All Wesleyan alumni and families were invited to participate in Virtual Reunion 2021: A Week of Wes! from May 10-15. The week’s worth of events celebrated the classes of 1s and 6s.
A sampling of the virtual reunion events are below:
On May 14, Trustee Pritha Mittal ’96 and Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 welcomed all alumni to a virtual gathering, celebrating Reunion 2021. President Roth spoke to attendees about student life during the pandemic, financial aid, athletics, campus construction, and the new strategic plan. “We’re working on the plan for the next 10 years and we want to make sure that Wesleyan is in a good place financially, to promote access and diversity with creativity across the curriculum,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure campus feels like a second home and is a place that is conducive for the experimental work in whatever field [our students and faculty] commit their heart to.”
Alumni raise their glass during a celebratory toast.
On May 10, vibraphonist Jay Hoggard ’76, MA ’91 presented a live-streamed concert titled “Middletown on the Map.” The concert, presented by The Hartford Jazz Society, the Middletown Commission on the Arts and The Library Studio, featured the “three B’s of the jazz tradition”— blues, bop, and ballads— with original innovations.
Connie Balides ’71; Todd Jick ’71, P’11; and Dave Lindorff ’71, P’05 shared stories at their 50th reunion.
During a May 13 WESeminar titled “Hot Topics in Your 40s,” Louis Bronk ’01, Andrew Calica ’01, Ross Evangelista ’01, Taryn Finnessey ’01, Haydee Caldero ’01, and Scott Mayerowitz ’00 discussed their experiences in travel, education, the environment, real estate, and business.
On May 10, Alumni Association Distinguished Alumnus Laurence M. Mark ’71 and Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita Jeanine Basinger led a conversation titled “Wesleyan, Film and Hollywood.” Topics included the history and development of the film department and its impact on Hollywood and beyond. Former Trustee Paul J. Vidich ’72, P’00, ’03 moderated the discussion and alumni Q & A.
Mark is an Academy Award-nominated, Emmy-nominated, Golden Globe-winning producer of such acclaimed hit films as The Greatest Showman and Jerry Maguire. “Wesleyan allowed me to discover myself,” Mark recalled. “Wesleyan wants you to be well-rounded, but if you’re focused, they will nurture that focus. At Wesleyan, you would find your spot and you would go for it.”
Wesleyan film majors, Basinger said, “don’t just do film. They know something about the world. They’ve been somewhere, they’ve done something. I always say Wesleyan film majors are the most astonishing people in the world. They’re also very smart and they learn to work hard and they work together with each other. A lot has to do with the material that we’re putting out there, and the education—the liberal arts education we’re giving them to take out there, which is gold,” she said.
Alumni joined President’s Cabinet members Amin Abdul-Malik Gonzalez ’96, vice president and dean of admission and financial aid, and Alison Williams ’81, vice president for equity and inclusion, for a conversation on how the events of the past year have impacted the student experience. The Window into Wesleyan presentation, titled, “Wesleyan Presents: Reflections on the Past Year from Campus Leadership” was moderated by Wesleyan Trustee Christine Pina ’91, chief advancement officer at Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Conn. Gonzalez and Williams shared insights from their unique perspectives while also looking back at their own time as students.
On May 11, AFAM307: Black Middletown Lives course instructor Jesse Nasta ’07, visiting assistant professor of African American studies, hosted a talk titled “Black Middletown Lives: The History and Legacies of Middletown’s Beman Triangle.” The program highlighted student and alumni research on the Beman neighborhood—a predominately black community nestled between Vine Street, Park Street, and Cross Street on Wesleyan’s campus. The area was founded in 1847 by Leverett Beman, the grandson of an enslaved person and son of a local minister. Today, 11 historic homes remain and are occupied by Wesleyan students.
Jumoke McDuffie-Thurmond ’19 spoke about his senior thesis focused on the work he did in Nasta’s class through the lens of poetry. “Black Middletown Lives [was] this defining moment for me and remains an experience that I really cherished with all my heart,” McDuffie-Thurmond said. “When I was in the class, my research was centered around Silva Storms, [a] formerly enslaved woman from West Africa who was buried in a graveyard that’s essentially on Wesleyan’s campus.” While working on the project, McDuffie-Thurmond made a surprisingly personal discovery. “In that same graveyard, unbeknownst to me, until about halfway through my freshman year is also the burial site of some of my European American black collectives, people whose descendants would eventually move to Edgefield, S.C., enslav[ing] my Black and African ancestors,” he said.
Salma Hassan ’22 spoke about her project, which involved researching both the Washington Street and Indian Hill cemeteries and exploring how they are connected to Middletown’s history. At the Washington Street Cemetery, Hassan explained how the burial land is physically separated into two halves— a white section and a Black, or African American section. “There is a clear difference between the two sections in terms of stone grave quality and preservation; the white section is full of graves that are still standing while the Black section looks emptier only because the gravestones have been buried underground over the years or destroyed from the weather. Many Civil War soldiers, including Black soldiers, were buried there but are now hard to identify or find. That is also the case for many Black families who had an impact on Middletown, like the Bemans.”
Members of the Class of 1976 celebrated their 45th reunion.
On May 11, Randall MacLowry ’86, assistant professor of the practice in film studies and co-director of the Wesleyan Documentary Project, moderated a WesTalk titled “The Art of Documenting Subjects.” Panelists included National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita ’71; photojournalist Brooks Kraft ’87, P’23; writer/director Daniele Anastasion ’01; and writer/director Mary Robertson ’01. Each artist spoke about their own projects and how they approach their work in documenting subjects.
During the May 13 WESeminar, “The Golden Age of Television,” four Class of 1986 television writers discussed their current projects, their creative process, changes in the industry, and how Wesleyan helped shape them as writers. The event was moderated by Willie Garson ’86, bottom left, who has played roles in over 350 television episodes and 70 films. His well-known roles include Mozzie on White Collar, Stanford Blatch on Sex and the City, and Henry Coffield on NYPD Blue.
The panelists included novelist, screen and television writer Ayelet Waldman ’86 (A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life, Love and Treasure, and Daughter’s Keeper); screenwriter, producer and director Jennifer Flackett ’86 (Big Mouth, Madeleine, Wimbledon, The Perfect Storm, Beverly Hills 90210); playwright, actress, writer, and television producer Becky Mode ’86 (George and Tammy, Genius: Aretha Franklin, Until the Wedding, and Born in Brooklyn, Smash, A Gifted Man, Seal Team); and television producer and writer David Kohan ’86 (Will & Grace, The Wonder Years, Designing Women, The Dennis Miller Show).
Students performed a virtual, but invigorating African drumming and dance concert during reunion activities.
Guests participated in Cardinal Cocktail Hour, where Matt Winn ’92, chair of the Alumni Association, shared recipes for the Signature Cardinal Cocktail, the Middletown Margarita, and Mocktail, and the Return to Campus.
Shona Kerr, the winningest coach for both the women’s and men’s squash team, and NESCAC Men’s Squash Coach of the Year for 2011 and 2014, led a Cardinal Conversations discussion on “Dynamics of Women Coaching Men—A Coach’s Perspective and Discussion.” Kerr became head squash coach in 2005 at the age of 28 when she admittedly was a “pretty solid player” and used this to her advantage to earn respect, especially with male players who were skeptical of their new— and female—coach. “I had to prove myself to 16 young men. I took them all onto the court and beat them [in a game], and that was critical to making it work.”
Kerr was joined by several alumni athletes and parents of Wesleyan athletes.
Members of the Class of 2006 celebrated their 15th reunion.
On May 14, the Wesleyan Spirits performed several songs during Reunion 2021.
Other reunion events included an Alumni of Color (AOC)/Students of Color (SOC) Reception moderated by Kimberly King ’97, with remarks by Professor Theodore M. Shaw ’76; “Pie Pops” with pastry chef Candace Nelson ’96 and “Sugar Rush” winner Jennifer Low ’06; a Cardinal Family Fun Hour; a book talk with Wesleyan Professor of History Ronald Schatz; a Christina Crosby Memorial Gathering, a Study Abroad Alumni Reception; a WESeminar titled “A View of Campus and Middletown through the Years, led by Dan Haar ’81, Emil Frankel ’61, Dic Wheeler ’81, Dr. Silvia Mayo Molina ’91, P’23 and Jennifer Alexander ’88, Hon’09, P’15,’16; and more. The week-long event concluded with a reunion slideshow, moderated by Matt Winn ’92, chair of the Alumni Association, and Kimberly King ’97, vice-chair of the Alumni Association.