Alumni

Alumni news.

Dachs ’98 Receives Sci-Tech Oscar for PIX System

Eric Dachs ’98, founder and CEO of PIX System, accepts a Sci-Tech Oscar for technical achievement. “For over 15 years, serving the talent in this industry has been a profound honor,” he said. “We are humbled and grateful to the academy for recognizing our efforts.” (Photo courtesy of AMPAS)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) honored Eric Dachs ’98, the founder and CEO of PIX System, with a Technical Achievement Award at its Oscars 2019 Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation on Feb. 9, 2019.

Since its creation in 2003, PIX System has become the entertainment industry gold standard in providing secure communication and content management capabilities. Dachs, a theater major while at Wesleyan, designed and coded the initial software early in his career when he was an assistant to sound designer Ren Klyce for Panic Room. It was then that he saw the need for an easy, safe digital platform to share revisions and collaborate across locations.

Accepting the Oscar along with three members of his team—director of R&D Erik Bielefeldt, technical director Craig Wood, and Paul McReynolds—Dachs said, “For over 15 years, serving the exceptional talent in this industry has been a profound honor. We are humbled and grateful to the Academy for recognizing our efforts.” Among those he thanked were clients, as well as the open-source community “whose often unrecognized critical efforts make PIX possible,” and family and friends.

Dachs’s PIX System was used in production of eight Oscar-winning films this year, including A Star Is Born, Black Panther, First Man, Green Book, Roma, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

For Dachs, Wesleyan’s creative liberal arts education was the basis for his achievement in technology and business. A transfer student, he focused on sound design in both film and theater, using analog and the then-new digital equipment.

Student-Led Ventures Win $5,000 Entrepreneurship Seed Grants

Sydney Ochieng ’22, founder of Accessible and Affordable Sanitation for Women (AASW), is one of four recipients to receive a 2019 Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship (PCSE) Seed Grant. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

On March 4, not three, but four student-run ventures received $5,000 seed grants from the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship (PCSE). The unrestricted funding is accompanied with training, advising, mentoring, incubator workspace, and other resources from the Patricelli Center.

On March 1, six finalists pitched for a panel of judges in Allbritton 311.

“As always, the competition was steep, and the judges had a tough time selecting grantees,” said Makaela Kingsley ’98, director of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship. “In fact, this year they decided to make a special donation to the Patricelli Center so we could offer four grants instead of the usual three.”

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. Forbes: “Three Questions to Ask Yourself at the Beginning of Your Career”

Sharon Belden Castonguay, director of the Gordon Career Center, offers career advice for young people just starting out.

2. The Times Literary Supplement: “Multiple Lives”

Hirsh Sawhney, assistant professor of English, coordinator of South Asian studies, explores the “complicated existence” of Mahatma Gandhi.

3. The Washington Post: “The Delight of Being Inconspicuous in a World That’s Always Watching Us”

President Michael Roth reviews a new book, How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency, by Akiko Busch.

Yannatta ’91: Opium Moon Wins Grammy on Her Be Why Music Label

Grammy Celebration: Julie Yannatta ’91 (left), founder and CEO of Be Why Music, with Opium Moon (l. to r.: M.B. Gordy, Lili Haydn, Itai Disraeli, Hamid Saeidi), whose debut album, Opium Moon, won a Grammy for Best New Age Album in 2018. (Photo courtesy Julie Yannatta ’91)

When Opium Moon won the Grammy Award for the Best New Age Album this year, “Thank you, Julie Yannatta…” were the first words from singer/violinist Lili Haydn’s lips once she reached the stage.

Yannatta ’91 is founder and owner of Be Why Music, the label that released the self-titled debut album by the eclectic band—Lili Haydn on violin/voice, Hamid Saeidi on santoor (Persian hammered dulcimer) and voice, M.B. Gordy on ancient percussion, and Itai Disraeli on fretless bass. Their haunting music draws from each member’s cultural traditions: Iran, Israel, Canada, and the United States.

Yannatta, with a career path as eclectic as the roots of this music—a lawyer and musician who moved back to the States from Finland in 2005—calls the variety in her pursuits “the gift of my Wesleyan education: my absolute fearlessness to do whatever it is I’m inclined or excited to do.”

Arevalo Mateus PhD ’13 Named Lead Scholar for NY State Archives Documentation Plan

Jorge Arévalo Mateus

Jorge Arévalo Mateus earned a PhD in ethnomusicology from Wesleyan in 2013.

Jorge Arévalo Mateus PhD ’13 is a lead scholar on a developing plan for The New York State Archives. The plan will focus on the collection and preservation of, as well as accessibility to, records involving under-documented topics and communities.

Arévalo Mateus will guide the research process of the project, which will include surveys on collections and communities and regional meetings across the state. The project is one of the Documentary Heritage and Preservation Services for New York (DHPSNY), a statewide program that supports a network of library and archival repositories that contain New York’s historical records and is in conversation with other collecting institutions in the state.

Connecticut Magazine Names Alicia Hernandez Strong ’18 in “40 Under 40”

Alicia Hernandez Strong ’18, a leader and community activist in her hometown of New Britain, was named one of Connecticut Magazine‘s “40 under 40.” (Photo courtesy of Alicia Strong)

Connecticut Magazine included Alicia Hernandez Strong ’18 in its 2019 list of “40 Under 40,” recognizing her leadership in community activism. “With her firm convictions, Strong lives up to her name,” the magazine wrote.

“I am honored to be included in Connecticut’s ’40 Under 40′ Class of 2019. It is truly a testament to my hard work and dedication,” Strong said.

At 21 years old, Strong became the youngest person nationally to be given the title of executive director of the Connecticut chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), where she worked for less than a year before leaving to pursue goals outside of educating the general public about Islam. After leaving the council, Strong started a social media marketing firm in New Britain to help small businesses.

Strong will soon begin graduate school at the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University.

Wesleyan to Expand Hamilton Prize for Creativity

Wesleyan has announced that it will expand opportunities for incoming students under its Hamilton Prize for Creativity, which was established in the 2016–17 academic year in honor of Wesleyan alumni Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15 (writer/creator/original star) and Thomas Kail ’99 (director) of the international phenomenon, Hamilton: An American Musical.

Over the past two years, more than a thousand students have submitted stories, poetry, songs, plays, and screenplays for consideration. A distinguished selection committee of Wesleyan alumni in the arts, headed by honorary chairs Miranda and Kail, reviewed submissions and chose one winner each year to receive a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to attend Wesleyan. Read about past winners here and here.

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. The New York Times: “Anthony Braxton Composes Together Past, Present and Future”

Anthony Braxton, the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, Emeritus, is profiled. Among other ongoing projects, Braxton has spent much of the past four years working on his newest opera, “Trillium L,” which, he says, “is a five-day opera”—if it is ever performed.

2. Los Angeles Review of Books: “That Bit of Philosophy in All of Us”

Tushar Irani, associate professor of philosophy, associate professor of letters, is interviewed about his book, Plato on the Value of Philosophy: The Art of Argument in the Gorgias and Phaedrus.

3. The Guardian“The Blake-Wadsworth Gallery of Reborn Dolls”

This original short story by Amy Bloom, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing and professor of the practice, English, follows a woman coping with her elderly mother’s memory loss.

Scott ’76 Reflects: On Being Black and Female in Late 1970s TV Journalism

From her home in California, Adrienne Scott ’76 shares stories of her early days in journalism, breaking the gender and color barriers in New England television news.

The Wesleyan magazine issue on the future of journalism (2018, issue 2) prompted Adrienne Scott ’76 to write a letter to the editor, recalling a high point in her early career in journalism: when legendary boxing champion Muhammad Ali granted her an exclusive interview. Scott, who had been a columnist for The Wesleyan Argus as an undergraduate, as well as a student of University Editor Jack Paton ’49, P’75, was at that time a young journalist and the first African American full-time news reporter at WPRI-TV in Providence, R.I.

The Connection reached out to Scott to continue the conversation that began with her letter, asking for her perspective on journalism in the late 1970s.

Q: When did you first become interested in journalism?

A: In the late ’60s and early ’70s, before I left the Bronx High School of Science, I remember thinking that the public affairs reporters and interviewers with panel shows were fascinating. I even called in to radio shows with comments; I was interested in the world and there were some pretty big issues to discuss.

Q: How did you come to start your journalism career in Providence?

A: My aunt in East Providence offered to have me live with her while I picked up some stronger typing skills before heading back to New York City for a job in publishing.

Another aunt was deputy director of the Rhode Island Urban League, so I assisted her in writing and broadcasting Black News, a 15-minute public service radio show. Then I was offered a half-hour show through the Urban League connection on WPRI-TV, the ABC affiliate.

Southwest Airlines Founder Kelleher ’53, Hon. ’90, Remembered for Reshaping Industry

The Southwest Airlines site featured a photo of their founder, Herb Kelleher '53, Hon. 90, saluting in their farewell message honoring the company's founder.

The Southwest Airlines site featured a photo of their founder, Herb Kelleher ’53, Hon. 90, saluting, above their farewell message honoring his longtime service and inspirational leadership.

“Herb Kelleher, who turned conventional airline industry wisdom on its head by combining low fares with high standards of customer service to build Southwest Airlines into one of the nation’s most successful and admired companies, died on Thursday. He was 87,” wrote Glenn Rifkin in The New York Times.

An English major who graduated from Wesleyan in 1953, Kelleher also earned a bachelor of laws from NYU in 1956, and a little more than a decade later he founded Southwest Airlines, a small Texas commercial aviation company. With a larger-than-life personality—he notably settled a dispute over the company’s name by challenging his competitor to arm wrestle for the rights—he was appointed CEO in 1981. It was a position he held until 2006, when he became chairman emeritus. Wesleyan had conferred an honorary doctorate of laws on Kelleher at the 1990 Commencement ceremonies.

On the Southwest Airlines site, a statement from Gary Kelly, chairman and CEO, remembers Kelleher as “a lifelong mentor and friend” whose “stamp on the airline industry and all those he touched has been profound…. He inspired people; he motivated people; he challenged people—and, he kept us laughing all the way. He was an exceptionally gifted man with an enormous heart and love for people—all people. We have been beyond blessed to have him as a part of our lives.”

An editorial in the Dallas News notes:

Kelleher possessed a humanizing frankness and spontaneity that most business executives would dismiss as needless vulnerability. But he brought personality with a purpose to the job and religiously won the loyalty of employees and air passengers in a way few executives ever have. Who else except Kelleher would have had the temerity to begin testimony before a national aviation review commission by saying:

‘I co-founded Southwest Airlines in 1967. Because I am unable to perform competently any meaningful function at Southwest, our 25,000 employees let me be CEO. That is one among many reasons why I love the people of Southwest Airlines.’

Rifkin’s New York Times article offers both a detailed chronology of Kelleher’s career, as well as insight into the maverick leader behind the company that democratized air travel. You can read his article here.

For more information, read this interview with Kelleher that appeared in the fall 1994 issue of Wesleyan.

Additionally, National Public Radio remembered Kelleher, republishing an interview Kelleher did with NPR correspondent Guy Raz for his “How I Built This” series, with this note: “We are grateful Herb shared his story with us in 2016. We are republishing it as a tribute to his life and career, in which he transformed the US airline industry.”

Alumni, Family Members Gather for Hamilton Performance in Hartford

On Dec. 18, approximately 100 Wesleyan alumni and family members as well as staff gathered at The Bushnell in Hartford to celebrate the Connecticut debut of Hamilton: An American Musical, the Tony Award-winning musical created by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 and directed by Thomas Kail ’99. Hamilton is currently touring the U.S., with a run at the Bushnell Dec. 11-30, 2018.

Photos from the event are below: (Photos by Rich Marinelli)

Attendees also enjoyed a reception before the performance at the Maxwell M. and Ruth R. Belding Theater.

Attendees also enjoyed a reception before the performance at the Maxwell M. and Ruth R. Belding Theater.

Jack Mitchell '61 gave a toast to Barbara-Jan Wilson, special advisor to the president, who in December retired as long-time vice president for University Relations.

Jack Mitchell ’61, GP’16, gave a toast to Barbara-Jan Wilson, special advisor to the president, who in December retired as long-time vice president for University Relations.

New Book by Film Historian Arnold ’91: Christmas in the Movies

Jeremy Arnold ’91 on set at Turner Classic Movie channel, discussing his newest book, Christmas in the Movies: 30 Classics to Celebrate the Season (Turner Classic Movies and Running Press, 2018).

Newsday writer Rafer Guzmán quotes Jeremy Arnold ’91, a film historian, commentator, and author, in his roundup of new movies and old favorites for this time of year in his article “More Christmas Movies Than Ever This Holiday Season.”

Arnold, the author of Christmas in the Movies (Running Press, 2018) a Turner Classic Movies book, points out that “The new big-screen films are not only competing with Hallmark and Lifetime but all the previous feature films that are available on home video.”

A film studies major as an undergraduate, Arnold also answers Guzmán’s question of what constitutes a film of this genre: “‘I would say a successful Christmas movie is when Christmas plays a meaningful role in the story,’ Arnold says. ‘That encompasses many things—not just joy and love, but also loneliness and alienation, commercialism and dysfunction. You could do dramas or comedies about any of those things.’”

(Photos courtesy of Jeremy Arnold)

With the 30 classics listed chronologically, beginning with Miracle on Main Street (1939) through Elf and Love Actually (both 2003), the book invites nostalgia and offers film buffs plenty of stills from favorite scenes, as well as commentary along with little-known facts—for example, how director Bob Clark cast Peter Billingsley as Ralphie in A Christmas Story (page 145).

This was the second book that Arnold wrote for TCM, following The Essentials, published in 2016. He also appeared on TCM as a guest host in early December to present four films included in his newest book and discuss their place in the Hollywood tradition of Christmas movies.