Author: Ed Berthiaume

Lifongo Vetinde remembered for his passion for teaching about the world

Lifongo Vetinde talks with students in a class at Lawrence.
Lifongo Vetinde taught at Lawrence University for 24 years.

Lifongo Vetinde, a dedicated Lawrence University professor who through his work on and off campus looked to make the world around him a more informed and compassionate place, died Thursday, Jan. 30, following surgery. He was 64.

He is survived by his wife, Eposi Esoka Lifongo, two daughters, Agnès (Charles) Boland and Naomi Nyeme, a brother, Ike, two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, and a granddaughter, Victoria.

Vetinde, a professor of French, was a member of the Lawrence faculty since 1996, a scholar of Francophone literature and cinema who also taught French language courses and on multiple occasions led Lawrence’s Francophone Seminar program in Dakar, Senegal. He earned a Fulbright Teaching and Research Fellowship in 2012-13.

A native of Cameroon, Vetinde also was deeply devoted to working on issues of social justice, diversity, and inclusion throughout his career.

“I will always remember Lifongo as the warmest, kindest, and most generous, joyful, and magnanimous of colleagues and friends,” said Dominica Chang, who worked closely with Vetinde as the Margaret Banta Humleker Professor of French Cultural Studies and associate professor of French.  “My lunch with him during my job visit over a decade ago was what convinced me that Lawrence was a place I could call home.”

Vetinde was active in a range of scholarly pursuits, from co-editing a book on Senegalese film director and writer Ousmane Sembène to organizing symposiums and roundtables on important topics of the day.

But his primary focus and love was teaching. He embraced Lawrence’s small class sizes because it allowed him to engage one-on-one with his students. He was adamant that students needed to experience the world to better understand both the challenges and the opportunities ahead, and he pushed them to travel abroad and to have inquisitive minds about the cultures they would encounter.

“We live in an increasingly globalized world in which interactions with people from different parts of the world and cultural backgrounds are ineluctable,” Vetinde said in a 2016 interview for Lawrence magazine. “For one to interact productively with others, cultural literacy is crucial. There is no better way for students to gain such knowledge than by going abroad.”

Lifongo Vetinde poses for a photo at a formal dinner event.
Lifongo Vetinde

It was the francophone African literature and the study abroad experience in the Francophone Seminar program, in which Vetinde led Lawrence students to Dakar on at least five different occasions, that were particularly close to his heart.

“He had a mission to dispel stereotypes and ignorance about the African continent and helped his students discover the rich, cultural histories and varied cultural realities, especially post-colonially,” said Eilene Hoft-March, the Milwaukee-Downer College and College Endowment Association Professor of Liberal Studies and professor of French. “He wanted students, most especially American students, to experience Africa by traveling to Senegal, which is our prize program in French and Francophone Studies.”

Outside of the classroom and his social activism, Vetinde had a passion for playing and watching football (soccer), reading, and listening to music — he professed a love of the storytelling in old-time country music. His family also will attest to his dancing abilities and passion for helping elementary school students in his native Cameroon. He started the Fako-Dev Foundation as a means to support public school children in his village with basic school supplies and access to books beyond their curriculum. The foundation also supports computer literacy for students and staff.

At Lawrence, Vetinde’s friendships with colleagues were deep and impactful. And his work with Freshman Studies through the years gave him connections with students all across campus.

“He was big-hearted and wise, very discreet but with a terrific sense of humor,” Hoft-March said. “You had to watch for that twinkle in his eye that preceded a hearty laugh.”

The Fulbright Fellowship took Vetinde to Saint-Louis, Senegal, in West Africa, for 10 months, where he taught literature classes, including one that served as a comparative study of the works of such American writers as W.E.B. Dubois, Alice Walker, and Maya Angelou and those of Saint-Louisian writers such as Abdoulaye Sadji, Malick Fall, and Abdel Aziz Mayoro Diop. He also further studied notable Senegalese writers and the role they played in the emergence of Senegal’s national identity.

For Lawrence Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Gunther Kodat, Vetinde’s academic pursuits were personal. When he received promotion to full professor, she’s the one who presented him to the Lawrence Board of Trustees, giving her a chance to shine a spotlight on work he’s done that connected with her own academic history.

“It was a special perk for me because Lifongo’s areas of research included the work of the great Senegalese film director and writer Ousmane Sembène, whose novel God’s Bits of Wood I had taught for years,” Kodat said. “My admiration for Lifongo grew steadily from that early, happy connection as I got to know his work as a scholar; his warm, unassuming, and generous nature; and, above all, his selfless commitment to his students.”

Vetinde joined the Tenure Committee last year, further revealing “his integrity, his ability to balance empathy with rigor, and his sense of fairness,” Kodat said.

“Lifongo was a cherished member of our community; he will be sorely missed.”

Plans are being made for a campus memorial service. Details will be announced later. The family set up a tribute site at this link.

Aker: It’s time to re-establish Lawrence’s football presence in Wisconsin

Tony Aker poses for a photo outside the fence at a snow-covered Banta Bowl.
Tony Aker, Lawrence’s new football coach, is looking to bring excitement back to the Banta Bowl on Saturday afternoons. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

“Don’t flinch.”

It’s a message Tony Aker delivers frequently.

You’ll hear Lawrence University’s new head football coach say it when imploring his players to embrace the academic and athletic rigors that come with being a scholar athlete. You’ll hear it when he talks with his coaches about the challenges of rebuilding a winning tradition in a football program that was once among the nation’s Division III elite but hasn’t won consistently in years. And you’ll hear it when he talks about re-establishing the Fox Valley, the state of Wisconsin, and the upper Midwest as essential recruiting territory for Lawrence football.

“We talk about not flinching, coming in and accepting the challenge,” Aker said as he settled into his office in the lower level of Alexander Gymnasium in mid-January, a month into his first foray as a collegiate head coach. “It’s about these guys knowing they have to go and attack it, never backing down from any challenge. … When you have setbacks on the field or classes start to pick up and it gets a little tougher, we tell them, that’s what we signed up for. We tell our scholar athletes we want them to be excited about studying for an exam. I want them to walk up and slam that exam down and feel really, really good that they put the work in and they’ve done everything they could to put themselves in a position to be successful.

“And as coaches, we have to live it out. We have to have that don’t flinch mentality. We’re going to go in and attack everything, and that’s the same way we’re going to play football.”

A conference first

Aker, 32, makes a bit of history upon his arrival at Lawrence. He is the first African American head football coach in the Midwest Conference, the second among all Wisconsin colleges. The first African American head football coach at the collegiate level in Wisconsin was Fred Reese at Lakeland University in the early 1990s.

Aker said he counts a number of talented African American head coaches at the high school level in Wisconsin as mentors. He points in particular to Dennis Thompson, who became the first African American high school coach to win a state football championship at Racine Park High School in 2005.

“It’s an honor, it’s something I’m proud of,” Aker said of crossing that barrier in the Midwest Conference. “But I don’t really think about it. I’m proud of it but I definitely don’t want it to define me. At the end of the day, I’m a football coach and an educator and I take great pride in developing my scholar athletes. I’m just excited about the opportunity to be a head football coach.”

With challenges come opportunities

If enthusiasm alone was the ticket to success, Aker would already have the Lawrence program turned around. He knows the challenges are many. The Vikings are coming off a 1-8 season. The Banta Bowl, as beautiful a setting as you’ll find in Division III football, has failed to draw sizable crowds. Lawrence football has mostly fallen off the Appleton community’s radar. High school coaches in Wisconsin haven’t regularly looked to Lawrence as a landing spot for their players.

Aker isn’t flinching. Challenge accepted, he said.

Earlier in January, he attended the annual Red Smith Sports Award Banquet in Appleton, an annual event that brings together coaches, athletics administrators, and sports fans from around the state. It was a chance to introduce himself, to shake some hands, to begin the process of building positive relations here in the Fox Valley and across the state.

Aker, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s 2005 Wisconsin High School Athlete of the Year while at Brown Deer High School and later an all-conference selection as a wide receiver at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, had been working the past four years as an assistant coach at Carroll University. He knew Lawrence well, its proud football history and its recent struggles.

“It was very, very intriguing,” he said of the coaching opportunity. “And quite frankly, we have some work to do, and that appeals to me as well. I’m a firm believer in nothing that’s worth having comes easy. I wanted to come here and have the opportunity to help us get back to some of those past successes that we’ve had in the football program.”

From December: Lawrence names new football coach

Staying true to Wisconsin

“First and foremost, I’m a Wisconsin guy,” Aker said.

Originally from southern Indiana, he and his family moved to Milwaukee as he was entering eighth grade. He excelled at multiple sports at Brown Deer before going on to play football for Rochester Community and Technical College in Minnesota and then Stevens Point. He graduated from UWSP, having majored in sociology, and joined its coaching staff as a graduate assistant. That led him to Carroll, where he worked as an associate head coach/offensive coordinator and coached the quarterbacks, and most recently served as interim head coach.

Aker and his partner, Haley, have an 18-month-old son and a baby on the way, due in April.

Those Wisconsin roots, he said, will drive much of his philosophy as he looks to put a renewed recruiting focus closer to home.

“I take great pride in recruiting and being able to re-establish our footprint in the state of Wisconsin,” Aker said. “When you look at some of our past teams, especially our most successful ones, we’ve had a lot of scholar athletes from Wisconsin, Illinois, that upper Midwest and Great Lakes region. And we need to get back to that. I think that’s important. We are still a Wisconsin university, and we need to have that represented. Even as we continue to make headway and continue some of the national recruiting we’ve done, I would really like to have an inside out focus as we move forward.”

That includes a new emphasis on recruiting scholar athletes from in and around the Fox Cities.

“We have to try to do our best to protect the back yard,” Aker said. “Go in and find the best and the brightest and sell our vision and sell our great university and make them understand that you don’t need to go someplace else to succeed. You can accomplish all that and more right here. It’s something we have to take great pride in.

“We’re going to be visible. I plan to be out on many, many sidelines and in many, many bleachers come fall as we enjoy those Friday night lights, watching the great high school programs around the area.”

With that inside out recruiting focus, Aker believes, will come renewed excitement in the community for Vikings football. And better attendance and more energy at the Banta Bowl on Saturday afternoons.

“We’ve got to do a little bit of work in the community to make it fun again,” Aker said. “It’s a great setting, and this is a great university, and this is a great campus and a great town. We’ve got to get people here to show it off.

“We’re a part of the community and they’re a part of us, and we’re trying to get back to that as much as we can.”

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

Former Lawrence piano professor Ted Rehl dies; taught for 34 years in Conservatory

Portrait of Theodore Rehl at the piano.
Theodore Rehl

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Theodore (Ted) Lloyd Rehl, a mainstay in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music for more than three decades and an inspiration to generations of piano students, died Jan. 11 in Sarasota, Florida.

Rehl retired from Lawrence University in 1992 after 34 years on the faculty, many as chairman of the Piano Department, then relocated with his wife, Fran, to their retirement home in Florida.

While at Lawrence, Rehl was an active performer of solo and chamber music, a member of the Duncan Rehl Piano Duo, and a favorite accompanist. He also performed regularly with the Fox Valley Symphony. Upon his retirement in 1992, he was awarded an honorary degree of Master of Arts.

“As a teacher, you have been an example to faculty and students alike,” then President Richard Warch said of Rehl at the 1992 Commencement ceremony. “Throughout your career, you have sought not only to extend your considerable capacities as a performer, but also to broaden your knowledge of repertoire, technique, and pedagogy, and that pursuit has taken you to the musical capitals of the world to further study. That you have earned your laurels as a master teacher is attested by the succession of students — affectionately self-styled ‘Rehl’s Raiders’ — who have proceeded through your studio.”

When he retired, Rehl was the university’s last faculty link to the old Conservatory in Peabody Hall. That wasn’t lost on his colleagues, as Warch noted at Commencement: “You may have grayed early, but you have remained young, perhaps because, as one of your colleagues has said of you, ‘He has loved what he has done and done what he has loved.’”

Rehl’s family said he vowed to stop playing the piano when he retired. That lasted for 18 years. But in 2010, he and Fran bought a Steinway Model M and donated it to Plymouth Harbor, their retirement community.

“Ted was so inspired by the sound of this piano that he once again started practicing daily, and since then has given 19 recitals, the last on Dec. 6, 2019,” his family said in message released upon his death.

He was preceded in death by Fran, his wife of 63 years. He is survived by two children and four grandchildren.

Donations in Rehl’s memory may be made to the Plymouth Harbor Improvement of the Arts Fund.

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

With a focus on speed, Great Midwest Trivia Contest delivers winning results

Trivia Headmaster Allegra Taylor poses for a portrait.
Trivia Headmaster Allegra Taylor ’20: “We had over 400 questions this year, which is something that hasn’t happened in a few years.”

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The 55th annual Great Midwest Trivia Contest is in the books, and if you thought the weekend festivities went fast, well, they did.

The student-run contest was led by Trivia Headmaster Allegra Taylor ’20 and her team of trivia masters, and they put a focus on rapid-fire questions during the 50-hour sprint.

“I was very pleased with the way the weekend went,” Taylor said. “One of our priorities was speed, as we know the players are here for the questions and not to hear us talk, so we made an effort to read new questions quickly. And it worked; we had over 400 questions this year, which is something that hasn’t happened in a few years.

“We received some really positive feedback about that.”

The winning on-campus team was Do You Really Trust Aquarius? The winning off-campus team was Get a Load of That.

For full results (and complete team names), see the Great Midwest Trivia Contest official page here.

The contest drew 13 on-campus teams and 70 off-campus teams. 

More trivia: Former trivia master wins big on Jeopardy.

In other trivia contest news, Grace Krueger ’21 was named Trivia Headmaster for next year’s contest.

Grace Krueger ’21 smiles as she's named Trivia Headmaster for next year's contest.
Grace Krueger ’21 is named Trivia Headmaster for 2021 at the conclusion of this year’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest. (Photo by Ethan Dorer ’20)

“My advice for Grace would be to playtest, playtest, playtest,” Taylor said. “That was something we didn’t do as much of this year, I think, and so we had more shutouts than I would like.”

As per tradition, the final Super Garuda question will serve as the first question of next year’s contest. It is: “A Facebook page formed by students at an Ivy League school crusades against a colorful sculpture installed on campus in 2016. On a web site run by students at this school, one of the directors of the organization that runs the site, which was founded in 2011, shares a name with someone who appeared on a show that ‘celebrates and explores life through food.’ On the site, there is a photo series of minimalist portraits with two of the subjects wearing silver jackets. In a stairwell of the building that this photo shoot was taken in, what is written in silver on a black door next to a wall of large blue writing.” (Answer: Apple Head)

A group of trivia players take a selfie at the closing ceremony of this year's contest.
A group selfie is taken at the ceremony marking the end of this year’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest. (Photo by Ethan Dorer ’20)

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

New grant grows, extends Lawrence partnership with College Horizons

Students participate in a classroom discussion during last year's College Horizons program at Lawrence.
College Horizons has been partnering with Lawrence University to help prepare indigenous students for the college journey.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is strengthening its partnership with College Horizons, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for college-bound Native American students.

A newly awarded three-year, $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will extend the College Horizons Scholars Program through 2022.

College Horizons, the lead on the project, is a New Mexico-based college access organization that works with Native American students on college readiness. It aims to close the gap between Native and non-Native achievement in higher education. Only about one in 20 Native students will attend a four-year college or university, and once in college, only about a third of those students will earn a degree within six years, according to the organization.

For the past three years, Lawrence has hosted College Horizons’ pilot Scholars Program, a three-week summer academy for Native students in advance of their freshman year in college. Students with college destinations across the country gathered on the Lawrence campus to learn about transitioning to college and practice research and writing skills. It was funded by a $650,000 Mellon Foundation grant that expired at the end of 2019.

The new grant will allow the program to extend, expand and evolve. Instead of meeting only once for three weeks prior to their freshman year, the Native students will now be part of a Scholars Pathway that will continue through all four years of college. Beginning this summer, the participating students will meet annually for a one-week academy. The meet-ups prior to their freshman and sophomore years will be at Lawrence. Those before their junior and senior years will be at the University of Michigan.

“This model allows us to better meet student needs at each appropriate step in their academic journey and allows them to stay in frequent personal contact with their cohorts, which increases resilience,” Catherine G. Kodat, Lawrence’s provost and dean of faculty, said in the grant application.

The Scholars Program is one of three administered by College Horizons. Lawrence has also hosted Graduate Horizons, a four-day program offering graduate school admissions workshops. One of about 50 colleges that work with College Horizons, Lawrence forged its initial partnership shortly after the organization’s 1998 founding.

Kodat noted that among the lessons learned during the first three years of the program was that it was difficult for the participating students to dedicate three weeks of their summer to the program, and then the time lapse between their initial visit and the Graduate Horizons program was too great, exposing students to attrition risks.

The expanded and renamed Scholars Pathway Program offers more continuity, most notably consistent mentoring through the college years.

“College Horizons is excited for the three-year grant renewal with the Mellon Foundation and the continued partnership with Lawrence University,” said Mikaela Crank, director of the Scholars Program. “We are looking forward to our new cohorts of Scholars and implementing a more robust and contiguous four-year Scholars Pathway Program that will include annual in-person activities.

“Our goal is to better meet our students’ mentoring, academic, socio-emotional, pre-graduate advising and research needs. We are applying a holistic and Indigenous approach to support our Scholars success by helping them graduate from college and apply to graduate school.”

Lawrence will serve as the fiscal agent for the grant and will partner with the University of Michigan in hosting the program.

Last summer, 21 new high school graduates representing six Indigenous communities took part in the program at Lawrence.

“It is an honor and privilege to extend our fruitful partnership with College Horizons through this program,” President Mark Burstein said in a letter to the Mellon Foundation. “Our missions strongly align through increasing college access and attainment among historically underserved groups. The pilot program has raised our awareness of the particular challenges facing Native American students, and I trust the renewal will continue to increase our capacity to serve them better.”

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

Lawrence’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest ready to unleash the usual chaos

The 2020 Trivia Masters are dressed for the theme of Apocalypse.
The 2020 Trivia Masters, working under the theme of Apocalypse, will present the Great Midwest Trivia Contest beginning Friday night.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21 / Communications

Here are the numbers: 300 questions, 50 hours.

The 55th annual Great Midwest Trivia Contest will soon be underway, beginning at 37 seconds past 10 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 24, and closing at midnight on Sunday, Jan. 26.

So, what exactly are you getting into when you register for the contest? The simple answer is, a whole lot of fun. And a little chaos.

The Great Midwest Trivia Contest probably isn’t trivia as you know it. All weekend, a team of Trivia Masters dishes out 300 questions that require teamwork and extensive searching to answer; all part of the fun. Nearly 100 teams from on and off campus call in with their responses.

Since the first game appeared on the WLFM airwaves in 1966, the contest has become a Lawrence tradition of legendary proportions. It continues to air each year on the digital broadcast of WLFM, the student station that can be found here.

The questions come almost non-stop for 50 hours. Highlights include hourly action questions. Imagine, for example, measuring the distance from Colman Hall to Trever Hall using copies of Plato’s Republic, the beloved work that’s part of Freshman Studies. On the final day of the contest come the Garudas — very difficult questions — topped off by the Super Garuda, the impossible finale question that returns as the first question of the following year’s contest.

This year’s theme is Apocalypse, as you may have guessed from the Trivia Masters’ photos that can be seen around campus.

One aspect of last year’s theme, Fast, will carry over into this year’s contest. Questions will be given at rapid-fire speed to ensure that all players are kept busy. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a single dull moment in the Great Midwest Trivia Contest, perhaps this year more than previous years.

Allegra Taylor, this year's Headmaster, poses with the Apocalypse theme.
Allegra Taylor ’20 is this year’s Headmaster, leading the team of Trivia Masters.

Take it from this year’s Trivia Headmaster Allegra Taylor ’20, a senior from Chico, California. She’s been playing trivia since she was a first-year student.

“Trivia was one of the reasons I came to Lawrence,” she says. “I got some friends together and started a team as soon as I got here.”

But she didn’t always have her sights set on being a Trivia Master, let alone the Headmaster.

“The thought of doing it was so scary because it was so much responsibility. I didn’t know if I wanted to take that on.”

The Trivia Headmaster oversees the planning of the contest, which has been in the works since May of last year. Taylor and her team of 13 Trivia Masters have been tirelessly coming up with questions. Taylor admits the duty of Headmaster feels all the more crucial at the 55-year landmark.

“That’s a 55-year tradition, so if you mess that up …,” she says as her voice drifts off. “But it’s been great. I have a great team of Trivia Masters so I’m really excited.”

Don’t let the fanfare scare you off. Taylor wants people to know that the contest is all about having fun.

“A lot of people think it’s a huge, overwhelming thing to play, but a lot of people have fun playing whenever they can,” Taylor says. “Just get some friends together and play for a couple hours on Saturday night. You don’t have to be competitive. It’s really fun no matter how much or how little you play.”

Mark your calendars: Registration for the Great Midwest Trivia Contest takes places at 8 p.m. on the first night of the contest. You can also set your alarms that morning to catch Taylor talking more about the contest on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Morning Show from 6 to 7 a.m.

Head here for all the trivia tidbits.

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

Lawrence mourns loss of Terry Franke, a dedicated leader, mentor over five decades

Terry Franke speaks during a careers training session at Lawrence in 2015.
Terry Franke ’68 was chair of the Board of Trustees at Lawrence from 2011 to 2015. Here he speaks during a career information session in 2015.

J. Terrence (Terry) Franke ’68, an impactful leader who helped guide Lawrence University through transformative changes and served as a mentor for past and current students, passed away Tuesday, Jan. 21, at the age of 73 with his wife, Mary, his three children, and siblings at his side.

Franke, of Evanston, Illinois, served as the chair of Lawrence University’s Board of Trustees from 2011 to 2015, a capstone to five decades of service in which he provided calm and insightful leadership and mentored countless students, alumni, and fellow trustees.

As Board chair, he delivered steady guidance during a time of great transition, leading to the 2013 appointment of Mark Burstein as the University’s 16th president.

“Terry’s passion, unbounded energy, and strategic vision have carried Lawrence successfully forward,” Burstein said. “His investment in countless student interns and persistent support of many aspects of our learning community has had an extraordinary impact on the University. I know many Lawrentians join me in remembering moments when Terry’s advice provided exactly what you needed to hear to be the best version of yourself.”

Terry Franke ’68

Franke’s accomplishments as chair of the Board were preceded by his long service to the University as a trustee, beginning in 2002. He also served an earlier term as an alumni trustee from 1995 to 1998.

Among other leadership efforts, Franke led the Board’s Investment Committee, stewarding the endowment through the Great Recession of the late 2000s.

He transformed the Investment Committee shortly after becoming chair, bringing in alumni who had expertise in the areas of private equity and real estate and opening the conversation to a wider range of voices. That had never been done before, and it reinvigorated the committee, bringing change that would pay off in a big way when the markets collapsed in and around 2008.

“I can remember being in a meeting in March of 2009, which was within a few days of the market low, and the endowment had fallen from about $200 million to something in the $130 million range,” recalled David Knapp ’89, who now serves as the Investment Committee chair. “We were unsure of where we were going to go from there. And Terry was calm and had a long-term view, and helped lead the conversation in a way that kept us all from panicking. What followed was a decade of sustained growth of the endowment through appreciation and new gifts that has brought it over $350 million today. … He stewarded the endowment through the roughest financial period of our lifetimes.”

Knapp took over the lead role on the Investment Committee when Franke was named chair of the Board of Trustees in 2011.

Franke strengthened the Board of Trustees while chair, recruiting and welcoming new Board members with wide ranges of experience and diverse perspectives, expanding the depth and breadth of the Board.

“Terry always answered the call of his alma mater with talent, energy, and passion for the Lawrence community,” said David Blowers ’82, the current Board chair. “He led the Board of Trustees during a critical period in Lawrence’s history. His ability to orchestrate a seamless presidential transition put the University on the successful path it enjoys today. I know that I speak on behalf of the entire Board when I say we will greatly miss his wisdom, energy, and, above all, his loyal friendship.”

It was during Franke’s time leading the Board of Trustees that Lawrence launched its Full Speed to Full Need campaign to support student scholarships. When he stepped down as chair of the Board in 2015, Franke received a surprise announcement: The establishment of the Terry and Mary Franke Scholarship Fund, courtesy of a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor. The money was put toward the Full Speed to Full Need campaign, to be used exclusively for endowed scholarships to help meet students’ demonstrated financial needs.

That was fitting because Franke’s commitment to Lawrence ran so deep, as did the respect for him among his fellow alumni. When he asked others to engage, the answer was most often a yes.

A committed mentor

Franke spent most of his professional career at Hewitt Associates, where he was a senior partner. He also served as a senior consultant for Productive Strategies Inc., a management and marketing consulting firm based in Northfield, Illinois, and Franke Associates.

He was a dedicated member of the Lawrence community from the moment he stepped on campus as a student in 1964. Since graduating in 1968, he has fostered and maintained connections, sharing his time and knowledge with alumni as well as current and future Lawrentians. Franke was ready to lend a hand as an event volunteer, admissions volunteer, and as a member of reunion committees and class leadership teams. He took particular joy in mentoring the student interns at his workplace, supported by the Franke Scholarship Fund.

A proud member of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity, Franke connected often with past and current fraternity members.

Jake Woodford ’13, special assistant to the president at Lawrence, first connected with Franke while a student in 2010. Those connections continued, and Franke proved to be a mentor and supporter as Woodford moved into Lawrence’s administration.

“One of the hallmarks for me was how much Terry cared about people and how much he kept track of people,” Woodford said. “He knew the projects they had going on. Their relationships and their passions in many ways became his.”

Franke would meet with fraternity members whenever he was on campus for Board meetings.

“He was always mentoring,” Woodford said. “That was a really special part of who he was.”

Henry Chesnutt ’14 was among the nearly 20 Lawrence students who served as interns over the past decade in Franke’s office.

“Interning with Terry was an apprenticeship to a life of integrity and hard work,” he said.

Chesnutt recalls struggling through much of his internship, but Franke was there to guide him along and prep him for his launch into the workforce. With Franke’s gentle prodding, he eventually found his bearings, and is now thriving as a software engineer with Bain and Company.

“You might think that after his 15th intern he might have stopped, relaxed, and rested on the fruits of his altruism,” Chesnutt said of Franke. “But even up to his passing, he was still mentoring students and offering internships to do all he could to pay it forward.”

In Lawrence’s Center for Career, Life, and Community Engagement, Franke long set an example of how alumni can positively impact the lives of current students. It’s those kinds of connections the office is striving to enhance.

“Terry’s efforts have helped countless students over the past decade, and have advanced the lives of individuals now working in health care, consulting, finance, and more,” said Mandy Netzel, assistant director of the CLC for employer and alumni relations.

In honor of his lifelong commitment to his alma mater and its students, Franke received Lawrence’s Presidential Award in 2018.

Details on a Lawrence gathering to celebrate Franke’s life will be announced at a later date.

Speaker puts focus on King’s “radical” message; students reach out in service

Rev. Sekou leads the audience in song during Monday's MLK Celebration at Memorial Chapel.
Rev. Sekou performs Monday during the 29th annual Fox Cities Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration in Memorial Chapel. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University faculty, students, and staff honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during a day of service on Monday.

No classes were held on the federal holiday honoring the civil rights icon, but Lawrence again provided a bevy of volunteer and learning opportunities around King’s life and message. The day was topped off with the 29th annual Fox Cities Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at Memorial Chapel, an event co-sponsored by Lawrence and African Heritage Inc.

A community celebration

Simon Balto gestures with his hands as he speaks during Monday's MLK Celebration at Memorial Chapel.
Simon Balto gives his address, “Restoring the Radical King,” during Monday’s 29th annual Fox Cities Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at Memorial Chapel.

The evening event featured keynote speaker Simon Balto, an assistant professor of history and African American studies at the University of Iowa and author of the book, Occupied Territory: Policing Black Chicago from Red Summer to Black Power.

He implored the audience not to lose sight of the radical mission of King, not to be lulled into complacency by a modern caricature that allows politicians and others to tap into benign visions of King that they believe can impart feel-good messages.

“We treat him now like this bundle of sound bites and remember him as a lovable man with little more than a kumbaya dream of a colorblind society,” Balto said. “People, and politicians in particular, seem to think that King can be whatever they want him to have been.”

He was so much more than that, Balto said. There’s a reason that a Gallup poll in 1966 found that only 32% of Americans had a positive view of King. He sought radical change. He made people uncomfortable. And that was a good thing.

“Martin Luther King was a radical,” Balto said. “People often think of the word radical as if it is pejorative or scary. But we shouldn’t think that way.”

It’s about “challenging the status quo at a fundamental level,” he said.

King and others in the civil rights movement successfully took down Jim Crow laws in the south, ending legalized segregation. But that, Balto said, was only one phase. The next phase — fighting racism that was built into the very fabric of the nation — would prove far more difficult. It’s a battle that continues today even as we honor the great accomplishments of King.

“Yes, Dr. King did want an end to racial discrimination, but he also knew that simply ending the Jim Crow system was not going to do it,” Balto said. “He knew that racism was manifested in all sorts of different ways … and not just in the south. He knew it was baked into the housing policies in places like Milwaukee and Chicago and Los Angeles. … He knew it was baked into the ways of the criminal justice system and how it treated black people. He knew it was in the school system and the labor market, in all sorts of places the civil rights movement that had vanquished Jim Crow in the south hadn’t fixed.”

King told his followers that the new battle would be more difficult, in large part because it came with a much higher price tag for the nation, one that would run into the billions of dollars and require the transformation of many of the tenets of society, Balto said. It was an uphill fight, and remains so today.

“People died pursuing it,” Balto said. “Indeed, Dr. King died pursuing it.”

Memorial Chapel is mostly full as Lawrence student Kyree Allen sings during Monday's MLK event.
Kyree Allen ’23 sings “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during Monday’s Fox Cities Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration in Memorial Chapel.

Also at Monday’s King Celebration event, Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, a musician, filmmaker, and theologian, led a rousing music portion of the program. The annual Jane LaChapelle McCarty MLK Community Leader Award was presented to Carla A. Manns, a local author, business owner, and community leader. And Pa Lee Moua, formerly an associate dean of students for diversity at Lawrence and now the Appleton Area School District’s diversity, equity, and inclusion officer, received the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Educator Award.

Special video tributes were given to recently departed community leaders Ronald Dunlap and Henry Golde.

Day of service activities

Nearly 400 Lawrence students, faculty, and staff took part in community outreach activities or participated in teach-ins Monday in honor of King’s legacy. With no classes being held, it was designated as a day of service.

Nearly 150 volunteers supported communities across the Fox Cities through service at Riverview Gardens, the Fox Valley Humane Association, Feeding America, Brewster Village, and the Boys and Girls Clubs in Appleton and Menasha. Another 155 attended a half dozen teach-ins that ranged from being actively engaged in anti-racism advocacy to addressing stigma and disparity within mental health treatment.

“We were very impressed by the interest from the Lawrence campus,” said Kristi Hill, director of Lawrence’s Center for Community Engagement and Social Change. “We are hopeful that we provided a variety of offerings around learning, volunteering, and celebrating.”

Students load mulch into a wheelbarrow at Riverview Gardens.
Students load mulch to be placed in hoop houses at Riverview Gardens during Monday’s MLK Day of Service. (Photo by Liz Boutelle)

At Riverview Gardens, an Appleton nonprofit that uses urban farming as a means to produce food and provide job training for struggling populations, nearly 25 students took to the fields on a cold afternoon to place mulch into hoop houses and do other chores, all aimed at prepping the farm for spring planting.

“Riverview Gardens is a really great organization because they work with job skills training for homeless and disadvantaged communities,” said Floreal Crubaugh ’20. “That’s really important for our day of service.”

She and many of the other volunteers she was working with are members of the student organization that tends to the Lawrence University Sustainable Garden (SLUG), so the outreach to Riverview Gardens was particularly close to the heart.

“We’re a club that’s really organized around community service and volunteering,” Crubaugh said. “This really meshed well with our mission of giving our time and giving our skills to the community.”

It’s work that was much appreciated by the workers who tend to the needs of Riverview Gardens on a daily basis.

“This helps us prepare for our spring planting,” said Elisse Pavletich, the farm manager. “They are putting mulch in a lot of our hoop houses, which will prevent weeds from growing in those places and it gives us a lot more time to focus on the vegetables in spring, which then helps us to help more people.”

Lawrence students sit with cats at the Fox Valley Humane Association during the MLK Day of Service on Monday.
Lawrence students socialize with cats while volunteering at the Fox Valley Humane Association Monday during Lawrence’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

At the Fox Valley Humane Association, a team of Lawrence volunteers focused on cleaning the facility, doing laundry, and stocking shelves before turning their attention to interaction with the animals that are currently calling the shelter home.

“I find working with animals incredibly important,” said Sara Prostko ’20. “They are a population that cannot say their needs, they don’t have a say in their environment, where they go, who they’re with.

“Lawrence is all about trying to be a voice for those who cannot have a voice for themselves. I think this is exactly that. … We’re doing a lot of cleaning and sorting of stuff, things that I’d rather us volunteers do rather than employees so they can spend their time and efforts on things to expand the organization.”

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

MLK Celebration highlights 9 big events on Lawrence campus during winter term

MLK essay contest winners are introduced during last year's Martin Luther King Celebration at Memorial Chapel.
The 29th annual Fox Cities Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration returns to Memorial Chapel on Jan. 20.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

Ice skates, gloves, and the warmest of hats are all part of winter term at Lawrence. It might be getting cold out there, but don’t forget that winter term on campus also is a magical time. 

There are fun things to do all over campus (skating on Ormsby Lake, anyone?). That includes the events calendar, which gets particularly robust in winter term. Here are nine exciting things happening on campus this winter term, beginning with Monday’s celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.    

1. MLK outreach and celebration

Every year the Center for Community Engagement and Social Change (CCE) hosts a day of service in honor of King. As Lawrentians take time out of their classes to recognize the great work of MLK, the CCE provides a space for Lawrentians to give back to their community and learn about King’s legacy. The full list of events happening on MLK Day is available on the CCE section of the Lawrence web site.  

To wrap up the day, the 29th annual Fox Cities Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, co-sponsored by Lawrence and African Heritage Inc., will be held at 6:30 p.m. in Memorial Chapel.

Dr. Simon Balto, an assistant professor of history and African American studies at the University of Iowa, will deliver the keynote address. It also will feature the music of Rev. Sekou.

Balto holds a degree from the University of Wisconsin. He wrote the book, “Occupied Territory: Policing Black Chicago from Red Summer to Black Power,” and his writing has appeared in TIME magazine, the Washington Post, and other popular and scholarly outlets.

The event also will feature tributes to the late Ronald Dunlap and Henry Golde. MLK youth essay contest winners will be honored, and the recipient of the annual Jane LaChapelle McCarty MLK Community Leader Award will be announced.

2. Great Midwest Trivia Contest 

What has been fun, trivial, exhausting, and ongoing at Lawrence since 1966? That is correct, the Great Midwest Trivia Contest. It’s billed as the world’s longest running trivia contest because of its tradition of having the final question of the contest serve as the first question of next year’s contest. This year is no different, with the much-anticipated trivia contest starting Jan. 24 at precisely 10:00:37 p.m. and ending at midnight on Jan 26. Find details here.

3. Lunar New Year 

A table at last year's Lunar New Year draws visitors.
Lunar New Year, an annual celebration on campus, returns Jan. 25.

To celebrate the Lunar New Year, various clubs on campus host a Lunar New Year Celebration each winter termThe event features food, music, performances and information on different Lunar New Year Celebrations around the world. This year’s celebration will take place from 6 to 10 p.m. Jan. 25 in the Warch Campus Center. Cultural performances include traditional lion dance (Tay Phuong Lions from Savage, Minnesota), Japanese Taiko drummers (Taikoza from New York City) and Hmong dancers Nkauj Suab Nag (Gao Shoua Nah from Appleton). There also will be a Cultural Expo with educational activity booths sponsored by student organizations: Chinese Student Association, Japanese Student Group, Korean Culture Club, Pan-Asian Organization, Vietnamese Cultural Organization, and more. Find information here.

4. Winter Carnival and President’s Ball 

Gingerbread competitions are back as part of Winter Carnival.

No need to hide from winter. Let’s embrace it. The week-long Winter Carnival concludes with the annual President’s Ball in the Warch Campus Center on Feb. 1. Every year the Student Organization for University Programming (SOUP) hosts the picture-perfect President’s Ball. It gives all Lawrentians — students, faculty, and staff — the opportunity to enjoy live music, take photos in the photo booth, and get on the dance floor. Winter Carnival, meanwhile, kicks off Jan. 27 and runs through Feb. 2, featuring activities ranging from a scavenger hunt to a ping pong tournament to a ski outing to broomball games on Ormsby Lake to a gingerbread house competition. It’s highlighted by the President’s Ball on the evening of Feb. 1. A day of service follows on Feb. 2. Details can be found here.  

5. Jazz Series concert featuring Bill Frisell 

Music starts to heat up winter term in February. Guitarist, composer, and arranger Bill Frisell will be gracing the Lawrence campus as part of the ongoing Jazz Series. Frisell has been recognized for his unique sound as he transforms the modern guitar. Frisell and friends will be in concert at 8 p.m. Feb. 7 at Memorial Chapel. For more on the Jazz Series (and other 2019-20 music series at Lawrence), see here.

6. Richard III on stage 

Winter term isn’t complete without a production from the Theatre Arts department. Richard lll, by William Shakespeare, will take the stage at Cloak Theatre for four performances from Feb. 20 to 22. It is directed by Timothy X. Troy. Visit here for more details on this show and others in the 2019-20 season.

7. Artist Series concert featuring Tine Thing Helseth 

Here’s another big concert happening in winter term, this one as part of the Artist Series. It’ll feature Norwegian trumpet virtuoso Tine Thing Helseth. She has established herself as one of the foremost trumpet soloists of our time. The performance is set for 8 p.m. on Feb. 28. More details can be found here.

8. Cultural Expressions

Students perform on stage during last year's Cultural Expressions.
Cultural Expressions is a winter term highlight. It’s back on Feb. 29.

The Lawrence University Black Student Union hosts an annual Black History Month Celebration called Cultural Expressions. It offers a space for members of the Black Student Union to showcase their talents — everything from music to dance to spoken word — to the entire Lawrence and Appleton communities. This year’s Cultural Expressions will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 29 in Warch Campus Center. See the calendar on the Lawrence web site for more information.

9. Opera takes center stage 

Opera is a huge part of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, and the annual opera is must-see viewing on campus. This winter term performance will feature Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, set for March 5 through March 8 in Stansbury Theater. Check the calendar for show times. 

Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

Convocation speaker: Imaginative thinking is political work, and it’s not easy

Masha Gessen talks at the podium on the stage of Memorial Chapel during Thursday's convocation.
Masha Gessen, a Russian-American journalist and author, delivers a convocation address Thursday at Memorial Chapel. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Masha Gessen was up front that there would be no answers in this address. Only questions, be they political, socio-economic or otherwise.

The Russian-American journalist and author, delivering the winter term Convocation Thursday morning at Lawrence University’s Memorial Chapel, told the gathering of mostly faculty, students, and staff that in order to find answers to society’s most perplexing problems, we must first challenge our assumptions of what we think we know and then imagine a better world, a better way to connect the dots.

In other words, think. And think deeply.

Gessen is the author of more than a dozen books, including the National Book Award-winning The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia and The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. Two more books are in the works, one coming this summer focused on the three years of the Trump presidency, and another that is still a work in progress on imaginative political projects around the world and what we can learn from them.  

It was the latter that was the focus of Gessen’s Convocation address, “The Parallel Polis.” It was the second of three Convocations in Lawrence’s 2019-20 series.

A staff writer at the New Yorker and an instructor at Amherst College, Gessen is a native of Russia, relocating to the United States at the age of 14.

Some things, Gessen said, seem so straightforward, so automatic, that we stop questioning it, stop thinking about it. It was an assumption about the former Soviet Union that kicked off the conversation that is now leading to the coming book.

“It started with this assumption I was raised with that I never, ever questioned,” Gessen said. “The assumption was that, not only communism and the communist idea, but any utopian idea would always lead to totalitarianism.”

Perhaps. But perhaps there are other ways to think about it, pieces to pull from it, ideas to reimagine in a different context. Can we challenge ourselves to dive deep and explore whether our assumptions are indeed correct and absolute?

Masha Gessen: “I was looking for very disparate projects that were united by the commitment to imagining something different.”

Gessen talked about reporting around the world, from a community-based urban farm in Detroit to experiments with universal basic income in Finland, all as imaginative political projects aimed at upsetting the paradigm.

“I wasn’t looking for projects that were solving a specific problem. I wasn’t writing about the problem itself. I was looking for very disparate projects that were united by the commitment to imagining something different.”

Gessen said people working on some of these projects had a difficult time telling their stories, in part because they were imagining something that didn’t yet exist. They didn’t have a language to make sense of it, so they struggled to articulate their vision.

“It got me thinking about different ways to think about imagination, which was my ultimate topic,” Gessen said. “How do we talk about things that we haven’t invented yet?”

Imaginative thinking is where real political change happens, Gessen said.

In late 2011, early 2012, when Russia was reeling in economic turmoil and there were mass protests and talk about the fate of Vladimir Putin, Gessen started pondering imaginative thinking, or the lack thereof. No one could really imagine what would come next in Russia should Putin be gone.

“The intellectual work of imagining what would happen after is actually political work,” Gessen said. “It’s essential for something to be able to move forward. But how do you imagine something that you don’t know, and then sort of will it into being?”

More questions. All the more important to think about at what Gessen called “this particularly vexing moment in history.”

The answers won’t ever come easy.

“I think things that are right in one place are really wrong in another, which is not to say everything is relative,” Gessen said. “It’s not. But it is to say there probably aren’t universal recipes. But what’s useful is figuring out what your assumptions are and thinking really hard about those assumptions and doing some experimenting in your mind.”

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