Lawrence University has signed a $5.5 million agreement with Johnson Controls Inc. (JCI) to upgrade lighting, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment on its campus, in the process lowering the school’s utility consumption and reducing its carbon footprint.
The agreement is part of a 20-year innovative payment contract with the Milwaukee-based JCI that allows the sustainability-focused work to be done now with no up-front capital costs to Lawrence. The savings in utility costs that will come from the energy efficiency upgrades, along with fewer repair and replacement costs, will pay for the project over the next two decades.
The project includes the installation of LED lighting in 17 buildings on campus, the replacement of chillers that serve the Music-Drama Center, Shattuck Hall, and Memorial Chapel, the replacement of inefficient steam traps campus wide, and upgrades to mechanical and fume hood systems in Steitz and Youngchild halls. Other targeted heating and air conditioning upgrades also will be completed across campus.
“The work will reduce Lawrence University’s utility costs and its carbon footprint while improving lighting quality and the comfort and safety of building occupants,” said Aaron Rittenhouse, Midwest program leader for JCI. “The project is expected to reduce the campus’ energy usage by more than 20 percent.”
JCI recently entered into similar contingent payment performance contracts with a handful of other private colleges and universities. It puts the onus on the company to guarantee that its work will provide the promised savings. Once the work is done, the company continues to monitor the upgrades and verify that expectations are being met. If the university is not seeing the agreed-upon efficiencies, it’s JCI’s responsibility to make the needed adjustments.
The payment program is an alternative to traditional debt financing, one that gives Lawrence advantages when it comes to managing its long-term debt, said Jenna Stone, Lawrence’s associate vice president of finance. By not taking on additional debt for these infrastructure projects, the University gives itself flexibility for future borrowing.
“Our partnership with JCI has allowed Lawrence to pursue important capital renewal that support Lawrence’s goal of decreasing our carbon footprint without limiting the University’s capacity to fund other capital projects,” Stone said.
Dane Lindholm, lead financial analyst for structured finance at JCI, said the company guarantees that energy and utility savings from the infrastructure upgrades will pay for the project over the 20-year life of the contract, providing a boost to the school’s sustainability efforts while not requiring it to take on added debt.
“If the projected savings don’t materialize, Johnson Controls will cover the difference up to the amount we have guaranteed,” Lindholm said. “The University has set-off rights, meaning Johnson Controls will provide a credit on its next quarterly invoice if the projected savings do not meet the utility savings we guaranteed. Essentially, Johnson Controls owns the risk of performance.”
The work will begin this summer and continue through spring. Lawrence officials will work with the JCI team to ensure that the work is scheduled around the school’s educational needs and is done with COVID-19 social distancing guidelines in place.
“There are safety protocols already in place as crews enter and exit the campus,” said Russell Garcia, director of higher education at JCI.
Private colleges and universities with strong endowments, good credit ratings, and consistent enrollment numbers are considered for this type of alternative financing agreement, Garcia said. Lawrence fit that bill.
“There’s much more transparency these days with campus operational costs versus the rate of student tuition,” Garcia said. “So, these projects demonstrate that in addition to positive environmental stewardship aligned with the University’s mission and goals, they are being fiscally responsible with those monies and how they’re being managed.”
Garcia called the expected savings that are factored into the agreement “pretty conservative.” If the efficiency goals are met, Lawrence makes its payments from those savings. If the goals are exceeded, Lawrence keeps the additional savings. And if the goals are not met, JCI will make the needed infrastructure adjustments.
“The company’s track record in projecting savings from facility upgrades gives it confidence to proceed with that route,” Lindholm said. “We’re willing to do this because we are fully assured in the work that we perform. Due to the company’s size and experience in higher education projects, creditors trust that we will live up to our performance guarantees.”
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: email@example.com
Helen Boyd Kramer jokes that it’s a “lifetime achievement award.”
There might be truth in that if her work was done. It is not.
Kramer, a lecturer in gender studies at Lawrence University since 2008, was named a 2020 Champion of Pride by The Advocate, a leading national voice on LGBTQ+ issues that each June honors 104 activists – two from each state and the District of Columbia.
Kramer joined Dane County’s Baltazar De Anda Santana as this year’s Wisconsin recipients.
A leading activist on transgender issues since publishing her first book, My Husband Betty, in 2003, Kramer was cited for her recent work advocating for the LGBTQ+ community in Appleton, including a successful effort earlier this year to get the Common Council to approve a ban on practicing conversion therapy on minors. That followed efforts in October to help make National Coming Out Day more visible in Appleton, resulting in a rainbow flag flying over City Hall for the first time.
“It’s a little overwhelming,” Kramer said of being honored by The Advocate, but she sees it as a sign of progress in her efforts to advocate for diversity, the rights of transgender people in particular.
“When you’ve been in a movement that’s young but you were part of the original people doing it, you tend to get used to the fact that this is what you do, this is what you’ve been doing,” Kramer said. “So, this (award) kind of came out of nowhere. I wasn’t expecting it. … The trans community was a baby when I started doing this work and when I wrote the book. Now the education about trans is at a whole different level. Every once in a while, as an activist and educator, it’s nice to go, hey, some of this education stuff works.”
An agent of change
Kramer arrived at Lawrence in 2008, a year after publishing her second book, She’s Not the Man I Married, chronicling her experiences with transgender spouse Rachel Crowl. The move took her from New York City to Appleton, necessitating a change in her activism. Here, she got to know the elected officials she would be pushing for change.
“Being an activist in Appleton was going to be a different thing,” Kramer said. “It was going to be more about personal relationships.”
In the 12 years since, she’s been a frequent voice on LGBTQ+ education, be it in the community before city councils and school boards or on campus in gender studies classrooms, Freshman Studies workshops, or in campus-wide Cultural Competency discussions.
Appleton, Kramer said, has grown in its understanding of and support for the LGBTQ+ community, perhaps fueled by the giant leap forward that came with the U.S. Supreme Court striking down same-sex marriage bans in 2015. The Common Council has gotten noticeably more progressive. The topics Kramer and other LGBTQ+ activists speak to, including the conversion therapy ban, no longer shock.
“Instead of being reactive, we actually have council members now who are bringing legislation forward,” she said. “That’s what happened with conversion therapy.”
She singled out the work of Appleton alderperson Vered Meltzer ’04, a Lawrence alum who in 2014 became the first openly trans person to hold elected office in Wisconsin, according to Fair Wisconsin, a Madison-based advocacy group.
Meltzer returns the praise, calling Kramer tenacious in her efforts to support marginalized people in the Appleton community.
“Helen’s advocacy is effective because she never stops working, whether she’s on campus or off campus,” Meltzer said. “And one of the best things about working with her is that she doesn’t give up or get discouraged, no matter how much work there is to do or how long it takes to see results. Her tireless dedication, and her personal care and support for marginalized individuals in our community, has helped bring activists throughout the community together over the years with a sense of unity and shared goals.”
Kramer sees the progress happening in Appleton as reflective of what’s happening across the country. While there is much work yet to be done, momentum has been building in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, from the same-sex marriage ruling five years ago to last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that protects transgender, gay and lesbian employees from workplace discrimination.
“There has been an education of people in terms of civil rights,” Kramer said. “Poll after poll after poll say people believe that you shouldn’t be able to get fired for being gay or lesbian.”
The celebration of the Supreme Court’s June 15 ruling on workplace discrimination may have been a bit muted because of COVID-19 social restrictions, but there is little doubt it marked a major moment, one that arrived amid heightened awareness of equity issues. The ruling was delivered by a conservative-leaning court midway through Pride Month, 50 years after the Pride movement first emerged en masse.
“The movement has worked,” Kramer said. “The reason gay people started coming out and the reason gay people still feel the necessity to be out is precisely because the more straight people know them or more straight people know that they are related to someone who is LGBTQ+ the more likely it is that they would support same-sex marriage, employment discrimination rules, and such. This has been a long time coming.”
Education on campus
The enlightenment at Lawrence over the past decade hasn’t been quite as stark because the university has long been a safe haven for LGBTQ+ students, Kramer said. Again, it’s been a work-in-progress, but the work of inclusion has been in play here for a long time.
The dramatic change at Lawrence since she arrived a dozen years ago has come in the trans community. In 2008, it was mostly a curiosity, even on a liberal arts campus.
“It’s kind of hard to explain how much has changed in that time,” Kramer said. “The first class I introduced at Lawrence was Transgender Lives, and at that time I had one student who shyly admitted to doing drag once. I had a bunch of students who took it because trans was an interesting topic. A lot of them were future therapists, a bunch of psychology majors. Now, when I teach Trans Lives, half of the students in the class identify as LGBTQ+ as either trans or non-binary. … There’s been a giant cultural shift.”
All that progress doesn’t mean the fight is over. Far from it. Kramer points to the Trump Administration’s recent ruling that removed federal health care protections for people who identify as transgender. Protections written into the Affordable Care Act addressed sex discrimination, and in 2016, the Obama Administration interpreted that provision to include gender identity. But in early June, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a statement saying it is returning to an earlier interpretation of sex discrimination, thus excluding the trans community.
“This isn’t just for trans procedures,” Kramer said. “It’s for pneumonia or COVID. These stories are already common in the trans world, where doctors wouldn’t take what they had seriously, cancer in particular. It would just go untreated because doctors wouldn’t work with trans patients. Seeing HHS do this right now when everyone is scared of dying is particularly heartless.”
The COVID dilemma
The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a cruel light on the LGBTQ+ world. Besides health care access issues, it has highlighted wealth disparities, which are particularly stark among Black LGBTQ+ people. The same systematic racism issues that have ignited nationwide protests are in play within the LGBTQ+ community, Kramer said.
“When we get to a point when we’re actually doing recovery, eventually, we’re going to have to figure out the wealth problem and the access to employment and training and education,” she said. “These are all systems that are so soaked in the same discrimination we’re talking about. It’s employment, it’s health care, it’s food on the table.”
The pandemic sent students home for spring term, put summer research and internships on pause, and infused uncertainty into almost all near-future plans. That, in turn, has heightened anxieties for LGBTQ+ students who don’t have adequate support at home. Kramer and other advocates on campus have tried to stay in frequent contact, but seeing students having to isolate in a home environment that’s toxic adds new layers of concern.
“The tremendous burden of family rejection is still really common,” Kramer said.
While a growing number of families are accepting and supportive, it’s those students who aren’t feeling that love who are particularly vulnerable right now.
“Some students used to refer to Lawrence as Hogwarts because they could be gay here,” Kramer said. “And they couldn’t always be at home. Now those students are at home during the pandemic. It’s one of the reasons why there was more than one student I helped make sure they could stay on campus this spring because their home situation just isn’t good.
“How do you accept the fact that your family basically doesn’t like you so much? Sometimes they hate you. That’s a wounding you can’t really process. I think Lawrence has been amazing about that, being aware that we do provide acceptance in a way that some students are not always getting elsewhere.”
Lawrence recently introduced the LGBTQ+ Alliance House as a residential space. A Gender and Sexuality Diversity Center opened in Colman Hall late last year. Trans Rights United (TRU) became the University’s first trans student organization. Those additions are all built onto an already well-established support system.
“We’ve seen a lot of changes culturally that get reflected on the campus,” Kramer said. “I think the campus has done an amazing job for the most part in creating these spaces, and creating diversity training for everyone else. There are still pockets of education that’s needed, but I love the fact that we let students lead. They’re telling us what they need. They feel empowered, and we’re getting much better at that.”
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rose Wasielewski recognized a need when she found herself in a conversation about stigmas and issues that affect some Lawrence University employees who feel defined by or live within the confines of low-income backgrounds.
Their voices need to be heard, their concerns validated, their successes celebrated.
In November, Wasielewski, an associate dean of students and dean of the sophomore class, helped launch LIFT UP, the newest of six employee resource groups on the Lawrence campus. It aims to provide support and resources for faculty, staff, and students who come from low-income backgrounds or were first-generation college students.
Less than a year old, the group, chaired by Wasielewski, herself the first in her family to graduate from college, already has membership surpassing 40 faculty and staff. And now others are taking notice of the group’s work.
LIFT UP, an acronym for Low-Income, First Generation Talent Unpacking Privilege, is one of 38 recipients of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine’s 2020 Inspiring Affinity Group Awards. The magazine, a resource for diversity and inclusion news and information, debuted the Inspiring Affinity Group Awards in its July/August edition, with plans to make it an annual honor.
“I think LIFT UP is being so well-received because it touches on some marginalities and intersecting identities that aren’t as apparent on the surface but can still deeply impact the person with those identities,” said Wasielewski, who chairs the group. “You cannot necessarily know someone was a first-generation student just by looking at them. I think it is also easy to make assumptions about folks working at a small liberal arts college – that even if you were low-income as a student, you probably aren’t low-income now, and that just isn’t the case.
“I think many of us are hungry to take up the conversation about class and socioeconomic status and access so that we can work to dismantle some of the systems that don’t support, or even outright harm, some of our current students who hold these identities.”
In its report on the Inspiring Affinity Group Awards, the magazine called employee resource groups (ERGs) an important part of encouraging and facilitating diversity and inclusion in the workplaces of higher education. They can have a huge impact not only on recruiting diverse faculty and staff but also on retaining those employees long-term.
LIFT UP joined five other employee affinity groups that are active at Lawrence – Employees of Color Resource Group, Pride Resource Group, Emerging Professionals Resource Group, Global Employees of Lawrence Resource Group, and Anti-Racist White Affinity Group. All are organized through the Diversity and Inclusion office.
Kimberly Barrett, vice president for Diversity and Inclusion and an associate dean of the faculty, said the affinity groups are vital in connecting with and supporting employees from a wide variety of backgrounds. She said she’s thrilled to see LIFT UP garner national attention.
“The work of the group, which focuses on understanding the marginalization that results from class privilege, is intersectional and cuts across many dimensions of identity,” Barrett said. “One of the most impactful aspects of this group is that although it is an employee affinity group, the activities that bring them together often provide direct support to students.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic slowed some of its plans, the group hopes to put together a book read of Anthony Abraham Jack’s The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges are Failing Disadvantaged Students, possibly get the author to speak either on campus or virtually, and organize panel discussions on topics such as impostor syndrome or phenomenon.
The connection to current students, and the opportunity to provide support and insight, is one of the draws for LIFT UP’s members. Gaelyn Rose, an associate director of admissions who joined the group shortly after it launched in the fall, said she didn’t even think about being a first-generation college student until after she’d graduated.
“I look back and think of all the resources I could have used if only I’d known about them,” she said. “It motivates me to ensure all Lawrentians have access to the life-changing opportunities we can offer, and LIFT UP is such an innovative, amazing way to do this.”
Jaime Gonzalez, director of transfer admissions and transitions and a LIFT UP member, said the issues the affinity group is connecting with resonate with both students and employees. Often the issues, sometimes subtle, are bubbling just below the surface.
“Sometimes we forget that even though we’ve graduated and our lives may be different, our experiences and family histories don’t change but they do influence us and our work,” he said. “This is why I’m part of the LIFT UP group; it recognizes that our needs and experiences are different, and whether we are supporting students or ourselves, we still foster a strong sense of community around this integral part of our identities.”
Wasielewski said she sees nothing but growth ahead for LIFT UP, both in terms of membership and in the scope of its work. The visibility to date is valuable, but there is so much more work to be done in raising awareness, connecting students with opportunities, and pushing for a more equitable world, on and off campus.
“There is a lot of conversation among members about wanting to use this group to make a lasting, tangible difference, not only for ourselves as employees but more so for our students,” Wasielewski said
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: email@example.com
Being quarantined isn’t stopping Lawrentians from stepping up for the health and safety of the campus community. Six students employed in the costume shop have constructed more than 350 cloth face masks so far for students and staff who are on campus.
Director of Wellness and Recreation Erin Buenzli helped orchestrate the mask-making operation. With the threat of COVID-19 spread an ongoing concern and the need for masks to be worn in shared spaces on campus, she worked with Lawrence’s COVID-19 Management Team on the idea of supplying masks to Lawrence community members who need to be on campus. This idea reached the costume shop, where six students took on the challenge during Spring Term to make as many masks as they could.
“I love the collaboration and the ingenuity of students,” Buenzli said. “The fact that we can reach across departments to look at an issue and be creative and solve it. It’s been fun to be a part of.”
The masks have been distributed to students, faculty, and staff as needed. Signage has been placed throughout campus reminding anyone on campus grounds to wear a mask.
Five of the six students made the masks remotely from home and sent them to campus. The work continues this summer.
Andrea Lara ‘21 shipped her work from her Milwaukee home-turned-workspace. Combating a global pandemic by making more than 50 face masks probably wasn’t on her mind when she learned to sew in the costume shop in Fall 2017. But Lara embraced the work wholeheartedly.
For one, she’s always been driven by a simple desire to help others. Secondly, she’s seen the pandemic taking its toll around her in Milwaukee. That experience motivated her to be an agent of change.
“Sometimes it can feel overwhelming that I don’t have any power,” Lara said. “Sometimes the only way I feel like I can take control is to do something to help others stay safe.”
Lara is a psychology and theater double major. Like the other students involved in this project, she found a marriage between her education and reaching out to help others that goes beyond employing sewing skills.
“As a psych major, I really focus on the betterment of people,” Lara said. “In particular, disenfranchised people who don’t have access to resources. That’s really important to me. And as a costume designer and theater major, it’s important to show how well you can work and adapt under pressure.”
Never underestimate the influence of the good you put into the world. Lara’s 7-year-old brother has taken notice of her efforts.
“When he sees me making masks, he gets so excited and says, ‘We should make more so we can help more people.’ And that increases my excitement to try to help out.”
Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.
June is designated as Pride Month, a chance to acknowledge and celebrate the impact lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals have had on history.
A year ago, we shared a list of ways that Lawrence University flies its Pride flag all year long. We’re sharing that list again this June, with notable updates – led by the arrival of the Gender and Sexuality Diversity Center (GSDC), which opened in the fall in Colman Hall. We’ll start there.
1. Gender and Sexuality Diversity Center
The new GSDC space, located in Colman 110, is designed as a welcoming spot for queer Lawrentians of all backgrounds and their allies to gather to socialize, study, or just hang out. Programming in the space is led by a GSDC Council. A soft opening took place near the close of fall term, and a mixer was held in January.
Colores is a student organization that was originally created to be a space for empowerment for LGBTQ students of color. It has since expanded to incorporate any LGBTQ students on campus and to help educate the wider community on LGBTQ intersectionality. Colores hosts weekly meetings and special events throughout the academic year. Find out how to get involved with Colores here.
3. Pride Prom
As a way to celebrate our differences and to educate the wider campus on queer history, the student group Colores hosts an annual Pride Prom. Along with the music and food you might find at a traditional high school prom, Pride Prom includes information about queer history and rainbow decor. Organizers feature images, films, articles, and more on queer history throughout the venue. Most importantly, Pride Prom is a chance for members of the LGBTQ community to gather, have fun, celebrate their identities, and feel connected on campus. Pride Prom is open to the entire campus, as well as the Appleton community, and serves as a great opportunity to learn about queer history and to boogie down.
4. LGBTQ Alliance House
Lawrence University now has a LGBTQ Alliance house. This house, which opened in the fall, acts as a safe space for queer individuals and allies. As a house, they do lots of community outreach, including a clothing exchange, throughout the Lawrence and Appleton communities to spread awareness and acceptance for queer identities.
5. Lavender Ceremony
To say goodbye and congratulate graduating seniors, Student Life and the Diversity and Intercultural Center co-host an annual Lavender Ceremony. This is a celebration for queer-identifying students as they prepare to graduate from Lawrence. There are speeches on behalf of the seniors and a dinner for the seniors and their guests. The students being honored also are presented with a lavender stole to wear at Commencement.
6. Alumni connections
The Lawrence University Pride Alumni Network is a recently formed alumni group. It kicked off a year ago, serving as an outlet for support, social interactions, and career networking. Also, an LGBTQ group is now part of Viking Connect, providing opportunities for alumni to mentor students as they prepare to launch careers.
7. Pride Resource Group
The Faculty/Staff Pride Resource Group is a network for Lawrence faculty and staff who identify as LGBTQ or have family who identify as such. This group offers a sense of community for the faculty and provides an avenue for updates on available resources. Learn how to get involved with the Pride Resource Group here.
8. Queer Thanksgiving
The Diversity and Intercultural Center hosts an annual potluck, called Queer Thanksgiving, just before the end of fall term. The annual event has been held in the Diversity and Intercultural Center and is open to the Appleton community. It is a way for queer individuals to come together and celebrate over some delicious food.
9. Gender-inclusive bathrooms
Lawrence expanded the number of gender-inclusive restrooms available on campus last year. The expansion increased the number of gender-inclusive facilities available to community members, including those who identify as transgender, transgender non-binary, and non-binary.
10. Trans Rights United (TRU)
Also new this year is the launch of Trans Rights United (TRU), a student organization committed to supporting trans Lawrentians through community building and advocacy, both on campus and in the larger community. The group is an open community for all Lawrentians who identify as transgender, non-binary, or gender-nonconforming, as well as those who are questioning their gender identity.
Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.
Kuo-ming Sung, a professor of Chinese and linguistics who has been teaching at Lawrence University since 1994, has been named the inaugural Wendy and K.K. Tse Professor of East Asian Studies.
The endowed professorship, established courtesy of gifts from Wendy and K.K. Tse ’81, provides ongoing support for a distinguished member of the college’s faculty who demonstrates a commitment to teaching courses that contribute to the understanding of East Asia.
The appointment was made by President Mark Burstein.
“I am truly honored to receive this endowed professorship from the University,” Sung said. “It means very much to me personally as it recognizes my scholarship in and service to East Asian Studies in the past; but, more importantly, it gives me a new sense of responsibility for the future as I look for ways that I can contribute more to East Asian Studies in general and the Chinese and Japanese programs in particular.”
The investment will help sustain, and hopefully grow, the scope and depth of the program, Sung said. It provides needed study of a robust and significant region of the world.
“I have been working hard on this and now have high hopes for creating new courses that will bring growth to the program, an area of study that is proving increasingly significant in the global context,” he said.
Catherine G. Kodat, provost and dean of the faculty, said the endowed professorship will pay dividends for Lawrence and its students for years to come.
“I’m extremely grateful, both for Wendy and K.K. Tse’s extraordinary generosity and for Kuo-ming’s years of steadfast dedication to East Asian Studies, particularly in Chinese language instruction and advocacy for study abroad,” Kodat said. “Endowed professorships like this make it possible for the University to express its appreciation to talented faculty while maintaining important commitments in academic programming. We are fortunate, indeed.”
Sung holds a bachelor of arts degree from National Taiwan University, and Master of Arts, C.Phil, and Ph.D degrees from the University of California-Los Angeles. He was promoted to full professor at Lawrence in April.
The endowed professorship donation, part of the ongoing Be the Light! campaign, reflects the gratitude of Wendy and K.K. Tse for the education K.K. received at Lawrence. He transferred to Lawrence in 1979 and graduated magna cum laude in 1981 with an interdisciplinary science degree. While a student, he was a member of the Lawrence Christian Fellowship and Lawrence International. He later earned his M.B.A. from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and his M.P.A. from the University of Hong Kong. Wendy worked in higher education administration in Hong Kong for more than 20 years.
K.K. Tse served on the Lawrence University Board of Trustees from 2012 to 2018. He has also served on the advisory committee for Lawrence’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship program, and has been a guest speaker at Lawrence.
Sung said he is grateful to the Tses for the opportunity that the endowed gift presents in growing East Asian Studies at Lawrence.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to President Mark Burstein, Provost Katie Kodat, and my tremendously supportive colleagues in the Chinese and Japanese Department and the East Asian Studies and Linguistics programs,” Sung said.
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Graduating from college when it feels like the world is on fire isn’t a particularly comforting thing. Members of Lawrence University’s Class of 1970 can tell you something about that.
Fifty years after walking across the Commencement stage on Main Hall Green at an event that felt part celebration, part protest, part chaos, the Lawrentians of that class have nothing but words of encouragement for the 2020 graduates who are navigating their own moment of chaos.
Margaret Everist ’70 was one of those graduates 50 years ago. She feels the disappointment and pain of this year’s graduates, who had to finish their final term away from campus and watched the job market implode amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Her advice? Stay focused on what’s in front of you — the opportunity to change the world.
“That’s really what it’s all about,” Everist said from Minneapolis, where she retired after carving out successful careers in health care and finance. “Go out into the world to make a difference, one small step at a time.”
Lawrence held a virtual 2020 Commencement on Sunday, honoring nearly 270 graduates. As the day arrived, racial injustice protests rolled across the country, a tipping point that is resetting public conversations on equality, inclusion, and police brutality. Combined with the ongoing pandemic, it added new context to Commencement and the graduates’ post-Lawrence journeys: “As we continue to settle into this uncertainty, maybe a little more uncertainty than we might’ve bargained for four years ago, I am confident that if any class has the strength to deal with the weight of the world, it’s the Class of 2020,” senior class speaker Samantha Lizbeth Torres ’20 told her classmates.
We feel your pain
The Class of 1970, meanwhile, was supposed to be on campus this week to celebrate its 50th anniversary, but, alas, Reunion fell victim to the coronavirus lockdown. The class that graduated amid a firestorm of anti-war protests following the U.S. invasion of Cambodia and the subsequent shootings of student protesters on the campuses of Kent State and Jackson State put plans to gather in person on pause. Instead, a virtual “re-Commencement” was held Sunday to bring the class together online. More than 100 members of the class took part.
For members of that class, the emotions of Commencement 50 years ago still linger. The ceremony took place but the divisiveness was palpable, the graduates recall. Many refused to wear their caps and gowns. Some wore black armbands. The Commencement speaker lectured the students, calling their generation self-absorbed, naïve, and humorless.
“The Vietnam War was raging and draft boards were aggressively seeking out young men whose service had been deferred during college,” Bill Hillburg ’70 recalled. “Baby boom demographics resulted in too many new grads chasing too few jobs and professional school slots. Inflation was devouring salaries. We were collectively freaking out.”
It was in the weeks leading up to Commencement that the bottom seemed to fall out. College campuses were already hotbeds for anti-war protests, and then on May 4, 1970, the improbable happened. Ohio National Guard troops opened fire on students on the Kent State campus, leaving four dead. Less than two weeks later, police fired shots on the campus of Jackson State, killing two students.
Protests would escalate on campuses across the country.
In Appleton, hundreds of protesters, many of them Lawrence students and faculty, flooded into the downtown the day following the Kent State shooting, the anger reflected on the front page of a special edition of The Lawrentian. Classes on campus would be temporarily suspended as the protests continued through the remainder of the term.
“Our college years were anything but perfect,” said Myra Krinke Hillburg ’70. “We were on the streets protesting the war and the racial and gender inequalities we could witness every day. Our country was as divided then as it is now.”
For her and her classmates, college had been tumultuous from the start. They saw the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., then Robert F. Kennedy. The Vietnam War was escalating and emotions were running raw.
“We finished out our senior year with suspended classes and bitter divides among the Lawrence administration, faculty, and student body,” Krinke Hillburg said. “Yes, we had a graduation ceremony, but it was a divisive mess, with many students wearing black armbands and donating the money that would have gone to cap and gown rental to the anti-war effort. Our Commencement address was given by a faculty member who chastised us for our naivete and privilege. Our idealism was ridiculed, our upheaval of cherished Lawrence traditions mourned. We were the least favorite graduating class of all time.”
A message of hope
For Bill Hillburg, it was a Lawrence staff member, a career adviser, who provided a sense of calm and hope amid all the chaos. You have a Lawrence education to cling to, and that is no small thing, he told students who had gathered for a spring term counseling session.
“He had no hot job tips or secrets for getting into grad school, which was not an option for the draft eligible,” Bill Hillburg said. “He also didn’t advise us whether to take up arms or flee to Canada. But he did give us hope. He assured us that our lives and careers would take us on paths we could not foresee and adventures and challenges we could not imagine, and through it all, we would benefit from being educated Lawrence grads. He was right.”
Bill and Myra would marry shortly after leaving Lawrence. Bill would go on to work many years as a journalist, mostly in California, and later with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Myra would become an accomplished teacher and girls’ golf coach.
“Along the way, we lived in several states and foreign countries and raised two talented daughters,” Bill Hillburg said.
John Fease ’70, a retired pastor who provided the benediction at Sunday’s “Re-Commencement,” said a lifetime of experiences has dulled the frustrations that surrounded Commencement. He, in fact, didn’t even graduate as expected that spring. He was short on credits, which pushed his Commencement to the following year. While his classmates went through with a fractious Commencement ceremony, he and his fiancee, Barb, got married.
So, as Fease and others on the 1970 Reunion Committee were meeting over the last year to plan their 50th reunion, he and Barb also were looking forward to marking their 50th wedding anniversary the same weekend. That celebration is not canceled.
“While there is great disappointment that we won’t be gathering for the reunion this year, Barb and I plan to shelter together to celebrate our 50th anniversary,” Fease said. “Surely, reason to rejoice.”
Fease, Everist, the Hillburgs, and their classmates are now delivering to the Class of 2020 a message of resilience: There are lifelong benefits to having a liberal arts education, and, thus, the uncertainty of the moment will give way to new opportunities and adventures. Krinke Hillburg said there’s much to be disheartened about right now, from the state of today’s politics to “the deterioration of our planet, another unending war, and unprecedented inequality in our society.” But just as it was true 50 years ago, today’s graduates have much to build on.
“Without our Lawrence education to see us through life, we could be inconsolable,” she said. “But the light of intellectual curiosity and the quest for knowledge Lawrence provided us with has seen us through many of life’s dark moments.”
For Everist, it was the ongoing connections with fellow Lawrentians that helped guide her journey once she left Appleton. Today’s graduates will feel the same, even if they fell separated at the moment, she said.
“It’s not the end,” Everist said of Commencement. “It’s the end of being at Lawrence, but it’s not the end of the Lawrence experience.”
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: email@example.com
The music instructor and flutist with the Lawrence Conservatory of Music has drawn wide acclaim for her work with Wet Ink, Decoda, and Alarm Will Sound, among other ensembles. While she continued to teach via distance learning during Lawrence University’s Spring Term, her performance schedule has been on lockdown since COVID-19 was deemed a global pandemic in mid-March.
That made a recent outreach from the Library of Congress all the sweeter. Lesser was asked to participate in The Boccaccio Project, an artistic collaboration in which 10 commissions of new music would be shared with the world. Each composer would be paired with a home-bound performer, with the 10 pieces being debuted over the span of 12 days on the library’s website and social media channels.
Lesser, representing Wet Ink, was partnered with Erin Rogers, a Canadian-American composer from Astoria, New York, with Lesser recording the newly crafted piece for solo flute, Hello World, at her Appleton home in late May.
“She wrote the piece specifically for me and with the intention that it be recorded from home,” Lesser said. “The Library of Congress selected 10 pairs of performers and composers and asked them to work together on a one- to three-minute work reflecting on the pandemic and our current environment.”
Rogers describes the piece this way: “Orbiting a sonic portal to the outer world, a flutist self-arranges within a mirrored video frame. The face-to-face encounter sets the scene for introduction, reintroduction, and exploration.”
That, Lesser said, captures the past three months of video conferencing, collaborating, and socializing beautifully.
“At a time when so much work has disappeared for artists and we are searching for new ways to come together as collaborators and community, it was particularly heartening to hear about this initiative from the Library of Congress and be asked to participate,” she said. “My initial conversations with Erin centered around topics such as our new collective relationship to technology, Zoom in particular, and having to find ways to make music in confined spaces. The piece she wrote uses small sounds amplified through a microphone, and video filters that alter my perception of seeing my image looking back at me from the screen.”
We all can relate, whether we’re making or teaching music or otherwise trying to live our lives in quarantine.
“With an infant son who has spent more than half of his life in a pandemic, I have thought a lot about his earliest relationships to people being filtered through technology and wondered how this may affect him,” Lesser said.
The Library of Congress began premiering The Boccaccio Project pieces on Monday, June 15, the commissions debuting nightly at 7 p.m. CST. The Rogers-Lesser collaboration is on tap for Friday, June 19. The series, skipping Saturday and Sunday, runs through Friday, June 26.
The project is inspired by another literary effort in the midst of a public health crisis, this one in the mid-14th century by Giovanni Boccaccio, who wrote the Decameron, a collection of 100 stories shared among a group of 10 acquaintances who had removed themselves from society during a plague. Library of Congress said this early artistic response to an outbreak provided context and a means of expression, something we’ve been tapping into in this age of social distancing.
The new commissions will premiere on the Library of Congress’s website and social media channels on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The commission manuscripts will become part of the Library of Congress’s music collections.
Lesser, who earned Lawrence University’s 2019 Award for Excellence in Teaching, has been on the Lawrence Conservatory faculty since 2011. Her work with Wet Ink and other ensembles has taken her to some of the grandest concert stages in the world and she’s commissioned and debuted numerous new works.
The full schedule for The Boccaccio Project includes:
The Lawrence University community gathered virtually on Sunday for a Commencement celebration unlike any other in the school’s 171-year history.
Held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic that moved Spring Term classes to distance learning, the ceremony celebrated the accomplishments of nearly 270 Lawrentians in the Class of 2020.
“We are at a time like no other, when both far too much—and not nearly enough—has changed,” President Mark Burstein told the graduates and their families, all looking in from locations around the world.
Watch the 2020 Lawrence University Commencement webcast in its entirety here.
Congratulatory messages from faculty and staff, shared via video and an online chat, were mixed with the traditional speeches and the conferring of degrees.
Commencement speaker Natasha Trethewey, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet whose book, Native Guard, has been on the Freshman Studies reading list at Lawrence for five years, implored the graduates to find inspiration in the arts as they make sense of a world that has changed mightily since they first stepped on campus four years ago.
Divisive politics, a pandemic the likes of which we haven’t seen in 100 years, and racial injustice protests that are shining new light on systematic inequalities have rocked the world. Find your voice, Trethewey urged the graduates. Seek inspiration in poetry, music, and other arts as a means to process and navigate these times.
“Art allows us the opportunity to reflect on the human condition, to see ourselves in others, evoking in us our noblest trait, the ability to empathize,” she said. “Art has always been a necessary part of our collective survival.”
Trethewey said she turned to poetry and other art in the aftermath of the murder of her mother, citing W.H. Auden’s poem, Musée des Beaux Arts, and Pieter Bruegel’s painting, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, as being particularly enlightening.
“It was the first time I understood that art could speak to me intimately about my own experience, that the language of a poem or a painting could save me from the feeling of overwhelming isolation brought on by trauma and grief,” she said. “In the midst of my despair, I suddenly felt part of something communal—ancient and ongoing.”
Cling to such beacons as you set out to make your mark in the world, Trethewey said. This moment in time isn’t an easy one, but it’s one that is ripe for change. And with it comes a need for compassion and empathy, and this generation is positioned to embrace each other wholly like none before.
“We are in a moment of shared national and international mourning and we are reminded of what links us to every other human being on this planet: our mortality, our need for justice, shelter, sustenance, sanctuary, air to breathe,” Trethewey said.
Samantha Lizbeth Torres ’20, selected as the senior class speaker, asked her classmates not to lose sight of the great accomplishment of graduating from Lawrence despite the global pandemic short-circuiting their final term on campus, not allowing for proper good-byes and celebrations. As a first-generation college student, a daughter of immigrants, missing out on an in-person Commencement has been painful, she said.
“Like many of you, I am still grieving this loss. The act of physically walking across that stage to receive a hard-earned diploma is one of the pinnacle moments for first-generation families and our most marginalized students. Lawrence is not easy for us. It was never meant to be. But signing up for that challenge, whether that meant leaving home a mile away or a continent away, demonstrates the strength and audacity it took to make Lawrence your own. I implore you to recognize the sheer amount of work, dedication and heart you’ve poured into yourselves and this Lawrence community over the past four years. You may be tired, overworked, or even burnt out. Relish this moment and all you’ve accomplished. Recognize the sacrifices you and your families have made and remember the great joy you’ve experienced here.”
Torres, a Posse scholar from New York City, praised her classmates for raising their voices over the past four years on issues ranging from divisive politics and immigration to LGBTQ rights and Black Lives Matter protests.
“We followed in the steps of our ancestors and of the great Lawrentians who have paved the way for us to continue making Lawrence a safe haven for all identities to be embraced and celebrated,” she said.
Continue that work no matter where your journey takes you, she said. It’s a responsibility that comes with being a Lawrentian.
“When the world tries to dim your light, shine bright,” Torres said. “No matter what comes next, anxieties and all, shine your light as fiercely as you can.”
Burstein told the graduates that a virtual Commencement does not diminish in any way the celebration of their accomplishments. But he said he has agonized over the prospect of not celebrating in person, unable to shake the hands of each graduate as they cross the stage.
“Even harder,” he said, “is knowing that Lawrence graduates you today into a world more uncertain than many generations before you. As someone who graduated from college and graduate school in another moment of economic and societal stress, I have a sense of what you may feel as you face the future. I am confident saying that regardless of what happens next, I know you have all acquired the skills necessary to succeed in this increasingly complex world. Your future homes and workplaces will benefit from your passion and skill. Your leadership will strengthen the world in which we live.”
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Seven Lawrence University alumni are being honored with 2020 Alumni Awards. 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. Full bios of the award winners can be found on the Alumni Awards page at Lawrence.edu.
The honorees include:
Jeffrey Riester ’70, Presidential Award:This award is presented to an alumnus or alumna whose leadership has contributed to the betterment of the Lawrence community. An attorney and manager at Godfrey & Kahn’s Business Practice Group in Appleton, Riester has been an active community partner, including being a founding member of the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. He also has provided exemplary leadership to Lawrence, including service on his 40th and 50th Reunion committees, the LUAA Board of Directors, the Björklunden Advisory Committee, and the Lawrence University Board of Trustees. In particular, he brought insightful leadership to the Board of Trustees as chair from 2002 to 2004, as chair of the More Light! campaign working group, and to the Björklunden Advisory Committee as co-chair alongside his wife, Jone ’72.
Lee Dodds Chemel ’65, Lucia Russell Briggs Distinguished Achievement Award: This award is presented to an alumnus or alumna of more than 20 years for outstanding contributions to and achievements in a career field. Chemel, who served as Lawrence’s 2019 Commencement speaker, started her studies at Milwaukee-Downer College before transferring to Lawrence College during the merger. She would go on to have success as a theater director before embarking on a successful career as a television director, earning four Emmy nominations while working on such shows as “The Middle,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Arrested Development,” “The Bernie Mac Show,” “Spin City,” “Mad About You,” “Murphy Brown,” Northern Exposure,” and “Family Ties.” She is the recipient of three BET awards for outstanding direction in comedy and two Humanitas awards.
Zoie Reams ’14, Nathan M. Pusey Young Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award: This honor is presented to an alumnus or alumna celebrating a 20th cluster Reunion or younger for significant contributions and achievements in a career field. Reams, who earned a bachelor of music degree in vocal performance at Lawrence, has been gracing the stage in some of the world’s most renowned opera houses. A Mezzo-soprano, she was lauded by Opera News for her “velvety mezzo” and for how she “phrase[s] with elegance and articulate[s] coloratura nimbly.” Of particular note and achievement for a young musician was her 2018-19 season debut at Lyric Opera of Chicago singing Flora in La Traviata. On the concert stage, Reams has performed with the National Symphony Orchestra, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the Las Vegas Philharmonic, the Staatstheater Cottbus Philharmonic Orchestra, the New York Choral Society at Carnegie Hall, and the combined choirs of Auburn University and New Choral Society of Scarsdale, New York.
Brienne Colston ’15, George B. Walter Service to Society Award:This honor is presented to an alumnus or alumna who best exemplifies the ideals of a liberal education through its application to socially useful ends in the community, the nation, or the world. Colston is a black queer feminist youth worker, facilitator, and community organizer hailing from the South Bronx. She is the founder and executive director of Brown Girl Recovery, a non-profit collective dedicated to prioritizing healing justice and providing community spaces to women of color in the Bronx and other uptown areas through social justice programming and events. She also serves as a racial justice and political education facilitator for an array of small community-based organizations. With degrees in gender studies and history, Colston found her passion in grassroots organizing and resistance work. Her tireless work for her community and devotion to liberation has given many women of color a vital space for encouragement, support, and healing.
Nancy Perkins Hanley M-D ’54, Gertrude Breithaupt Jupp Outstanding Service Award:Presented to an alumnus or alumna after a 20th cluster Reunion or beyond who has provided outstanding service to Lawrence. Hanley crafted an impressive 31-year career as an occupational therapist in rehabilitation, psychiatry, and pediatrics. She also has brought her appreciation of Milwaukee-Downer College to everything she has done for Lawrence University. Since 1991, she has held the position of class secretary. For four years, from 1996 to 2000, she served on the LUAA Board of Directors as a member of the Alumni Programs Committee and Alumni Development Committee. In 2004, she was a member of her 50th Reunion Steering Committee. In 2008, she helped to organize the Milwaukee-Downer Legacy Circle reception for M-D alumnae in southern California. She is a former class agent, admissions volunteer, and organizer of regional alumni programming.
Ted Katzoff ’65,Gertrude Breithaupt Jupp Outstanding Service Award: Presented to an alumnus or alumna after a 20th cluster Reunion or beyond who has provided outstanding service to Lawrence. Katzoff, a theater major, started the fencing program at Lawrence. An actor, manager, director, and sword master, he has spent a lifetime sharing his passions for theater and fencing. He returns to Lawrence often to mentor the fencing team, lead master classes for the theatre program, interview prospective students and represent Lawrence at college fairs. He has served on multiple Reunion committees, as a campaign volunteer for both the More Light! and Be the Light! capital fundraising campaigns, served on the Alumni Board of Directors from 2009 to 2012, and volunteered every year for the 50-year Connection program that honors the merging of Milwaukee-Downer College and Lawrence College.
Chiao-Yu Tuan ’14, Marshall B. Hulbert Young Alumni Outstanding Service Award: This award is presented to an alumnus or alumna celebrating a 20th cluster Reunion or younger who has provided significant service to the college. Tuan, an international student who majored in psychology and math-computer science, produced the documentary, 5000 Miles from Home, while at Lawrence, capturing the perspective of first-year international students. Since graduation, Tuan she has maintained close ties to Lawrence by creating platforms to help effectively communicate with current and prospective international students. Tuan works for Airbnb as a software engineer in the Silicon Valley. She has never hesitated to share her experience with Lawrence students, whether that means coming back to campus to speak to computer science classes or mentoring international students on life after Lawrence. Tuan is a longtime host for the annual Silicon Valley Trek, a spring break excursion taken by Lawrence Scholars in Business.