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10 Receive Distinguished Alumni, Outstanding Service, and McConaughy Writing Awards

The Wesleyan Assembly and Alumni Association Meeting was held in the Memorial Chapel on May 20. The presentation of this year's Distinguished Alumni, McConaughy, and Outstanding Service Awards included: Luke Wood ’91 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients Essel Bailey ’66 Michael Greenberg ’76, P’14 Meredith Sirmans, Jr. ’91 Jed Hoyer Oyeshola “Shola” Olatoye ’96 McConaughy Award Recipients Ethan Bronner '76, P'10 Ayelet Waldman ’86, P’17 Outstanding Service Award Recipients Robert “Rick” Crootof ’66, P’96 David Hill ’86

The Wesleyan Assembly and Alumni Association Meeting was held in the Memorial Chapel on May 21. This year’s gathering of Distinguished Alumni, Outstanding Service and James L. McConaughy Jr. Memorial awardees were: (bottom row, left to right) Meredith F. “Franklin” Sirmans, Jr. ’91; David Anthony Hill ’86; Alumni Association Chair Daphne Kwok ’84; Ayelet Waldman ’86, P’17; Robert E. “Rick” Crootof ’66, P’96, Jed D. Hoyer ’96; (top row, left to right) Luke F. Wood ’91; Michael E. Greenberg ’76, P’14, Ethan S. Bronner ’76, P’10; Essel W. Bailey Jr. ’66; and Oyeshola “Shola” Olatoye ’96, with President Michael Roth. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

At the Wesleyan Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Alumni Association held during Reunion, alumni celebrate members of the community with a number of awards. This year, six were named Distinguished Alumni in recognition of their achievement in their professions; two alumni received the McConaughy Award for writing that conveyed “unusual insights and understanding of current and past events,” and two alumni were celebrated for Outstanding Service. Chair of the Alumni Association Daphne Kwok ’84 presented the awards at a ceremony in Memorial Chapel, which featured newly proclaimed Distinguished Alumnus Luke Wood ’91, president of Beats By Dr. Dre, offering thoughts on his Wesleyan education in “Come As You Are: A Liberal Arts Education Revisited.”

Those receiving awards at this ceremony were Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients Essel W. Bailey Jr. ’66; Michael E. Greenberg ’76, P’14; Luke Wood ’91; Meredith F. “Franklin” Sirmans, Jr. ’91; Jed D. Hoyer ’96; and Oyeshola “Shola” Olatoye ’96; James L. McConaughy Jr. Memorial Award Recipients Ethan S. Bronner ’76, P’10 and Ayelet Waldman ’86, P’17; and Outstanding Service Award Recipients; Robert “Rick” Crootof ’66, P’96 and David A. Hill ’86. Please see further information on each awardee below:

Essel W. Bailey Jr. ’66

Essel W. Bailey Jr. ’66

Essel W. Bailey Jr. ’66
Distinguished Alumnus Award
Essel Bailey is a lawyer, corporate executive, and private investor. Along with his wife, Menakka, Mr. Bailey has been a steadfast supporter of Wesleyan’s College of the Environment (COE), endowing the Menakka and Essel Bailey ’66 Distinguished Visiting Scholar Fund to bring outstanding outside scholars into the COE community.

A history major at Wesleyan who earned his JD from the University of Michigan Law School, Mr. Bailey spent several years in Michigan state government before serving 15 years with the Detroit law firm Dykema, Gossett, where he was a partner specializing in corporate and real estate finance. Over the course of his career, Mr. Bailey founded and ran two public companies and served as a director or chair of the board of three NYSE-listed companies. For the past 30 years he has been engaged in the capital markets, dealing with rating agencies, investment banks, and other global financial organizations. He has invested in, organized, and managed businesses in real estate and real estate finance, healthcare, and manufacturing in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. In recent years he has served as a director of several NGOs.

Mr. Bailey currently serves as a director or officer of several private companies related to healthcare and healthcare finance, where he is also a principal; of nonprofit organizations related to mental health, hospice, and elderly care services; and of the Michigan chapter of the Nature Conservancy. Born on a farm in Tennessee, he has in recent years acquired a farm in California that produces grapes used to make premium wines under the Knights Bridge label.

At Wesleyan, Mr. Bailey was a member of the Eclectic Society and the Student Judiciary Committee. He also ran hurdles for the track team. The Baileys reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Ethan Bronner ’76, P’10

Ethan S. Bronner ’76, P’10

Ethan S. Bronner ’76, P’10
McConaughy Award
Ethan Bronner is a senior editor at Bloomberg News, where he focuses on political features and analyses, mostly from overseas, and mentors young reporters. He joined Bloomberg after 17 years at the New York Times, where he was Jerusalem bureau chief, national legal affairs correspondent, national education correspondent, deputy foreign editor, deputy national editor, and education editor. Mr. Bronner also served as assistant editorial page editor. Right after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, he worked in the paper’s investigative unit focusing on Al Qaeda. He has been a frequent book reviewer for the paper and contributed to its Sunday Review.
A graduate of the College of Letters at Wesleyan and of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Mr. Bronner began his career at Reuters in 1980, reporting from London, Madrid, Brussels, and Jerusalem. He worked at the Boston Globe for a dozen years, including as its Washington-based legal and Supreme Court correspondent and as Middle East bureau chief.
He is the author of Battle for Justice: How the Bork Nomination Shook America, which was named one of the best 25 books of 1989 by the New York Public Library and awarded a Silver Gavel by the American Bar Association. Mr. Bronner is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former trustee of Wesleyan.
Mr. Bronner lives in New York with his wife, Naomi Kehati-Bronner, a psychologist. They have two sons.

Dr. Robert E. “Rick” Crootof ’66, P’96

Dr. Robert E. “Rick” Crootof ’66, P’96

Dr. Robert E. “Rick” Crootof ’66, P’96
Outstanding Service Award
Dr. Rick Crootof has chaired every reunion of the Class of 1966 since 1981, when he says he “fell into” the role. In this capacity, Dr. Crootof has maintained lifelong friendships with countless members of his class, keeping them connected to Wesleyan over the decades. For his 50th Reunion this year, in deference to the vagaries of age, Dr. Crootof has enlisted as a co-chair of the half-century celebration.

Dr. Crootof graduated from Wesleyan with a degree in chemistry. He continued his education with an MD from New York Medical College, followed by an internship in internal medicine at George Washington University and a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Yale–New Haven Hospital.

After two years in the Navy spent at its teaching hospital in Oakland, California, in 1977 Dr. Crootof joined two friends in private practice in Norwich, Connecticut. Over the next 30 years that practice, which grew to include eight physicians, withstood picketing and bomb and death threats to provide a complete range of obstetrical and gynecological services to women of all income levels from across eastern Connecticut.

Until his retirement, Dr. Crootof and his wife, Linda, lived in a historic home in Norwich, where they both served on the board and as officers of the Norwich Heritage Trust and the Downtown Revitalization Committee. More recently, Dr. Crootof has been on the board and served five years as president of the Wolfeboro (New Hampshire) Tennis Club. Each winter, Dr. Crootof plays tennis and takes advantage of the cultural offerings in Sarasota, Florida. He also is an active amateur photographer.

The Crootofs enjoy visiting their children, Matthew ’96 (in Bozeman, Montana), Sarah (in Manhattan), and Martha (in Los Angeles). They eagerly await the imminent arrival of their first grandchild, a boy, in late August, in Los Angeles.

Michael E. Greenberg ’76, P’14

Michael E. Greenberg ’76, P’14

Michael E. Greenberg ’76, P’14
Distinguished Alumnus Award
Michael Greenberg has spent the past 30 years investigating the molecular mechanisms that underlie the effects of sensory experience on the brain, helping us better understand how nature and nurture are intertwined during brain maturation. Most recently his research has explored the ways that neural activity controls the wiring of the brain, and how disruption of this process can lead to neurological disorders such as autism.

As a chemistry major at Wesleyan, Greenberg conducted honors research with Dr. Peter Jacobi. He received his PhD in biochemistry from Rockefeller University in 1982 and did postdoctoral research at New York University Medical Center. In 1986 he joined the faculty at Harvard Medical School, where he is currently chair of the Department of Neurobiology and the Nathan Marsh Pusey Professor of Neurobiology.

In recognition of his contributions to neuroscience, Dr. Greenberg has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences and has received numerous awards, including the Gruber Prize in Neuroscience in 2015 (with Dr. Carla Shatz). He is also widely regarded as a leading mentor and advisor for a generation of neuroscientists, and for this he has been honored with the A. Clifford Barger Award for Excellence in Mentoring and the Harold Amos Faculty Diversity Award.

Dr. Greenberg and his wife, Dr. Rosalind Segal, live in Brookline, Massachusetts, and have two children, Rachel and Daniel ’14.

David Hill '86

David Anthony Hill ’86

David Anthony Hill ’86
Outstanding Service Award
A College of Social Studies major and member of the Cardinal football team, David Hill has given back to Wesleyan in many ways over the last 30 years, including as a member of the President’s Council and as the inaugural chair of the Alumni of Color Council. He also has been an alumni-elected trustee, a class agent for the Class of 1986, and a member of the organizing committees for his 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th, and 30th class reunions.

Mr. Hill is a partner in the national law firm of Wong Fleming, P.C., the largest woman-owned law firm and one of the largest minority-owned law firms in the United States. An accomplished lawyer and executive, Mr. Hill counsels clients, manages teams, and advances strategic objectives for businesses ranging from a Fortune 20 company to smaller for-profit companies and nonprofit entities.

Prior to joining Wong Fleming, Mr. Hill spent 17 years in the legal department of Bell Atlantic/Verizon, where he served as the general counsel of the Delaware, District of Columbia, and Maryland operating companies and as a liaison between Verizon and the Obama administration. Earlier he was associated with the law firm of Hogan & Hartson (now Hogan Lovells). While there, he was the lead counsel in Wilkins v. Maryland State Police, a landmark case that led to the end of the use of race-based drug courier profiles in Maryland.

Mr. Hill resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife, Lynn, and their two children, David and Gabrielle. His civic involvement includes service as the chair of the Commission on Social Action at the Reid Temple AME Church in Silver Spring and on the Executive Committee of the board of Leadership Montgomery (Montgomery County, Maryland).

Jed D. Hoyer ’96
Distinguished Alumni Award

Jed Hoyer is executive vice president and general manager of the Chicago Cubs. Throughout his career in professional baseball he has been lauded for outstanding analytic skills as well as scouting and recruiting acumen and thorough preparation. The Cubs in 2015 advanced to the National League Championship Series for the first time since 2003. Currently, they lead the Central Division of the National League with the best record in baseball.

Jed D. Hoyer ’96 stands on stage and president Roth shakes his hand while Daphne Kwok ’84 looks on.

Jed D. Hoyer ’96

Mr. Hoyer spent 2009–11 with the San Diego Padres. In 2010 the Padres posted only the fourth 90-win campaign in the franchise’s 42-year history and finished just two games behind in the National League West race, despite having the lowest payroll in baseball. Earlier in his career, Mr. Hoyer helped guide the Boston Red Sox to their first world championship since 1918 during the 2004 season and then to a second championship in 2007.

A history major at Wesleyan, Mr. Hoyer played on the baseball team as a shortstop, outfielder, and starting and relieving pitcher, with a .400 hitting average. He still holds the school record for saves. At Wesleyan he once started both ends of a doubleheader and got the win in each one. In 1994 he played on the Cardinal team that advanced to the Division III College World Series. Following graduation, Mr. Hoyer worked at Wesleyan in Admission and University Relations while also serving as an assistant baseball coach before taking his first job in professional baseball as an intern for the Red Sox.

Mr. Hoyer has remained an active Wesleyan alumnus, including as a member of the Athletics Advisory Council since its founding in 2007. In 2012 he gave the John W. Baird ’38 Lecture at Wrigley Field. He also spends time with the Cardinal baseball team each year during spring training in Arizona. He and his wife, Merrill, live in Chicago with their two sons, Beckett and Gray.

Oyeshola “Shola” Olatoye ’96

Oyeshola “Shola” Olatoye ’96

Oyeshola “Shola” Olatoye ’96
Distinguished Alumna Award
Oyeshola “Shola” Olatoye is chair and chief executive officer of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), which is the largest public housing authority in the nation, providing affordable housing to more than 620,000 low- and moderate-income New Yorkers.

Before her appointment to NYCHA in 2014, Ms. Olatoye was vice president and New York market leader for Enterprise Community Partners, a national nonprofit real estate investment company dedicated to furthering affordable housing and community development. In addition to other professional positions, Ms. Olatoye has served on the board of the Council for Large Public Housing Authorities and is founding board chair of the Fund for Public Housing.

Ms. Olatoye has won recognition from the Institute for Public Architecture, Urban Upbound, and Green City Force, as well as from Crain’s, which named Ms. Olatoye to its “40 under 40” list of New York’s “most talented, driven, and dynamic” young professionals in 2014.

A history and African American studies major at Wesleyan, Ms. Olatoye earned a master’s degree in public administration from the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU. She lives in Harlem, New York, with her husband, Matthew Strozier ’96, and their three children.

Meredith F. “Franklin” Sirmans Jr. ’91

Meredith F. “Franklin” Sirmans Jr. ’91

Meredith F. “Franklin” Sirmans Jr. ’91
Distinguished Alumnus Award
Franklin Sirmans is the director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). Prior to his recent appointment, he was the department head and curator of contemporary art at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) from 2010 until fall 2015. At LACMA Mr. Sirmans organized Noah Purifoy: Junk Dada; Variations: Conversations in and around Abstract Painting; Fútbol: The Beautiful Game; and Ends and Exits: Contemporary Art from the Collections of LACMA and the Broad Art Foundation, and co-organized the exhibition Human Nature: Contemporary Art from the Collection. He is the curator of the forthcoming LACMA exhibition Toba Khedoori.

From 2006 to 2010, Mr. Sirmans was curator of modern and contemporary art at the Menil Collection in Houston, where he organized exhibitions including NeoHooDoo: Art for a Forgotten Faith; Steve Wolfe on Paper; Vija Celmins: Television and Disaster, 1964–1966; and Maurizio Cattelan: Is There Life Before Death? In 2007 Mr. Sirmans won the David C. Driskell Prize, awarded for original and important contributions to the study of art of the African diaspora. He served as the artistic director for the arts festival Prospect.3 New Orleans from 2012 to 2014.

An English and art history major at Wesleyan, Mr. Sirmans was profoundly influenced by the dual interests in African and African American art of his faculty mentor, Peter Mark. He was also greatly influenced by professors John Paoletti and Robert O’Meally. With Professor Mark as his advisor, Mr. Sirmans wrote an honors thesis on Jean-Michel Basquiat. Shortly after graduating, Mr. Sirmans used that senior thesis to create the chronology for the 1992 Whitney Museum show and catalogue on the artist.

Mr. Sirmans lives in Miami, Florida, with his wife, Jessica, and daughter.

Ayelet Waldman ’86, P’17

Ayelet Waldman ’86, P’17

Ayelet Waldman ’86, P’17
McConaughy Award
Bestselling author Ayelet Waldman tackles her subjects—which range from motherhood and women’s issues to mental illness and the Holocaust—with honesty and verve. Her latest novel, Love and Treasure (2014), weaves a powerful story of love and loss around the history of the Hungarian Gold Train in World War II. Ms. Waldman’s next project, an edited collection of essays by prominent international authors about the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, will be published by HarperCollins in 2017. The book will be co-edited by her husband, the Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Michael Chabon.

Born in Israel, Ms. Waldman spent her first years in Canada before her family settled in the United States. After receiving a degree in psychology from Wesleyan, Ms. Waldman lived abroad in a kibbutz in Israel before returning to the United States and receiving her JD from Harvard Law School.

Ms. Waldman practiced law for several years before reimagining her career and becoming a writer. In addition to Love and Treasure, she is the author of Red Hook Road; the New York Times bestseller Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace; Daughter’s Keeper; the Mommy-Track Mystery series; and Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, which was adapted into the film The Other Woman, starring Natalie Portman. She has also contributed to several nonfiction anthologies.

Ms. Waldman’s personal essays and profiles of such public figures as Hillary Clinton have been published in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, Vogue, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. Her radio commentaries have been featured on All Things Considered and This American Life. She lives in Berkeley, California, with her husband and their children.

 

Luke Wood '91.

Luke F. Wood ’91

Luke F. Wood ’91
Distinguished Alumnus Award
Luke Wood is president of Beats by Dr. Dre, a premium brand of headphones and speakers that was acquired by Apple in 2014. A producer, guitarist, and music industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience, he has been involved with Beats since its early days, officially joining the company in 2011.

Prior to working at Beats, Mr. Wood served as chief strategy officer of Interscope Geffen A&M Records (IGA) and president of the imprint DGC Records, where he worked with many artists including Weezer, All American Rejects, Rise Against, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Mr. Wood began his career with Geffen Records in 1991 as a director of publicity, representing such bands as Nirvana and Sonic Youth.

A lifelong songwriter and musician, Mr. Wood signed a publishing deal with Universal Music Group in 1996, and during that year his band, Sammy, released its third album, Tales of Great Neck Glory, on Geffen/DGC Records. In August 2014, he joined the board of directors of Fender Musical Instruments, alongside U2’s Bono and The Edge.

Mr. Wood graduated from Wesleyan with a major in American studies. He lives in Los Angeles, California, with his wife, Sophia W. Nardin ’91, and two daughters.

Boger Hall, Gordon Career Center, The West Wing Dedicated During R&C Weekend

During Reunion & Commencement Weekend, the Wesleyan community celebrated the dedications of three prominent areas of campus with ribbon-cutting ceremonies. They include Boger Hall (formerly 41 Wyllys), the Gordon Career Center (located inside Boger Hall), and The West Wing of Usdan University Center.

Trustees, emeriti trustees, leadership donors and volunteers, and members of the Wesleyan community celebrated the dedication of Boger Hall, named for Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, ’09 and Amy Boger P’06, ’09 in recognition of their extraordinary leadership, service, and generosity. This event was held in conjunction with the Leadership Donor and Volunteer reception. (Photo by Jonas Powell '18)

Trustees, emeriti trustees, leadership donors and volunteers, and members of the Wesleyan community celebrated the dedication of Boger Hall, named for Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, ’09 and Amy Boger P’06, ’09 (second and third from right) in recognition of their extraordinary leadership, service, and generosity. (Photo by Jonas Powell ’18)

Wesleyan Awards 731 BA Degrees at 184th Commencement

Wesleyan celebrated the graduates of the Class of 2016 at its 184th Commencement Ceremony on May 22. (Photo by Jonas Powell '18)

Wesleyan celebrated the graduates of the Class of 2016 at its 184th Commencement Ceremony on May 22. (Photo by Jonas Powell ’18)

Graduates, their families, and other members of the Wesleyan community who gathered for the 184th Commencement ceremony on May 22 were offered advice on how to change the world by Bryan Stevenson, this year’s Commencement speaker, a human rights lawyer and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative.

(Photo by John Van Vlack)

(Photo by John Van Vlack)

Weaving in stories from his decades of work fighting racial injustice and discrimination in the criminal justice system, Stevenson told the Class of 2016 that changing the world requires four things: Getting proximate to the places “where there’s suffering and abuse and neglect”; “changing the narrative” about race in this country; staying hopeful; and being willing to do uncomfortable things.

“I wish I didn’t have to say that because it’s so nice if you can only do the things that are comfortable,” he said. “But the truth is we can’t change the world by doing just what’s convenient and comfortable. I’ve looked for examples where things changed, where oppression was ended, where inequality was overcome, when people did only what was convenient and comfortable, and I can’t find any examples of that. To change the world, you’re going to sometimes have to make uncomfortable choices, to be in uncomfortable places, and be proximate and be hopeful and change narratives. But know that if you do it, there is some great reward, all of that knowledge that you have accumulated will resonate. You will have ideas in your mind that match the conviction in your heart.”

Stevenson concluded, “There is a different metric system for those of you who want to change the world.” Success won’t be measured by grades or by income. He recalled an older black man he met after giving a talk. The man showed him cuts, bruises and scars he got while working to register people of color to vote in the south in the 1960s.

“There aren’t my cuts, these aren’t my bruises, these aren’t my scars,” the man told Stevenson. “These are my medals.”

Read the full text of Stevenson’s speech.

Wesleyan conferred an honorary doctor of humane letters degree upon Stevenson. Also recognized with honorary degrees were Kwame Anthony Appiah (doctor of letters)—a professor of philosophy and law at New York University who is renowned for his insights into moral theory and practice, racism and identity, cultural differences, and political development; and Patti Smith (doctor of fine arts)—a writer, performer, and visual artist whose recordings include her seminal album, Horses (1975), and whose books include Just Kids, winner of the 2010 National Book Award. Read more about the honorary degree recipients here.

(Photo by John Van Vlack)

(Photo by John Van Vlack)

This year, Wesleyan conferred 731 bachelor of arts degrees; 33 master of arts degrees, including 4 in the new master of arts in performance curation; 28 master of arts in liberal studies degrees; 2 master of philosophy in liberal arts; and 15 doctor of philosophy degrees.

Three faculty members were honored with the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching: Sally Bachner, associate professor of English; Demetrius Eudell, professor of history; and James Lipton, professor of computer science. These prizes, made possible by gifts from the family of the late Frank G. Binswanger Sr. Hon. ’85, underscore Wesleyan’s commitment to its scholar-teachers, who are responsible for the university’s distinctive approach to liberal arts education.

In addition, John Lemberg Usdan ’80, P’15, P’18, P’18, was awarded the Raymond E. Baldwin Medal, the highest honor presented by Wesleyan’s alumni body for extraordinary service to Wesleyan or for careers or other activity which have contributed significantly to the public good. Usdan is president of Midwood, a New York-based real estate investment and development firm. His remarkable record of service to Wesleyan over more than three decades has included 12 years as a trustee as well as serving as chair of the THIS IS WHY campaign—the most successful fundraising effort in Wesleyan’s history. Read more about Usdan here.

Also recognized were four retiring faculty members who were given emiriti status. They are: Abraham K. Adzenyah, adjunct professor of music; Philip H. Bolton, professor of chemistry; Alex Dupuy, John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology; and Mark Slobin, Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth. (Photo by Tom Dzimian)

Wesleyan President Michael Roth. (Photo by Tom Dzimian)

In his remarks to the graduating class, President Michael Roth spoke about Wesleyan’s core values of justice, generosity, and care.

“Justice, generosity, and care—these are the core values at Wesleyan. Students at this university demand that their school stand for justice—in words and in actions—and over the past four years your demands have included making our academic core more diverse and our residential life free from sexual violence that has become a scourge on college campuses across America,” he said.

Roth added, “Just as the aspiration for justice has been a powerful feature of campus culture, so too has recognizing that not everyone has the same view as to what constitutes justice, which means that part of the work of political engagement includes discussions in which we can build on our commonalities and explore our differences without fear. A university is a place to have one’s opinions tested—not protected.”

Roth also acknowledged, “As loud as calls for justice sometimes are, the soft but persistent voice of generosity has also been a feature of the student culture that you have created. Many of you work in the community . . . . And a number of you gave your time and labor to ease the plight of refugees—helping those in camps in the Middle East and smoothing the way for refugee families settling here in the United States. I am inspired by all your efforts.

“Linked to these acts of generosity—and to the calls for justice—is, I think, a deep ethics of care. . . . I very much admire the ways in which you have looked after one another, inspired one another, or simply cheered each other on. It may well be that the quest for justice and the impulse for generosity depend on this ethics of care, this commitment to seeing those around you fulfill their potential, flourish. . . . It builds our community and makes the work we do relevant beyond the university.”

Wesleyan celebrated the graduates of the Class of 2016 at its 184th Commencement Ceremony on May 22. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

Tahreem Khalied ’16. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

Roth challenged the graduates of the Class of 2016 to put what they’ve learned at Wesleyan to promote positive changes in the world. “We Wesleyans have used our education to mold the course of culture ourselves lest the future be shaped by those for whom justice and change, generosity and equality, diversity and tolerance, are much too threatening. Now we alumni are counting on you, Class of 2016, to join us in helping to shape this culture, so that it will not be shaped by the forces of violence, conformity, and elitism.”

In her Senior Class Welcome, Tahreem Khalied ’16, who came to the U.S. from Pakistan four and a half years ago, shared some of the many firsts she experienced at Wesleyan.  She also spoke about how her experience at Wesleyan taught her about the beauty and power of diversity. “As a student studying race and ethnicity as part of my American studies major, I was introduced to the possibility that there can be more truths than the one I believe in. . . . I learned about colonialism, indigenous politics, queer politics, anarchy, racial and ethnic politics, latinidad, South-Asian diasporic writing, all as part of this one, very inclusive major. I was learning that diversity, whether in thought, or in person, is indeed beautiful.”

The full Reunion & Commencement Weekend photo gallery is here.

The Commencement gallery is here.

The text and video of Bryan A. Stevenson’s address is here.

The text of Kwame Anthony Appiah’s address is here.

The text and video of Patti Smith’s address is here.

The text and video of President Michael S. Roth’s address to the Class of 2016 is here.

The text and video of the senior class welcome by Tahreem Khalied ’16 is here.

Information on the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching recipients is here.

Information on alumni receiving Distinguished Alumni, Outstanding Service, and McConaughy awards is here.

 

Honorary Degree Recipient Bryan Stevenson Delivers 2016 Commencement Speech (with video)

Bryan Stevenson speaks to the Class of 2016 during the 184th Commencement Ceremony on May 22. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

Bryan Stevenson speaks to the Class of 2016 during the 184th Commencement Ceremony on May 22. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

Bryan Stevenson delivered the following remarks during Wesleyan’s 184th Commencement ceremony May 22: 

It’s a great honor to be a part of this celebration with you today. I hate to ask one more thing of you graduates but I can’t resist. I’m going to ask you to do something when you leave this college, and it’s kind of a big thing. I’m going to ask you to change the world.

And I hate doing this, I actually feel guilty doing this—I really do—but we need the world to change. We are living in a country where we need more mercy, where we need more hope, where we need more justice. In my work in the criminal justice space, I’ve seen some radical changes in this country over the last 40 years. In 1972, we had 300,000 people in jails and prisons. Today we have 2.3 million. The United States now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. We have 6 million people on probation or parole. There are 70 million Americans with criminal arrests, which mean when they apply to get a job or to get a loan, they are disfavored. The percentage of women going to prison has increased dramatically, 640 percent increase in the number of women being sent to prison, 70 percent of whom are single parents with minor children. And when they go to jails or prisons, their children get displaced.

We’re doing some terrible things in poor communities where there’s hopelessness and despair. I sit down with 12 or 13 year old children who sometimes tell me that they don’t expect to be free by the time they’re 21. They’re not making that up. The Bureau of Justice now predicts that one in three black male babies born in this country is expected to go to jail or prison during his lifetime. One in three. That was not true in the 20th century, it wasn’t true in the 19th century, it has become true in the 21st. The statistic for Latino boys is one in six. There is this distance between people who have the capacity to change things and the people who are suffering because of the lack of change, and I want to talk to you very briefly about what I think we need to close that distance.

There are four things I think you can do to change the world. And if you do them, I absolutely believe that whether the issue is criminal justice, whether the issue is food security, whether the issue is the environment, whether the issue is income equality or international human rights, I believe you can change the world.

The first thing I believe you have to do is that you have to commit to getting proximate to the places in our nation, in our world, where there’s suffering and abuse and neglect. Many of you have been taught your whole lives that there are parts of the community where the schools don’t work very well; if there are sections of the community where there’s a lot of violence or abuse or despair or neglect, you should stay as far away from those parts of town as possible. Today, I want to urge you to do the opposite. I think you need to get closer to the parts of the communities where you live where there’s suffering and abuse and neglect. I want you to choose to get closer. We have people trying to solve problems from a distance, and their solutions don’t work, because until you get close, you don’t understand the nuances and the details of those problems. And I am persuaded that there is actually power in proximity. When you get close, you understand things you cannot understand from a distance. You have been on this beautiful campus, and many of you have found ways to get proximate to issues and problems around you, but all of us have to continue to do that. There is power in proximity.

Remarks for Honorary Degree Recipient Kwame Anthony Appiah

Michael Roth and Kwame Anthony Appaih.

Michael Roth and Kwame Anthony Appaih.

Honorary degree recipient Kwame Anthony Appiah made the following remarks during the 184th Commencement ceremony May 22:

Nearly 35 years ago I came to this country to teach at a small college down the road in New Haven. Less than a year later, the first university to which I was invited to give a public lecture, was this one. Professor Gene Golob invited me to speak at the College of Social Studies, of which he was one of the founding spirits, and I gave a talk on “Other People’s Gods.” It was about understanding the traditional religions of West Africa. I thought it was a pretty good talk … but I was less and less sure as I waited to see if I’d be invited back to lecture here again. Well, just thirty-three years later, I got a message from President Roth asking me if I’d come back once more and join you today to receive an honorary degree. And my first thought was, “Finally, they’ve asked me back. Maybe, that talk wasn’t so bad after all.”

But actually it was all fated from the start. You see, I was baptized in the Wesley Methodist Cathedral in the center of Kumasi, capital of the Asante region of Ghana. And it was named, like this University, for John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. So I guess that I had an inside track to this day.

My father and grandfather were elders of that church. I grew up with a great respect for the Wesley brothers, John and Charles. In my father’s language, we have a proverb that runs:

Ösaman pa na yéto no badin.

It’s a great departed spirit after whom we name a child.

Same, of course, for a university. So, for me, as a child of Kumasi Wesleyan, today is an especial joy. And now that I’m going to be a proud member of the class of 2016, I guess I won’t need to wait 33 years for the next invitation.

So, thank you so much, for this great honor … and I’d like to leave you with one more of our wonderful Akan proverbs.

Abé se: wannya opuro dwonsö a, anka öremmere da.

The palm tree says: if it had not received the urine of the squirrel, it would never have ripened.

Pity. If I had more time, I could have told you what it means. But I guess I don’t need to. Everybody knows that Wesleyan grads are among the smartest people on the planet. May your curiosity advance with your knowledge, and may adversity only speed your ripening.

Usdan ’80, P’15, P’18, P’18 Honored with Baldwin Medal for Outstanding Service to Wesleyan

From left to right: Michael Roth and John Usdan (Photo by John Van Vlack)

At right, John Lemberg Usdan ’80, P’15, P’18, P’18 was honored with the Raymond E. Baldwin Medal on May 22. He’s pictured here with Wesleyan President Michael Roth. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

During the 184th Commencement Ceremony, John Lemberg Usdan ’80, P’15, P’18, P’18 was honored with the Raymond E. Baldwin Medal. The award was presented by Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, P’09, chair of the Wesleyan University Board of Trustees.

The Baldwin Medal, which pays tribute to the late Judge Raymond E. Baldwin of the class of 1916, is the highest honor of the Alumni Association, recognizing outstanding service to Wesleyan.

John Lemberg Usdan is president of Midwood, a New York-based real estate investment and development firm. Usdan also is president of the Lemberg Foundation.

Usdan’s remarkable record of service to the Wesleyan community over more than three decades has included 12 years as a trustee as well as serving as chair of the THIS IS WHY campaign—the most successful fundraising effort in Wesleyan’s history. He is one of Wesleyan’s greatest ambassadors, engaging scores of alumni and parents in the life of the University.

While serving alma mater, Usdan has led by example. He and his brother, Adam ’83, established the Samuel Lemberg Scholarship Fund in memory of their grandfather to support middle-income students. John and Adam also made the lead gift to construct the university center, which Wesleyan proudly named the Suzanne Lemberg Usdan University Center in honor of their mother and in recognition of their extraordinary service to the University.

John Usdan and his wife, Eva Colin Usdan, have three sons: Samuel, Wesleyan class of 2015, Joshua, Wesleyan class of 2018, and Simon, Wesleyan class of 2018.

Michael Roth and John Usdan. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

Michael Roth and John Usdan. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

Stevenson, Smith, Appiah Receive Honorary Degrees

From left, Michael Roth, Bryan Stevenson, Patti Smith, Anthony Appiah, Joshua Boger. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

From left, Wesleyan President Michael Roth, Bryan Stevenson, Patti Smith and Kwame Anthony Appiah. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

Wesleyan presented honorary doctorates to Bryan Stevenson, Patti Smith and Kwame Anthony Appiah during the University’s 184th Commencement on May 22.

Michael Roth, Bryan Stevenson.

Michael Roth and Bryan Stevenson.

Bryan Stevenson is a human rights lawyer who has dedicated his life to fighting racial injustice and discrimination in the criminal justice system. He is executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), an Alabama-based group that has won numerous legal challenges on behalf of the poor and incarcerated, including a historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling holding that life-without-parole sentences for children aged 17 or younger are unconstitutional.

He founded the Equal Justice Initiative in 1989 to help prisoners on death row, and the scope of its mission has expanded since. Under his leadership, EJI has won a number of major legal challenges—eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill and aiding children prosecuted as adults. He has successfully argued several cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and he and his staff have won reversals, relief or release for more than 115 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row. Professor Stevenson has initiated major new anti-poverty and anti-discrimination efforts that challenge the legacy of racial inequality in America, including projects to educate communities about slavery, lynching and racial segregation.

Professor Stevenson also teaches at the New York University School of Law. He is a 1985 graduate of Harvard, with both a master’s in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government and a J.D. from the Harvard Law School. Among the numerous honors accorded him are a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant,” the National Medal of Liberty from the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Olof Palme Prize in Stockholm for international human rights. He was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2014. He is the author of the bestseller Just Mercy, winner of the 2015 Carnegie Medal for Best Nonfiction and named by Time magazine as one of the 10 Best Books of Nonfiction for 2014.

Michael Roth and Patti Smith.

Michael Roth and Patti Smith.

Patti Smith is a writer, performer, and visual artist. She gained recognition in the 1970s for her revolutionary mergence of poetry and rock and has recorded 13 albums. Her seminal album Horses (1975) has been inducted into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress/National Recording Preservation Board.

Her acclaimed memoir, Just Kids, chronicling her relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe, was awarded the 2010 National Book Award. Her books include Witt, Babel, Coral Sea, Woolgathering, Auguries of Innocence and the recent M Train.

The French Ministry of Culture awarded Smith the prestigious title of Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres, the highest honor awarded to an artist by the French Republic. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 and in 2011 was the recipient of Sweden’s Polar Award, for significant achievements in music.

The anthem People Have the Power, written and recorded with her late husband Fred Sonic Smith, is used globally to call for collective unity and social justice. Smith lends her support to many causes, believing it is essential to use one’s creative powers to increase awareness of environmental issues, disease, poverty and human rights violations.

Michael Roth and Kwame Anthony Appaih.

Michael Roth and Kwame Anthony Appaih.

Kwame Anthony Appiah is professor of philosophy and law at New York University, teaching in New York, Abu Dhabi and other NYU Global Centers. He has held a number of other distinguished academic appointments as well, most recently at Princeton in the philosophy department and the University Center for Human Values. He also has taught at Yale, Cornell, Duke, and Harvard universities and has lectured worldwide.

Professor Appiah is renowned for his insights into moral theory and practice, racism and identity, cultural differences and political development. His 1992 book, In My Father’s House (Oxford University Press), explores the role of African and African-American intellectuals in shaping contemporary African cultural life and was recognized by the African Studies Association with its Herskovits Award as “the most important scholarly work in African studies published in English.” His vast and wide-ranging scholarly activities earned him Forbes’ designation in 2009 as one of the world’s seven most powerful thinkers. In October 2015, he began to write the weekly Ethicist column for The New York Times Magazine, answering readers’ questions about their ethical quandaries.

Professor Appiah holds BA and PhD degrees from Cambridge University. His numerous honors include election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. President Obama presented him with the National Humanities Medal in 2012.

Remarks for Honorary Degree Recipient Patti Smith (with video)

Patti Smith delivers remarks at Commencement. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

Patti Smith delivers remarks at Commencement. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

Patti Smith received an honorary degree at Wesleyan’s 184th Commencement ceremony. Her remarks are below:

Hello, everybody. Congratulations to all, and to the graduates, of course. You are asked to embrace the joy of this moment. I would like you also to embrace the worst possible moment that you experienced to achieve this moment. That worst moment, the most difficult thing that you went through, is your source of inner strength. When you go out into the world and you have a tough time, you know that you have the power to surmount it. Don’t forget that. I salute you all and send this little message:


I was dreaming in my dreaming
Of an aspect bright and fair
And my sleeping, it was broken
But my dream it lingered near

In the form of shining valleys
Where the pure air rarified
And my senses newly opened
And I awakened to the cry

That the people have the power,
the people have the power.

And where there where deserts,
I saw fountains and like cream the waters rise
and we strolled there together
with none to laugh or criticize.

And the leopard and the lamb
lay together truly bound
I was hoping in my hoping
to recall what I had found

I was dreaming in my dreaming
God knows a purer view
But as I surrender to my sleeping
I commit my dream to you

That the people have the power
to redeem the work of fools.
Upon the meek the graces shower
It’s decreed the people rule.

And I believe that everything we dream
can come to pass
Through our union we can turn the world around
We can turn the earth’s revolution.
For the people have the power,
The people of the power.

Graduates, you are the future, and the future is now.

Congratulations.

Thank you.

Khalied ’16 Delivers Senior Class Welcome (with video)

Wesleyan celebrated the graduates of the Class of 2016 at its 184th Commencement Ceremony on May 22. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

Tahreem Kahlied ’16 speaks to fellow graduates. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

Tahreem Kahlied ’16 delivered the following Senior Class Welcome during the 184th Commencement Ceremony May 22:

Five years ago, when I was still living in Karachi, Pakistan, and studying for an accounting certification, I logged on to my Facebook and realized that my wall was flooded with graduation pictures. I wrote the following status in a fit of passive-aggressive jealousy (and I quote): “I just realized that I will never have a regular graduation with a convocation where I get to wear a gown and that flat hat thingy.”

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Tahreem Khalied ’16 (Photos by Tom Dzimian)

I wasn’t just jealous…I was extremely sad. I believed wholeheartedly that I would spend my life auditing companies, and that was just depressing.

When I came to the U.S. four and a half years ago I did not know what to expect…and needless to say the first few months here were a cultural shock, completely nerve-wracking. Born and raised in Karachi, it was extremely difficult for me to adjust to the Wesleyan environment. I was scared on so many levels: scared about my future; scared about being the odd one out, the adult, foreign student in a sea of smart, articulate young people; scared about not being American enough to understand what it meant to be a Wesleyan student. Coming to Wesleyan was the first decision I had taken for myself, and it scared me that this one independent decision might turn out to be a big failure.

President Roth Makes Remarks to the Class of 2016 (with video)

Wesleyan President Michael Roth. (Photo by Tom Dzimian)

Wesleyan President Michael Roth. (Photo by Tom Dzimian)

Wesleyan President Michael Roth made the following remarks during the 184th Commencement ceremony May 22:

President Roth delivers his remarks. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

President Roth delivers his remarks. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

Members of the Board of Trustees, members of the faculty and staff, distinguished guests, new recipients of graduate degrees, and the very mighty Class of 2016, I am honored to present some brief remarks on the occasion of this Commencement.

When you began your time at Wesleyan in the fall of 2012, the presidential elections were moving into high gear. Barack Obama, who spoke from this podium eight years ago as a presidential candidate, was arguing for a renewed mandate for change, for finding ways to make even small amounts of progress on environmental issues, social justice concerns, and economic growth. There were many who opposed this vision, and they offered an alternative framework for imagining individual freedom, prosperity through work, and respect for tradition. Today you are graduating into another election cycle, and now differences in the visions for the future of this country seem greater than ever. Our politics have grown ever nastier, cruder, more vulgar, more juvenile. Many Americans, turned off by the triumph of vulgarity and corruption, seem ready to dis-engage from the political process. I trust this will not be the case for you. Resignation should not be an option. We so need your participation, your vision, your commitment to put justice, generosity, and care at the center of your lives and our communities.

Bachner, Eudell, Lipton Honored for Excellence in Teaching

Wesleyan President Michael Roth honored James Lipton, professor of computer science; Demetrius Eudell, professor of history; and Sally Bachner, associate professor of English with Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching during the 184th Commencement Ceremony on May 22. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

Wesleyan President Michael Roth honored James Lipton, professor of computer science; Demetrius Eudell, professor of history; and Sally Bachner, associate professor of English with Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching during the 184th Commencement Ceremony on May 22. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

Sally Bachner, associate professor of English, Demetrius Eudell, professor of history, and James Lipton, professor of computer science, received Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching at Commencement on May 22. These prizes, made possible by gifts from the family of the late Frank G. Binswanger Sr., Hon. ’85, underscore Wesleyan’s commitment to its scholar-teachers, who are responsible for the university’s distinctive approach to liberal arts education.

Recommendations were solicited from alumni of the last 10 graduating classes, as well as current juniors, seniors, and graduate students. Recipients were chosen by a selection committee of faculty and members of the Alumni Association Executive Committee.

Bios of the recipients follow:

Alumni Reflect on Reunion Visit

Davenports.

David ’88 and Monica Davenport.

New York, N.Y. resident David Davenport ’88 visited campus with his wife, Monica. David is serving on the Board of Trustees through 2018. “It’s great to be back on campus. I’m so proud of all the honorees at the Annual Meeting of the Alumni Association. Luke Wood’s talk was a great story about the marriage of old culture—records—to the current music media—digital. My wife was saying that this might apply to our son. He’s 13, and into Magic, a unique kind of counterculture. Luke’s story of how you can study the counterculture through different educational disciplines—and actually enjoy it—is inspiring.” Monica enjoyed soaking up the campus activity. “I feel like I missed something by not coming here,” she said. David majored in government at Wesleyan and was a member of Psi Upsilon.

New Jersey residents Myra Wrubel P’85, P’88 and Charlie Wrubel ’59 P’85 P’88 enjoy returning to Wesleyan to see how the campus has grown. “I like the camaraderie of the people during Reunion,” Charlie said. Charlie, who served as a Wesleyan Trustee from 2013-16 majored in government and was on the swimming and diving team.