Bill Holder

William Holder ¹75 is editor of Wesleyan magazine.

Shaw ’76 Addresses Wesleyan Lawyers Association Debut Event

The freshly minted Wesleyan Lawyers Association (“WLA”) hosted a successful kickoff event Nov. 7 during Homecoming /Family Weekend at the Woodhead Lounge in the Exley Science Center.

Approximately 100 attorney alumni, undergraduates, and friends attended a talk given by Ted Shaw ’76, currently the Professor of Professional Practice at Columbia University Law School and of counsel at the international firm of Fulbright and Jaworski. Shaw, who was director-counsel and president of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund from 2004 through 2008 and served as a Wesleyan Trustee for 15 years, addressed how his experience at Wesleyan affected his legal career as one of the nation’s leading civil and human rights advocates.

The WLA’s core team members, Jon Bender ’94, Michael Donnelly ’73 (tri-chair), J.D. Moore ’75 (tri-chair), Donna Temple ’95 (tri-chair and acting secretary) and Jessica Ziemian Wragg ’02 discussed the formation, operation and goals of the WLA. The core team and WLA Steering Committee, comprising 29 attorneys from throughout the country, are excited about the growing enthusiasm for the association and were pleased to welcome to the event alumni spanning class years from ’68 to ’07.

The WLA, the first professional alumni affinity group organized at Wesleyan, intends to sponsor events both at Wesleyan and regionally, and to promote networking, mentoring and community service opportunities among Wesleyan alumni and students or graduates interested in the law. The WLA is in the process of establishing a website to facilitate communication among members. All Wesleyan alumni who have graduated from law school are encouraged to join, and should contact either Jim Kubat of the Career Resource Center at jkubat@wesleyan.edu, or Donna Temple at donaldinetemple@yahoo.com to join or for further information.

Documentary by Montero ’98 Nominated for Emmy

David Montero ’98 has been nominated for an Emmy for “Outstanding Continuing Coverage of a News Story in a News Magazine.” The nomination recognizes his Frontline documentary titled “Pakistan: State of Emergency,” which explores the volatile Swat Valley.

At the foot of the Himalayas in the border area with Afghanistan, the Swat Valley is an impoverished area that has provided a fertile ground for conflict between Taliban forces and Pakistani troops.

In a Frontline interview, Montero said, “I first went to Swat in May 2007. Maulana Fazlullah, a radical cleric in the valley, had begun to become a problem for the Pakistani government. All the newspapers were writing about him. Editorials were coming out in the press about him because

Ginsburg ’78 Develops New Genetic Test for Infections

Dr. Geoffrey Ginsburg ’78 of Duke University and his colleagues have developed an experimental genetic test that can detect common infections before people know they are sick, according to an article in USA Today.

The test can distinguish between bacterial and viral illnesses, which may help physicians determine when they first see a patient whether giving antibiotics to a person will be helpful.

Unlike existing diagnostic tests, which typically detect either the germ itself or antibodies, the new approach detects the activation of genes that govern an immune response. It requires no more than a finger-prick of blood.

USA Today quoted Ginsburg as saying, “This is the first major step in using a person’s individual response to a viral or bacterial infection to lead to better diagnostics for infectious disease.”

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has funded the work in hopes of identifying soldiers who are sick before they infect others. Ultimately, says Ginsburg, the method could valuable in emergency rooms and doctors’ offices as an early indicator of infection.

NYT Features Stephens ’07 Among China-Bound Grads

A recent New York Times story noting that Shanghai and Beijing are “new lands of opportunity for recent American college graduates” featured Joshua Arjuna Stephens ’07, who took a temporary job with China Prep, an educational travel company.

Stephens told the Times that he new little about China and didn’t speak the language, but he wanted to “do something off the beaten track.”

Now, two years after leaving for China, his is fluent in Mandarin and works as a manager for XPD Media, a social media company based in Beijing that makes online games.

Young Americans are attracted by the entrepreneurial boom in China, according to the Times. Part of the draw is that they often find that they can climb the career ladder much faster in China than they would in the United States, and that starting a business can be very inexpensive.

Waldman ’86, Miranda ’02 Perform at White House Arts Evening

Two Wesleyan alumni performed May 12 for President Obama, his family and others at the White House. The event was titled “An Evening of Poetry, Music and the Spoken Word.” Ayelet Waldman ’86 and her husband Michael Chabon, both writers, were among the speakers. An NPR story about the event included Waldman discussing the power of the written word: “To harness the power of language you have to be able to put yourself in the position of the person you are speaking to—to imagine what they are thinking, what they’re feeling. That’s hard.”

Also at the White House was Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, creator of the award-winning Broadway show “In the Heights.” In her blog, Waldman says he won over the audience “with a hip hop song about Alexander Hamilton, as sung by Aaron Burr.” She credited Miranda with being “one of those performers who comes along every once in a rare while who’s just got magic about him.”

Oracle Acquires Sun, Headed by Jonathan Schwartz ’87

Jonathan Schwartz '87 (Photo by Bill Burkhart)

Jonathan Schwartz '87 (Photo by Bill Burkhart)

On April 20, Oracle Corp. announced it would acquire Sun Microsystems, whose chief executive officer is Jonathan Schwartz ’87. The deal, valued at $7.4 billion, promises to make Oracle a more potent competitor against I.B.M., Sun’s previous suitor, according to The New York Times.

“With Sun, Oracle will more directly compete against I.B.M., H.P. and other giants selling products and services used in corporate data centers by big corporations,””said the Times. “The move by Oracle is part of the trend of the largest technology companies to assemble more offerings — hardware, software and services — for corporate customers, often through acquisitions, as I.B.M., H.P., Cisco and Oracle have all done in recent years.”

In an e-mail to Sun employees, reported by the Wall Street Journal, Schwartz spoke about the acquisition:

“This is one of the toughest emails I’ve ever had to write. It’s also one of the most hopeful about Sun’s future in the industry. To me, this proposed acquisition totally redefines the industry, resetting the competitive landscape by creating a company with great reach, expertise and innovation. A combined Oracle/Sun will be capable of cultivating one of the world’s most vibrant and far reaching developer communities, accelerating the convergence of storage, networking and computing, and delivering one of the world’s most powerful and complete portfolios of business and technical software.”

Dick Rohfritch ’66 Finds Unusual Route to Book Selling

“Book-lover Dick Rohfritch didn’t set out to buy 12,000 modern first editions once owned by an eccentric lawyer-collector found murdered in his rural Missouri home. It’s just that he doesn’t like to play golf. And thereby hangs the tale of how The Woodlands got Good Books in the Woods, a new secondhand bookstore full of remarkable finds.”

The Houston Chronicle recounts this story about Rohfritch ’66, an English major who works in chemical sales but has always loved reading and enjoys collecting books.

The dead man, 70-year-old Rolland Comstock, was an avid bibliophile who acquired signed first editions by 20th-century British and American authors. In July 2007 he was found shot dead in his home, and the case remains unsolved. Many of the books in his collection were in superb condition, signed and encased in acetate wrappers.

Rohfritch discovered the collection in a warehouse owned by Second Story Books of Washington, D.C. According to the Chronicle, he soon became “the proud owner of a 40-foot trailer’s worth of modern firsts plus hard-to-find literary magazines.”

The idea of opening a bookstore emerged gradually. In The Woodlands, a planned community in the Houston metropolitan area, Rohfritch found a house that could be renovated as a bookstore and installed his son, Jay, as general manager. They expect to do sell most of their first editions over the Internet at prices ranging from $12 to $300.

Brush Up On Baseball with Paul Dickson ’61

Just in time for the opening crack of bats, the prolific Paul Dickson ’61 has produced The Dickson Baseball Dictionary: The Revised, Expand, and Now-Definitive Work on the Language of Baseball (Norton).

Writing for The Washington Times, James Stroud says:

One cannot be a writer in Washington and not know this local Samuel Johnson of our craft. He is the author of more than 50 books in a staggering range from authoritative accounts of Sputnik, the 1932 Bonus Army March, the history of ice cream and, not surprisingly a whole shelf about the language of slang from the battlefield to the diamond. My claim to objectivity is that I am one of the few writers in our community who has not been involved in a writing project with him.

“This is the third edition of a quest Dickson began in 1989 when his first effort produced 5,000 entries of baseball lore, rules, and jargon. Thirty years later this new edition boasts twice as many entries from A, for the Class A baseball minor leagues, to zurdo, which is “Spanish for ‘lefty’ and ‘southpaw.’” In all, there are more than 18,000 definitions of what clearly is the most vibrant and creative portion of the popular English language. But these aren’t dry explications; there are plenty of anecdotes, and some very funny yarns.
Mr. Dickson explains what he’s up to this way, “From the outset, the idea was that it (the book) had to be useful to a nine-year-old looking for a clear definition of the infield fly rule, but it also had to be a book that would appeal to two of the toughest audiences for the printed word: the baseball fanatic and the lover of language.”

Opening of Shapiro Center Will Launch New Writing Programs

Long known for producing writers of great variety and distinction, Wesleyan will open the Shapiro Creative Writing Center in the fall, and with it two programs that further signal the importance the university attaches to writing.

The English Department has established a concentration in creative writing for English majors who wish to pursue writing intensively at a high level. The university also is developing a certificate in writing, now in the planning stage, open to undergraduate students in any field of study who wish to establish writing as an area of concentrated academic work.

“Nothing is more essential to a liberal arts education than clear, coherent writing,” says President Michael Roth, “and programs for advanced creative writing will attract some of our most talented students. These curricular initiatives serve both to anchor the place of writing within our curriculum and to let high school students and others know that Wesleyan is an institution where fiction, poetry, and nonfiction can be pursued at the highest level. Undergraduates will have more opportunities to pursue creative writing in all its forms and to be recognized for their accomplishments.”

“The Shapiro Creative Writing Center also joins the academic mission at a crucial time,” President Roth added, “setting the standard for curricular initiatives that enhance our core competencies and build a platform for innovation. Thanks to generous gifts from our donors we are able to accomplish this without increasing the burdens on our operating budget.”

Kotlowitz ’77 Reports on Cleveland’s Ravaged Housing

In a New York Times Magazine story published March 4, Alex Kotlowitz ’77 examines the Cleveland, Ohio, housing market, which has been ravaged by foreclosures and criminal activity.

“Cleveland is reeling from the foreclosure crisis,” he writes. “There have been roughly 10,000 foreclosures in two years. For all of 2007, before it was overtaken by sky-high foreclosure rates in parts of California, Nevada and Florida, Cleveland’s rate was among the highest in the country.”

The number of empty houses in the city and Cuyahoga County is so high that no one has an accurate count, he says. At least 1 in 13 houses within the city is vacant. Wholesalers are picking up homes “as if they were trading baseball cards.”

“On one street I visited,” Kotlowtiz says, “a third of the houses were abandoned. One resident, Anita Gardner, told me about the young family who moved in down the street a few years before. They spruced up the house with new windows, a fireplace, wood kitchen cabinets, track lighting and a Jacuzzi. When they lost the house to foreclosure, they left nothing for the scavengers. They stripped their own dwelling, piling toilets, metal screen doors, kitchen cabinets, the furnace and copper pipes into a moving van.”

Kotlowitz teaches writing at Northwestern University and writes frequently about issues related to urban proverty.

Farrell ’87, Bloom ’77 Aid U.S. Task Force on Autos

Two Wesleyan alumni are serving on the U.S. Treasury’s task force reviewing the auto industry.

Dianna Farrell ’87, recently appointed by President Barack Obama as deputy director of the National Economic Council, is the White House representative to the task force.

Ron Bloom ’77 is also on the task force. He is currently a special assistant to the president of the Pittsburgh-based United Steelworks union. In that role he has helped the union revive bankrupt companies and consolidate the nation’s steel makers to make them profitable, and he has helped to save jobs, according an article co-written by New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse ’73. Bloom is recognized as one of the nation’s foremost experts in the separate health plans that his union and the U.A.W. have established with various companies.

Ibarguen ’66 Discusses Future of News

Alberto Ibarguen ’66, CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and former publisher of The Miami Herald, was a guest recently on the PBS News Hour in a segmented devoted to the future of newspapers.

The segment aired to coincide with the move of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer from print to the web. Ibarguen told the News Hour’s Jeffrey Brown that the market will find a way to “provide people with the news that we need to function in a democracy”—though perhaps not through newspapers.

Asked about the record of newspapers migrating to the web, Ibarguen called it “inconclusive.”

A model for the post-newspaper world is not yet apparent, he noted, but it will be digital, mobile, and interactive.

“So far, nothing comes close to the general reach of a newspaper, that ability to blanket a community with the same information that everybody can share, and figure out how to go forward together as a community, nothing yet,” he added. “But we also haven’t had a major city that doesn’t have a newspaper. And when that happens, I think the market will figure out how to deliver that information. I think it is that important.”