Tag Archive for alumni

Hoffman’s ’89 Biography Illuminates the Life of Palestinian Poet


Adina Hoffman '89 is the author of My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness.

In her new biography, My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet’s Life in the Palestinian Century (Yale University Press, 2009) Adina Hoffman ’89 tells the story of an exceptional man, Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali, and the culture from which he emerged. Born in 1931 in the Galilee village of Saffuriyya, he had to flee his homeland during the war in 1948. He traveled on foot to Lebanon and returned a year later to find his village destroyed. An autodidact, he has since run a souvenir shop in Nazareth, but his written work is highly respected by many of the world’s best writers.

Hoffman situates Muhammad Ali’s life in the context of the lives of his predecessors and peers, and provides an expansive perspective on an era full of dramatic events. As she reconstructs carefully the world of the poet’s lost childhood village, she provides a rich, empathetic view of the people and culture of the Middle East.

Hoffman had to piece together different pieces of the story she was telling from various accounts in Arabic, Hebrew, and English. She connected what she found in archives with the memories of people she interviewed, including peasants, poets, and military commanders. She offers fascinating portraits of a whole range of poets and novelists, many of whom who are unknown to much of the world.

Adina Hoffman also is the author of House of Windows: Portraits from a Jerusalem Neighborhood. Her essays and criticism have appeared in The Nation, The Washington Post, and the Times Literary Supplement and on the BBC. One of the founders and editors of Ibis Editions, she lives in Jerusalem.

Alumni Compete, Win at Crossword Tournament

Three Wesleyan alumni took trophies at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament hosted by New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz in February. A total of 684 competitors from all over the world vied for victory in several categories. Along with the Wesleyan award-winners, three additional alums participated in the tournament.

Brian Cimmet ’95 placed first in Division E, and 278th overall. Brian is also half of a team writing the blog Brian and Ryan do Crosswords. Brian also participated in a panel on blogging crosswords.

Jesse Lansner ’96 placed second in the Rookies category (first time competitors), 90th overall, 4th in Division C, and 18th for New York City.

Erhard Konerding MALS ’82 placed third in Rookies, 94th overall, 6th in Division C, 5th in Connecticut, and 13th among competitors aged 60 to 69 years of age.

Donald Spencer ’77 ranked 138th overall, and 10th in Connecticut.

Emy (Johnson) Zener ’97 finished at 325 overall, and 50th among rookies.


Ed Stein ’60 was 521st overall. He has produced a “mockumentary” about the tournament, entitled Wordploy, and has given multiple WeSeminars on how to do the New York Times crossword puzzles.

Complete results available here.

Farrell ’87 Named to National Economic Council

Dianna Farrell '87. (Photo courtesy of the the Milken Institute)

Dianna Farrell '87. (Photo courtesy of the the Milken Institute)

President Barack Obama has appointed Diana Farrell ’87 as deputy director of the National Economic Council. She most recently served as director of the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), McKinsey & Company’s economics research arm.

In announcing the appointment, President Obama said Farrell “will work day and night with me to advance an American Recovery and Reinvestment plan that not only aims to jumpstart economic growth, but also promotes the long-term investments in our economy necessary to save and create jobs, rebuild our infrastructure, and assure energy independence.”

Farrell’s work has appeared in academic journals, books, and on the op–ed pages of leading international publications, and she is a frequent speaker at major US and global conferences. She is the editor of an anthology series based on MGI research, published by Harvard Business School Press, 2007.

Together with Lowell Bryan, she is the co-author of Market Unbound, published by Wiley & Sons, 1996.
She holds an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. She is a member of Council on Foreign Relations, the Bretton Woods Committee, and the Pacific Council on International Policy.

Bassin ’98 Named Deputy Associate Counsel

Ian bassin

Ian Bassin '98.

President Barack Obama has named Ian Bassin ’98 to be a deputy associate counsel in the Office of Counsel to the President. Bassin recently served as a member of the Education Policy Working Group for the Presidential Transition Team, and had earlier served as the Florida Policy Director on the Obama Campaign for Change.

Previously, he served as a law clerk to Judge Sidney R. Thomas of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He earned his J.D. from Yale Law School, where he served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

Witkin ’00, Weiner ’87, Berman ’84 Involved in Arts and Culture

Andrew Witkin '00.

Andrew Witkin '00

Artist Andrew Witkin ’00 Wins Foster Prize
Andrew Witkin ’00 was recently awarded the prestigious Institute of Contemporary Art’s 2008 James and Audrey Foster Prize of $25,000. He was one of four finalists whose work went on show at the ICA in Boston in November (the exhibition ends March 1). His art work on display, Untitled, 1990, is an installation of carefully arranged personal effects and impersonal furniture.

According to the Boston Globe, the “arrangement reflects aspects of the artist’s own life, which is both fervently social (he works at the Barbara Krakow Gallery on Newbury Street and has a wide circle of friends) and highly controlled. The overall effect is strangely haunting, at once crowded with memory and desire and devastatingly empty.”

A resident of Jamaica Plain, Witkin also has another installation, Others Among Others, on exhibit at LaMontagne Gallery in South Boston (through Feb. 14). The show, which includes three racks of 144 cotton T-shirts, each stamped with text, was favorably reviewed in the Boston Globe.

Matthew Weiner '87

Matthew Weiner '87

Matthew Weiner ’87 Seals a Two-Year Deal with Lionsgate TV; Wins Producers Guild Award for Mad Men
Matthew Weiner, the creator, co-producer, and writer of the award-winning AMC series, Mad Men, received a two-year deal in January with Lionsgate TV, which will have him overseeing the series for two more seasons. The agreement also covers TV development and the prospect of developing a feature film for Lionsgate.
In January Weiner won the Producers Guild of America award for his work on Mad Men. The same month, the series also received the Best Ensemble in a Television Drama from the Screen Actors Guild of America. More here.

Pianist Donald Berman ’84 Has Two New CDs

Donald Berman
Donald Berman ’84 (Photo by Iannis Delatolas)

Pianist Donald Berman plays on two new recordings, Americans in Rome: Music by Fellows of the American Academy in Rome (Bridge Records), for which he served as artistic director, and The Light That Is Felt: Songs of Charles Ives (New World Records). These two recordings were chosen separately as “North American Disc of the Month” in the January and February issues of BBC Music Magazine.

Americans in Rome consists of four CDs featuring music by Rome Prize-winning composers from 1920 to 2000 and provides a compelling glimpse of the history of American music, with American masters side by side with younger innovators. In its review of the recording, BBC Music Magazine commented that Berman “shows great stylistic flexibility, both between pieces and within Tamar Diesendruck’s multifarious Sound Reasoning in the Tower of Babel.”

On The Light That Is Felt: Songs of Charles Ives, Berman collaborates with soprano Susan Narucki. The CD contains 27 songs by Charles Ives, offering a wide range of his compositions. Each song evokes memory through stories and characters drawn from Ives’ life.

In a January review of the Ives recording, Vivien Schweitzer in The New York Times said: “The painterly details of Ives’s songs are vividly conveyed by the bright-voiced Susan Narucki and the pianist Donald Berman on a new disc whose 27 diverse selections … highlight Ives’s multiple influences. Those included European Romanticism and religious and secular American tunes, which he meshed with his own inventive, radical harmonies. Like Bartok, Ives used both simple folk melodies and dissonance, sometimes blending them.”

Seibert ’86, Kelleher ’53, Gottlieb ’94, Little ’81, Thomas ’77 Promoted and Appointed

Andrew Seibert ’86 Promoted to President of SmartMoney
Andrew Seibert has been named president of SmartMoney, a joint venture between Hearst Corporation and Dow Jones & Co. Seibert will continue in his current position as vice president and publisher of SmartMoney’s Customs Solutions, the venture’s successful custom publishing arm. In his expanded role, Seibert will be responsible for the circulation, advertising and marketing operations of SmartMoney magazine as well as for SmartMoney.com.

Exhibit Examines Post-Soviet Russia through Photography, Video

Sasha Rudensky, <i>Bus Station</i>, Sevastopol, Ukraine, 2004, chromogenic print.

Sasha Rudensky's "Bus Station," Sevastopol, Ukraine, 2004, chromogenic print.

In her first major solo exhibition, visiting professor of art Sasha Rudensky ’01, will present two photographic series at Wesleyan University’s Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery: “Remains” (2004/08) and “Demons” (2007–08).

In “Remains,” Rudensky, who was born in Moscow in 1979 and moved to the United States in 1990, explores the political and social transformation of the former Soviet Union by poignantly focusing on the intimate details of everyday life. “Demons,” a series of hybrid portraits, suggests a fantastical version of the artist’s childhood.

Rudensky “Remains” in the fall of 2004 after receiving a Mortimer Hays Brandeis traveling fellowship. Her images, however, turned out to be very different than what she first intended to photograph.

“My proposal was to document mining towns in Siberia and the arctic north,” Rudensky says. “But having gotten there and after doing some preliminary shooting, I realized I didn’t want to simply document post-soviet devastation of depressed towns,

Vocalist Sutton ’86 Makes Mark on Jazz Scene

Tierney Sutton '86 (Photo by Pamela Springsteen).

Tierney Sutton '86 (Photo by Pamela Springsteen).

Owen McNally in the Hartford Courant recently profiled jazz vocalist Tierney Sutton ’86, who performed in West Hartford in January for a benefit concert. In the article, McNally describes Sutton as “one of the hottest, hippest singers on today’s jazz scene.” He adds that she is “a bold, inventive improviser with true grit, has an expressive range that can leap from up tempo fervor to lyrical warmth. She makes evergreens sound greener, flag-wavers leaner and blues meaner.”

McNally reveals that Sutton came to Wesleyan to master Russian and Russian literature but when she arrived on campus, she discovered the power and glory of jazz, impressed by concerts that showcased the talents of jazz greats such as Betty Carter and Jimmy Heath. Sutton soon developed a deep appreciation for the work of Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis and John Coltrane. She was encouraged in her singing career by jazz saxophonist/composer Bill Barron who was the head of Wesleyan’s music department when she was a student.

Whedon ’87 Cited for Pioneering Web Show

Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon

In its cover story, the January 2009 issue of Written By calls Joss Whedon ’87 a web pioneer for his self-produced “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” which tells the story of a young wannabe super villain and initially aired on the web in July.

“The show was a web pioneer, streaming online for free before becoming available for sale on iTunes, where it shot to the top of the charts,” Written By says. “Although there’s no way to tell where it ranks in terms of online programming, it is certifiably the most successful web musical of all time. Whedon’s traits are on display—humor, humanity, musical chops, reversal of expectations, tragic twists—but serving a new medium and no masters.”

Time magazine listed the show in its Top 50 inventions of 2008, at number 15.

Lisa Rosen ’86 wrote the article; she first met Whedon when they were at Wesleyan together. “He struck me as ridiculously funny, smart, and engaging, with a playful way around words. I didn’t know that back then he used a Brother manual typewriter that he named Mutant Enemy, which he still owns but can’t find ribbons for,” she says.

Whedon also is the creator of Dollhouse, scheduled to air on Fox in February.

Bennet ’87 Nominated for Senate Seat

Michael Bennet '87, superintendent of Denver Public Schools, meets with students from OpenWorld Learning's program at Castro Elementary School in Denver.

Michael Bennet '87, superintendent of Denver Public Schools, meets with students from OpenWorld Learning's program at Castro Elementary School in Denver.

Michael Bennet ’87, designated to fill a vacant Senate seat from Colorado, told The New York Times in January that he would go to Washington believing there is “no problem too tough to withstand innovative thinking.”

Bennet, son of Wesleyan President Emeritus Douglas J. Bennet ’59, is the superintendent of schools in Denver. Colorado’s governor, Bill Ritter Jr., selected him to replace Sen. Ken Salazar, nominated as interior secretary for the Obama administration.

Bennet told the Times he would focus on health care, the economy and education. He has gained prominence as superintendent, working with Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper ’74.

In a statement, then President-elect Obama said, “His breakthrough work at the helm of Denver’s schools has reflected that commitment, and established Michael as one of the nation’s leading education reformers.”

The Times credited him with turning around a school system “replete with problems” despite his having little experience as an education administrator. Student performance on standardized tests has improved during his tenure.

Kendall ’74 Led Case Against Navy Sonar Use

Richard Kendall ’74, a senior partner in the Los Angeles office of the law firm Irell & Manella, represented the National Resources Defense Council in a case involving whales and the U.S. Navy that recently was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Environmental groups had contended that the Navy’s use of underwater sonar was harming whales and other marine animals. The case arose when the Navy skipped an environmental impact statement for anti-submarine exercises planned from 2007 to 2009. The NRDC sued, and Los Angeles district court restricted the Navy’s use of active sonar. Later, a U.S. appeals court affirmed but eased the restrictions regarding location and timing of the exercises.

President Bush intervened in the case by citing national security as a reason to exempt the Navy from environmental laws at the heart of the legal challenge. In the 5-4 ruling, Chief Justice Roberts spoke for the majority in siding with the Navy, but the Navy agreed to abide by other restrictions on the exercises.

Kendall told CNN: “It is gratifying that the court did not accept the Navy’s expansive claims of executive power and that two-thirds of the injunction remains in place.”

Kendall had argued that sonar can be as loud to marine mammals as 2,000 jet engines, causing them to suffer physical trauma, stranding, and changes in breeding and migration patterns.

The New York Times said the case was the latest in a decade-long dispute between the Navy and environmental groups over the use of sonar. Environmentalists have had some success through lawsuits and persuasion in limiting sonar in training exercises around the world.