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Wesleyan’s Englehart ’69 Makes Life in Comics

Steve Englehart ’69

It’s Spring 1966. Steve Englehart, a first-year Wesleyan student, is hanging around his dorm when one of his floormates thrusts a copy of Spider-Man at him saying, “You have to read this. This is great.”

Like many students his age at that time, Englehart read comic books as a child but thought that he’d grown out of them. They were considered “downmarket”—a lot of them weren’t particularly good.

Englehart read it through in one shot and sensed something very different than the wooden characters and corny storylines he encountered as a kid. Marvel had gone through a renaissance in the 1960s, embracing newfound depth and complexity in its storytelling. “I loved what (Spider-Man creator) Stan Lee was doing, the irreverence and the world-building with all of the characters interacting with each other,” he said.

The seeds for an unusual career path were being planted.

Englehart ’69 Creator of Newest Marvel Movie Hero

Shang-Chi

After nearly 50 years, Steve Englehart ’69 will see one of his original Marvel characters make its big-screen debut this fall. Englehart’s creation, martial arts master Shang-Chi, is the lead character of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” starring Simu Liu, perhaps best known for his work in the Canadian comedy “Kim’s Convenience.” The film debuted Aug. 15 in Los Angeles and will be released nationwide on Sept. 3.

Although Englehart was not involved in the movie production, he sees core elements of the backstory he created in the trailer for the upcoming film. In Englehart’s original story Shang-Chi is raised to be a premier martial artist and believes his father is a benevolent humanitarian. He discovers, however, that his father is in reality an international criminal (in early iterations his father was the fictional villain Fu Manchu). Shang-Chi commits to put an end to his father’s nefarious work.

“My bottom line is that if you take one of my stories and you treat it with respect, if you kind of go with what’s there, then you can make all sorts of changes along with the way and that’s okay by me because I understand it is a different medium, a different time,” he said.

“You Just Have to Read This. . .” Books by Wesleyan Authors Globus ’05, Isler ’01, and Pallant ’80

In this continuing series, Annie Roach ’22, an English and Italian studies major from Northampton, Mass., reviews alumni books and offers a selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

Doro Globus ’05, Making a Great Exhibition (David Zwirner Books, 2021)

In this charming and colorful picture book, author Doro Globus ’05 and illustrator Rose Blake collaborate to introduce the art world to children, delving into the lives of everyone from painters and sculptors to art handlers and museum curators. The story is well-attuned to the diversity of artists and their art, showcasing a variety of mediums and styles and paying great attention to the people in the art world who work behind the scenes, like communications managers and museum guards. As all successful children’s book authors must be, Globus and Blake are adept at diving into the minds of children and answering the questions their young minds might ask about the art world.

Replete with friendly characters (like sculptor Viola and curator Cliff) and eye-catching illustrations, the book is the perfect introduction for any young folks interested in the inner workings of any part of artistic production or display, and as a bonus, is equally fascinating for adults!

Doro Globus ’05 is a children’s book author and managing director of David Zwirner Books, a publishing house that focuses on publishing high-quality art publications. She has worked in arts publishing for over 15 years and edited a number of notable books.

Emily Barth Isler ’01, After/Math (Lerner, 2021)

In her touching middle grade debut, Emily Barth Isler ’01 manages to tackle heavy topics with grace and nuance, while still being in touch with the younger minds of her intended audience. The novel tells the story of 12-year-old Lucy, who has just moved to Queensland, Virginia, from Kenton, Maryland. While any move can be harrowing, this one presents even more challenges for the precocious, math-loving narrator Lucy: her younger brother Theo recently died after suffering from a heart defect, and the town to which she is moving underwent a tragic shooting a few years before. As Lucy struggles through the tough transition—juggling her own grief with the grief of her new classmates and community—she turns to math, her favorite subject, for solace, comforted by its reliability and unchangeability.

Despite the gravity of the topics at hand, Isler manages to create a story that is ultimately enveloped in hope and love. For younger readers hoping to make sense of some of the darker sides of the world, it is a deftly handled and optimistic portrait of what it might mean to find comfort and courage in the midst of tragedy.

Emily Barth Isler is a children’s lit writer and a beauty and wellness editor. A former child actress, she has written award-winning episodic television for the web and several personal essays. After/Math is her debut middle grade novel. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.

Eric Pallant ’80, Sourdough Culture (Agate, 2021)

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the process of making bread has become a regular source of comfort in many people’s lives. Many an Instagram post has proudly displayed a gorgeous loaf of sourdough, proclaiming baking bread as “life-saving.” But the culture of bread-making—and its link to human survival—is nothing new, as Eric Pallant points out in his new book, Sourdough Culture. In fact, sourdough—its origins, science, and flavor—go back hundreds of thousands of years, even when humans were primarily hunting and gathering as their main source of nutrition.

Pallant’s book is an impressive interdisciplinary study that draws upon the fields of history, archaeology, anthropology, chemistry and more, investigating the origins and science of baking sourdough, how it has changed over time, and its prevalence in our world today. Pallant even weaves in a few bread recipes. At the end of the book, Pallant sums up his project best: “Making good bread is a delicate balance of experimentation, scientific understanding, artistry, and history. The joy comes in eating the results.”

Eric Pallant is a professor of environmental science and the chair of the Environmental Science & Sustainability department at Allegheny College. A passionate amateur baker, he lives in Meadville, Pennsylvania with his family.

In Nature, Oppenheim ’02 Outlines the Importance of Creating an Intergovernmental Panel on Pandemic Risk

Ben Oppenheim ’02 says the way pandemics unfold over time and their impacts "have everything to do with our individual choices, our politics, and our ability to cooperate to help protect each other."

Ben Oppenheim ’02 says the way pandemics unfold over time and their impacts “have everything to do with our individual choices, our politics, and our ability to cooperate to help protect each other.”

Political scientist Ben Oppenheim ’02 thinks it’s only a matter of time.

“There’s this idea circulating that pandemics are a ‘once in a century’ problem because the 1918 flu happened about a century before COVID-19. But that’s just a random quirk,” Oppenheim said. “The next one could be next week. Or next month.”

A College of Social Studies major at Wesleyan, Oppenheim is currently vice president of product, policy, and partnerships at Metabiota, a business providing data-driven insights to help organizations manage infectious disease risk. Through epidemiological modeling, Oppenheim and his colleagues are able to estimate the frequency and severity of pandemics like COVID-19, and the numbers, he said, “are worrisome.”

“The best evidence we have suggests that COVID is not a once in a century phenomenon, but more like a 30-year event. That doesn’t mean we’ll experience a pandemic like COVID every 30 years, but that every year we have roughly a 3% chance of a pandemic as deadly as this (or worse) occurring. Over the next 25 years, it’s about a 50% probability of experiencing a pandemic on this scale—basically a coin flip,” he said. “There is of course some uncertainty in that estimate, but the crucial thing is that it isn’t carved in stone.”

Alumni Create Environment-Focused Summer School for Youth in Japan

Kotaro Aoki and Kota Uno

Kota Uno ’16 and Kotaro Aoki ’16 are co-organizing a summer school program in Fukushima, Japan to help youth share their thoughts and values regarding nature, climate, and the environment.

For a truly sustainable future, Class of 2016 alumni Kotaro Aoki and Kota Uno believe it’s crucial to teach people how to view—and properly “use”— nature.

“Education is the most important piece in solving the root cause of climate change and environmental problems,” Aoki said. “If we don’t change our mindset, the same problem continues to rise no matter how drastic changes on the surface are.”

After reuniting recently in Fukushima, Japan during the COVID-19 pandemic, Aoki, a philosophy major, and Uno, a College of Social Studies major, discovered a shared interest in climate change. They agreed that they needed to help youth discover a deeper interest and respect for their natural environment. After months of planning, the duo, along with several other Wesleyan alumni, organized an environmental education program for Japanese youth to take place this summer in Aizuwakamatsu, near Fukushima.

From Aug. 17 to 20, the Kotowari Aizu Summer School program will help youth learn the relationship between humans and nature and reimagine a way of life moving forward. Kotowari is a Japanese word that means “unchanging law of truth that governs humans and the environment.”

“We’re not attempting to promote a certain idealism, value, or message, such as ‘let’s protect our environment for the future generation,'” Aoki said on the program’s website. “This is because we value individual journeys to reach their own conclusions. To promote that individual process, we will expose the youth to diverse perspectives on environmental and climate crises and help them unearth their thoughts and values.”

The idea for the summer program originated after Aoki returned to Fukushima after spending three years in India practicing ascetic meditation in the Himalayas. He had hoped to bring back “the sense of awe and prayer to today’s world, which used to be at the center of human life for thousands of years.” Uno, who was working as an organic farmer in Fukushima, was learning alternatives for human beings and nature to co-exist.

“We each shared a conviction that climate change and other environmental problems originate from the way we are today in relation to nature, which is totally out of sync with what nature truly is,” Uno said.

The duo knew they’d need more manpower to start a program, so they recruited other likeminded Wes alumni—molecular biology and biochemistry major Jianyi Lu ’17; government major Kohei Saito ’09; College of Social Studies major Yusaku Takeda ’14; and government and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies double-major Shizuha Hatori ’18 to help organize and teach the school.

The inaugural summer school will be small—capped at 20 participants between the ages of 15 and 22. Topics will include moral dilemmas of climate change, creating “value” in the economy and how that impacts the natural world, technology in connection with natural resources, the distinction between humans and nature, and finding a potential deeper meaning of nature.

Participants will engage in outdoor activities and discussions to gain first-hand experience and be exposed to different viewpoints.

The program is currently supported by Earth & Human, an environmental NPO founded by Japanese actor Ebizo Ichikawa. The co-founders also are leading a crowdfunding campaign in which donors are connected to activity reports, access to online lectures, and a Aizu Nature Blessing Course.

“Together, the program aims to lay the foundation for the youth to think deeply and take action regarding the climate crisis,” Uno said.

The group is looking for like-minded collaborators. Email info@kotowari.co for more information.

FDR Memorial by Bergmann ’76 Is a Tribute to Overcoming Physical Barriers

hope memorial

Meredith Bergmann ’76 created a bronze statue of late President Franklin D. Roosevelt and a young girl with polio as part of the FDR Hope Memorial project on Roosevelt Island, New York. This is Bergmann’s eighth public creation, which debuted on July 17.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” — Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady of the United States

In 1932, wheelchair-bound Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first (and only) United States president to hold the top office with a severe disability. While the public was well aware of his paralysis, Roosevelt never let his illness hinder his efforts leading the country—exemplifying success, leadership, and especially perseverance.

Nearly 90 years later, Wesleyan alumna Meredith Bergmann ’76 is hoping Roosevelt can inspire the public once again. To honor his legacy, she’s created a larger-than-life-size bronze memorial of FDR, seated in his wheelchair, reaching out to shake the hand of a small girl with polio.

Located in Southpoint Park, just north of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island in New York City, Bergmann’s addition to the FDR Hope Memorial project was an 11-year project in the making. The work was unveiled during a public ceremony on July 17.

“You Just Have to Read This. . .” Books by Wesleyan Authors Barry ’76, Rosenblatt ’87, and Taussig ‘03

In this continuing series, Annie Roach ’22, an English and Italian studies major from Northampton, Mass., reviews alumni books and offers a selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

coming to our senses coverSusan R. Barry ’76, Coming to Our Senses: A Boy Who Learned to See, a Girl Who Learned to Hear, and How We All Discover the World (Basic Books, 2021)

What is it like to gain a sense—say, sight or hearing—after spending your whole life without it? Is the transition seamless or disorienting? What can it teach us about the concept of human perception? Susan R. Barry explores these questions and more in Coming to Our Senses: A Boy Who Learned to See, a Girl Who Learned to Hear, and How We All Discover the World. The book focuses on two individuals who have experienced the aforementioned phenomenon: Liam McCoy, who was blind since infancy and then gained the ability to see after several operations when he was 15 years old; and Zohra Damji, who was deaf until receiving a cochlear implant at the age of 12. Liam and Zohra belong to a small group of people who have adjusted successfully to their new senses, albeit with lots of challenges.

Barry, who spent over a decade getting to know these two incredible people, profiles them with detail and compassion, unraveling their stories through both personal and scientific lenses. The result is a book that reveals the ways in which scientific knowledge is profoundly tied to our understanding of human nature. Neither scientists nor humanities-oriented readers will be left out of the intrigue of Barry’s fascinating prose.

Stern ’80 Hosts Retrospective Art Show “Stronger Than Dirt”

Friends (detail). 2002. Pastel, graphite. 42x26 inches.

Friends (detail). 2002. Pastel, graphite. 42×26 inches. By Melissa Stern ’80.

Melissa Stern ’80, an artist and journalist, is hosting a retrospective art show at the Lockwood Gallery in Woodstock, New York. Stern’s show is called “Stronger Than Dirt” and looks back at her past 20 years of work. A live opening took place from 5 to 7 p.m. June 12, and the exhibition will run until July 11.

Over the past year, Stern has served as a visiting lecturer and guest critic through Zoom. She has virtually visited The Everson Museum of Art, Pratt Institute, NYU, The Pelham Art Center, and Indiana University, among others.

In describing her art, Stern said on her website, “I work like a handyman cobbling together drawings and sculptures from elements found, borrowed, and imagined. I use a wide range of materials from encaustic to clay, pastel to steel. The drawings and sculptures, often made in tandem, resonate with one another, the ideas in one reinforcing the themes of the other. All of my pieces share a thematic thread. Childlike and goofy my figures live in a dream world, cower in relationships or stand tall in the face of adversity. They are at once dark and funny, expressive of the absurd world around them.”

“You Just Have to Read This . . .” Books by Wesleyan Alumni Dass ’69, Greenidge ’04, and Saba ’81

In this continuing series, Annie Roach ’22, an English and Italian studies major from Middletown, Delaware, reviews alumni books and offers a selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

Being Ram Dass coverRam Dass MA ’54 and Rameshwar Das ’69, Being Ram Dass (Sounds True, 2021)

When Ram Dass, then known as Richard Alpert, was fired from his position as a professor of psychology at Harvard University for giving psychedelics to undergraduates in pursuit of a research project, his adventure-loving soul decided to use the initially disappointing dismissal as an opportunity and a path towards freedom. A few years later, he traveled to India, where he met his Hindu guru, Neem Karoli Baba, who gave him the name of Ram Dass (which means “servant of God”). From then on, Ram Dass led a life of spirituality, teaching, leadership, meditation, yoga, charity, and yes, drugs. His posthumously published autobiography and memoir, which was co-written with his longtime collaborator Rameshwar Das ’69, provides a rich and detailed account of these events and more, starting from his early life, tracking his many transformations over the years, and even including some details about his time at Wesleyan.

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.

Gottlieb ’94: Apply Wesleyan Spirit to “Decisive Juncture in History”

Scott

Scott Gottlieb ’94 made remarks during the 189th Commencement Ceremony, (Photo by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)


Scott Gottlieb ’94, a physician, public health and policy advisor and advocate, received an honorary doctorate of science during Wesleyan’s 189th Commencement on Wednesday, May 26. Gottlieb, who earned a BA in economics from Wesleyan, was the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from 2017 to 2019. He is currently a special partner with the venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates, and a resident fellow at public policy think tank the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

In his speech, Gottlieb drew distinctions between his time at Wesleyan 25 years ago and the experiences of the Class of 2021. Yet he highlighted characteristics shared by all Wesleyan students: the “seriousness” in academic studies, the belief that actions can “transcend the University boundaries to influence the country,” and the feeling of “obligation” to make a difference in individual communities.

“I hope you take that spirit into this uncertain period we’re in, at this very decisive juncture in history, when the country may be more ready than it’s been in many years to hear your voices, and to set about making lasting changes,” he said.

He made the following remarks (as prepared) during Wesleyan’s 189th Commencement Ceremony:

It’s an honor to be here with you today. Twenty-five years ago, I sat here at my own graduation. it was very different. We didn’t have masks. We weren’t social distancing. Senior year was a lot different.

Distinguished Alumni Honored during 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 here.