Honoring Academic Excellence

Yesterday I had the inspiring experience of welcoming new members to Wesleyan’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa — the national honor society celebrating academic excellence. Most new members are brought into the society in the spring just before graduation, but an especially distinguished group is chosen in December. I was so impressed by the variety of interests, academic research, creative practice and extra-curriculars shown by the students — and often that variety was found in EACH of the inductees.

Our masks could not conceal our delight as we cheered on these all-stars. Welcome to Phi Beta Kappa!

  • Charlotte Nicole Babbin
  • Shaquille Bowie
  • Courtney Collins-Pisano
  • India Finley Dixon
  • Robert Christopher Dysart
  • Julia Lynne Lanfear
  • Megan Redler Levan
  • Thomas Quinn McKenzie-Smith
  • Caroline Nicole Pitton
  • Shiva Ramkumar
  • Jack Louis Root
  • Quentin Tan
  • Megan Tran
  • Ammie Yuanchen Wang
  • Sophie Anna Williamson


Fall Phi Beta Kappa Inductees — An Extraordinary Group!

Yesterday I participated in one of my favorite events, the December induction ceremony for Phi Beta Kappa. The thirteen seniors we recognized have all excelled in their studies, and they have contributed mightily to the campus culture of inventive, rigorous work. All of these students have faculty mentors who are proud of them, who cheer them on, and who are among the first ones to acknowledge their accomplishments. Staff members, too, have contributed to their success, and it was wonderful to see them at the ceremony, beaming with pride. In Yiddish we call this kvelling, a feeling of fullness from pride and happiness, a gushing of pleasure in someone else’s accomplishment. There was plenty of kvelling at the ceremony today!

Here are the thirteen new inductees:

Brittany Laine Baldwin-Hunter

Alicia Doo Castagno
American Studies

Ali Khalid Chaudhry
Economics/Mathematics & Computer Science

Lee Solomon Gottesdiener
Chemistry/Neuroscience & Behavior Program

Zin Lin
Mathematics & Computer Science/Physics

Cassidy Siegel Mellin
Neuroscience & Behavior Program/Psychology

Rachel Leah Merzel

Emma Kathryn Mohney
English/Romance Languages & Literatures

Emma Elaine Paine

Reed Leon Sarney
Mathematics & Computer Science

Allegra Stout
Feminist, Gender & Sexuality Studies/Psychology

Brianna Megan van Kan
College of Letters/Music/Russian Languages & Literature

Kathryn Emily Wagner
Biology/Molecular Biology & Biochemistry




Celebrating Achievement

This past week I had the pleasure of welcoming students, faculty and their guests to the Fall Initiation of our Phi Beta Kappa chapter. One of the oldest honor societies in America, PBK acknowledges great student academic achievement. Good grades aren’t enough though; the undergrads must satisfy the General Education expectations and be nominated by their home department.

Most of the Phi Beta Kappa members of the class of 2010 will be inducted in the spring semester, and it is a special honor to be asked to join during the fall. This semester the initiates are:

Sue Hyun Chung
Alexis Horan
Megan Hughes
Peter Hull
Samuel Kurtis
Elias Leight
Rebecca Loomis
Anna Mageras
Mark McCloughan
Juan Pablo Mendoza
Anne Merley
Ari Tolman
Rebecca Turkewitz
Chan-young Yang
Jake Zuehl

The research and co-curricular projects of this year’s group are as varied as they are impressive, ranging from sophisticated research in microbiology, economics and political philosophy to worthy efforts in the realms of education and public health, theater and the Peace Corps. Some of the PBK students are headed to Kenya, others to Ecuador, and I bet a few wind up in Brooklyn.

Yesterday, Provost Joe Bruno and I joined the Chemistry Department and Board Chair Joshua Boger in celebrating Betty Tishler’s 100th birthday with her family and friends. Max Tishler, Betty’s late husband, was a great Wesleyan scientist, and she has been a beloved member of our community for four decades. One of the very special guests was Dr. Satoshi Omura, who came in from Tokyo for this event. Dr. Omura, one of the world’s leading bioorganic scientists, discovered and developed the drug ivermectin, which is on track to eradicate onchocerciasis, or River Blindness. Millions of people across the globe have been taking ivermectin, and the results have revolutionized public health.

Dr. Omura was at Wes in the early 1970s, and as we stood together looking across Andrus Field yesterday, he grew wistful. He told me that he was so happy to be back at Wesleyan since this was the place where he first developed his scientific ideas. It was in our Chemistry Department that he began the work that would change the lives of millions of people around the world.

Maybe some of our Phi Beta Kappa students will have similar stories to tell one day!

[tags]Phi Beta Kappa, General Education Expectations, honors society, Peace Corps, Dr. Satoshi Omura, Ivermectin, River Blindness[/tags]

Senator Michael Bennet ’87: Pragmatist with Vision

Michael Bennet ’87 was recently sworn in as the United States Senator from Colorado, the seventh Wesleyan alumnus to serve as a United States Senator. I’ve only met Michael briefly through his father Doug, just as Doug was finishing his very successful tenure as Wesleyan’s 15th president. Reading about Michael Bennet’s career this week, I am struck by how he exemplifies so many of the virtues and values we hope to impart to our graduates.

After Wesleyan, where he majored in History and graduated with Honors and Phi Beta Kappa, Michael went onto Yale Law School and a position in the Justice Department during the Clinton Administration. He then went into the business world, working for Philip Anschutz’s investment firm in Colorado. Learning on the job, he had real success turning around distressed companies, but eventually he went back into public service. The first stop was chief of staff for Denver’s mayor John Hickenlooper, a Wesleyan grad (and microbrewery entrepreneur from the class of ’74 !) Bennet then became superintendent of the Denver School system, where he was able to implement changes that have resulted in a surge in enrollment and test scores in the city.

I expect that Michael Bennet’s pragmatic approach to problem solving and long term investments in education will serve his state and our country well. I wish him well in Washington, and hope to see the red and black on the Senate floor!

[tags] Michael Bennet ’87, United States Senator, Colorado, Doug Bennet, history, Phi Beta Kappa, Yale Law School, Justice Department, Philip Anschutz, Mayor John Hickenlooper ’74, Denver school system [/tags]