Tag Archive for alumni

Bennet ’87 Nominated for Senate Seat

Michael Bennet '87, superintendent of Denver Public Schools, meets with students from OpenWorld Learning's program at Castro Elementary School in Denver.

Michael Bennet '87, superintendent of Denver Public Schools, meets with students from OpenWorld Learning's program at Castro Elementary School in Denver.

Michael Bennet ’87, designated to fill a vacant Senate seat from Colorado, told The New York Times in January that he would go to Washington believing there is “no problem too tough to withstand innovative thinking.”

Bennet, son of Wesleyan President Emeritus Douglas J. Bennet ’59, is the superintendent of schools in Denver. Colorado’s governor, Bill Ritter Jr., selected him to replace Sen. Ken Salazar, nominated as interior secretary for the Obama administration.

Bennet told the Times he would focus on health care, the economy and education. He has gained prominence as superintendent, working with Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper ’74.

In a statement, then President-elect Obama said, “His breakthrough work at the helm of Denver’s schools has reflected that commitment, and established Michael as one of the nation’s leading education reformers.”

The Times credited him with turning around a school system “replete with problems” despite his having little experience as an education administrator. Student performance on standardized tests has improved during his tenure.

Kendall ’74 Led Case Against Navy Sonar Use

Richard Kendall ’74, a senior partner in the Los Angeles office of the law firm Irell & Manella, represented the National Resources Defense Council in a case involving whales and the U.S. Navy that recently was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Environmental groups had contended that the Navy’s use of underwater sonar was harming whales and other marine animals. The case arose when the Navy skipped an environmental impact statement for anti-submarine exercises planned from 2007 to 2009. The NRDC sued, and Los Angeles district court restricted the Navy’s use of active sonar. Later, a U.S. appeals court affirmed but eased the restrictions regarding location and timing of the exercises.

President Bush intervened in the case by citing national security as a reason to exempt the Navy from environmental laws at the heart of the legal challenge. In the 5-4 ruling, Chief Justice Roberts spoke for the majority in siding with the Navy, but the Navy agreed to abide by other restrictions on the exercises.

Kendall told CNN: “It is gratifying that the court did not accept the Navy’s expansive claims of executive power and that two-thirds of the injunction remains in place.”

Kendall had argued that sonar can be as loud to marine mammals as 2,000 jet engines, causing them to suffer physical trauma, stranding, and changes in breeding and migration patterns.

The New York Times said the case was the latest in a decade-long dispute between the Navy and environmental groups over the use of sonar. Environmentalists have had some success through lawsuits and persuasion in limiting sonar in training exercises around the world.

Mark ’71 Produces 2009 Oscar Telecast

Laurence Mark '71 (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

The New York Times’ Michael Cieply recently interviewed Laurence Mark ’71, the producer, and Bill Condon, the executive producer, of the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony, scheduled to be telecast on ABC on Feb. 22, 2009.

Mark said he hoped to bring back “a little bit of the party flavor” of past ceremonies and also would welcome “a few shocks and shivers, intended or otherwise.” Both producers expect to make the ceremony more popular with viewers by featuring 2008 films that moved audiences, including films that did not receive nominations.

Mark is currently preparing for the release later this year of a film he produced, Julie & Julia, written and directed by Nora Ephron and starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. The film deals with a young woman’s obsession with cooking star Julia Child.

Sharp ’85, Miranda ’02, Weiner ’03 Involved in Arts and Culture

Book by Carolyn Sharp '85.

Sharp ’85 Finds Irony in Hebrew Scriptures
In her fascinating new study, Irony and Meaning in the Hebrew Bible (Indiana University Press), Carolyn J. Sharp ’85, associate professor of Hebrew Scriptures at Yale Divinity School, suggests that many stories in the Hebrew Scriptures may be ironically intended. By interweaving literary theory and exegesis, she examines the power of the unspoken in a wide variety of texts from the Pentateuch, the Prophets, and the Writings. Her book considers such themes as foreign rulers and the fear of God, the prostitute as icon of the ironic gaze, indeterminacy and dramatic irony in prophetic performance, and irony in ancient Israel’s wisdom traditions.

Sharp pays special attention to how irony can challenge the dominant ways in which the Bible is read today, especially when it touches on questions of conflict, gender, and the other.

Sharp’s research continues to explore the composition, redaction, and rhetoric of Hebrew Scripture texts. She is also the author of Prophecy and Ideology in Jeremiah: Struggles for Authority in the Deutero-Jeremianic Prose; and Old Testament Prophets for Today.

Justin Oberman ’96 Eyes House Seat

Justin Oberman '96

Justin Oberman '96

Justin Oberman ’96 is planning a run for the House seat that soon will be vacated by Rahm Emanuel in the Illinois 5th district. The date for the election will not be set until Emanuel officially resigns to become President-elect Barack Obama’s chief of staff.

Oberman is an authority on transportation and homeland security, having served as a founding member and senior executive of the Transportation Security Administration. From 2003 through 2005, he was TSA’s assistant administrator for Transportation Threat Assessment and Credentialing. He was responsible for the agency’s programs that identify known or potential terrorists threats to the nation’s transportation system. His office oversaw the still-ongoing implementation of a new passenger pre-screening system for domestic aviation, the Registered Traveler program to expedite passenger screening, the development of a biometric smart card for more than one million workers at seaports, and a program to conduct background checks for all TSA employees and contractors.

He subsequently co-founded NEXA Capital Partners, a specialty financial advisory firm. In 2007, he joined President-elect Obama’s advisory committee on homeland security.

Album with Score by Miranda ’02 Receives Grammy Nomination

Lin-Manuel Miranda '02 wrote the music and lyrics for In the Heights.

In the Heights, the Tony Award winner for Best Musical 2008, is one of five recordings nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Musical Show Album category. Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 wrote the music and lyrics for the show. The other Grammy-nominees include the soundtracks for Gypsy, The Little Mermaid, South Pacific and Young Frankenstein.

The nominees for the In the Heights album, released by Razor & Tie Entertainment/Ghostlight Records, include Kurt Deutsch, Alex Lacamoire, Andrés Levin, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Joel Moss and Bill Sherman ’02, producers, as well as Miranda as composer/lyricist.

The nominations for the 51st annual Grammy Awards were announced on Dec. 3. CBS will telecast the awards event on Feb. 8, 2009.

Richards ’69 Producing Two New Broadway Shows

Jeffrey Richards ’69, along with Jerry Frankel and Steve Traxler, will produce two new Broadway plays in the coming months. First up is a revival of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, scheduled to begin performances at the Shubert Theater in New York City on Feb. 26, 2009.

Blithe Spirit is a comedy about Charles Condomine, who with his second wife, Ruth, invites a local medium, Madame Arcati, to his house to do some research into the spirit world for his new book. But trouble arises when Arcati conjures up the ghost of Charles’s first wife, Elvira.

The new production has a stellar cast including four-time Tony Award winner Angela Lansbury, two-time Tony Award winner Christine Ebersole, film star Rupert Everett (My Best Friend’s Wedding), who will be making his Broadway debut, and theater veterans Simon Jones and Jayne Atkinson. Tony Award-winning Michael Blakemore will direct.

Richards’ next production will be Neil LaBute’s reasons to be pretty, an MCC Theater production that was a recent hit off-Broadway. This comic drama explores America’s obsession with physical beauty. The play is scheduled to begin previews at Broadway’s Lyceum Theater on March 6, 2009.

Richards is also one of the producers of three recent successful Broadway productions: August: Osage County (winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award for Best Play), Spring Awakening (winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical) and Speed-the-Plow.

Spy Book by Andrew Meier ’85 Featured in NY Times

A book by Andrew Meier '85 was featured in The New York Times.

The Lost Spy: An American in Stalin’s Secret Service (W. W. Norton, 2008) by Andrew Meier ’85 was the subject of an article in the New York Times on Nov. 8.

A former Moscow correspondent for Time magazine, Meier spent seven years for his new book researching the fascinating tale of Isaiah “Cy” Oggins, an American radical and Columbia University graduate who served in the highest circles of Stalin’s intelligence agency, the NKVD. From the late 1920s through the 1930s, Oggins traveled to Berlin, Paris, and Manchuria on his missions. In 1947, he was poisoned by lethal injection under Stalin’s direct orders. The spy’s story remained hidden in secret files of the KGB and the FBI until 1992. To tell the entire story of Oggins’ career for the first time, Meier conducted interviews with more than 300 people on three continents and studied KGB and FBI papers as well as archives in Japan, China, Germany, France, Italy and Switzerland.

The author also met Oggins’ only child, his son Robin, who had last seen his father at age seven in 1938. Meier’s book is both a vivid biography and an exciting cold war espionage story that uncovers a secret world of dramatic intrigue and tragic events. The New York Times article mentions how Meier’s book has prompted Robin Oggins to seek more information about his father from Russian officials.

Patch ’02 Boats to Work

Sean Patch ’02 knows how to beat the morning rush—he paddles across the Hudson River to his Manhattan teaching job in a kayak.

The New York Post caught up with Patch, a former Wall Street trader who started boating to work this past summer to save money after the cost of a ferry ride nearly doubled.

“Patch, a 29-year-old high school math teacher, unties the 17-foot kayak he keeps at a dock on the Weehawken waterfront,” said the Post. Pulling on an orange life jacket, he grabs a foghorn, a safety light and a drybag holding his laptop and his work clothes, and heads out into the river. When he reaches Pier 66, he gets dressed for work, picks up his bicycle and pedals to Bayard Rustin High School for the Humanities on West 18th Street.

“‘It adds a little adventure to the day,'”Patch told the Post.

He reverses the commute at the day’s end, winding up at a yacht club, where he lives on a 30-year-old sailboat he docks for $400 a month.

Patch is no stranger to life on the water. When he left his home state of Maine for New York, he arrived on a sailboat. He spent 18 months on a sailing trip to the Bahamas before becoming a teacher through the nonprofit New York City Teaching Fellows. He also co-founded his own nonprofit, Hudson River Community Sailing, dedicated to making the sport of sailing accessible to more New Yorkers.

Undeterred by river traffic or occasional rough water, he told the Post that his goal was to make it through the winter.

Alumni Involved in Arts and Culture

Books
William Evans Jr. ’40 Is a Figure in World War II Book
A new book by Robert Mrazek, A Dawn Like Thunder (Little Brown, 2008), tells a little known story of 35 men in the almost forgotten U.S. Navy Torpedo Squadron Eight that helped change the course of history at the epic World War II battles of Midway and Guadalcanal.

These men displayed acts of courage, loyalty, and sacrifice and went on to become the most highly decorated American naval air squadron of the war. Williams Evans Jr. ’40 was one of the heroes in the squadron, and his story is one of many covered in Mrazek’s stirring narrative. The book notes that Evans kept a personal journal and shares some of his thoughts about entering the Navy.

Joshua F. Moore ’94 is the author of the book What’s in a Picture?: Uncovering the Hidden Stories in Vintage Maine Photographs, published in 2008.

Moore ’94 Writes About Vintage Maine Photographs
Over the years, Joshua F. Moore ’94, deputy editor of Down East magazine, has written that publication’s popular feature “What’s in a Picture?” for which he has traveled the length and breadth of Maine to find intriguing historic photographs that capture unique people, places, and situations within the state. Moore is now the author and editor of What’s in a Picture?: Uncovering the Hidden Stories in Vintage Maine Photographs (Down East Enterprise, 2008), a collection of 50 historic and sometimes hilarious photographs. Through his interviews and in-depth research, Moore shares the fascinating stories behind the photographs, which cover a range of unusual events, oddball occupations, ingenious machinery, and creative pastimes.

Music
Opera by Cuomo ’80 Inspired by North Indian Music
The first full staging of Arjuna’s Dilemma, an unconventional new opera by Douglas Cuomo ’80, was presented at the Harvey Theater of the Brooklyn Academy Music in November. The opera is based on the renowned sacred text of Asia, the Bhagavad-Gita, and deals with a crisis faced by a young warrior prince in ancient India during a civil war. Cuomo has written music for theater, classical ensembles, and film and television (including the theme song for Sex and the City). For his new work, he draws upon North Indian music as well as elements of classical Western music and jazz. National Public Radio featured the opera.

In his enthusiastic review of Arjuna’s Dilemma in the New York Times, Anthony Tommasini describes Cuomo’s score as “appealing and unabashedly eclectic.” He comments: “Arjuna’s vocal lines, a stylistic blend of Indian chant and Western lyricism, are enriched by a chorus of five women, singing in English. … I liked the score best when Mr. Cuomo pushed the complexity to extremes, piling up Arjuna’s solos, choral counterpoint and instrumental textures to create haunting, astringent, multilayered music, with cluster chords in the electric keyboard and spiraling flights in the strings and winds.”

A recording titled Dragon's Head by bandleader Mary Halvorson '02 and the Mary Halvorson Trio was released in November 2008.

New Album Features Guitarist/Composer Halvorson ’02
The talents of acclaimed Brooklyn-based guitarist and composer Mary Halvorson ’02 are showcased on her debut recording as a bandleader, titled Dragon’s Head, which was released on the Firehouse 12 label in November. The album features ten new original compositions written specifically for her working trio with bassist John Hebert and drummer Ches Smith. The recording allowed Halvorson the opportunity to experiment with different compositional forms, as well as varying harmonic, melodic and rhythmic components. She has previously composed music for recordings with her chamber music duo with violist Jessica Pavone and the avant-rock duo, People, with drummer Kevin Shea. At Wesleyan, Halvorson took classes with Professor of Music Anthony Braxton, the celebrated musician and composer, and has also performed with his music ensembles.

In a profile of Halvorson and her music in the New York Times in November, Nate Chinen discussed the new recording. He noted: “More than an auspicious debut, it is among this year’s standout jazz albums and one of the more original recent statements by any jazz guitarist, let alone a female jazz guitarist.” She was also featured in All About Jazz.com.


Theater

Nikolchev ’08 Presents Solo Show in Chicago
Actor and writer Anthony Nikolchev ’08 presents the Chicago premiere of his solo show, Look, What I Don’t Understand, as part of Thirteen Pocket’s first season devoted to original works. This one-man drama draws upon historical narratives experienced by Nikolchev’s family during their 1960s escape from the totalitarian hostility of communist Bulgaria to detainment in America, challenging himself and audiences to comprehend the experience of past generations through the perspective of present generations. Told through the words of a middle-aged Bulgarian immigrant at the gates of the U.S. border, the show integrates documentary theater with fictional narrative while it challenges the audience’s ability to process the alleged objectivity of history.

Several directors were employed to bring as many different perspectives to one story as possible to reflect the myriad of ways one historical event can be interpreted. These included Jane Kaufman, a dance choreographer; Joe Stankus, a film director; writer Lily Wahrman; and Justin Denis, a political activist and a recent field organizer for Obama during his presidential campaign. Yuriy Kordonskiy, assistant professor of theater at Wesleyan, was the supervising director for the show. Nikolchev and Kordonskiy are recipients of a Wesleyan University Project Grant.

Post-show discussions with Nikolchev and guests will be held following the Sunday matinees on Jan. 11, 18 and 25, and Feb. 1, 2009 (free with paid ticket).

The show runs from Jan. 8, 2009–Feb. 1, 2009 at the Athenaeum Theatre Studio 1, 2936 N. Southport Avenue. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. Sundays. For tickets, call 312-902-1500 or visit www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets are $15 for all regular performances; $10 for students and seniors with ID, and for each in groups of 10 or more; $10 for industry members on Sunday shows.

Inaugural Leadership Conference Brings Together Alumni, Students

Arion Blas '11 and Kaishi Lee '09 listen to a talk at J.P. Morgan Chase in New York City on Oct. 27 during Wesleyan's Management and Leadership Conference.

Arion Blas '11 and Kaishi Lee '09 listen to a talk at J.P. Morgan Chase in New York City on Oct. 27 during Wesleyan's Management and Leadership Conference.

Arion Blas ’11 learned about debt, derivatives, equity, money policy, banking and business management during Wesleyan’s first-ever
Management and Leadership Conference
Oct. 24-28.

Blas and 29 other Wesleyan students learned about management from experts and executives from top companies, organizations and institutions, while participating in skill-building through lectures, hands-on workshops, case studies, and one-on-one mentoring with top Wesleyan alumni and parents from a variety of career fields.

Homecoming/Family Weekend Brings Them Home

Wesleyan hosted Homecoming/Family Weekend Oct. 17-19.

Wesleyan hosted Homecoming/Family Weekend Oct. 17-19. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)

Come Home!” was the theme of Wesleyan’s Homecoming/Family Weekend (HCFW) Oct. 17-19.

“I chose Come Home! as the theme for this event because I believe that Wesleyan is a family that grows stronger by engagement at regular gatherings such as Homecoming/Family Weekend,” says Wesleyan President Michael Roth. “Many things in our lives change year to year, but we can always come back to Wesleyan and feel we belong.”

The event featured 21 WESeminars, several athletic events, campus tours, an all-college dinner,