CLASS OF 1976 | 2021–2022 | WINTER ISSUE

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Byron Haskins and his wife Gabrielle have moved to Montreal so that Gabrielle can take her dream job. They’ll be figuring how to split their lives between Montreal and their home base of Lansing. What a wonderful adventure!

Sue (Feinstein) Barry and her husband Dan spent the pandemic in Arlington, Massachusetts caring for their granddaughter. Sue also finished her second book, which was published by Basic Books, last June. It’s titled Coming to Our Senses: A Boy Who Learned to See, A Girl Who Learned to Hear, and How We All Discover the World.

Joe Mabel has retired from the software industry and is working with soprano Juliana Brandon on the Weill Project (http://weillproject.com/), dedicated to the work of composer Kurt Weill  (1900–1950). They have created 15 original guitar-and-vocal arrangements of Weill songs, and have also plunged into a critical and historical study of Weill’s life and work. They’re putting together a series of academic lectures and demonstrations with collaborator German artist Yvette  Endrijautzki, which will include visual art related to, or inspired by, Weill and his songs. Their first major performance will be February 2022 in Seattle. They hope to showcase the amazing range of Weill’s work, from opera to cabaret to Broadway, and from innovative expressionist music to tangos and foxtrots. In addition to several songs from Threepenny Opera and his other collaborations with Bertolt Brecht, they will perform two lesser-known environmental protest songs from 1928. They’re also working up two songs he wrote in France between leaving Germany and coming to America, as well as a World War II Allied propaganda song he co-wrote with Howard Dietz, and three Broadway songs he co-wrote with Ogden Nash.

Oliver Griffith is still living in Paris after retiring from his last job at the World Bank in 2016. He is doing some freelance writing for NGOs and French companies, and regularly playing in jazz clubs.

Debra Haffner is leaving her position as minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Reston after five years. She’s returning to a community ministry of teaching, writing, preaching, and consulting, primarily in areas related to congregations and sexuality issues. She’s not ready to retire: “I have at least one more professional act in me.”

Leslie Anderson, reference librarian at Alexandria Library, Local History/Special Collections, was recently named a Virginia Humanities Scholar by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society. Twenty scholars were selected on the basis of their expertise in history and genealogy, framed within an understanding of the African American experience. Leslie served as the Project Editor for the Virginia Slave Births Index, 1853–1865, which has become a standard reference work in public and special libraries.

Adrienne Scott writes: “After 22 years, raising 2 bonus children and now 5 grands, my husband and I are divorcing. I retired from college administration and an adjunct faculty position and enjoy part-time English language tutoring, specializing in work with local indigenous tribes, which I will return to in the fall. Here in Roseville, California, in 2016, a local TV station acknowledged my work as the first African American television news reporter in Rhode Island in 1977, by doing a story on my personal interview with Muhammad Ali and how he gave me an exclusive. ‘He took care of his community,’ I said, because he knew how disrespected I was, and that I was told by my news director that Rhode Island isn’t ready for a black anchorperson. The flirtatious Ali took away some of the sting of racism.”

Deb Neuman lost her husband Paul last year after 35 years of marriage. She remains in Mystic, and continues to work as the VP of Advancement for Enders Island, a beautiful Catholic retreat in Mystic that has a small residential community for young men in recovery from addiction. She notes that participating in the 40th and 45th Wesleyan Reunion committees and renewing acquaintances with fellow alumni has been a positive experience.

Cathy Popkin has officially retired after 35 years in the Columbia Slavic Department. She recently became a grandparent and is dividing her time between New York and New Hampshire. She adds: “Happy to be alive.”

Robert Osborne continues teaching voice in the music departments of Vassar College and Columbia University/Barnard College.

Joe Mingolla writes: “After Wesleyan, I attended and graduated law school at Boston College.  Subsequently, I returned to the place where I grew up, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. I worked for my family’s construction company for a few years and then, in 1990, I opened my own practice and right from the start my career took off. I ran a boutique criminal law practice focused on primarily federal crimes and appeals taking place in the Caribbean and Florida. The Caribbean is the sunny place for shady people! Lots of cartel people, money laundering, and con men down there. My slogan was “Reasonable doubt at a reasonable price!”

“Meanwhile, in 2001 I met my future wife, Lia. She was a senior executive with a Canadian bank and was assigned to head up the Compliance Division for the banks in our region, where she used to find money launderers, have the FBI bust them, and then, often enough, the miscreant would come crying to me for help! It was a beautiful thing!

“We married in Stowe, Vermont, in 2005 and have been living happily ever after. When Lia was reassigned to headquarters in Toronto in 2012, I was burnt out on my criminal practice, and so we relocated to Toronto, and after she retired we left Toronto to live in the country on Lake Ontario. I love Canada and its people very much. I’m becoming a dual citizen. Too much craziness in America right now.

“During the past 45 years, I traveled extensively, learned to fly, collected exotic and classic cars (25 or so), rode motorcycles until this year, became an expert scuba diver, sailor, and yachtsman. We have no children, but few regrets.

“I’ve been writing humorous short stories for a few years and living a quiescent life. It’s such a contrast with how I used to live, but the ubiquitous stress that was my daily companion is no longer extant. Who would have predicted that I would enjoy tending our flower gardens?”

Leslie Gabel-Brett continues to teach a course each spring at Wesleyan called “Social Activism and Theories of Change.” She adds that she gains a little dose of hope and optimism each year by meeting students who are ready to change the world. She has retired from her other work obligations and looks forward to being with Carolyn and her family to see what retired people really do all week.

Bruce Demple writes: “In mid-June, my wife Sue Avery and I made our first foray out of New York state since March 2020. There was a time when staying so close to home for that long might have seemed unremarkable, but over the years we had gotten quite used to frequent trips away, both for professional and for personal reasons. This time, we had a ‘tour’ of our long-time home, Massachusetts, staying with four different sets of friends not seen for the past 15 months or more. It was sublime! We started by spending a long weekend with our dear friends, classmate Rich Gallogly and Bonnie Katz ’77 (whose expected in-person Reunion next year we certainly plan to crash!). We lived within 2 miles of each other in Newton for almost 20 years, and our children grew up together. We then stopped with a former Harvard colleague in Brookline, in order to celebrate a colleague and close friend—our former department chair—who passed away in May 2020. From there it was down to Martha’s Vineyard, where a close friend from Exeter has a wonderful house. He generously invited us and three other couples  (including none other than Danny Ruberman ’77 and his wife Anne) to spend a week there, ahead of the arrival of their three sons and their children. This group usually meets up in the winter in Maine for a ski trip, which in fact was our last out-of-state trip in early March 2020. So this year’s gathering was a much warmer consolation prize, with ample conviviality, aptly described by our host as ‘several days of hiking, biking, dining and general carrying on.’ Our last stay was in Grafton, with a very close friend from the very first days of grad school in Berkeley, and his wife—they were also the last folks we stayed with before coming home for so many months. And we finished with a stop in . . . Middletown! That was to visit Anthony Infante, with whom I did my senior thesis research, and the person I credit with sending me irreversibly on the road to being a biochemist. We have remained friends, but last saw him only on the occasion of our 40th Reunion. He is well, and very sharp, and 90 minutes together was nowhere near enough.”

Sid Cohen recently retired after a career in academic medicine and biomedical research, and now consults for medical device companies working on cardiovascular devices. Sid and his wife reside in Pleasanton, California, where he is an avid gardener, photographer, and amateur radio operator, and also stays busy with home projects. Retirement has allowed him to pursue interests he never had a chance to enjoy while working, such as music and art. Sid has two grandchildren; he adds that they “are a delight to watch grow although taking on the role of grandparent, while delightful, it is a bit sobering. I wish all my 1976 classmates happiness and health.”

Nat Needle teaches piano to about 40 students, ages 5 to 75 in Worcester, Massachusetts, which, he writes, “is home to the whole world. My students look pretty much like the city. Until now, their work with me has been one-on-one. However, the spirit of mutual support at our (second online)  June 2021 recital made me think more seriously of how much nurturance and inspiration they would receive from connection with one another throughout the year. That vision is even more compelling because of barriers that would ordinarily exist between them in society being lowered thanks to this special vehicle they all have in common. So, as we enter ‘post-pandemic life,’ we’ll be co-creating our own ‘piano college,’ blending online and in-person activity. As we musicians like to say, stay tuned.”

Bob Craft reports that after 35 years in Los Angeles, he and his family have moved to Portland, Oregon. He says: “Now it’s time to enjoy my retirement.”

Finally, I am sad to report that Winifred Van Roden ’77 passed away on June 6, 2021.

KAREN HARMIN | karen.harmin@gmail.com