Supporting Muslim Friends, Colleagues and Neighbors

Kari and I found ourselves in a London airport en route to France when we heard the news of the horrific attacks on Muslim worshippers in New Zealand. I know that Rabbi David and Dean Mike have already written to our students, but I want to add my expression of outrage and sorrow to their message. This was a brutal hate crime, targeting worshippers at mosques during Friday prayers, and early indications are that the murderer planned his attack in the name of what he called white nationalism. Our revulsion is great, but our resolve to stand against hate and bigotry is even greater.

At Wesleyan, the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life will facilitate a gathering on Monday, March 18 at 4:30pm at the ORSL multi-faith space, 169 High St. second floor.  If you are on campus next week, please come to express and find support.

May those who are grieving find comfort in community, and may they find strength and peace in the face of this tragedy.



A Snowy Start to Spring Break…Thinking of Summer Session

The beginning of Wesleyan’s spring break finds us in the Berkshires, where it is beautiful and snowy. This is from our porch:

So, when we’re not chasing Mathilde in the show, we are thinking about summer….. and, of course, Wesleyan’s Summer Session. Here’s the official line: “students can complete semester-long courses in just under five weeks; courses are offered in June (Session 1) and July (Session 2). Wesleyan Summer Session is open to students who feel they have the academic qualifications and stamina to complete intellectually challenging courses in a compressed schedule.” There are some very cool classes, which you can find here.

You can find out more information about the summer session, and sign up for alerts, here.

Coaches and Players of the Year!

Peter Solomon, head coach of our Wesleyan swimming and diving teams, was recently named Co-Coach-of-the-Year for women’s swimming by the our athletic conference. In giving Peter this honor, NESCAC recognizes his leadership and team building. Peter is a mentor to our students, and an inspiration to our swimmers.

Chris Potter was named Coach-of-the-Year for our men’s hockey team. Chris established a new conference record for longest unbeaten streak (13-0-2) during the regular season, and the guys continue their season in the NESCAC semi-finals next weekend. Speaking of men’s hockey, Tim Sestak ’20 was named Player-of-the-Year by the conference for his outstanding play throughout the winter. His uncanny ability to keep the puck out of the goal has been crucial for the Cardinals. In women’s hockey, Allegra Grant ’20 was named to the first NESCAC team this year, as was Walker Harris ’20 on the men’s side.

Spring sports will be here before you know it, but for now let’s give a cheer for these NESCAC honorees!!


Coach Solomon reports:

Wesleyan has 6 women (see below) competing in the Div. III NCAA Championships March 20th – 23rd in Greensboro, NC.  Caroline Murphy is seeded 2nd in the 100-yard Backstroke.  Here is a video of one of the races (400-yard Medley Relay) from our recent NESCAC Championships that Michael may enjoy.  Caroline Murphy is swimming the 1st leg of the relay (backstroke), Mengmeng Gibbs (breaststroke), Grace Middleton (butterfly), & Hannah O’Halloran (freestyle). Hannah is also swimming the 200 backstroke at the NCAAs.

Wesleyan’s relay is in Lane 2 (closest to the camera). The time (3:48.07) was a Varsity Record by 1.4 seconds, 2nd at the Conference Championships, and presently ranked 10th in the country for Div. III.

And this reminds me that Zach Murillo ’19 is off to the NCAA wrestling championship in 125 pound weight class. You can read more about him here.

UPDATE 2 Don’t forget about basketball

Congratulations to Jordan Bonner ’19, Austin Hutcherson ’21 and Caleigh Ryan ’22 for earning NESCAC honors today.  Bonner was named NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year, Hutcherson was named first team all-conference and Caleigh Ryan was recognized as the NESCAC Women’s Basketball Rookie of the Year.


Remembering Joe Reed, Visionary Mentor

This week, the sad message went out to the Wesleyan community announcing the death of Joseph Reed, for many years professor of English and American Studies and one of the founders of the university’s work in film studies. His courses were inspirational, and his generosity and support for students were legendary. Here is the Provost’s announcement.

Joe arrived at Wesleyan in 1960 after receiving his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from Yale University, and having served on active duty in the Navy. During his time here, Joe served as the chair of the English department and of the Sesquicentennial Committee, and was one of the founding architects of both American Studies and Film Studies at Wesleyan. He played an important role in cultivating numerous interdisciplinary initiatives on campus and was involved in a long-term collaboration with Jon Barlow, Professor of Music, focused on William Faulkner’s fiction, John Ford’s films, and Charles Ives’s music. He retired in 2004 after 44 years at Wesleyan.

Joe is fondly remembered for his legendary teaching of up to 200-400 students a year, his wide-ranging scholarship, and his kind and generous colleagueship. Richard Slotkin, Olin Professor of English, Emeritus said: “Joe Reed was my good friend and colleague for more than forty years. His intelligence was adventurous, and his scholarly and teaching interests ranged from 18th Century British literature, to Faulkner and the American novel, to movies and television.” Henry Abelove, Wilbur Fisk Osborne Professor of English, Emeritus said: “Joe was the most generous man I’ve ever known.”

Joe and his wife, Kit, author and former Resident Writer, were Wesleyan fixtures. They lived very close to campus on Lawn Avenue and were often seen walking their Scottish terriers. President Michael Roth remembers: “When Kari and I moved to Middletown in 2007, Joe and Kit were the first to welcome us with a meal, with animal stories, with art and friendship. We will cherish his memory.” In 2009, a labyrinth was built on campus near the Davison Art Center in their honor from funds gathered by their beloved students.

Joe is survived by his children, Mack, John, and Kate, and their families, including four grandchildren. The family is planning a private memorial in the fall. In lieu of gifts, the family asks that you consider making a memorial contribution in Joe’s memory to Alzheimer’s Los Angeles:


Remembering Thomas J. Serra

I was saddened today to hear the news that Thomas J. Serra, a long-term Middletown public servant and friend of Wesleyan’s, had passed away. A former mayor, high school principal and city councilman (among many other roles), Tom was for decades at the center of our city’s political life. “In everything he did, he put Middletown and the people of the city first,” said Robert Blanchard, a colleague on the City Council. Mayor Dan Drew pointed out that “Tom Serra was first and foremost a family man — a loving husband, father, and grandfather,” and that he was devoted to providing opportunities for youth as a teacher, principal and city leader. State Senator Matt Lesser, recalled how Tom was a mentor to him, and that he was always available to provide advice to those who wanted to enter public service. I met Tom and his brother, State Representative Joe Serra, shortly after I began my tenure as president, and I learned quickly of their devotion to the greater good of the city of Middletown.

On behalf of the Wesleyan community, I extend our sympathies to the Serra family, and to his many friends and colleagues. He will be missed.


Black History Month 2019

Every February, students, staff and faculty schedule a compelling series of events for Black History Month, and this year is no exception. From lectures on politics and academics, to workshops on mindfulness and love, this month offers a broad array of programs. 

This year African American Studies is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a wonderful selection of programs. You can find out more about that below:

Little Three Hockey Champs! (And More!)

A quick note of congratulations to the Wesleyan men’s hockey team, which won the Little Three crown this past weekend after a thrilling overtime victory up in Williamstown. The squad has been on a roll, notching 7 wins in a row. One of the key reasons for the success is the standout play of goalie Tim Sestak ’20, who has been named a NESCAC Player-of-the-Week twice this season.


The women’s hockey team was not to be outdone, as they knocked off Middlebury, the 6th ranked team in the country!

In other sports news, you may have heard about a Wesleyan alum who had some success Sunday. Congratulations to Bill Belichick ’75, P ’07, Hon. ’05 for his 6th Super Bowl win!


Tim has just earned another Player-of-the-Week NESCAC award!!

Get Warm With Wesleyan Art

On these cold winter days, it’s a wonderful thing to get warmed up with an intelligent art exhibition. There’s much to choose from on campus these days! In the Zilkha Galleries, you can find Audible Bacillus, a contemporary art show that explores co-evolution, decay, revival…and much more. Here’s an official description: “What does it mean for our world concept, language, ethics, and knowledge, if we accept that human bodies co-evolved with their microbiomes? Audible Bacillus posits a reconnection of our consciousness from the inside out, presenting our coexistence at a metaphoric register rather than representing or speaking for the beings within us.”

In the gallery at the College of East Asian Studies, you can see some extraordinary landscape photographs of Korea by Young-Il Kim. The website tells us that “Sound of Korea presents five landscape photographs by Young-Il Kim as well as two single-channel videos. His photography became well-known when he did some official photography related to the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. The exhibit was curated by Phoebe Junghee Shin, ‘P 17.”

In a few days you will be able to find animals in the Davison Art Center. Bestiary opens on February 7 with a gallery talk by University Professor Kari Weil, the exhibit “blends moralizing tales, natural history, and fascinating images of non-human animals to astonish and entertain. We continue to regard beasts in similar ways—as emblematic devices for understanding our world and ourselves. How we define the non-human can shape our conceptions of what it means to be human, our codes of morality and ethics, our ideas about rights and obligations.”

Are you away from Middletown? I was in New York this week and had the good fortune to see an exhibition co-curated by Ahmed Badr ’20 at the Juilliard School of the performing arts at Lincoln Center. Unpacked  is a moving, beautiful and haunting show that humanizes the refugee experience with installations and recordings that testify loss and resilience. You can read more about the show here.

Also in New York, next week painting professor extraordinaire, Tula Telfair, has a solo show of her new landscape paintings opening at Forum Gallery at 475 Park Ave and 57th. Reverie continues the artist’s exploration of memory, imagination, dreams, emotions and place, and I can hardly wait to see it!

And if you are reading this in Los Angeles, why not go see the extraordinary young alumnus/artist Cameron Rowland’s (’11) show at the Museum of Contemporary Art. D37 draws our attention to racism and property, politics and property. When you pay attention, you may think, when you think, you may act…

I’m sure there’s more in the Wesleyan world, but this should help keep us warm for a while.

Winter at Wesleyan….Thinking about India

As cold weather descends upon New England, I find myself thinking about India as we get ready for the new semester. I made a very interesting trip to Mumbai in the fall, and shortly thereafter I learned that Wesleyan had received a major grant to expand our teaching of Hindi and Urdu. This two-year $165,699 grant under the U.S. Department of Education’s Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language (UISFL) program will support language teaching, the research of STEM faculty and students in India, and the increase of cultural programming related to South Asia.

“This grant will allow Wesleyan to become one of a very small number of liberal arts institutions in the country with classroom instruction in Hindi and Urdu,” said Stephen Angle, director of the Fries Center for Global Studies. “We are excited about the ability this grant will give us to support STEM faculty and students doing summer research in India as a way of growing opportunities for international experiences in the sciences. Together with our existing faculty strength in South Asian studies (currently nine faculty across the arts, humanities, and social sciences) and the president’s initiative to expand Wesleyan’s visibility in India, the new grant will help to further solidify Wesleyan as a leader in South Asian studies.”

Recently, I read about English faculty member Hirsh Sawhney’s trip last term to participate in the festival Tata Literature Live. Among other things, Hirsh ran a writing workshop for aspiring writers and local college students in Mumbai. They focused on cultivating a sense of place — something he does marvelously well in his South Haven (Akashic Books, 2016).

Applications from India are up again this year, and we look forward to more cooperative programing between cultural and educational institutions there. We are already planning future visits!


Best Wishes for the Holidays!

Students have finished up their finals, and the rush of grading and end-of-the-year tasks grows intense for many on campus and off. I wanted to take a moment to thank you for all your efforts this semester, and to wish you joyful holiday celebrations — and some rest, too. Many students are still working, as are plenty of staff who see to admissions applications, December donations, the safety and functioning of the campus (to name only some of the active departments!)…while faculty colleagues are reading papers, grading exams and preparing syllabi.

Still, on this first day of winter, I hope you see your holidays approaching.

May the new year bring you peace and purpose, happiness and health!