One of the great joys in the Communications office is being able to catch up with Lawrence alumni who are shining their light brightly along whatever paths their journeys have taken them.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have canceled our 2020 Reunion weekend, but over the course of the year we had the chance to talk with and write about many amazing Lawrentians, graduating as far back as 1954 and as recently as 2019.
Here are eight who caught our attention in our second annual Eight Alumni, Eight Stories end-of-year feature.
If you haven’t read these stories, we invite you to do so now. See story links below.
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Jack Nilles ’54
Living amidst Los Angeles’ traffic congestion, Nilles floated the wild idea that employees could be productive working from home or in neighborhood offices instead of commuting to corporate headquarters. This was in the early 1970s. He studied it. He wrote books about it. He was called the father of telecommuting. But corporate America mostly shrugged. Then, in 2020, when the pandemic sent employees en masse to home offices, people started paying attention. “I keep saying lately, ‘after 48 years, I’m an overnight success,’” Nilles said.
Like many in the arts world, Hopkins found her livelihood at a standstill when the pandemic hit in the spring. The operator of Yahara River Woodwinds, an instrument-repair shop in Stoughton, Wisconsin, Hopkins quickly learned that musicians don’t need instruments repaired when much of the music world has shut down. She quickly pivoted and began making masks, which led to requests for specially made masks that music students could wear while practicing and performing. When her alma mater reached out, Hopkins, already overwhelmed with orders from around the country, agreed to teach students in the Theater Department Costume Shop to create the masks. Those masks are now being worn by students across the Conservatory.
A biology major while at Lawrence, Weston credits his work in the classroom and as a leader in Student Life with preparing him for the lead role he’s taken in battling the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides teaching at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, working two shifts a week in the emergency department at Froedtert Hospital, and serving as the Office of Emergency Management’s director of medical services for Milwaukee County, Weston has taken on the temporary role of medical director of the Milwaukee area’s COVID-19 Unified Emergency Operations Center. To say the least, he’s had a busy year.
Even before he graduated from Lawrence in June 2019, Fam had himself a job offer as a software engineer at Disney+. The streaming service hadn’t yet launched, but the buzz was huge. It’s not often you step from the stage at Commencement and immediately land in the midst of one of the most talked about media developments in the world. When it launched, Disney+ had 10 million sign-ups the first day, 29 million in the first three months, and a new bankable star in Baby Yoda. Fam was part of the team that made it all happen.
See 2019 edition of Eight Alumni, Eight Stories here.
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s been a different sort of year. The COVID-19 pandemic certainly altered life on the Lawrence campus.
But one thing proved true. Lawrentians (and future Lawrentians and friends of Lawrence) are hungry to read about Lawrence and their fellow Lawrentians. We’ve dived into the analytics to share today the most viewed stories of 2020 on the Lawrence news site. (A few of the stories that placed in the top 20 are partnered here because they are so closely related.)
Eight alumni, eight stories: See 2020 edition here.
From voice professor John Holiday’s success on NBC’s The Voice to Lawrence again being hailed as a world-class school to adjustments made to campus life in the midst of a pandemic, there was no shortage of Lawrence news that drew a lot of interest. We provide here links to those most popular stories. Check out what you missed or take another look at stories that remind us of what makes Lawrence shine.
1. John Holiday hits big on NBC’s The Voice.
“There are people who dare to dream bigger than themselves; they never stop learning, never stop growing. I wanted to show my students what that looked like.” See stories here and here.
2. Princeton Review names Lawrence one of nation’s Best Impact schools.
“I see it and hear it when I meet with our alumni around the world. They point back to their time at Lawrence as unlocking something for them, discovering an interest or talent they didn’t know they had until they started working with professors here who helped guide them in that discovery.” See story here.
3. We say farewell to beloved Lawrentians.
“I will always remember Lifongo as the warmest, kindest, and most generous, joyful, and magnanimous of colleagues and friends.” … “I know many Lawrentians join me in remembering moments when Terry’s advice provided exactly what you needed to hear to be the best version of yourself.” See stories here and here.
4. Campus life changes amid COVID-19 pandemic.
“All of us living, learning, and working on campus this fall need to understand and to honor the responsibilities outlined by the Pledge.” See storieshereandhere.
5. A professor’s guide offers look at Freshman Studies.
“The entire list shows a remarkable range and an admirable ambition.” See story here.
6. New trestle trail adds to trails, parks near campus.
“The abandoned railroad trestle has been transformed into a 10-foot-wide trail that spans the Fox River at the southern edge of campus.” See story here.
7. Bidding good-bye for now to retiring faculty.
“You have served as a steadying force, stepping into a host of academic leadership positions that have lent stability in moments of uncertainty and grace in times of worry.” See story here.
8. Six faculty earn tenure.
“I’m absolutely delighted that their contributions are being recognized through the awarding of tenure and promotion, and look forward to continuing together our rich, rewarding work for years to come.” See story here.
9. Jake Woodford ’13 elected mayor of Appleton.
“It has been a pleasure to watch Jake’s energy turn toward the city he loves.” See story here.
10. Princeton Review names Lawrence to Best Colleges list.
“As we head into another academic year, albeit one that looks different from any other in history, it’s reassuring to see that some things have remained the same.” See story here.
11. President Mark Burstein announces plans to leave Lawrence.
“During Mark’s tenure, our curricular offerings became deeper and broader, applications and the endowment increased dramatically, and our community became more diverse, inclusive, and equity-minded.” See story here.
12. Lawrence offers assistance during pandemic.
“We have always risen to the challenges that face us with resilience and ingenuity.” See story here.
13. Conservatory named ‘hidden gem,’ adapts to life in pandemic.
“It’s beautiful, creative flexibility. We’re working with our students all the time to say, ‘This is what you’re going to need out there in the world, and this is what’s going to be exciting about being a musician in the world today.’” See story here.
14. Natasha Tretheway named 2020 Commencement speaker.
“Our journeys have been intertwined since I visited Lawrence four years ago, and I am delighted and honored to be able to reconnect with this class in such a meaningful way.” See story here.
“One of the really, really cool things about my time at Lawrence was that the boundary between the Conservatory and the college is pretty permeable.” See story here.
16. Lawrence adds major in Creative Writing, minor in Statistics and Data Science.
“We’ve seen more prospective students articulating their desire to focus directly on creative writing.” … “Data scientists are working with bioinformatics, genetics; it’s huge in economics, and it’s become a huge thing in political science.” See story here.
17. Four alumni added to Board of Trustees.
“At this critical moment for higher education, I couldn’t be more appreciative for the diverse group of individuals who are giving so much of their time and talent as trustees to ensure that the college continues to distinguish and differentiate itself.” See story here.
18. Alexander Gym court gets a redesign.
“While resurfacing was certainly a maintenance requirement, the fresh new design work is an added bonus.” See story here.
19. Our 2020 Alumni Awards are announced.
“While the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down the annual Reunion celebration, this year’s recipients are still being celebrated for their contributions to both the Lawrence community and the world.” See story here.
20. Alex Damisch ’16 cherishes her Jeopardy experience.
“After I taped the shows, I thought to myself, ‘Man, it went by so fast, and I was always so focused on my next move, I hope I remembered to smile.’ Spoiler alert: I did not.” See story here.
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: email@example.com
The words read like heartfelt letters to an old friend.
For 50 years, Lawrence University students have been trekking to the London Centre for a term or two of study in one of the world’s most iconic cities. Launched in 1970, it has stood as part of the Lawrence experience for five decades, an extension of the Appleton campus that continues to make London the No. 1 destination for the university’s study abroad program. Lawrentians have studied at London Centre with British and visiting professors, soaked in London’s rich history, forged new friendships, and explored Europe in a myriad of ways.
So, we wondered aloud if that London experience — 50 years ago or as recently as last year or any of the years between — continues to impact and inform the lives of our alumni. Does the love endure? Spoiler alert: It does.
“I fell in love with everything — the museums, the people, and the classes that introduced me to famous monuments and hidden gems,” said Nicole Witmer ’19, who spent the spring terms of 2018 and 2019 in London. “I loved it so much that I decided to spend my last term at Lawrence at the London Centre, this time pursuing an internship at a publishing house. That internship led me to my first career out of school, and now I’m back in London pursuing my master’s.”
Sounds familiar, say those who came before. Digging through memories from five decades earlier, the first of the Lawrentians to study at London Centre, now in their 70s and mostly retired, speak with similar reverence.
It was, they said, love at first sight.
“Was not sure what to expect,” said Doug Kohrt ’71, who studied in Arden Hotel with the first cadre of London Centre students in the summer and fall of 1970. “It was hotel living with a shared bath down the hall and no eating facilities in the room. We were furnished breakfast but we were otherwise on our own. This was the time before computers and we had to rent typewriters to write term papers. But travel was inexpensive and student airline tickets were used for weekend trips throughout Europe. Many of our group spent nights taking in West End plays, musicals, concerts and days studying or exploring London. … My London experience was a life-changing event.”
Same for Kevin Fenner ’72, who went a year later, spending the summer and fall of 1971 at the London Centre, the first time he had left the United States. “It was the best experience of my young life,” he said. “It was an experience that could never be repeated. The London Centre changed my life.”
Photo flashback: Clockwise from top left: Professor F. Theodore Cloak is seen in the Fall of 1970 at Arden Hotel, the first home of London Centre (photo courtesy of Dave Mitchell ’71); Julie Panke ‘71 and Virginia Danielson ’71, among the first students at London Centre in 1970, settle in on a ferry from Harwich en route to Amsterdam. (Photo courtesy of Julie Panke ’71); Jim Bode ’71, Jim Geiser ’71, and Dave Mitchell ’71 were among the first Lawrentians to study at London Centre in 1970. (Photo courtesy of Dave Mitchell); a picnic is enjoyed in Kensington Gardens in spring of 1980 (photo courtesy of Alison Ames Galstad ’82).
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Sense a theme?
The dozens of alumni who responded to our effort to mark the 50th anniversary of London Centre spoke of following the trails of literary heroes and theater icons, of visiting grand museums and historic halls, of studying European history on the very streets where it all happened, of exploring British cuisine and taste, of chasing adventures across Europe, and of redirecting in so many ways their global focus.
Many spoke of their London memories, no matter how distant, as being among the fondest of their lifetimes, whether their London home was in Arden Hotel (1970-80) or 7 Brechin Place (1994-2009) or the current location on Great Russell Street in the heart of Bloomsbury (2018 to present) or any of a number of other locations that housed the London Centre through the years.
Find more information on Lawrence’s London Centre here.
Lezlie Weber, director of off-campus programs at Lawrence, said reaching the 50-year milestone is no small thing. It speaks to Lawrence’s commitment to international study.
“Study abroad tends to be a transformative part of a student’s experience at Lawrence,” she said. “Alumni mention the London Centre as a defining part of their undergraduate years, building their confidence and contributing to their career paths. The London Centre allows students to use London itself as a classroom for experiential learning and academic coursework.”
On average, the London Centre draws between 30 and 50 Lawrence students per year spread over three terms, some spending one term there and others two terms. It operates as a closed academic program for Lawrence, much of it focused on the history and culture of England. Lawrence students in their second year and beyond are eligible for the London program, and in recent years internship opportunities have become plentiful.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put in-person studies at London Centre temporarily on pause, although five courses were offered virtually during Fall Term. The most recent group of students were there in Winter Term, when concerns about the spread of the virus in Europe resulted in hectic exits in early March.
London Centre instructor Christine Hoenigs taught two virtual theater courses, Diversity on the London Stage and Shakespeare in London. While theater students would normally visit a theater and see a production each week, she used high quality recordings of shows in London and Stratford-upon-Avon, as well as Q&As and interviews, to bring students closer to the vibrant London theater scene.
“I thoroughly enjoy working with students in smaller groups this term,” Hoenigs said. “Although, like all of my colleagues, we miss having students in London and wish we could work with them here. But I am hopeful that students will be returning to the London Centre next year and we can show them what this beautiful, indestructible city has to offer.”
FRIENDSHIP AND COMMUNITY
The current London Centre location encompasses several buildings in the Bloomsbury neighborhood, with easy access to Covent Garden, the West End, and Soho. The living quarters, equipped with modern amenities and shared spaces, may be a bit more spacious then some early London Centre students recall, but the communal nature of the experience remains the same — friendships and adventures will happen here.
“I grew very close to the other Lawrence students at the Centre as all seven of us lived in one flat,” said Sarah Wells ’20, who spent the spring of 2019 in London. “Some days we would be teaching each other how to cook. Other days we would go exploring for food together in the Bloomsbury neighborhood or at a street market.”
“The faculty and staff at the London Centre really encouraged a strong sense of community in the house, and living in London with its diverse history and culture was a positive way to get a new perspective on life,” said Katie Brown ’04, who arrived in London in need of a new outlook and found it at 7 Brechin Place. “This experience really helped me through a difficult time and was very influential on who I have become.”
Lawrence announced in late 1969 the coming launch of London Centre. A news release hailed it as an expansion of the Lawrence experience. Lawrence students were all in from the get-go, and the momentum quickly grew.
No matter which location housed London Centre at the time, the alumni spoke of the value that comes with experiencing the surroundings. The original location was literally in a hotel. Located in the Earls Court neighborhood, Arden Hotel included a private classroom but residential spaces had students mingled amid the hotel guests. Despite its limitations, it proved to be a worthy home for the program’s first 10 years.
“A terrific group of students, many of whom are among my closest friends today,” recalled Dave Mitchell ’71, who was part of the first wave in the summer and fall of 1970. “Vivid memories of our group huddled in front of the black and white TV on Sunday evenings watching ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus.’ … Shepherd’s pie and warm ale for lunch at the Devonshire Arms.”
“The semester was packed with things to do,” said George Stalle ’75, who studied in London in Fall Term of 1974. “Concerts at the South Bank Concert Halls, a Proms concert at Royal Albert Hall and singing ‘God Save the Queen.’ … Not enough time in the day to enjoy everything.”
CHASING HISTORY, DROPPING NAMES
For many Lawrentians, the London experience means crossing paths with historical figures in a way that can’t be replicated in books or in Google searches. It’s being immersed in a theater scene that brings you inside historic performance spaces and lets you soak in the wonder and power of the arts in Europe. It’s seeing and touching traditions that date back centuries.
Lawrence faculty come to London as visiting professors, providing a chance to teach in a new locale, immerse themselves in the London experience, and forge bonds with students that resonate well beyond the classroom. Alumni decades removed from their London studies still speak glowingly of those relationships.
“One of our assignments in Professor (William) Chaney’s London class was to pick a town and try to write up the history of it, but without going to a library,” said Christopher Lynch ’89, who studied in London in fall 1986. “Chaney said if one really wanted to learn the history of a place, then talk with the ladies that put the flowers on the altar of the local church. Of course, he was right. … Chaney’s genius was to get students out into the community, meeting English people and experiencing their society.”
With legendary performance spaces aplenty, name dropping is not out of the question. Alumni recalling special moments referenced performers they saw live in London who either were or would go on to become household names — Anthony Hopkins, Elton John, Geraldine James, Aaron Copland, and Dustin Hoffman, among them.
It’s the opportunity to experience it all in a very sensory way that resonates, the alumni said.
“I encountered my literary heroes both in London and on super cheap Ryanair weekend excursions,” said Melody Moberg ’10, an English and religious studies major who studied at the London Centre in the fall of 2009. “Sometimes I sought out sacred English literature sights, such as the Keats-Shelley house in Rome, which brims with the looping script of Romantic poets, first editions, and creepy relics. More often, I stumbled upon sacred sites. For example, the church in London where my internship’s fundraiser was held happened to be William Blake’s congregation. In London, deep history is woven into the fabric of the city. I loved wandering through the city and discovering treasures everywhere.”
Susan Carter Ruskell ’91 studied in London in spring 1989 and came away awed by what was so close and available. “Twenty-one theatrical productions in 10 weeks, including performances by Geraldine James, Alec Guiness, Anthony Hopkins, Dustin Hoffman, and many others,” she said.
“Fringe Theatre of London was a highlight for me,” said Chuck Demler ’11, who spent Winter Term 2009 at London Centre. “It was just two of us, Emily May ’10 and me in the class with Ginny Schiele. We would attend a play each week and then review it. Ginny would give us free tickets or tell us about other performances in the city. I think I ended up seeing 25 plays during that term. It really changed the way that I think about theater and art of all kinds.”
For Charlie Seraphin ’72, it was the show he missed during Winter Term 1970 that still haunts. He passed on joining his fellow students at a small venue near London Centre. “After the show, they raved about the small venue — less than 200 people — and the awesome performance by a soon-to-be-superstar — Elton John. Oops!”
Cheryl Wilson Kopecky ’72 still looks at the journal she kept during a Summer Term in 1971. “I’m amazed at the number music and theater ‘starts’ we saw in just one term. Traveling around Great Britain and other countries, finding a B&B when arriving in a new village or city, and researching a history topic where it happened (Battle of Stamford Bridge, 1066) were all new accomplishments. I recall thinking at the time, ‘This is one of the highpoints of my life,’ and that sentiment still remains true.”
A TASTE FOR LONDON AND THE WORLD
Food and drink also land on the front burner when alumni talk of their London Centre adventures. As does travel. No surprise there. Exploring not only England but elsewhere in Europe has long been part of the draw.
Richard Zimman ’73 took a liking to London in the winter and spring of 1971 and never looked back. “Life at the London Centre changed my life by introducing me to three passions that continue to this day — international travel, live theater, and British beer,” he said.
“My London term was one of my best memories from college and the experiences I had there have helped fuel a lifetime of travel, curiosity, and adventure,” said Kurtiss Wolf ’93, who studied in London in Winter Term 1993. “… Having that sort of immersive international experience early in life has definitely made me a better global citizen.”
“I can vividly remember the Earls Court tube stop, the Hot Pot restaurant, Kensington Gardens, the double-decker buses, and exploring the streets and shops,” said Rick Chandler ’74. “I loved the opportunities to travel. I met lots of interesting people and learned that markets, pubs, youth hostels, footpaths, trains, and bicycle trips are more memorable than castles and cathedrals.”
“Still remember studying in the round pond at Hyde Park, as our residence was very close,” said K K (Brian) Tse ’81, a London Centre student in Fall Term 1980. “Watching many plays and going to so many good museums, hitchhiking by myself to Ireland; what a memorable term at the age of 20.”
Chris Porter ’74, who spent the Winter and Spring terms of 1972 at London Centre, continues to return time and again. “Many years after the fact, I told my dad that my six months in London had been life-changing due to the exposure we had to other peoples and cultures and the travel opportunities it provided,” he said. “… I’ve been back to London at least 60 times since 1972; every time I go, I go in search of the London of 1972, which has largely disappeared, mostly for the better, but some for the worse.”
Alison Ames Galstad ’82 was there in Spring Term 1980. “Where to start? The iconic Arden Hotel, favorite pub Devonshire Arms, travels to Germany and a trip down the Rhine with my dear friend and roommate Elizabeth Carter Wills, hitchhiking to Dover and camping on the White Cliffs with my friend Greg Zlevor, travels through Wales and a hike up Mt. Snowdon with my dear and forever friend Catherine Biggs Dempsey, seeing Yul Brynner not once but twice in ‘The King and I’ at the London Palladium and getting his autograph backstage. … And there was the hostage crisis, the Iranian Embassy siege in London, and the failed hostage rescue in Iran — tensions were high, and there were a few days through which we all were certain we’d be sent home given the political climate. Living and studying abroad was an immensely enriching experience for all of us.”
For 50 years, London Centre has been home to academic adventures and life-defining experiences for Lawrence students. Here’s to 50 more.
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
About this series: Lighting the Way With … is a periodic series in which we shine a light on Lawrence University alumni. Today we catch up with Dr. Ben Weston ’05, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Medical College of Wisconsin who has been a leader in the Milwaukee area in the COVID-19 pandemic battle.
Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications
When Dr. Ben Weston ’05 tells you “it’s been an interesting year,” know that is his understated way of saying it’s been an emotionally draining, frustrating, holy-cow-I-can’t-believe-that-just-happened, gut-wrenching, exhausting, pants-on-fire sort of a year.
So, yes, interesting.
The Lawrence University alumnus is among the army of front-line health care workers who have been living the COVID-19 pandemic up close and personal on a daily basis, and he’s done it wearing three important but vastly different hats.
For two shifts a week, Weston works as an emergency department physician at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, part of his role as associate professor of emergency medicine at Medical College of Wisconsin. It’s here where he sees COVID patients fighting for their lives, where the latest surge threatens to overwhelm staff and space, where he and colleagues have to wear the same protective masks for multiple days for fear of resources running short.
He also lives it in his role as director of medical services for Milwaukee County, working through the Office of Emergency Management to coordinate 14 fire departments, ambulances, and other first responders in providing emergency medical care for a region with a population of nearly 1 million people.
And he lives it in his role as medical director of the Milwaukee area’s COVID-19 Unified Emergency Operations Center, working with the city of Milwaukee, the county, and a bevy of municipalities to coordinate responses to the pandemic and provide consistent messaging to residents.
Three hats, three perspectives of a pandemic that has shown no signs of abating, and a day-to-day schedule that has been dominated by the coronavirus since the earliest days of 2020.
And when Weston’s work day is over and he settles in with his wife and three young kids, can he move away from the brutal realities of the health care crisis? Well, not completely. His wife, Dr. Michelle Buelow, is a physician with Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers on the south side of Milwaukee, treating a heavily Hispanic population that has been hit hard by COVID-19.
“She’s been right in the thick of it as well,” Weston said. “So, the evenings usually start with a little pandemic conversation, and then we try purposely to shift to other things.”
Beyond the imaginable
Weston knew his world was about to change in January as the virus began its spread. What he didn’t know was that nearly a year later we would be staring into what could be a very dark winter as cases surge across the United States, hospitals are stretched to capacity and beyond, and the death toll nears 275,000.
“I don’t think anybody anticipated the longevity or the extreme impact that COVID would have,” Weston said of those early days before the virus landed in the U.S. “We would talk through scenarios about if long-term care facilities were hit or if there were outbreaks in regions of the community. I think it was certainly hard to imagine back then that we would be having this widespread outbreak everywhere like we have now. Every county in Wisconsin, every state in the United States, every country in the world is having these surges in cases right now, along with hospitalizations and deaths. We would have been naïve to think it wasn’t going to affect us at all, but I don’t think anyone anticipated this.”
Weston has been front and center in messaging to the public about the spread of the virus, the significance of the threat, and the need for personal responsibility. He’s spoken at news conferences and done dozens of interviews with media, locally and nationally. He’s done so while fighting conflicting messages coming from the national level.
“There have been a lot of novel aspects to the virus that makes it very challenging to control,” Weston said. “Biologic aspects of the virus, the incubation period, the asymptomatic spread. Things like that make it very hard to control, and difficult to message from a disease perspective. And then you compound that with messaging at the highest level and the national response that a lot of times is contradictory to the local response and the local messaging and you have a pretty difficult situation.”
There are consequences that come with that lack of a unified national response. One, of course, is the accelerated spread of the virus when segments of the population refuse to take it seriously, continuing to gather in confined spaces and refusing to wear masks. Another is the emotional toll it’s taking on health care workers. They not only face burnout because of the workload, but they also have to deal with backlash from people who see the pandemic as politics, Weston said.
“Everyone is really strained from a work standpoint,” he said. “Our public health infrastructure is not designed for this, nor is it funded, nor is it staffed in a way to manage something like this.”
To then receive hateful messages from someone taking exception to the daily news cycle adds to an already overwhelming burden, Weston said.
“It’s disheartening for public health practitioners when they are working these 60-, 70-, 80-, 100-hour weeks, and then at the end of the week when they feel like they’ve done something positive, they open up their email or listen to their voice mail and that’s what they hear.”
Through it all, though, there are opportunities to smile, Weston said. Health care workers need to cling to those moments. For him, it’s a kind email from a woman who opted to skip an indoor Thanksgiving gathering after hearing him speak on the dangers of such behavior. Or seeing multiple health care organizations across the state come together to share data and strategies, something that would have been unheard of a year ago.
“They come in somewhat small victories,” Weston said.
A path forged at Lawrence
Before Weston earned his medical and Master of Public Health degrees at the University of Wisconsin, he was a biology major at Lawrence. The classroom instruction prepared him well for medical school. But he points to campus experiences outside of the classroom that helped him develop the leadership and collaboration skills that are in play now. He worked his final three years at Lawrence in residence hall leadership positions, first in Plantz Hall and then in Hiett Hall, and chaired the Lawrence University Community Council’s Judicial Board.
“I loved my Lawrence experience,” Weston said. “I had the privilege of having leadership opportunities at Lawrence that I think helped to develop and hone my ability to be in these positions I’m in now.”
He cites then-Dean of Students Nancy Truesdell and current Dean of Students Curt Lauderdale as mentors who helped guide his journey.
“They were great mentors, and I saw great examples of principled leadership and steadfast collaboration from both of them that have certainly carried forward to my career,” Weston said. “Those were critical building blocks for me.”
Those lessons, he said, will be close at hand as the calendar flips to 2021 and he looks to help colleagues weather at least a few more months of distress before a vaccine hopefully brings some relief.
“It’s been hard the last few weeks to see the surges going up, knowing that no hospital can keep up with those sorts of numbers,” Weston said.
But the recent news of a vaccine that could be coming soon has buoyed spirits among health care workers, even though they know things will be difficult between now and spring.
“What changes is the perspective,” Weston said. “If we had talked back in July, August, September, we didn’t know when the end point was. We hoped it would be maybe in the spring, but we didn’t know. We had no evidence to point to, to say there’s an end to this, it’s coming. There was talk that this could go on for years.
“And now we see promising signs that there is an end point. We see the vaccine trials and we see this news and we start talking about how we’re going to distribute it. And I think that’s great news and we should celebrate it. But we also should recognize that the vaccination campaign isn’t going to take off and get everyone vaccinated this winter. We have to get through what’s going to be a really hard winter. So, the message has to be that we can celebrate the vaccine, but for the next few months we really need to buckle down. We have winter coming. It’s going to be a challenging time. But we know an end is in sight.”
Do you want to support a fellow Lawrentian as you do your holiday shopping? We’ve pulled together a gift guide courtesy of those who shared with us products or services they’ve created and have available online. It might be a business they’ve founded or crafts they make or art they’ve created or a book they’ve written.
This list only includes Lawrentians who responded to our ask, and only those who have a web presence, whether it’s their primary money-maker or a side hustle. All links here are active. Happy shopping.
Isabel Dammann ’17, Sprig of That; https://sprigofthat.bandcamp.com … Acoustic folk music, soap, socks, prints, posters, stickers. Sprig of That is an acoustic folk trio with violinist Isabel Dammann ’17, guitarist Ilan Blanck ’17, and tabla player Krissy Bergmark.
Chelsea Wagner ’07, Community Homestead; https://app.barn2door.com/e/QBGP5/all … Wooden puzzles, ceramics, cards, fabrics, rugs, felted figures, paintings, baked goods by adults with and without special needs.
Jeanne Loehnis ’81, Songs for Your Spirit LLC; www.songsforyourspirit.com/purchase-cards … Personal life coaching without the coach. Sturdy 4×6 cards inspire out-of-the-box, magical thinking and deep reflection.
All items on the holiday shopping guide were submitted by third party members of the Lawrence community. The entries are provided for general informational purposes and do not imply endorsement by Lawrence University of the linked site or its contents. For more information, email email@example.com.
Lawrence University’s Physics Department is again celebrating close connections with the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics.
Amelia Mangian ’18, then a fourth-year physics student at Lawrence, spent an internship in the summer of 2017 working with a team of scientists at UCLA led by astronomer Andrea Ghez, who earlier this month won the Nobel for her years-long study of supermassive black holes in the universe.
“She is the model of the perfect scientist,” Mangian said of Ghez. “She persevered, she worked hard, and she proved a lot of people wrong on the way to becoming a world-class researcher and educator. I think the other thing that is remarkable about Andrea is how easily she can communicate her work to people of all ages and how much she cares about spreading her love of science.”
Ghez is one of three recipients of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics, joining Roger Penrose, a mathematician at Oxford University in England, and Reinhard Genzel, a professor at the University of California Berkeley and director at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany. All were honored for their work advancing the study of black holes.
“Working with this team—Andrea, her collaborators, particularly Mark Morris and Tuan Do, as well as her research team, post-docs, and graduate students—has helped my career tremendously,” said Mangian, now pursuing a doctorate in astronomy at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “It helped me find a passion for black holes, for astronomy, and for being a role model to other young astronomers who want to be researchers, too.”
A year ago, the Nobel went to two astronomers whose breakthroughs in the 1990s led to the discovery of thousands of exoplanets in the Milky Way galaxy, a research subject that Megan Pickett, associate professor of physics and chair of the Physics Department at Lawrence, has focused on for much of her career.
The 2019 Nobel announcement felt like a win for Pickett and her students. The 2020 announcement is much the same. Having a former student so closely connected to the research team is an opportunity to shine a light on undergraduate internships and research opportunities that are plentiful for Lawrence students in the sciences.
Not lost on Mangian or Pickett is that Ghez is only the fourth woman to win the Nobel in Physics, joining Marie Curie (1903), Maria Goeppert Mayer (1963), and Donna Strickland (2018). The Nobel adds to Ghez’s growing profile as she blazes trails as a role model for women scientists.
“One of my particular interests, long before coming to Lawrence, has been the history of women in physics and astronomy—our stories, representation, and how we can tear down barriers to success and recognition,” Pickett said. “There are a number of ways we get at this problem, but primarily it comes down to creating a sense of belonging with the department, and the discipline.”
Lawrence is part of a Howard Hughes Medical Institute initiative that challenges U.S. colleges and universities to substantially and sustainably increase their capacity for inclusion of all students, especially those who belong to groups underrepresented in science. It was one of 33 schools selected in 2018 to receive a $1 million grant from HHMI through its Science Education Program to implement its Inclusive Excellence initiative. Another 24 schools were selected the year prior, part of HHMI’s push to reimagine science education to better engage students from all backgrounds.
“Our primary focus is inclusive excellence — how can we increase our successful engagement and the success of students who are under-represented in the sciences, whether first-generation college students, for example, or under-represented minorities?” Pickett said.
Seeing scientists such as Ghez be awarded a Nobel—also of note, two women won the Nobel in chemistry the following day—helps ring that bell, and having a Lawrentian so closely tied to the work adds fuel to the fire. But it also is a reminder that while great strides have been made, the work is far from finished when it comes to equity and opportunity.
“Having those role models, and being able to send our students off campus, potentially to work in a Nobel lab, is huge,” Pickett said. “Closer to home, though, we are today more diverse and more dedicated to that diversity as a department than we have ever been. In particular, the addition of professors (Tianlong) Zu and (Margaret) Koker help make our department begin to look more like our student body—and the importance of that cannot be overstated.”
Mangian, meanwhile, counts Pickett as a mentor who helped her believe in herself as a scientist. That relationship, she said, drives her to pay it forward as a mentor as she carves out her own career.
“She has guided me through rough times and helped me be the best version of myself during the good times,” she said of Pickett. “She’s the reason that I’m where I’m at today, academically and personally.”
At Illinois, Mangian is studying actively feeding supermassive black holes and their host galaxies, using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) to infer properties of the black holes such as its luminosity and mass. She’s also building on mentoring lessons she took from Pickett and others at Lawrence.
“I’ve been very active in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts through the organization I run called the Society for Equity in Astronomy,” Mangian said. “We are a group focused on improving the astronomy department at Illinois and those across the country. We run a mentorship program with about 40 individuals involved and have monthly discussions about culturally significant topics such as the Strike for Black Lives, #BlackInTheIvory, and the ongoing situation with the Thirty Meter Telescope being constructed on indigenous lands on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. I am also starting up a tutoring program aimed at helping students with disproportionate educational backgrounds coming into the astronomy program at Illinois.”
Mangian’s work in 2017 with Ghez’s group came after being selected for a National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates program, a highly competitive process. Lawrence students in recent years have gone through that program to land research posts at the University of Indiana, University of Wisconsin, Harvard, University of Rochester, and the University of Twente in the Netherlands, among others.
“These experiences are valuable regardless of whether you end up going to graduate school or not,” Mangian said. “Having the opportunity to work in a research environment early on in your life allows you to explore areas that interest you the most, helps you build skills to prepare you for a wide variety of jobs—collaboration, computer skills, communication—and helps build your professional network. This, along with my time working with Megan, convinced me that I wanted to be an astronomer, and an educator, too.”
It also gave her the chance to get to know and learn from a future Nobel Prize winner, something she reflected on when she heard the Ghez announcement from the Nobel Committee for Physics, relayed to her by her mother.
“My excitement grew throughout the day as I came to terms with the fact that I not only worked for a Nobel laureate, but I’d been to her house, too, for wine and cheese. I couldn’t think of a more deserving person to win the award.”
Lawrence University music students will soon be getting specially made face masks suitable for their music-making needs.
The music, after all, must go on even though life in the Conservatory of Music has been altered in almost every conceivable way in this pandemic. Every student, whether playing a brass or woodwind instrument, will have an appropriately designed mask so they can safely partake in ensemble practices or performances.
That’s the short story.
The deeper story is about alumni connections and Lawrence ingenuity, all leading to students in the Theatre Department’s costume shop, fresh off a master class from the alumna who designed the masks, creating more than 100 of the face coverings for their fellow Lawrentians. Masks and music-making are not easy partners.
“The Conservatory has been wrestling with how to get their large ensembles together this term,” said Karin Simonson Kopischke ’80, instructor of theatre arts and costume shop supervisor. “Just trying to figure out a safe way to do it.”
Enter Katy Hopkins ’85, who operates Yahara River Woodwinds, an instrument-repair shop in Stoughton, Wisconsin. With much of her business curtailed because of the pandemic—out-of-work musicians are less likely to need instruments repaired—she began making and selling face masks, including three specialty models she designed and developed for musicians, one for playing brass instruments, one for playing the flute, and one for playing other woodwinds.
“It took a long time for me to design these masks because there’s just a different set of issues,” Hopkins said. “If you’re playing a reed instrument, you have to have a mask that’s not going to interfere with your mouth, and you don’t want the reed to break. You have to be very careful about the kind of material you use. For flutes, when they blow across the instrument, a lot of their air goes out into the room. You have to figure out how to contain that air.
“You also need to find the right material that will still stay on your face when pulling a mouthpiece in and out,” she said. “It still has to contain your air when you’re not playing. The material has to be lightweight enough that the poor musician doesn’t die from heat exhaustion. Most wind players, they get pretty warm when they play anyway. To have something over your face and mouth can exacerbate that feeling of being flushed. There are just a lot of things to consider when you’re designing these.”
Students pitch in to make cloth masks for campus. Read more here.
When Hopkins, an oboe player who majored in music performance at Lawrence, landed on workable designs this summer, she shared them on Etsy. The response was immediate. She has been flooded with orders from around the country, to the point where she’s had to turn down sales because she can’t keep up.
Among those who came calling was her alma mater. After flute professor Erin Lesser gave one of the Yahara masks a thumbs up, Dean of Conservatory Brian Pertl, a Lawrence classmate of Hopkins in the early ’80s, reached out for a large order, perhaps 100 or more.
“At that point I was already overwhelmed by orders,” Hopkins said. “I said I’d love to help out, but I can’t keep up.”
Pertl then floated the idea of Hopkins teaching her design to the costume shop students, under the direction of Simonson Kopischke. Funds were allocated for a contingent sale of the design and for a master class that involved Hopkins coming to campus to teach the particulars of her design.
It’s a win-win, Simonson Kopischke said. The musicians get their masks and the students in the costume shop, who had been looking for a project to take the place of theatre costume work that has been partially sidelined by the pandemic, get a chance to put their creative skills to work.
“It’s a chance to use their hands and use their creativity and release the stress,” Simonson Kopischke said. “And it’s a work-study program, so a lot of them depend on the money they make.”
Hopkins delivered the master class to seven students in the costume shop on the lower level of the Music-Drama Center, reconfigured with sewing machines now spaced eight feet apart.
The masks will be black, suitable for concerts. The Conservatory purchased the black fabric, but other material, from the thread to the elastic, was already on hand.
“We’re set up pretty much like a professional costume shop,” Simonson Kopischke said.
For Hopkins, the mask work is a satisfying detour for an instrument repair business that just launched a year ago.
“I was a lifelong sewer and I started just making regular masks for friends and family,” she said of the early days of the pandemic. “And they all said, ‘Hey, these are really nice, you should sell them.’ I needed extra income and I needed something to do and I’m a very creative person, so I started making masks and selling them on Etsy.
“In mid- to late summer, I started getting requests from my music educator colleagues and friends saying, ‘Have you thought about developing masks for musicians? We all have to go back to school and our administrators are requiring us to have something that’s going to work and protect us and our musicians.”
She went into her lab and started tinkering with designs, finally settling on three that are distinct and functional.
Hopkins is hopeful this is but a brief rerouting of her business.
“I hope for all of us that COVID is short-lived and we can go back to normal,” she said. “I expect this is a short-term business venture. But I’ve enjoyed the creative process, and I’m very excited about working with Lawrence students again.”
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
About this series: Lighting the Way With … is a periodic series in which we shine a light on Lawrence University alumni. Today we catch up with Jim Miller ’80, whose love of running has, to say the least, been lifelong.
Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications
Jim Miller ’80 caught the marathon bug while running cross-country for Lawrence University in the late 1970s. What he’s done with that passion over the 40-plus years since puts him in very select company.
On Aug. 30, just days before turning 62, Miller ran a marathon in 2 hours, 53 minutes, 59 seconds, making him one of only four runners known to have run marathons in under 3 hours in six different decades, according to data shared at PodiumRunner.com.
That is 26.2 miles of high-level achievement spanning more than 43 years and touching the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and, now, the 2020s.
“I set a goal to get that sixth decade and I was really excited to get it,” Miller said.
To do it, he had to get a bit industrious. He initially planned to run a marathon in North Carolina in March, but it was canceled as the COVID-19 pandemic began wreaking havoc on running events across the country. He signed up for a marathon in Fargo, North Dakota, that was scheduled for late August, hoping the pandemic would loosen its grip by then. No such luck.
“At that point it seemed unlikely any marathons were going to be held the rest of this year,” Miller said.
He didn’t want to wait out the pandemic, knowing his training was on target and the body felt good.
“There’s no guarantee I’ll be healthy and fit next year,” Miller said. “I was very confident I could run a fast time right now. I’ve been in really good shape for six months, and it’s hard to maintain that indefinitely. So, I felt a sense of urgency.”
Like Lawrentians are apt to do, he opted for ingenuity. He organized his own marathon near his home in Burlington, Vermont, named it the Old Mill Marathon, got it officially sanctioned, set up a COVID-19 safety plan, and recruited 13 local runners to run it with him.
“It’s probably the most fun I’ve had in any marathon I’ve run,” he said.
And that’s saying something. Miller has run 40 marathons through the years. The enthusiasm for it has never waned, despite injury setbacks and that inevitable march of Father Time.
The Lawrence difference
Miller said he was a decent but not great runner in high school in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He came to Lawrence for the academics, but he opted to run for the Vikings, and that experience lit a fire inside him.
He’d go on to have a Hall of Fame career at Lawrence, earning All-America honors in cross country and track and winning two Midwest Conference (MWC) championships. By the time he graduated with a degree in economics, he held school records in the 2-mile, 3-mile, and 6-mile distances.
It was a longer run Miller took early in his time at Lawrence, though, that set him on a different path. He ran the 1977 North Dakota Marathon, well before marathon running became the widespread boom it is today, and he won, posting a time of 2:34. It felt good. He wanted more. He won in North Dakota again the next year. Then, on the advice of Lawrence alumnus and advocate Chuck Merry ’57, he entered Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, and proceeded to run an eye-opening 2:19 that got him noticed nationally.
He quickly set a new goal—the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
“My senior year at Lawrence I spent training for the Olympic Trials,” Miller said. “I got so much support on campus.”
Always chasing a goal
He moved to Vermont following Commencement in June of 1980 to continue his training. He took a number of odd jobs while focusing on his running. He worked at a store selling running shoes. He took temp jobs. He began working part-time as a janitor at a bank in Burlington.
“I became a ‘running bum’,” Miller said. “Not exactly your typical Lawrence post-graduation route.”
He set a personal record of 2:18:18 and qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in both 1980 and 1984.
He never did make the U.S. Olympic team, but that part-time janitor job led to opportunities at the bank to put his economics degree to work. He would go on to forge a more than 30-year career as a trust officer and financial planner with the Merchants Trust Company.
And the running would continue, always with goals in place. He’d run one or two marathons a year when injuries weren’t sidelining him. One decade ran into the next, and while that 2:18:18 time would become a distant memory, the sub 3-hour times would continue.
“One of the key factors is enthusiasm and passion,” Miller said. “To run at my best, I need to be excited about a goal. Without that, I won’t come close to my potential. It’s really setting new goals as I age and trying to find a goal that excites me. It’s certainly not to run faster than I’ve ever run before, but it’s pretty easy to find goals that will challenge me.”
Does he have his eye on stretching his sub 3-hour brilliance to a seventh decade? That, he said, might be difficult. He’ll be 71 when 2030 rolls around.
“Even a year out our bodies change so much at this point,” Miller said. “I haven’t written it off in my mind, but that would be some challenge.”
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: email@example.com
Both are recent Lawrence University alumni. Both were biology majors. Both were first-generation college students. Both managed to graduate in three years. And both have a passion for science—and for using their skill set to address the world’s most pressing health concerns.
Satvir Kalsi ’17 and Harsimran Kalsi ’20 have spent their summer working as a team, launching a biotechnology conference—it was to be hosted at Lawrence in April but has since moved to a virtual format—and finalizing the details on their own start-up business, tentatively called Otto, which is set to launch later in the fall. With a lifetime of experience learning each other’s habits, predicting each other’s moves, and adapting to each other’s situations and needs, the brothers are well-equipped to tackle any challenge thrown at them as business partners.
Together, they’re keeping their eyes on a big goal: scientific innovation.
Healthspan 2020, a virtual conference
The process of aging is arguably the most universal health concern there is, so it was the first issue on the Kalsi brothers’ agenda. Every day, the majority of deaths worldwide are caused by aging and/or age-related illnesses, and aging is, of course, something none of us can avoid.
At least, not yet.
Even though the average lifespan has increased as modern medicine has continued to develop, age-related health problems have largely remained stagnant. Essentially, people are living sicker for longer.
That’s where rejuvenation biotechnology, the subject of the Healthspan 2020 conference, comes in. Focusing on repairing the damage aging naturally does to the body, rejuvenation biotechnology aims to enable people to live healthier lives, regardless of their age.
“The goal is not just to extend life; it is to make people healthier, longer,” Harsimran said. “So, if you’re chronologically 90, you’re biologically 60.”
The Healthspan conference launched Aug. 26, with an emphasis on the current state of rejuvenation biotechnology research and innovation, as well as the specific health care developments in Wisconsin. Featuring expert speakers from the realms of industry and academia, the entirely virtual, nearly carbon-neutral conference aims to provide a comprehensive picture of the science behind aging—and the potential reversal of its effects—while also ensuring the information is presented in a concise and understandable manner.
Admittedly, Harsimran did not plan for the conference to be completely online when he came up with the idea as a student back in 2018. The conference was originally scheduled for April 3 on the Lawrence campus, before Lawrence announced it would continue virtually for the Spring Term. But what the virtual conference lacks in direct, in-person communication, it makes up for in accessibility. The website is available to everyone.
Although Satvir was not originally as involved with the April conference, when the change of date and format resulted in a change of the speaker lineup, Satvir was there to help bridge the gap as he took on the role of Healthspan’s final speaker. As a third-year medical student at the Medical College of Wisconsin, he brings an interesting perspective to the conference: that of an advocate for comprehensive change in how the medical community, and those who influence it, approach aging.
“There are still people out there who don’t know the problem exists, and that advocacy work is open to pretty much anybody,” Satvir said. “… I wanted to be able to put this problem into perspective and try to connect people to the science without getting bogged down by the specifics.”
The Kalsis’ dedication to scientific innovation does not stop with the Healthspan 2020 conference.
Especially at this moment in history, the need for speed and reliability in scientific discovery is brutally apparent. But, the Kalsis said, it’s become clear that there are some snags in the system, that the scientific community is not structured in a way that always facilitates fast, effective collaboration.
“You can imagine, if someone made this process even faster, that could really save not just lives but a lot of time, a lot of money, and obviously the death toll would be decreased by almost any measure,” Satvir said.
Back in the fall of 2018, after spending a few summers doing scientific research, Satvir and Harsimran said they noticed what others are now starting to see: scientific innovation doesn’t move as fast as it could. Due to a variety of barriers regarding collaborations, including financial and accessibility roadblocks, there is too often excessive red tape standing in the way of scientific discovery.
“It typically takes 17 years for data on a lab bench to go to being an actual clinical therapy,” Harsimran said. “And, you know, where will we all be in 17 years? How about the oldest people we know? And then it also takes on average $2 billion. … If we can reduce these barriers, there’s a pretty good chance that we could speed up how quickly we get good medical care. I think everyone is realizing the importance of that.”
That necessity for speed is the basis behind the Kalsis’ new tech start-up. After two years of development, entrepreneurship classes, and recruiting potential users, the brothers are just a few months away from the launch of their new platform, designed to facilitate access to scientific expertise and equipment and to streamline collaboration and communication between scientists.
Through their website, users, including academic institutions, citizen scientists, and early-stage biotechnology and biopharmacology companies, will be able to work together in their research and experiments, potentially leading to faster and easier scientific discovery. With users from a variety of different fields of industry and academia, individuals and organizations can use the platform to find collaborators for research and to access otherwise expensive and hard-to-get equipment, making the field of science more accessible for more people.
Although the website will initially be limited to pre-selected and approved users, if all goes well the plan is to expand and make the platform available to the public, facilitating further scientific innovation and discovery.
“If it works out really well, it’s not only valuable, but it’s actually a catalyst for scientific discovery,” Satvir said. “. . . It’s causing us to discover new things very quickly and causing us to have new treatments very quickly. That could really change the landscape we deal with today.”
Alex Freeman ’23 is a student writer in the Communications office.
The newest member of Lawrence University’s Psychology Department faculty is plenty familiar with what makes this place special.
Elizabeth Becker ’04 earned a double degree in psychology and music performance here before going on to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“The lessons learned and relationships with faculty forged at Lawrence have been a guiding light in my own career as I sought to become the type of teacher that would make LU proud,” Becker said. “It is a true honor to be welcomed home and be part of the Lawrence community.”
Becker steps in as an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience, beginning with Monday’s launch of Fall Term.
Becker had been teaching at Saint Joseph’s University in Pennsylvania, where she served as director of the Behavioral Neuroscience Program and was the faculty affiliate to the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support. As a faculty member of the Psychology Department, she mentored both graduate and undergraduate researchers.
“I’m very excited to bring my program of research here to Lawrence to work with our incredibly talented undergraduate students,” Becker said. “I am dedicated to providing laboratory and professional development opportunities to prepare our students for graduate study.”
It was 20 years ago that Becker landed on the Lawrence campus as a first-year student. She said a matriculation convocation address delivered by then-President Richard Warch ignited a spark, a drive to learn and excel, that continues to this day.
“Starting the term I feel the same sense of excitement and nervousness I felt then,” Becker said. “Back in 2000, when I heard President Warch’s convocation address, that nervousness I felt was replaced with passion, admiration, and inspiration. I knew I was home. Indeed, my time at Lawrence was transformative and personally defining as I was pushed and challenged to be and live greater.”
The Warch address touched on the importance of community, something that resonates even deeper this year as Fall Term begins amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Becker said.
“Not all institutions of higher learning will address this challenge well, but I can guarantee we will,” she said. “In my preparation for fall, which will be online, I have worked hard to ensure a high level of engagement with the material as well as with each other — including social distance walks — because I espouse the philosophy of President Warch, that ‘liberal education is best conducted as a personal experience.’ I am so happy to be home.”
Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine G. Kodat said bringing Becker back to Lawrence is a huge win for a department that continues to serve one of the largest numbers of majors at Lawrence.
“As an alumna and double-degree graduate, she appreciates all the things that make Lawrence special,” Kodat said. “I am delighted to welcome her back to her alma mater.”