Olivia Drake

Faculty Appointed Endowed Professorships, Chair Appointments

monogramIn recognition of their career achievements, the following faculty members are being appointed to endowed professorships, effective July 1, 2021:

Erik Grimmer-Solem, professor of history, is receiving the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Professorship in the College of Social Studies, established in 2008.

Abigail Hornstein, associate professor of economics, is receiving the Woodhouse/Sysco Professorship of Economics, established in 2002.

Edward Moran, professor of astronomy, is receiving the John Monroe Van Vleck Professorship of Astronomy, established in 1982.

Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, is receiving the Harold T. Stearns Professorship of Earth Sciences, established in 1984.

Francis Starr, professor of physics, is receiving the Foss Professorship of Physics, established in 1885.

Tracy Heather Strain, associate professor of film studies and co-director of the Wesleyan Documentary Project, is receiving the Corwin-Fuller Professorship of Film Studies, established in 1986.

Also, in recognition of his outstanding research and teaching, Ilesanmi Adeboye, associate professor of mathematics, has been awarded the inaugural Faculty Equity Fellowship for 2021-2022.

Brief biographies appear below:

Ilesanmi Adeboye received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and MS from Howard University. He taught at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Santa Barbara, and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, before arriving at Wesleyan in 2011. Adeboye’s scholarship is at the intersection of geometry, topology, and analysis, with a focus on the study of volume in non-Euclidean geometries. He has published articles on hyperbolic geometry, complex hyperbolic geometry, and projective geometry. Ilesanmi received the 2010 Mochizuki Memorial Fund Award at UC Santa Barbara in recognition of outstanding achievement in mathematics instruction.

Erik Grimmer-Solem was a Harper Fellow at the University of Chicago before joining the history department in 2002. He received his D.Phil. from Oxford University, M.Phil. from Cambridge University, M.Sc. from the London School of Economics, and BA from Brigham Young University. Grimmer-Solem has published two books on the history of German social reform and imperialism, along with many articles and reviews in leading journals. He has received numerous awards, including the Binswanger Prize and a recent fellowship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). His scholarship on the Holocaust was covered widely in the German media and discussed by the Bundestag in 2014.

Abigail Hornstein joined the economics department after completing her Ph.D. and M.Phil. from Stern School of Business, New York University, and her AB from Bryn Mawr College. Her scholarship focuses on corporate finance, multinationals, business strategy and governance, and legal institutions, with particular expertise in the Chinese financial markets. Hornstein’s work has been published in many prestigious journals, including Journal of Empirical Finance, Journal of Comparative Economics, Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Journal of Corporate Finance, and China Economic Review.

Edward Moran arrived at Wesleyan in 2002 after serving as a Chandra Fellow at University of California, Berkeley, and an IGPP Postdoctoral Fellow at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and receiving his Ph.D. and MA from Columbia University. Moran studies black holes in the nuclei of dwarf galaxies to gain insights into galaxy evolution, and the history of black hole activity in the universe via investigations of the cosmic X-ray background radiation. He has received grants from the National Science Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

Suzanne O’Connell arrived at Wesleyan in 1989 after receiving her Ph.D. from Columbia University, her M.Sc. from State University of New York at Albany, and her AB from Oberlin College. O’Connell studies marine sediment cores recovered through scientific ocean drilling (DSDP, ODP, IODP) to understand past climate change, which helps to understand and model future climate change. She is the 2001 recipient of the Association for Women Geoscientists Outstanding Educator Award and a Fellow of the Geological Society of America (GSA). Currently, OConnell serves on the United States Science Advisory Program committee for the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) and on the governing council for GSA.

Francis Starr joined the physics department in 2003 after serving as the deputy director of the Center for Theoretical and Computational Materials Science at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). His research focuses on the emergent complexity of soft matter physics and biophysics. Starr has authored or co-authored over 120 refereed publications and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He is the former director of the College of Integrative Sciences and currently directs the Integrated Design, Engineering, & Applied Science (IDEAS) program.

Tracy Heather Strain received her Ed.M. from Harvard University and her AB from Wellesley College, and is currently an MFA candidate at the Vermont College for the Arts. Strain is an award-winning documentary film director, producer, and writer whose work tells stories with a goal of advancing social justice, building community, and empowering the marginalized. Her films have received two Peabody Awards and have been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Ford Foundation, Independent Television Service, and LEF Foundation, among other funding organizations. Her most recent work is American Oz, which premiered April 19, 2021.

Faculty, Alumni Rated Among World’s Top 1% of Scientists

Thirteen Wesleyan faculty are rated among the top 1% most-cited researchers worldwide, according to a recent study by PLOS Biology.

The study, led by Professor John Ioannidis from Stanford University, combines several different metrics to systematically rank the most influential scientists as measured by citations. More than six million scientists, who were actively working between 1996 and 2018, were analyzed for the project.

The faculty include:
David Beveridge, Joshua Boger University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics, emeritus
Fred Cohan, Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment, professor of biology
Mark Hovey, professor of mathematics, associate provost for budget and personnel
Tsampikos Kottos, Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, professor of physics
Matthew Kurtz, professor of psychology
Herbert Pickett, research professor in chemistry, emeritus
Dana Royer, professor of earth and environmental sciences
Francis Starr, professor of physics
Steve Stemler, professor of psychology
Ruth Striegel Weissman, Walter Crowell University Professor of Social Sciences, emerita
Sonia Sultan, professor of biology
Johan Varekamp, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, emeritus
Gary Yohe, Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, emeritus

In addition, at least eight Wesleyan alumni are rated in the top 0.1% of all scientists in the world including Gene Stanley ’62, Philip Russell ’65, Jay Levy ’60, Nick Turro ’60, Michael Greenberg ’76, Jerry Melillo ’65, John Coffin ’67, and Hugh Wilson ’65. (Know of any others? Let us know at newsletter@wesleyan.edu!)

The study reinforces Wesleyan’s reputation as an exceptional liberal arts institution, said Wilson, who is professor emeritus of spatial and computational vision at York University.

“It is sometimes questioned whether a liberal arts education is really optimal for an aspiring scientist. After all, wouldn’t it be better to take just science and math courses rather than spending part of one’s time with literature, philosophy, history, or art,” he said. “So, [this study shows that] liberal arts continue to attract outstanding scientists as dedicated faculty members who espouse both teaching and research.”

Timeline: Wesleyan Reflects on the COVID-19 Pandemic

For nearly a year and a half, the COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably affected our lives in varying magnitudes. In this timeline, we explore the evolution of the pandemic through Wesleyan’s lens via public health advisories, photographs, and news stories.

Jan. 22, 2020:  Wesleyan’s Medical Director Dr. Tom McLarney issues a public health advisory to the campus community. “As many of you know from news reports, there is a viral illness that has affected the Hubei Province (mainly in Wuhan) China,” he wrote. “This virus is a novel (new) strain of the Corona virus … At this time, there is no threat to the Wesleyan community but the University will be monitoring this and will keep the community apprised of any developments.” Read the post.

Feb. 2, 2020: In response to the World Health Organization announcing an outbreak of a novel coronavirus, or “COVID-19 (coronavirus disease of 2019)”, Wesleyan’s Chinese community (particularly students and parents) bands together to help their fellow citizens. The student-initiated group WesInAction raises more than $23,000, which is used to purchase medical equipment for hospitals in the pandemic’s epicenter in Hubei province, China. Read the story.

On Feb. 16, WesInAction delivered seven sets of oxygen concentrators and ventilators and 26,000 pairs of medical gloves to the First People’s Hospital of Xiaochang County and the People’s Hospital of Dawu County in Xiaogan, Hubei province.

On Feb. 16, WesInAction delivered seven sets of oxygen concentrators and ventilators and 26,000 pairs of medical gloves to the First People’s Hospital of Xiaochang County and the People’s Hospital of Dawu County in Xiaogan, Hubei province.

73 Seniors Elected to Phi Beta Kappa

Kat Eaton '21

Phi Beta Kappa inductee Kat Eaton ’21 plans to work as an editor at a ghostwriting company while applying to creative writing programs at graduate schools.

During her four years at Wesleyan, Katherine “Kat” Eaton ’21 not only fell in love with creative writing, but she also discovered interests in martial arts, fire spinning, and tabletop roleplaying games—Dungeons & Dragons, Monster of the Week, Masks, and more. “Basically, I’m a storyteller, whether that’s on my own or with other people,” Eaton explained.

Eaton, who graduated on May 26 with honors for her English thesis titled “Myths and Legends of Aetheria: A Study in Worldbuilding,” is also among only 88 students from the Class of 2021 to graduate with Phi Beta Kappa honors.

On May 24, she and 72 of her peers were inducted into the Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa during a virtual ceremony. At Wesleyan, only 12 percent of each graduating class is elected to PBK, the oldest national scholastic honor society. Election is based on fulfilling general education expectations and having a grade point average of 93 or above.

Students are nominated by their major departments or class dean.

NASA Selects 2 Proposed Venus Mission Concepts Co-Developed by Gilmore

Gilmore

Martha Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology and professor of earth and environmental sciences, believes that if scientists are able to measure Venus’s atmosphere and surface, we can better understand the climate, volcanic activity, and the habitability of Earth-size worlds. The selected missions aim to understand how Venus became an inferno-like planet after it was potentially another habitable world in the solar system with an Earth-like climate. (Photo by Henry Greenwood)

Two proposed Venus mission concepts co-developed by planetary geologist Martha Gilmore were selected by NASA’s Discovery Program this week. The selected missions aim to understand how Venus became a scorching planet after it was potentially another habitable world in the solar system with an Earth-like climate.

Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor of earth and environmental sciences, is a co-investigator of both winning concepts. Each project will receive approximately $500 million per mission for development and is expected to launch in the 2028–2030 timeframe.

The projects include VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy) and DAVINCI+ (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging Plus).

“Venus is so critical to our understanding of how Earth-sized planets form in our solar system and other solar systems,” Gilmore said. “I can’t wait to see what we know about Venus in 20 years—will we know then that Venus was once covered in oceans? Will we know how the inner planets acquired their water inventory? Will we know how to recognize habitable planets around other stars? Will we find evidence of life there?”

VERITAS, a Venus orbiter, will create high-resolution topography imaging of Venus’s surface and produce the first maps of the planet’s global surface composition. By charting surface elevations of nearly the entire planet, scientists will be able to learn more about the geological history of the planet and why it developed so differently than Earth. VERITAS also will map infrared emissions from Venus’s surface to map its rock type and determine whether active volcanoes are releasing water vapor into the atmosphere. VERITAS is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

DAVINCI+ is an atmospheric probe that would be managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. As the probe plunges into Venus’s thick atmosphere, it would measure the chemical composition, revealing the possibility of a history of water on Venus. In addition, DAVINCI+ will return the first high-resolution pictures of the unique geological features on Venus known as “tesserae,” which may be comparable to Earth’s continents, and, as the oldest terrains on Venus, may record past climates. This will be the first U.S.-led mission to Venus’s atmosphere since 1978.

“Having these two such complementary missions is a dream come true,” Gilmore said. “I’m so happy and look forward to working with our students on this fascinating planet.”

According to NASA, these investigations are the final selections from four mission concepts NASA picked in February 2020 as part of the agency’s Discovery 2019 competition. Following a competitive, peer-review process, Gilmore’s missions “were chosen based on their potential scientific value and the feasibility of their development plans.” The project teams will now work to finalize their requirements, designs, and development plans.

NASA“We’re revving up our planetary science program with intense exploration of a world that NASA hasn’t visited in over 30 years,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science in a June 2 press release. “Using cutting-edge technologies that NASA has developed and refined over many years of missions and technology programs, we’re ushering in a new decade of Venus to understand how an Earth-like planet can become a hothouse. Our goals are profound. It is not just understanding the evolution of planets and habitability in our own solar system, but extending beyond these boundaries to exoplanets, an exciting and emerging area of research for NASA.”

Established in 1992, NASA’s Discovery Program has supported the development and implementation of over 20 missions and instruments. These selections are part of the ninth Discovery Program competition.

Gilmore, who also is the co-coordinator of Wesleyan’s Planetary Sciences program, is a fellow of the Geological Society of America, has served on dozens of NASA and National Academy of Sciences-NRC Committees, has mentored more than 20 master’s degree recipients, has served as chair of the Wesleyan’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Venus Exploration Analysis Group, deputy chair of VEXAG, and has a publication record of fundamental research contributions in planetary geoscience, particularly on the geological evolution of the Earth, Venus, and Mars.

In 2020, she received the Randolph W. “Bill” and Cecile T. Bromery Award from the Geological Society of America for her exemplary contributions to research in the geological sciences and for being an instrumental mentor to young people of color.

Ligon ’82, Hon. ’12 Inducted to the American Academy of Arts and Letters

Glenn Ligon ’82

Glenn Ligon ’82

Artist Glenn Ligon ’82, Hon. 12 was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters on May 19. The Academy is an honor society comprised of 300 architects, artists, composers, and writers.

Each year, the Academy elects new members as vacancies occur, administers over 70 awards and prizes, exhibits art and manuscripts, funds performances of new works of musical theater, and purchases artwork for donation to museums across the United States.

Ligon’s work is an exploration of American history, literature, and society that builds on the legacies of modern painting and more recent conceptual art. He’s best known for his text-based paintings, which draw on the writings and speeches of Zora Neale Hurston, Gertrude Stein, and Richard Pryor.

After receiving a BA at Wesleyan, Ligon joined the Whitney Museum of Art’s Independent Study Program. The museum hosted a 2011 mid-career retrospective called Glenn Ligon: America to celebrate his work. Ligon’s art has been displayed and celebrated internationally. His recent exhibitions include Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions in 2015 and Blue Black in 2017, an exhibition Ligon curated at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis, inspired by the site-specific Ellsworth Kelly wall.

Ligon’s work has been featured at the Camden Arts Centre in London, the Power Plant in Toronto, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and at the Venice Biennale, Berlin Biennal, Istanbul Biennal, and Gwangju Biennale festivals.

Other 2021 Academy inductees include Spike Lee, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Barbara Kingsolver, Adrian Piper, and Tracy K. Smith. Read the full list here.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsSeveral Wesleyan faculty, students, alumni, parents, and staff have recently been featured in the news:

May 19
The New York Times — Drama Book Shop, Backed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, to Open in June. Mentions that the new owners are Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15 and Thomas Kail ’99.

May 20
New Fairfield Hamlet Hub — Great Hollows announces the addition of Visiting Scientists. Features Robert Clark PhD ’17.

We-ha — Hartford, Connecticut-based Covenant Prep School Will Celebrate Extraordinary Successes at June 5th Reunion. Mentions that “virtually all school alumni have graduated or are now enrolled in college programs, including at Colby College, Connecticut College, Providence College, University of Connecticut, and Wesleyan University.”

May 21
The Middletown Press — Haircuts and Botox: The post-pandemic beauty boom has reached CT. Pictures a Wesleyan student who cut off a ponytail full of hair.

USA Today — Review: Infectious movie musical ‘In the Heights’ joyfully salsas past its shortcomings. Features Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15.

Real Estate Weekly — WHO’S NEWS: Latest appointments, promotions. Mentions that Zach Steinberg ’08 has been promoted to senior vice president of policy for the Real Estate Board of New York and holds a BA in history from Wesleyan.

May 24
NBC News — UNC’s rejection of Nikole Hannah-Jones and the opacity of academic tenure in America. Features an op-ed by Robyn Autry, associate professor of sociology.

The Atlantic — An Unorthodox Strategy to Stop Cars From Hitting Deer: Try wolves. Features Jennifer Raynor, assistant professor of economics.

WRDE — Gunderson Dettmer Announces the 2021 1L Diversity Fellowship Cohort. Mentions Wolfgang Jorde ’16.

Yahoo! — The LatAm funding boom continues as Kaszek raises $1B across a duo of funds. Mentions Wesleyan and Chief Investment Officer Anne Martin.

The Hartford Courant — Middletown riverfront redevelopment to create a ‘vibrant and accessible district’ moves ahead. Mentions City of Middletown Mayor Ben Florsheim ’14.

Newsday — Long Island schools announce prom plans, with some moving outside. Mentions that Michael Minars ’25 “will head to Wesleyan University in the fall, majoring in environmental studies.”

The Observer-Dispatch — Teen All-Stars: Jr. Frontiers. Features Kerry Campbell ’25, who will be “attending Wesleyan University on a football commitment.”

May 25
NPR — Wolves scare deer and reduce auto collisions 24%, study says. Quotes Jennifer Raynor, a natural resources economist at Wesleyan University and a co-author of the new study.

DNYUZ — The Native Scholar Who Wasn’t. Features J. Kehaulani Kauanui, professor of American studies.

ARRL — CQ Announces 2021 Hall of Fame Inductees. Mentions Archibald Doty ’42, who “co-founded what is now WESU at Wesleyan University in Connecticut in 1939, the second-oldest college radio station in the U.S.”

Boston Globe — Sip These Rhode Island Blends on National Wine Day. Mentions the family of Nancy Parker Wilson ’81.

Yale University — Yale School of Nursing Welcoming More Than a Dozen New Faculty. Mentions film studies major Sarah Lipkin ’06, who will be a part-time lecturer in the women’s health and midwifery programs.

May 26

Register Citizen — Wesleyan graduates class of 2021 in hybrid ceremony. Features Wesleyan’s 189th Commencement.

The Hour — Trumbull High swimmer Lauren Walsh to compete in U.S. Olympic team trials in Omaha. Mentions Wesleyan.

The Unz Review — Flight from White: Yet Another Leftist PoC Lady Grievance Study Professor Is Exposed as White. Features J. Kehaulani Kauanui, professor of American studies.

May 27
The Chronicle for Higher Education — Academic Freedom Is on the Ropes: The attacks are coming from both the right and the left. Quotes Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78.

WTNH Channel 8 — Danbury HS quarterback, star student doesn’t let his speech impediment slow him down in achieving high marks. Features Patrick Rosetti ’25, who is “committed to Wesleyan University with his eyes on being a general surgeon.”

Outside — Running’s Cultural Reckoning Is Long Overdue. Mentions Wesleyan and several alumni.

WORT FM 89.9 — Madison In The Sixties – Bob Dylan. Mentions Fritz DeBoer, who “would spend 34 years as a professor of theater at Wesleyan University, focusing on Asian performance and Balinese dance.”

The American Spectator — Remembering a Stolen Valor Fraudster–Historian This Memorial Day. Features William Manchester Hon. ’02, P’72.

May 28
The Wall Street Journal — ‘Prisoners of History’ Review: The Use and Abuse of the Past. Book review by President Michael Roth ’78.

Yahoo! Life — Yes, ‘In the Heights’ Filmed in New York City—and the Locations Are Authentic to the Story. Mentions Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15 who “dreamed up the concept during his days at Wesleyan University.”

Undark — Abstracts. Mentions study by Assistant Professor of Economics Jennifer Raynor.

The Hamlet Hub — Acclaimed Folk Singer Dar Williams returns to The Ridgefield Playhouse on June 25. Features Dar Williams ’89.

May 29
The Bedford Citizen — The 56th Annual CSF of Bedford Dollars for Scholars Awards. Mentions that Katherine Fhu ’25 “will attend Wesleyan University to major in engineering.”

The Courier-Journal — Why Louisville’s Breonna Taylor protests made white people listen. Quotes Steven Moore, an assistant professor of government.

May 31
The Middletown Press — On the Move: Time to honor the true meaning of Memorial Day in Middletown. Mentions Mayor Ben Florsheim ’14, and Wesleyan University, led by President Michael Roth ’78.

June 1
Sweetwater Report — Event Rap, Custom Rap Agency, Smashes Crowdfunding Goal on Kickstarter. Mentions that Baba Brinkman recently released the music video for his latest single “Counterfactual,” commissioned by Wesleyan University Climate Economist Gary Yohe, which highlights the dangers of misinformation about COVID vaccinations, climate science, news, and politics.

June 3
Scientific American — NASA Picks Two Missions to Explore Venus, the First in Decades. Quotes George I. Seney Professor of Geology Martha Gilmore, “a planetary geologist at Wesleyan University, who is part of both mission teams.”

AP News via Business Wire — Brad Frank Joins Korn Ferry as Senior Client Partner. Features Brad Frank ’89.

Marketwire News — Industry Veterans Join Innovation Leader Powering OneStop Customer Apps. Features Tim Harvey ’85 “who has a bachelor’s degree in government from Wesleyan University.”

Lifestyle/ Country Legends 105.9 — Integral Welcomes Theodore Tomasi and Miranda Henning to Company Leadership; Establishes New Economics Practice. Features Miranda Henning ’87 who holds a “BA in environmental science from Wesleyan University.”

June 4
Yale University — Obit of Worth David: Dean of Admissions at Yale for 2 Decades. Features Worth David MALS ’66.

June 5
Art Daily — Hamilton creator celebrates immigrant roots with In the Heights. Features Lin Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15 “who is of Puerto Rican descent, and has long advocated for his community in the entertainment world and beyond–wrote the first version of ‘In The Heights’ as a young student at Wesleyan University.”

June 6
The Hartford Courant — NASA selects two Venus missions, co-developed by Wesleyan University professor, to explore Earth’s ‘hellish’ neighbor. Features George I. Seney Professor of Geology Martha Gilmore.

June 7
AI Thority — Moxtra Announces Addition of Head of Global Sales and Chief Financial Officer. Mentions Tim Harvey ’85, chief financial officer, who has a “bachelor’s degree in government from Wesleyan University.”

Mercy College — Mercy College Appoints Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Features Peter West ’94 who has “a bachelor’s degree with honors in English from Wesleyan University.”

Chattanoogan — McCallie Names New Dean Of Enrollment Management. Features Andy Hirt MALS ’19.

June 8
Business Insider — Meet 7 Federal Judges Helping to Decide the Fate of the Capitol Rioters. Mentions John Bates ’68.

View more Wesleyan in the News online here.

Alumni Honored at Virtual Reunion

Each year, Wesleyan’s Alumni Association recognizes an extraordinary group of alumni and members of the Wesleyan community with Alumni Association Awards. These awards recognize individuals who have made remarkable contributions or achievements in their professions, their communities, or the creative arts. Traditionally presented at the Wesleyan Assembly and Annual Meeting during Reunion & Commencement Weekend, the awards this year were presented virtually by President Michael Roth ’78 as part of Virtual Reunion 2021.

The recipients and descriptions are below:

Laurence M. Mark ’71
This producer extraordinaire has garnered not just the industry’s most prestigious nominations and awards, but the deep affection of his audiences. Name any handful of his iconic films—DreamgirlsAs Good as It GetsJerry Maguire—and watch smiles form as we remember the magic.

Pitch perfect, he draws the deepest understanding of what it is to be human from his team. We love his films not only for what we saw, but for how they made us feel.

Dubbed “Wesleyan’s first film major”—even before Wesleyan offered this—he has blazed a trail to the pinnacle of his field with brilliance, intelligence, and generosity, ever willing to return to his alma mater to share his creative journey.

Christopher S. Weaver MALS ’75, CAS ’76
Weaver first arrived on campus nearly four decades ago, eager to pursue the unlikeliest of academic mashups: physics and computer science with Japanese ethnomusicology.

With his flexible intellect and delight in cultivating interdisciplinary connections, he created the gaming art of the future, bringing the laws of physics onto a virtual gridiron, releasing players into infinite possibilities of true-to-life action. But games are also his potent tools, solving the puzzle of traumatized brains, teaching the next generation to make sense of their world.

A practical intellectual and creative scholar-teacher, he is at home in both humanities and technology. His students will be his legacy as he engages with them to forge their own unlikely connections across disciplines and to develop solutions in a future we never could have fathomed.

Christopher J. Graves ’81, P’17
“Combinatorial creativity,” making connections across disparate fields of study, is the superpower he honed at Wesleyan and brought to bear in the world. Rising to the top of two prestigious careers, he’s embarked on a third most crucial one. Founder of the Ogilvy Center for Behavioral Science, he’s become, through intensive research, a leader in the science of effective health communications.

With a focus on vaccine hesitancy—and with clients that include the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and a major vaccine maker—it is his unique intelligence, curiosity, dedication, and scholarship that allows researchers to provide key information in ways that constituents can hear, and in turn, make life-saving choices.

Ellen R. Green ’81
Artist, filmmaker, and writer, her brilliant trajectory began even before her honors thesis explored the 1920s discourse on African American art. In her prodigious oeuvre since, she has used different media to examine our perceptions and beliefs, offering conflicting yet simultaneous perspectives that challenge our concept of “otherness.”

Her insights have been revealed and interwoven through installations, books, films, and art. Critics have lauded her work as prescient and compelling. Mesmerized by her questions, visions, and insights, we follow her to find that, not only has she shown us this object, this building, this institution, but also she has brought us to a greater understanding of ourselves.

Spencer Phipps Boyer ’91
If we rest easy on any given night, it is because he is one who is keeping a finger on the pulse of the world. Tapped to be the Pentagon’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for Europe, he serves as a point person for NATO nations, strengthening bonds between allies and instilling confidence as he speaks for our country.

Specialist in public international law and the work of multinational organizations, he has honed his wisdom in legal matters around the world: The Hague, Zurich, and Paris all sites for his work. Prestigious media outlets seek his insight and commentary. Georgetown University, the Brookings Institution, the Obama administration, the Brennan Center for Justice — these and more have been beneficiaries of his leadership and teaching, his collegial spirit and rigorous intellect, his research and analysis of European and Eurasian affairs, Russian influence in Western democracies, and U.S. public diplomacy.

Candace C. Nelson ’96
Pastry chef, entrepreneur, cookbook author, TV celebrity, and philanthropist, she began her career as an investment banker, a likely path for an economics major.

Then, following a passion, she pivoted to the unexpected, creating Sprinkles, a single-item bakery at the height of the low-carb craze. Always an innovator, she’s added cupcake ATMs, reality baking show hosting, and Neapolitan pizza to her repertoire. Her through-theme is a commitment to quality products with investment in the community. In every Sprinkles locale, her philanthropy is uniquely geared to the needs of that region.

She has inspired others with her entrepreneurial enthusiasm, fearless innovation, and mouthwatering success, and always placed philanthropy as an essential ingredient in her business plan.

The James L. McConaughy Jr. Memorial Award
Established in 1959 by the class of 1936 in memory of James L. McConaughy Jr. ’36, the James L. McConaughy Jr. Memorial Award recognizes a member of the Wesleyan family (including students, faculty, alumni, parents and members of their respective families) whose writing or other creative achievement conveys unusual insight and understanding of current and past events.

Bruce Eric Kaplan ’86
Author, television writer, and producer of work that captures the zeitgeist; cartoonist whose drawings encapsulate our struggles in a single frame. His characters on screen and page mirror our secret anxieties: we live in unusually fraught times; we have reason to be insecure, life abounds with disappointments. Yet his art renews our courage and cheers us.

Through pulling back the curtain on his own angst and ours, he bridges the isolation we have felt as sole keepers of these fears. Through cheerfully acknowledging our quite valid causes for pessimism, he teases out the charm and humor of our collective foibles.

Kirsten Kimberly Greenidge ’96
Boston’s playwright laureate, she is prolific in her work, reaching the critically acclaimed heights of garnering both Obie and PEN/Laura Pels awards. With a focus on the complex intersection of race, class, and gender, she writes at the place we stand in our history, in our hopes, and in our contemporary quandaries. She breathes her complicated characters into their life upon the stage with an honesty, a vibrancy that both delights us and challenges any pat response.

As a writer-in-residence, she engages in dialogue, provides roles that offer multi–dimensionality for those previously overlooked, and provokes change in our core expectations. As a professor, she fosters within the heart of each student a creative dynamic that reveals an indelible story of resilient characters.

Outstanding Service Award
The Outstanding Service Award is presented to alumni, parents or other members of the Wesleyan community in recognition of outstanding volunteer service to the University, their community or the nation. Awards are traditionally presented at the Wesleyan Assembly and Annual Meeting during Reunion & Commencement Weekend.

Neil J. Clendeninn ’71 MD, PhD
Class leader, physician, professor, pharmaceutical and biotech researcher, architect, lifelong learner: Clendeninn is unique in his wide-ranging talents. Bold, committed undergraduate, his activism on behalf of Black students forged a firm path for those seeking a medical career, a legacy that endures in the annual award founded in his name. Brilliant, inspired researcher, his critical work helped transform AIDS into a treatable illness and continues to tame humanity’s scourges. Creative urban planner, his vision enriches the Hawaiian city of Lihue.

Throughout all, his service to Wesleyan inspires us: class secretary through decades, he fostered our vital connections to each other and alma mater; as trustee, Clendeninn’s wisdom has girded University goals; As reunion planner, he’s strengthened bonds through celebratory homecoming.

David M. Rabban ’71
A university can be only as strong and true as the people who nurture it. Rabban’s energy and service have fostered not only Wesleyan but also universities across our country.

Friend and scholar, the voice of sound reason in any debate, his name is top-of-the-list when classmates seek a cohort to discuss matters of consequence. A former chair of the Alumni Association, ex-officio member of the Board, tireless contributor to committees that inform our governance, his good sense and deep affection for Wesleyan and its diverse constituents have helped to shape wisdom-driven actions across decades.

Distinguished author and professor of law and legal scholar, his scholarship on the history of free speech and the law have helped reshape our understanding of the constitutional underpinnings we hold dear. His extensive commitments to Wesleyan and the American Association of University Professors have demonstrated devotion to academic freedom and civil discourse throughout all institutions of higher education.

4 Faculty Honored with MA Ad Eundem Gradum Degrees

During the 189th Commencement ceremony, four Wesleyan University faculty received the honorary degree of Master of Arts ad eundem gradum. The degree is awarded regularly and solely to those members of the faculty who (1) are not graduates of Wesleyan at the bachelor’s level and (2) have attained or been appointed to the rank of full professor on our faculty. By the award of this degree, all full professors on the Wesleyan faculty are made alumni of the University, and are qualified to participate in alumni affairs.

The recipients include: Erika Franklin Fowler, professor of government; Barbara Juhasz, professor of psychology; Hari Krishnan, professor of dance; and Phillip Resor, professor of earth and environmental sciences.

Virtual Reunion 2021: A Week of Wes!

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:

Join Wesleyan University President Michael S. Roth '78 and Trustee Pritha J. Mittal '96 for a celebratory toast with musical guests, The Wesleyan Spirits.

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.”

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Alumni raise their glass during a celebratory toast.

Also 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.

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.

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Connie Balides ’71; Todd Jick ’71, P’11; and Dave Lindorff ’71, P’05 shared stories at their 50th reunion.

During a WESeminar titled "Hot Topics in Your 40s," Scott Mayerowitz '00, Ross Evangelista '01, Taryn Finnessey '01, Haydee Caldero '01, Louis Bronk '01 and Andrew Calica '01 discussed their experiences in travel, education, the environment, real estate, and business. 

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.

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. 

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. “Our alumni are known for this.”

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. 

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, 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 event highlighted students' research from Nasta's course, AFAM307: Black Middletown Lives.

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.

Black Middletown Lives alumnus Jumoke McDuffie-Thurmond ’19 spoke about his research on the Beman Triangle while in Nasta’s class two years ago as a senior. “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 Wesleyan's campus. My project...was to organize a bold space for ethos ceremony in that graveyard. To reject this notion of her as a footnote and really take time to truly honor her life.” 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, SC, enslav[ing] my Black and African ancestors,” McDuffie-Thurmond said. McDuffie-Thurmond’s senior thesis focused on the work he did in Nasta’s class through the lens of poetry.

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.

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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.”

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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 on The Art of Documenting Subjects. Panelists included National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita '71; news photographer 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.

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. 

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 screenwriter, producer and director Jennifer Flackett ’86 (Big Mouth, Madeleine, Wimbledon, The Perfect Storm, Beverly Hills 90210); television producer and writer David Kohan ’86 (Will & Grace, The Wonder Years, Designing Women, The Dennis Miller Show); 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 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).

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).

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Students performed a virtual, but invigorating African drumming and dance concert during reunion activities.

 participate 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. 

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 the 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, and that was critical to making it work."

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.”

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Kerr was joined by several alumni athletes and parents of Wesleyan athletes.

The Class of 2006 celebrated their 15th reunion.

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.

Wesleyan Awards the 2021 Hamilton Prize for Creativity

Audrey Nelson ’25 is the recipient of the 2021 Hamilton Prize for Creativity, which comes with a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to attend Wesleyan University.

Audrey Nelson ’25, of Bainbridge Island, Washington, is the recipient of the 2021 Hamilton Prize for Creativity, which comes with a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to attend Wesleyan University.

For the fifth consecutive year, Wesleyan University has awarded its prestigious Hamilton Prize for Creativity to three students whose creative written works best reflect the originality, artistry, and dynamism of Hamilton: An American Musical, created by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15 and directed by Thomas Kail ’99.

Audrey Nelson ’25 of Bainbridge Island, Washington, was awarded the grand prize—a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to attend Wesleyan. Nelson was recognized for her work of prose titled “Complications.”

Nolan Lewis of Washington, D.C., for his collection of songs/spoken word,

Nolan Lewis ’25, of Washington, D.C., received a $5,000 honorable mention stipend.

“Audrey’s ‘Complications’ was delightful and surprising at every turn: in structure, in subject matter, in its evocative language,” Miranda said. “I wanted to read more from this writer immediately.”

Alumni judge Craig Thomas ’97, co-creator of the TV sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” favored the “poignant magical realism” of Nelson’s prose. “The piece was impressionistic, spare, and quite moving, which is hard to do for a writer of any age, much less someone so young,” Thomas said.

In addition, Wesleyan awarded two $5,000 stipends to honorable mentions winners Nolan Lewis ’25 of Washington, D.C., for his collection of songs/spoken word, and Cecilio Munoz ’25 of Worcester, Massachusetts, for a screenplay titled “The Greatest Generation.”

The winning works were chosen from a pool of 345 submissions. Faculty members reviewed the initial entries, after which an all-star selection committee of Wesleyan alumni in the arts, chaired by Miranda and Kail, chose the finalists.

Cecilio Munoz ’25, of Worcester, Massachusetts, received a $5,000 honorable mention stipend.

After reading Lewis’s lyrics, actress Beanie Feldstein ’15 was confident that “this kid is going to be a star one day.” Said Feldstein, “It feels like Nolan’s music seamlessly enters the world, like a magic spell with thought-provoking, clever and impactful lyrics and rhymes.” And marketing guru Bozoma Saint John ’99 found Munoz’s “heart-warming” screenplay “captured the impact and confusion of childhood trauma really well, while relating to the reader.”

The Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity was established in 2016 in honor of Miranda and Kail’s contributions to liberal education and the arts and named for the pair’s hit Broadway musical, which won 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Book, and Best Original Score.

Over the past five years, more than 2,300 students have submitted stories, poetry, songs, plays, and screenplays for consideration for the prize. Read about past winners in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

Learn more about the Hamilton Prize.