The Old Normal

The crowds are gone, the tents are coming down in front of College Row, but there isn’t anyone dancing on the lawns. After a productive Board of Trustee Meeting, a boisterous series of Reunions, and a grand Commencement (sandwiched between thunderstorms), the campus is settling into its summer calm. This is, I hope, the last summer for which I can say that. Next year we hope to have at least a few hundred students here taking classes, but now it’s time to catch our breath and plan for the future.

I was sorry to be only able to catch glimpses from time to time of old friends from my student years at Wes. I was busy in the early part of the weekend listening to tales of Wesleyan traditions, meeting recent alumni and giving my share of toasts and speeches. Happily, there was plenty of great music to be heard, as is usually the case on our campus. Commencement was lovely, and I was especially moved by the speeches from our honorary doctorate recipients. You can hear them all at:

At our board meeting, some trustees spoke about finding the “new normal” in the wake of the financial crisis. That’s something we are already working on, but looking out the window now I see the “old normal” of Foss Hill partially eclipsed by the remaining party tent. Late spring at alma mater.

Hollywood goes Wes, Again

Many of you probably saw that the most popular movie at the box office this past weekend was Angels and Demons, which narrowly displaced the most popular movie from last week, Star Trek. But do you know what the two films have in common? Wesleyan alumni played major roles in writing both films, with Akiva Goldsman ’83 behind Angels and Demons, and Alex Kurtzman ’95 penning Star Trek. Akiva appears as a Vulcan council member in Alex’s film…

Maybe we can get Vanity Fair ( to do an update….



Angels & Demons: Imagine Entertainment, Sony Pictures & Columbia
Star Trek: Paramount Pictures, Bad Robot & Spyglass

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Towards Commencement

The last finals are winding up, and the campus is quieting down. It’s a beautiful day, but Foss Hill welcomes only a few clusters of students. Perhaps even the seniors have gone off for the weekend before the days leading up to Commencement.

Yesterday I received word that the New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association named John Raba, the Head Coach of Men’s Lacrosse, Division III Coach of the Year. A well deserved honor! This spring many of our athletic teams had very strong seasons, with Baseball beating out Amherst for a playoff spot, Softball making it to the finals of the NESCAC tournament, and Men’s Lacrosse winning the NESCAC Championship.

Last night the Justin-Jinich family joined with the Wesleyan community for a memorial celebration planned by Johanna’s closest friends. There were beautiful words, pictures and stirring music. A deep sadness settled over our Chapel, but an even deeper love poured from it.

For the next several days we will be sprucing up the campus and preparing for Commencement. Endings and beginnings — this is a time of completion and renewal. Let’s hope for another beautiful day.

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Turning Again

Today was a very emotional combination of extraordinary events and more routine planning. We are still reeling from Wednesday’s attack, but we are also able to walk freely in the spring sunshine, to resume studying and practicing….even though our feelings of sorrow, anger and bewilderment still make it hard to focus. We are returning to our lives. We are wounded, but we turn again.

I want to emphasize to the Wes community that there is plenty of support available on campus throughout the weekend. Our Class Deans (who have been so generous and thoughtful with their time) will be on call throughout the next few days. The Office of Behavioral Health Services is available 24/7. Call 860 685-2910 when the office is closed. Some of Johanna’s closest friends are planning a memorial celebration of her life for some time in the next week. More information on that will be coming soon. Everyone should know that because of our extension of finals into Friday, May 15, that Wesleyan housing will close on Saturday, May 16 at noon.

I spoke with Johanna’s uncle today, and he conveyed how appreciative the family is for the warm expressions of support from Wesleyan. I want to echo that appreciation again with all my heart.

This afternoon the Huss Courtyard behind Usdan was packed with staff, faculty, students and other Middletown residents as we stood in silence, stood in one another’s company, in honor of Johanna. I asked for peace in the context of our recollection. It was very moving to be together in our grief.

We return to the rhythms of our campus lives with the memory of our loss still very fresh. We turn again, and we remember. May Johanna’s memory be a blessing to us all.

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Tragedy and Security

As most readers of this blog will know, Wesleyan has suffered an unspeakable loss. Johanna Justin-Jinich was shot to death while at work at the Red and Black Cafe on the corner of William and High Streets. Police have reasons to believe that the alleged gunman, now identified as Stephen Morgan, had known the victim in the past. They also have evidence of his hostility to the Wesleyan community, and to Jews, as expressed in his personal writings.

We are in mourning, and our thoughts and prayers go out to Johanna’s friends and family. My office and our emergency team is also focused on keeping our community safe. We are working closely with the Middletown Police Department, and I am very grateful for their assistance.

Classes are over, and we have canceled all special events. We are deploying additional security and instructing students to remain indoors. We continue to re-assess the safety context with the help of appropriate authorities.

You can find security updates at:

Below is a statement I released this morning.

A beloved member of our community has been brutally murdered. Our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to the family and friends of Johanna Justin-Jinich. This is a tragic time for them, and for all of us in the Wesleyan community. We are all deeply saddened and shocked by this event.

We are working closely with the Middletown Police. Since the suspect in yesterday’s fatal shooting has not been apprehended, Wesleyan has instructed all students to remain inside their residences and to remain vigilant. We have also asked faculty and staff not to come to their offices unless otherwise instructed.

The police investigation continues, and we remain in contact with them about all developments. We will send information via the usual channels as it becomes available. I assure you that we are doing all we can to ensure the safety of our students and campus.

Counseling services will continue to be made available to our students, faculty and staff. All of us grieve for the loss of Johanna Justin-Jinich.

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