Tag Archive for media

Butler ’90 on JFK’s Legacy

With the approach of the centennial of John F. Kennedy’s birth, it’s fair to ask: Will his legacy endure?
By Tom Kertscher

Emily Jennett Butler '90, a grant writer at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston, believes the JFK legacy is enduring and relevan today.

Emily Jennett Butler ’90, a grant writer at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston, believes the JFK legacy is relevant today.

Last July [2016], President Barack Obama signed a law creating the John F. Kennedy Centennial Commission, which will develop and carry out activities to mark the 100th anniversary of Kennedy’s birth on May 29, 2017.

Kennedy, polls have shown, continues to be among the most highly regarded presidents. But only about a third of Americans were alive when he was assassinated in 1963.

So, it’s fair to ask: Will Kennedy will remain relevant?

Emily Jennett Butler ’90, a grant writer at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston, says “yes” and offers data to prove her point.

While not everyone, of course, recalls the Kennedy years as an idyllic time, his appeal endures:
● In 2015, the library released an iPad app for kids—“The JFK Challenge”—that was featured as a best new app in the Apple Store. It has been downloaded more than 100,000 times.

● Of the library’s 80,000 Twitter followers, more than 40 percent are age 34 and under; and of its 80,000 Facebook fans, 35 percent are in that age group. On Facebook, the 25-34 age group is the most engaged with the library on Facebook.

● The library recently launched the New Frontier Network, a group for young professionals in the Boston area. Its membership of 350 has doubled in the past year.

“I think most of the people who join the network are looking for ways to give back, and certainly JFK’s call to ‘ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’ still resonates today,” Butler said. “Part of the New Frontier Network’s focus is service projects in the community. So by joining this group, many members are fulfilling a very strong desire to stay engaged and to make a positive contribution to society, locally and globally. A lot of the people currently in the network are involved in politics and believe strongly, as JFK did, that government can be a force for good.”

“I do think it’s probably good for the national psyche to remember a great leader who brought people together.”

Tom Kertscher is a PolitiFact Wisconsin reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the author of two sports books.

Naegele Teaches Neuroscience to Tibetan Buddhist Monks

ETSIArticle_Rutland_Magazine_Winter_2016[1]

In June, Jan Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, traveled to Mundgod, India to teach Tibetan monks through the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative (ETSI), a program promoting “the convergence of science and spirituality as two complementary systems of knowledge,” according to the Emory Tibetan Partnership. ETSI was founded as a pilot in 2006 by Emory University at the bequest of the 14th Dalai Lama. Naegele’s journey, which she took together with her husband, Dr. Paul Lombroso, was described in the Winter 2016 issue of Rutland Magazine, in an article featuring many photographs provided by Naegele.

Sutton ’86 Nominated for Grammy with The Sting Variations

The Sting Variations, the latest album by The Tierney Sutton [’86] Band was nominated for a 2017 Grammy in the Best Jazz Vocal Album category,

The Sting Variations, the latest album by The Tierney Sutton [’86] Band, was nominated for a 2017 Grammy in the Best Jazz Vocal Album category,

Tierney Sutton ’86 has been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album. The Sting Variations is a collection of Sting and Police songs reinterpreted by The Tierney Sutton Band and released on the BFM Jazz label. Sutton had previously explored the music of Bill Evans, Frank Sinatra, and most recently Joni Mitchell, with her 2013 album, After Blue.

In a September interview for Billboard, Sutton told writer Melinda Newman that the choice to explore Sting’s work was a natural one: “‘[Sting’s] autobiography is full of references to Miles and Coltrane and the Great American Song tradition.’”

The Sting Variations includes both well known songs by the artist, such as “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free,” and “Message in a Bottle,” as well as lesser known pieces among the 14 tracks. The first track, “Driven to Tears,” is highlighted on Sutton’s website as a video of the band performing this song.

Also this year, Tierney Sutton and her band’s co-leader and pianist Christian Jacob collaborated with Clint Eastwood on the soundtrack to the movie Sully, about the pilot, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (played by Tom Hanks), who, in 2009, became a national hero after successfully executing an emergency water landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River. Sutton described the experience with Eastwood as “really collaborative. …very much ‘Clint joins The Tierney Sutton Band.'” The singer and actor-director have even discussed further collaboration, Tierney told Billboard. The Sully soundtrack was released in October by Varese Sarabande.

Sutton was also recently announced as a member of the selection committee for the first-ever Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity.

Jazz Guitarist Halvorson ’02 Is “Unflinching and Full of Grace”

Credit Jacob Blickenstaff for The New York Times

Mary Halvonson ’02 has released her eight album, Away With You, reviewed in the New York Times by Nate Chinen. (Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff for The New York Times)

“There’s no other sound in music precisely like Mary Halvorson’s guitar, which she plays with a flinty attack, a spidery finesse and a shiver of wobbly delay,” writes New York Times jazz critic Nate Chinen in a review of her recent shows around Brooklyn in October. She also released her eighth album, Away With Youon Oct.28.

The album is produced by Firehouse 12, a production studio co-founded by fellow jazz musician Taylor Ho Bynum ’98 MA ’05, which has released his work, as well as the music of Halvorson’s and Bynum’s Wesleyan professor and mentor Anthony Braxton, whom Chinen calls “a formative influence as a musical thinker” for Halvorson. Chinen also notes another mentor Halvorson found in Connecticut: acclaimed free-jazz guitarist Joe Morris, “a staunch experimentalist,” with whom Halvorson took private lessons. (Morris is spouse of Anne Marcotty, senior designer in Wesleyan’s Office of Communications.)

Calling her new CD “the most accomplished statement Ms. Halvorson has made as a composer, her strongest turn as bandleader and a standout jazz release of the year,” Chinen notes that she is part of a “vibrant cohort,” and performs on cornetist Bynum’s most recent album, Enter the PlusTet, among other musical collaborations.

The article is both review and interview and part of Times‘ The New Vanguard series, which “examine[s] jazz musicians who are helping reshape the art form, often beyond the glare of the spotlight.” Concluding the interview, Chinen asks Halvorson “whether she had noticed her sound among any imitators …’Actually no, I don’t think so. I can’t think of a time when I heard someone and thought, ‘Oh, that sounds like what I’m doing.’ After a pause, she added: ‘Maybe that will happen. I don’t know.'”

Vidich ’72 Celebrated in Poets and Writers as First-Time Author

Paul Vidich ’72 is first-time author of the noir spy-thriller "An Honorable Man," garnering rave reviews.

Paul Vidich ’72 is first-time author of the noir spy-thriller An Honorable Man, garnering rave reviews.

The article in Poets and Writers begins, “From the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 program to the New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 list, many organizations make a point of recognizing young, gifted authors at the start of their literary careers. In the November/December 2016 issue of Poets & Writers magazine, we feature five debut authors over the age of 50 … whose first books came out this past year, and who stand as living proof that it’s never too late to start your literary journey.”

Highlighted here was Paul Vidich ’72, whose first book, “An Honorable Man” was published in April 2016 by Atria/Emily Bestler, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Kirkus Review called it “A moody debut spy novel inspired by real events…Dead-on Cold War fiction. Noir to the bone,” and Publisher’s Weekly listed it as one of their “top ten mysteries and thrillers of spring 2016.”

The novel is set in 1953, in the midsts of McCarthyism, and with the Cold War underway. Vidich’s hero, George Mueller, is assigned to help the CIA find the double agent in its midst who is selling secrets to the Soviets. Read the excerpt published in Poets and Writers here.

Prior to this novel, Vidich has written both fiction and nonfiction pieces that have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Fugue, The Nation, Narrative Magazine, and elsewhere. His story, “Falling Girl,” was nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize and appeared in New Rivers Press’s American Fiction, Volume 12: The Best Unpublished Short Stories by Emerging Writers.

A College of Social Studies major at Wesleyan, Vidich previously served as executive vice president in charge of global digital strategy at Time Warner’s Warner Music Group. A past member of the National Academies committee on The Impact of Copyright Policy on Innovation in the Digital Era, he testified in Washington before rate hearings.

Vidich is currently a venture investor and serves as an advisor to Internet media companies in video and music. He is on the boards of directors of Poets and Writers, The New School for Social Research, and the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation. A former trustee of Wesleyan, he received a Distinguished Alumni Award and is a graduate of The Wharton School.

Grossman Speaks on the Wealth of 18th Century Middletown Residents

Richard Grossman

Richard Grossman

As part of the “A Vanished Port” series, Richard Grossman, professor of economics, presented a lecture titled, “How Rich Was Rich,” at the Russell Library in Middletown, Conn. on Nov. 9.

The lecture came as part of a newly opened exhibit at the Middlesex County Historical Society. “A Vanished Port: Middletown and the Caribbean, 1750-1824,” takes objects and documents from the time period to illustrate the “culture of prosperity that grew from Middletown’s trade relationships with the slave-worked sugar plantations of the English Caribbean.”

Using Middletown merchant, Richard Alsop, who died in 1776 with a huge estate that included property, possessions, and human beings, all valued at 52,000 pounds as an example, Grossman attempted to answer the question, “Were Alsop and his fellow Middletown businessmen rich by modern standards?” In this vein, Grossman examined the colonial currency of early Connecticut, its buying power, the monetary standards of the time, and the difficulty of understanding a very different form of money in today’s standard. Simply put, he discussed “the complexity of comprehending economies from long-ago in the present day,” according to an Oct. 5 article published in the Hartford Courant.

More information on the exhibit “A Vanished Port” is posted to the historical society’s website.

Attorney Hasselman ’91 Represents Standing Rock Sioux Against Dakota Access Pipeline

Attorney Jan Hasselman ’91 is representing Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, speaks to members of the media outside U.S. District Court in Washington, DC., Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016, as members of the tribe asked a federal judge to temporarily stop work on parts of the Dakota Access Pipeline to prevent the destruction of sacred and culturally significant sites near Lake Oahe. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Attorney Jan Hasselman ’91 is representing Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, speaks to members of the media outside U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., Sept. 6 as members of the tribe asked a federal judge to temporarily stop work on parts of the Dakota Access Pipeline to prevent the destruction of sacred and culturally significant sites near Lake Oahe. AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Jan Hasselman ’91, a staff attorney with Earthjustice’s Northwest office in Seattle, serves as counsel for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in their efforts to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

An article in The Atlantic “The Legal Case for Blocking the Dakota Access Pipeline,” asks “Did the U.S. government help destroy a major Sioux archeological site?

The article is one of several in the media that highlight the work of the legal team and the questions they raise. At this time, the issue ongoing.

Atlantic Associate Editor Robinson Meyer writes in his Sept. 9 article:

“As part of the ongoing trial, the legal team for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe submitted documents to the court last Friday that certified one of their main claims in the case: that the pipeline will pass through and likely destroy Native burial sites and sacred places.

“These documents provided some of the first evidence that state authorities had missed major archeological discoveries in the path of the pipeline. For instance, they described a large stone feature that depicted the constellation Iyokaptan Tanka (the Big Dipper)—a sign that a major leader, likely a highly respected Chief, was buried nearby.

“‘This is one of the most significant archeological finds in North Dakota in many years,” said Tim Mentz, a Standing Rock Sioux member and a longtime Native archeologist in the Great Plains. “[Dakota Access Pipeline] consultants would have had to literally walk directly over some of these features. However, reviewing DAPL’s survey work, it appears that they did not independently survey this area but relied on a 1985 survey.”

Hasselman, who has been affiliated with Earthjustice since 1998, is working with colleagues Associate Attorney Stephanie Tsosie and Managing Attorney Patti Goldman on this project. An Earthjustice case overview offers a summary so far, updates, concerns, and a “What’s at Stake” summary: “The Army Corps’ approval of the permit allows the oil company to dig the pipeline under the Missouri River just upstream of the reservation and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s drinking water supply. An oil spill at this site would constitute an existential threat to the Tribe’s culture and way of life.”

When Democracy Now reported on Sept. 7, on a federal judge ruling that construction on sacred tribal burial sites could continue. Hasselman was quoted as saying, “We’re disappointed with what happened here today. We provided evidence on Friday of sacred sites that were directly in the pipeline’s route. By Saturday morning, those sites had been destroyed. And we saw things happening out at Standing Rock—dogs being put on protesters—that haven’t been seen in America in 40, 50 years.”

Hasselman, who majored in history at Wesleyan, is a graduate of Boston College Law School, where he was was executive editor of the Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review. While at Earthjustice, he has successfully litigated a number of regional and national issues, including listings of salmon under the Endangered Species Act, stormwater pollution, coal fired power plants, and forestry. He also serves on as an adjunct on the faculty of University of Washington and Seattle University law schools.

Award-winning Documentary ‘Dream On,’ by Roger Weisberg ’75 Airs on PBS, Oct. 7

DreamONDream On, the newest documentary by Roger Weisberg ’75, will air on PBS at 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7. (check local listing). The film is the 32nd documentary written, produced and directed by Weisberg, who heads Public Policy Productions. Dream On has already appeared in 19 international film festivals, garnering four top awards. Weisberg’s earlier works have won more than 150 awards, including Emmy and Peabody awards, as well as two Academy Award nominations.

Dream On asks the question: “Is the American Dream still alive and well?” Are we still optimistic that hard work will raise our standard of living—for our generation and for our children? Weisberg explores this question with political comedian John Fugelsang serving as host and commentator throughout this unusual road trip. The journey revisits the cities of Alexis de Tocqueville’s 1831 itinerary, which served as the Frenchman’s research for Democracy in America. In it, Tocqueville described America as a land of equality, opportunity and social mobility. For those interested in viewing the film as part of a community screening event or classroom educational opportunity, PBS offers a viewer’s guide, as well as a trailer and additional resources, including video segments that Weisberg was not able to include in the 90-minute slot for PBS.

Roger Weisberg ’75, founder of Public Policy Productions, introduces his latest documentary exploring the American dream in a roadtrip following the 1931 journey of Alexis de Toqueville and featuring political comedian John Fugelsang.

Roger Weisberg ’75, founder of Public Policy Productions, introduces his latest documentary, an epic road trip exploring the endangered American dream. The film retraces the journey of Alexis de Tocqueville and features political comedian John Fugelsang.

Weisberg also spoke to The Wesleyan Connection about the process of creating his newest work and his hopes for it: 

Connection: What was the inspiration for Dream On?

Roger Weisberg: I wanted to make a contribution to PBS programming surrounding the election, but I wanted to do it in a way that was different from some of my more conventional reporting on poverty, social mobility and economic inequality. The road trip infused this project with a degree of exuberance and levity, while also permitting us to examine some urgent social issues and meet some really powerful subjects along the way.

Connection: How did John Fugelsang come to join you?

RW: We were pretty lucky to have been referred to him by colleagues who worked with Bill Moyers. It turned out that for John, the timing was perfect: He’d just lost his job as a talk show host, because the cable network that had hired him was sold to a foreign buyer. Because of John’s new feeling of economic insecurity, he was able to put himself in the shoes of many of the people he met on our Tocqueville odyssey.

Connection: What kind of time frame were you working in?

RW: In the early part of 2013, I did the whole road trip on my own, without a crew, to meet prospective participants and scout locations. In the fall of 2013, we filmed this journey in two stints of about 25 days each.

Army Veteran Ball ’08: “Afghan Translator Deserves Special Immigrant Visa”

Matthew Ball ’08 passed up a lucrative job in the financial sector to serve in Afghanistan as an Army Ranger after graduation. He and his cohorts relied on Afghani translators who frequently risked their lives for the American Troops.

After graduation, Matthew Ball ’08, at left, served in Afghanistan as an Army Ranger. He and fellow soldiers relied on Afghan translators who frequently risked their lives for the American troops. (Photo courtesy of Matthew Ball)

In 2010-11, when Matthew Ball ’08 was stationed in the Tora Bora region of Nangarhar province, serving in the 4th Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, he and the other soldiers relied on Qismat Amin, then only 19 years old, for both information and communication with the local Afghan residents.

Now a Stanford law student, Ball is on a personal mission: To fulfill what he views as his duty to the young interpreter who worked with him during his deployment.

“There’s a really strong bond that a lot of soldiers have with interpreters—they’re crucial members of the team. … There were times when my life was in Qismat’s hands and Qismat’s life was in my hands,” Ball told the San Francisco Chronicle reporter Hamed Aleaziz for an Aug. 20 story.

MSNBC’s Women in Politics, College Edition, Highlights Kate Cullen ’16

Kate Cullen on campus with South College and Memorial Chapel behind her.

Kate Cullen ’16, who served as president of Wesleyan Student Assembly was selected for MSNBC’s “Women in Politics: College Edition.”

Kate Cullen ’16, an earth and environmental science and history major from Bethesda, Md., was selected for MSNBC’s Women in Politics: College Edition series. The president of the Wesleyan Student Assembly, Cullen received the University’s nomination “as a leader making a difference not only through key issues on campus, but in bridging the gender gap in politics.” MSNBC plans to use the series to highlight women candidates and as a springboard for national conversations on women’s issues.

Cullen, who has “been fortunate to have a lot of strong female role models,” says she was motivated to work in student government by “making a tangible impact, whether through policy change, facilitated dialogue or a big community event…” Additionally, she notes, “I think student activism and free expression are of the utmost importance in fostering meaningful campus dialogues.”

Feldstein ’15 Dubbed ‘Breakout’ for Neighbors 2

With Yahoo's Kevin Polowy, Beanie Feldstein ’15 dishes about behind the scenes in Neighbors 2 versus her real-life college experience.

With Yahoo’s Kevin Polowy, Beanie Feldstein ’15 dishes about behind the scenes in Neighbors 2, versus her real-life college experience.

“There is an entire neighborhood full of funny people in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising,” wrote Kevin Polowy, senior editor at Yahoo! Movies. “But some of the film’s biggest laughs belong to newcomer Beanie Feldstein, who makes her major-studio movie debut as the party-hearty sorority pledge Nora.”

Feldstein ’15, a Los Angeles, Calif. native and sociology major at Wesleyan has been acting on stage since she was 5, with “three to six musicals a year every singer year from 5 to 22,” ending last year with graduation.

She tells Yahoo that Neighbors 2 was not a typecasting situation: “My college experience was nothing like Nora’s. I was such a lame person. I had never done drugs. They had to teach me how to use a lighter, and how to inhale. That scene where I smoke weed in the movie was actually my first time smoking anything.”

Also invited to appear on the Conan O’Brien Show, Feldstein recalls more of her college career: four years as a tour guide. “My friends like to call me TGB—Tour Guide Beanie—and it’s an entirely different person than me. I’m already pretty peppy, but she’s on a whole other level. I could sell anything at that point—I mean Wesleyan’s really easy to sell; it’s a great place.”

Apple Music’s Saint John ’99 Recalls Formative Wes Moments in WesFest Keynote

Alumni Keynote Speaker, Bozoma Saint John '99, head of global consumer marketing for Apple Music and iTunes, delivered the WesFest keynote address on April 15.

Alumni Keynote Speaker, Bozoma Saint John ’99, head of global consumer marketing for Apple Music and iTunes, delivered the WesFest keynote address on April 15.

Bozoma “Boz” Saint John ’99, head of global consumer marketing for Apple Music and iTunes, wowed attendees at WesFest—admitted students and their parents— as keynote speaker.

The eldest daughter of Wesleyan ethnomusicology graduate Dr. Appianda Arthur PhD ’77, Saint John spoke on Wesleyan’s powerful influence on her life today.

Her father, recalling his formative years at Wesleyan and the lively intellectual community, had encouraged her to attend Wesleyan. Although her desire to rebel figured in early in the decision process, she ultimately chose Wesleyan. “My father was so excited when I decided Wesleyan was the school for me, but he stopped short of saying, ‘I told you so,’” she recalled.

What she’d found on campus was an intellectual home—a place of lively discourse and diverse fields of study. “Coming to Wesleyan I found a deeper level of connection to students who had varied interests in things, in a way I hadn’t felt before with classmates …. It felt like coming to a big camp with people who looked at the world the way I did—a little left of center.”

While initially prepared to find herself on the pre-med track (“I was good at science and math”), she discovered that her interest in pop culture offered an avenue for intellectual exploration, and she recalled a particularly formative opportunity.

It was during her undergraduate years that one of her favorite musicians, the rapper Tupac Shakur, was murdered. “I thought—’There’s something to be learned here.’ I took that thought and found there was an elective being taught at USC about rap and its influence on culture. I approached my American Studies professor, who seemed knowledgeable. ‘I would love to be able to have a class on the lyrics of Tupak Shakur,’ I told him.

“He looked at me and said, ‘It sounds interesting. I don’t have the time to teach this, but I’d sponsor you, if you wanted to teach this course.’”

She recalled dismissing his idea as one she wasn’t qualified to consider: “Who me? I can’t do that; I’m just a fan.”

“Of course you can,” he responded.

Saint John spent the next month transcribing every lyric Shakur had written and recalls the laborious process with her tape player: listening, jotting down what she heard, rewinding, pressing play and listening again—for as many times as it took until she was sure she had them correct and complete.

She returned to her amazed professor with the sheaf of transcribed songs, and he helped her develop a course that she taught. “We had 30 students for this noncredit course—a course just to learn something. The next semester, we had 30 people in the class and a 60-person wait list, and the semester after that, he took it on himself,” she recalls.

“To me, that is the truest testament to what education is like at Wesleyan is: An idea that might have been dismissed as trite—I mean it doesn’t affect anything—was taken very seriously here. It was validated. I can tell you, that has had a profound effect on what I do today, how I look at the world today, how I look at my ideas and the validity I give them was born here. I was validated here, both for my cognitive thinking skills as well for the application that I envisioned. I could see the concept as a tangible real thing to have discourse around.

“That turned the corner for me. The passion I felt for that particular experience changed my mind about what I wanted to do with my career. I had the opportunity to explore so much of what I considered the pop culture education, that it set me up for what I’m doing now.”