Alumni

Alumni news.

Boyden ’95 Awarded NEA Fellowship for Poetry Translations

Ian Boyden ’95, an artist, writer, translator, and curator, recently received a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellowship to continue his work on translating the poetry of Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser. (Photo credit: Gavia Boyden)

Ian Boyden ’95 received an NEA Literature Translation Fellowship of $12,500, one of only 25 such grants for 2019, to support the new translation of poetry and prose from 17 countries into English.

Boyden’s fellowship will support his work translating from the poetry collection Minority, written in Chinese by Tibetan poet Tsering Woeser, considered one of China’s most respected living Tibetan writers. In 2013, John Kerry of the U.S. State Department honored Woeser with an International Women of Courage Award. In 2010, the International Women’s Media Foundation had given her a Courage in Journalism Award.

Boyden, an artist, writer, curator, and translator, has been working on her poems since 2016. His translation of “The Spider of Yabzhi Taktser ” was declared the most-read translation of a Tibetan poem in 2017, the NEA reported in their press release.

Tsering Woeser, born in Tibet in 1966 and “reeducated” during the Cultural Revolution, writes poems that explore themes of alienation and loss of heritage. Her poetry also confronts the wave of self-immolation in Tibetan society that began in the last decade. Translating these works, Boyden notes, is “particularly complex, as Woeser is conveying the Tibetan experience using Chinese language.”

Director Becker ’12 Brings bad things happen here to Edinburgh Fringe

Lila Rachel Becker ’12, an MFA student at the University of Iowa, directed playwright Eric Marlin’s bad things happen here at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer. (Photo by Ryan Borque)

This summer, bad things happen here, a play directed by Lila Rachel Becker ’12, was featured at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

An MFA student at the University of Iowa, Becker has been paired to work with Eric Marlin—whom she calls “an incredible playwright, a brilliant collaborator”—since she began her graduate work in 2017. She is drawn, she says, to “incendiary” plays—and after producing this one in Iowa last November, a few professors encouraged the partnership to take it around to festivals. Noting that the spare design of bad things happen here made it easy to bring across the ocean to the eclectic theater spaces of the Fringe Festival, Becker adds: “Edinburgh is this huge platform for international theater artists. We were both particularly excited about that aspect of it.”

SHOFCO Recipient of Hilton Humanitarian Prize

Kennedy Odede ’12 and Jessica Posner ’09, center, are directors of Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) in Kibera, Kenya. On Aug. 22, SHOFCO received the Hilton Humanitarian Prize by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. SHOFCO’s mission is to build urban promise from urban poverty. (Photo by Audrey Hall)

Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), a grassroots nonprofit organization directed by Kennedy Odede ’12 and Jessica Posner ’09, has been awarded the 2018 Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s Hilton Humanitarian Prize. Selected by a distinguished panel of independent international jurors, SHOFCO will receive $2 million in unrestricted funding, joining 22 other notable organizations that have received the Hilton Humanitarian Prize over the last two decades.

Based in Kibera—one of the largest slums in Africa—SHOFCO was founded by Odede as a teenager in 2004 with 20 cents and a soccer ball. The organization describes its mission as catalyzing large-scale transformation in urban slums by providing community-wide critical services and advocacy platforms, as well as education and leadership development specifically for women and girls. In 2007, Odede met fellow Wesleyan student Posner, who was studying abroad. Together they devised the model that SHOFCO utilizes today.

Ashkin ’11, Delany ’09, Roginski ’87 Confront White Supremacy through Dance

Brittany Delany ‘09 and Sarah Ashkin ‘11, codirectors of GROUND SERIES dance collective, rehearse for task, “depicting the hierarchy, monstrosity, and sexual tension imbued in the weaponized white woman.” Sue Roginski ’87 served as dramaturg.

Sarah Ashkin ’11, Brittany Delany ’09, and Sue Roginski ’87 premiered an evening-length dance work, task, on Aug. 17–18, as part of the summer season at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, Calif., under the umbrella of GROUND SERIES dance collective. Ashkin and Delany, codirectors of GROUND SERIES since 2012, choreographed and performed the piece, with Roginski providing dramaturgical direction. As codirectors, Ashkin and Delany describe their work as  “collaborating in using dance performance as a tool of embodied intervention and research.”

“With our shared background in critical thinking, cultural studies, and artistic risk-taking fostered by the Wesleyan Dance Department, we wanted to create a work that responded to the current political moment,” Delany says. “The culmination of our collaboration, task, is a confrontation of white supremacy through dance performance.” Treating the theater as a site in this work, Ashkin and Delany continued their research and presentations of site-specific performance with the new challenge to remap and reframe the stage as a racialized space.

In the aftermath of their premiere, the three reflected on the experience for the Connection: 

Q:  What was it like to work with other Wes grads—those you knew on campus, those from different eras. Are there some commonalities, some ways of communicating, some understanding of dance as art and dance in the world, that you all have in common?

Butler ’71: Toward a Gentler Death

Katy Butler ’71 . (Photo by Cristina Taccone)

In Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death, a New York Times Notable Book of 2013, award-winning journalist Katy Butler ’71 recounted shepherding her parents, Professor Emeritus of History Jeffrey Butler and artist Valerie Butler, through their final illnesses. When Katy’s father suffered a stroke and later was given a pacemaker, the family had no idea that the device would extend his physical life years past his cognitive ability to enjoy it or to function independently. After his death, Katy’s mother declined open heart surgery and chose instead to meet her own death head-on. From this experience Katy Butler presents her provocative thesis: Modern medicine, if allowed a single-minded focus on maximum longevity, will often create more suffering than it prevents. She has spoken on improving doctor-patient communication at Harvard Medical School and numerous hospitals around the country. Her upcoming book is The Art of Dying Well: a Practical Guide to a Good End of Life (Scribner, Jan. 2019).

In this Q&A, which ran in the May 2018 issue of Wesleyan Magazine, Butler discusses health care, modern medicine, Medicare, and more.

Q: How would you characterize the American health care system?

A: Absolutely brilliant with fixable problems—infectious diseases, drug overdoses, car accidents—where throwing many tests and treatments at someone has tremendous results. But when confronted by complex health problems that aren’t amenable to a quick fix, this kind of “fast medicine” can be pretty disastrous.

Q: Why is this?

A: Our insurance system, known as fee-for-service, pays physicians on a piecework basis—for volume, not quality. We don’t reward them financially for taking extra time with a patient who has multiple problems that need to be managed but can’t be fixed—the kind of problems that redouble as people get older.

Q: How would we judge quality in health care?

A: Quality should be defined as actually improving the patient’s life. Traditionally, medicine’s goals have been to improve function, to relieve suffering, and to prolong life. Currently, the hyper focus within medicine is on prolonging life—which also happens to be the best-compensated option. We rate surgeons on whether a patient survives for 30 days after surgery; but we don’t track whether that patient—especially an older, fragile patient—ends up so disabled by the stress that they have to move to a nursing home. And that happens quite a bit.

Q: Why do we not discuss these concerns with our doctors?

A: The communication between doctors and patients around end-of-life questions is absolutely terrible. It’s almost as if we need a foreign-language phrase book. For instance, if the doctor says, “I want to talk to you about your goals of care,” the patient might well not understand that the doctor is probably saying: “The time you have ahead of you appears to be limited, and, given that, how do you want to spend your time? Do you want to take a trip, or see a child graduate? Can medicine help you achieve this? And, if not, what are some achievable goals?” Patients can be equally tongue-tied about what matters most to them.

5 Alumni, 1 Coach to Be Inducted into the Wesleyan Athletics Hall of Fame

Wesleyan has announced its 2018 Athletics Hall of Fame class, which will be inducted Friday, Oct. 19, before Homecoming. The ninth class features James Carrier ’42, Philip Rockwell ’65, Allison Palmer ’95, Jed Hoyer ’96, Flo Stueck ’96, and Herb Kenny.

Wesleyan’s Athletics Hall of Fame (HOF), both online and on campus, is filled with entertaining and enlightening accounts of Cardinals past. It features exciting stories of accomplishment, character, perseverance, courage, loyalty, teamwork, and generosity. The HOF was founded in 2006 through the collaborative work of the Athletics Advisory Council, the Athletic Department, and the Office of University Relations and is on display in the Warren Street lobby of the Freeman Athletic Center.

James Carrier ’42 (Football/Track/Wrestling) – James, who is being inducted posthumously, was a three-sport athlete at Wesleyan who competed in football, track, and wrestling. He excelled in football and was named a team captain during his junior and senior seasons. James started all 24 games during his four-year career and led the football team to a Little Three Championship in 1939. He rushed for 12 career touchdowns, passed for 22, converted 35 points-after-touchdowns (PATs), and scored or contributed to 242 points during his career as a Cardinal. James also starred in the New Year’s Collegiate Football Classic in Mobile, Alabama, in 1942.

Ricci PhD ’14 Awarded Congressional Fellowship

(by Christine Foster)

James Ricci PhD ’14, an assistant professor of mathematics at Daemon College was named a Congressional Fellow. (Photo by Darrell Porter, Daemon College)

James Ricci PhD ’14 was awarded a 2018-2019 Congressional Fellowship. The program is administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in conjunction with The American Mathematical Society.

During this year-long fellowship, Ricci will be paired with either a member of Congress or a congressional committee. Fellows work as special legislative assistants learning about policy creation and contributing their own technical and academic expertise. “They are looking for people who are able to speak clearly and be advocates for STEM education,” says Ricci, who spoke by phone from a salmon fishing boat in Ketchikan, Alaska, where he is working this summer. “I am hopeful that I am all of those things.”

At Wesleyan, Ricci did research on number theory, with a primary focus on the arithmetic theory of quadratic forms. In April 2014 he was chosen as graduate student of the year. Since finishing his PhD, he has been working as an assistant professor of mathematics at Daemen College, near Buffalo, N.Y.

At Daemon, Ricci has worked on a team working to improve retention of students entering with weaker math backgrounds. This included reworking a computer science course he teaches adding in engaging current topics including cybersecurity, cryptocurrencies, artificial intelligence, and net neutrality.

Tyner ’13 Named Fulbright National Geographic Storytelling Fellow

William Tyner ’13 is headed to Romania on a year-long Fulbright National Geographic Fellowship. He will create an immersive film documenting the civic-tech group, Code for Romania.

William Tyner ’13 was awarded a Fulbright National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship —one of only five of such grants awarded each year

The fellowship is made possible through a partnership between the U.S. Department of State and the National Geographic Society and is a component of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. It provides opportunities for U.S. citizens to participate in an academic year of overseas travel and storytelling on a globally significant theme.

Tyner, who majored in anthropology at Wesleyan and enjoyed courses in the College of Film and the Moving Image, will be working with Code for Romania. He’ll be creating a documentary series that will explore Romania’s civic technology community.

“’Civic tech’ is a nascent field in which local ‘hacktivists’ use technology to deepen democracy and increase civic engagement,” he explained in his application.

Tyner notes that he has been affiliated with Codes for America, an organization that focuses on technology as a pathway to modernize government, make it more accessible—but he wanted “to observe civic tech as a social movement, from a sociological perspective.”

Romania, he says, will be the perfect place for his lens: “Their civic tech community is emerging within a historically unique anti-corruption movement. I’m going to chronicle a story of people taking action and control in their community.”

Art by 4 Alumni Featured in Popular Michael Jackson Exhibit

Artistic creations by four Wesleyan alumni are displayed as part of the National Portrait Gallery’s landmark exhibit, Michael Jackson on the Wall.

The contemporary art exhibition, which closes on Oct. 21, explores the influence of pop-music icon Michael Jackson and spans several generations of artists across all media. The exhibition opened to coincide with what would have been Jackson’s 60th birthday, on Aug. 29, 2018.

The exhibit occupies 14 rooms and includes the works of Glenn Ligon ’82, Jonathan Horowitz ’87, Michael Gittes ’10, and Lyle Ashton Harris ’88. The Wesleyan alumni are among 48 artists who have their work displayed, including Andy Warhol,  KAWS, Candice Breitz, David LaChapelle, Kehinde Wiley, and Mark Ryden.

Although the majority of the pieces are drawn from public and private collections around the world, some works were made especially for the exhibition, including an experimental video by American studies major Gittes. Gittes was honored by 43 Wesleyan alumni, students, parents, and friends in London on July 3.

Horowitz, who majored in philosophy at Wesleyan, also contributed a video to On the Wall. In 1997, Horowitz created “The Body Song,” which is a video reverse of Jackson’s “The Earth Song” music video. In the original video, disaster occurs and is undone through Michael’s healing rage. In “The Body Song,” disaster occurs and is undone through the repression of Michael’s rage.

Ligon ’82, an art major, contributed his ink drawing of “Self-Portrait at Seven Years Old.”

And Harris, an art studio major, recreated a 2017 cover of Ebony magazine on an African funerary fabric, a year after the King of Pop’s death.

Jonathan Horowitz ’87 made a single-channel video titled “The Body Song” in 1997. The video is 5 minutes and 57 seconds in duration.

Jonathan Horowitz ’87 made a single-channel video titled “The Body Song” in 1997. The video is 5 minutes and 57 seconds in duration.

Glenn Ligon ’82 created “Self-Portrait at Seven Years Old,” using ink and graphite on paper in 2005.

Lyle Ashton Harris ’88 recreated the cover of Ebony using acrylic on kente cloth in 2009.

De Visé ’89 on the Tour de France, Greg LeMond, and Heroes

In The Comeback: Greg LeMond, the True King of American Cycling, and a Legendary Tour de France (Atlantic Monthly Press, June 2018), journalist Daniel De Visé ’89 has written “a sprint through a big swatch of cycling history, focusing on racer Greg LeMond’s triumphant return from disaster,” according to Kirkus Review. In this Q&A below, he traces his path from a childhood love of the sport to Wesleyan, and through the journey of this book. Read an excerpt from his book online.

Q:  Tell us about your time at Wesleyan. What was your major?

A:  It was as much fun as I’ve ever had in my life. I had grown up in Chicago, in the city, and when I arrived on that picture-postcard campus, it felt like some kind of academic Disneyland. I lived in West College, where, on certain occasions, an entire dormitory room would be assembled upside-down on a basement ceiling. I lived on the same first-year hall as Stephen Trask ’89, cocreator of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and This Ain’t No Disco. Another friend and I created a ’60s show for WESU. I majored in philosophy, but I took so many classes in history and religion that I almost ended up short of actual philosophy credits. I met my enchanting future wife, Sophie Yarborough ’88, in a history classroom. I took an extra course here and there and finished in three years (very much in the spirit of President Roth’s degree-in-three program). I used the extra cash to pay for journalism school at Northwestern.

Q:  You’ve written several biographies. What sparked your interest in the genre—and what are your favorites (authors or actual titles)?

A:  I’ve written or cowritten three books, and all have extensive biographical content, but none is pure biography. The first, I Forgot to Remember (Simon & Schuster, 2014), was the memoir of an amnesiac I’d profiled in the Washington Post as a reporter. The second, Andy & Don (Simon & Schuster, 2015), was a dual biography, chronicling the lifelong friendship of actors Andy Griffith and Don Knotts. I wrote that really for Don, who was my brother-in-law. The Comeback is more a work of narrative nonfiction, similar in structure to The Boys in the Boat or Seabiscuit—both personal favorites. It chronicles the rise of Greg LeMond, an American outsider, to the top of the European cycling sport; his near-death, in 1987, in a hunting accident; his incredible return to the top of cycling and victory in the greatest Tour de France ever staged, in 1989; and, lastly, his epic feud with Lance Armstrong, whom LeMond accused of doping, a battle that ended with LeMond’s vindication a few years ago. The book encompasses the first comprehensive biography of LeMond, and also a somewhat shorter bio of Laurent Fignon, the Frenchman whom LeMond defeated in ’89. The narrative lingers for several chapters on the spellbinding ’89 Tour.

Paik ’16 Wins Goldman Sachs Funds for 3D-Printed Housing Nonprofit

Ellen Paik ’16 (right) speaks to Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and the Partnership Committee on behalf of New Story, a nonprofit organization that seeks to address global homelessness through the development and application of 3D printing technology.

Ellen Paik ’16, an analyst at Goldman Sachs, teamed up with three colleagues to pitch New Story, an organization working on developing low-cost housing solutions via 3D printing technology, to Goldman Sachs’ CEO and Partnership Committee as part of the Analyst Impact Fund, a global firmwide competition. The prize: a grant to the finalist teams’ selected nonprofits. The event was broadcasted live online on Yahoo Finance (see Paik’s team come in around 38 minutes).

Paik’s group placed second in the global finals and earned New Story $75,000 in support of the organization’s 3D printing initiative. The grant will go towards building the very first complex of 3D printed homes constructed by a nonprofit, in El Salvador by 2019.

“The four of us were attracted to the idea of promoting a scalable technology solution that addresses a global issue,” explains Paik. “We came across New Story, an organization that we really admired because they involve the local community and government in every step of the home-building process—planning, design, and construction—in ways that many existing organizations do not. New Story has helped over a thousand families in Haiti, El Salvador, and Bolivia that used to live in life-threatening conditions and that have been affected by natural disaster. Now, these families are empowered homeowners and able to better secure economic opportunity, safety, access to education, and a sense of community.”

Alumni Gather in London for Artists Reception, Honoring Gittes ’10

Artist Michael Gittes ’10, at right, speaks to fellow alumni and guests about his recent work during a gathering in London.

Forty-three Wesleyan alumni, students, parents, and friends gathered in London on July 3 for a reception featuring artist Michael Gittes ’10.

Gittes, an American studies major, discussed his work, which is being displayed as part of the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibit, Michael Jackson on the Wall. For the exhibit, Gittes created an experimental video.

In addition, alumni Glenn Ligon ’82, Jonathan Horowitz ’87, and Lyle Ashton Harris ’88 also have works exhibited in the gallery.