CLASS OF 1989 | 2020 | ISSUE 3

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THANK YOU for writing in, in such enormous numbers. Here’s the mildly edited LONG version of what’s happening in the class of 1989!

Having just rescued a dog named Smokey, Stephanie Dolgoff is totally smitten with him and has decided to make is official: “I’m engaged to marry my dog, and as happy as I’ve ever been.” (lol)

Colleen McKiernan is on the Board of the Waltham Fields Community Farm, a non-profit farm with a CSA and educational programs. She has been working to prevent this 400 year old farmland from being sold by the State of Massachusetts and after a two year campaign hopes to secure permanent protection through the state legislature this year.  The Farm donates 20% of its food, including to school lunch programs.  She invites any support for this organization from her classmates. 

Phil Rutovitz has been living in The Hague for the past 6 years with his wife and 3 kids.  After 23 years living in Europe, he finds it very strange to view from afar what the United States is going through now.  Although, as British citizen, he recently had to secure a resident permit to stay in the Netherlands which was surreal in its own way. After his company restructured in November, he started his own fintech consulting business.  In his copious free time, he was able to finish his first novel, a thriller called The Scarabus Deception, and is looking for an agent. 

Durba Ghosh writes from Cornell, where she has been on the faculty for 15 years.  She estimates she is one of about a zillion historians who were undergraduate majors who are now in faculty positions across the country.  Her son is a sophomore soccer player at Hamilton College and her daughter is entering her junior year in high school.  She thought the best college tour to date was at Wesleyan and the highlight seeing Brian O’Rourke behind the counter at the diner, and sitting on Foss Hill once again. 

Early on, Phineas Baxandall was feeling very grateful during quarantine because his son came back from college and senior-in-high-school daughter was home much more. They spent lots of time playing board games, watching old movies, and doing ceramics in their basement kiln. Then the kids got squirrelly as the months dragged on, until they started spending time in Cape Cod. Eventually, both kids went off to their college towns.  Now, he and his partner Sarah get to live the quiet remote-work life with lots of long runs  and swims and few people. In October, they’ll be returning to Cambridge to continue calling and writing letters to swing-state voters. 

2020 would have been a big year for Debra Steppel even without Covid-19: her firstborn graduated from high school and left for Arizona State University and she and her husband marked 22 years in the same home in Reston, VA.  It has also been 10 years since her husband Mark founded Sunrise Wealth Management, where they both work to help their clients plan their financial futures. 

John Hlinko is still living in Washington, DC, but he travels to many exotic locations, such as the living room, the kitchen, and the couch.  He did manage to get in a Vegas trip just before the plague hit with fellow 89’ers Sneep Wadhwa and Adam Long, and he looks forward to another trip with them sometime before 2030.  He is spending most of his time these days running Left Action, a progressive activist community currently focused on avoiding a fascist takeover.  But he did manage to write a second book — Pandemic Pickup Lines — a collection of groaners which no doubt offended many, but which also managed to raise $12,000 for José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen, to fight pandemic-related hunger. 

In October, Amy Randall organized the Twin Pandemics Forum, an interdisciplinary 2-day event in Santa Clara responding to COVID-19 and racial injustice.  It was co-hosted by the Center for the Arts and Humanities and the Bannan Forum in the Ignatian Center.  She is also finding California to still be wonderful but stressful. For over three weeks she couldn’t be outside because the air was so toxic from the fires surrounding her home.  She has been sheltering in place for over 6 months — although things have begun to open up more recently. As a professor and historian of 20th century European history (with a focus on the Soviet Union) — and gender and genocide — she no longer thinks it is alarming to suggest that authoritarianism if not fascism is on the march in the United States. If you don’t agree with her and think she’s wrong, she hopes you are right. 

Laura Hardin still works as a testifying expert on damages issues in international arbitrations for Alvarez and Marsal out of Houston. This November she will be cross examined in a virtual hearing for the first time.  In her personal life, she is settling into being an empty-nester and focusing on being healthy.  Over the last year she lost 160 lbs and is happy to share tips on how she is literally half the woman she used to be.  She now runs 8-10 miles every other day and cross trains with a Peloton bike and weights. She has run 2 half marathons since January and feels fantastic.  She is also riding my horses again and plans to start competing again next year.  Her daughter Samantha is in her second year at Colorado State Graduate Veterinary school and doing her first two years in Fairbanks, AK.  Her son Michael is in his third year of the Electrical Engineering program at the University of Texas. 

Robin (Allen) McGrew and her family just passed the one-year mark living in the energy efficient house she designed in Washington DC. The house is designed to the Passive House standard for energy efficiency and uses roughly 80% less energy than a code-built house. Photovoltaics on the roof are modeled to make the house net zero energy on an annual basis. The house has been comfortable in every season which they have gotten to know intimately since they have been working from home for the past seven months. Should would love to hear from anyone curious about Passive House design, which is a proven way to lower the carbon impact of the construction industry and make a dent in global warming.  

Julie Strauss and Joel Brown are “remarkably still happily married, even though they work, sleep, exercise, eat and whatever else in the same damn house. All. The. Time.  Joel ostensibly continues to work as an attorney but it feels more like a grossly overpaid scheduler of Zoom sessions.  Julie’s business of running content rich lectures for senior citizens dried up although some of her business has now returned through virtual offerings.  Their son, Ezra started graduate school in Non-Profit Development work at the University of Michigan. With Ezra continuing his life in Ann Arbor, they are able to visit with the esteemed Dr. David Bradley and his lovely family, long-time residents of Ann Arbor.  David and Joel were one-time Hi-Rise roommates, and would both be living large today had they only launched their much-discussed line of “Soup and Cous”.  David will have to settle for a career of fixing children heart defects at the U of M Medical Center.  Julie and Joel’s younger son, Jonathan, is a sophomore at the University of Illinois studying drums and communications.

Chris Roberts and his oldest daughter, Beatrix ’22, drove from their home in Austin up to Middletown so she could move into Low Rise and quarantine for the start of her junior year. She’s an American Studies major and a Dance minor.  Daughter Willa is a freshman “at” McGill University in Montreal, but is actually doing her studies in a pod in New York with similarly remote students. Chris and his wife Alexis (Neaman) ’90 also have India, a high school sophomore.  Chris hasn’t been to his office since March 12 and is not expected back until January, but is still somehow busier than ever.  

Marjorie Levine-Clark reports her household of three (plus dog, Theo) has been cozily working remotely since March. Isabel (‘22) was already on spring break in Denver when Wesleyan announced campus would be closed for the rest of term. Michael (’92) and Isabel flew back to Wes to get all her stuff right on the edge of danger. Marjorie is still happily a professor of history and associate dean for diversity, outreach, and initiatives at the University of Colorado Denver; and reports more on some deeply interesting projects that she is spearheading and that her partner is working on too!

Indy Neidell reports that life in Sweden has been as weird as anywhere else this year.  He was sick with Covid-19 the entire month of May, but is doing better now and is very busy with his new Youtube series “WW2 in Real Time.”   

Jeffrey Naness continues in his work in employment and labor law for employers, as well as playing keyboards in a couple of rock bands (to the extent the Pandemic allows). His two sons are in college, Muhlenberg College (PA) and Colgate University (NY).

Alexandra Aron shares that “a few months ago, I formally incorporated a non-profit theater company, The Remote Theater Project (RTP), an initiative to bring underrepresented international artists to perform in the US.  On the Board of Directors are two ’89 alumnae: Julia Brock (formerly Julia Randall) and Wendy Trippe. RTP commissioned, developed and produced  GREY ROCK by Palestinian writer/director Amir Nizar Zuabi which premiered at La MaMa Theatre last year. We brought Palestinian actors from the West Bank and Israel to LaMaMa Theater. The production was subsequently invited to the Melbourne International Arts Festival and returned earlier to the US earlier this year for a 5-week tour including at the Kennedy Center, The Public Theatre/ Under the Radar, The Guthrie Theatre, and Kimmel Center in Phili. The tour ended (thankfully) in mid-February just before Covid hit. RTP is currently developing several more projects: a collaboration with actor-writers from Uganda and Palestine, as well as one based in East Africa and involving artists from 5 countries (Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania).  I never would have imagined forming this company two years ago.The support of Wendy and Julia has been instrumental. I am incredibly grateful to them and to the many other Wes. alums who turned out for and supported Grey Rock.” Also, Alexandra’s daughter Sofia Aslan ‘23 is in CSS at Wesleyan now and loving it.

Finally, we were so very sad to hear of the passing of our classmate Michael Mahon. Mike died suddenly, at home, on May 20th 2020. He was an English major, swimmer, marathon runner, avid outdoorsman and lover of life. An excellent storyteller, he loved to regale his friends with their adventures (and misadventures), with a twinkle in his eye and an infectious laugh. A New Jersey native, Mike lived in NYC after graduation, working at ABC News. He later moved to Boston and a career in advertising and marketing. At the time of his death, he lived in Quincy. He is survived by his husband of 10 years, Peter Damon, extended family, and many, many friends. Many of you were his friends. We send our Wes best to his family, framily, friends and fellow classmates grieving this loss. May his memory be for a blessing.

Stay safe and stay in touch, classmates. 

Jonathan Fried | jonathan.l.fried@gmail.com 

Michele Barnwell | michelebarnwell01@gmail.com