CLASS OF 1981 | 2021 | ISSUE 1

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Greetings from Brooklyn! I write this on the first day of March. I’m still working remotely for the most part (I love my commute, but . . .).
By now I hope that many of you have enjoyed our rolling virtual reunion. Some of you have earned prizes and awards, which you will see below.  I also hope you all will have received the “vaccine prize” by the time this magazine finds its way into your mailbox.

  Speaking of vaccines, Chris Graves writes, “My behavioral science work has been full-on, focused on vaccine hesitancy and pandemic behavior. I have been working with WHO, UNICEF, and supporting fellow Wesleyan alum John Borthwick ’87 who is CEO of Betaworks, and a founder of COVID Tech Task Force, which supports the rollout of the Apple-Google Exposure Notification app. And I have been working with our own nonprofit called NOCOVID (https://nocovid.us), which engaged stars like Chris Rock and Wanda Sykes for healthy behavior messaging. NOCOVID also put Matthew McConaughey and Tiffany Haddish each one-on-one with Dr. Fauci to ask tough questions their fans wanted to hear answers to.” His CNN appearances can be found on Vimeo.

     Charlie Spiegel writes, “I’m a teaching assistant in a University of San Francisco class called Queering Religion, taught by the former rabbi of my congregation who is now a chaplain at this Jesuit institution of higher education. Repeat that sentence a couple of times for effect. It’s an online hour-long weekly discussion group, with them prompting me with questions they feel are relevant to their class sessions, which I do not attend. It’s a very smart way to make remote learning more engaging, with six of us TAs (all Jewish) running separate groups.  My three undergraduates range from 21 to 29 with several different sexuality identities. Since they are asking about for example what it was like for me to come out, which was at the beginning of my sophomore year at Wesleyan, some of you are playing roles in my remembrances (known or unbeknownst to you!) At its best, our discussions look at the overlap of experiences, like growing up Jewish in a non-Jewish country being one experience that gave me the strength and personal confidence to come out as gay and an activist in a predominately heterosexual world. All seems a very Wesleyan-type experience.”

      Leslie Sundt Stratton and her husband are empty nesters. “Our older daughter is now a licensed vet working an internship in hopes of becoming a veterinary surgeon. Our younger daughter is a forensic chemist in Vermont who spends one day a week testing COVID samples and just signed a contract to buy a condo. How time flies!” 

     Leslie is still an economics professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, also serving as department chair. “Like so many academics, I have moved classes online and am working hard to keep my students engaged. Our chief hobby/vice is travel—of course that is still on hold. We are glad we went on safari in Tanzania in 2019.” Leslie is in touch regularly with classmates Diane Goldstein Stein, Karen Zallen and Heidi Falk. “Zooming can be fun.”

      Mark Saba’s latest book, A Luke of All Ages / Fire and Ice (two novellas), was recently published by Adelaide Books (New York/Lisbon). “Also, I will be retiring in June after 33 years as a medical illustrator and graphic designer at Yale University. My wife and I are building a house in Maine and plan to settle there.”

    Kenneth Michael Bent (noting that he was “originally 1980, but finished mid-year with the group then known as 80.5”) was recently elected to Eastern Massachusetts’s Episcopal Diocese Executive Committee as a lay representative. He is a two-time past master of the Freemasons of Massachusetts, in addition to spending the past 17 years as a software engineer.

    Now to prizes and awards:

   The National Press Foundation has named global economics correspondent David Lynch and three Washington Post colleagues as this year’s winners of the Hinrich Award for Distinguished Reporting on Trade. “The award carries a $10,000 prize, divided among the four of us.”

   Brian Tarbox got his 10th patent. Also, Amazon Web Services declared Brian a Community Hero. “There are less than 200 of these worldwide.”

     Amy Feil Phillips is transitioning from creative director and graphic designer to fine artist, and was recently selected as one of 15 finalists for the 51st Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts’ Emerging Artist Program in Tampa. The annual festival draws artists from across the country to vie for the $15,000 Raymond James Best of Show Award and an additional $65,000 in awards. Phillips has a collection of awards, such as Best of Show in the International Society of Acrylic Painters 11th Annual Exhibition in 2017 as well as local, regional and national American Advertising Federation ADDY Awards. Phillips was recognized nationally in the Print Regional Design Annual and has developed branding for Tampa Electric, Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa Bay Water, Eckerd Connects, and Heartbeat International, among others.  With an MBA in Marketing, Phillips has also taught Advertising and Graphic Design at the University of South Florida.

     Congrats to all!

     Finally, on behalf of our class, we send our deepest condolences to Wendy Kosakoff, whose husband, David Kohane ’80, passed away in February. Read her beautiful tribute in the Class of 1980 notes.

DAVID I. BLOCK | david.i.block@gmail.com

JOANNE GODIN AUDRETSCH | berlinjo@aol.com