Category: Alumni

Four newcomers join Lawrence University’s Board of Trustees

Four new members have joined the Lawrence University Board of Trustees, including two alumni.

Mei Xian Gong ’11, a former Posse Foundation scholar who now works as a market manager for Mettler-Toledo, will serve on the board as a Recent Graduate Trustee, a position established in 2014 exclusively for Lawrence alumni within 2-10 years of graduation. She will serve one non-renewable, three-year term. She’s joined by new term trustees Frederick Fisher, an accomplished architect, Cheryl Wilson Kopecky ’72, a longtime K-12 education leader, and Jon M. Stellmacher, whose work as a top executive at Thrivent Financial spanned more than three decades.

“We are delighted to add four fantastic new trustees to Lawrence’s board who bring tremendous expertise in higher education dynamics, board governance, fundraising, and buildings and grounds,” said Board Chair David Blowers. “I couldn’t be more appreciative of the overall support of the college’s Board of Trustees and the quality of individuals we continue to attract to serve the college in this important and valuable way.”

The new trustees, elected at the May board meeting:

Head shot of Mei Xian Gong
Mei Xian Gong ’11

Mei Xian Gong ’11: A member of the first group of Posse Foundation scholars at Lawrence, Gong has worked for Mettler-Toledo in Columbus, Ohio, as a market manager since 2016. She has served as a class agent since 2012 and has continued her involvement and support of Lawrence in various volunteer roles in recent years. While a student, Gong served on the Lawrence University Alumni Association Board of Directors and was a member of the LUAA Connecting to Campus Committee. She majored in chemistry and interdisciplinary chemistry/biology, later earning an MBA at Ohio State University. She serves on the board of the Pedal-With-Pete Foundation, an internationally recognized nonprofit dedicated to raising money for cerebral palsy research.

Head shot of Frederick Fisher
Frederick Fisher

Frederick Fisher: A registered architect since 1978, Fisher is the founder of Frederick Fisher and Partners. His focus has been on designing spaces for the practice and exhibition of art as well as interdisciplinary study. He was a 2013 Gold Medal recipient of the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and is a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome, which supports innovative artists, writers, and scholars. Fisher received his bachelor of arts degree from Oberlin College in art and art history and his masters of architecture from UCLA. He is chair of the Otis College Board of Governors and is a board member for both the Board of Councilors at the USC School of Architecture and the Board of Visitors at the UCLA School of the Arts.

Cheryl Wilson Kopecky ’72

Cheryl Wilson Kopecky ’72: Wilson Kopecky worked for 35 years in K-12 school districts as a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent, and has taught undergraduate and graduate classes in curriculum and instruction. She earned a bachelor of music degree from Lawrence in 1972. She later worked for a time as a major and planned giving officer in Lawrence’s Development Office. She has been a member of the President’s Advisory Council at Lawrence since 2015, serving as co-chair since 2016. She served as a liaison for her 40th Reunion Committee and a co-chair for her 45th Reunion, and has been a member of the Bjorklunden Advisory Committee since 2017. She also provides leadership for several nonprofit organizations. She received her master’s degree and a doctorate in education from Northern Illinois University.

Head shot of Jon Stellmacher
Jon Stellmacher

Jon M. Stellmacher: Stellmacher spent more than three decades at Thrivent Financial, retiring in 2010 as senior vice president and chief of staff and administration. He also has been heavily involved in education through the years. He was a member of the Wisconsin Governor’s Advisory Council on Early Childhood Education and Care and was chair of the board and founding director of the Community Early Learning Center (CELC) of the Fox Valley. In 2016, he received the Thomas G. Scullen Leadership Award from the Appleton Education Foundation in recognition of his work helping create the CELC. Stellmacher also serves on the Board of Directors for the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, on the LSS Foundation Board for Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, and is a member of Lawrence’s Advisory Committee on Public Affairs.

In addition to the election of trustees, the following officers were elected to one-year terms: David C. Blowers, chair; Cory L. Nettles, vice chair; Dale R. Schuh, secretary; Julia H. Messitte, assistant secretary; Alice O. Boeckers, assistant secretary; Christopher S. Lee, treasurer; and Amy Price, assistant treasurer.

Meanwhile, Michael Cisler ’78 and Steven Mech ’93 were appointed to two-year terms as non-trustee committee members of the Building and Grounds Subcommittee.

‘Central Park Five’ opera has Lawrence alum in a thoughtful, emotional place

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Derrell Acon ’10 stood shoulder to shoulder earlier this month with Antron McCray, one of the five New York City teenagers — now men in their 40s — wrongly convicted in the 1989 rape and beating of a Central Park jogger.

The Lawrence University alumnus was days away from performing as McCray in The Central Park Five, an operatic retelling of the emotionally charged criminal case, set to open in an opera house in southern California. An ACLU luncheon brought Acon and his castmates and the five men they’d be portraying into the same room for the first time.

“It gave me a little more weight in terms of the responsibility I had to give an accurate picture to the audience and to be true to how I explored and continue to explore that character,” Acon said of meeting McCray.

The Central Park Five story of the coerced confessions, the guilty verdicts, the Donald Trump call for the death penalty, the vacated judgments 13 years later, and the eventual settlement that set New York City back $41 million is getting plenty of renewed attention on the heels of the recent release of Ava DuVernay’s Netflix mini-series, When They See Us, the intense retelling of the case that dominated headlines 30 years ago.

While the Netflix series is getting the bulk of the attention, the jazz-infused opera production from composer Anthony Davis — more than three years in the making and separate from the DuVernay series — has drawn its fair share of looks as well. The New York Times and Los Angeles Times previewed the Long Beach Opera production in the days before it opened on June 15, and opening night saw reviews from both newspapers and the Wall Street Journal, among other outlets. The New Yorker is working on a story as well, according to a spokesperson with the opera.

Derrell Acon '14 sings on stage with the four other leads in "The Central Park Five," an opera being performed by Long Beach Opera in southern California.
Derrell Acon ’10 (center) and his castmates in “The Central Park Five” sing in unison. Acon portrays Antron McCray, one of five New York teenagers falsely convicted 30 years ago.

Two more performances are scheduled for this weekend at the Warner Grand Theater in San Pedro, California.

“I wasn’t really anticipating any particular response,” Acon said after getting an enthusiastic welcome on opening night. “I was more aware of my own responses, understanding that it would be a very emotional process for me. As a young black man in America, you know, a lot of these topics are very close to my own experience, and these struggles are very mirrored in my own life.

“I think a lot about the rehearsal process, tending to all of these emotions, letting them out, having a lot of beautiful discussions with my colleagues, especially the five of us in the lead roles.”

The timing is coincidental, Acon said, but that the opera arrives amid heightened attention on the Central Park Five case is certainly beneficial to the public conversation. An earlier effort by Davis to debut the opera — since retooled and renamed — in New Jersey drew little attention. But that was before the Netflix series arrived.

“I’m a firm believer that everything is happening when it needs to happen,” Acon said. “All of these things are happening at once. It’s almost because our society is so resistant to the truth being revealed that you almost need it to be thrown into the mix as an atomic bomb for people to really put their ears up and understand how important this is, how terribly, terribly unjust this was.”

A journey to Long Beach

After graduating summa cum laude from Lawrence in 2010 — he was a double major in voice performance and government — Acon went on to earn a master’s degree and a doctoral degree in 19th-century opera history and performance from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

He spent the next two and a half years on the road, performing, lecturing and studying. The schedule began to wear on his voice. Ten months ago, he relocated to southern California, drawn by what he calls the area’s “laid-back culture” and the plethora of arts opportunities.

He connected immediately with the Long Beach Opera, which was in the midst of a season based on issues of injustice. The casting for The Central Park Five was just getting started.

“I sang for them and was invited to join the cast,” Acon said.

He was working with people he didn’t know while immersing himself in the West Coast arts scene. He jumped into the mix as the opera company’s manager of education and engagement, organizing and facilitating community conversations in the months leading up to the opening of The Central Park Five.

“The journey began there,” Acon said. “It was kind of a crash course in introducing me to the classical music scene here. I am someone who has spent a lot of time in the Midwest and on the East Coast, so the West Coast scene was new for me, and this was just a beautiful introduction to that scene.”

The well-attended community conversations gave people a chance to speak their mind, to share with others in a very public and very cleansing way. To do it with the arts as an avenue to positive discourse on an emotionally charged topic was beautiful to see, Acon said.

“The key word is community,” he said. “The arts have this ability to create a community. Especially something like opera, where what you’re hearing is so visceral, it’s so emotional, so loud, as some of the younger people who have seen my work would say. You don’t really have an opportunity to do anything but listen. It’s so in your face, it’s in your soul, it’s in your heart.

“You may not always agree with the topic being put forth, but you are put in a position of contemplation, of consideration, and that is a communal experience. … Having the community of the opera house and the guidance of the voices and actors on stage may be enough to spark the conversation and the courage needed to really dig into some of these topics.”

The five lead performers in "The Central Park Five" sing on stage during the Long Beach Opera production.
“The Central Park Five,” by Long Beach Opera, opened just weeks after a Netflix series shined a new spotlight on the 1989 criminal case that resulted in faulty convictions of five New York City teenagers. Lawrence alumnus Derrell Acon ’10 (center) stars in the opera.

Opening night arrives

As the June 15 opener drew closer, the performance of The Central Park Five was being described as both emotional and powerful, with Acon and the other lead actors often singing in unison, a singular and pained collective character.

“I think operas work on multiple levels, and certainly a visceral level is one that I’m very concerned with,” said Davis, who created the production in partnership with Richard Wesley. “I want the audience to have an emotional experience that involves identifying with the characters and putting yourself in their place.”

After the opera opened, reviewer Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times wrote: “Most of the opera, which is in two acts, follows the five through their arbitrary apprehension, inappropriate questioning, dubious trial, conviction and harsh sentencing. The boys react much of the time in quintet, voices blending in disbelief and outrage. The most effective operatic innovation is the creation of the Masque, who is less a character than the embodiment of white racism, be it the police, a reporter or various others.”

The reviews from opening night have been mixed, with reviewer Zachary Woolfe of the New York Times suggesting that the tone and the angst was spot on but having the five leads often sing as a Greek chorus means they “never have the chance to come to life as individuals, either in music or words.”

That’s a complaint, Acon said, that he also heard from a high school student who was part of a group he brought to a dress rehearsal. It’s a legitimate perspective, he said, but one he doesn’t necessarily share.

“I personally believe the opera is very effective in the way it keeps the five in unison, for the most part,” he said. “In a way, it’s saying this experience is not individual. This experience happens to so many young black men and other men of color in this country, so much to the point that we can sing the same words at the same time, in a metaphorical sense, because we all have these same sentiments as it relates to the American criminal justice system.”

Acon’s next chapter

When The Central Park Five performances conclude this weekend, Acon, a bass-baritone, said he’ll turn his attention to new opportunities in southern California.

The arts as a vehicle for education and understanding will almost certainly be part of that journey.

Acon, who serves on the Lawrence Board of Trustees as a Recent Graduate Trustee — a position established for alumni within two to 10 years of their graduation — earned multiple regional and national honors as a student and already has more than two dozen operatic roles on his resume.

His deep thinking on issues related to the arts, race and public policy was plenty evident during his time at Lawrence, and Brian Pertl, Lawrence’s dean of the Conservatory of Music, isn’t surprised that Acon is seeing early career success.

“At Lawrence, Derrell was already an outstanding scholar and stellar performer,” Pertl said. “The performance he created in association with his honors project, Whence Comes Black Art?: The Construction and Application of ‘Black Motivation,’  stands as one of the most important and compelling student productions I have seen in the past 10 years.” 

Ten months after landing in southern California, Acon said he feels like he’s found his artistic groove. The work with Long Beach Opera is just the start of some promising things.

“I’m excited to see what comes next,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of opportunities, and they keep coming in. It’s very encouraging.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

News, notes and honors from Lawrence’s 2019 Reunion Weekend

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

More than 1,000 alumni, family and friends made their way back to Lawrence University for the annual Reunion Weekend.

Cooler than expected temperatures and sporadic rains didn’t dampen the enthusiasm. Performances at Memorial Chapel, alumni award presentations and plenty of social opportunities kept things festive during the Thursday through Saturday reunion. Here are a few takeaways from the big weekend.

Back to college

Friday’s Alumni College, featuring a bevy of talks and presentations from faculty and/or alumni on a wide range of topics, is always a highlight of Reunion Weekend.

Glen Johnson ’85 provided a nice testimony to the value of the Lawrence experience during a session he presented. He shared photos and insights from his four years leading strategic communications for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, a journey that took him to 91 countries between 2013 and early 2017 and led to the publication of his 2018 book, “Window Seat on the World: A View of U.S. Leadership and Diplomacy.”

Glen Johnson '85 speaks at the podium about his book, "Window Seat on the World."
Glen Johnson ’85 talks about his book, “Window Seat on the World,” at Friday’s Alumni College.

As part of his work, the former Associated Press and Boston Globe reporter took on the duties of official photographer, giving him access to Kerry in public and private settings as they traveled across all seven continents. His presentation took the audience through dozens of beautiful and poignant photos from around the world and the stories behind them.

Johnson told the alumni gathered in the Warch Campus Center Cinema that his studies at Lawrence set him on a path to do “dramatic and interesting” things.

“I came to Lawrence because I wanted to go to a liberal arts school,” said Johnson, who grew up just outside of Boston. “I also knew I wanted to be a journalist. So I came to Lawrence to go to this liberal arts school but with an idea of preparing for a very specific vocation. And so I was able to take a breadth of classes that gave me an array of knowledge that helped me as a reporter, and then that success as a reporter gave me the credibility to have this opportunity down the road.”

Generous gifts

A highlight of the annual Alumni Convocation, held Saturday morning at Memorial Chapel, is the presentation by each reunion class or cluster of financial gifts to the university.

The gift announcements often come with heartfelt testimonials.

Jeff Billings ’03, speaking for the cluster of the classes of 2003, ’04 and ’05, referenced a highway sign that points one direction to Freedom and the other to Lawrence. While the sign references the towns of Freedom and Lawrence, it always got a laugh from Lawrence students, he said.

“But the arrow should be pointing in the same direction,” he said, “because when you come to Lawrence, you are forever transformed. You’re taught to think, you’re taught to be creative, you’re taught to listen to other people — imagine that — you’re given lifelong skills that give you freedom to choose the life you want to have, whatever that life may be. I, for one, am extremely appreciative of that fact, and Lawrence has forever transformed my life.”

Andrea Powers Robertson ’94, speaking for the Class of 1994, said she savors the Lawrence experience 25 years after leaving campus and wants to pay it forward.

“As one who relied heavily on financial aid to make my Lawrence experience possible, I have a profound sense of gratitude for the Lawrence Fund supporters who preceded me,” she said.

The class representatives rattled off a series of class gifts to the university that added up to nearly $13 million, including $6.6 million coming from the Class of 1969 as it marked its 50-year reunion.

“The theme for our 50th reunion has been Bob Dylan’s song, The Times They Are A Changin‘, said Susan Voss Pappas ’69, “and we’re doing our best to keep up.”

President Mark Burstein called the class gifts “truly extraordinary.”

“One of the most rewarding aspects of my role is thanking Lawrentians for their investment in this university,” he said. “It means so much to this institution, and I think even more importantly to the students, generation after generation.”

Honoring outstanding alumni

Seven Lawrence alumni were honored during the Alumni Convocation with the annual Alumni Awards.

Jaime Nodarse Barrera ’05

Jaime Nodarse Barrera, a 2005 graduate, received the Marshall B. Hulbert Young Alumni Outstanding Service Award. She is the assistant vice president of development at Texas A&M Corpus Christi and has been involved with many community service groups including the Kiwanis Club, Habitat for Humanity and Goodwill at-risk youth mentoring. She also served as the interim director of marketing and interim director of communications, and helped to coordinate communications efforts and crisis management during Hurricane Harvey in August 2017.

Elizabeth R. Benson ’69

Elizabeth R. Benson, a 1969 graduate, received the Lucia Russell Briggs Distinguished Achievement Award. She is an expert in energy and international trade, with deep experience in issues ranging from the structure of electricity and natural gas markets to energy efficiency, renewable resources and climate change. She has operated a successful independent consulting practice since 2001.

Zoe Ganos M-D ’55

Zoe Ganos, a 1955 graduate of Milwaukee-Downer, received one of two Gertrude Breithaupt Jupp Outstanding Service Awards, presented to an alum of Lawrence or Milwaukee-Downer College who has provided outstanding service to Lawrence. She has been a teacher all her life, much of her time spent as an English as a Second Language teacher for the Milwaukee Public Schools. In addition to using her language skills, Ganos has served on the LUAA Board of Directors and volunteered weekly at the Traveler’s Aid Desk at Mitchell Field Airport in Milwaukee.

Todd A. Mahr ’79

Dr. Todd A. Mahr, a 1979 graduate, received the George B. Walter Service to Society Award. He is the director of pediatric allergy and clinical immunology at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse. He is also adjunct clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison.

Momodu E. Maligi ’04

Momodu E. Maligi, a 2004 graduate, received the Nathan M. Pusey Young Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award. He has been Sierra Leone’s minister for water resources since 2014, making him the youngest member of President Koiroma’s cabinet. Since his appointment, Maligi has overseen the reorganization of Sierra Leone’s water sector, rehabilitating damaged water facilities, bringing in private sector investors and changing the legal framework for water policy.

Chuck Merry ’57

Chuck Merry, a 1957 graduate, received the Presidential Award, presented to an alum whose leadership has contributed to the betterment of Lawrence University. A Milwaukee native, Merry has been a fixture at LU events since he moved back to Appleton in 1962. He has served on the school’s Legacy Circle National Council, the Athletics Advisory Committee and the Lawrence University Alumni Association Board of Directors. He chaired the LUAA Capital Campaign Liaison Group and served as a member of the LUAA Nominations and Awards Committee. He serves on the Lawrence Intercollegiate Athletic Hall of Fame Committee.

Joseph F. Patterson Jr. ’69

Joseph F. Patterson, a 1969 graduate, received one of the two Gertrude Breithaupt Jupp Outstanding Service Awards. He is a real estate management entrepreneur in greater New York City. He previously served one term on the LU Alumni Board of Trustees, and since 2000 has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the School of Visual Arts of NYC. Throughout his real estate career, Patterson has promoted diversity of students on college campuses and public high schools, creating support programs to ensure successful experiences and achievement for all students.

Something original

Kudos to Laura Caviani ’84, who gave the audience at Friday night’s Alumni Recital at Memorial Chapel a treat by performing one of her original pieces.

Caviani, a successful jazz pianist, composer and educator in Minneapolis, performed “Give Me Your Tired” with Max Wendt ’94 and Jim Guckenberg ’94.

It was part of a recital that saw numerous alumni from a wide range of graduating classes perform, a testament to the long and successful history of the Conservatory of Music.

Consider the numbers

Attendance over the weekend topped the 1,000 mark. That number includes alumni as well as family and friends who came along for the fun. Here are some attendance numbers from classes marking major milestones.

The Class of 1969, celebrating its 50th reunion, posted the highest number of attendees, fittingly hitting 69. Other notable numbers included the Class of 2009 (10th reunion) with 57; the Class of 1979 (40th reunion) with 53; the Class of 1994 (25th reunion) with 49, and the Class of 1964 (55th reunion) with 19.

Here are a few of our favorite photos from Reunion Weekend. For much more robust photo galleries from the weekend, click here.

Ed Berthiaume is director public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Well, that’s different: 4 ways campus has changed in 25 years

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

If you are a 1994 graduate returning for your 25th reunion this weekend, much has changed on the Lawrence campus. To keep you from mistakenly wandering into Chapman Hall, formerly Downer Commons, looking for lunch, we’re highlighting four notable changes here since news broke that Nelson Mandela was elected president, Friends debuted, and O.J. took that ride in the white Bronco (yes, that was all 25 years ago).

Photo of Warch Campus Center.

1) A shiny new campus hub. Warch Campus Center is, without question, phenomenal. You will most definitely want to take a look inside as it’s much more than just a dining hall. Built in 2009, it’s become a centerpiece of campus, home to two dining facilities, a movie theater, a campus store, meeting spaces of all shapes and sizes, and a must-see river view.

Photo of Briggs Hall.
Photo of Steitz and Youngchild Halls.

2) New places to learn. Two new buildings transformed the academic spaces on campus two decades ago. Briggs Hall, overlooking the Fox River, was built in 1997 to house instruction in mathematics and social sciences. Three years later, Science Hall was built, replacing Stephenson Hall of Science. It would be renamed Steitz Hall of Science in 2010. Both are worth a tour while you’re on campus.

Photo of Hiett Hall.

3) A new place to live. Hiett Hall, the most modern of the residence halls on campus, was built in 2003. Like Briggs, it is built into the hill on the north side of the river. It’s the only residence hall with suite-style living quarters. Many of our alumni visitors will be staying there this weekend.

Photo of SLUG gardens at the bottom of a green hill.

4) A garden for growing knowledge … and vegetables. You’ll find SLUG (Sustainable Lawrence University Garden) along Lawe Street, just east of the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center. It’s a living, breathing outdoor classroom, with lessons in sustainability, conservation, geosciences and so much more. Take a walk through the gardens to see the wonders of the earth being well tended.

Noticing other differences as you make your way around campus? Let us know how things have changed in our social media comments!

A helpful guide to Reunion Weekend: Reconnecting and so much more

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Welcome home, Lawrentians.

We’re talking to you, alumni — in particular those of you who have signed up for Lawrence University’s 2019 Reunion Weekend. Nearly 800 of you will be back on campus this weekend, retracing old memories, reconnecting with friends and mentors and embracing new experiences.

We have drafted a helpful guide to hopefully get you excited about your return to campus. This isn’t the actual Reunion Weekend guide — the official booklet with a full itinerary will be handed out upon arrival or is accessible online — but we’ve pulled together some highlights, some tips to help you enjoy your stay in Appleton and some reminders of things that may have changed since you were last here.

If you’re on campus this weekend (June 13-16), we hope our guide will help you wrap your head around all the possibilities. If you chose to sit this one out, we hope it’ll get you thinking about next year. The light is always on.

Ready for a tour of campus? Much will be familiar, but if you haven’t been here in a while, much has changed. An official tour is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Consider the possibilities

There are dozens of activities, classroom sessions, gathering points, photo ops available during Reunion Weekend. You can’t hit ’em all. But here are 10 to get the conversation started.

1) Alumni College, all day Friday, multiple locations. One of the great draws of Reunion Weekend is the chance to engage in smart conversation on significant topics, led by faculty and/or alumni with expertise. This year’s topics range from The Great Migration and Chicago’s Bronzeville Neighborhood to climate change, Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, and The Beatles, among others. See a full listing on the Lawrence website.

2) Alumni Pride Reception, 4:30 p.m. Friday, Diversity and Intercultural Center, Memorial Hall. This is the third annual reception, but this one comes with some news. It’ll be co-hosted by the Faculty/Staff Pride Group and the newly formed Lawrence University Pride Alumni Network. The latter is a new initiative. Look for conversations about it at the reception and more detailed info to be released in late summer or early fall.

3) Supper club-style dining, 6-8 p.m. Friday, Warch Campus Center. We can’t take you all out to a supper club, but we can bring the supper club to you. Think fish fry, prime rib, and a full salad bar. Embrace your Wisconsin self, and save room for dessert.

4) Alumni Recital, 8 p.m. Friday, Memorial Chapel. A whole lot of talented musicians have come through the Conservatory of Music. Some will put their skills on display for fellow alums, including Karen Leigh-Post ’79 (mezzo soprano), Laura Caviani ’84 (jazz piano and vocals), and Kirsten Lies-Warfield ’94 (trombone).

5) Viking Room, cash bar, after 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Memorial Hall. This is the 50th anniversary of the VR opening as a bar. It was an on-campus hangout before that, but it didn’t become a full-service bar accessible to those of drinking age until the spring of 1969. Perhaps you carved your name into one of the booths all those years ago. Or bartending was part of your student work experience. Or you’re hankering for one of the VR’s specialty drinks (a Lawrentian, anyone?). Cheers to your return.

6) Parade of Classes, 10:30 a.m. Saturday. It’s a march into Memorial Chapel for the 11 a.m. Reunion Convocation. The Convocation, complete with this year’s Alumni Awards, is always cool. But being able to walk in as a class, that’s even cooler.

7) All-Reunion Picnic, noon Saturday, in the plaza between Wriston Art Center and Seeley G. Mudd Library. We all love a good picnic. Food and a cash bar will be available. And, we think, a balloon artist of impressive skill.

8) Boom! book discussion, led by history professor Jerald Podair, 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Harper Hall, Music-Drama Center. This is courtesy of the 50th reunion of the Class of 1969 because, well, they lived it. Boom, written by Tom Brokaw, explores the transitional events of the ’60s. That’s a sweet spot for Podair, who is all over 20th Century American history.

9) Alumni of Color Reception, 2:30-4 p.m. Saturday, Diversity and Intercultural Center, Memorial Hall. Hosted by Kimberly Barrett, vice president for diversity and inclusion and associate dean of the faculty, this marks a first-time event at Reunion Weekend.

10) Campus Tour, led by a current Lawrence student, 2:30 p.m. Saturday, departing from Alice G. Chapman Hall. If it’s been a while since you were here, you’ll want to be on this tour. Much has changed (see below).

Looking for best places on campus to take a photo? We’ve got that covered.

Hiett Hall is among the campus building additions in the past two decades.

Well, that’s different

If you are a 1994 graduate returning for the 25th anniversary, much has changed on the Lawrence campus. To keep you from mistakenly wandering into Chapman Hall, formerly Downer Commons, looking for lunch, we’re highlighting four notable changes here since news broke that Nelson Mandela was elected president, Friends debuted, and O.J. took that ride in the white Bronco (yes, that was all 25 years ago).

1) A shiny new campus hub. Warch Campus Center is, without question, phenomenal. You will most definitely want to take a look inside as it’s much more than just a dining hall. Built in 2009, it’s become a centerpiece of campus, home to two dining facilities, a movie theater, a campus store, meeting spaces of all shapes and sizes, and a must-see river view.

2) New places to learn. Two new buildings transformed the academic spaces on campus two decades ago. Briggs Hall, overlooking the Fox River, was built in 1997 to house instruction in mathematics and social sciences. Three years later, Science Hall was built, replacing Stephenson Hall of Science. It would be renamed Steitz Hall of Science in 2010. Both are worth a tour while you’re on campus.

3) A new place to live. Hiett Hall, the most modern of the residence halls on campus, was built in 2003. Like Briggs, it is built into the hill on the north side of the river. It’s the only residence hall with suite-style living quarters. Many of our alumni visitors will be staying there this weekend.

4) A garden for growing knowledge … and vegetables. You’ll find SLUG (Sustainable Lawrence University Garden) along Lawe Street, just east of the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center. It’s a living, breathing outdoor classroom, with lessons in sustainability, conservation, geosciences and so much more. Take a walk through the gardens to see the wonders of the earth being well tended.

The Rock, freshly painted green by the Class of 2019, sits in front of Main Hall.
The Rock, freshly painted by the Class of 2019, sits in front of Main Hall.

Bonus on-campus attraction I: The Rock is here. No, not The Rock of Hollywood fame, although that would be fun, too. We’re talking about the 2-ton boulder that has been hauled, carved, moved, hidden, buried, lost, returned and painted since its initial arrival on campus in 1895. The Rock now rests in front of Main Hall, and for the first time will soon have signage that speaks to its significance as part of Lawrence’s long and deep history. Pay it a visit. Paint it if you’d like.

Bonus on-campus attraction II: Bees are our friends. In your walks across campus, you’ll find a couple of hexagon-shaped bee houses, one near Main Hall and one in the SLUG gardens, and an observational honey bee hive visible from the fourth floor of Warch. We love our bees and embrace their important roles in our ecosystem. There’s a reason Lawrence was just given a Bee Campus USA designation by the Xerces Society. If you’re sticking around until Sunday, there will be an official unveiling of the observation hive at 10 a.m., followed by a pollination-themed picnic at 10:30 a.m. on the Main Hall lawn. All are welcome.

Reminder: Share your experience while on campus by using the hashtag #LUReunion

A view of Houdini Plaza and the Trout Museum of Art in the heart of downtown Appleton.
Houdini Plaza and the adjacent Trout Museum of Art are a few blocks west of campus.

Things to do nearby

Lawrence is, of course, part of Appleton’s downtown. If you want to explore a little while here, you’re in luck. The timing is fortuitous for these four possibilities:

1) Downtown Appleton Farm Market: One of the most robust farmers markets in the state takes over College Avenue in the heart of the downtown from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays during the summer. It makes its 2019 outdoor debut this weekend.

2) Houdini Plaza concert: The plaza serves as an outdoor gathering spot in the center of the downtown. If you are in town on Thursday, check out the weekly Heid Music summer concert from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Ask Your Mother, a popular regional band, will perform.

3) Fox Cities Performing Arts Center: If you haven’t been here in 25 years, well, you’ve missed one of the most significant developments in Appleton. The Fox Cities PAC opened along College Avenue in the city’s downtown in late 2002. It now hosts touring Broadway productions, concerts and a myriad of other arts offerings. If you want to check it out, area musicians will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in a Tribute to Maury Laws. The noted composer and arts advocate, who lived in Appleton, died earlier this year at age 95.

4) Trout Museum of Art: The former Appleton Art Center transformed into the Trout Museum of Art in 2010. Located adjacent to Houdini Plaza, it regularly features both touring exhibits and art from its own permanent collection. Its newest exhibit, Fifteen Minutes: Homage to Andy Warhol, opens on Saturday and runs through late August. It’s open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Lawrence celebrates Class of 2019: “Don’t let fear of failure kill your joy”

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Well done, Lawrence University Class of 2019.

More than 330 graduates received their diplomas Sunday morning in a Commencement ceremony on the Main Hall green.

Faculty Marshal Kathy Privatt led the march across College Avenue for an outdoor ceremony replete with pomp, circumstance and tradition, along with a colorful assortment of umbrellas and rain gear. A light but steady rain did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of what David Blowers ’82, chair of the Board of Trustees, called the “high point of the academic year.”

President Mark Burstein praised the senior class for a myriad of contributions to Lawrence, for setting a tone of compassion and empathy on campus and always exhibiting a desire to learn and grow.

“In a time when community is such a scarce commodity and people of different backgrounds and views are likely to argue, compete, or ignore each other, you came together to learn, to celebrate, and to struggle, as one community, with the issues that face Lawrence, this country, and the world,” he said.

See a livestream replay of the Lawrence Commencement ceremony and other 2019 Commencement Weekend events here.

Jordyn Pleiseis delivers her senior class speech during Commencement.
Jordyn Pleiseis delivers her senior class speech during Commencement.

Burstein said the heart and drive of the Class of 2019 is wonderfully represented in Jordyn Pleiseis, who the graduates chose to be their senior class speaker.

“Jordyn has left her mark on Lawrence in ways both physical, like the mural that adorns the Wellness Center that she helped install as an ally of native students, and ineffable, like the connections and supportive environment she fosters,” Burstein said. “Jordyn also speaks of the wonderful dynamic among Lawrence students both inside and outside of the classroom. You are friends, sharing fun and support, and you are also colleagues, learning from one another’s insight and experiences.”

Commencement speaker Lee Shallat Chemel ’65, a longtime theater and television director who worked behind the scenes on some of the most beloved TV shows of the past 35 years, implored the graduates to embrace their liberal arts education, to be OK with uncertainty and to never let the fear of failure zap their creative energies. Her Lawrence education, she told them, has been a guiding light for more than four decades of beautiful chaos.

“You chose a liberal arts education; you chose to keep your horizon wide, to explore a broad range of cultural and intellectual content,” she said. “You can adapt, improvise, synthesize. You can handle a world that is a bit chaotic.”

Pleiseis, an anthropology major, told her classmates they are deserving of today’s accolades, a four-year journey full of hard work and perseverance finally coming to fruition.

“We made our mark on this place, just as much as this place made its mark on us,” she said.

Watch a replay of Jordyn Pleiseis’ Commencement speech here.

Chemel’s story

Lee Shallat Chemel, on stage, addresses the Lawrence graduates during her Commencement speech.
Lee Shallat Chemel addresses the Lawrence graduates during her Commencement speech.

Chemel, whose directing credits include stints with Murphy Brown, Northern Exposure, Arrested Development, Gilmore Girls, Hannah Montana, and The Middle, among many others, told the graduates she made bold leaps of faith along her journey, jumping from teaching to acting to theater directing to TV sitcoms and dramas. There was never a promise of success at any step in the process, only the prospect of a worthy challenge and the knowledge that she had a strong liberal arts education to lean on.

She never stopped learning.

Chemel said some of her most profound life lessons came from her darkest days. She said firings and failures at one point had her so focused on not screwing up that she could no longer find joy in her work. Her creativity quickly waned.

She told the story of working on an episode of Gilmore Girls that was going so badly that production came to a halt — so badly that she and star Lauren Graham laughed until they cried.

“Then I suddenly stopped myself,” Chemel said. “I shouldn’t be laughing. The scene isn’t working. … Lauren said, ‘What’s up?’ I looked at her and said, ‘Oh, I just got caught off-guard being happy.’ … And from there we laughed our way back into rehearsing; the scene started to unlock itself. It got funny.

“I’d been painting myself into a corner of seriousness in order to keep failure at bay. Don’t do that. Let joy and spontaneity exist side by side. … Don’t let fear of failure kill your joy.”

Burstein encouraged the graduates to take Chemel’s message of perseverance and career nimbleness to heart as they take that next step, embracing life after Lawrence with a mixture of promise and uncertainty.

“Perhaps her example will help as you, the Class of 2019, set out on the path that begins today,” he said. “You have already raised our expectations for what is possible. We count on your talent, your work, your leadership to move us forward.”

Watch a replay of Lee Chemel’s Commencement speech here.

Lawrence University Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Kodat announces the faculty award for Marcia Bjornerud (left) during Sunday’s Commencement ceremony on the Main Hall green.

Awards and farewells

Two long-serving tenured faculty members — psychology professor Bruce Hetlzer and voice professor Kenneth Bozeman — were honored during the ceremony as they retire, each having taught at Lawrence for more than four decades. See details here.

Three faculty awards were announced during the ceremony. Music professor Erin Lesser received the Excellence in Teaching Award, Director of Jazz Studies Jose Encarnacion received the Excellent Teaching by an Early Career Faculty Member Award, and geology professor Marcia Bjornerud received the Excellence in Scholarship or Creative Activity Award. See details here.

For more photos from Sunday’s 2019 Commencement, click here.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@postcrescent.com

Say cheese: 9 best places to snap a photo on campus

Whether you’re celebrating an achievement, reminiscing on your college days, or visiting campus for the first time, capturing an iconic photo is a must-do before leaving campus. These are the photos that will grace the walls of your parents’ hallways, become your phone wallpaper, and serve as your most-liked Instagram posts.

That’s why we put together this list of the nine best places to snap a photo on campus, so you can capture and share the joy you feel on our gorgeous campus.

Photo of Memorial Chapel on a sunny day with green grass and blue sky.
  1. Memorial Chapel

Starting with the obvious, the stairs of Memorial Chapel serve as an excellent location for capturing cherished memories. Built in 1918, the building has hosted many events including concerts by classic artists such as Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald (find a Spotify playlist here featuring some of the songs performed on the Chapel stage) and speakers like Maya Angelou.

Photo tip: The steps make for an especially good option for group shots and jumping pictures. For a stunning close-up, have the subject stand on the grass in front of the Chapel and take a photo from the sidewalk to get the full Chapel in the background.

The font side of Main Hall.

2. Main Hall seals

Constructed in 1853, Main Hall is the oldest standing building on campus, and therefore, the most iconic. On the street-facing side of the building, you’ll find the official seals of Lawrence College, Milwaukee-Downer College, and Lawrence University. Snap a picture here in front of the iconic Main Hall pillars to honor the history of Lawrence and the Lawrentians who’ve called it home.

South-facing side of Main Hall featuring a sundial above the door.

3. The Sundial

On the other side of Main Hall, you’ll find a sundial adorning the building above the stairs. The Merrill Hall Sundial was transferred to Lawrence as a gift of the Milwaukee-Downer class of 1932 in 1973, and was formally installed and dedicated on the south face of Main Hall in 1975. Not only does it tell time, but it also offers a unique backdrop for your photos with a built-in timestamp.

Photo of the Project 562 mural on the exterior wall of the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center featuring a pink and yellow sunset with photos of local tribal members in traditional regalia overlaying the sun.
Photo of colorful mural located in downtown Appleton, Wisconsin featuring a wolf in a boat, a fox on a bike, and other personified creatures in action.

4. Murals

Lawrence and Appleton are brimming with creative murals that capture the culture and artsy nature of the community. Our new “Indigenize Education” mural by Project 562 on the Wellness Center wall is a good option for an especially powerful photo. You can also take a short jaunt down College Ave. to find colorful backgrounds.

Sign on the corner of campus that reads "Lawrence University. Founded in 1847."

5. Lawrence University sign

A gift from the Class of 1960, the Lawrence University sign on the corner of Drew St. and College Ave. offers one of the only photo opportunities that includes the name of the University. Lean against the sign or take a seat on top! When you gram that perfect picture, don’t forget to tag @LawrenceUni or hashtag #LarryU so we can see your masterpiece.

Photo of Main Hall through the glass walkway of the Conservatory.

6. Conservatory walkway

There’s something inviting about the way the glass opens up at the top of the stairs. Snap a picture here to celebrate the omnipresent musicality so essential to the Lawrence experience. For a shot with Main Hall in the background, take a picture through the walkway with the camera pointed south. If you’re feeling extra edgy, you can try to capture a reflection photo off the glass.

Photo of Aerial Landscape Sculpture which consists of three large yellow arches outside of the Wriston Art Gallery.

7. Aerial landscape sculpture

By the late Rolf Westphal, Lawrence’s first Frederick R. Layton Distinguished Visiting Professor in Studio Art, “Aerial Landscape” can be found outside the Wriston Art Center. Originally installed in 1988, this bright trio of yellow arched structures have become a recognizable landmark on campus. Stand or sit under the arches for this beautiful shot.

A large boulder freshly painted green reads "Class of 2019" and sits in front of Main Hall.

8. The Rock

Often freshly painted for upcoming events, The Rock has been a Lawrence icon, above and below ground, for over 100 years. Brought to campus as a hiking souvenir by seniors in 1895 and buried by the Class of 1967 for 19 years, The Rock went missing from 1998 to 2018. A podcast, “No Stone Unturned” by Sarah Axtell ’17 and Jon Hanrahan ’16, documents their search for The Rock. (**Spoiler Alert: They found it.**) With a storied history such as this, The Rock not only makes for an interesting photo, but comes with tons of caption potential.

Word to the Wise: You never do know how fresh the paint may be, so be careful when taking a seat on The Rock.

A clock face sits atop a green pole on a concrete platform with the library in the background.

9. The Clock

A gift from the Class of 1995, this clock is a beloved and recognized spot on campus by the many Lawrentians who passed it daily on the way to class. The platform offers the chance to get off the ground and take a photo with either the library or Steitz/Youngchild in the background.

Have other favorite places to snap photos on/near campus? Let us know in the social media comments. Regardless of where you take your iconic Lawrence photos, please tag @lawrenceuni or #LarryU when you post them so we can marvel at (and maybe even repost) your dazzling pictures!


Lee Chemel: Commencement speaker on her spark for the arts, early struggles and working with TV’s biggest stars

Lee Chemel

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lee Shallat Chemel ’65 has been doing a fair bit of soul searching.

Since graduating from Lawrence University 54 years ago, Chemel has forged an impressive career as a director, first in theater and then in television — a 10-year stint as a conservatory director at South Coast Repertory in Orange County, California, eventually led to a more than three-decade run working behind the scenes on some of the most iconic shows in TV history.

Now she returns to Lawrence as the 2019 Commencement speaker on Sunday, June 9, ready to impart insight and wisdom drawn from a professional career that she says has everything to do with the liberal arts education she received at Milwaukee-Downer College and then Lawrence.

“It’s forced me to investigate my entire life,” she said with a laugh. “It’s been a fascinating experience.”

She’ll be joined at the Lawrence Commencement ceremony by her husband, David, and her daughter, Lizzy. Her son, Tucker, won’t be able to make it.

Details on 2019 Commencement, related events

19 things to know about Lawrence’s 2019 Commencement

Without stealing from her Commencement speech —no spoiler alerts here — we chatted with Chemel, an English major as an undergraduate, about her journey, her deep affection for Lawrence and why she has a special fondness for Michael J. Fox, Lauren Graham and Jason Bateman.

On how Milwaukee-Downer and Lawrence — she was part of the first Downer class to merge with Lawrence, spending her first three years in Milwaukee and her senior year in Appleton — lit a fire in her for the arts and planted the seed that a career in the arts might be possible: 

“My path to theater happened because of Lawrence. And that’s kind of significant. I never thought I would ever enter the arts of any kind as a way to live. Being a woman who was brought up in the ’40s and then the ’50s, I didn’t even foresee that possibility for myself. 

“I grew up in very modest circumstances, five people in a one-bedroom apartment when I was young. I didn’t have big dreams of anything except going to college. That was a big deal to me. I loved my teachers, so I thought I really want to teach. I never had the dream of doing anything in the arts. It didn’t seem like it would be practical enough. It just never occurred to me that that would be something I would do.”

On seeing her first theater production at Lawrence, a staging of Macbeth directed by David Mayer III:

“I was just blown away by it. I had done some theater. I wasn’t one of those kids who did musicals and stuff in high school, but at Downer I had done theater. And I was just blown away by this production.”

On her early mentors in theater at Lawrence, Mayer and Ted Cloak:

“When I got to Lawrence, I decided I would take an acting class from Ted Cloak, who was probably one of the best acting teachers I have ever had, even including the three years I spent with Duncan Ross (in a professional acting program in Seattle) and all these other fabulous people. But Ted Cloak was a wonderful acting teacher, and he loved theater and understood it, and the productions they did, they were just phenomenal.

“I really believe that because of David Mayer and Ted Cloak, I found that theater was more than I thought it was. I really loved it although I still didn’t buy the idea of it as a career at that point. But I became much closer to that idea. Lawrence opened my eyes completely to the richness of the arts, particularly the theater and the film arts. It was remarkable what an influence it had on me.”

On making the transition from Milwaukee-Downer to Lawrence:

“I was only at Lawrence for one year. But it was a year that was packed with amazing things for me. Downer was a very good school in that the professors there were kind of radical. … They were sharp people. They radicalized me politically. Got me involved in the Civil Rights movement. Linus Pauling came to talk with us, Upton Sinclair. It was amazingly rich for a tiny, tiny school. But Lawrence took that and just broadened it – everything became broadened and deepened.”

On ditching her teaching career for theater after she and then-husband Phil Shallat moved to Seattle so he could study theater in graduate school:

“I was teaching high school there. … He said, there’s a new thing they’re doing (at the University of Washington School of Drama), a professional acting training program. I said, wow, that is so cool. Meanwhile, I had applied to teach at a terrific private school there. … But Phil suggested I also audition for that M.F.A. program. And I did, just on a lark. And on the same week, I got an acceptance into the (acting) program and an offer for my total dream teaching job. I held those two envelopes up and went back and forth and said, oh, heck, I’m going to do the acting thing. It was a whim almost.”

On her forays into acting after earning a master’s in fine arts from Washington’s Professional Actor Training Program:

“I acted in Seattle, but I knew somewhere in my head that acting, I just didn’t have a tremendous passion for it. I liked it. I loved doing it. But it wasn’t complete for me. I wasn’t secure with it or something.”

On her introduction to directing:

“I moved away from Seattle and down to San Francisco and then I got a job at South Coast Repertory in 1975, and they didn’t hire me for acting but they hired me to teach in the conservatory. And that led me to teaching at the colleges around there, so I was kind of cobbling together a bunch of teaching jobs but then what happened is Orange Coast College said we don’t have the money for you to teach next quarter but do you want to direct a play? So, I directed The Rivals, an 18th Century English play that I really liked. And I fell in love with directing right then and there.”

On embracing and thriving as a theater director, earning five L.A. Drama Critics Awards along the way:

“It all happened through my education in a way. If I hadn’t had the background of this liberal arts education I wouldn’t have been able to make a living doing the teaching part while I searched for what finally struck home for me — the directing.”

On turning to TV directing in the mid-1980s:

“That was another leap. That was like a crazy leap where I was now a resident director at South Coast Repertory. … I’d done some good directing, a lot of directing, to the point where in L.A., I had a little bit of a name. There weren’t a lot of women directing in theater then. 

“But I began to wish sometimes in productions I directed that I could do a close up. That sort of made me realize, maybe you really need to look at film. I applied to the AFI, the American Film Institute; they had a program for helping women get into film. But I didn’t get accepted. I continued to direct in L.A., and my friend Joe Stern, who was a producer on Law and Order, knew TV people as well as theater people. He said, Gary Goldberg has this new show called Family Ties. He’s looking for a woman director because there was some pressure at the time to start hiring women. You can see how far that got after 35 years.

“He said he wants someone who was good with actors, not just technical. I went in and I met Gary Goldberg, and he liked me, and we were the same age, so that was cool. He said, come in and observe. … So, after almost 10 years (at South Coast), I just quit. I had no idea if this was going to take me anywhere or whether I would succeed or not. I just moved up to L.A. and started observing on Family Ties, and I remember I was observing that show from August until, I think, October. … I started borrowing money from my boyfriend, … and then finally on the schedule my name came up for a show in February. So that’s how it all started.”

On how difficult the transition to TV proved to be:

“I think I did six to eight episodes of Family Ties. But not all before I moved on. That year I did one, then the next year I did two. Family Ties people knew me before I stepped up and they were there to support me because I’d been observing there and they were kind to someone just starting out. You go to other shows and they don’t know that. They just know that you don’t know what you’re doing yet. So those are tough times. Part of my speech is how tough it was. You get a few episodes and you try to develop. … You try to get as many gigs as you can and hopefully make a good impression so they’ll ask you back. What I realized is it takes 10 years to be good at that. And we were live-cutting shows. That was really, really hard.

“I had the support of knowing that I was educated. And that sounds weird, but it was actually quite significant to me that I knew things. I knew I could analyze a script, I knew that I could understand things. I could communicate well, I understood tone, I understood people. I was older than a lot of people who start. So, I had lived some life, too. And these were the things that buoyed me up during these very tough times.”

On highlights of a career that would include directing and/or producing work on Murphy Brown, Spin City, Northern Exposure, Arrested Development, Gilmore Girls, and The Middle, among others:

“Murphy Brown was certainly a big jump up for me. That’s when my agent finally talked somebody into getting me onto what you’d call a real major show. Working with such good writers. … And once I had Murphy Brown under my belt, that got me an Emmy nomination, and, all of a sudden, I was kind of accepted. I was brought into the club, I guess you could say.”

On her latest work, a nine-year run as director on The Middle:

“I got to be full-time on that for nine years, and we all became a family. That was a wonderful experience.”

On directing Michael J. Fox, first on Family Ties and later on Spin City, when, unbeknownst to most, he was beginning his battle with Parkinson’s disease:

“Michael J. Fox, I love to talk about him. Initially, Family Ties was supposed to be about two hippie parents who all of a sudden discovered that their kids are conservative. It was that reversal thing. But here comes this guy playing the conservative son who likes Nixon and stuff, and he was so funny and so inventive, and what happens in comedy is that the writers want their jokes to sail, so they start writing for that guy because he’s so good. All of a sudden, the show flipped, because Michael was so damn funny it became more centered on him. He became the star of the show.

“Michael is an interesting guy. He plays the comedy so well and it was a delight to watch him develop and sail, and you take good writers and then you take this great young actor and you watch it as they just start feeding each other. That was quite a wonderful thing to see. I loved watching that.

“Then I got to work with him on Spin City for a whole year in New York. And that’s when I learned that he had Parkinson’s. Nobody knew about it except me and Gary Goldberg because they didn’t want to make it public yet. And it was very challenging for Michael. But he was ever wonderful and I admire him so much.”

On working with Lauren Graham on Gilmore Girls, first as a director, then as an executive producer:

“Lauren Graham and I became friends during that last season on Gilmore Girls. It was very challenging because Amy Sherman-Palladino, the creator of the show, went away and that took the heart of the writing with it. Now she’s doing The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and she’s a brilliant writer. But here we were with a whole year to do the final season of the show; the actors and writers worked incredibly hard to keep the tone of the show consistent. That is a very hard thing to do when for all previous years, Amy had written most of the scripts. Bless those writers and Lauren, they did a phenomenal job.”

On her respect for Jason Bateman, who she directed on Arrested Development:

“I love Jason Bateman. I adore him. Jason and I did a few pilots together before Arrested Development. A lot of the network people thought he was going to be or should be the next Michael J. Fox. But he wasn’t, that wasn’t Jason’s humor.

“I think he went through some real struggles, and then all of a sudden Mitch Hurwitz writes this brilliant series called Arrested Development and it taps into the real place where Jason can shine. I was so happy for him because it validated him, and now he’s got a great, great career. And he’s the nicest guy in the world and he was just very lovely to work with always.” 

On whether last year’s series finale of The Middle means the end of her career:

“I don’t know. I did the pilot for a spinoff from The Middle this fall, with the Sue character. It didn’t get picked up. I wrote a note to my agents and said, I’m not dead yet. But I don’t know. I feel maybe it’s time to give back again and do some other things. I’m at a crossroads, but I’ll see what comes up next season.”

On returning to Lawrence while not knowing what comes next:

“I’m like the graduates in a way. What am I going to do now? I just want to be open to stuff. I feel like I am in an interesting place in my life.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Bill Perreault, retired Lawrence biology professor, dies at age 81

William “Bill” Perreault

William “Bill” Perreault, a biology professor who spent 35 years on the Lawrence University faculty before retiring in 2006, passed away on Saturday. He was 81.

Perreault began his career at Lawrence in 1971. At the time of his retirement, he said he still relished the challenge of trying to coordinate molecular techniques with microscopy techniques and the interplay between them in search of a better understanding of how cells work.

When Lawrence was planning its new Science Hall in the late 1990s, Perreault personally designed the plans for the building’s microscopy suite. Over the years, he individually tutored more than 100 students — and a few faculty colleagues along the way — on the finer points of using either Lawrence’s transmission electron microscope or the scanning electron microscope.

“I’m extremely proud of that,” Perreault had said of his work with the TEM and SEM.

Before arriving at Lawrence, Perreault spent seven years in the U.S. Army, reaching the rank of captain. Two of his years in the service were spent as a microbiologist at the U.S. Army Biological Laboratories at Fort Detrick in Maryland.

Originally from Cohoes, N.Y., an upstate mill town near Albany, Perreault often served as the biology department’s “welcoming face.” He taught the introductory course Principles of Biology for 33 of his 35 years. He said he took particular joy in teaching it because the course attracted many students from disciplines outside of the sciences.

“I like to think part of my legacy will be the sheer number of students who received an understanding of the beautiful science of biology because they took my intro class,” Perreault said.

From the archives: William “Bill” Perreault is seen here in his biology lab in 1982.

Perreault and his wife, Marvia, were married for 56 years and have four children, Bill, Michele, Melanie, and John. Michele ’90 and Melanie ’90 are Lawrence alumni.

Known for both his academic work with cells and his infectious enthusiasm — not to mention a legendary sense of humor — Perreault was not one to cheat life.

“He lived a life full of love, travel and bad pranks,” his family wrote in his obituary.

No public memorial services are planned.

“A private memorial gathering with family will be scheduled at a later date,” the obituary reads. “In the meantime, in his memory, take that trip you have been putting off.”

Religious studies grad finds her calling in an Appleton elementary classroom

Michelle Gibson '17 works at a table with a second-grader at Lincoln Elementary School in Appleton.
Michelle Gibson works with a student in her second-grade classroom at Appleton’s Lincoln Elementary School.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Michelle Gibson ’17 had visions of being a religious studies professor.

She arrived at Lawrence University six years ago as a first-year student enamored with the idea of teaching about life’s mysteries, about how our human qualities make us more alike than different despite our cultural and faith histories and how a thirst for learning can lead us to the inner peace we crave.

Today, nearly two years after graduating as a religious studies major, Gibson is indeed teaching those principles she holds so dear. But the students staring back at her, well, they’re a little younger than the college students she once envisioned.

Welcome to Appleton’s Lincoln Elementary School, where Gibson is a second-grade teacher, one year removed from a year-long apprenticeship program that provided a different path to the classroom than most of her teaching peers.

It turns out Gibson’s journey through Lawrence ignited a new spark, one that called her to the elementary classroom. And the launching of an apprentice partnership between Lawrence and the Appleton Area School District proved to be ideal timing, providing the opportunity she was looking for.

Gibson became one of the first two graduates of the Teacher Education Apprenticeship Program, and on April 28 she was honored with the Early Career Education Award presented by the Wisconsin Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (WACTE). The award goes to teachers in their first three years of teaching who are already making an impact.

It was during Gibson’s sophomore year at Lawrence — her last name was Johnson then — that the seeds of a new career were first planted. She took a sociology of education course that brought her into a kindergarten classroom during her practicum.

“I realized that when I was in that classroom, that was when I felt the most at home and actually felt happy,” she said. “I wasn’t stressed. It was almost like a release for me to go hang out with those kids.”

Michelle Gibson sits on the floor with some of her second-grade students during a class project at Lincoln Elementary School.
Michelle Gibson ’17, in her first year as a second-grade teacher in Appleton, was a religious studies major at Lawrence who used a one-year apprenticeship program as a path to her teaching certification.

But it wasn’t until the following year, when she took a philosophy of children class taught by Assistant Professor of Education Stephanie Burdick-Shepherd, that she was convinced the elementary classroom would indeed be her calling.

“That’s when I realized, oh my goodness, I need to teach,” Gibson said. “We were finding ways where you can pose these philosophical questions like you do in religious studies, but with children.”

In a religious studies college classroom, she figured she would mostly be speaking to students with a similar view of the world — “We are all human, we are all the same, we need to find the sameness within us to really come together as a world and as a community,” she said.

“Or I could go into an elementary classroom and be working with young students and really be helping them to see that truth and having those large philosophical conversations with them about the sameness within people and how as humans we are more alike than different, and how that can build community rather than divide us.”

That’s where the post-graduate apprenticeship program, a collaboration between Lawrence, the school district and the Mielke Family Foundation, pays dividends. It allows for undergraduates in any major at Lawrence to apply for admittance, giving them a one-year path to teacher certification as an elementary teacher.

“Our program is rare in the sense that, at its core, what we value most is the education of the liberal arts, that an education about learning to love and engage deeply in learning across disciplines and subject areas is the best preparation for teaching young children,” Burdick-Shepherd said. “The elementary school teacher teaches how to learn, and our students learn to teach learning in our elementary teacher certification program.”

Lawrence saw two graduates, Gibson being one of them, jump into the apprenticeship program in 2017. Another graduate is in the program this year and two more are lined up for next school year.

Burdick-Shepherd said her courses that are focused on working with young children are consistently full, and not just with students on a teaching path. And, as they did for Gibson, such courses might just light that fire.

“Michelle is a shining example of how someone who never saw themselves as an elementary teacher learns to recognize a call to change the world by working with young people,” Burdick-Shepherd said. “Michelle is one of LU’s outstanding alums. There was not a book you could throw at her that she wouldn’t read deeply. She wrote magnificently. A religious studies major, she traveled the world engaging deeply with other cultures and traditions.

“Michelle could do any job she wanted, but she chose to learn to teach. I think she chose this because she wanted to share her love of learning in the most impactful way she could.”

Gibson, who grew up in Minoqua, was one of two teachers honored by WACTE. The other is Dan Singer, a band teacher at Oshkosh West High School who has mentored eight student-teachers from Lawrence through the years.

Lawrence’s apprenticeship program, Gibson said, provided the guidance she needed to transition smoothly into an elementary teaching career.

“The apprenticeship, that’s when you really felt, OK, this is what teaching actually looks like,” she said. “This isn’t just reading from a textbook on what teaching looks like, this is actually what it looks and feels and smells and is like.”

She liked the full-year apprenticeship, as opposed to a one-semester student-teaching stint. It provided time to absorb, to adjust, and to ask questions.

“I knew I had an entire year to see where the kids grew, where they started off and where they ended, and I could even map my own growth alongside them,” Gibson said.

She also found her teaching style, her own pacing and methods of student interaction, heavily influenced by her liberal arts background. That’s an important thing, a base to build on.

“I could just start off with a very inquiring style of teaching,” she said.

“I had Lawrence modeling, that conversational style of teaching in the college setting, which was actually very easy to transition into a first- or second-grade room.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu