CLASS OF 1986 | 2019 | ISSUE 2

It’s always a pleasure to share news from classmates, and I hope you’re enjoying the new look of the alumni magazine. Now that my kids are older, I’m now getting alumni magazines from several institutions and I feel that the Wes one is the best.

The last issue got Kristin Bluemel to write in: “Having seen my friend Monica Bose’s profile, I am inspired to write you before I lose momentum.” She said that in May she celebrated her 25th year as a professor of English at Monmouth University in New Jersey, where she now holds the Wayne D. McMurray Endowed Chair in the Humanities.

We also heard from another in academia: Sarah Elkind is a professor of history at San Diego State University and was elected vice president (president-elect) of the American Society for Environmental History. Sarah has been teaching environmental, political, urban, and public history, and runs SDSU’s public history internship program. In the area of environmental policy, one of her interests is how influential groups secure and exercise their power and why Americans expand or constrain government services. Sounds timely to me.

Here in Massachusetts, Jennifer Steel works in Newton, where she’s the senior environmental planner for the city. She is responsible for staffing the Conservation Commission and implementing the Wetlands Protection Act, managing Newton’s conservation land, and engaging the public on issues of land stewardship and helping shape large-scale developments, transportation projects, stormwater projects, and bicycle and pedestrian improvements.

Risa Shames is living in Newton, and she wrote a career progression saying, “After a 20-year career in health care project management, I have transitioned to nonprofit consulting, helping organizations tell their story, raise funds, and advance their mission. I have also joined the board of my local food pantry and my synagogue.” She survived and enjoyed her first year as an empty nester, or “as I prefer to be called, a free bird.” Her daughter graduated from Tufts in the spring, and this fall, her son will be in his second year at Brown.

Further south, in Mount Kisco, N.Y., Doug Polaner is “super excited.” His son Mason will be at Wesleyan starting in the fall. “Other than that, still selling wine in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania through a wine import company, Polaner Selections, that I run with my wife. Celebrating our 20th anniversary in business this year. If you live in these states and like drinking wine, look for our back label and keep popping those corks!”

Ellen Santistevan shared some news from out west. “One of my kids just graduated with his AAS in welding technology. Another one was awarded a research prize in art history. One is a successful property manager and the last one is finding himself in Phoenix. We are definitely in that time of life when the offspring are taking charge of their lives.” She spent much of last year on a project that many of us are facing: helping parents move into a senior living community, and then, along with siblings, preparing the old home for sale. “That was wrenching and draining.”

My sympathies to all who are going through difficult transitions. Several studies have suggested that the early and mid-50s can be a particularly hard time in a person’s life. Don’t be afraid to call old friends and ask if they would be willing to let you cry on their shoulders. But do ask permission first, as your old friend may be going through tough times too.

With warm regards,

Eric Howard |