Adweek named Michele A. Roberts ’77, executive director—and first female leader—of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), to its “30 Most Powerful Women in Sports” list, which features outstanding executives, athletes and journalists, among others.
Tag Archive for alumni business
by Cynthia Rockwell •
Laura Walker ’79, P’21, president and CEO of New York Public Radio, was named to Crain’s Most Powerful Women list for 2017.
“Presiding over the largest public radio station group in the U.S., Laura Walker reaches 26 million listeners every month through the eight stations in her WNYC portfolio,” Crain’s Matthew Flamm wrote. “Dependent on grants and listener contributions—Walker has grown revenue by 68% over the past decade—WNYC has the freedom to explore sensitive issues on air and on demand.”
by Cynthia Rockwell •
On June 12, Bowery Residents’ Committee (BRC), one of New York City’s largest providers of housing and services for homeless adults, honored longtime BRC board member Richard Swanson ’77 at the organization’s seventh annual gala. Swanson, a trustee of BRC, is managing director and the general counsel of York Capital Management, as well as a member of the firm’s executive, operating and valuation committees.
On the BRC website, Swanson explains his decision to join the board as his effort “to be able to give something back to the City of New York, which has treated me so well over my legal career.… We all have a responsibility to our fellow citizens who are less fortunate than ourselves.”
by Cynthia Rockwell •
This March, Jon Berk ’72 began selling off his collection of comicbooks and comic art. It is no ordinary collection: The Jon Berk Art and Comic Collection, as it is known, consists of more than 18,000 items that span the history of comics in America. And it is no ordinary sale—ComicConnect is handing the sale, with the auction preview at the Metropolis Gallery in New York City until June 2nd, with online auctions offered in five sessions from June 12 though 16.
Asked how he began collecting comics, Berk notes that “collecting” is much different from “reading and acquiring,” which is what he did as a boy, buying DC comics from the local five-and-dime, He also notes his preference for “comicbook” as one word, much as one would write “notebook” or “casebook.”
Away at Hotchkiss for boarding school, Berk got interested in Marvel comics—new characters he’d never heard of, with stories that left the reader dangling until the next issue—from the boys who lived on the second floor of his dorm. His Wesleyan years followed, then law school at Boston University, and somewhere along the way, his parents jettisoned those childhood boxes of comicbooks.
During a law school summer in Boston, Berk saw “one of those old spinner-racks of comics”—with Spiderman books, his favorite. “They still make these?” he thought. There in the back pages, he saw an ad for collectors—an opportunity to buy vintage comicbooks. “They sell old comicbooks?” He was hooked and became a student of the genre—of the major publishing houses, the artists and their superheroes, and the social and cultural forces that shaped the stories that unfolded in those colorful pages.
He began with the urge to collect a complete set of the Marvel Comics Silver Age, in the early 1960s. “That would be the Fantastic Four, Thor, Captain American, the Hulk,” he says. “And once I collected those, I saw, that someone had a Human Torch, a comicbook from the 1940s, by Timely.
“Then I discovered Golden Age books, and even Pre-Golden Age—that was before Superman came out in June of 1938, when forces coalesced and we were given a superhero universe not known before this time.
“It opened up a whole new world for me; I was very interested in tracking down the early publishers like Everett Arnold and Harry Chesler,” he explains. “I’d always been interested in where did things come from? Where did things start? So I got into those Superheroes and looked for their predecessors. I was interested in the history of this American mythology.”
Now, however, “I just feel the timing is right to sell them,” said Berk, 67, an attorney with Gordon, Muir and Foley. “I’ve had fun, I’ve met great people, I have no regrets.”
In this new stage, divesting himself of this collection, not only is he getting reconnecting with many people he had met earlier, he is offering a whole new level of excitement to those who continue in the hobby.
Cofounders and owners of the Metropolis Comics, speak on the importance of the Berk Collection (“It’s funny to hear myself addressed in the third person,” notes Berk”) in a video.
Stephen Fischler, co-founder and CEO of Metropolis Comics says: “Jon’s collection is particularly special because of the appreciation that he had for what he was putting together. He wasn’t looking for collecting the newest trend and the hottest books. He was a sort of visionary and a comic historian who wanted to put together the history of comic books. He had a broad selection; he had super hero books, he had science fiction books, he had things that appealed to him and things that he loved.”
Vincent Zurzola, co-founder and CPP of Metropolis Comics, notes, “Between the comic books and the art, this is one of the best collections ever assembled. What makes the Jon Berk Collection so unique… is that it has incredible depth to it. To give you an idea—we had to process this to put it into our database, and often, when we entered a book, it was he first one we’ve ever had. Metropolis Collectibles has been the largest buyer of vintage comics in the world for over 30-40 years—so we’ve had pretty much everything. When I’m seeing, ‘Does not exist in database’ over and over again…I know we have a very, very special collection. It was incredibly educational and mind-boggling to see books that I’ve never seen before.”
“I’m selling off 99.5 percent of my collection,” says Berk, whose keys hang out of his pocket on a Spiderman keychain. “But there’s always that .5 percent. Maybe everyone will see those some time in the future.”
Note: To see a video of Jon Berk ’72 discussing his collection, click here.
by Cynthia Rockwell •
On May 23, Michael Bay ’86 added his hand- and footprints to the cement outside the iconic TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, signifying his status as a film icon. Bay’s 1995 debut film, Bad Boys, was only the first of Bay’s blockbusters, which include Armageddon and The Rock as well as five “Transformers” movies, with an upcoming release of Transformers: The Last Knight slated for June 21.
A film major at Wesleyan whose senior project, My Brother Benjamin, won the Frank Capra prize for best film when he graduated, Bay recalled for Variety that it was at this theater, when he was seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark at age 15, that he decided he wanted to become a director. He had had a part-time job at filing storyboards for Raiders at Lucasfilm, and he had come to the conclusion that it would be terrible. But when he saw the movie, the transformation from concept to screen captured his imagination.
Bay’s excitement about film and talent for it were clear to Jeanine Basinger, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies and founder and curator of the Wesleyan Cinema Archives, when he arrived on campus in 1982 and showed her some of his photographic work. She told Variety, “I was actually quite taken aback that it was the work of a high school kid because it was dynamic, had great compositions and angles, showed a real control and mastery, but the work had life and energy in it.” Basinger became his advisor.
At Wesleyan he also started collaborating with Brad Fuller ’87—now co-founder of Platinum Dunes with partners Bay and Andrew Form in 2001. With Platinum Dunes, Bay has been involved in producing a series smaller-budget hits, as well as television shows and an upcoming Amazon series, Jack Ryan.
Fuller recalled his college connection with Bay for Variety: “All I can tell you is I sat next to the right guy in film class,” he says. “I knew that guy was going to be successful; he just saw things in a way that other people didn’t.”
Basinger concurs. “Michael has consistently, over a long period of time, proved himself as a filmmaker who can get it done and whose films appeal so much they make huge amounts of money,” she told Variety. Bay added: “It’s a great industry, but it can be very cynical…So people need to remember it’s a really, really, really fun job. And I love, love, love doing it.”
Note: This weekend, Brad Fuller ’87 was on campus for Reunion/Commencement 2017 events and spoke at a WESeminar, “Wesleyan in Hollywood,” with Documentary Producer Sasha Alpert ’82; Creator/Executive Producer of Will & Grace, David Kohan ’86, P’17; and former Co-Chairman of Creative Artists Agency Rick Nicita ’67. Jeanine Basinger, who originated Wesleyan’s Film Studies Program, moderated the panel, which was held in the Goldsmith Family Cinema at the Center for Film Studies.
by Cynthia Rockwell •
In March, during Wesleyan’s spring break, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Michael McAlear took a trip to visit and catch up with three alumni whom he’d known when they were undergraduates, just beginning the nonprofits for which they are now known. McAlear doesn’t see them often: they live and work in Africa. All three had received Wesleyan’s Christopher Brodigan Award in their senior year, for research or work in Africa.
McAlear’s first stop was in Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya, and home of SHOFCO, Shining Hope for Community, the nonprofit begun by Jessica ’09 and Kennedy ’12 Odede. Linking education for girls with community services, the organization has grown since McAlear had last visited in 2010 to help set up the school, when it held only two classes of girls ages 6 and 7, and the group was building a clinic was built to honor Johanna Justin-Jinich ’10, the student slain in the spring of 2009. At that time, McAlear offered the young students a lecture on clean water and also became a sponsor for one little girl, a responsibility and relationship that is ongoing,
“I was overwhelmed by the need in Kibera— and the optimism and fearlessness of Kennedy and Jessica; you couldn’t help being swept up by that,” McAlear recalls. “They were so young and naïve that they didn’t know what they couldn’t do—so they just kept on doing things.”
by Cynthia Rockwell •
Alok Appadurai ’00, co-founder of Fed by Threads, the first sustainable, sweatshop-free, multi-brand, American-made organic vegan clothing store in the United States that has used a portion of its profits to feed over half a million meals to Americans in need, offered the keynote speech on “Food Justice and Sustainability” at the 2017 Americas Forum, held at the Ring Family Performing Arts Hall on April 28. He has recently founded GoodElephant.org, designed to create a global “herd” that will work on changing the world by nurturing compassion and empathy to promote social and environmental reform—and his book, Good Elephant, will be published later this year. Appadurai’s post-Wesleyan career highlights the interests he explored at Wesleyan, where he built his own concentration in American Studies that incorporated colonialism, workers’ rights, utopian communities, the environment, and gender/class issues.
Appadurai’s talk “The Compassion Famine: Exploring The Unspoken Solutions To Hunger In America,” offered solutions to end what he calls “the compassion famine” and bring about food justice. The process begins, he says, with each person imagining a world without hunger. “While a world without hunger seems remote, we first need to each hold the idea as a possibility, before we could make this come true,” he says. He also asked his audience to “change what we imagine the face of hunger to look like.” Not just a problem for the developing nations, food insecurity is a problem that forty million people in the United States face. Yet—”We also throw out nearly 40 percent of our food—which goes to landfills and causes greenhouse gasses,” he adds.
by Cynthia Rockwell •
Muzzy Rosenblatt ’87, president and CEO of The Bowery Residents Committee (BRC), a nonprofit offering services to people who are homeless in New York City, caught the attention of Crain’s New York for his organization’s recent foray into affordable housing development.
In the article by Judy Messina, Rosenblatt explains the reason for this new focus: “In our workforce program, we were seeing more and more people finding jobs, but in the shelters that we run for the Department of Homeless Services, fewer people were moving out, and they were coming back at a higher rate. … We had to find a way to help.”
The shelter system, he explained, can only work if there is turnover. With recidivism so high, the organization realized they needed a new option. Calling it an “aha” moment, he explained to Messina: “We could build a 200-bed shelter, take the income that a private developer would have taken out as profit and use it to leverage low-income housing.”
The BRC sought a location near subway and bus routes to because “We don’t believe poor people should be shunted to the edges” and made it clear to current residents of Landing Road in South Bronx that BRC’s investment is a commitment to the community: the organization is both responsive and accessible to their neighbors.
Rosenblatt says that the model they are creating is not only replicable and affordable, but also saves money otherwise lost to third-party developers. Messina note that Rosenblatt is “upending traditional models.”
“We should expect nonprofits to be entrepreneurial, disruptive and problem-solving,” says Rosenblatt, who was profiled for his work at the Bowery Residents Committee in the Wesleyan magazine in 2007.
by Andrew Logan ’18 •
How does one convert a shipyard into a cinema? “With a lot of gumption and very little sleep,” reports Nathaniel Draper ’12, the technical director of the Syros International Film Festival (SIFF).
For five days in July, Draper and his colleagues Cassandra Celestin ’13, Aaron Khandros ’13 and Jacob Moe will transform the small Greek island of Syros into a multifaceted cinema space.
Projectors hauled over three hours by boat from Athens will be erected on Syros’s docks, beaches and quarries to screen a variety of films, from art house to Hollywood. Musicians and filmmakers will gather for all-night multimedia performances and, with the help of participants, will construct musical instruments and perform. These are just a few of the unconventional features of the Syros International Film Festival.
Initiated in 2013 by Celestin and Khandros, the festival began as a DIY project financed out of pocket. But it has grown rapidly. Today, their sponsors—the Onassis Foundation, the US Embassy of Athens, Institut Français and Huffington Post Greece, among others—cover much of the expenses.
This year, the festival roster will explore the comedic and psychotic implications of its thematic idiom, “Cracking Up.” As such, it will feature a mix of cinema and expanded cinema that will, according to Draper, break open “the traditional confines of the projection experience.” One of the selections is a 1926 silent film by Japanese director Teinosuke Kinugasais A Page of Madness, which depicts the lives of patients in a insane asylum through an expressionistic style.
These alternative cinematic performances inspired Draper and his team to engage with the shadow puppetry of Indonesian gamelan performance, which Draper was first introduced to through Wesleyan’s world music program. They hope to feature the experimental musician Mike Cooper, performing alongside Gods of Bali, a film that documents Gamelan music and dance. With the assistance of an expert from nearby Cyprus, volunteers and participants will also learn to perform in a Gamelan ensemble built from from items gathered on Syros.
Quite literally a product of its environment, the SIFF has also had to contend with the Greek economic crisis–ironically, the opening night of the 2015 festival coincided with Greece’s vote for austerity.
The SIFF is not Draper’s first experience curating film: As an undergrad, he helped create the “Cinema Sorcery Front,” a club that ran independent film screenings for students. A film major, he fondly remembers Associate Professor of Film Studies Steve Collins ’96, who supported his work and pushed the boundaries of his classroom education.
by Frederic Wills '19 •
Wesleyan alumnus Abdul Latif ’97 served as the choreographer for The Black History Museum According to the United States of America, which opened the weekend of March 24.
Done in collaboration with HERE Arts Center’s Culturemart Festival 2017, the show examined “a number of struggles pertinent to the people of color community and the “modern millennial identity in response to incarceration and the #BlackLivesMatter movement.”
Latif, along with the rest of the production team, attempts to explore and explain the relationship between black Americans and the criminal justice system drawing from sentiments expressed after the fatal shootings of Black Americans. The experience and the occurrence of a second full house success humbled Latif, especially following the recent accomplishment of his other recent work, Bronx Museum, which opened this past January.
Since graduating from Wesleyan with a College of Social Studies and dance major, Latif has gone on to open his own performing arts center, Abdul Latif–D2D/T, where he now serves as the producing artistic director.
by Catherine Abert '18 •
“Wait, turn that up! What is that song?”
If you’ve ever watched a commercial that became more significant the second you heard a song you just had to hear again, chances are Jonathan Hecht ’04—founder of Venn Arts—was behind its discovery.
His interest in pairing music with picture was inspired by the Paul Thomas Anderson film Boogie Nights: “I realized how different some of the musical selections were, but how they all fit together to create a sound and musical character for the film.”
He began to wonder if he could create a career out of this observation—which became Venn Arts, the music supervision company specializing in curating and procuring licensed music for commercial projects. Hecht took the name from a Venn diagram, with its “intersection or coming together of two things to make something unique,” he said. For Hecht, one of those “things” is always music: “There are so many nuanced emotions that can be inflected when you find the right music.”
Now, collaborating with brands such as Under Armour, Free People, Mercedes, and most recently, supervising the music for Subaru’s phenomenally effective “Love” ad campaign, he is gaining attention: Forbes recently wrote about his work as a music supervisor to Subaru’s marketing and rapid sales growth. “I’ve been working with Subaru’s ad agency, Carmichael Lynch, since 2011 and have placed more than 30 songs into national TV ads for the brand,” he says. The campaign was also highlighted as “Ad of the Day” on Adweek.
by Cynthia Rockwell •
On Feb. 24, three recent Wesleyan alumnae returned to campus for a panel conversation on “Finding a Career Path in Publishing.” The event, held in Downey House, was co-sponsored by the Department of English, Writing Programs and the Shapiro Center for Creative Writing.
Caitlin O’Shaughnessy ’08, Anabel Pasarow ’16, and Danielle Springer ’13 traced their career history and offered encouragement and tips to undergraduate audience.
O’Shaughnessy, marketing manager at Penguin Press, a division of Penguin Random House, had previously worked as an editor at Viking, and in publicity at InStyle magazine. Currently, she is also part-time student in the MBA program at NYU Stern. “Anabel, Danielle, and I talk about Wesleyan all the time at Penguin,” said O’Shaughnessy, “It was really interesting to compare our paths and try to figure out the best advice to impart to future Wes grads who are looking to get into the business.”
Springer, an editorial and publisher’s assistant at G.P. Putnam’s Sons, previously worked in publicity at Dutton Books. In preparation for her career, she had attended the Denver Publishing Institute. Glad to return to campus and experiencing a certain degree of nostalgia, Springer says she found it “very rewarding being the ‘expert’ on a topic,” also commenting on the high turnout for the Friday afternoon event, “considering that it was a gorgeous warm day and Foss Hill was surely calling”—and by the questions that were asked.
Pasarow, an editorial assistant at G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House, majored in English and math—and finds both useful in her career. “I was so happy to be a part of this panel,” she said, adding, “I haven’t been out of school for very long, so returning to campus sort of felt like returning home. It was great to see familiar faces in Downey, where I spent so much of my time at Wes.”
Professor of English Stephanie Kuduk Weiner, who chairs the department, was also pleased to see “successful Wesleyan graduates returning to campus to give back to current students.” Grateful to the panelists, Weiner emphasized the importance of their visit: “Students today are inspired when they have the chance to meet alumni,” she said. “It helps them imagine themselves in the future.”