Alumni

Alumni news.

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 HDR 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.

Thesis by Krotinger ’19 Published in PLOS ONE

Anna Krotinger ’19 wrote an undergraduate thesis examining a dance intervention for Parkinson’s disease (PD) and underlying cognitive mechanisms relating to rhythm that was published on May 6 at the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

Krotinger’s thesis, titled “Rhythm and groove as cognitive mechanisms of dance intervention in Parkinson’s disease,” builds off her studies in neuroscience and behavior, in which she majored at Wesleyan.

“Music and dance encourage spontaneous rhythmic coupling between sensory and motor systems; this has inspired the development of dance programs for PD,” the abstract reads. “Here we assessed the therapeutic outcome and some underlying cognitive mechanisms of dance classes for PD, as measured by neuropsychological assessments of disease severity as well as quantitative assessments of rhythmic ability and sensorimotor experience.”

Ganbarg ’88 Hosts New Rock N’ Roll High School Podcast

rock n rollTwo-time Grammy Award-winning producer and Atlantic Records President of A&R Pete Ganbarg ’88 will host a new Rock N’ Roll High School podcast starting May 6.

The series, presented by Warner Music Group, will feature legendary figures in contemporary music. The first three episodes star Grammy-winning composer, producer, arranger, and guitarist, Nile Rodgers; two-time Rock & Roll and Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, Graham Nash; and Go-Go’s bassist and songwriter, Kathy Valentine. Following the premiere, new episodes will launch every other week.

“It’s been an honor to sit down with each of these incredibly influential and uniquely talented individuals and really dive deep into their remarkable careers,” Ganbarg said. “I’m so excited to bring these conversations to music fans around the world. Everyone recognizes these superstars and their hits which have defined generations, but now we get to pull back the curtain and take a closer, more intimate look at the stories behind the music.”

Other upcoming guests include:
• May 20 – The Temptations (Otis Williams and Ron Tyson)
• June 3 – Tony Visconti
• June 17 – Debbie Gibson
• July 1 – Gamble & Huff
• July 15 – Jimmy Webb
• July 29 – Jon Anderson (of Yes)
• Aug. 12 – Gloria Gaynor
• Aug. 26 – Todd Rundgren
• Sept. 9 – Robert “Kool” Bell (of Kool and The Gang)

In addition to creating the new podcast, Ganbarg is the recipient of a 2021 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album for the Broadway cast recording for Jagged Little Pill.

View other Wesleyan alumni-produced podcasts here.

Vote for 2021 Alumni-Elected Trustees

Voting for the 2021 Alumni Trustee Election is now open.

Each year, Wesleyan alumni elect three of their peers to serve on the University’s Board of Trustees for a three-year term. Nearly one-third of the Board is elected by the alumni body.

“The alumni-elected trustee process is a remarkable and important way for alumni to demonstrate stewardship of our University,” said Gina Driscoll, associate director of alumni and parent relations. “Choose the alumni candidates who can help influence the direction of the University.”

Watch for the Alumni-Elected Trustee email with your personal link to vote.  View this year’s slate here.

The deadline to vote is 5 p.m., Wednesday, May 26.

2021 AET Movie

“You Just Have to Read This. . .” Books by Wesleyan Alumni Aspray ’73, MA ’73, Morris ’76, Roth ’70

In this continuing series, Annie Roach ’22, an English and Italian studies major from Middletown, Del., 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.

Deciding Where to Live coverWilliam Aspray ’73, MA ’73 and Melissa Ocepek (editors), Deciding Where to Live (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020)

In the past year, our choice of residence has become more crucial than ever. In fact, the pandemic has caused many people to house-hunt, pack up and move away, ready for a change of scenery. Deciding Where to Live, edited by William Aspray and Melissa G. Ocepek, comes at a timely moment, as it is a comprehensive guide to some of the more elusive and less recognized aspects of deciding where to call home. The two editors and 11 authors rely heavily on information studies to ground their logic, focusing on specific case studies that demonstrate the various ways in which humans interact with information and how these behaviors affect real estate. The book also explores social and cultural factors involved in decision-making, drawing on race and gender studies, as well as addressing the impacts of the pandemic. Therefore, the work seamlessly combines a variety of disciplines—while it is centered on information studies, the authors also draw on scholarship in psychology, sociology, political science, and more.

As informational as it is thought-provoking, the book compels readers to understand recent shifts in real estate that have been affected by contemporary realities like social media, the internet, and the pandemic. Readers will be drawn not only to the facts and statistics, but also to the cultural and social deep-dives in several of the sections.

William Aspray ’73, MA ’73 is a senior research fellow at the Charles Babbage Institute at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Prior to his current position, he was a senior faculty member at various information schools, including the University of Indiana (Bloomington), the University of Texas (Austin), and the University of Colorado (Boulder). He earned a BA and MA in mathematics from Wesleyan, and his interests include computer history, information history, everyday information behavior, information policy, food studies, and broadening participation in computing.

Janvey ’06 Wins 2021 Oscar for Producing Nomadland

Producers Peter Spears, from left, Frances McDormand, Chloe Zhao, Mollye Asher and Dan Janvey, winners of the award for best picture for "Nomadland," pose in the press room at the Oscars on Sunday, April 25, 2021, at Union Station in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, Pool)

Producers Peter Spears, Frances McDormand, Chloé Zhao, Mollye Asher, and Dan Janvey ’06 are winners of the 2021 Academy Award for Best Picture for Nomadland. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, Pool)

A film produced by Dan Janvey ’06 titled Nomadland was the recipient of a 2021 Oscar presented during the 93rd Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards on April 25.

Nomadland not only won Best Motion Picture of the Year, but director/producer Chloé Zhao was the second woman to win the Best Directing Award and the first woman of color to win the award.

Janvey, who majored in film studies at Wesleyan, shares the Best Picture award with co-producers Zhao, Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, and Mollye Asher.

Janvey also produced the film Beasts of the Southern Wild, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2013 and was the winner of the Back Reel Awards in 2013.

Nomadland also won a 2021 Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature; a 2021 Chicago Indie Critics Award for Best Independent Film; a 2021 Gold Derby Award for Best Motion Picture; a 2021 Gotham Award for Best Feature; a 2021 Latino Entertainment Journalists Association Film Award for Best Picture; a 2021 North Dakota Film Society Award for Best Picture; a 2021 BAFTA Award for Best Film; a 2021 CinEuphoria Award for International Competition—Best Film; a PGA Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures; and a 2021 British Independent Film Award for Best International Independent Film.