CLASS OF 1976 | 2017 | ISSUE 2

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For this issue, I asked about retirement plans and got varied and often non-committal answers.  To vary the line-up, the last shall be first.

Jody Binswanger Snider works in media, representing a creative branding and production company, and a small animation studio and filmmaker in NYC.  She serves on a family foundation concerned with homelessness and criminal justice reform. Her husband is a teacher and coach at Harvard Business School and Northeastern, and her two sons are working in NYC real estate.

Steve Smith and his wife moved to western North Carolina 31 years ago and that’s where they plan to retire in about two years. Their daughter just had her 10th Wes Reunion, and they plan to visit friends in Mexico later this year.

Joe Reiff won the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Nonfiction Award for 2016 with his book Born of Conviction: White Methodists and Mississippi’s Closed Society. Joe figures he has three more years before he hangs up his frock.

Jack O’Donnell has a daughter at Wes who plans to go to law school afterwards. Jack loves working as a criminal defense lawyer, and between that and the tuition bills, no retirement is in sight.


Connie Bodine McCann attended an all-day meeting of Wes emeriti trustees and watched Donna Morea do an excellent job as chair. Connie has a son at Wes, a daughter working in tech in San Francisco, and another son at a private investment firm in NYC. Connie has been elected to the Spencer Stuart worldwide board of directors and, after 24 years, is still enjoying her senior search work in financial services.

Jimmy Johnson reports that his bike touring business ( is going strong and that he will be leading tours through Austria, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, and Montenegro in the next five months. Electrically assisted bikes help it all work. (I tried one in California and our nonathletic group drew looks of disbelief as we sped up the hills.)

Leslie Gabel-Brett ended her 10-year tenure at Lambda Legal in NYC and now works as a consultant with Open Communities Alliance, an affordable housing group in Connecticut led by Erin Boggs ’93. In spring 2018, Leslie will be a visiting assistant professor of public policy at Wes teaching a course about social justice movements under the auspices of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life.

Joellyn Gray went to L.A. over Memorial Day weekend and visited her sons, Malcolm and Duncan ’09, who work for the Russo Brothers and Hulu respectively. She had dinner with my CSS classmate, Bob Craft, and his wife, Julie. Joellyn has considered retirement, but prefers working.

Jon Cleworth, who is fighting a nearly 40-year battle with MS, is still going strong and is grateful for his time at Wesleyan and the inspiration he gained there.

Karen Caplan says retirement is a nice idea, but she is not ready to give up her full-time hospital job as a clinical social worker on a palliative care consult team. Karen finds her work with people at the end of life wonderfully rich, meaningful, and rewarding.

Barbara Birney continues to enjoy the company of her 92-year-old father, Robert Birney ’50, as well as that of her brother Bob Birney ’81. Bob has just given up “Old Man’s Soccer” and is focused on getting the last of his kids through college.

Tom Kovar says he thinks about retirement but, with a 14-year-old still at home, he does not plan on it anytime soon.

Cheryl Alpert just started a new career as a full-time real estate agent focusing on Boston and MetroWest and is very active in national and local politics. Her older son, Eben, is working as a business analyst and her younger son, Chason, is graduating from Washington and Lee, and will be working in D.C. for Booz Allen.

As for me, my oldest daughter graduated with a master’s and my younger two from college this month, so tuition bills are no longer a driver. But I still like working and need to stay busy if I am going to stay in sync with my wife, who loves her job. Outlook: staying the course.

There are a lot of you folks who do not write in—especially, for some odd reason, those whose last names are in the second half of the alphabet. I wish you would.

Mitchell Marinello |