Happy Birthday Kidcity!

Twenty-five years ago, Jennifer Alexander ’88, Hon ’09, P ’15, ’16 had the dream of starting a center in Middletown that would serve the city’s children with programs that were fun and educational — and that would also delight their parents. Thus, Kidcity was born, and ever since it has been providing our fair city with a place of learning, exploration, and creative joy.  Kari and I took the grandchildren there in the spring and they were over the moon. This photo is from the Commencement Ceremony of 2009 when we paid tribute to Jen’s work with an honorary doctorate. In her remarks, she talked about reading “Charlotte’s Web” with her Wes teacher Anne Greene.  She reflected on the fact that most graduates would leave the home we’ve had for four years, but that a few would stay — and make a big difference. 


Now, it was a Sunday morning, 21 years ago, when I was sitting where you are now, graduating with my class from Wesleyan. That very afternoon the exodus began. San Francisco, Seattle, Brooklyn. Like Charlotte’s babies hatching from the egg sac, my friends floated away to wonderful futures. But I had fallen in love – with Middletown and with my partner – and so I stayed. At the time, it felt like a failure to dream big enough, but it later turned out that the simple act of staying brought more joy and accomplishment to my life than I could have imagined.

And so as you go in every direction this afternoon – with our blessing – I hope you find something in your life that makes you want to stay – in a place, in a discipline, in a friendship. The lesson I want you to take from “Charlotte’s Web” is this: When some of the spiders decided to stay, it didn’t just matter for Wilbur and it didn’t just matter for the barnyard: it mattered for the spiders.

Everyone benefits when we take the time, energy and passion to contribute to Wesleyan’s home city. Jen has done that in a spectacular way, and we celebrate her and her Kidcity colleagues today!


Arrival Day! And Here We Go….

There are several students here already — last night I was part of a great First-Things-First program for FGLI students last night and saw the mighty women’s soccer game in a scrimmage. But today the great bulk of frosh arrive on campus. Welcome! I’ll post pictures today and tomorrow. 

These “dawn of the semester” shots are from a few days ago on Foss Hill:

Arrival Day photos with thanks to all those who sent them to me:

David Knapp ’49 1926-2023

I learned recently that a great friend of the university, David Knapp ‘49, passed away this summer, just shy of his 97th birthday.  I met David shortly after I began as president in 2007. He regularly attended campus events, especially reunions. He mentored students, supported scholarships and lived a life of purpose and joy.

I talked with David about his efforts to fight discrimination against gay people in the Boy Scouts of America. An Eagle Scout himself, David was kicked out when the organization found out he was gay. A tireless advocate for civil rights, he continued to march for gay rights, often in his Scout uniform. He helped create change in the organization and eventually would write to me, I felt so happy and proud to be officially back in the Boy Scouts at 89 and to be promoting both Scouting and GLBTQ civil rights…

I saw David at Reunion Weekend in late May and had a chance to acknowledge his great participation in so many a Wesleyan tradition. He was part of a tradition of service, of civic engagement, and of a dedication to equality.

Rest in peace, David. May your memory be a blessing.

Wesleyan University to End Legacy Admission

Dear friends,

As a highly selective university, Wesleyan University seeks exceptional students from a wide range of backgrounds and circumstances who will thrive in and enrich the Wesleyan community. An applicant’s connection to a Wesleyan graduate indicates little about that applicant’s ability to succeed at the University, meaning that legacy status has played a negligible role in our admission process for many years. Nevertheless, in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision regarding affirmative action, we believe it important to formally end admission preference for “legacy applicants.” We still value the ongoing relationships that come from multi-generational Wesleyan attendance, but there will be no “bump” in the selection process. As has been almost always the case for a long time, family members of alumni will be admitted on their own merits.

It is important to underscore that Wesleyan has never fixated on a checked box indicating a student’s racial identification or family affiliations. We have long taken an individualized, holistic view of an applicant’s lived experience—as seen through the college essay, high school record, letters of recommendation, and interactions with our community. Our admission decision is based upon diverse facets of the individual’s history, talent, potential to contribute to the university and get the most out of a Wesleyan education. Applicants’ achievements and promise are carefully considered in the context of their respective schools, public engagement, and personal circumstances. We will continue to do all of this.

By cultivating free speech, mutual respect, and values of inclusion, we seek to foster a sense of belonging for everyone on campus. By recruiting students, faculty and staff with diverse life experiences, attributes, and points of view, we continue to build a diverse, energetic learning environment comprised of people who think critically and creatively and who value independence of mind and generosity of spirit.

Ending preferential legacy admission is the easy part. We will continue to work to:

  1. Ensure diversity in the student body.
  • Pursue geographical diversity within the United States. We will continue to invest in recruiting students from around the country (and not just the coasts and the big cities).
  • Create an annual scholarship program to recruit and support a group of undergraduates from Africa.
  • Redouble efforts to recruit veterans. Building on our work with the Warrior Scholars Program, we will encourage the development of a pipeline of veterans interested in liberal arts colleges and universities.
  • Strengthen our outreach to community-based organizations, college access programs, and Title I high schools.
  • Enhance community college recruiting. Invest in building a pipeline of community college graduates interested in liberal arts colleges and universities.
  • Solidify the Center for Prison Education. Ensure the sustainability of the degree program for incarcerated people.
  1. Increase financial aid support.
  • Maintain a commitment to access and affordability, meeting the full demonstrated need of all matriculants while keeping loans to a minimum.
  • Make the 3-Year Program more visible. Normalize the three-year option for more students who are trying to reduce the cost of college.
  • Develop more free credit bearing courses delivered online or in a hybrid mode.

We will communicate further about each of these objectives in the weeks and months ahead.

Wesleyan has long had impact disproportionate to our numbers by empowering graduates to shape a changing world. We will continue to expand that impact through an equitable and forward-thinking admission process that finds talented people from around the country and the world to join our lifelong network of learning and accomplishment.

Sincerely yours,

Michael S. Roth

Happy 4th!

As I write my annual Independence Day blog message, I am still reeling from the recent Supreme Court decisions and from the rhythm of mass shootings that now punctuates all our seasons. Despite the current malaise, when I think back to last year at this time I am very grateful — grateful that COVID has receded and that over the last 12 months we at Wesleyan have managed to learn together while supporting others beyond the campus. Last summer at this time I was struggling with my own COVID infection and about to resume working with colleagues on building a ‘safe-enough’ educational environment. What a difference a year makes! Now, I eagerly anticipate the coming semesters, ones that will be filled with creativity, inquiry and exuberance!

But there is time for that. Today we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a document of aspiration often used to remind citizens of our promise but also of our failure to live up to our professed values. These are values worth remembering and celebrating! As an anonymous writer (identified only as a “Black Whig”) said just a few years after the document was signed, “And now my virtuous fellow citizens, let me entreat you, that, after you have rid yourselves of the British yoke, that you will also emancipate those who have been all their life time subject to bondage.” I take this quote from columnist Jamelle Bouie, who wrote “The story of the changing meaning of the Declaration should be a reminder…that we had more than one founding — and far more than just one set of founders.” Perhaps each generation needs a new set of founders!

 Here’s one of those re-founders, the poet Walt Whitman. I Hear America Singing:

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.
Let’s try to hear that singing even as we await a time when we live our values, a time of re-founding. And with the great poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, we can say “I am perpetually awaiting a rebirth of wonder.” So many good things begin in wonder, don’t they!
Happy 4th!! 

On the Supreme Court Ruling

Dear friends,

Today’s Supreme Court decision on the consideration of race in college admissions is extremely disappointing. Appealing to a principle of “color-blindness” at odds with history and law, the Court’s conservative majority says “trust us” while it imposes its will on higher education’s admission policies.

Wesleyan remains deeply committed to admitting a class of students that will lead to a diverse learning community on our campus. By using a reductive sense of how race is dealt with in college admissions, the conservative majority of the Supreme Court has challenged the University’s ability to select and enroll a racially diverse class.

The University is encouraged, however, that the Court has recognized the importance of considering race as a factor impacting the lived experience of an applicant. As the Court ruled, “all parties agree, nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.” 

Wesleyan has never simply looked at the box students checked when considering their racial background. We take an individualized, holistic view of an applicant’s lived experience, through their essays, letters of recommendation, and interactions with our community. Our decision to admit a student is based on diverse facets of the individual’s history, talent, and potential. Applicants’ achievements and promises are carefully considered in the context of their respective schools, communities, and personal circumstances.

The liberal arts education we offer is stronger because our campus community is built on a dynamic array of socioeconomic, religious, intellectual, geographic, and racial diversity. Asking people to consider ideas and experiences that might challenge their own preconceptions is a crucial step towards helping individuals become engaged citizens leading lives of purpose.

We are studying the decision to better understand how we can comply with the law while pursuing our mission. We are determined to create a diverse community, and our admission and financial aid teams have been preparing over the last several months to craft policies that will do that. While our ability to do this work has been undermined by today’s ruling, our values are unwavering. We will follow up later this summer with updates and news of Wesleyan’s specific plans for moving forward in the wake of this decision.


Michael S. Roth ’78, President

Amin Abdul-Malik Gonzalez ’96, Vice President and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid

Crew! Crew!

Have you seen the bumper sticker, “I Can’t, I have Crew“? Student-Athletes are often incredibly busy as they juggle challenging schedules, but rowers may have the most intense calendars of all. And yet, they get little in the way of cheers and support in the moment. THEY ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF A BODY OF WATER, after all. So, let’s take a moment to cheer for the Wesleyan crew teams!!

The women’s team finished the season in the number two spot in the whole country– right behind #1 Wellesley (who clearly has name issues). They had a tremendous season and peaked at just the right moment. You can read more about it here.

V8 NCAA Day 2

The men’s team also finished number two in the whole country (who cares which school was just a few strokes ahead)! Again the team built on success over the course of the season to finish at this most elite level. More on their accomplishments here.

V8 IRA National Championship


Let’s hear it for some of the hardest working student-athletes out there! Go Wes!!

Celebrating the Class or 2023!

The following message was sent to Wesleyan students, faculty and staff.

Commencement is over, and mortar boards, it seemed to me, flew even higher than usual. It was such a beautiful day with strong speakers and a celebratory crowd. The graduating seniors seemed especially joyous. They had every reason to be proud of how they had stayed focused through the disruptions caused by the pandemic. Their achievements were not theirs alone, however, and their enthusiastic applause for faculty and staff showed how grateful they were. I hope all our faculty, staff, and students can take a moment to recognize their individual and collective accomplishments of this past year.

Our commencement speakers stressed the importance of how we develop civic engagement on campus, and they urged our graduates to carry those lessons forward—as citizens. At a time when jarring voices across the country question the benefits of higher education, we can be confident that those who receive a Wesleyan education will showcase its benefits to the world.

Here on campus, we must continue to pursue our mission with passion and purpose. That mission does not change, but we pursue it in light of changes in the world. By fall semester, there will likely be a Supreme Court decision on affirmative action. Regardless, we will redouble our efforts to build a diverse community in which all—students, faculty, and staff—can thrive. Work is already underway on the three organizational priorities identified through the WesThrives Campus Survey—diversity, inclusion, and belonging; performance management; and communications—which we will more deeply focus on when our entire community is together again in the fall.

Summer approaches, and I hope these next months bring you the balance of rest, enjoyment, and productivity that you seek. 


Athletic Honors

This time of year there are just too many prizes and honors to count, but I wanted to signal some really stand-out performers. Let’s start with Grace Devanny ’23, who won the Sabasteanski Award, given to the NESCAC’s Most Outstanding Performer from the track & field championship meet. Devanny is the first Cardinal to win the NESCAC’s highest individual honor. She’s set records in so many races this year, I’ve lost count. And the thrills she’s provided in soccer will long be remembered. Wesleyan’s only first team All-American Women’s Soccer player, a National Champion in the 400M in Indoor Track and a SEVEN Time All-American in Track and Field. No slouch in the classroom, Grace will be inducted into Phi Beta Kappa this month!

Speaking of stand-out individual performers, Nika Vesely ’25 was named NESCAC’s Player-of-the-Year just before the women’s tennis team hosted the NCAA’s regional tournament here in Middletown. Nika and her teammates won both their matches and head to the final four! Coach Mike Fried will be guiding the team having earned Coach-of-the-Year honors this year. His leadership of this program is nothing short of remarkable.

I don’t spend enough time talking about our crew teams, but they have had a fine season this year. The men are ranked #2 in the country, and they are heading to the National Invitational on Friday. The women’s team is ranked #7 and will also be racing at the National Invitational on Friday. These scholar athletes have become formidable teams that make the most of coordinated hard work, strength and endurance. 

There are many other athletes to celebrate, and we’ll have a chance to do so at a banquet this week. Go Wes!