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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

Three Lawrence faculty honored with teaching, scholarship awards at 2019 Commencement

Jose Encarnacion smiles from the stage as he accepts applause for his faculty award at Commencement.
Jose Encarnacion is greeted by applause as he accepts his faculty award at Commencement.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Three members of the Lawrence University faculty — two key music talents in the Conservatory of Music and one highly acclaimed geologist — were honored Sunday, June 9 for their academic and scholarly achievements.

The awards, announced during the 2019 Commencement ceremony and considered to be among Lawrence’s highest faculty honors, went to gifted instrumentalist and music instructor Erin Lesser, jazz musician and instructor Jose Encarnacion and highly lauded geology scholar and author Marcia Bjornerud.

For more coverage of Lawrence’s 2019 Commencement, click here.

Erin Lesser

Portrait of Erin Lesser at Commencement.
Erin Lesser

Lesser took home the 2019 University Award for Excellence in Teaching. A member of the acclaimed ensembles Wet Ink, Decoda, and Alarm Will Sound, she is both a highly regarded performer and an accomplished instructor. She has been teaching at Lawrence since 2011.

In her award citation, Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Kodat praised Lesser for her ability to balance the demands of being a touring artist with those of the classroom.

“Your brilliance in the concert hall finds its bright reflection in the Lawrence Conservatory studio, where your grateful students grow as musicians and thinkers in their own right, thanks to your thoughtful, attentive efforts to meet them where they are and then give them the tools and support that helps them realize their artistic goals.”

Jose Encarnacion

Portrait of Jose Encarnacion at Commencement.
Jose Encarnacion

Encarnacion was given the 2019 Award for Excellent Teaching by an Early Career Faculty Member.

While Encarnacion has been an assistant professor at Lawrence for just five years, his ties to the Conservatory date back to 2002, when he came here shortly after receiving his master’s of jazz and contemporary media from the Eastman School of Music. He would leave for a six-year stint as director of jazz and band ensembles at Eastman before returning to Lawrence in 2011 as a lecturer. He became a tenure-track faculty member in 2014 and now leads a jazz program that is regularly lauded in national music education circles.

“Your return has had a measurable effect — since 2015, the excellence of Lawrence’s jazz program has been recognized by no less an authority than DownBeat magazine, which has presented the university with four awards in four years,” Kodat said.

Marcia Bjornerud

Portrait of Marcia Bjornerud at Commencement.
Marcia Bjornerud

Bjornerud, who came to Lawrence in 1995, is the recipient of the 2019 Award for Excellence in Scholarship or Creative Activity. She has been among the college’s most honored faculty members. The Walter Schober Professor in Environmental Studies and founder of the Environmental Studies major has earned two Fulbright Senior Scholar awards, was named a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, received the Outstanding Educator Award from the Association of Women Geoscientists and was named a Fellow of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters.

The faculty scholarship honor comes after her 2018 book, Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World, was widely praised for making complex geological concepts — and their importance in the ongoing debate over how we care for the Earth — both accessible and substantial. It was long-listed for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Prize for Literary Science Writing, was a finalist for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize and received the PROSE Award in Popular Science and Popular Mathematics from the American Association of Publishers.

“In Timefulness, you draw on your research into the physics of earthquakes and mountain formation to show how an understanding of the multiple, overlapping temporalities of the Earth’s deep past can help us gain the perspective we need if we are to confront and address the environmental challenges that face us,” Kodat said.

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

Hetzler, Bozemans bring long, impressive Lawrence journeys to a close

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Two tenure-track faculty and one long-time adjunct faculty will bid farewell to Lawrence University at the close of spring term.

Bruce Hetzler, a fixture in the psychology department for more than four decades, and Kenneth and Joanne Bozeman, key players in the growth and success of the Conservatory of Music, are retiring. The three have a combined 110 years of teaching at Lawrence.

Lawrentians with long memories may recall that the Bozemans, then a young married couple, also served as head residents of Trever Hall for two years in the early 1980s.

Hetzler and Ken Bozeman came to Lawrence at the same time, joining the robust incoming faculty class of 1977. Joanne Bozeman joined as an adjunct faculty member in 1993.

They talked to us about Lawrence pride, new journeys and the emotions of saying goodbye.

Bruce Hetzler: “We were one of the few undergraduate institutions to have a neuroscience program.”

Bruce Hetzler

Bruce Hetzler has been a leading voice in the psychology department at Lawrence since 1977. You might even say his 42-year run has been magical.

Hetzler has often mixed his love of magic with his passion for teaching about the brain.

Much of his work at Lawrence focused on neuropharmacology, effects of alcohol on the brain, computer analysis of brain waves and neuroscience.

He and his students through the years published dozens of papers on a wide range of brain-focused topics, the latest being a study on why some people co-abuse methylphenidate (most common trade name is Ritalin) and alcohol. That paper, with co-authors Lauren W.Y. McLester-Davis ’18 and Sadie E. Tenpas ’17, was published in the June edition of the journal Alcohol.

“I have mixed emotions,” Hetlzer said of his retirement. “I’ve been here a long time, and I’ve loved it. I’ve enjoyed teaching, I’ve enjoyed doing research, and I’ve enjoyed working with students in the laboratory. But it has been 42 years, so I think it’s time for this chapter in my life to close.”

Hetzler spent much of his career doing research on the effects of drugs on the brain, most specifically alcohol. He is a charter member of the International Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism.

He was part of a faculty group that launched the initial neuroscience program at Lawrence in the early 1980s.

“At the time we were not able to put together a neuroscience major, but we did start the neuroscience program,” Hetzler said. “In 1980, we were one of the few undergraduate institutions to have a neuroscience program.”

It eventually became a major at Lawrence, and the number of faculty positions tied to the program has grown considerably.

“That wasn’t just me, it was a lot of people who put that together,” Hetzler said. “But it’s been very pleasing to see it grow like that.”

Outside of his teaching duties at Lawrence, Hetzler for years could be found doing table-side magic at local restaurants such as B.J. Clancy’s and Ground Round.

He persevered with both his teaching and his magic after suffering a major stroke in the summer of 2011. Relearning magic tricks, he said, helped with his long and slow recovery.

Now he hopes to dedicate more time in retirement to the physical therapy that’s needed to regain many of his magician skills.

“I’d love to be able to do table-side magic at a restaurant again in the future, but that depends on my determination to do exercises to increase my dexterity and my ability to walk without a cane,” Hetzler said. “The year before I had a stroke I was doing 100 magic shows a year. Now I do maybe five. I’m not sure my wife would like me to do 100 again, but somewhere in between would be nice.”

Kenneth Bozeman: “When you are working on someone’s voice, in a sense you are messing with their soul.”

Kenneth Bozeman

Music professor Kenneth Bozeman, retiring after 42 years on the Conservatory of Music faculty, has left an impressive imprint that’s difficult to measure.

He led the voice department for much of his tenure, in the process providing important leadership not just in the Conservatory but across campus. In addition to his work as a respected voice teacher, he has led or been a part of talent searches for Conservatory faculty and new deans and has played a big role in campus projects such as the expansion of the Music-Drama Center and the building of the Warch Campus Center.

In recent years, his focus has been in the growing field of acoustic voice pedagogy. He’s become an in-demand scholar on that topic across the country.

But it’s in the voice studio, working one-on-one with students, where Bozeman says his heart remains.

“Voice teaching is totally one-on-one, so it’s pretty personal,” he said. “When you are working on someone’s voice, in a sense you are messing with their soul. Their sense of personal identity is wrapped up in their voice.”

He’s done it well. In 2018, Bozeman was chosen by his peers for the Lawrence Faculty Convocation Award, which honors a faculty member for distinguished professional work. He was the ninth faculty member so honored.

Bozeman is the author of two books, Practical Vocal Acoustics: Pedagogic Applications for Teachers and Singers and Kinesthetic Voice Pedagogy: Motivating Acoustic Efficiency. He was awarded the Van Lawrence Fellowship by the Voice Foundation in 1994 for his work in voice science and pedagogy.

He has been recognized with two Lawrence teaching honors, the Young Teacher Award in 1980 and the Excellence in Teaching Award in 1996.

Under his guidance, the voice department within the Conservatory has grown from about 40 students and four instructors to nearly 100 students being taught by five full-time studio faculty, one adjunct faculty, two choral directors, opera and theater directors, a vocal coach and other contributors.

“We’ve seen a lot of growth,” Bozeman said. “There’s been good quality all along. There was always some good talent in the student pool. … But now it certainly feels like there is a lot more talent here. It’s definitely harder to get in here. The talent floor has risen because of the competitiveness of it.

“And what we’re able to provide in terms of training is much deeper and richer as well.”

As the years have gone by, an increasing number of voice students have gone on to sing professionally or pursue voice in graduate school programs.

“Now it’s pretty routine that that happens,” Bozeman said.

He said he’ll continue to do voice work in retirement. He’s already committed to a weeklong workshop on acoustic voice pedagogy this summer at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. He’ll also be presenting at multiple conferences and will be doing private voice teaching, focused on young professional singers.

Joanne Bozeman: “The change between an 18-year-old singer and a 21- or 22-year-old singer is a huge transition.”

Joanne Bozeman

Joanne Bozeman has been an adjunct member of the voice department at Lawrence since 1993, teaching studio voice and related course work.

She also was a sought-after soloist in recital, concert and oratorio for nearly four decades. She’s appeared with, among others, the Fox Valley Symphony, the Green Lake Music Festival, the Bach Chamber Choir in Rockford, Illinois, and the Lawrence University Concert Choir and Orchestra.

While she’ll stay active in private teaching and related projects in retirement, it’s the voice studio instruction — working one-on-one with students as their voices and their music knowledge transform over four years — that will be difficult to leave behind.

“I’ll miss working with students in the long term, four or five years, developing their skill set and seeing them master certain things,” she said. “The change between an 18-year-old singer and a 21- or 22-year-old singer is a huge transition. It’s really exciting to be involved with that.”

Many instrumentalists arrive at the Conservatory having been in training for a dozen or more years. Not so much for voice students.

“Singers don’t know they have an instrument until they’re maybe 14, 15 or 16 years old,” Bozeman said. “They maybe haven’t had theory or lessons and they come in a little more raw. To see their incredible strides and development over that period of time is really cool.”

Bozeman called working with the voice faculty in the Conservatory a joy.

“We don’t always agree with each other, but we really do get along,” she said. “I admire my colleagues’ skills in the studio, and we are friends. I’ll miss that kind of intimate relationship. I’ll miss the people in the office, and I’ll miss my wonderful colleagues all over the Conservatory.”

In addition to giving private voice lessons, Bozeman is working on a book about women’s singing voices as they go through perimenopause and menopause. The book, which she is co-writing with two other women, has included interviews to date with nearly 60 women, ranging from elite professional singers to those who participate in community choirs.

It’s an emotional and very personal issue for women who want to continue singing as they age, Bozeman said.

“Some breeze through it,” she said. “Some struggle. I really struggled. That’s kind of what fueled my interest in the issue.”

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

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

Discovery by LU anthropology prof, students a game-changer for historic site

This graphic, showing an aerial view of the Grignon Mansion property in Kaukauna, depicts where Lawrence University Professor of Anthropology Peter Peregrine believes a Native American longhouse community once resided.
This graphic, showing an aerial view of the Grignon Mansion property in Kaukauna, depicts where Lawrence University Professor of Anthropology Peter Peregrine believes an indigenous community once resided.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

While digging for clues into the location of a long-lost summer kitchen on a historical site in Kaukauna, Lawrence University’s Peter N. Peregrine and his students may have unearthed something much more significant — evidence of an indigenous community on that site dating back to the mid-16th century.

The anthropology professor and the students in his field methods class, using soil resistivity and other soil mapping tools as part of an archaeological survey, uncovered new details about the Grignon Mansion site that could alter the way the pioneer-era home is studied, managed and marketed in the future. The new information suggests that North Kakalin Village, a significant Native American community, was once situated on the Grignon property just northwest of where the mansion now stands. 

The testing, which began in September and continued through the fall term, gave Peregrine a new view of what lies beneath the soil, suggesting a series of Native American structures, possibly longhouses, were once located there, pre-dating by several hundred years the 1837 Grignon home that now sits on the property and is used as a tourism and educational beacon in Kaukauna.

“That raises that site into something of really national importance,” Peregrine said.

In early April, Peregrine presented a report to the Kaukauna Common Council, saying the new information adds considerable weight to the historical importance of the Grignon property. He implored the city to hire a professional director to properly explore and manage the site going forward.

Kaukauna, which owns the property, is all in. City officials have submitted a grant proposal to the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region to potentially cover a portion of the costs.

“We took Peter’s findings and said, ‘OK, we need to hire someone,’” said Allyson Watson, principal planner for the city. “We hear what he’s saying and we need to figure out a way financially to get a full-time director in place. If we don’t ever try, we’ll never know what the true potential is there.

“Really, coming off the headwinds of Peter’s message, it really reinforced to our elected officials that this site, while we’ve always known it’s important, maybe we didn’t know how critical it is, or we didn’t know how long-range that history is and the story it tells. We’re looking internally now to say, what can we do as an organization to empower that storytelling?”

Photo shows the front of the Grignon Mansion in Kaukauna.
The Grignon Mansion in Kaukauna is a historic site used to teach American history from the mid-1800s.

A history of discovery

This isn’t the first time that Peregrine and his anthropology students have dug into the dirt at Fox Valley historic or community sites and come away with important discoveries. Peregrine was named the 2016 historian of the year by the Outagamie County Historical Society after he and his students used newly purchased magnetometer tools to study the grounds of the former Outagamie County Asylum for the Chronic Insane, identifying 133 unmarked graves.

Since then, Peregrine and his students have been called upon to survey other forgotten or poorly recorded cemeteries — or suspected cemeteries — in the region.

“The asylum cemetery was our first big project,” he said. “But our biggest project was the Pioneer Cemetery up on Richmond Street and Evergreen Drive (in Grand Chute). We did the whole cemetery. That took a full term to do. We found 74 unmarked graves up there, including an entire Outagamie County pauper cemetery that didn’t seem like anyone knew was there. That was two years ago.”

That was during construction of the nearby Meijer store, which was expected to spur new development in the area. Now officials know precisely where the cemetery starts and stops.

“They wanted to make sure there weren’t bodies out in that property,” Peregrine said.

Similar requests are becoming more frequent.

“It turns out there is a huge demand for finding pioneer graves in this state,” Peregrine said. “There are a lot of them out in cornfields and stuff.”

A class all its own

The field methods class is limited to five students. Any more than that and it gets difficult to manage during archaeological excursions.

That the students get to use soil resistivity, geomagnetic and ground-penetrating radar equipment and related technology is a testament to the support the class has gotten from the university in recent years, Peregrine said. The field study portion of the program was launched about seven years ago, allowing him to dedicate more time to the archeologic work he was trained to do.

Head shot of Peter Peregrine
Peter N. Peregrine

“The university over the years has been very good to me,” Peregrine said. “They’ve gotten me equipment that very few liberal arts colleges have. These students, if they want to do archaeology, that’s something you can come out of here and get a job right away.”

Key purchases have included a magnetometer to measure soil magnetism, a soil resistivity system that allows archaeologists to measure changes in soil composition, and a ground-penetrating radar system. The purchases put the field work being done by Lawrence students on the cutting edge.

For Peregrine, the growth — and success — of the program in recent years has been particularly gratifying. The archaeologist is finally doing the digging he was hired to do more than 20 years ago. For years, other teaching demands kept him from working in the field.

“I wrote the textbook on doing this kind of field archeology,” he said. “I never got to teach it, ‘Archeological Research: A Brief Introduction.’ It’s used all over the country, but I could never use it here because I wasn’t teaching it. Now I am.”

For information on the anthropology program at Lawrence, click here.

A clearer picture at Grignon

Grignon has been the focus of late for Peregrine and his current field methods students, Emma Lipkin ’19, Joe Kortenhof ’19, Ethan Courey ’19 and William Nichols ’21, as well as Winston Klapper ’19, who is doing his Senior Experience on digital archaeology, creating non-invasive 3D modeling of the Grignon home that will be kept as a reference point for any future work on the site.

A more complete picture of the heritage museum, located along Kaukauna’s Augustine Street on the north side of the Fox River, is emerging thanks to the soil resistivity tools that have allowed Peregrine’s team to map the site based on what can be seen under the surface.

It’s allowed for the collection of soil data over a wide area, showing where human disturbances — such as digging post holes — have taken place over time. The survey stretched across much of the north and west sides of the Grignon property, even extending into an adjacent soccer field.

“Because that property hasn’t been touched, it hasn’t been plowed, nothing has happened to it since the early 1800s, there’s this beautifully preserved village underneath it,” Peregrine said.

While the city and the Grignon volunteers have long recognized and celebrated the property’s ties to the Menominee people, the new discoveries provide a greater opportunity to use the site to teach about Native American history and culture, well beyond the mid-1800s era, Peregrine said.

In his report to the city, he recommended building a Native American-inspired structure on the property.

“Native Americans are a central part of the Kaukauna/Fox Valley story as well as the Grignon family story and should be represented,” Peregrine wrote to the city.

He also suggested the city draft a land acknowledgement to be displayed on site, and develop more programming focused on Native American history.

The city initially asked Peregrine to do an archaeological investigation because there was interest by the Friends of the Grignon Mansion volunteer group in rebuilding a summer kitchen that had once been part of an out building or attachment on the Grignon home. But it was the discovery of the signs of earlier structures from the North Kakalin Village that came as a surprise, putting any plans for the kitchen rebuild on hold.

“It really opened up our eyes and the community’s eyes to this pre-American history that existed on this site — that we’ve known about but maybe not so specifically to say there was possibly a longhouse village here,” Kaukauana’s Watson said.

“So, we went from investigating 1800s history in Wisconsin — before statehood but still a European settlement — to discovering that there was rich history hundreds of years older than that that we were not aware of on this exact site. It was really exciting to see, oh my goodness, we need to pause this (project), we need to put the brakes on this because we have a whole new chapter of history that has occurred on this site that we weren’t fully aware of.”

When Peregrine went before the Kaukauna council in April, his message was all about the long-term benefits of such a history-rich site.

“I see huge potential there,” he said.

Watson is fully on board, saying she sees opportunities for a new level of education in Kaukauna and the greater Fox Cities as it relates to the Grignon property.

“I think the story of indigenous people’s displacement is every bit as important as state history and post-Colonial American history, but I think it’s one that as a country we maybe don’t do the best job telling,” she said. “I think that’s starting to change. I think there’s beginning to be more of an understanding that we need to be accountable to our history, and sometimes that means taking a hard look at things that are a less pleasant part of our history.”

Link to video of Peter N. Peregrine and Winston Klapper on the Grignon Mansion property.
Peter N. Peregrine (left) and Winston Klapper on the Grignon Mansion property in Kaukauna.

A growing collection of artifacts

The partnership between Lawrence, Kaukauna, and the Grignon volunteers who run the day-to-day operation is ongoing. Peregrine now has possession of a deep trove of archaeological materials that have been excavated from the Grignon property over a period of decades. Materials are in boxes or spread across tables in Briggs Hall, a teaching lab where archaeology and history meet in a very real way.

“Our maps show where all of the previous excavations have been done,” Peregrine said. “We’ve got all of those collections now.”

Watson acknowledged that the city and Outagamie County — ownership of the Grignon property has gone back and forth multiple times over the past decades — have not done a stellar job of archiving materials. It’s not a job most municipal governments or volunteer organizations are equipped to handle. Leaning into Lawrence’s expertise is proving to be a game-changer.

“We realized that we didn’t have the most professional archive developed for our collection,” Watson said. “For us, it’s just one of those things that would have been on a never-ending to-do list.”

Lipkin, under Peregrine’s tutelage, is now taking the lead in creating a more complete archive. She is doing the work as part of her Senior Experience, and will hand it off to another student when she graduates in June. With the collections and the archival material both massive in volume and disjointed, the project is expected to take several years to complete.

“Allowing us to work in these real-life situations that are often a mess gives us an opportunity to learn,” said Lipkin, who did similar work with the Outagamie County Historical Society in the earlier stages of her Senior Experience project. “If all of us continue to follow this path, and I certainly am planning to, we’ll be more prepared for the unpreparedness of institutions we might run into later on.”

Klapper, meanwhile, has spent much of the past year working on his 3D modeling project that will serve as a digital resource for the Grignon going forward. Using drone technology and specialty software, he is putting together a detailed picture of what the mansion looks like right now. Should anything happen to the home — perhaps damage from a storm, a tree falling on it or the natural aging process — his digital mapping of the exterior will allow for a precise rebuild.

“What my project is aiming to do is to preserve the house as it is currently, so if there are any further adjustments, then this record of the house will be kept,” Klapper said.

Tapping into the expertise of Peregrine and his students and maintaining a partnership with Lawrence has been invaluable, Kaukauna’s Watson said. It’s pro bono work, so it benefits the city without taxpayer burden, and it’s an educational opportunity for the Lawrence students.

“We are able to get guidance that we know is coming from a strong, well-respected organization like Lawrence that is really invested in lifting the credibility and offerings of our whole region,” Watson said.

“We’re a city government. We own this asset. It’s been juggled back and forth between the county and city for decades because it’s expensive to maintain a 19th-century home. But to have someone come in and help guide us professionally with real details and the nitty gritty of how you have to maintain this, that’s been very helpful.”

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

Sunshine, please: 19 things to know as you prep for Lawrence’s 2019 Commencement

The march across College Avenue to the Main Hall green, led by Faculty Marshal Kathy Privatt and President Mark Burstein (right), will again be part of Lawrence University’s Commencement. The ceremony, the 170th in the school’s history, is set for 10 a.m. on Sunday, June 9.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

We’re just a couple of short weeks away from Lawrence University’s 2019 Commencement, the 170th in the school’s storied history.

Here are 19 things to know as you prepare for the big day.

1. Sunday morning celebration: The ceremony on the Main Hall green will begin at 10 a.m. on Sunday, June 9. All comers are welcome. The big tent that usually covers the seating area is not available this year, so it’ll be an open-air event. An alternate indoor site on campus — with limited seating — will be prepped for use should the weather be such that an outdoor ceremony is not possible. Watch for details on the Commencement page of the Lawrence website.

2. A class of brilliance: More than 330 students are expected to take that magical walk across the stage. Of those, 288 are bachelor of arts grads, 28 are bachelor of music grads and 15 are combo B.A./B.Mus. grads. Another 11 are participating in the ceremony but not receiving degrees until December.

Lee Shallat Chemel ’65

3. A speaker from stage and screen: Commencement speaker Lee Shallat Chemel ’65 will return to campus with stories to tell and wisdom to mine from an impressive career directing theater and television productions. Her deep love of theater was first sparked during her time at Milwaukee-Downer College and then Lawrence. After more than 15 years directing theater, most notably during a 10-year stint as conservatory director at South Coast Repertory in Orange County, California, she transitioned to the small screen, directing for such notable TV shows as “Family Ties,” “Murphy Brown,” “Arrested Development,” “The Bernie Mac Show,” “Gilmore Girls” and, most recently, “The Middle.”

Jordyn Pleiseis

4. From the senior class: Commencement also features words of insight and wisdom from a member of the senior class. This year’s speaker, selected by her peers, will be Jordyn Pleiseis ’19, an anthropology major from Milwaukee.

5. Saying goodbye: Honoring retiring faculty is always a significant — and often emotional — part of Commencement. The Lawrence community will be celebrating two long-serving tenured faculty as they bid adieu to the classroom, Bruce Hetzler, professor of psychology, and Kenneth Bozeman, the Shattuck Professor of Music in the Conservatory of Music’s voice department. Both have taught hundreds (maybe thousands) of Lawrentians during their celebrated four decades-plus at Lawrence.

6. Livestream available: A livestream of the ceremony will be available for viewing in real time. It’s an opportunity to watch the ceremony online if you can’t be in attendance. The livestream can be accessed at the time of the event from the Commencement page.

There will again be plenty of opportunities for photos following Commencement.

7. Smile, you’re on camera: Yes, there will be plenty of opportunities for family and friends to take photos of their graduates. There are lots of picturesque locations across campus.

8. Talent on display: Commencement weekend is a chance for seniors to show some skills, with a Senior Art Exhibition in the Wriston Art Center Galleries set for Friday (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.), Saturday (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and Sunday (noon to 4 p.m.) and a Commencement Concert featuring members of the Class of 2019 planned for 7:30 p.m. Friday in Memorial Chapel. Look for a reception following the concert in Shattuck Hall, Room 163.

9. Spiritual journey: On Saturday, the 11 a.m. Baccalaureate Service, a multi-faith celebration of the spiritual journey of the Class of 2019, will be held in Memorial Chapel. Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Constance Kassor will deliver the address. It’s presented for seniors and their families.

10. Picnic moves indoors: The annual Commencement weekend picnic at noon on Saturday, held on the Main Hall green in past years, has been moved inside the Warch Campus Center. Seniors and their families, as well as faculty and staff, are invited. Following the picnic, President Mark Burstein will host a reception for seniors and their families at the president’s home from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

11. In search of parking: Parking is available in the city parking ramp just west of campus. Some street parking is available around campus but availability can’t be guaranteed. Here is some helpful parking info from the City of Appleton.

12. There will be awards: As per tradition, several of Lawrence’s most cherished awards will be handed out to faculty during the Commencement ceremony — the University Award for Excellence in Teaching, Award for Excellence in Scholarship or Creative Activity, and Excellence in Teaching by an Early Career Faculty Member. The winners are not announced until Commencement.

Graduation hats are part of the Commencement day attire. Decorations are optional.

13. Dressed for success: The regalia of Commencement is among the great traditions of higher education — the gowns, the caps, the hoods, the cords all signaling a particular accomplishment along the journey of academia.

14. Music to come and go: Speaking of grand traditions, the music of the processional and the recessional will embrace this group of graduates, courtesy of the Lawrence University Graduation Band. Andrew Mast will again conduct as the band performs Crown Imperial by William Walton for the processional and Procession of the Nobles by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov for the recessional.

15. Familiar and new faces: Led by President Mark Burstein, there will be familiarity in the ceremony. Kathy Privatt, the James G. and Ethel M. Barber Professor of Theatre and Drama, will again serve as faculty marshal. David C. Blowers, chair of the Board of Trustees, will offer the convocation for the second year in a row. Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Kodat will present the faculty awards. One notable change will come in the opening and closing words, a duty handled for many years by Howard E. Niblock. He retired last year, and that honor now falls to Linda Morgan-Clement, the Julie Esch Hurvis Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life.

The Class of 2019 displays its green flag during Welcome Week four years ago. Per tradition, each class is assigned one of four colors.

16. Class colors: Look for plenty of green to be on display during Commencement. The tradition of assigning a color — red, green, yellow, or purple — to each class at Lawrence has its roots in Milwaukee-Downer history. It was reinstated at Lawrence in 1988 and has continued since. The color of the Class of 2019 is green.

17. Conferring of degrees: That magical moment when the graduates’ names are called and they make the walk across the stage and the degrees are conferred is the heart and soul of any Commencement ceremony. Handling those duties for bachelor of music recipients will be Burstein and Dean of Conservatory Brian Pertl ’86. Handling for bachelor of arts recipients will be Burstein and Kodat.

18. A parade of another sort: A parade of graduates isn’t the only parade during the June 8-9 weekend that might get your attention. The 68th annual Flag Day Parade will march through downtown Appleton beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday. It will affect traffic in the downtown area as thousands of onlookers line the streets to watch the state’s oldest Flag Day parade. It’ll start on Oneida Street at Wisconsin Avenue, make its way to College Avenue, then proceed through the downtown, turning north at Drew Street and ending at City Park. See details here.

19. A Juneteenth celebration: Speaking of city events near campus, you may also want to note this one on your calendar. Appleton’s ninth annual Juneteenth Celebration will take place from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday in City Park, providing a possible post-Commencement destination. It also will affect parking near the campus in the afternoon hours.

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

New studies, research put Lawrence on front lines of bee advocacy

Israel Del Toro, dressed in a protective suit, preps honeybees for the observational hive on the roof of the Warch Campus Center.
Israel Del Toro prepares to release honeybees to an observational hive on the roof of Lawrence University’s Warch Campus Center. The hive is visible from inside the Warch on the fourth floor.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Israel Del Toro’s advocacy for bees — fun fact: there are upwards of 100 different species of bees in Appleton alone — is no secret.

The Lawrence University assistant professor of biology has been championing bees and the untold benefits they bring to our ecosystem since he arrived on campus three years ago. He launched the Appleton Pollinator Project to turn homeowners and gardeners into citizen scientists, helped install and study pollination sites across the Fox Cities, and pushed students in his biology lab and campus environmental clubs to work to improve the on-campus habitat for bees.

Now Del Toro is stepping up that advocacy to another level, working to get Lawrence designated as a bee-friendly campus via Bee City USA, an initiative of Xerces Society. There are currently 70 campuses across the country that hold the bee-friendly designation.

All expectations are that Lawrence will be No. 71, and only the second in Wisconsin.

Del Toro submitted Lawrence’s proposal in early May, spotlighting the school’s sustainability push, the efforts to eliminate invasive species that work to the detriment of bees, the planting of bee-friendly wildflowers, the ongoing research activities and the educational outreach on and off campus.

“The goal is to use the campus as this big lab to try to figure out what the best practices are for managing bee diversity in urban landscapes,” Del Toro said.

To help connect Lawrence faculty, students and staff with the wonders of honeybees, Del Toro donned a protective suit last week and released bees into an observational hive set up on the roof of the Warch Campus Center, visible from behind the safety of glass on the building’s fourth floor.

“It’ll be an active colony that we hope will last for three years,” Del Toro said.

“People can’t actually touch the bees but the hives themselves have a plexiglass window so you can look inside and see the bees doing their bee thing and building honeycomb and foraging and dancing.”

A formal unveiling of the observational hive will be held in June, complete with a bee-inspired picnic featuring foods that require bee pollination — think apple pie, blueberry treats and avocado smoothies. Stay tuned for time, date and details.

Bee science

The observational hive at Warch offers an up-close look at the honeybee, the best known of the bee species that are here, but that’s just the start of the bee-focused educational opportunities on campus.

There are 10 different bee species known to be on Main Hall green, mostly housed in the hexagon-shaped pollination box just southeast of Main Hall. But another 32 species are known to inhabit S.L.U.G. (Sustainable Lawrence University Gardens), where students actively maintain a bee-friendly space with blooming flowers, native wildflowers and the ongoing removal of invasive plants.

The hexagon-shaped pollination box is on the Main Hall green, near Youngchild Hall.
A pollination box is on the Main Hall green near Youngchild Hall, home to multiple species of bees.

Del Toro is also working with City of Appleton officials to get the city designated a Bee City. It’s all part of the efforts to educate people on the ecosystem importance of bees and the dangers that exist when we’re not being good stewards of the land.

“It reflects some of the important values of Lawrence,” Del Toro said of the bee-friendly campus and city efforts. “Lawrence has always been very progressive thinking. Sustainability is a big issue now. We want to make sure that in the time of climate change and biodiversity loss, we are a leader in setting the proper example. If all we can impact is our little 88 acres on campus, well, that’s a great starting point. We can lead by example. I think that’s a really great example of the ethos of Lawrence.”

As long as we can get past the misconceptions about bees — no, they are not looking to sting you — it’s also good for student recruitment, Del Toro said.

“I would hope something like this is drawing students who are more sustainably focused and are thinking about issues like conservation and ecology and conservation biology,” he said.

For more on Lawrence’s biology and related offerings, click here.

For more on Lawrence’s geosciences and related offerings, click here.

Hands-on learning

That sort of thinking drew in Maggie Anderson ’19 , a farm girl from northern Minnesota who came to Lawrence with an interest in biology and found the field work that was part of the Del Toro-led bee studies to her liking. She’ll graduate in June, then head to the University of Minnesota to pursue a doctorate while researching bees in prairie ecosystems.

“I didn’t necessarily come in with an intent to study bees, but it kind of became apparent soon after I got here that that was something I was really interested in,” Anderson said.





“It’s given me a lot of
really great research experience.”

Maggie Anderson ’19

What she got at Lawrence in terms of hands-on research opportunities was “really more than I expected,” she said.

That kind of scientific research doesn’t start and stop with bees, though. Ecological-focused work is happening across departments at Lawrence, from biology to natural sciences to environmental sciences, where faculty and students are working on studies in such wide-ranging but critical areas as aquatic ecosystems, endangered plants, bat conservation, soil ecology, and hydrology, to name a few.

“This is one tiny thing we do,” Del Toro said of the bees. “We’re doing a lot of cool science. What that means for our students is they get to go on this ride with us as we’re doing really cutting-edge science.”

Del Toro and his wife, Relena Ribbons, a visiting assistant professor of biology who will become a tenure-track faculty member in the fall, have been leaders in the citizen science project, an effort launched last year to build nearly 60 garden beds in back yards across the Fox Cities. The garden beds, designed to grow vegetables, are split in two, one half pollinated by insects, the other half cordoned off by mesh to keep bees and other insects out.

The homeowners keep the veggies in exchange for providing data from their gardens. Del Toro, Ribbons and their students then analyze the results as they come in.

Israel Del Toro head shot
Del Toro

“What we found from last year’s research is that bees are probably contributing to a market here in the Fox Cities that’s worth roughly $80,000 to $100,000 a year in pollination ecosystem services,” Del Toro said. “That’s based on the amount of produce that gets pollinated by bees in our back yards.”

For Anderson, the interaction with the community has been as enlightening as the work with the bees.

“It’s given me a lot of really great research experience, but also communication experience,” the senior biology and music double major said. “Working with people is a really undervalued part of science, especially in the conservation field that I want to go into. You have to work with people a lot, and you have to know how to communicate.”

Her fellow students, Anderson said, have embraced her bee research and the idea of this being a bee-friendly campus.

“In this campus environment, people really do get that,” she said. “People really do understand that we are up against a lot of environmental issues when we talk about bees in terms of habitat loss and bees just not having enough resources in an urban setting. We need to make a nice, available on-campus habitat for bees, and students and staff to my knowledge have been really, really supportive of that.”

Today (May 20) is World Bee Day. And National Pollinator Week arrives on June 17, just in time for Del Toro’s pollination-themed picnic. No better time to salute these researchers as they create the biggest buzz on campus.

Did we mention there will be pie?

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

Lawrence Academy of Music Holds Open House March 2

The Lawrence Academy of Music will hold an open house Sunday, March 2 from 2-4 p.m., offering information on its extensive student music programs as well as live lesson demonstrations, group mini-performances and model early childhood classes. Door prizes, refreshments and a musical instrument “petting zoo” will also be provided.

The Academy of Music, which offers high-quality music instruction to more than 1,800 area students of all ages and levels of advancement, is located at 100 Water Street, Appleton, across from the Fox River Mills apartments. For more information, call 920/832-6635.