Alumni

Alumni news.

“You Just Have to Read This…” Books by Wesleyan Authors Goodman ’06, Thoms MAT’62, and Blake ’78

In this continuing series, Annie Roach ’22, an English and Italian studies major from Middletown, Del., reviews alumni books and offers a selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

The Shame coverMakenna Goodman ’06, The Shame (Milkweed, 2020)

In a letter to her children that she writes in case of an untimely death, Makenna Goodman’s protagonist Alma muses, “My great fear, which has kept me up nights for years, is that you will have to live without a mother when you need one the most.” This sentiment does not stop her from abruptly escaping her rustic Vermont home one night and leaving behind her young children and professor husband in pursuit of a life in New York City. As Alma’s identity crisis unfurls throughout her road trip to Brooklyn, she gradually reveals to the reader the circumstances of her departure in hushed, urgent prose.

The development of the narrative mirrors the progression of a long drive: at times the story feels electrifying and precipitous, at other times dreamlike and ponderous. Goodman manages to create a character who is desperate, imaginative, and lost, evoking an image of motherhood that is Elena Ferrante-adjacent in its subtle rage and self-doubt. Goodman’s novel also ties issues of the female consciousness to overlying sociopolitical systems and modern-day capitalism, making her work revolutionary in the world of female-authored literature. The Shame feels ultra-relevant in its interrogation of the contemporary female psyche and the pressures of marriage, motherhood, and career.

Films, Shows by Ristov ’21, Heliczer ’93, Stone ’05 and Stone ’05, Okun ’22, Zosherafatain ’10 Released, Screened at Festivals

calling fatherA film directed by Leon Ristov ’21 was selected to be screened on demand during the Sarajevo Film Festival Aug. 14–21. The 12-minute piece, titled I’m Calling Your Father, is among only 10 films selected for the festival’s TeenArena program.

The film tells the story of Damjan, a 16-year-old who gets jumped by neighborhood hooligans. Damjan’s hard-headed mother comes up with a plan to protect him.

Ristov’s film was supported through a Gordon Career Center Summer Grant. Rent the film online here.

invisiblefatherA film directed by Thérèse Heliczer ’93 will make its world debut at the New Haven Documentary Film Festival Aug. 22–23. Titled The Invisible Father, the feature-length documentary focuses on beat poet and experimental filmmaker Piero Heliczer, who helped shape “new American cinema” in the 1960s.

Through interviews with family and friends, found photos, and archival footage, Thérèse Heliczer explores her father’s artistic legacy and the creative life of a man she never knew.

Tickets are available online here.

stone and stone '06A web series created by twin comedians Todd ’05 and Adam Stone ’05 (also known as Stone and Stone) was accepted into the Chain Film Festival and The Big Apple Film Festival in New York City Aug. 18-31.

The show, titled Going Both Ways, features Adam, who recently married and had a child, and Todd, who recently came out as gay. Going Both Ways explores their two worlds–of new parenthood and new sexual identification–and the joys, challenges, and humor that come with both lifestyles.

Watch episodes online here.

cookie cutterA screenplay excerpt by Stephanie Okun ’22 is featured as part of the virtual Irvington Arts Incubator Series this month.

Cookie Cutter follows Debbie, a 40-something who recently left a fulfilling, flourishing career in journalism to take care of her children and now must navigate the consequences of that choice. Debbie got married straight out of college, but she’s a different woman now.

Okun wrote the play last semester at Wesleyan while taking the Advanced Playwriting course taught by Assistant Professor of the Practice in Theater Edwin Sanchez. Sanchez narrates the film, and Alex O’Shea ’19, Bryce Jenkins ‘21, and six others act in the play.

trans in trumpIn addition, Tony Zosherafatain ’10 is the director of a forthcoming documentary series called Trans in Trumpland.

Trans in Trumpland investigates the impact of anti-trans policies on the lives of four transgender Americans navigating life under President Donald Trump’s administration. Told through a road trip narrative across remote parts of the United States, the film explores the transgender experience in politically hostile states.

Production was completed in 2019, and the film will premiere on streaming platforms next fall.

Zosherafatain is the co-founder of TransWave Films, a New York City-based production company.

The series was recently featured in Variety and on NBC News after signing actress Trace Lysette as an executive producer. The film also received coverage in The Daily Beast.

Documents by Hamilton, Washington Explored during “Hidden Treasures” WESeminar

hidden treasures

On Aug. 18, Wesleyan faculty, staff, and alumni gathered via Zoom to present a WESeminar titled “Hidden Treasures.” Pictured, from top, left, is H. Richard Dietrich III ’92, president of the Dietrich American Foundation; Molly McGonigle, assistant director of alumni and parent relations; and Demetrius Eudell, professor of history and dean of Wesleyan’s Social Sciences Division. Pictured from bottom, left, is Suzy Taraba, director of Special Collections and Archives, and Morrie Heckscher ’62, curator emeritus of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Taraba served as the event’s moderator.

On Aug. 18, Wesleyan faculty, staff, and alumni presented a WESeminar titled “Hidden Treasures.”

The seminar focused on the holdings of the Dietrich American Foundation on long-term loan at Wesleyan, which includes letters, writings, and manuscripts by Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington, among others. All documents are available to Wesleyan students and faculty through Wesleyan’s Special Collections and Archives.

“One of the hallmarks of the experience of studying at a liberal arts college is the opportunity to interact directly with material objects of the past—documents, rare books, artworks, cultural objects—in ways that are often only reserved for graduate students and faculty at other institutions,” said the event’s moderator Suzy Taraba, director of Special Collections and Archives.

Guest speakers included H. Richard Dietrich III ’92, president of the Dietrich American Foundation; Morrie Heckscher ’62, curator emeritus of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Demetrius Eudell, professor of history and dean of Wesleyan’s Social Sciences Division. Richard Dietrich’s father, H. Richard Dietrich II ’60, was the founder of the Dietrich American Foundation and initiated the loan to Wesleyan.

The WESeminar concluded with a Q&A session with participants.

View of Wesleyan University, Middletown, 1830s sperm whale tooth, engraved. Points to his love of Wesleyan , collecting at a young age.

Richard Dietrich ’92 spoke about this engraved sperm whale tooth, which depicts a scene of Wesleyan University in the 1830s. The object is part of the Dietrich American Foundation collection.

Dietrich shared a letter written in 1796 by Alexander Hamilton to Connecticut Delegate Jeremiah Wadsworth. The letter urges Wadsworth to rally against Thomas Jefferson.

banner music

Dietrich also showcased the collection’s copy of Francis Scott Key’s sheet music for the “Star Spangled Banner” written in 1815. It is among only four known copies to exist in the country and is housed at Wesleyan. “It’s visually appealing and in great shape for something this old,” Dietrich said.

Demetrius Eudell showed examples of Dietrich Foundation documents that he's used in teaching seminars on war and race relations. This 1796 document written and signed by George Washington and James McHenry titled "Talk of the President of the United States, to His Beloved Men of the Cherokee Nation" "provides a really interesting insight into George Washington's relations to indigenous peoples," Eudell said. 

Demetrius Eudell showed examples of Dietrich Foundation documents that he’s used while teaching seminars. This 1796 document written and signed by George Washington and James McHenry titled Talk of the President of the United States, to His Beloved Men of the Cherokee Nation “provides a really interesting insight into George Washington’s relations to Indigenous peoples,” Eudell said.

diary

Eudell explained how he worked with undergraduates to transcribe an unpublished diary of Grace Growden Galloway, a notable Revolutionary War-era Philadelphia woman. The diary is dated May 4 to Aug. 31, 1780.

Morrie Heckscher '62, a lifelong friend of Richard Dietrich Sr, and collection board member, talked about Wesleyan's Davison Art Center and how his former Wesleyan professors Sam Green and Heinrich Schwartz inspired him to pursue a career at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Morrie Heckscher ’62, a lifelong friend of Richard Dietrich Sr., and collection board member, talked about Wesleyan’s Davison Art Center and how his former Wesleyan professors Sam Green and Heinrich Schwarz inspired him to pursue a career at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Bergmann ’76 Designs Monumental Women Statue for Central Park

Bergmann

Artist Meredith Bergmann ’76 sculpted a Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument, pictured here as a clay model, that will be debuted to the public on Aug. 26. (Photo by Michael Bergmann)

In honor of the centennial anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, when women won the right to vote, New York City will welcome a Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument to its grounds on Aug. 26.

Designed and sculpted by nationally-known artist Meredith Bergmann ’76, the statue depicts and honors women’s rights pioneers Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Meredith Bergmann '76

Meredith Bergmann ’76

The statue will be located in Central Park and will be the first statue depicting real women in the park’s 166-year history. Currently, there are 23 statues of real men in Central Park; women are “represented” through fictional characters like Alice in Wonderland, Mother Goose, and Juliet (with Romeo).

“Like the women I’m portraying, my work is meant to raise questions and to provoke thought,” Bergmann said. “My hope is that all people, but especially young people, will be inspired by this image of women of different races, different religious backgrounds, and different economic statuses working together to change the world.”

Bergmann, who also created the Boston Women’s Memorial and the September 11th Memorial at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, depicts the women working together at a table, each representing an essential element of activism: Sojourner Truth is speaking, Susan B. Anthony is organizing, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton is writing.

Harun ’20 Receives Governor’s Innovation Fellowship

Eunes Harun '20

Eunes Harun ’20

On July 20, recent alumnus Eunes Harun ’20 was chosen to join the first cohort of the Governor’s Innovation Fellowship (CTGIF) team.

CTGIF offers ambitious, high-achieving recent college graduates the opportunity to work at top, innovative companies developing their career while working together as a community of fellows, growing together professionally and personally to create a cohort of talent, camaraderie, and growth in the State of Connecticut. The fellowship comes with a $5,000 award.

Harun, a government and economics double major, will be joining McKinsey & Company in Stamford, Conn., as a business analyst and will be participating in the CTGIF program simultaneously. As a fellow, he will gain access to mentorship, curated professional development, and a community of similarly-driven peers.

“I’m most looking forward to the opportunity to dive right into the greater Stamford community and build connections with business leaders,” Harun said.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Harun’s start date with McKinsey has been pushed back to December, though the CTGIF programming will begin in August.

For Harun, staying in the State of Connecticut following college was a top priority.

“I’ve grown up all my life in Hamden, Conn., and after going through the Hamden public school system, I was on the college search and it was a priority of mine to study in a state that would open the door to many career opportunities. I realized that Connecticut and Wesleyan would provide exactly that,” he said. “Over the last few years, I’ve come to love Connecticut and the community, opportunities, and climate it affords its residents.”

Artist Gittes ’10 Donates 1,800 Paintings to NYC Hospital Staff

Los Angeles artist Michael Gittes wanted to show his appreciation for frontline health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic, so he created paintings for every single person working at Interfaith Medical Center in New York.

Los Angeles artist Michael Gittes ’10 wanted to show his appreciation for frontline health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic, so he created paintings for all employees working at Interfaith Medical Center in New York. (Image courtesy of NBC Nightly News)

Gittes

Gittes holds up a sampling of the “Strangers to No One” project.

On July 26, Los Angeles artist Michael Gittes ’10 was featured on NBC Nightly News in a “There’s Good News Tonight” segment.

For an entire month, Gittes worked on a project titled “Strangers to No One,” which involved painting 1,800 flowers. He donated the works to every employee at the Interfaith Medical Center in New York City, a nonprofit community hospital, to show his appreciation for frontline health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

“If you love somebody, you give them a flower,” Gittes said in the interview.

Donning a Wesleyan University sweatshirt on the show, Gittes demonstrated how he painted the flowers using a syringe as opposed to a paint brush.

“I … felt powerless and frustrated,” Gittes said. “I can’t paint one for everyone and everywhere, but I could paint one for everyone at one hospital.”

Gershberg ’95 Plays Key Role in Reuters’s Pandemic Coverage

Michele Gershberg '95

Michele Gershberg ’95

With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States in February, and as doctors and scientists intensified their search for ways to stymie the virus, it quickly became clear to Michele Gershberg ’95 that her already challenging job was about to get even more complicated.

As the U.S. health editor for the Reuters news agency, Gershberg leads a team of eight reporters covering health and scientific innovation, as well as the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. “It runs the whole gamut,” Gershberg said. “We are part of a larger global team of health and pharma industry reporters, with reporters in London, Paris, Zurich, and Beijing, so we really work together very closely to try to tell the global story.”

Price ’20 Featured in #20for20Grads Campaign

On June 19, Anthony Price ’20, a government and American studies double major, was featured in Complete College America’s #20for20Grads Campaign. CCA selected outstanding graduates from around the country who come from diverse backgrounds—from first-generation college students to parents, returning adults, and more.

During his time at Wesleyan, Price was the recipient of a 2020 Fulbright award and a Campus Compact Newman Civic Fellowship, and served as a Congressional Black Caucus Intern in Washington, D.C. He’s also the founder and executive director of Be The Change Venture, a Cleveland, Ohio-based nonprofit that teaches young people networking skills to support their career development. In the future, Price plans to earn a law degree, work for the Department of Education, and eventually run for office.

price 2020

anthony price '20

 

Williams ’20 Raises Funds to Deliver Care Packages to Congregate Care Settings

follow me home

A Follow Me Home volunteer delivers a care package.

Despite the effects the COVID-19 pandemic had on much of the population, a recent alumnus’ addiction and wellness recovery program continues to offer essential services and compassion for local residents in need.

Patricelli Center Fellow and Posse Veteran Scholar Lance Williams ’20 created his program, Follow Me Home, in 2017. Based at the Trinity Episcopal Church in nearby Portland, Conn., Follow Me Home partners with local mental health care providers, recovery treatment facilities, and other community-based organizations to provide Follow Me Home Fellows with the infrastructure to build their social networks and recovery capital.

“As [the state reopens], there are many who are still suffering from the mental health fall-out from this natural disaster,” Williams wrote in a recent Engage blog.

On June 1, Williams celebrated Follow Me Home’s first GoFundMe campaign, which raised more than $1,100 and afforded the delivery of a weekly care package to more than 60 congregate care settings. Working in partnership with Gilead Community Services, the organizations prepare packages of baked goods and crafts for the deliveries.

Lance Williams '20

Lance Williams ’20

“More than a simple act of compassion, these care packages have allowed Gilead’s clinicians and case management teams to safely engage with community members and clients to provide more in-depth services after their main outpatient offices were forced to close,” Williams said.

Follow Me Home is now launching a second GoFundMe campaign to continue the expansion of care package deliveries throughout Connecticut over the next month.

“Our new goal of $2,400 will provide us with the opportunity to continue supporting the care package delivery services and human-centered case management throughout the south-central Connecticut region—a region whose congregate care settings have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic,” Williams said.

Alumni of Color Help Wesleyan Plot a Path ‘Toward an Anti-Racist Community’

The recent death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man killed while being forcibly detained by police, has ignited the United States and brought issues of inequality and violence against black people to the forefront of the national consciousness.

Alison Williams ’81, vice president for equity and inclusion/Title IX officer, and Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 hosted a panel discussion on Thursday, June 11, titled “Toward an Anti-Racist Community,” featuring six alumni of color who discussed how to move beyond the pain and trauma of the current cultural moment toward constructive action.

“What I hope is that this will be the beginning of many conversations that lead to transformation both at Wesleyan and beyond,” Williams said. “This requires that we first take a look at our own attitudes and biases and do some personal work. . . . Until we do the personal work, any structural or institutional changes that we implement will be meaningless.”

“We feel confused, angry,” President Roth said during his panel introduction. “Sometimes energized, sometimes full of despair. When I have that mixture of feelings, I turn to friends and colleagues . . . I want to listen.”

Podcasts by Magruder ’17, Smith ’92, Trufelman ’13 Receive Webby Honors

Three Wesleyan alumnae are the producers of podcasts that recently received 2020 Webby Award honors. The Webby Awards is the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet.

daily breath podcastJulie Magruder ’17 was one of the co-producers and David Shadrack Smith ’92 is the executive producer of Daily Breath with Deepak Chopra, which won a Webby Award in the Health and Wellness category.

In Daily Breath, listeners expand their minds by exploring impactful ideas and themes. According to the show’s description, “Together we will delve into topics such as happiness, gratitude, love, sex, the true self, physical well-being, death and more. This is a space to build mindfulness into your daily routine and to end your week peacefully with a complete 10-minute meditation every Friday. Join us and BREATHE . . .”

Magruder also produced Deepak Chopra’s Infinite Potential (2019). In the 17-episode podcast, Chopra speaks with Jane Goodall, Russell Brand, Christopher Wylie, Jean Houston, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and others who have paved new paths for understanding our present and future.

She’s currently producer of HISTORY This Week (2020). This Week “turns back the clock to meet the people, visit the places, and witness the moments that led us to where we are today. Every week, the show magnifies something that happened that very week in history, that we should all know about,” Magruder explained.

nice tryA podcast hosted and produced by Avery Trufelman ’13 was named a 2020 Webby Award Nominee in the Arts and Culture category.

Nice Try! (2019) is a nine-episode podcast that explores stories of people who tried to design a better world—and what happens when those designs don’t go according to plan. Season one, Utopian, is about the quest for the perfect place.

Trufelman is also the producer of two other podcasts: 99% Invisible (2020) and Articles of Interest (2019).

Read more about Trufleman in this Wesleyan Magazine article.

Established in 1996 during the web’s infancy, the Webby Awards are presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS)—a judging body of more than 2,000. The Academy is comprised of executive members—leading internet experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries, and creative celebrities—and associate members who are former Webby winners, nominees, and other internet professionals.