Kiese Laymon, the author of Heavy, a much-praised memoir that served as a recent community read across the Lawrence University campus, will deliver the school’s Winter Term Convocation address on Jan. 28.
His writing has been lauded for its richness in detail, its emotional complexity, and its honesty as Laymon lays bare his experiences growing up and making a life for himself as a Black man in America. He feels the forces of racism suffocating him while he navigates complex and often confounding family relationships and issues tied to abuse, body image, and addictive behavior.
Set for 11:15 a.m., the Convocation will be virtual due to the ongoing pandemic. Laymon’s recorded speech, The Radical Possibility and Democratic Necessity of Navel Gazing, will be followed by an interview hosted by Amy Ongiri, the Jill Beck Director of Film Studies and associate professor of film studies, and students Tania Sosa ’24 and Edwin Martinez ’24. That will be followed by an audience Q&A with Laymon, moderated by President Mark Burstein.
Laymon, a professor of English and creative writing at the University of Mississippi, recently released a new essay collection, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, an expanded and reworked version of an essay collection first released in 2013. It adds six essays and edits others from the initial release.
National Public Radio praised the new release, saying Laymon “takes on the messiness, richness, violence, and diversity of the South in his work, as well as the complex question of what it means to be Black and from Mississippi.” Jerald Walker of the New York Times called Laymon’s retooling of the essay collection a worthwhile undertaking “because by adding six rich new essays, deftly curating seven from the original book, and reworking the chronology, you have made a once solid collection superb.”
It was the release of Heavy in 2018 that first brought Laymon widespread acclaim. The memoir earned a bevy of literary honors, including winning the Christopher Isherwood Prize and being named a finalist for the Kirkus Prize and the Chautauqua Prize. Written as a communication to his mother, the book rips open and digs deep into layers of family pain, abuse, success, wisdom, passion, addiction, and fear, much of it grounded in his love-hate relationship with Jackson, Mississippi, where he grew up, fled, and eventually returned.
Lawrence faculty, students, staff, and alumni joined together for a recent community read. Many then explored the complexities of Heavy in a virtual book discussion held on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Music at the Convocation will include Genius Child, performed by Preston Parker ’23 and Mandy Kung, and Set Me as a Seal, performed by the Lawrence University Concert Choir with members of the Appleton East High School Easterners, under the direction of Associate Professor of Music Stephen Sieck. The link for the Jan. 28 Convocation can be found here.
The live webcast will be accessible to the public, but a recording of the event will not be made public.
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take the fight against structural racism beyond well-meaning committees and studies.
Don’t just speak out against crowded prisons and low-performing schools; commit to the work to end the conditions that result in crowded prisons and low-performing schools.
That is the hard message behind Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream, said Dr. Bettina L. Love, the keynote speaker Monday at the 30th annual Fox Cities Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, co-hosted by African Heritage Inc. and the Lawrence University Diversity and Intercultural Center.
“What structural changes are you willing to make?” said Love, author of We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom and an endowed professor at the University of Georgia. “You got all the reports, you got all the directors of initiatives and all this, and you know racism is in the system, and you know racism is stopping children from living and seeing their full potential, so what structural change are we going to make? Are we just going to keep having policies? Are we going to keep reporting out that the very places we work are racist? What are we going to do about it?”
The MLK Day Celebration is typically held in Lawrence’s Memorial Chapel, but the community event moved online this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Brittany Bell, assistant dean of students and director of the Diversity and Intercultural Center at Lawrence and co-chair of the Fox Cities Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee, helped take the event virtual.
“This is a time for us to come together in unity,” Bell said. “Let us remember Dr. King’s legacy. Together we can be the light that illuminates the darkness in our world and our communities and make a difference.”
At Lawrence, with no classes being held, the event followed a series of MLK Day virtual conversations, including a book talk focused on Heavy: An American Memoir, the powerful and emotional 2018 book by Kiese Laymon, discussions on anti-racist strategies and disability advocacy, and a Music for All concert. The sessions were organized and led by campus volunteers through the Center for Community Engagement and Social Change.
The evening event took the King remembrances beyond campus, with community-focused messages of fighting the very injustices that King gave his life for while also embracing and celebrating Black joy.
The pandemic, Love said, has only exacerbated and magnified the deeply ingrained racism in this country. As did the killing of George Floyd. As did the marches of white supremacists.
“To be a person of color in this country today is a state of exhaustion,” Love said. “To always be trying to figure out ways we can survive this place. I know the Creator did not put me here to survive, to merely survive. I was put here to thrive. So that’s why I wrote the book. We want to do more than survive. That is not living. Living in a world where you are constantly in survival mode is what’s killing us more than anything — white supremacy that puts us in a place where we are constantly just trying to make it, spiritually, physically, mentally, economically. We deserve more.”
Love reminded the audience that at the time of his death in 1968, King was focused on the ills of poverty. He was fighting for workers’ rights, living wages, affordable housing, and economic opportunities for all. He was waging a battle on behalf of the poor that has yet to come to fruition.
“Before Dr. King died, he was building one of the world’s most robust coalitions of poor folks, black folks, white folks, Asian folks, Latino folks, you name it, he was building a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-generational coalition … to think very deeply about how we make sure people living in the United States had a guaranteed income, a living wage, housing,” Love said. “That was what he was on at the end of his life.”
Continuing that fight is what being an Abolitionist is all about, said Love, who titled her talk, Abolitionist Life: Resistance, Creativity, Hip Hop Civics Ed, Intersectionality, & Black Joy.
“More than anything, King understood this,” she said. “The problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical distribution of political and economic power. That was his dream. We cannot sanitize it; we cannot water down King’s dream. His dream was to abolish poverty. His dream was to unite black folks and white folks and Latinx folks and indigenous folks, and everybody to create a world that understood if you want racial justice you better want economic justice. And we’re talking about a redistribution of wealth.
“King was about the abolishment of poverty. He was not trying to just give people a dollar here, a dollar there. He was trying to create structure that would ensure that nobody went hungry ever again. That is what abolition is about. It’s not about reform or reimagining. It’s about uprooting oppression.”
Love encouraged all to join that fight, to take it beyond good thoughts and supportive words.
“We do this work not wanting allies but wanting co-conspirators,” she said. “What have you done? What’s your work? That’s what a co-conspirator does. Put something on the line.”
To get there is a journey. Embrace that journey. Have a “radical imagination” and celebrate who you are, Love said.
“We have to do this work with joy,” she said. “We have to want to see Black folks win. It has to be more than just anger. There’s righteous rage, don’t get me wrong. But we also have to find the Black joy in this world. The work that says I want to be well, I want to work to be well.”
The 30th annual Fox Cities Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, co-hosted by African Heritage Inc. and the Lawrence University Diversity and Intercultural Center, will be held virtually on Jan. 18.
Typically held in Lawrence’s Memorial Chapel on the evening of MLK Day, the community event is moving online this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Those who would like to attend the virtual event will need to register in advance here. It’s set for 6 to 7:45 p.m.
“This upcoming MLK Day, it will be 30 years the Fox Cities has come together to honor Dr. King’s legacy and the dedication to racial equality,” said Dr. Brittany Bell, assistant dean of students and director of the Diversity and Intercultural Center at Lawrence and co-chair of the Fox Cities Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee. “Although the pandemic has changed how we celebrate this year, let us continue to come together in unity. The unrest in our nation has shown us we have lots of work to do.”
The keynote speaker will be Dr. Bettina L. Love, delivering the address, Abolitionist Life: Resistance, Creativity, Hip Hop Civics Ed, Intersectionality, & Black Joy.
Love, an award-winning author and the Athletic Association Endowed Professor at the University of Georgia, will discuss how intersectionality and Abolitionist teaching “creates a space where Black lives matter and sensibilities are nurtured to engage communities in the work of fighting for visibility, inclusion, and justice.” Her talk will end by calling on people to engage in critical dialogues about racial violence, oppression, and how to make sustainable change in our communities. She will challenge the audience to “envision a world built on Black joy, creativity, imagination, boldness, ingenuity, and the rebellious spirit and methods of Abolitionists.”
Music will be performed by Griot B, delivering Agitate: A Story Through Song.
There is no youth essay contest this year due to challenges posed by the pandemic. A book giveaway sponsored by Memorial Presbyterian Church in Appleton and the City of Appleton’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion will be announced as part of the event.
At Lawrence, the event will be preceded with a series of online educational opportunities focused on antiracism, hosted by the Center for Community Engagement. No classes will be held on the day, and students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to partake in the virtual presentations and discussions. The events include:
10 to 11 a.m.: A virtual book discussion will be held featuring Kiese Laymon’s Heavy: An American Memoir, a book selected as a community read for Lawrence. The discussion comes in advance of the Jan. 28 virtual convocation featuring Laymon. Find more information here.
1 to 2:30 p.m.: A disability policy and advocacy event is planned. Alexandra Chand ’21 and the Disability Working Group will lead a session about advocacy and lobbying for disability rights-related legislation. Participants will learn how to call and write to elected officials and examine pieces of relevant legislation at the state and federal level. A follow-up event will be planned. Find more information here.
2:45 to 4 p.m.: An antiracist solutions and strategies workshop will be hosted by Kye Harris ’21. The workshop will address the history of leadership, movements, and protests, and explore action plans for individuals, collectives, and institutions to combat discrimination in all forms. Find more information here.
4 to 5:10 p.m.: Music for All: MLK Concert is planned. Hosted by Jacob Dikelsky and Music for All, the virtual concert will highlight music of BIPOC composers. Find more information here.
All of the Lawrence events require advance registration. You can find more information here.
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: email@example.com
Lawrence University is mourning the death of John Koopman, the founder of Lawrence’s opera program and a longtime voice professor in the Conservatory of Music.
Koopman joined the faculty in 1960 and continued to teach until his retirement in 1994. He died Dec. 22 in Appleton at age 88.
“Professor John Koopman influenced generations of Lawrentians and created our wonderful opera program,” said Kenneth Bozeman, emeritus professor of music who worked with Koopman for more than a dozen years and maintained a friendship through the years. “We are so grateful for the immense impact he had on our Conservatory.”
Koopman served for many years as chair of the Voice Department.
He forged a second career following retirement, becoming a widely published opera journalist, with his writings appearing in publications around the world.
It was his deep love of opera that brought him to Lawrence more than 60 years ago and set him on his journey to create an opera program within the Conservatory, an endeavor that has since grown into the robust and renowned program it is today, led for the past seven years by Copeland Woodruff, the first director of opera studies in the program’s history.
“In the pioneering spirit of John Koopman and his legacy at Lawrence University, especially in founding an opera ensemble, we are dedicating this academic year’s productions to his memory,” Woodruff said. “Having to invent the wheel, again, because of the pandemic, by delving into film techniques, we can only imagine what it must have taken to forge a new theatrical ensemble when Mr. Koopman started the journey. Opera Studies at Lawrence stands on the shoulders of this passionate, kind, and talented maverick.”
Koopman was preceded in death by his wife of 57 years, Elizabeth Jane (Hayes) Koopman, who, after retiring from public education, ran Lawrence’s sight-singing program for many years as an adjunct faculty member. He also was preceded in death by his daughter, Ann Koopman. He is survived by two sons, William and James, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Nancy Marsh Stowe ’61, a beloved companion of recent years, said Koopman cherished his enduring relationship with Lawrence and the hundreds of students he taught and mentored through the years.
“Teaching was paramount for John, and he had a remarkable ability to connect with students, both personally and with regard to their voice development and potential,” she said. “He did not impose on them his vision for them, but encouraged them to find that for themselves and supported their choices.”
For those who worked with Koopman in the halls of the Conservatory, the memories are indelible. Bozeman called him “broadly educated, literate, erudite, and witty” and said sharing the stage with him was a joy.
“As a performer, John was a solid, stylish, serious singer, but also a hilarious comedic actor,” Bozeman said. “I both thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from performing with him in recital and concert. The prioritized attention he gave to expression, elegant diction, and compelling communication were exemplary for us all. His friendship, humanity, and wit will be fondly remembered and dearly missed.”
The family expects to hold a memorial celebration in Appleton later in 2021 and asks that if you wish to make a gift in John Koopman’s memory, please make it to the Lawrence Conservatory of Music.
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lawrence University is celebrating the many artistic and academic contributions of Robert Below, a retired piano professor who taught in the Conservatory of Music for 32 years before retiring in 1996.
He died Dec. 16 at home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was 86.
Besides being a force in the classroom, Below is being remembered as a prolific performer and composer.
“Robert’s virtuosic abilities as both a performer and educator inspired generations of Lawrentians,” said Brian Pertl, dean of the Conservatory.
In the classroom, Below taught nearly 1,200 Lawrence students. His teaching included piano studio work and classes in music history, literature of music, theory-analysis, and chamber music, among others.
His son, Andy Buelow ’84, now the executive director of the West Michigan Symphony, was among the Lawrence students Below inspired. He said his father found a welcoming home when he arrived at Lawrence in 1964, something he never took for granted.
“The university’s commitment to liberal arts was something in which he believed strongly, both for himself and his students,” Buelow said. “He felt that broader studies that included art, literature, history, theater, and the sciences would help them become better musicians and well-rounded human beings. He encouraged them not to spend their entire four years holed up in the music building.”
Buelow said he twice took classes taught by his father, both in music history.
“This is a memory I will always treasure — the opportunity to experience first-hand his amazing skills as a classroom teacher,” he said. “We, of course, spent a lot of time listening to recorded musical samples, but I still remember the day we were exploring 20th century piano literature and he sat down at the piano, without preamble or warm-up, and played the Copland Piano Sonata for the class. It was an unforgettable moment for us all.”
In addition to teaching, Below performed on stages in Appleton and across the United States, as well as in Europe and Latin America. He performed often with Lawrence colleagues and appeared as a concerto soloist with numerous orchestras, among them the Fox Valley Symphony and the San Francisco Symphony.
He also composed more than 50 works, many of which have been performed through the years by Lawrence ensembles.
His numerous anthems, hymns, and other sacred works were used at his beloved All Saints Episcopal Church in Appleton. His choral music has been performed at his alma mater, the University of Louisville, as well as by the Lawrence University Concert Choir.
He was selected as the winner of the 1990 Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Wisconsin Composers Fanfare Competition and he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the School of Music at the University of Louisville.
In his obituary, former student Priscilla Peterson Weaver ’68 spoke glowingly of Below’s commitment to music education.
“The combination of grace and artistry and humanity that lived in Robert and that he passed on in his trademark forceful manner to all his students was a joy to witness,” she said. “For those of us privileged enough to have Robert as a mentor, and not just an occasional teacher, the experience was a blessing of immeasurable worth.”
Below reveled in the arts, at Lawrence and elsewhere, the family said. Poetry, ballet, classical music, and jazz were sources of inspiration during and after his time at Lawrence, and he continued to play the piano into his final days.
He and his wife, Barbara, relocated to Albuquerque shortly after his retirement. She preceded him in death in May. Besides his son, he is survived by a daughter, Alison, of Albuquerque.
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: email@example.com
Three Lawrence University professors will be featured in AP Daily, a new series of video lectures aimed at supporting high school students taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses in the midst of the pandemic.
The College Board launched the ongoing virtual series on YouTube when the COVID-19 pandemic forced high schools to go to remote learning. The free series features college professors lecturing on topics of their choice tied to AP course material.
Lawrence’s Beth De Stasio, the Raymond H. Herzog Professor of Science and professor of biology, and Gustavo Fares and Rosa Tapia, both professors of Spanish, were invited to join the series. All three jumped at the chance.
“Each lecturer is asked to speak on material that extends the content of a particular unit of the course,” De Stasio said. “I immediately said, ‘Yes,’ because, frankly, I just love to teach and to facilitate learning.”
By the time they’re all launched, more than 200 videos will be included, providing support and flexibility to AP students studying remotely. The release dates are staggered to coincide with each curricular unit during the school year. De Stasio, Fares, and Tapia expect their videos to post in the coming weeks.
More than 8.5 million students have already watched the AP Daily videos, said Cathy Brigham, senior director of academic outreach at the College Board.
“These videos are available both behind a password-protected site called AP Classroom, which AP students and teachers manage in their in-class interactions,” she said. “But the videos are also available to the public on YouTube. On YouTube alone, the videos from higher education faculty have been viewed over 34,500 times for the first four units of AP courses. We are launching videos in sequence with when students are experiencing that content live in their classrooms, and so the number of videos will grow over time.”
De Stasio and Tapia chair their respective AP test development committees, and Fares has done so in the past, so they are plenty familiar with the work of the College Board and the AP process. De Stasio also is on the Science Advisory Committee for the College Board.
Tapia has been actively involved with the AP Spanish Language and Culture program since 2007. As a leading expert on the AP Spanish exam, she has been invited to give talks and workshops to university educators and administrators across the country, most recently at a February symposium at Stanford University.
She is one of seven lecturers speaking in the Spanish Literature and Culture portion of the AP Daily video series. The subject of her lecture is the Spanish writer and philosopher Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936).
“An independent and bold thinker, Unamuno’s life and works continue to spark a passionate cultural and social debate almost a century after his death,” Tapia said. “In the last two years alone, a series of books and two high-profile films have been dedicated to the writer and his legacy. The topic is pertinent to the AP curriculum, naturally, but I chose Miguel de Unamuno in particular because his influence can be felt today with a clear sense of relevance and urgency. His powerful works and unresolved dilemmas during a controversial and violent time in Spanish history—the prelude to a civil war—provide important lessons for today’s students anywhere in the world.”
Fares, meanwhile, is one of six lecturers for the Spanish Language and Culture portion of the series. He also has a long history of involvement with the College Board dating back two decades and knows the significance of keeping that program healthy and functional during the pandemic.
“The AP students tend to be the most interested in the disciplines they decide to pursue though the AP Program, and they tend to carry over that interest to their college education,” Fares said. “As such, they are students Lawrence would want to recruit.”
Fares delivered his video lecture on Joaquín Torres-García (1874-1949), a Uruguayan artist he covers in his Latin American Visual Arts course.
De Stasio is one of seven video lecturers in Biology. She chose to talk about how genes are “turned on” and “turned off” by different environmental conditions.
“I wanted to show how scientists model genes and interactions of the proteins that turn genes on or off,” De Stasio said. “So, a ruler was DNA, and binder clips represented proteins that bind to DNA to change accessibility of that DNA. I encouraged students to make models with things they have at home and to practice what will happen when the environment changes. What happens to particular genes in humans when we are stressed, for example? How does that stress signal get received and transduced all the way to the level of a gene? I wanted to demonstrate that these academic details are connected to our lives every day and that it is fun and exciting to figure out how it all works.”
The professors were asked to simulate as best they could a classroom lecture.
Being invited to participate in the series was an honor, and having three faculty members on the select invite list speaks well of Lawrence.
“As a subject matter expert, professors Tapia, De Stasio, and Fares will be able to share the depth and breadth of their knowledge with high school students who are up for the challenge,” said Trevor Packer, senior vice president AP and Instruction for the College Board. “We are thrilled to partner with Lawrence and their faculty to help prepare these students for the opportunities provided by higher education.”
For Lawrence, the series also provides a great connection with prospective students and their AP teachers.
“The site is free and open to the public, so teachers and students can use the lectures in their courses at no cost to them, the school, or the district,” Fares said. “By them accessing these resources, Lawrence becomes familiar to those educators and students, and these resources can become powerful recruitment tools for the university.”
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
While much of the Lawrence University campus has been quiet since Fall Term ended, there has been a bustle of activity happening in and around academic research projects.
In Briggs Hall, you can find Sophia Driessen ’21, Erin Szablewski ’21, and Catherine Wagoner ’22 working daily with Relena Ribbons, assistant professor of geosciences, on new hydroponics research. With work both in the lab and in Briggs’ small greenhouse, the students are getting a chance to do hands-on research that both boosts their resumes for graduate school and gives them insights into possible career paths.
“This work is valuable to me because it allows me to strengthen my independent learning and working skills,” Szablewski said. “Additionally, it is helping me to learn and grow in the research process, helping me in my graduate school application process. I was drawn to it because of its hands-on, interdisciplinary nature.”
They’re not alone. In all, 26 Lawrence University students—15 on campus and 11 remote—are working during December with 18 faculty members on research in disciplines stretching across campus. Each student applied for and received a $1,200 stipend for three weeks of work between the Fall and Winter terms.
“This is the third year for December research, but with a significant innovation,” said Peter Blitstein, associate dean of the faculty and associate professor of history. “For the first time, we are using internal funds to support projects in the social sciences, humanities, and fine arts, in addition to using funds from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation grant for work in the natural sciences.”
The December program began in 2018 with funding from Sherman Fairchild for physics, biology, chemistry, geosciences, and neuroscience research. This year, faculty in economics, the Conservatory of Music, English, mathematics, religious studies, and Mudd Library are participating.
The University is investing more than $37,000 in the expanded program, covering the students’ stipends as well as room and board for those on campus.
“This is the greatest number of students we have supported for December research in the three years we have had this program,” Blitstein said.
Elizabeth Becker, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience, and Elsa Hammerdahl ’22 are collaborating with a St. Joseph’s University graduate student in researching mating habits of the monogamous California mouse. This species is notable because it’s believed that fewer than 5% of mammals are exclusive, an affinity known in animal behavior research as “pair-bond,” Becker said.
“While in some species, these pair-bonds are thought to form within 24 hours of cohabitation, other studies indicate that this process may take up to a week,” she said.
This project continues research that Becker started at St. Joseph’s, the Pennsylvania school where she taught and led the Behavioral Neuroscience Program before joining the Lawrence faculty earlier this year.
“By manipulating the cohabitation period and then measuring a range of affiliative and aggressive behaviors in partners, we aim to establish an accurate timeline and create a formal operationalization for pair-bond formation in this species that can be used in future studies,” Becker said.
Ribbons and her three students, meanwhile, are doing hydroponics research that is supported by the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium (WSGC) and the Lawrence University Research Fellows (LURF) program.
“The chief aim is to test out and pilot this new experimental setup with an eye toward future experiments to examine microbial communities that grow in the soil growth media,” Ribbons said of the research. “Students have been experimenting with what types of plants we will grow, starting within the leafy greens category to test out Swiss chard, Russian kale, and buttercrunch lettuce. Currently we are growing about 300 baby leafy greens in three replicates of the hydroponics manifolds.”
Wagoner, a geoscience and environmental studies major, said the work ties in nicely with her interests and career ambitions.
“As an avid science and nature enthusiast, I was naturally drawn to this research project,” she said. “These past few weeks have offered unparalleled experiences and knowledge that might be difficult to obtain in a typical classroom setting.”
An added bonus, she said, is working alongside other women with a shared passion for science.
“Aside from the inherent educational value of our project, it feels very empowering to be working and learning alongside three other women in a field largely dominated by men,” Wagoner said.
Note regarding WSGC: 1) this material is based upon work supported by NASA under Award No. RIP20_11.0 issued through Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium, and 2) any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Lawrence University voice professor John Holiday finished his wild ride on NBC’s The Voice Tuesday night, placing fifth in the 19th season of the popular TV singing competition.
Holiday, an associate professor in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music since 2017, showcased a voice that John Legend called “otherworldly” as he advanced through the blind auditions, the battle rounds, the knockouts, the live playoffs, and the live semifinals, where TV viewers cast votes to move him into the Final 5.
On Tuesday’s finale, he was joined on stage by Legend to sing Bridge Over Troubled Water, his final performance during an inspired run.
“It’s been an incredible dream I could never have imagined,” Holiday said of his time on the show.
But the title for Holiday wasn’t to be. Carter Rubin, a 15-year-old coached by Gwen Stefani, was named the winner, based on viewer votes following Monday night’s live finals performances, earning a recording contract in the process.
Late Tuesday, Holiday tweeted: “America, I love you so much! I appreciate every prayer that helped me and my #TheVoice family soar. Congratulations, @carterjrubin! The world is ready for your fierce talents and beautiful spirit. #HoliBaes forever! I love you and I am excited to be on this ride with you.”
Holiday excelled in a competition that began in the spring with thousands of hopefuls and drew an average TV viewership of more than 7 million people during twice-weekly airings over the past two months. The show was conducted without its usual live audience and with social distancing protocols in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Flashing a fun sartorial style to match a vocal talent that has made him a rising star in opera circles, the 35-year-old Holiday drew plenty of applause along the way, earning attention in the Los Angeles Times and USA TODAY, hearing effusive praise from the show’s celebrity coaches—Legend, Stefani, Kelly Clarkson, and Blake Shelton—and growing a fan base he calls his Holibaes.
Holiday’s voice students at Lawrence, who affectionately call him Prof, cheered him every step of the way, including through tonight’s finale.
“From day one, Prof has told us that one of the main reasons he pursues his career is to show us what’s possible,” said David Womack ’21, a senior voice student from Austin, Texas. “Watching him quickly become a household name is direct proof that we can do anything we set our minds to, as he frequently reminds us.”
“I love that you continue to show America more of yourself,” Legend told him. “You put your heart out there every single week. You have an out-of-this-world gift.”
Holiday jumped into the competition after the pandemic shut down his performance schedule in the spring. He continued to teach remotely while quietly taking part in the auditions and the early rounds of the show from Los Angeles. The recorded segments—launched with Holiday delivering a stunning performance of Misty that quickly drew Legend to his corner in the blind auditions—began airing in mid-October. Holiday was sworn to secrecy as he advanced through each round as part of Team Legend. He returned to L.A. as the live rounds and viewer voting began two weeks ago.
Sarah Navy ’22, a junior voice student from Holiday’s hometown region of Houston, Texas, said she and her Lawrence classmates already appreciated Holiday’s immense talents. Seeing other viewers discovering not only that talent but also his joyful heart was part of the fun.
“Even though I have spent so much time with him and have heard him sing so much, sometimes I go back to the first time I met him and I become that girl in tears who knew one day she could be great, too,” Navy said. “He is such a genuine person who works so hard and is being a representative for so many people.”
That genuineness shined through all levels of the show, whether Holiday was talking to Legend or host Carson Daly about his teaching at Lawrence, being Black and gay, singing opera, his incredibly high falsetto, growing up in his beloved Texas, his relationship with the grandmother he calls Big Momma, and the pain being felt by artists around the world in the midst of the pandemic.
“He is always so authentic to who he is, which is so inspiring to see,” said Jack Murphy ’21, a senior choral student from Neenah. “And just witnessing the outpouring of love for him. Not only for his talent, but what he stands for as well. It’s encouraging and wonderful. I am so immensely proud of him, and so is our entire studio.”
During his run on The Voice, Holiday became the student under the coaching guidance of Legend. In Monday’s episode, he thanked his mentor for instilling in him confidence that he could shed labels and transcend musical boundaries.
“The Voice has been a place that has helped me to stretch myself far beyond what I thought was possible for me,” Holiday said. “Having John as one of my biggest supporters, his belief in me means the world. … I spent so much of my life hiding, and I won’t ever hide again. He’s given me permission to fly.”
While NBC billed Holiday as a native of Rosenberg, Texas, his home the past three years has been in Appleton. He represented Lawrence well throughout the season, speaking not only to the power of music education but also to the need for musicians to live and perform authentically and with empathy, resiliency, and flexibility.
“We couldn’t be prouder of John Holiday and his incredible journey on The Voice,” said Brian Pertl, dean of the Conservatory. “John is the perfect example of the flexible, versatile, virtuoso musician that the 21st century needs and Lawrence strives to produce. He is an opera star who can sing jazz and pop at the highest levels. He is a top-tier performer and a top-tier educator who values his students above all else. What an incredible role model for our students and musicians around the globe.”
With The Voice now finished, Holiday will prepare for Winter Term at Lawrence while getting at least a bit of his performance schedule back. Opera Philadelphia announced last week that Holiday will take the lead in Tyshawn Sorey’s Save the Boys in February, to be streamed on the Opera Philadelphia Channel.
Hannah Jones ’22, a junior voice student from Houston, will be among the Conservatory students excited to welcome their professor home, even if it has to be via Zoom for a bit longer.
“Prof always tells us, ‘I want to show you that it is possible,’” Jones said. “Well, he was doing that well before The Voice, but this is another level. Words cannot describe my excitement for Prof’s success.”
It’s been a different sort of year. The COVID-19 pandemic certainly altered life on the Lawrence campus.
But one thing proved true. Lawrentians (and future Lawrentians and friends of Lawrence) are hungry to read about Lawrence and their fellow Lawrentians. We’ve dived into the analytics to share today the most viewed stories of 2020 on the Lawrence news site. (A few of the stories that placed in the top 20 are partnered here because they are so closely related.)
Eight alumni, eight stories: See 2020 edition here.
From voice professor John Holiday’s success on NBC’s The Voice to Lawrence again being hailed as a world-class school to adjustments made to campus life in the midst of a pandemic, there was no shortage of Lawrence news that drew a lot of interest. We provide here links to those most popular stories. Check out what you missed or take another look at stories that remind us of what makes Lawrence shine.
1. John Holiday hits big on NBC’s The Voice.
“There are people who dare to dream bigger than themselves; they never stop learning, never stop growing. I wanted to show my students what that looked like.” See stories here and here.
2. Princeton Review names Lawrence one of nation’s Best Impact schools.
“I see it and hear it when I meet with our alumni around the world. They point back to their time at Lawrence as unlocking something for them, discovering an interest or talent they didn’t know they had until they started working with professors here who helped guide them in that discovery.” See story here.
3. We say farewell to beloved Lawrentians.
“I will always remember Lifongo as the warmest, kindest, and most generous, joyful, and magnanimous of colleagues and friends.” … “I know many Lawrentians join me in remembering moments when Terry’s advice provided exactly what you needed to hear to be the best version of yourself.” See stories here and here.
4. Campus life changes amid COVID-19 pandemic.
“All of us living, learning, and working on campus this fall need to understand and to honor the responsibilities outlined by the Pledge.” See storieshereandhere.
5. A professor’s guide offers look at Freshman Studies.
“The entire list shows a remarkable range and an admirable ambition.” See story here.
6. New trestle trail adds to trails, parks near campus.
“The abandoned railroad trestle has been transformed into a 10-foot-wide trail that spans the Fox River at the southern edge of campus.” See story here.
7. Bidding good-bye for now to retiring faculty.
“You have served as a steadying force, stepping into a host of academic leadership positions that have lent stability in moments of uncertainty and grace in times of worry.” See story here.
8. Six faculty earn tenure.
“I’m absolutely delighted that their contributions are being recognized through the awarding of tenure and promotion, and look forward to continuing together our rich, rewarding work for years to come.” See story here.
9. Jake Woodford ’13 elected mayor of Appleton.
“It has been a pleasure to watch Jake’s energy turn toward the city he loves.” See story here.
10. Princeton Review names Lawrence to Best Colleges list.
“As we head into another academic year, albeit one that looks different from any other in history, it’s reassuring to see that some things have remained the same.” See story here.
11. President Mark Burstein announces plans to leave Lawrence.
“During Mark’s tenure, our curricular offerings became deeper and broader, applications and the endowment increased dramatically, and our community became more diverse, inclusive, and equity-minded.” See story here.
12. Lawrence offers assistance during pandemic.
“We have always risen to the challenges that face us with resilience and ingenuity.” See story here.
13. Conservatory named ‘hidden gem,’ adapts to life in pandemic.
“It’s beautiful, creative flexibility. We’re working with our students all the time to say, ‘This is what you’re going to need out there in the world, and this is what’s going to be exciting about being a musician in the world today.’” See story here.
14. Natasha Tretheway named 2020 Commencement speaker.
“Our journeys have been intertwined since I visited Lawrence four years ago, and I am delighted and honored to be able to reconnect with this class in such a meaningful way.” See story here.
“One of the really, really cool things about my time at Lawrence was that the boundary between the Conservatory and the college is pretty permeable.” See story here.
16. Lawrence adds major in Creative Writing, minor in Statistics and Data Science.
“We’ve seen more prospective students articulating their desire to focus directly on creative writing.” … “Data scientists are working with bioinformatics, genetics; it’s huge in economics, and it’s become a huge thing in political science.” See story here.
17. Four alumni added to Board of Trustees.
“At this critical moment for higher education, I couldn’t be more appreciative for the diverse group of individuals who are giving so much of their time and talent as trustees to ensure that the college continues to distinguish and differentiate itself.” See story here.
18. Alexander Gym court gets a redesign.
“While resurfacing was certainly a maintenance requirement, the fresh new design work is an added bonus.” See story here.
19. Our 2020 Alumni Awards are announced.
“While the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down the annual Reunion celebration, this year’s recipients are still being celebrated for their contributions to both the Lawrence community and the world.” See story here.
20. Alex Damisch ’16 cherishes her Jeopardy experience.
“After I taped the shows, I thought to myself, ‘Man, it went by so fast, and I was always so focused on my next move, I hope I remembered to smile.’ Spoiler alert: I did not.” See story here.
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: email@example.com
Jules LaRocque, a professor in Lawrence University’s Economics Department for nearly four decades, passed away Nov. 30 at his home in Marlborough, New Hampshire. He was 87.
He joined the Lawrence faculty in 1963 and continued to teach until his retirement in 2001. He chaired the Economics Department during several stints in the 1970s and 1980s. He also was a frequent instructor in the Freshman Studies program, served for many years as the campus coordinator for the then-named Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellows Program (now the Visiting Fellows Program of the Institute for Citizens and Scholars), and provided leadership in the early years of the London Centre.
LaRocque focused his work in the areas of economic history of the United States, economic development, economies in transition, political economy, and financial institutions.
He was born on June 20, 1933, in Berlin, New Hampshire, and was the youngest of three children. He served in the United States Army during the Korean conflict, then attended the University of Iowa, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and eventually a doctorate in economics.
He taught for two years at St. Ambrose College in Iowa before moving to Wisconsin to begin work on the faculty at Lawrence, forging a bond that would last a lifetime.
After retiring from Lawrence, LaRocque moved back to New Hampshire, where he enjoyed teaching adult enrichment classes at Keane State University. His other interests included family, classical music, opera, reading, tennis, bicycling, skiing, and hiking.
He is survived by his son, Marc (Sue Tyson) LaRocque of Sacramento, California; and a daughter, Lisa (Jeffrey) Gartman of East Troy, Wisconsin.
At his request, no services will be held. The family has asked that gifts in memory of LaRocque be sent to the Office of Development, Lawrence University, 711 E. Boldt Way, Appleton, WI 54911.