CLASS OF 1982 | 2017 | ISSUE 2

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NEWSMAKER

GLENN LIGON ’82

Glenn Ligon ’82, renowned conceptual artist, curated the exhibition Blue Black, a selection of pieces ranging from portraiture to African and American folk art, for the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis, Mo. “The content of Glenn’s work is incredibly meaningful in the context of St. Louis, being the epicenter of the Black Lives Matter movement,” Pulitzer director Cara Starke told art critic Hilarie M. Sheets, writing for the New York Times. Ligon described an Ellsworth Kelly painting, “Blue Black” (2000), which hangs in the Pulitzer, as his inspiration, and he cited “a very funny aural hallucination where I kept hearing Louis Armstrong’s voice singing ‘What did I do to be so black and blue?’“ He used that color combination to explore questions about race, history, identity, and memory. An art major at Wesleyan, he was awarded an honorary doctorate of fine arts from the university in 2012.

Dear classmates, I’m having a déjà vu here, writing the class notes. After the marvelous Stephanie Griffith stepped down, it seems everyone else in the class stepped back, and I was left volunteered. That’s okay; it’s like studying an interesting longitudinal cohort, or having a niche reporting beat of a creative and, need I say, diverse group. Just please help me out by feeding me some tidbits now and then. Class notes are the original social media.

Our 35th Reunion was genuinely warm, entertaining, and thoughtful. The Reunion committee, spearheaded by Kate Quigley Lynch (clap, clap), pulled off not only a wonderful “Recommencement” show and shenanigans (thanks to Beck Lee, David Brancaccio, and Joe Barrett), but our class funded a Class of ’82 Endowed Scholarship, beating our $100,000 goal (kudos to Stephen Daniel for leading us). We made an enormous difference in the life of a kid who otherwise might not have the privilege we’ve enjoyed to go to Wes. We hosted Professors Richard Ohmann and Leon Sigal (both of whom had a huge influence on my understanding of media, from the outside and in, respectively) and Professor Andy Szegedy-Maszak. The other news from Reunion is that beneath the thin scrim of age, everyone looked fantastic, just like they used to, only better dressed. Also, the Douglas Cannon reappeared, mysteriously, and I personally touched it. More on that below.

David Brancaccio spoke at our “Recommencement,” digging deep, citing from texts on rituals and cultural meaning in higher education to support his point that “our graduation ceremony 35 years ago was a wonderful occasion and, at the same time, it sucked.” Indeed, he reminded us that June 6, 1982, was the worst storm in the area since a 1955 hurricane, dumping nearly a foot of rain centered on Middletown, forcing us to graduate in the hot, stuffy, inelegant hockey rink. The sketchy sound system kept us from appreciating the speaker, diplomat and novelist Carlos Fuentes. David unearthed the address and read a few gems, then conferred “recommencement” certificates on us with quotes from the speech (if you’d like the full text, just e-mail Kate at klynch@wesleyan.edu, easier than doing what David did, tracking it down in NYC library archives, taking photos, and transcribing).

Among his remarks, Fuentes told us, “I know that sooner or later, your generation will be facing, courageously and decisively, the human needs in this country: democracy not only in the voting booth, but in the working place; decentralization, reindustrialization, the stamping out of crime, better schools, thorough racial integration and sexual equality, the great technological breakthroughs that can only be achieved through the quality of higher education and investment in research, all of this inseparable from compassion and legislation favoring the poor, the elderly, the handicapped.”

Beck Lee, our witty MC, said Fuentes’ remarks were like a “message in a bottle…speaking to our future selves, when his words might hold the deepest meaning.” Fuentes’ words were prescient, and remind us, as Beck said, that “the spirit for rebellion that was engendered in us then, in the early Reagan years, would be needed now more than ever.”

And then there was the brief reappearance of the Douglas Cannon, which a few of us were lucky enough to see, though I am not at liberty to divulge the circumstances. As you might recall, the D.C. made a surprise appearance in the University’s sesquicentennial birthday cake in 1981 before it disappeared once again in 1982. I have it on strong authority that a few of our ‘82 classmates were the 1982 liberators of the D.C. and that following some extensive travel, they returned it to Wesleyan in good faith upon Colin Campbell’s last Commencement.

These “Doug Addicts” have communicated their strong wish that 1) Whoever is in possession of the cannon today has the responsibility and obligation to facilitate the cannon’s return to the Wesleyan community; 2) Every student should know the D.C. story and have the experience of seeing the D.C. sometime during their time on campus; and 3) Whoever has it currently or in the future, needs to record Douglas Cannon’s travels and locations so that the Wesleyan community stays updated on the adventures of the D.C., perhaps via Douglas Cannon’s Facebook page.

More news about our classmates in the next notes, stay tuned. But quick congrats to Deedie Finney, whose lovely introduction to the anniversary edition of She’s Not There, the memoir by wife Jennifer Finney Boylan ’80, proves JFB is not the only writer in the family.

And don’t miss Suzanne Kay’s new documentary film, Sullivision: The Ed Sullivan Story, which takes a surprising look at the man who was once television’s most influential personality and his little-known support of black artists at the dawn of television. Check out her FB page, Sullivision, for more info.

Finally, to you guys at the Reunion who suggested my new husband, Peter Eckart ’86, go for the record and not stop at marrying just two Wesleyan women: over my dead body. Then you’ll be stuck having to find another willing class secretary.

Respectfully submitted,

Laura Fraser | laura@laurafraser.com