Author: Ed Berthiaume

As Great Midwest Trivia Contest evolves, students hold tight to cherished traditions

Riley Newton is leading the 2022 Great Midwest Trivia Contest as the trivia head master.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The Great Midwest Trivia Contest arrives this weekend for the 57th consecutive year, built and nurtured by Lawrence University students with a passion for trivia traditions that date back more than five decades.

The student-produced contest will begin at 37 seconds past 10 p.m. Friday, streamed on Twitch instead of broadcast on WLFM for the second consecutive year due to pandemic protocols. It will continue for 50 hours, ending at midnight Sunday.

The contest, open to teams on and off campus, arrives in the year in which Lawrence is celebrating 175 years since its founding, giving added attention to the contest’s placement among the university’s most enduring traditions.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced some adjustments the past two years, most of the hallmarks of trivia weekend remain—ridiculously obscure questions, the oddly specific starting time, useless prizes, trivia T-shirts, armadillo sightings, and sleep deprivation, among others.

“Some things with the contest have changed, but some things, like the energy of it, are still very much the same,” said senior Riley Newton, an economics major from Austin, Texas, and this year’s trivia head master.

A dozen trivia masters will gather in Briggs Hall during the contest, allowing for greater social distancing than is possible in the WLFM studios. The contest will stream on Twitch with calls coming in via a phone server on Discord. Some traditional phones may be in the mix as well. Registration for the contest will open at 8 p.m. Friday.

Find the Great Midwest Trivia Contest on Twitch here.

Join the official Trivia 57 Discord Server here.

The contest went fully digital last year because of the pandemic. It was a huge lift, done out of necessity and a deep desire to keep the contest and as many traditions as possible alive. Lessons learned are being put to use during this year’s contest, which comes as the omicron variant continues to keep campus closed to the public. Last year’s Twitch stream, for example, drew positive feedback, Newton said, in part because trivia players were able to see the questions instead of just hearing them on the broadcast.  Some of those elements will likely remain part of future contests even after the pandemic recedes and WLFM comes back in play.

But as the contest continues to evolve, it’s the long-standing traditions that will still connect generations of trivia players—some here in Appleton, others participating from around the world.

“This is a Lawrence contest; it’s a cornerstone of a lot of people’s Lawrence experience,” Newton said. “My Lawrence experience definitely would not be the same without having participated in this contest. It’s going to be one of the fondest memories I have from my time here.”

The contest was first held in the spring of 1966, the brainchild of student J.B. deRosset ’66, who saw it as a needed distraction for a stressed-out student body. When he returned to campus in 2015 for the 50th anniversary of the contest, he said he never expected it to have a second year, let alone become a beloved undertaking for decades to come.

“Going into that first contest, I don’t think any of us contemplated this happening a second time,” he said. “My mind was on being draft eligible for Vietnam, raging hormones, and where to go to graduate school.”

13 traditions that help keep Lawrentians connected.

One of the contest’s most esteemed traditions, the awarding of strange prizes, was launched in that first year—the winner received an old refrigerator filled with 45-rpm records. It set the tone that this was going to be weird.

That spirit has endured, as Jonathon Roberts ’05 said when he served as trivia head master in 2005, the contest’s 40th anniversary: “People love the prizes. I mean, where else can you win seven pounds of human hair and a broken TV in exchange for 50 hours of your life?”

The contest that deRosset launched, then 26 hours long and known as the Midwest Trivia Contest (the word “Great” wouldn’t be added until years later), rolled on indeed, picking up speed as it drew audiences and participants from on and off campus.

We caught up with Eric Buchter ’75 as we pondered the contest’s many traditions during this 175th anniversary year at Lawrence. He was the student manager of WLFM for three years during the early 1970s, a time when many of the contest’s traditions were launched.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the trivia contest T-shirt, Buchter said. It has become an annual staple on campus since the first ones were unveiled in 1972.

T-shirts and armadillos remain part of trivia tradition.

It also was 50 years ago that the tradition began of the university president delivering the contest’s first question, known then and always as the Super Garuda. That honor has gone to presidents Thomas Smith, Richard Warch, Jill Beck, and Mark Burstein, and this year, for the first time, Laurie Carter.

1972 also was the year when action questions were added to the contest, asking participants to go into the community to answer a question via a physical task. The first one: What is the width of College Avenue in front of Lawrence Memorial Chapel? The question was given at 3 a.m., Buchter said, best to do it at a time when traffic wasn’t flowing while participants were measuring the street.

The following year the contest was moved from Spring Term to Winter Term, launching a tradition that also has continued.

And in 1974, the armadillo became an enduring symbol of the contest, a mascot of sorts, that continues to this day. At the time, Buchter said, there was a running joke on campus of inserting the word armadillo into famous quotations—“Hark! What armadillo through yonder window breaks” was his favorite.

“That year’s joke fad was immortalized on the trivia T-shirt and, I guess, passed into trivia tradition,” Buchter said.

This year’s 12 trivia masters, led by Newton, have been working hard the past few months to prepare a contest that is both steeped in tradition and nimble enough to change course on a moment’s notice. That’s the reality of these times.

“As wild as things are right now, last year was even more so in terms of turning the entire contest on its head,” Newton said.

The appeal of all this trivia craziness? Well, each year, the trivia head master is asked to explain. Newton called trivia weekend an adrenaline rush that hooked them as a first-year and never let go.

Perhaps Weronika Gajowniczek ’15, serving as the head master during the 50th anniversary contest seven years ago, summed it up best: “Trivia is like a 50-hour super bug. You don’t want to eat; you can’t sleep and the whole weekend is pretty much a weird fever dream.”

Let the games begin.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

He thought he could turn his aquarium hobby into a career. A million YouTube subscribers say he was right

George Mavrakis ’19 brought a couple of his fish friends with him as he walked across the stage for Lawrence University’s 2019 Commencement.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

As George Mavrakis ’19 awaits delivery of his coveted Golden Play Button—a prize recognizing the milestone of 1 million subscribers to his YouTube channel—his mind flashes back to fall 2016.

He was weeks into his sophomore year at Lawrence University when word got out that he had a growing YouTube following for the videos he was making about his saltwater aquarium hobby. He didn’t think 10,000 subscribers was anything to brag about; the economics major from suburban Chicago was more concerned about finding playing time on the Lawrence basketball team.

“When I came to Lawrence, it was just a hobby,” Mavrakis said. “I didn’t tell anyone about it. It wasn’t until after my first year at Lawrence that that secret about me sort of slipped and released into the student population and everyone was like, ‘oh, he’s the fish guy.’ From that moment on, I was George the fish guy.”

Mavrakis kept saltwater tanks in his room. He filmed some of his videos on campus. He recruited others on campus to join the fun. And his YouTube following continued to grow each year, as did his editing skills and his understanding of digital algorithms.

By his senior year, things were moving fast as he balanced classwork, basketball, and aquarium commitments. Midway through the year, he and a business partner, Shawn Hale, launched a live aquarium festival, known as Aquashella, first in Chicago and then in Dallas. The first one broke even; the second one was a money-maker.

By the time he would graduate—and, yes, he carried two fish with him when he walked across the stage at Commencement in June 2019—the fish guy was getting to be a pretty big deal. Subscribers to his CoralFish12g channel had grown to 165,000, and one of his videos had gone viral, racking up millions of views. Mavrakis had come to the realization that, yes, this hobby he had launched into as a 10-year-old and nurtured during his four years at Lawrence could be much more than just a hobby.

George Mavrakis ’19 shows his saltwater tanks during his senior year at Lawrence.

So, with a degree in economics in hand and a growing understanding of the YouTube environment, he set forth to build an even larger audience and a carefully designed business enterprise, based in Glenview, Illinois. He has since produced hundreds of aquarium videos—well-researched, informative, often funny, with high energy and fast cuts—garnering nearly 150 million views over the past three years.

And, as of Dec. 21, one million subscribers.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “For me, to have that Golden Play Button on the way, it’s like a childhood dream. It’s really special.”

See more on Lawrence’s economics major here.

Saltwater fish collecting is a niche hobby, but the 24-year-old Mavrakis has found a formula that is as much entertainment as it is educational. You don’t have to be an aquarium buff to enjoy the banter or share in the laughs or appreciate the energy.

“I realized I need to appeal to a broad audience,” Mavrakis said. “How can I make aquariums and marine life interesting and entertaining and educational to everyone? How can I make anyone who just picks up their phone to watch this video be interested?”

He’s traveled to 15 countries to shoot his videos since graduating from Lawrence. He’s sought out interesting people who have stories to share and interesting locales that provide brilliant backdrops. He spent more than two months in Asia shooting dozens of videos because that region of the world supplies such a large percentage of the world’s ornamental fish.

“It’s something that sets me apart from a lot of other creators in my field,” Mavrakis said. “I like to get out there. I like to see and find the things that no one else has seen before.”

Putting his economics background to work, he’s purposefully expanded beyond videos. He didn’t want to be beholden to the ebb and flow of video consumption and advertising. He and Hale expanded Aquashella to three times a year, adding Orlando to the mix. It’s billed as the “world’s premier aquarium festival,” featuring fish, reptiles, and aquatic art.

In December, just as CoralFish12g was about to hit that magical 1 million subscriber mark, Mavrakis launched his own line of small saltwater aquariums, complete with a kit and an instructional video course targeted toward beginners. Pandemic-related shipping delays meant he could only get 50 of the first 200 he ordered, priced at $450 each, but those 50 sold out in three hours. He got another 1,500 emails expressing interest in buying the kit as soon as more become available.

Mavrakis thought it would be fun to deliver a few of the tanks in person, a thank you to those who have been fans of his videos. He didn’t tell them he was coming.

“We got on a plane and went to a few different spots in the United States,” he said. “It was really fun, really cool. And we shot that as a video. Some people were a little awkward because you catch them off guard, but there were a few people who really freaked out. It was so fun. I got to set the tanks up with them.”

Mavrakis has spent much of the past six months expanding his operation. He now has five full-time employees working with him on CoralFish12g. Another five part-time employees work on the Aquashella shows.

The quick growth has been a blessing and a challenge, he said, but he’s establishing an infrastructure that will hopefully allow CoralFish12g and Aquashella to thrive over the long haul.

“It’s hard; creators and creative people in general and small business owners in general experience burnout,” he said. “Managing that is the key. How does this continue to go on even potentially beyond me?”

Mavrakis said his Lawrence experience helped him to prepare for this journey. That includes his experiences as a student-athlete—he played basketball for four years, averaging 9.9 points and 5 rebounds during his senior season. The path wasn’t always easy, he said, but the lessons learned inform decisions he’s now making as a young entrepreneur.

“It was a place that set me up for my future,” he said of Lawrence. “I’m very grateful. It ended up being a place that put me in the best position to be successful.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

Kenya Earl’s record-setting career at Lawrence has been a thrilling journey

Kenya Earl brings the ball up court Jan. 15 vs. Grinnell at Alexander Gym.

Story by Joe Vanden Acker / Athletics

It’s almost unfathomable to think what Kenya Earl nearly missed. The Lawrence University women’s basketball star has earned numerous accolades, set multiple records, and will go down as one of the greatest players in Lawrence basketball history.

Earl’s latest achievement was breaking the career scoring record in Lawrence’s 66-48 win over Grinnell College on Jan. 15. She now stands at 1,489 points, two better than Claire Getzoff, a 2006 graduate and Lawrence Hall of Famer.

The alternate reality for Earl was college life without basketball at her hometown school, the University of Iowa, and that was going to be the choice. A big assist goes to former Lawrence coach Ashley Wellman for getting Earl to Appleton.

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep playing, but luckily (Wellman) kept reaching out,” Earl said.

Wellman said Earl believed she might not be good enough to play college basketball. Wellman, with a knowing smile, assured Earl she could definitely play the game at the next level, and she made the drive from Iowa City to visit. After that, it was basically a done deal.

“I just wanted to get here and play, play basketball,” Earl said. “Everyone was so nice. The team was so nice.”

Scoring record falls during Jan. 15 game against Grinnell

Kenya Earl celebrates with her teammates after breaking Lawrence’s all-time women’s basketball scoring record on Jan. 15.

Earl became an instant sensation for the Vikings. She posted a double-double with 23 points and 12 rebounds in her first collegiate game and has piled up 22 more double-doubles in the ensuing seasons. Earl finished her rookie season at 17.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game and was an All-Midwest Conference selection.

“I was lucky to start and that gave me a lot of confidence,” Earl said of her rookie season in 2017-18. “I wasn’t expecting a whole lot in the beginning. I gained more confidence from my team.”

Head coach Riley Woldt took over the program in 2018, and he knew Earl was a fine player but the appreciation quickly grew.

“Another special thing about Kenya is how versatile she is,” Woldt said. “(The coaching staff) quickly realized that if we kept her down (in the post), teams could double- and triple-team her. We needed to open up her role on offense so, one, she could get touches and get more touches, and two, we could have more balance and flow on offense.”

Taking advantage of Earl’s outside shooting ability (she has knocked down 92 3-pointers in her career) and her knack for getting to the foul line (she’s a career 85 percent free-throw shooter), she averaged 16.8 points and 8.4 rebounds as a sophomore in 2018-19. Earl was a first-team all-conference selection that season.

Student profile: 2 Minutes With … Kenya Earl

After two seasons, Earl was well over halfway to Getzoff’s career scoring record of 1,487. Her teammates quickly pointed that out.

“When I hit my junior year, people were saying, ‘You could break the all-time record,’ and I’m thinking what are you talking about,” Earl said.

A five-time Midwest Conference Player of the Week, Earl had the best season of her career in 2019-20 as she broke her own season record with 443 points. A first-team all-conference selection again, she averaged 18.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

“Going into my senior year last year, we got canceled due to COVID and that was hard,” Earl said. “I wanted to come back just to figure out my academics more and that once-in-a-lifetime chance to break this record.”

A biology major, Earl is the only player in the league this year averaging a double-double at 14.9 points and a conference-best 10.4 rebounds per contest. She entered the season just 208 points away from breaking Getzoff’s record. 

“I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself and psych myself out,” Earl said. “This season I’m just trying to win games for my team and chip away at it.”

Earl’s low-key demeanor belies the fire that burns inside the player, Woldt said.

“I love what she brings to the table every single day. She’s early to practice, goes to her own hoop to get ready for practice. But she’s not distant. A total team player. Our humble warrior,” Woldt said.

While Earl’s offensive exploits draw the attention, she is a good defender and ranks third on Lawrence’s career list with 722 rebounds and second with 94 blocks.

“What I’ve been really impressed with is that Kenya’s become a really smart, savvy defender,” said Woldt, adding that Earl draws the other team’s top post player but also is good on the perimeter and in help defense.

“Her growth that we’ve seen is that she understands our defense, but she knows how to contest shots, put her body in a place to help.”

The Vikings have continued to grow as Earl has matured. Lawrence is 6-8 this season and tied for fourth in the league at 3-3. The top four teams make the MWC Tournament, and the Vikings are eyeing one of those spots. 

“We’ve been talking all season about what our goal is, and our goal is to reach the top four,” said Earl, who has 10 regular-season games left. 

The other individual goal for Earl could be one last record. She stands just 77 points away from breaking Lawrence’s all-time scoring record of 1,565 held by three-time All-American Chris Braier.

“I hear a lot about Chris Braier, and I’ve met him a couple of times. To be put in the same category as him is mind-blowing,” Earl said. 

“The team goal is the most important right now. It would be really nice to make (the tournament) and going out with a bang this last year.”

Earl is in the twilight of her career, and that brings a harsh reality for Woldt — getting ready for life after Kenya Earl.

“You can’t replace a Kenya Earl. It takes multiple players to replace all the things she does,” said Woldt. “The Kenya Earls, the Clarie Getzoffs, the Felice Porratas only come around once in a great while.”

Joe Vanden Acker is director of athletic media relations at Lawrence University.

10 reasons Winter Term will warm your heart and fill your to-do list

Dreamers’ Circus is scheduled to perform in Harper Hall on Jan. 31.

Story by Alex Freeman ’23

Bundle up, Lawrentians—Winter Term has arrived.

While we’ve all spent the last two years adapting to the twists and turns of the pandemic, Lawrence students, faculty, and staff have been hard at work to make sure this term will be something to remember. Here are 10 moments you won’t want to miss:

Note: Be aware that events could change amid pandemic protocols. Keep an eye on the Event Calendar for updates.


It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a … sleep-deprived 21-year-old running around Main Hall Green wearing bright yellow? I don’t know, trivia gets weird. But that’s the fun of it! When the games begin at exactly 37 seconds after 10 p.m. on Jan. 28, the Great Midwest Trivia Contest will begin its 57th year and embark on another 50 hours of non-stop trivia, all streamed on Twitch. In-person components are to be determined. Stay tuned to the trivia blog at for updates. In the meantime, study up, form your teams, and figure out your sleep schedule! There’s a reason why it’s the longest running college trivia competition in the world.


If you’re a fan of French playwright Molière—or of Lawrence’s top-notch theater program—this one’s for you. In honor of Molière’s 400th birthday, Lawrence theater is going all out: first, with a production of Molière’s The Flying Doctor, and then with two Molière-inspired one-acts, Scapin’s Tricks: The Trial and A Misanthrope or All the World’s a Stage (and All the Men and Women Merely Players). The past will meet the present as we spend the evenings of Feb. 18-19 immersed in the French-translated Molière Inspired.


When you Google the word “convocation,” the definition is focused on calling people together. And that’s what Lawrence’s convocation series is all about: the campus community is called together to explore an intellectually stimulating and vitally important societal topic. This term, the convocation will be led by the distinguished multidisciplinary artist Alexandra Bell. With work examining the ways in which media narratives shape discourse and policy surrounding race, politics, and culture, you can catch her convocation address on Feb. 18.


A new year always blesses the campus community with a new collection of curated art work at the Wriston Art Center. With an opening set for later this week, three exhibits will be on display. The Leech Gallery will house “Manufacturing American Women,” a student-curated exhibit examining the connections between gender and consumerism in the early 20th-century. Over in the Kohler Gallery, “Crossing the Vertical Border: On the Central American Migrant Trail”* explores critical themes through the use of documentary photography paired with literary text.

And remember that Alexandra Bell convocation we just mentioned? Well, it gets even better. Select works from her “Counternarratives” series, which powerfully critiques the way in which harmful media narratives impact society, will be featured in the Hoffmaster Gallery.

* Note: This exhibition contains textual representations of both violence and sexual assault that some visitors may find upsetting.


Two operas for the price of one! Well, for Lawrence students, faculty, and staff, admission is free, but you’ll still have the opportunity to see the award-winning opera program at work in two back-to-back one-act productions. Running March 3-6, the performance of Giacomo Puccini’s Suor Angelica is sure to leave you reaching for the tissues, while Benjamin Britten’s Curlew River will take you all the way back to biblical times as it constructs its own parable. After a year of virtual performances, this powerhouse of a show is the perfect welcome back to the theater for Lawrence’s singers.


While there’s no shortage of talent within Lawrence University, it’s always nice to see some fresh faces—especially when those faces are of immensely talented, professional musicians. Lawrentians can see two guest performances this term: Nordic folk group Dreamers’ Circus on Jan. 31 as part of the World Music Series and contemporary classical group Third Coast Percussion on Feb. 4 as part of the Artist Series. Dreamers’ Circus will be in Harper Hall and Third Coast Percussion will be in Memorial Chapel. Both will be in person for Lawrence students, faculty, and staff. The public, meanwhile, will be able to purchase livestream tickets.


You thought we were finished celebrating the new year? As a collaboration between Chinese Students Association, Vietnamese Culture Organization, Korean Culture Club, the Diversity & Intercultural Center, and the Office for Spiritual and Religious Life, the annual Lunar New Year celebration will be held on Jan. 29. With high-energy performances, an introduction to the tradition of the Lunar New Year, and special booths (and maybe gifts!) set up by the participating cultural clubs, this evening of fun provides the perfect opportunity to get involved and learn something new! Besides, who doesn’t want another chance to ring in the new year?


Ditch those snow boots and put on your dancing shoes! The music will keep you warm. The annual President’s Ball serves as the conclusion to a week full of winter-themed activities and games, as students dress to the nines, take some photos, and vibe to the sounds of the Big Band. Mark your calendars for Feb. 5. And watch the events calendar for information on other Winter Carnival happenings in the days leading up to President’s Ball.


It wouldn’t be Lawrence without plenty of student recitals—like, nearly every day. Conservatory students are always showcasing their talents with the rest of the Lawrence community. If you’re ever looking for something to do on a Friday night, check the calendar to see which of your fellow students are performing and make sure to give them a standing ovation.


February is Black History Month, and Lawrence’s Black Student Union always works hard to create space for Black students to celebrate their roots and culture. With events planned throughout the month, including the annual Black Excellence Ball on Feb. 19, the celebration will culminate with Cultural Expressions on Feb. 26, which you definitely don’t want to miss.

In this cherished annual event, BIPOC students are given the platform to showcase their talent and their art, in whatever form it might take. Get inspired, and celebrate Black culture and history—no matter what month it is.

Alex Freeman ’23 is a student writer in the Office of Communications

Live-streamed recital, opening of online store mark kickoff of 175th anniversary

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is launching a year-long celebration of its 175th anniversary this weekend, complete with a virtual trivia contest, a live-streamed music recital, and the opening of an online merchandise store. It comes appropriately enough on the weekend of Founders Day, Jan. 15.

The celebration that will roll out over the coming months will mark an “incredible milestone,” President Laurie A. Carter said in a message to the Lawrence community.

“Since our founding 175 years ago, Lawrence has become a nationally ranked college of liberal arts and sciences and conservatory of music that attracts students from nearly every state and 40 countries,” she said. “With an alumni community 20,000 strong and counting, Lawrentians are shining their light in communities around the world.”

Follow along: See details, updates, and LU history on 175th webpage

We got merch! Shop now at the LU 175th online store

That light will shine especially bright this weekend, as Lawrentians across campus and around the world are encouraged to share their love of Lawrence on social media with the hashtag #Lawrence175.

It was on January 15, 1847, that Lawrence Institute was granted a charter, one year before Wisconsin became a state and six years before Appleton would be incorporated as a municipality. It was founded as one of the nation’s first co-educational institutions of higher learning, and in the ensuing years would see the establishment of a world-class music conservatory, a merger with Milwaukee-Downer College, and the emergence and growth of academic programs that now annually lands Lawrence on lists of the best liberal arts colleges in the country.

The year-long celebration will be wrapped around three key weekends: A Founders Day launch on Jan. 14-15; a community celebration on May 14 that will include both the campus community and neighbors in the Fox Cities; and a culminating Blue & White Weekend on Oct. 7-8. In between, there will be a rolling series of engagement and storytelling opportunities to involve students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

“Any institution getting to be 175 years old is impressive, but I think it is especially so for Lawrence because we started when Appleton as a municipality didn’t exist yet,” said Lina Rosenberg Foley ’15, the university’s archivist. “The state of Wisconsin didn’t exist yet. But we were founded here and we have continued to grow and thrive here. Appleton grew up around Lawrence. I think that’s very powerful.”

Unlike past quarterly milestones—175 years is known as a demisemiseptcentennial—this one comes with the opportunity for Lawrentians to celebrate together virtually. In addition to in-person gatherings, the year ahead will include a mix of remote and social media engagements, something that was but a dream when the sesquicentennial was celebrated in 1997.

“So often events like this are seen as a celebration of community, but I think there is a real opportunity to build community in that celebration and to define community differently,” said Matt Baumler, executive director of alumni and constituency engagement. “To thoughtfully include and connect students with faculty and staff as well as with alumni and our Fox Cities community partners, that’s what excites me.”

This weekend’s activities are set. Details of other events will be announced as the year goes on, with information shared on the new 175th webpage. The page includes considerable content on Lawrence’s history and will grow through the year. It features the newly unveiled Lawrence 175 logo, which will become familiar across campus during 2022. Lawrentians are encouraged to visit the 175th page often during the year as updates are added.

Among 175th developments to keep an eye on:

  • The online merchandise store featuring Lawrence 175 gear is now up. A variety of merchandise featuring the 175th logo will be available for purchase — shirts, blankets, glasses, mugs, winter hats, and more. The link will be housed on the 175th webpage.
  • A Lawrence 175th Birthday Recital will be held at 8 p.m. Jan. 15 in Memorial Chapel. Because of pandemic-related protocols, there will be no live audience. But the recital will be live streamed for all to watch. It’ll feature performances from Conservatory faculty and alumni, among them Karen Leigh-Post ’79, Matthew Michelic, Anthony Padilla, and Catherine Walby ’97. It will feature music composed in the mid-1800s, about the time of Lawrence’s founding, and music composed by Lawrentians. The live stream can be found here
  • An online trivia contest that will include nuggets of Lawrence history is being held at 7 p.m. Jan. 14, hosted by the Trivia Mafia alumni group. You can register a team at this link until 5 p.m. Friday.
  • All alumni are receiving 2022 Lawrence wall calendars in the mail as a reminder of the year-long celebration. The calendars also will be made available on campus to faculty, staff, and students.
  • Students, faculty, staff, and alumni are being encouraged on Jan. 14 and 15 to wish Lawrence a happy anniversary on social media, using the hashtag #Lawrence175. Take selfies. Wear blue and white. Show your Lawrence love across all of your social channels.

“The celebration begins Founders Day weekend, which marks that historic January 15 in 1847 when the Territory of Wisconsin Legislature granted a charter to Lawrence Institute,” Carter wrote in her message to campus. “That institute evolved into the university we know and love today. After visiting his namesake institution, founder Amos A. Lawrence shared with his wife that the institution was a ‘great and good work’ of which they could be proud. These words still ring true.”

Lawrence today remains what it has been for much of its rich history —an undergraduate college of the liberal arts and sciences with a renowned conservatory of music. Situated on 84 acres on the eastern edge of Appleton’s downtown, the campus now includes 60 instructional, residential, recreational, and administrative facilities. It is built on land purchased from the Menominee tribe, the ancestral homelands of the Menominee and Ho-Chunk people. And Björklunden vid Sjön, the 441-acre estate along the shores of Lake Michigan in Door County, continues to serve as an educational retreat for Lawrence students and alumni.

With an enrollment of nearly 1,500 students, Lawrence continues to honor the vision of its founders and build on the heritage of excellence in undergraduate education. Let the celebration begin, 175 years in the making.

Note: An on-campus celebration for the campus community originally scheduled for Jan. 14 in Warch Campus Center is being rescheduled. Stay tuned for details and a new date.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

MLK Day programs to feature virtual events open to campus and alumni

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University will mark MLK Day on Jan. 17 with a day of service that includes a series of virtual discussions in the morning, volunteer opportunities in the afternoon, and an online community celebration in the evening.

The events, honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., have been organized with health and safety protocols in place. Because the discussions, led by Lawrence faculty, will be virtual, they are being made available to Lawrence alumni as well as the on-campus community.

The culminating virtual event, meanwhile, is open to all—the 31st annual Fox Cities Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. It begins at 6 p.m., focused on the theme of finding inspiration and empowerment in our individual stories.

“Dr. King’s legacy is so inspirational and empowering for all of us collectively, but also in our own walks and journeys,” said Brittany Bell, Lawrence’s associate dean for diversity, engagement and student leadership and a co-chair of the community celebration. “It’s important for us to know his story and all that he fought for.”

The annual celebration, sponsored by Lawrence, the City of Appleton, United Way Fox Cities, ESTHER, Appleton Area School District, and African Heritage, Inc., is normally held in Memorial Chapel, but it’ll be presented online due to pandemic protocols. Registration is required by Jan. 14. Find a registration link here.

Outagamie County Judge Yadira Rein

The keynote speaker will be Outagamie County Judge Yadira Rein, the first person of color—specifically, the first Latina—to serve as judge in the 8th Judicial District of Wisconsin. She was appointed to the position to fill a vacancy in June 2021.

Rein was born in El Paso, Texas, and was raised in a small town in northern Mexico by her grandparents. When she was 9 years old, she and her family moved to Wisconsin.

Rein went on to study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, earning both her undergraduate and law degrees. After graduating from law school, she returned to the Fox Valley and worked at two law firms, Sigman Janssen Law Firm and, most recently, McCarty Law LLP.

Monday’s celebration will include musical performances by the Lawrence University Concert Choir.

A day of education, outreach

Lawrence will have no classes on Monday in honor of MLK Day. Students, faculty, staff, and alumni are invited to take part in virtual discussions on aspects of King’s legacy and issues of race and the media.

“MLK Day is the only federal holiday that has also been designated a national day of service,” said Garrett Singer, director of Lawrence’s Center for Community Engagement and Social Change. “By engaging in our annual celebration of Dr. King’s legacy, Lawrentians can create space for deliberate reflection, education, and collective action, not only with each other but alongside thousands of communities across the country.” 

The morning education sessions are virtual and will include:

9 to 10:30 a.m.: “Black, White, and (Un)Read”: Exploring how media can ignore and misrepresent minority audiences, on- and off-campus

This session features Tamara Buck of Southeast Missouri State University speaking on how on-campus news media often ignores and/or misrepresents minority audiences. Her lecture will be followed by a panel discussion on how those same patterns of behavior can be avoided in local, regional, and national coverage. The panel includes Buck, Nathan Heffel ’02 of Western Slope Communications, Larry Gallup, editor of The Post-Crescent in Appleton, and Henry Sanders Jr., CEO and publisher of Madison 365. (Participants will receive a Zoom link upon registering.)

11 a.m. to noon: Mapping MLK’s Legacy Through Geographies of Oppression, Radical Protest, and Ecofuturism

Sigma Colón, assistant professor of environmental and ethnic studies, will explore King’s legacy, tracing his imprint on particular spaces — streets and urban inequality, the possibilities conjured through radical protest, and how we might approach questions of environmental futurity. (Participants will receive a Zoom link upon registering.)

Noon to 1 p.m.: Professors from the English, Ethnic Studies, and History departments will lead a workshop that examines King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” including a discussion of the historical context in which the letter was written and delivered. (Participants will receive a Zoom link upon registering.)

For additional details on the discussions and a QR code, go here.

In the afternoon, volunteer opportunities are available for students, faculty, and staff, with health and safety protocols in place.

“In spite of the challenges presented by the pandemic, we’re also fortunate to announce an inaugural partnership with Volunteer Fox Cities, which has allowed us to maintain a robust slate of in-person, remote, and virtual service opportunities for students,” Singer said

Service programming is planned for 1 to 4:30 p.m. A series of virtual opportunities are in place, as well as some in-person volunteering in the community. Organizers have verified health and safety protocols are in place at the off-campus sites. For a list of service opportunities, visit the GivePulse page.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

Remembering longtime Lawrence economics professor Corry Azzi

Corry Azzi (2002)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is mourning the loss of Corry Azzi ’65, an economics professor who had a “larger than life” presence on campus for more than three decades before retiring in 2002.

He passed away Jan. 8 at the age of 77.

Azzi attended Lawrence, graduating summa cum laude in 1965. He would go on to become a Woodrow Wilson Scholar at Harvard University, earning his doctorate in economics.

Azzi returned to Lawrence in 1970, joining the economics faculty, and over the next 32 years would become one of the most visible professors on campus. In 1997, he was awarded Lawrence’s Excellence in Teaching Award.

Azzi commanded a presence on campus. He was described as opinionated, straightforward, and often gruff, with a deep knowledge of economics, masterful skills in the classroom, and a willingness to guide and mentor both students and colleagues.

“The term sotto voce has never been applied to you, except perhaps during your ambling walks across campus when you are deep in conversation with yourself,” then-President Richard Warch said in an award citation presented to Azzi. “But in the classroom or the Grill, your booming voice and your body language mirror the unwavering certainty and self-confidence with which you convey your understanding of economics and of the ways the world should wag to your students and colleagues.”

Azzi joined the Economics Department initially as a macroeconomist but branched into micro areas such as labor economics, government regulation of business, and public expenditures. He collaborated with colleagues in mathematics to design and develop a statistics laboratory aimed at improving student learning in econometrics. He continued to teach econometrics as an emeritus professor until 2010.

Merton D. Finkler, the John R. Kimberly Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Economics, worked alongside Azzi for years. He said Azzi’s blunt persona wasn’t a fit for every student, but for those who embraced his insightful, if harsh, feedback or were willing to wade into a give-and-take with their professor, the benefits were significant.

“His views were clearly stated and well supported,” Finkler said. “Furthermore, he never shied away from letting people know his opinions, particularly on public policy topics. Nevertheless, he strongly encouraged students to challenge him and to make present their arguments. Often times, his rebuke of students’ work would be less than gentle; however, many students relished in having their arguments tested and strengthened. … I would argue that the skills they learned from him provided life-long benefits.”

As a colleague, Finkler called Azzi “warm and accommodating” and always willing to provide encouragement.

“I will miss him as a colleague and friend,” he said.

Azzi grew up on the south side of Chicago before coming to Lawrence. He eventually would make Appleton his home and was deeply involved in numerous community pursuits, ranging from volunteering at YMCA swim meets to serving on the board of the Tri-County Ice Arena to coaching youth baseball teams. He joined and then became president of the Ruffed Grouse Society of Northeastern Wisconsin. In addition, he and his family became an extended family for three high school students who came to Appleton through the A Better Chance (ABC) program.

David Gerard, the John R. Kimberly Distinguished Professor of the American Economic System and associate professor of economics, said he loved getting to know Azzi in his retirement. His interest and intellect were as strong for the outdoors and baseball, for example, as they were for the financial markets and issues of economics.

“He loved baseball and had very clear ideas about how to teach kids to hit baseballs,” Gerard said. “I was at my son’s JV game last year and an old-timer struck up a conversation with me, and it turns out he had coached with Corry, and, of course, revered Corry’s deep knowledge and deep commitment to whatever he was involved in.”

Azzi is survived by his wife of 56 years, Jane ’66, as well as a daughter, Melissa Azzi Swamy of Memphis, Tennessee, and a son, Peter Azzi of Denver, Colorado.

Service arrangements are being planned for a later date. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Lawrence University or Mayo Clinic.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

Lawrence’s Metcalf, Singer Pur draw accolades with latest collaboration

Joanne Metcalf

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Joanne Metcalf, a professor of music composition in the Lawrence Conservatory, saw her latest work get major attention in Germany in late 2021.

Two of Metcalf’s compositions are on Singer Pur’s 2021 release, Among Whirlwinds, an album that landed on the Best Albums of the Year list at BR-Klassik, a Munich-based public radio station.

Featuring the works of women composers from all over the world, the release earned BR-Klassik’s Album of the Week honors shortly after its late October release, and it was broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Record Review. The album is named for one of Metcalf’s compositions, Among Dark Whirlwinds, and features a second Metcalf piece, Gold and Thorns, Fire and Ice.

It’s the latest in a nearly three-decade collaboration between Metcalf, a member of the Lawrence Conservatory faculty since 2001, and Singer Pur, a leading German vocal ensemble consisting of a soprano, three tenors, and two basses. They first commissioned a composition from Metcalf in 1994.

“Since then, I have composed five more pieces of music for the group, and they have performed my compositions hundreds of times across the globe,” she said.

Among Whirlwinds is her fourth album release with Singer Pur.

Metcalf said she’s keeping good company on the album with the other talented composers. She comments in the album’s liner notes that she hopes such projects raise the profile of women composers around the world.

“The day will come when the music of female composers finds equitable representation in programming,” she said. “And on that day, dedicated concerts of women’s music will no longer be necessary; there will simply be concerts. We’ll no longer refer to women composers as such; there will simply be composers. In the meantime, it is recordings such as this that fulfill the crucial need for equity and representation.”

The two Metcalf compositions on the album got their world premieres in 2019, when she was the composer-in-residence at a summer festival hosted by Singer Pur.

Find information on the Lawrence Conservatory of Music here.

The group has won an ECHO Klassik three times—it’s the German equivalent of a Grammy and considered the most prestigious classical music award in Europe. They paid a visit to Lawrence in 2015, delivering a concert and working with Conservatory students. The relationship, Metcalf said, continues to be among the most fulfilling of her professional career.

“Looking back from the vantage point of 28 years, I could not have foreseen the extraordinary musical adventure Singer Pur and I have taken together, filled with new music, beautiful performances, and friendship,” she said. “Singer Pur’s performances of my music have been among the most inspired, beautiful performances of my life, and the compositions I have written for them are perfect expressions of what I hope to create as a composer.”

Metcalf said she first came to know the music of Singer Pur in 1994. They crossed paths when she was a guest composer at the renowned Hilliard Ensemble’s summer music school.

“Their voices radiated warmth, beauty, and flawless artistry; their sense of ensemble was perfect,” she said.

She composed Kyria christifera in 1995, then returned three years later with Il nome del bel fior for Singer Pur and the Hilliard Ensemble.

“That was the composition that cemented our musical collaboration and our friendship, and to this day it remains one of those closest to my heart,” Metcalf said.

In the liner notes for Among Whirlwinds, Singer Pur sings the praises of their long-time collaborator: “The works she has written for us are amongst those we perform most frequently in our contemporary repertoire.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

New partnership lets Lawrence students ride Valley Transit buses for free

Valley Transit buses have routes throughout the Fox Cities.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Getting around the Fox Cities just got easier for Lawrence students.

Beginning immediately, Lawrence students can ride Valley Transit buses for free with their student ID. The pilot program is a partnership between Lawrence University and the public transportation service that provides access to Appleton and surrounding communities.

“Lawrentians come to Appleton from all over the world, not only to further their education but to forge meaningful relationships in a new geography,” said Garrett Singer, director of Lawrence’s Center for Community Engagement and Social Change. “This partnership will contribute to that experience by allowing students to explore the Fox Valley without limitation.”

For students who may be new to riding public transit, Valley Transit offers a free travel training program where students are partnered with a travel trainer who takes them through the process of riding the bus and navigating routes to where they want to go within the Fox Cities. To sign up for travel training, visit

Lawrence President Laurie Carter called the partnership with Valley Transit an important connection for students who want to more fully engage with the community that Lawrence calls home. The school has long provided shuttle services and other connectors, but this new option gives students much greater flexibility, and at no additional cost to the student.

“I am grateful to Valley Transit for their partnership, which will make a meaningful difference in the lives of our students and their engagement with our surrounding community,” Carter said.

Valley Transit General Manager Ron McDonald hailed the new arrangement as a more accessible bridge to the community. The bus service has similar partnerships with a number of other schools.

“Our team works hard each day to help people find their place in the community by eliminating transportation barriers,” McDonald said. “This new partnership is truly a community-driven effort to expand access.”

The service gives Lawrence students new opportunities regarding off-campus employment, makes it easier to volunteer with local nonprofits, and improves access to retail and entertainment outlets across the Fox Cities. While students have always had easy access to downtown Appleton, it was more difficult to access other parts of Appleton or the downtown districts in other communities in the greater Fox Cities.

“Having access to safe and reliable transportation through Valley Transit will support off-campus employment and volunteer engagements, link our students with local businesses for shopping and entertainment, and—perhaps most importantly—deepen our students’ sense of belonging and connectedness to the Fox Cities,” Singer said.

Valley Transit has rules in place to help keep riders and drivers safe. Per a federal mask mandate, masks are required to be worn at all times while using Valley Transit services. In addition, there are air purification systems and driver barriers installed on the buses, and hand sanitizer is readily available on all buses and in the transit center.

With 18 bus routes spanning 117 square miles, Valley Transit provides transportation to the many communities that make up the Fox Cities including Appleton, Buchanan, Fox Crossing, Grand Chute, Kaukauna, Kimberly, Little Chute, Menasha, and Neenah. Valley Transit also offers options for paratransit and demand response services. To learn more, visit

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

Conversations, community highlight first six months of Laurie Carter’s presidency

President Laurie A. Carter (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

President Laurie A. Carter watched from the portico in front of Main Hall as John Holiday took the microphone to greet incoming students and their families on a beautiful September afternoon.

The annual welcome event for new students, typically held in Memorial Chapel but moved outdoors, was Carter’s first as Lawrence president, and it was a visible reminder that we are together again—students, faculty, and staff—even while adapting to pandemic protocols. The mantra that Carter and the Lawrence University staff had introduced as Fall Term arrived, “Brighter Together,” was on full display as the sun shone above Main Hall. Holiday, the celebrated countertenor who teaches in the Conservatory of Music, leaned into all that togetherness and asked those in attendance to sing along to This Little Light of Mine.

They sang. They clapped. They smiled.

And it was at that moment, Carter said, that she knew this community was ready to reconnect.

“This idea of singing together, that we were going to let our light shine; it was a moment that really embodied ‘Brighter Together’ and set the tone for how we were going to support each other as a community,” she said.

For Carter, who began her tenure at Lawrence on July 1, the new student welcome event and the Matriculation Convocation that followed later in the week served as a public introduction to the campus community. It came at a pivotal moment in Lawrence’s 174-year history, with faculty and students returning to the classroom after four terms of distance learning.

Nurturing that re-entry was and has been priority No. 1 across campus.

Carter came to Lawrence from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, where she had served as president since 2017. Her work history includes a 25-year stint in various leadership positions at the Juilliard School in New York City and several years as an executive vice president at Eastern Kentucky University. Lawrence’s Board of Trustees selected her as the university’s 17th president following a unanimous recommendation from the Presidential Search Committee.

Carter said she’s been doing a lot of listening these first few months. She’s met with faculty from across the college and Conservatory, discussed opportunities in Athletics, began important dialogue with alumni, and has been having substantial conversations with students about everything from academics to student life to equity.

Read more: 17 things to know about Laurie Carter

Carter helps welcome incoming class

Carter delivers first Matriculation Convocation

The takeaways have been many, not the least of which is how passionate Lawrence students are to be involved—from shared governance on campus to global issues surrounding climate change and social justice.

The focus in most every conversation across campus, Carter said, has been squarely on the students and their well-being. The pandemic and the needed shift to distance learning changed things, rerouted paths, added new stressors. And it came during a time of political polarization and a social justice movement that reshaped national and local conversations. Students returned to the classroom this fall, but the world had changed. Meeting their needs in this moment has been paramount for their future and for Lawrence’s path forward.

“They felt a loss of not being able to connect with their faculty, their peers, the staff last year in the way they were accustomed to,” Carter said. “They knew this year wouldn’t be going back to what they knew because we’d still be masked, we still had to be careful, but their enthusiasm for being here and the way they embraced everything they had to do just to be together as a community has been inspiring.”

Being resilient

President Laurie A. Carter speaks to new students and their families at a welcome event that preceded the start of Fall Term.

Every campus across the country has had to adapt during the pandemic. Lawrence, Carter said, has risen to the challenge in large part because students, faculty, and staff have worked together to Honor the Pledge while maintaining a commitment to academic excellence. Seeing that resilience up close has been a comforting thing in an uncomfortable time.

“Everyone is really taking care of one another,” Carter said. “They want to be on campus, they want campus to be healthy and safe, and the community is really working together to make that happen.”

She praised the commitment of staff through it all, including in preparations for students returning in the fall and efforts to keep campus operational and safe.

“This staff has really gone above and beyond,” Carter said. “When our campus was not quite ready for our students to return, our staff really pitched in to help beautify the campus and come together. That’s one example. They are an integral part of everything we do.”

Carter has spent a lot of time meeting with faculty as she gets to know the Lawrence landscape. The depth of Lawrence’s commitment to academic excellence is admirable, she said, pointing to work being done in STEM fields as an example. The commitment from faculty has been evident as her conversations have traversed the various academic departments.

“I wouldn’t say anything has surprised me, but I am impressed by the depth of the curricular experience here,” Carter said. “And I’m really impressed by the faculty’s commitment to providing an innovative curricular approach that promotes equitable learning for all. Our faculty have worked really hard at that.”

Having spent a large portion of her career working in arts education, Carter was well acquainted with the Conservatory before coming to Lawrence. The depth of talent among faculty and students and the commitment to creativity and excellence is as advertised, she said.

“The talent is tremendous, and the energy is just fantastic,” she said. “I’ve been a fan of the Lawrence Conservatory for a long time, but being here and experiencing it really takes it up even higher. I think back to the Matriculation Convocation with the Welcome Week Choir, which literally had days to pull together a choral performance that took my breath away.”

Carter said she’s been particularly impressed with the faculty-student relationship across campus. The nimbleness of faculty to respond to student needs—a product of an 8-to-1 faculty to student ratio—is something you can’t completely grasp until you see it in action, she said.

“The faculty support for students is one of the real pieces of Lawrence that you don’t see in many other places,” she said. “The depth of that support. They’re not just in the classroom or in the lab with the students; they are really guiding students through this transformative time in the student’s life. Yes, they are academic advisors, but they’re really advisors for how the liberal arts curriculum can lift a life, how the liberal arts curriculum can inform a life, and how a liberal arts curriculum can really prepare a life for the kind of success our alumni have had.”

That’s been reflected in conversations with alumni as well, Carter said. The passion Lawrentians have for their alma mater runs deep. That has come through loud and clear.

“They are passionate about this place and its history, and they honor that in the way they live their lives and give back to the community with their time, their talents, and their treasures,” Carter said. “It really demonstrates what a special place Lawrence is. That alumni are not just connected to one another but they are also connected to the institution in a meaningful way.”

Carter expects to see that play out in numerous ways as Lawrence prepares to mark its 175th anniversary in 2022. There is much to celebrate and much to build on. There is a commitment to embracing the history of Lawrence and Milwaukee-Downer College, and Carter said she has felt that in the passionate words of alumni as they’ve talked about their own experiences and their vision for Lawrence going forward.

“It is critical that we honor the history and the traditions of Lawrence in everything we do,” she said. “At the core of an adaptive leadership model is taking the DNA of a place and building on it. That’s what we’re doing. Lawrence’s DNA is so strong, and the traditions are really an integral part of how the university operates. Being able to honor those and do it in a way that’s forward-looking and forward-thinking is actually quite wonderful because the foundation is so strong.”

That includes athletics, Carter said, calling the commitment of Lawrence’s student-athletes extraordinary. Athletes make up 30% of this year’s first-year class. A quarter of all Lawrence students participate on one of the school’s 22 varsity teams.

Carter, a standout track and field athlete during her undergraduate days at Clarion University, said support for Lawrence’s student-athletes is strong but she wants to see that grow across campus. She’s listening to ideas on how to make that happen.

“This community really knows how to support one another,” she said. “Can we deepen those connections with our athletes? Absolutely. Will we? Absolutely. We will strengthen the connections between Athletics and the rest of the campus.”

A new home

President Laurie A. Carter takes part in a drumming session that was part of Mile of Music in August.

Carter also said she’s been listening to the Appleton community as she settles into her new home. Lawrence’s relationship with Appleton and the wider Fox Cities needs to be tended to, she said.

Carter has already met with Lawrence alumnus and Appleton Mayor Jake Woodford ’13 several times. She’s been impressed with how responsive he and his staff have been. She also was excited to see the community participation in the outdoor Indigenous Peoples’ Day event on campus in early October, and she applauded the community connections being built by Lawrence’s Career Center and the Center for Community Engagement and Social Change.

Those are all building blocks that will help to build a stronger relationship, one fortified with mutual respect and a commitment to make sure this is and always will be a welcoming environment for everyone.

“Lawrence is right in the middle of this community,” Carter said. “We are a part of it. We want our students to understand how to be good neighbors and how to contribute to the community in which they are living.”

Carter said she quickly became a fan of the Downtown Appleton Farmers Market. She’s enjoyed Art at the Park and other community activities in Appleton’s parks, took in Mile of Music, and loves walking on trails near campus. She and her husband and son have been exploring Appleton slowly but surely, all with pandemic safety in mind.

“I think what we’ve probably availed ourselves of more than anything else are the restaurants,” Carter said. “There are some really good restaurants in Appleton. Good food, good service, really nice environments. We just really love this community.”

In the end, Carter said, all of her conversations circle back to Lawrence’s students and how they can build positive connections in classrooms, across campus, and in the surrounding community. That togetherness—”Brighter Together”—will be at the heart of Lawrence’s future success.

“We have to make sure the students feel our arms around them,” Carter said.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: