Hello all, I’m focused on Reunion planning and really hope to see you at one of the many online events our class has planned. Check the schedule at www.wesleyan.edu/rc2021/reunionclasses/reunion-30, and don’t forget to drop me a line!
Diana Glanternik is riding the pandemic out in Brooklyn with husband and two little ones, Ila (4) and Amara (1). Mari was born in December 2019, so Diana was just coming off maternity leave when this hit. “I am in the ranks of moms whose work hours have been drastically reduced by additional childcare responsibilities. We are lucky that at this age, our kiddos are perfectly content to have more time with their parents and it’s still a time for lots of play-based learning. The pre-pandemic aspect of life that my husband and I miss most is dinner gatherings, many of which involved Wes friends who live nearby. As soon as everyone is vaccinated we hope to host those weekly! Feeling grateful for security and health.”
Gloria Milagros Plaks is sharing pandemic time with three kids (14-year-old nephew and 13- and 9-year-old children) who are learning remotely while she is teaching high school math from home and taking care of her 18-month-old baby. “Thank goodness my mother is near and takes the baby most of the work week! Life is interesting and I am thankful that my family has been spared (hopefully will continue to be) and my heart aches for those families who have had difficult experiences during this time.” She sends many hugs and blessings to her Wes fam.
Ellen Sluder (Cohen) is now head of marketing for software startup smrtStudio Global. Their client base is 100 percent North American, but Ellen is the first U.S. employee. “I’ll be working shifted hours to bridge between Romania and New York, which leaves me open in the afternoons for my kids (10 and 7). We’ve been lucky this school year that they have mostly been in school full time. Although it can be hard to find the silver linings, the extra time to keep up with text messages and group chats with other Wes alums has been a bright spot!”
Nina Kontos reports she is “ever grateful for my badass network of Wesleyan friends who have been a support system through the pandemic (and the past 20+ years)—whether through text trains, phone, Zoom or socially distant outdoor gatherings. I still live in forever resilient New York City, I have a kindergartener, and recently started a new job at Pinterest leading internal and executive communications for the company.”
Abbie Goldberg has been on a daily running streak for 11 months (hoping to make it a year), and has run over 3,000 miles since mid-March. “We also got a #pandemicpuppy this winter. She is bringing much needed joy into our lives. I am a visiting professor at UMass during my sabbatical, working on projects involving the intersection of education, adoption, and foster care.” Her latest book, the SAGE Encyclopedia of Trans Studies, is coming out this March.
Jennie Rabinowitz is coping with pandemic limitations by volunteering with the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project (DCVLP), where she helps survivors of domestic violence obtain civil protection orders, divorces, and custody of their children. “Demand for DCVLP’s services is up 300%. Being able to help my wise and resilient clients has kept me sane. The extent to which they’ve educated me has been a huge gift. I was honored to be one of DCVLP’s Volunteers of the Year for 2020, and while I hope the need for my services dissipates, I’ll be here as long as my clients need me.”
Chad Bartell lives in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, where he practices corporate law by day and plays in a steeldrum band by night (check out “Panchromatic Steel” on Facebook or YouTube). Ed Holzwarth and wife, Aline, just welcomed a baby son, Nico Holzwarth to their family! The digital health company where Ed is co-founder and CTO, Pattern Health, just closed $1.5m in funding. Exciting times!
The second hardest part of writing the Class Notes is getting people to take the time to send in submissions . . . thank you to everyone who sent the stories for us to share this time around! The hardest part of writing the Notes is when we have to share sad news, such as the passing of our classmate Catie Lazarus last December. She was a bright light with boundless energy and wit, gone too soon. The New York Times carried a nice piece on her.
Kevin continues to find purpose in his work at Quartet Health, which is striving to help everyone with a mental health condition get the care they need. This need has been growing for decades, and has exploded over the past year. One pandemic pastime that Kevin and his wife, Keara, have enjoyed is watching the entire How I Met Your Mother series from the beginning. The numerous Wes references have been a welcome shot of nostalgia!
Hi classmates: It’s hard to know what to say these days. I don’t know if the time since our last notes has gone by quickly or not moved at all. Or as a good friend always says, “Why can’t it be both, Abby?” As of this writing, the COVID vaccine is slowly making its way into more and more arms and immune systems—but not with the equity so desperately needed—while we all continue to try and figure out what is safe enough or not, each of us balancing our own risk-benefit calculation as best we can. There are joyous moments and heart-breaking ones, and a whole lot of the in-between. I hope you are all as well as can be, and finding lights at the ends of all the little and big tunnels.
Here is the news from our fellow ’98ers.
Jesse Vincent is living in Oakland with his wife Kaia and four-year- old son Ira. For most of the past month, he’s been neglecting his day job running keyboard.io to serve as one of the volunteer coordinators of cinateca.com.
Adam Borden’s family decided to decamp for a month with remote learning and work to Stowe, Vermont. They were able to ski every day during winter break and then for a couple of weeks each day after Emma and Ian finished remote school. It was such a welcome relief to have a change of scenery and get in some great skiing. Before they left, Adam and Ann Bakun surprised them with a holiday muffeletta shipment from NOLA’s Central Grocery which definitely took care of any muffeletta hankering they might have had for years! The Bordens returned in mid-January in time for Adam to start a new job as the VP of digital advertising for Live Casino and Hotels, a Maryland gaming company with properties near Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and in Philadelphia. He has much to learn about the gaming industry but is learning quickly!
Laura Kirk enjoyed a New York snowstorm in Central Park with her son Theo and sent an adorable happy snowy masked picture that I wish I could include!
Brendan Armm, DAOM, LAc, Dipl OM, lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two kids, practicing as a doctor of acupuncture and Oriental medicine at Lotus Integrative Medicine in Santa Monica (lotussm.com), which he founded in 2007 and serves as director. He hosts the weekly integrative holistic health and wellness talk show The Well with four other doctors and health care practitioners, to tackle all things body, mind and spirit, which is also on YouTube. Back in 2015, Dr. Armm received a U.S. patent for the BackInBand, a lower back pain relief acupressure device (BackInBand.com), after completing a six-month study showing the device’s medical efficacy. Brendan continues to play drums like he did back in the days of Wesleyan when he majored in world music (and pre-med, too), and used to play with campus bands Neptune, 2:10 Train, and others, with his schoolmates Kevin Strait ’97, Dan Gilbert, Eric Werner ’99 and others. He now enjoys watching his daughter (River) learn the guitar, and his son (Leaf) learn the drums, carrying on the spirit and pulse of music. Brendan’s also been playing tennis weekly, again like in his days back at Wesleyan, when he was on the school’s team his freshman year. Some things change, some things remain unchanged, and always each day is a present.
Finally, as many of you know, on December 13, 2020, we lost Catie Lazarus ’98, MA ’99 to breast cancer. Catie was a comedian, writer, and producer—well-known as the longtime host of the talk show and podcast Employee of the Month—and a friend and a light of optimism to so many. She switched from a doctorate in psychology into comedy after prompting from Tina Fey, and no doubt used skills she learned at Wes in psychology/sociology in her interviews with celebrities and laypeople alike, including a series in The Atlantic interviewing people who had lost their jobs. She brought both depth of feeling and humor to all her work, and it is clear from even the most random candid photo or interview moment that there is no more infectious smile than hers. You can find much of her work as well as wonderful tributes to her online, including one (at jta.org) written by a friend she made doing that most Wesleyan of post-grad experiences, an immersion experience in Israel. She is survived by her parents Simon and Rosalind, and two brothers Ned ’95 and Ben and their wives Nahanni and Katherine. She will be missed by so many.
Dear ’97ers, A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, we are endlessly moved, touched, broken, buoyed, impressed, humbled and inspired (on some days, all at the same time). We send all of our best wishes to all of our classmates and to your friends and families, and wish you the best of health and kindness.
Maria Hipps wrote in with wonderful notes about Wes alums staying connected and supporting each other, even if over Zoom. Yay connecting and reconnecting! In December, in celebration of Nicole Rodriguez Leach’s birthday and as a fundraiser for a charity of her choice, a group of Wes alums Abdul Latif, Semeka Smith-Williams, Marysol Castro ’96, Dolores Concepcion, Benny Vasquez, Andrea DeJesus, and Maria Mirabal Hipps all gathered via Zoom to virtually cook paella and make coquito with renowned Chef Leen. Maria writes that “It was such a fun night of laughs; recalling special Wes memories and temporarily forgetting about the global pandemic that has held us hostage for a year. Fun was had by all and we have since kept the party going via periodic ‘check in’ group texts. We are a testament to the fact that the Wes connection only grows stronger post graduation.” We join Maria in wishing Nicole a happy birthday and the best on her PhD journey!
We would like to congratulate Angela Yee for her induction into the Radio Hall Of Fame! She was celebrated for the nationally syndicated morning show The Breakfast Club with Charlamagne tha God and DJ Envy. For a full list of 2020 inductees, including Cokie Roberts, see radiohalloffame.com. Maria writes that Angela is also hosting Wealth Wednesday seminars to promote financial literacy, opened a new business in Detroit called Private Label and helped launch a new premium specialty coffee called Coffee Uplifts People (CUP) all while owning a successful juice bar—Juices For Life in Brooklyn. Congratulations, Angela!
Lucria Ortiz is the CEO for the YMCA Yonkers. She amazes us all. Lucria organized food drives, distributed PPE, and ensured the YMCA resources continued to be available for the most vulnerable within the Yonkers community. Carry on, Lucria, wow! We are so proud and impressed.
Alek Lev is producing the podcast Meeting Tom Cruise for iHeartRadio and Dan Patrick Productions, with hilarious interviews between guests who’ve met him and hosts who’d love to. One day.
We are very sorry to write that our dear classmate Seth Spector passed away this February. Seth was a kind friend, amazing athlete, and after Wesleyan and Columbia Teacher’s College, a great mentor and coach to many. We share and send deepest condolences to his family and friends.
Hello, ’96ers! While we are not able to gather in person this year, it has been a lot of fun seeing what everyone is up to in the Reunion Class Book! Hope everyone has made it through this year not too much worse for wear, and that your friends and family are well.
There were some things to celebrate in 2020! Elena (Pavloff) Dwyer met and married her husband. They bought a house in Connecticut built in 1761 that her husband is restoring and renovating. They can still be found in New York City during the weekdays.
Marysol Castro still works for the New York Mets as the PA announcer. She is the first Latina PA announcer for MLB, as well as the first female PA announcer for the Mets. She gets to see Jed Hoyer, the president of baseball operations for the Cubs, when the Cubs are in town. Marysol writes, “Shereem Brown has yet to come to a game, but that might be because he is building an empire with his wife, Keri, while also putting in work on the Peloton. Christianne Phillips (nee Renke) appears to be aging in reverse while making the most delicious food and completing the most ridiculous workouts in Miami. Amin Gonzalez and I serve on an educational board together (Go to College NYC), so I get to see him on Zoom. He likes to put College Way as his background, and I get nostalgic. He’s the head of Admission at Wes. When I’m not at the ballpark, I host a morning show in NYC (PIX 11 Morning News) and a podcast for PBS (Seasoned). I’ve discovered with some water and sunlight and the occasional arroz con pollo, children grow. My two boys are 11 and 14 as of my writing this. They still don’t think I’m cool, and I’m still trying to impress them.”
Kelly Butler writes, “Since we were stuck at home due to COVID, my family decided to take that as an opportunity to move further outside of Boston to a more rural community. We’re now surrounded by farms and green space—so very grateful. And before things went sideways, we made a long-overdue visit to my old stomping grounds in San Francisco and reconnected with Kristin McBride and Arwen Anderson. Aside from that, I’m on the verge of hitting my 20-year work anniversary with GMO (an investment management company) and contending with the fact that my son will officially be a teenager by year-end!”
Kristin Mercer lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband, Joel, and daughter, Ines (9), where she teaches and does research on plant ecology and evolution at Ohio State University. Kristin says, “The pandemic has been tough, but we have kept our health and have done what we can to get out and about in the woods. I’m in close touch with Jesse Wegman, Mike Cantor, Dan Helfit-Marshall, and Miriam Colvin. We were glad to welcome Benjy Flowers and Jenn Clark ’95 to OSU last year.”
Dacque Tirado sends news that he met up with Chung Ma in Richmond, Virginia in mid-March—the two had not seen each other in 25 years! Chung and his wife played gracious hosts as they all had a socially distanced cocktail party outside on a gorgeous day in the city.
Last but not least, Stacey Samuel shares her news: “I’m coming up on 10 years here in Washington, DC—leaving New York City to cover politics in the capital for CNN in 2011. Several network newsrooms later and a few promotions, I am now the executive producer of Al Jazeera’s flagship news and current affairs podcast, The Take. Covering international news and geopolitics is the culmination of 24 years in the field.”
Thanks for sharing your news! Keep the updates coming!
Katy writes for this issue: We are all thinking of each other, through the challenges and transitions of this moment, and I hope these notes find you well. It’s been lovely to hear your updates. Read up below on how your classmates are spending their time: working, sports, horses, home renovation—and a bit of a pandemic dog theme!
Rob Armstrong writes: “To deal with lockdown blues, we got a rescue dog, Billy. He is a super cute Collie/Jack Russell mix and a menace to anything anyone leaves on the floor. The twins, now 11, are thrilled. Being a journalist during lockdown is not much fun, but I’m getting close to 10 years at the Financial Times, where I’ve been happy. I write about finance and, in a periodic weekend column, men’s style.”
Jennifer Parker Dockray is still living in Oakland, and working for reproductive justice at a nonprofit called All-Options. She and her eighth grader are doing pretty well after a year of working and learning from home—even got on board with a pandemic puppy—but really misses trips back to the East Coast! She sends love to everyone and hopes for a healthier and more just 2021 for us all.
Beth (Shilepsky) Price writes: “After five years at the Naval Health Clinic Charleston, I recently left to work for my alma mater, the Medical University of South Carolina (still as a family medicine doctor). Loving my four-day work week, which means more time relaxing with my husband Kevin and our kids: David (16), Madeline (14), and Lily (11). We got a second horse a year ago and since then, David and I have been spending lots of quality time on the trails. It’s the perfect COVID activity—plenty of Vitamin D, fresh air, exercise, and social distancing. Hope everyone stays healthy (physically and mentally) during this difficult time!”
Marc Schleifer writes: “Not much to report. My wife and I are healthy, as are our parents, so thankful for that, and lucky to be able to both work remotely. We’ve been mostly pandemic’ing in New Jersey, avoiding the weirdness of Washington, DC this fall and winter. One major upside is being in the Philly TV viewing area allows me to watch the Sixers and Flyers after work every day, much to my wife’s dismay. Hope everyone is doing well and that we eventually get to meet in person.”
Stacy (Theberge) Taylor writes: “I’m still in the Portland, Maine area, running an animation studio with my husband. We were super lucky in that Little Zoo Studio was always remote, so feeling extremely grateful that our work continued uninterrupted. In addition to keeping the virus at bay, I spend time taking care of a five-year-old son, dog, cat, and rambling farmhouse that we will apparently never finish renovating.”
Anne Noel Occhialino writes: “Like many others, I have been hunkered down at home for the last year with my daughters (hybrid school), husband (working at home), and one-eyed Golden Retriever (loving every minute of having everyone home!). The highlight of my year was the Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which held that Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender status, as I worked on these cases for the EEOC at the court of appeals level. A silver lining of the pandemic has been monthly Zoom calls with my cross-country friends, including Joe Mahoney ’94, Sean Mazer ’94, Matt Schneider ’93, Jon Chesto ’93, Arthur Magni ’93, Deb Levin ’96, and Amy Dain ’96. Love Wes! For my 49th birthday last week, my father even sent me a Wesleyan T-shirt! Hope my classmates are staying healthy and that the next few months brings a reprieve from the pandemic.
Jonathan Kirsch is running a new mobile health initiative at the U of Minnesota med school, bringing high quality preventative and advanced medical care to marginalized communities, like farmworkers, meatpackers and other jobs where refugees, immigrants and migrants work.
Erika Phillips (formerly Amy Phillips) writes: “The program that I created, manage and facilitate for The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego where I am an Arts Engagement Programs Manager, Reflecting Shakespeare, is a transformative arts program for the incarcerated and justice-involved. During the pandemic, with generous grants from the California Arts Council and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the program has expanded to reach the Reentry and Youth populations. For the adult populations on lockdown, our program has transformed to correspondence and video formats. The videos have been released on The Old Globe’s website and youtube pages and can be viewed by the public at large. We are currently in Series 3 exploring Much Ado About Nothing through a healing and social justice lens with a panel of hosts that include artists who were formerly incarcerated. Interested parties can watch and send in their responses. We will feature community writing in a final episode.
I was also recently featured on Episode 17 of the podcast A Life in the Theatre, where I got to talk all about this work.”
Eliza Comer reached out to a bunch of friends and provided us with the following updates: “I don’t know if I’ve ever written in, but I used the Class Notes deadline as an excuse to check in with some friends via WhatsApp and text to try get some deets on everyone’s current realities, as well as their TV and movie suggestions. And to continue my tradition of ultimate procrastination (which I honed at Wes and has served me well in my career), I only reached out to people today, the day before the notes were due. And now, in alphabetical order by last name…”
Neeti Bambrah, from DC: “I am still a practicing PM&R physician (Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation), doing mostly electrodiagnostic testing and spine in an orthopedic practice. I have been living in downtown DC since medical residency … so have officially been through some interesting times! Especially lately… I still manage to try and get a daily run in by the monuments.”
Julie Beattie, from Colorado: “I’m in product marketing and research in the technology talent acquisition space (working for DHI Group Inc if that’s easier to say). Adam ‘93 and I live in Denver with our daughter who started high school this year at the same high school I attended (although between Covid and how the school has evolved it’s a pretty different experience!). We’ve been thankful to live in CO and enjoy extra ski days this season as a family pandemic activity.”
Nicole Cho, from Massachusetts: “I’ve been working in philanthropy as an Information Services Manager for over a year in Boston and spent the past year working from home with my husband. Ted Lasso is a must watch for a good laugh and a bit of light heartedness!”
Karine Chung, from California: “I’m a fertility doctor in Los Angeles with two smelly teenage boys, my husband who is a critical care doctor, and our dog Auggie, who we are obsessed with. My favorite pandemic tv series is Ted Lasso because it makes me feel so happy. But also just started watching an oldie but goodie – Freaks and Geeks.”
Nimali Fernando, from Virginia: “The Dr. Yum project, a nonprofit I founded, is holding its annual fundraising event as a Virtual Celebration on Friday, April 16th, at 7pm. Go to https://www.doctoryum.org/ for more information.”
Adji Gadson, from California: “I live in Los Angeles, a mile from my twin sister, and am working at CAA. With a 30-foot commute instead of 30-minutes, as a long time New Yorker, I have a new appreciation for California!”
Rula Geha, from California: “I moved to California from NYC in the fall after being in NYC since 2001. Now I am closer to my family. I have one daughter who is 8 years old. I work as a physician consultant for a financial company doing biotechnology due diligence and medical and scientific philanthropy as well as running the corporate health program. Fortunately school is open here, because I was losing it as an elementary school teacher!”
Pammie Nguyen from NY: “We’re in the suburbs north of the city, and I’m still a neuroradiologist, still at Columbia. Mike is still a head and neck surgeon. Our loud rambunctious boys are now 9 and 12 and were happy to play board games with us at the beginning of the pandemic, but that didn’t last long. So we got a pandemic puppy, a Golden doodle named Baloo. And that’s about it! Oh, and Ted Lasso is my latest obsession! And Wanda Vision!”
Kristy Scanlan, from California: “We are moving within the same building, to a 2 bedroom on the other (sunnier) side. Now that I will be WFH permanently, as well as my bf, we needed a bit more space and a home office. I do not miss the commute and actually really like working from home, but sitting all day at the dining room table sucks. I look forward to having an actual room with a desk and proper desk chair. But moving is no fun. I am up to my ears in boxes. I just started season 2 of Schitt’s Creek (I know, I’m behind). Love it!!”
Laurie Sorabella, from Virginia: “In the last several years, I have been restoring oyster reefs in Virginia’s waterways, teaching science, running races (with Claire), and living in Virginia Beach with my husband and three children. My oldest has started looking at colleges, so we’ll be visiting Wes this summer.”
Caitlin Dunne Wilson, from New Jersey: “I am working on Verizon’s next generation network, from home. I have been enjoying the extra time I have been getting to spend with my twin 10 year olds, and the rewards I am getting from homeschooling them. In my spare time, I’ve been busy with my company caitlinwilson.com. If you need serious design help, or just a pretty pillow, let me know.”
Claire Wingfield, from DC: “My nephew will be attending Wes this fall as class of 2025–following in his mother, father, auntie and cousin’s footprints—the 5th family member to graduate since 1991! I have rewatched Schitt’s Creek seasons 1-6 at least 3 times, and Derry Girls twice through, but I’m still stuck in season 2 of Breaking Bad because it stresses me out!”
Sondra Youdelman, from NYC: “I live in Brooklyn, NY and am the Campaign Director for People’s Action, a national network of state-based power-building organizations. I’m thrilled to no longer have to orient everything against Trump (though Trumpism is still alive and well!), and finally be able to work on some proactive campaigns, including being a piece of the puzzle to land the $1.9 trillion federal relief bill that was just secured. Next up – addressing recovery in a way that creates jobs, addresses climate change, and focuses on equity and structural reform! “Seeing people” has been limited of late, but I live a long walking distance from Melissa Woods and have managed a few social distance get togethers with Nicole Davis and Eliza Comer as well.”
And finally, Eliza Comer provided her own update from NYC: “I’m lucky to have had continuous work with Zero Point Zero (mostly WFH), mainly on the CNN series “United Shades of America” with W. Kamau Bell. We managed to shoot 7 episodes across the U.S. from September to February, with serious Covid protocols in place, and nobody got sick. (S6 premieres 5/2.) I’m grateful to be in post production now and am sleeping much better! In my down time, I’ve been tooling around the neighborhood on my new blue Razor scooter, and have been bidding in Housing Works Thrift Shop auctions on various items I don’t need, like a tin chair with a ram’s head on the side, and then praying that someone will outbid me and I won’t have to spend $175 on a chair I don’t really want. I recently re-watched a few 80’s favorites: Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET, and Trading Places. I’ve also joined the 21st century and enjoyed Schitt’s Creek, Tiger King, and Bridgerton, and am just getting into Watchmen.” Thanks for all the updates, Eliza!
As for me (Caissa), I’m happy to report all is well from New Jersey. I completed and received my master’s in adult education in December 2020. I am looking forward to the virtual graduation ceremony to be held this month. I pray that all is well with all of you!
Hi, all! I heard from lots of people for the first time this go-round. Yay! So without further ado . . .
Jason Fischer received his PhD in counselor education and supervision from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas this past December.
Cain Dimon writes, “After 16 years in private practice I have gone into academics. I have joined the Duke University School of Medicine as an assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology. I moved to Durham in December. So far all is going very well. Enjoying teaching and the warmer climate of North Carolina versus Michigan.”
Isaac Kaufman writes, “I have been practicing law in the Twin Cities since 2003. Last year I launched Red Cedar Consulting, a solo practice with a focus on workplace investigations and professional development. This coming June my wife Kimberly Ferencik and I will be celebrating our 20-year wedding anniversary.”
Alicia Bassuk writes, “As a mother of two 23-year-olds, I am happily empty nesting with my soulmate. I channeled my COVID concerns into co-authoring a COVID Roadmap with a bipartisan team led by the Harvard Ethics Center, and am having my most professional fun working with NBA players, coaches, and front office execs, for which I was awarded an NBA Championship Ring by the Toronto Raptors in 2019!”
Diego von Vacano spent most of the year 2020 as an advisor to the Luis Arce presidential campaign in Bolivia. Socialist Arce eventually won in October in a landslide of 55 percent of the vote. Thanks to Dennis White (Wes class of 2019), he collaborated to work with Bernie Sanders, who provided crucial support during the interim de facto government preceding Arce’s win. Diego continues to advise Arce on a range of issues, from academics, to relations to the U.S., to the emerging lithium sector for green energy.
Emmanuelle C. Slossberg is now the vice president of marketing for the Durst Organization, a 100-year-old family-owned real estate owner, developer and operator. The company sets new standards of environmental stewardship and is dedicated to the principles of innovation, integrity, community and sustainability. She’s also joined the board of the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization (CSU.global) a collaboration between UN Habitat and the design and civic community that shares global best practices for how to design, maintain and plan the built environment.
Jacob Bricca is celebrating the release of the feature documentary Missing in Brooks County which he produced and edited. It has played at over a dozen film festivals, winning Best Southern Documentary at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, and will have its broadcast premiere in fall 2021 on PBS’s Independent Lens. He is at work on a book called How Documentaries Work for Oxford University Press.
Speaking of documentaries, Aaron Matthews writes, “A documentary I recently made, The War and Peace of Tim O’Brien, is set for release on March 2. The film follows renowned author and Vietnam veteran, Tim O’Brien, struggling to write one last book. That book incidentally started when Bill Shapiro ’87, who was the editor-in-chief of Life at the time, encouraged Tim to pen an essay for the magazine about becoming a father at a late age. That was 20 years ago, and my documentary chronicles Tim writing the book that grew out of the essay for Bill. Jennifer Mittelstadt ’92 is the producer on the film.”
And furthering the theme of documentaries: Dan Crane stopped being a print journalist to become a documentary filmmaker. In late 2019, he began working with Matt Tyrnauer ’91, producing a documentary for Showtime that should air in late 2021. He spent most of lockdown working remotely from his new home in a small town in northern England, where he wrote and directed a documentary titled Let Me Be Me about an autistic boy who undergoes an experimental treatment and grows up to become a fashion designer (produced by Wavelength Productions). His three-year-old daughter has picked up an English accent, and he is trying to master the art of making Yorkshire puddings.
Paul J. Darcy writes, “After eight years leading marketing for the job site Indeed, I left to become CMO of the fast-growing software company Miro. Despite the job change, I am happy to be staying put in downtown Austin with Gray (18), Ellis (17), and Lia (12) and my partner Patricia. We feel lucky to be able to safely work and go to school during these crazy times.”
Andy Nordvall writes, “I’ve been enjoying walks along the Los Angeles River, weekly take-out brunch, and surviving the pandemic. My podcast Burn After Pitching now streams on the Grand Geek Gathering Twitch channel. Last year, I signed with a literary agent and took out one picture book (Fjork the Viking) and one middle grade graphic novel (Better Than Dinosaurs!), with more works in the pipeline, and I’ve been teaching English remotely.”
Dear Classmates: As I write this, we are going into the second year of the COVID pandemic. Things have slowed down for sure, but there is a surprising amount of news from the class of 1992 to share!
One of the most exciting things I did this last year (low bar, I know, but trust me, this event would be exciting in any year) was joining my senior year housemate Simon Fulford online to witness the swearing in of another housemate Jon Pratt to be the new U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Djibouti, on January 6, 2021. Given the other news from D.C. that day, it was heartening to see that good men like Jon remain dedicated to government service.
Simon is still living in Portland, Oregon where, since last year, life has been quite an adventure—local forest fires in September giving way to ice storms and power loss in February. All that, and his family just got a kitten!
Sarah Tunik and Dan Oppenheimer ’89 are thrilled to report that their third and final child is headed to Wesleyan, class of ’25. Their oldest son graduates from Wes this fall (it’s like they’re the House of Windsor!), while their daughter continues at the University of Vermont. Sarah and Dan are hoping the empty nest will lead to travels once COVID conditions permit! They should have plenty of time for that: Sarah is retiring after 20 years of teaching and Dan has been doing remote rare disease biotech consulting.
Jonathan Soros reports that in the midst of a pandemic he launched a new network of professional sports leagues. Athletes Unlimited had an extremely successful inaugural softball season in August 2020, and will add volleyball and lacrosse in 2021.
The New York Times ran a great piece on Edoardo Ballerini’s thriving career as an audiobook narrator.
Matt and Soo Schortman’s older daughter, Sophia, is a sophomore at Boston College and their younger daughter, Liv, is a senior in high school.
Amy (Andrews) Alznauer published three children’s books in 2020, one of which ended up on The New York Times Best 25 Children’s Books of 2020 list (see amyalz.com for more).
In other publishing news, Shura Pollatsek has a new book, Costume in Motion: A Guide to Collaboration for Costume Design and Choreography. It explores the interaction between costume designers and choreographers. The book has strong Wesleyan connections: it features photo essays documenting dance pieces, including one essay on our classmate Jody Sperling and her company Time Lapse Dance as well as an interview with current Wesleyan Professor of Dance Iddrisu Saaka, about West African dance.
Heather Nash is practicing psychology and publishing poetry (under her middle name Claudine). Her latest collection Beginner’s Guide to Loss in the Multiverse won the 2020 Blue Light Press Book Award.
Jonathan Bell and Sarah Zurier report from Providence, where Sarah works as a historian for the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission, and Jonathan has an architecture practice and teaches in the Interior Architecture Department at RISD. Their son is 11 (and shout out to their dog, who turned four). Next year, Jonathan will be in France for six months on a research fellowship and they look forward to a change of scenery!
Chris Chezak is in Cincinnati, with his wife and two teen daughters. He continues to run the Outdoor Writers Association of America and freelance-write on the side.
Francesca Harewood was featured in Uptown Magazine in a story about her promotion to senior vice president of business affairs for NBC series, specials, and syndication. Congratulations, Fran!
David Shadrack Smith is in Brooklyn with his two boys Leo (12) and Lucas (10). His TV/film production company, Part2 Pictures, came out with a well-received series on Hulu, Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi, and continued production on their long-running series, This Is Life with Lisa Ling on CNN. Also on the TV production front, Darcy Dennet was in Alaska last Summer directing Yukon Vet for National Geographic Wild. The new season premieres on March 13.
After retiring from the Navy in 2017, Tamara O’Neil moved into the world of civilian employment at the USPS HQ in DC as an ethics lawyer. But now she’s hung up her Swingline stapler for good and joined the ranks of the faux-retired.
Amy Palatnick has written her first book, Can I Be Honest With You?, a romantic comedy dating memoir, that includes some stories from Wesleyan. The paperback, audiobook, and e-book will all be available on May 31.
And wrapping this thing up, we have news from a first-time notes giver—Jen Crittenden, who is a TV writer and created a new animated show that will air in May. The show, Housebroken, stars Lisa Kudrow, Nat Faxon, Tony Hale and Will Forte.
Let Jen be an example for everyone out there. We love to hear from everyone, especially folks we haven’t heard from in a while. So keep sending your news!
Greetings from cold and snowy New York—which I hope will be neither by the time you are all reading these notes. Here’s the latest news.
Carol Lynne Booth writes that she and her family are doing “COVID fine.” Amidst all the craziness, Carol’s youngest daughter has become a sophomore at Vanderbilt, where she has a mix of in-person and online classes. Carol’s middle daughter is about to graduate from Barnard and will be moving to Tucson to work for Intuit in the fall, while her oldest son is in Seattle, enjoying life with his partner of four years and their two cats. “My exciting news is that Jewish Baby Network, my little outreach organization, has become a program of the Bay Area Jewish Family and Children’s Services. It is a great move for us and will help expand our reach and mission. David ’91 is still the senior rabbi at Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto where they have just opened up their newly-built building. Of course, because of COVID no one can use it, but it does look beautiful. And we remain hopeful to all be able to be in it and celebrate soon! David and I continue to enjoy our empty nest and have managed to sneak away for a couple outdoor getaways even during this crazy time, though as I write this we are looking forward to having our girls home for Thanksgiving and winter break. I wish everyone the best and hope everyone is doing ok during this time. Maybe by the time the next issue comes out we will all be in an easier place!”
When the first of Nicole Grieco Butterfield’s three children left for college in 2017, she left her job teaching English in a traditional school and reinvented her career as an educator, tutoring and teaching custom classes, and advising students and families through the college and secondary school admissions process. Amid the pandemic, she began teaching outdoors, working with pods in her Westchester County neighborhood and recently launching a Writing in Nature program for adults at the Rockefeller State Park Preserve in Pleasantville, New York. This shift has created time for her to keep working on her book about teenage intimate partner violence and to take on public speaking engagements about healthy relationships for students, parents and school personnel.
While we are on the subject of Nicole Grieco Butterfield, I would like to mention and thank her for setting up Foss First Fridays— regular Zoom calls for those of us who lived in Foss 5, 5.5, 6 and 7. The idea stemmed from the very successful Zoom Reunion sessions last spring and meetings are now scheduled for the first Friday of every month at 5:30 Pacific/8:30 Eastern time. I thought it was great catching up with people at the first one, including, in addition to Nicole, Sarah Ellenzweig (who now can officially add a P’25 to the ’90 after her name!), Peter Brastow, Becky Lloyd DeRoches, Page Fortna, Stephen Norton, and Arieh Rosenbaum. If you are a former Foss dweller and you don’t have the Zoom information for the calls, please email Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org. The philosophy is the more the merrier so it would be great to have lots of people join!
Peter Mills Finfrock published Fodder Plants of the New World, a book of poetry.
Graham Guest has moved to Glasgow, Scotland with his wife, Jen, and daughter Edie. Edie is attending senior school at Kelvinside Academy (online at the moment), and Graham is pursuing his second PhD at the University of Birmingham (UK), in philosophy. Graham’s first PhD was in English at the University of Glasgow.
Eric Gilman is a fisheries bycatch scientist with The Safina Center and a Pew Marine Fellow, based in Honolulu. He is starting to take virtual college tours with Quinn, his 16-year-old daughter with whom he just recently enjoyed the official Wes campus tour video (about halfway down on the Wesleyan.edu landing page).
Chris Carlisle writes that after his stint with the Peace Corps in Poland, in 1994, Ulandt Kim drove him as far as Minneapolis to visit Jeff Levine ’91. “From there I flew to San Francisco, flopped for a night on Tracey Jones’s ’91 couch in Oakland, and have been living in Berkeley ever since, just a few blocks from where Eric Gilman first lived and worked. Someday I hope to meet either an extraterrestrial biological entity or my other Wes housemate Holly Folk ’91 or both.”
Finally, congratulations to Carole Trone, whose team was a winner in September 2020, in the Alliance for the American Dream national competition supported by Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt, for the Opportunity Calculator, a digital tool to help raise the net income of 10,000 Dane County, Wisconsin families by 10 percent. More information about the Opportunity Calculator can be found at opportunitycalculator.org.
Wishing all of you health and safety. Please write with any updates that you have. That’s all for now.