Alumni

Alumni news.

Holtzberg ’79 Honored by American Folklore Society

Past prize winner Maida Owens (left) and AFS President Dorothy Noyes present Maggie Holtzberg (center) with the 2018 Benjamin A. Botkin Prize at the Annual Meeting of the American Folklore Society in Buffalo, New York. Photo credit: Meredith A. McGriff.

Past prizewinner Maida Owens (left) and AFS President Dorothy Noyes present Maggie Holtzberg (center) with the 2018 Benjamin A. Botkin Prize at the Annual Meeting of the American Folklore Society in Buffalo, New York. Photo credit: Meredith A. McGriff.

At its recent annual meeting in Buffalo, N.Y., the American Folklore Society (AFS) named prominent American folklorist Maggie Holtzberg ’79 of Boston, Mass., as the 2018 recipient of its prestigious Benjamin A. Botkin Prize.

The Botkin Prize is given each year by the American Folklore Society and its Public Programs Section in the name of Benjamin A. Botkin (1901–1975) to recognize lifetime achievement in public folklore. Botkin—eminent New Deal–era folklorist, national folklore editor of the Federal Writers’ Project in 1938–1939, advocate for the public responsibilities of folklorists, author and compiler of many publications on American folklore for general audiences, and head of the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress 1942–1945—has had a major impact on the field of public folklore and on the public understanding of folklore.

In its report, the 2018 Botkin Prize Committee praised the outstanding contribution of this year’s awardee, noting: “Maggie Holtzberg has surveyed, documented, and promoted public understanding of the traditional arts and heritage in three states.

Clark ’99, Bleeker ’07: Bully Pulpit Markets for a Better World

Andrew Bleeker ’07 (right) and Ben Clark ’99 were back on campus in March, hosting an employer information session at the Gordon Career Center to talk about their career paths and Bully Pulpit Interactive.(Photo by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

Andrew Bleeker ’07 (right) and Ben Clark ’99 were back on campus in March, hosting an employer information session at the Gordon Career Center to talk about their career paths and Bully Pulpit Interactive. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

(By Bill Holder)
When a progressive marketing and communications agency that has major Democratic organizations as clients—and ran the digital marketing operations for Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton—decides to expand into the corporate world, one company you might not expect to be on the list is McDonald’s.

Yes, that’s the purveyor of hamburgers founded by the famously conservative Ray Kroc. But times change, and when McDonald’s wanted to tell the world about its new practices to improve environmental sustainability, the company turned to Bully Pulpit Interactive and founding partners Andrew Bleeker ’07 and Ben Clark ’99.

In doing so, McDonald’s selected a youthful firm known for its strength in digital communications. Bully Pulpit looks for a blend of Madison Avenue creative, Silicon Valley tech, and Inside-the-Beltway politics.

Kahindi ’18 Awarded Rhodes Scholarship

Claudia Kahindi '18, second from right, was awarded the 2019 Rhodes Scholarship for Kenya. From left, Elizabeth Kiss, warden of the Rhodes Trust, Sheila M'mbijjewe, Rhodes Selector, Kahindi, and Nic Hailey, the British High Commissioner to Kenya.

Claudia Kahindi ’18, second from right, was awarded the 2019 Rhodes Scholarship for Kenya. From left, Elizabeth Kiss, warden of the Rhodes Trust, Sheila M’mbijjewe, Rhodes Selector, Kahindi, and Nic Hailey, the British High Commissioner to Kenya.

Claudia Kahindi ’18 is a recipient of the 2019 Rhodes Scholarship for Kenya. Established in 1903, the Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest, and one of the most prestigious, international scholarship programs in the world. It offers about 100 fully funded scholarships each year to students around the world for post-graduate study at the University of Oxford in the UK. Recipients are selected based on their “outstanding intellect and character” as well as their motivation to “engage with global challenges,” serve others, and become “value-driven, principled leaders for the world’s future.”

“For me, receiving the Rhodes Scholarship means that even the most disadvantaged person can achieve their ultimate vision through immense hard work, persistence, and support from other people,” said Kahindi, who is originally from Kilifi, Kenya. She attended Wesleyan with assistance from the Kenya Scholar-Athlete Project (KenSAP) and graduated with honors in the College of Social Studies as well as a minor in African studies.

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. Inside Higher Ed: “Voting Is Good, but Higher Ed Must Do More”

In this op-ed, President Michael S. Roth writes: “In a year when inducements to political violence have become normalized at the highest level, colleges and universities must do more than just encourage our students to vote.” It is crucial that colleges actively work to protect free expression, free inquiry, and fact-based discussion, Roth argues.

Bergstein ’88, Frosh ’68, Lesser ’10, Martin ’99, Rose ’08 Enjoy Election Success

Alumni who have met with success in the midterm elections include:

  • Democrat Alex Bergstein ’88, who won a Connecticut State Senate race;
  • Democrat Brian Frosh ’68, who won re-election as Maryland Attorney general;
  • Democrat Matt Lesser ’10, who prevailed in Connecticut’s State Senate race for the 9th district, which includes Middletown;
  • Democrat Amy Martin ’99 is judge-elect for the Texas District Court 263; and
  • Democrat Max Rose ’08, who won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from New York’s 11th Congressional District.

An article in the Greenwich Time quoted Bergstein, post-victory, as saying, “‘I am elated. I am humbled. I am grateful and I am so ready to serve.’ … Calling herself a ‘different kind of Democrat,’ Bergstein said she would work outside of Hartford’s two-party system.”

A News 12 story noted that Bergstein’s win was historic because “A Democrat has not represented Greenwich and New Canaan in the state Senate for 88 years.”

Stein ’08 Wins 2018 Marine Corps Marathon

Stein '08 wins Marine Corps Marathon

D.C. Public Defender Jeffrey Stein ’08 won the 2018 Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 28 with an official time of 2:22:49. (Photo courtesy Jeff Stein)

Jeffrey Stein ’08 had only one thing on his mind when he registered for the 43rd Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.—redemption.

After a wrong turn off-course a quarter mile into the race in 2017 landed him an 8th place finish and a trip to the hospital for heat stroke, Stein registered for the 2018 race with one overriding goal: “to reclaim a little bit of dignity.” He achieved his goal and more, surging ahead in the last 2 miles to finish first with an official time of 2 hours 22 minutes 49 seconds.

Artist Melissa Stern ’80 on Strange Girls as a State of Being

Artist Melissa Stern ’80 and her piece, ‘Wig Shop,’ that appears in her latest exhibition, Strange Girls, now at the Garvey|Simon Gallery in New York City through Nov. 11. “All the people in my work and in my head are triumphant,” she says.

In this Q&A, we speak to artist Melissa Stern ’80, whose latest exhibition, Strange Girls, is open at the Garvey Simon Gallery in New York City Oct. 11–Nov. 11. Stern double-majored in anthropology and studio art at Wesleyan, and earned her MFA in ceramics from SUNY New Paltz. In Strange Girls, Stern uses media such as assemblage, ceramics, painting, drawings, and collage to explore girlhood as a state of being and state of mind.

Q: You have been exhibiting your art since the ’80s, and Strange Girls is your ninth solo show in New York. How is this exhibition a continuation of your past work, and how is it a departure?

A: I think that an artists’ work is like handwriting, if you look hard enough you will always recognize who they are from the work. If you look at my work from college on, maybe younger, you would always know it’s mine. Obviously, it’s changed. Hopefully it’s gotten better, more skillful, more developed, richer, but it is always a continuation of what’s going on in my head, what my cares and concerns are.

My interest in storytelling and narratives, none of that has fundamentally changed. This show is called Strange Girls, but, as I say in my artist statement, boys can be strange. It’s a show about the feeling of being on the outside. It’s about feelings that both genders have of trying to fit into the expectations of your gender, and the expectations of society. It’s about feeling like an outsider. It’s certainly more female-oriented because I’m a girl. My memories are of all of those things that you grow up with when you’re female, both positive and negative. The show encompasses a lot of ideas that I’ve always been interested in—identity, storytelling, and memory. I’m really interested in the stories that people have to tell. And the fact that my work can elicit a response, whether it be a story or a memory, a smile or a knowing laugh from someone is wonderful. This desire for connection is pretty fundamental to why I make things.

Bobkoff ’05 Explores Cultural History of ‘Household Name’ Brands in New Podcast

Dan Bobkoff '05 is the executive producer and host of the Household Name podcast from Business Insider.

Dan Bobkoff ’05 is the host and executive producer of the Household Name podcast from Business Insider.

Dan Bobkoff ’05 believes that, for better or worse, much of American life is lived through brands.

“Whether you like iPhones or Androids is almost like a religious affiliation,” he says. “Or you might have had a poignant family moment at McDonald’s.”

This is the lens through which Bobkoff explores brands in his new podcast, Household Name, from Business Insider. Bobkoff launched the podcast in July, and will produce and host 36 episodes over the course of the year. Its tagline—“Brands you know, stories you don’t”—captures the cultural history and surprising stories of unintended consequences that are featured in each episode about brands such as Pizza Hut, TGI Fridays, and Blockbuster.

“This is not a show for Wall Street traders. It’s a show for people who like stories and want to think about how we live,” he says.

6 Alumni Inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame

Six Wesleyan alumni were inducted into the 2018 Athletics Hall of Fame class on Oct. 19 during Homecoming festivities. The ninth class features James Carrier ’42, Philip Rockwell ’65, Allison Palmer ’95, Jed Hoyer ’96, Flo Stueck ’96, and Herb Kenny.

Wesleyan’s Athletics Hall of Fame (HOF), both online and on campus, is filled with entertaining and enlightening accounts of Cardinals past. It features exciting stories of accomplishment, character, perseverance, courage, loyalty, teamwork, and generosity. The HOF was founded in 2006 through the collaborative work of the Athletics Advisory Council, the Athletic Department, and the Office of University Relations and is on display in the Warren Street lobby of the Freeman Athletic Center.

Photos of the recipients are below. View the entire AHOF photo gallery online here. (Photos by Richard Marinelli)

Levi ’90 Creates Meaning and Connection through “SLO” Architecture

Levi-designed Hangout space

Alex Levi ’90 designed the Vita Sports “Hangout” space using unexpected materials in functional design pieces that also reflect the organization’s mission.

There’s a certain sense of effortlessness that Alex Levi ’90 remembers from his rowing days at Wesleyan—that feeling of being perfectly in sync and in so doing achieving something better and greater than any individual effort could reach alone.

That feeling came back to inspire Levi in a recent project, designing a collective office space that serves as the administrative hub for four sports-based youth development (SBYD) nonprofits in New York City.

The 10,000-square-foot open workspace in the middle of Manhattan’s Garment District is home to the offices of VitaSports Partners, the collective umbrella under which Row New York (rowing), Play Rugby (rugby), I Challenge Myself (cycling and fitness), and Beat the Streets (wrestling) come together to share administrative resources and a common mission expressed in their tagline: Elevating humanity through sports.

Levi and his design partner and spouse, Amanda Schachter, were tasked with creating a practical space that could appropriately serve the needs of all four groups while also evoking a sense of fun, light, and airiness so that the groups didn’t feel crowded—all within the constraints of a typically anemic nonprofit budget. It was a challenge perfectly suited to Levi’s unique architectural process and his commitment to social outreach, sustainability, and meaningful design.

Sousa ’03 Produces, Directs Native America Documentary for PBS

Clockwise from top left: Alan Hunt prepares to become a Kwakwaka'wakw Hereditary Chief; Potlatch cedar carving; Onondaga tribal member Angela Ferguson; Comanche tribal members Philip Bread and Jhane Myers. Credit: Providence Pictures

Joseph Sousa ’03 is the producer and director of a documentary titled “Native America.” Pictured are stills from the show. Clockwise from top left: Alan Hunt prepares to become a Kwakwaka’wakw Hereditary Chief; a Potlatch cedar carving; Onondaga tribal member Angela Ferguson; Comanche tribal members Philip Bread and Jhane Myers. (Photo courtesy of Providence Pictures)

A four-part documentary directed by Joseph Sousa ’03 will be released on Oct. 23 on PBS.

Native America, produced by Providence Pictures, weaves history and science with living indigenous traditions. The series travels through 15,000 years to showcase massive cities, unique systems of science, art, and writing, and 100 million people connected by social networks and spiritual beliefs spanning two continents.

Joseph Sousa '03

Joseph Sousa ’03 is a producer, director, and nonfiction writer of television, commercial content, and independent documentaries.

Sousa and his fellow producers and film crew were provided access to Native American communities, going behind the scenes at special events, including a pilgrimage to ancestral ruins at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, a trek across lost territories in the American West, and an investiture ceremony for a chief in the Pacific Northwest, surrounded by cedar totem poles and centuries of tradition. Tribal members and descendant communities, whose ancestors built this world, share their stories, revealing long-held oral traditions as the thread that runs through the past to these living cultures today.

6 Wesleyan Alumni Named to Top Nonprofit Leaders List

Muzzy Rosenblatt ’87; David Jones ’70; Phoebe Boyer ’89; Sharon Greenberger ’88, P’19; David Rivel ’83; and Alan Mucatel ’84 were recently honored for their contributions to social services and nonprofit organizations in New York with their inclusion in “The 2018 Nonprofit Power 50,” representing a strong showing by Wesleyan alumni in the 50-person list. The list was produced by City & State New York, a self-described nonpartisan media organization that covers New York’s local and state politics and policy.

“…The nonprofit and philanthropic sectors tend to go unnoticed and are all too often unheralded,” the publication wrote. “But behind them is a roster of figures who are ensuring the delivery of services, exploring innovative solutions and influencing public policy. In this special feature, we recognize 50 top nonprofit leaders who are key players in the world of New York politics and government.”

The six alumni biographies are excerpted below: (More information on their achievements is described on the City & State New York’s website.)

  • Muzzy Rosenblatt ’87
    • “For nearly two decades, the former first deputy commissioner of the New York City Department of Homeless Services has expanded the organization’s services, which now reach more than 10,000 New Yorkers annually.”