This new work is the first poetry collection he’s published using ink and paper.

Anderson’s poems are strongly influenced by the world of fertility and natural growth, but they are not simply an ode to nature — they’re an examination into the more difficult issues and questions that arise in life. His style draws from New Formalism, a movement exemplified by metrical and rhymed verses that evoke classic forms of poetry. The New Formalism movement, generally speaking, is a response to the anything-goes aesthetic that governs (or doesn’t govern) much modern poetry.

Anderson was a music major at Wesleyan. On the back cover of the book, his future plans are said to include “a severe reduction of his poetic output and a concomitant increase in his noetic input.”

Mortal Soup and the Blue Yonder

Book by Clifton B. “Kip” Anderson ’71



From Mortal Soup and the Blue Yonder:



Where woods and hayfield meet
beyond the fenced-in yard:
Our picnic ground, replete
with bone, chipped stone and shard.
Some ancient village dwelt
on this recycled place
Where recently we knelt
and said our table grace.

Peri Smilow '82

Peri Smilow ’82

Peri Smilow ’82, a College of Letters graduate, will be honored at the Association of Reform Zionists of America’s (ARZA) 36th Anniversary Gala on April 5 at Central Synagogue in New York City.

Known internationally as one of the bright lights in contemporary Jewish music, Smilow will be recognized for her ability to elicit a sense of spirituality and social action in her audiences, drawing on a wealth of personal and professional experiences.

As a composer, Smilow’s music is sung in worship, in youth group settings and at Jewish summer camps throughout the country. As a recording and touring artist, her music has been enjoyed in the U.S., Canada, England, Singapore and Israel. She is perhaps best known for her groundbreaking cross-cultural work with blacks and Jews through The Freedom Music Project. This project brings together African-American and Jewish singers to explore their shared histories of slavery through the music of Passover and the Civil Rights Movement.

Recently audiences are also enjoying Smilow’s new one-woman cabaret act featuring the music of the Jewish American Songbook.

Smilow’s work as a contemporary Jewish musician is influenced by her previous work as a non-profit entrepreneur, developing and launching new organizations that meet the educational needs of inner-city youth during afterschool hours. She also has been influenced by her time living and working in Israel and by her graduate study in education at Harvard University.

She lives in South Orange, N.J. with her husband and daughter.

ARZA, The Reform Israel Fund, is the Israeli voice of the Reform movement in the United States, and seeks to make Israel fundamental to the sacred lives and Jewish identities of Reform Jews. ARZA champions and supports activities that help build an inclusive and democratic Israeli society. This year’s ARZA Gala celebrates 36 years since the founding of ARZA. The theme “honoring our past, securing our future” is reflected in the selection of three honorees representing three generations of Reform Zionists who have made a difference both here and in Israel.

Jeffrey Richards '69

Jeffrey Richards ’69

The ever-busy Jeffrey Richards ’69 is the co-producer of a new musical The Bridges of Madison County, based on the hugely popular novel by Robert James Waller, which opened at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Broadway on February 20. The musical stars acclaimed actors Kelli O’Hara (Nice Work If You Can Get It, South Pacific) and Steven Pasquale (Rescue Me) with a score by Tony Award winner Jason Robert Brown (The Last Five Years, Parade), a book by Pulitzer Prize winner Marsha Norman (The Secret Garden, ‘Night, Mother), and direction by Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher (South Pacific, The Light in the Piazza).

Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale in The Bridges of Madison Country musical on Broadway. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale in The Bridges of Madison Country musical on Broadway. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

The musical focuses on a four-day love affair between an itinerant National Geographic photographer and an Italian-American housewife, whose husband and children are away at a state fair, in 1965 Iowa. The highly romantic and often transcendent score allows the O’Hara and Pasquale to shine, particularly in two of their memorable duets, “Falling Into You” and “One Second and a Million Miles.” Sher’s deft direction avoids sentimentality but touches on the expression of loneliness and need for deeper connection by the characters.

The Bridges of Madison Country opened to generally positive reviews with praise for the leading actors’ performances and the songs.

Jesse Green in his New York Magazine review wrote that the show is “a very serious musical indeed, both rapturous and moral, with a gorgeous score by Jason Robert Brown. It is also one of the few recent Broadway shows to take up the challenge laid down by the great midcentury works of Rodgers and Hammerstein and their cohort: to tell stories that weld important sociological upheavals to personal conflicts and somehow make them sing.”

In Time Out New York, Adam Feldman wrote: “The musical’s emotion is unapologetically grand, and its love duets have a wide, old-fashioned scope. Directed with spare precision by Bartlett Sher—reunited with his most of his South Pacific design team—it’s a new work that plays like a classic. … The night, however, belongs to its stars. Singing mostly in her luxurious upper register, O’Hara sounds ravishing, and she and Pasquale—in the performance of his career—generate that rarest of Broadway commodities: a genuine spark of erotic heat.”

For tickets, go to Telecharge.com or call 212-239-6200.

This Broadway season, Jeffrey Richards also is the co-producer of recent revival The Glass Menagerie, which just finished its successful Broadway run, recouping its investment; and the upcoming Broadway productions of two new plays, All the Way, starring Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) as President Lyndon B. Johnson (currently in previews, opens  March 6 at the Neil Simon Theatre), and The Realistic Joneses by Will Eno, an insightful comedy-drama about friends and neighbors, with Emmy Award winner Toni Collette, Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under), Tony Award winner Tracy Letts, and Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei (previews begin March 13, opens April 6 at the Lyceum Theatre), as well as Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, a play with music by Lanie Robertson, starring five-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald as the legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday (previews begin March 25, opening April 13 at Circle in the Square Theatre). Richards also co-produced the Tony Award-winning revival of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, which is currently on a national tour.

Talia Bernstein '11 is pictured at right.

Talia Bernstein ’11 is pictured at right in the “Rally” episode.

Talia Bernstein ’11 made a walk-on in a scene set at Wesleyan during the episode of How I Met Your Mother titled “Rally” which aired Monday, Feb. 24. Bernstein is the all-time leading hitter in Wesleyan softball history with 192 career hits and the career RBI leader with 114. She works on the production staff of the show and was picked to walk across the scene in her Wesleyan softball sweatshirt while characters Marshall and Lily Eriksen were dropping their son off at Wesleyan in the year 2030.

How I Met Your Mother is in its ninth and final season on CBS and was created by Wesleyan grads Carter Bays ’97 and Craig Thomas ’97. Its main characters Ted Mosby, Marshall Eriksen and Lily Eriksen are all Wesleyan graduates on the show.

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