Category: Press Releases

Students pitch in to make cloth masks to keep Lawrence community safe

Members of the Lawrence community and visitors to campus have been asked to wear masks in shared spaces. Students in the costume shop, spread across the country, have pitched in by making more than 350 cloth masks. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Being quarantined isn’t stopping Lawrentians from stepping up for the health and safety of the campus community. Six students employed in the costume shop have constructed more than 350 cloth face masks so far for students and staff who are on campus.

Director of Wellness and Recreation Erin Buenzli helped orchestrate the mask-making operation. With the threat of COVID-19 spread an ongoing concern and the need for masks to be worn in shared spaces on campus, she worked with Lawrence’s COVID-19 Management Team on the idea of supplying masks to Lawrence community members who need to be on campus. This idea reached the costume shop, where six students took on the challenge during Spring Term to make as many masks as they could.

“I love the collaboration and the ingenuity of students,” Buenzli said. “The fact that we can reach across departments to look at an issue and be creative and solve it. It’s been fun to be a part of.”

The masks have been distributed to students, faculty, and staff as needed. Signage has been placed throughout campus reminding anyone on campus grounds to wear a mask.

Five of the six students made the masks remotely from home and sent them to campus. The work continues this summer.

Andrea Lara ‘21 shipped her work from her Milwaukee home-turned-workspace. Combating a global pandemic by making more than 50 face masks probably wasn’t on her mind when she learned to sew in the costume shop in Fall 2017. But Lara embraced the work wholeheartedly.

For one, she’s always been driven by a simple desire to help others. Secondly, she’s seen the pandemic taking its toll around her in Milwaukee. That experience motivated her to be an agent of change.

“Sometimes it can feel overwhelming that I don’t have any power,” Lara said. “Sometimes the only way I feel like I can take control is to do something to help others stay safe.”

Lara is a psychology and theater double major. Like the other students involved in this project, she found a marriage between her education and reaching out to help others that goes beyond employing sewing skills.

“As a psych major, I really focus on the betterment of people,” Lara said. “In particular, disenfranchised people who don’t have access to resources. That’s really important to me. And as a costume designer and theater major, it’s important to show how well you can work and adapt under pressure.”

Never underestimate the influence of the good you put into the world. Lara’s 7-year-old brother has taken notice of her efforts.

“When he sees me making masks, he gets so excited and says, ‘We should make more so we can help more people.’ And that increases my excitement to try to help out.”

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

Pride all year long: New center latest in efforts to support LGBTQ community

The Gender and Sexuality Diversity Center is located in Colman Hall. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

June is designated as Pride Month, a chance to acknowledge and celebrate the impact lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals have had on history.

A year ago, we shared a list of ways that Lawrence University flies its Pride flag all year long. We’re sharing that list again this June, with notable updates – led by the arrival of the Gender and Sexuality Diversity Center (GSDC), which opened in the fall in Colman Hall. We’ll start there.

1. Gender and Sexuality Diversity Center

The new GSDC space, located in Colman 110, is designed as a welcoming spot for queer Lawrentians of all backgrounds and their allies to gather to socialize, study, or just hang out. Programming in the space is led by a GSDC Council. A soft opening took place near the close of fall term, and a mixer was held in January.

2. Colores 

Colores is a student organization that was originally created to be a space for empowerment for LGBTQ students of color. It has since expanded to incorporate any LGBTQ students on campus and to help educate the wider community on LGBTQ intersectionality. Colores hosts weekly meetings and special events throughout the academic year. Find out how to get involved with Colores here.

3. Pride Prom 

As a way to celebrate our differences and to educate the wider campus on queer history, the student group Colores hosts an annual Pride Prom. Along with the music and food you might find at a traditional high school prom, Pride Prom includes information about queer history and rainbow decor. Organizers feature images, films, articles, and more on queer history throughout the venue. Most importantly, Pride Prom is a chance for members of the LGBTQ community to gather, have fun, celebrate their identities, and feel connected on campus. Pride Prom is open to the entire campus, as well as the Appleton community, and serves as a great opportunity to learn about queer history and to boogie down.

4. LGBTQ Alliance House 

Lawrence University now has a LGBTQ Alliance house. This house, which opened in the fall, acts as a safe space for queer individuals and allies. As a house, they do lots of community outreach, including a clothing exchange, throughout the Lawrence and Appleton communities to spread awareness and acceptance for queer identities.

5. Lavender Ceremony 

To say goodbye and congratulate graduating seniors, Student Life and the Diversity and Intercultural Center co-host an annual Lavender Ceremony. This is a celebration for queer-identifying students as they prepare to graduate from Lawrence. There are speeches on behalf of the seniors and a dinner for the seniors and their guests. The students being honored also are presented with a lavender stole to wear at Commencement.

6. Alumni connections

The Lawrence University Pride Alumni Network is a recently formed alumni group. It kicked off a year ago, serving as an outlet for support, social interactions, and career networking. Also, an LGBTQ group is now part of Viking Connect, providing opportunities for alumni to mentor students as they prepare to launch careers.

7. Pride Resource Group

The Faculty/Staff Pride Resource Group is a network for Lawrence faculty and staff who identify as LGBTQ or have family who identify as such. This group offers a sense of community for the faculty and provides an avenue for updates on available resources. Learn how to get involved with the Pride Resource Group here.

8. Queer Thanksgiving

The Diversity and Intercultural Center hosts an annual potluck, called Queer Thanksgiving, just before the end of fall term. The annual event has been held in the Diversity and Intercultural Center and is open to the Appleton community. It is a way for queer individuals to come together and celebrate over some delicious food.

9. Gender-inclusive bathrooms

Lawrence expanded the number of gender-inclusive restrooms available on campus last year. The expansion increased the number of gender-inclusive facilities available to community members, including those who identify as transgender, transgender non-binary, and non-binary.

10. Trans Rights United (TRU)

Also new this year is the launch of Trans Rights United (TRU), a student organization committed to supporting trans Lawrentians through community building and advocacy, both on campus and in the larger community. The group is an open community for all Lawrentians who identify as transgender, non-binary, or gender-nonconforming, as well as those who are questioning their gender identity.

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

Kuo-ming Sung selected for endowed professorship in East Asian Studies

Kuo-ming Sung

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Kuo-ming Sung, a professor of Chinese and linguistics who has been teaching at Lawrence University since 1994, has been named the inaugural Wendy and K.K. Tse Professor of East Asian Studies.

The endowed professorship, established courtesy of gifts from Wendy and K.K. Tse ’81, provides ongoing support for a distinguished member of the college’s faculty who demonstrates a commitment to teaching courses that contribute to the understanding of East Asia.

The appointment was made by President Mark Burstein.

“I am truly honored to receive this endowed professorship from the University,” Sung said. “It means very much to me personally as it recognizes my scholarship in and service to East Asian Studies in the past; but, more importantly, it gives me a new sense of responsibility for the future as I look for ways that I can contribute more to East Asian Studies in general and the Chinese and Japanese programs in particular.” 

The investment will help sustain, and hopefully grow, the scope and depth of the program, Sung said. It provides needed study of a robust and significant region of the world.

“I have been working hard on this and now have high hopes for creating new courses that will bring growth to the program, an area of study that is proving increasingly significant in the global context,” he said.

Catherine G. Kodat, provost and dean of the faculty, said the endowed professorship will pay dividends for Lawrence and its students for years to come.

“I’m extremely grateful, both for Wendy and K.K. Tse’s extraordinary generosity and for Kuo-ming’s years of steadfast dedication to East Asian Studies, particularly in Chinese language instruction and advocacy for study abroad,” Kodat said. “Endowed professorships like this make it possible for the University to express its appreciation to talented faculty while maintaining important commitments in academic programming. We are fortunate, indeed.”

Sung holds a bachelor of arts degree from National Taiwan University, and Master of Arts, C.Phil, and Ph.D degrees from the University of California-Los Angeles. He was promoted to full professor at Lawrence in April.

The endowed professorship donation, part of the ongoing Be the Light! campaign, reflects the gratitude of Wendy and K.K. Tse for the education K.K. received at Lawrence. He transferred to Lawrence in 1979 and graduated magna cum laude in 1981 with an interdisciplinary science degree. While a student, he was a member of the Lawrence Christian Fellowship and Lawrence International. He later earned his M.B.A. from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and his M.P.A. from the University of Hong Kong. Wendy worked in higher education administration in Hong Kong for more than 20 years.  

K.K. Tse served on the Lawrence University Board of Trustees from 2012 to 2018. He has also served on the advisory committee for Lawrence’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship program, and has been a guest speaker at Lawrence. 

Sung said he is grateful to the Tses for the opportunity that the endowed gift presents in growing East Asian Studies at Lawrence.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to President Mark Burstein, Provost Katie Kodat, and my tremendously supportive colleagues in the Chinese and Japanese Department and the East Asian Studies and Linguistics programs,” Sung said.  

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

50 years after graduating amid chaos, Class of 1970 offers hope to 2020 grads

A group of Lawrence University students, faculty, and staff march across campus following the May 4, 1970, shooting of anti-war protesters at Kent State University. (Lawrence University photo)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Graduating from college when it feels like the world is on fire isn’t a particularly comforting thing. Members of Lawrence University’s Class of 1970 can tell you something about that.

Fifty years after walking across the Commencement stage on Main Hall Green at an event that felt part celebration, part protest, part chaos, the Lawrentians of that class have nothing but words of encouragement for the 2020 graduates who are navigating their own moment of chaos.

Margaret Everist ’70 was one of those graduates 50 years ago. She feels the disappointment and pain of this year’s graduates, who had to finish their final term away from campus and watched the job market implode amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Her advice? Stay focused on what’s in front of you — the opportunity to change the world.

“That’s really what it’s all about,” Everist said from Minneapolis, where she retired after carving out successful careers in health care and finance. “Go out into the world to make a difference, one small step at a time.”

Lawrence held a virtual 2020 Commencement on Sunday, honoring nearly 270 graduates. As the day arrived, racial injustice protests rolled across the country, a tipping point that is resetting public conversations on equality, inclusion, and police brutality. Combined with the ongoing pandemic, it added new context to Commencement and the graduates’ post-Lawrence journeys: “As we continue to settle into this uncertainty, maybe a little more uncertainty than we might’ve bargained for four years ago, I am confident that if any class has the strength to deal with the weight of the world, it’s the Class of 2020,” senior class speaker Samantha Lizbeth Torres ’20 told her classmates.

We feel your pain

The Class of 1970, meanwhile, was supposed to be on campus this week to celebrate its 50th anniversary, but, alas, Reunion fell victim to the coronavirus lockdown. The class that graduated amid a firestorm of anti-war protests following the U.S. invasion of Cambodia and the subsequent shootings of student protesters on the campuses of Kent State and Jackson State put plans to gather in person on pause. Instead, a virtual “re-Commencement” was held Sunday to bring the class together online. More than 100 members of the class took part.

For members of that class, the emotions of Commencement 50 years ago still linger. The ceremony took place but the divisiveness was palpable, the graduates recall. Many refused to wear their caps and gowns. Some wore black armbands. The Commencement speaker lectured the students, calling their generation self-absorbed, naïve, and humorless.

“The Vietnam War was raging and draft boards were aggressively seeking out young men whose service had been deferred during college,” Bill Hillburg ’70 recalled. “Baby boom demographics resulted in too many new grads chasing too few jobs and professional school slots. Inflation was devouring salaries. We were collectively freaking out.”

The 1970 Commencement went on as scheduled despite anti-war protests that had heated up in the weeks following shootings at Kent State and Jackson State. “It was a divisive mess,” Myra Krinke Hillburg ’70 said. The class, marking its 50th anniversary, held a virtual “Re-Commencement” on Sunday. (Lawrence University photo)

It was in the weeks leading up to Commencement that the bottom seemed to fall out. College campuses were already hotbeds for anti-war protests, and then on May 4, 1970, the improbable happened. Ohio National Guard troops opened fire on students on the Kent State campus, leaving four dead. Less than two weeks later, police fired shots on the campus of Jackson State, killing two students.

Protests would escalate on campuses across the country.

In Appleton, hundreds of protesters, many of them Lawrence students and faculty, flooded into the downtown the day following the Kent State shooting, the anger reflected on the front page of a special edition of The Lawrentian. Classes on campus would be temporarily suspended as the protests continued through the remainder of the term.

“Our college years were anything but perfect,” said Myra Krinke Hillburg ’70. “We were on the streets protesting the war and the racial and gender inequalities we could witness every day. Our country was as divided then as it is now.”

For her and her classmates, college had been tumultuous from the start. They saw the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., then Robert F. Kennedy. The Vietnam War was escalating and emotions were running raw.

“We finished out our senior year with suspended classes and bitter divides among the Lawrence administration, faculty, and student body,” Krinke Hillburg said. “Yes, we had a graduation ceremony, but it was a divisive mess, with many students wearing black armbands and donating the money that would have gone to cap and gown rental to the anti-war effort. Our Commencement address was given by a faculty member who chastised us for our naivete and privilege. Our idealism was ridiculed, our upheaval of cherished Lawrence traditions mourned. We were the least favorite graduating class of all time.”

A message of hope

For Bill Hillburg, it was a Lawrence staff member, a career adviser, who provided a sense of calm and hope amid all the chaos. You have a Lawrence education to cling to, and that is no small thing, he told students who had gathered for a spring term counseling session.

“He had no hot job tips or secrets for getting into grad school, which was not an option for the draft eligible,” Bill Hillburg said. “He also didn’t advise us whether to take up arms or flee to Canada. But he did give us hope. He assured us that our lives and careers would take us on paths we could not foresee and adventures and challenges we could not imagine, and through it all, we would benefit from being educated Lawrence grads. He was right.”

Bill and Myra would marry shortly after leaving Lawrence. Bill would go on to work many years as a journalist, mostly in California, and later with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Myra would become an accomplished teacher and girls’ golf coach.

“Along the way, we lived in several states and foreign countries and raised two talented daughters,” Bill Hillburg said.

John Fease ’70, a retired pastor who provided the benediction at Sunday’s “Re-Commencement,” said a lifetime of experiences has dulled the frustrations that surrounded Commencement. He, in fact, didn’t even graduate as expected that spring. He was short on credits, which pushed his Commencement to the following year. While his classmates went through with a fractious Commencement ceremony, he and his fiancee, Barb, got married.

So, as Fease and others on the 1970 Reunion Committee were meeting over the last year to plan their 50th reunion, he and Barb also were looking forward to marking their 50th wedding anniversary the same weekend. That celebration is not canceled.

“While there is great disappointment that we won’t be gathering for the reunion this year, Barb and I plan to shelter together to celebrate our 50th anniversary,” Fease said. “Surely, reason to rejoice.”

Fease, Everist, the Hillburgs, and their classmates are now delivering to the Class of 2020 a message of resilience: There are lifelong benefits to having a liberal arts education, and, thus, the uncertainty of the moment will give way to new opportunities and adventures. Krinke Hillburg said there’s much to be disheartened about right now, from the state of today’s politics to “the deterioration of our planet, another unending war, and unprecedented inequality in our society.” But just as it was true 50 years ago, today’s graduates have much to build on.

“Without our Lawrence education to see us through life, we could be inconsolable,” she said. “But the light of intellectual curiosity and the quest for knowledge Lawrence provided us with has seen us through many of life’s dark moments.”

For Everist, it was the ongoing connections with fellow Lawrentians that helped guide her journey once she left Appleton. Today’s graduates will feel the same, even if they fell separated at the moment, she said.

“It’s not the end,” Everist said of Commencement. “It’s the end of being at Lawrence, but it’s not the end of the Lawrence experience.”

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

Lesser debuts new music as part of Library of Congress COVID-19 project

Erin Lesser

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Erin Lesser has been yearning to create.

The music instructor and flutist with the Lawrence Conservatory of Music has drawn wide acclaim for her work with Wet Ink, Decoda, and Alarm Will Sound, among other ensembles. While she continued to teach via distance learning during Lawrence University’s Spring Term, her performance schedule has been on lockdown since COVID-19 was deemed a global pandemic in mid-March.

That made a recent outreach from the Library of Congress all the sweeter. Lesser was asked to participate in The Boccaccio Project, an artistic collaboration in which 10 commissions of new music would be shared with the world. Each composer would be paired with a home-bound performer, with the 10 pieces being debuted over the span of 12 days on the library’s website and social media channels.

Lesser, representing Wet Ink, was partnered with Erin Rogers, a Canadian-American composer from Astoria, New York, with Lesser recording the newly crafted piece for solo flute, Hello World, at her Appleton home in late May.

Rogers

“She wrote the piece specifically for me and with the intention that it be recorded from home,” Lesser said. “The Library of Congress selected 10 pairs of performers and composers and asked them to work together on a one- to three-minute work reflecting on the pandemic and our current environment.”

Rogers describes the piece this way: “Orbiting a sonic portal to the outer world, a flutist self-arranges within a mirrored video frame. The face-to-face encounter sets the scene for introduction, reintroduction, and exploration.”

That, Lesser said, captures the past three months of video conferencing, collaborating, and socializing beautifully.

“At a time when so much work has disappeared for artists and we are searching for new ways to come together as collaborators and community, it was particularly heartening to hear about this initiative from the Library of Congress and be asked to participate,” she said. “My initial conversations with Erin centered around topics such as our new collective relationship to technology, Zoom in particular, and having to find ways to make music in confined spaces. The piece she wrote uses small sounds amplified through a microphone, and video filters that alter my perception of seeing my image looking back at me from the screen.”

We all can relate, whether we’re making or teaching music or otherwise trying to live our lives in quarantine.

“With an infant son who has spent more than half of his life in a pandemic, I have thought a lot about his earliest relationships to people being filtered through technology and wondered how this may affect him,” Lesser said.

The Library of Congress began premiering The Boccaccio Project pieces on Monday, June 15, the commissions debuting nightly at 7 p.m. CST. The Rogers-Lesser collaboration is on tap for Friday, June 19. The series, skipping Saturday and Sunday, runs through Friday, June 26.

The project is inspired by another literary effort in the midst of a public health crisis, this one in the mid-14th century by Giovanni Boccaccio, who wrote the Decameron, a collection of 100 stories shared among a group of 10 acquaintances who had removed themselves from society during a plague. Library of Congress said this early artistic response to an outbreak provided context and a means of expression, something we’ve been tapping into in this age of social distancing.

The new commissions will premiere on the Library of Congress’s website and social media channels on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The commission manuscripts will become part of the Library of Congress’s music collections.

Lesser, who earned Lawrence University’s 2019 Award for Excellence in Teaching, has been on the Lawrence Conservatory faculty since 2011. Her work with Wet Ink and other ensembles has taken her to some of the grandest concert stages in the world and she’s commissioned and debuted numerous new works.

The full schedule for The Boccaccio Project includes:

Monday, June 15: Jeremy Jordan (piano) and Damien Sneed (composer)

Tuesday, June 16: Andrew Nogal (oboe) of the Grossman Ensemble and Richard Drehoff, Jr. (composer)

Wednesday, June 17: Kathryn Bates (cello) of the Del Sol String Quartet and Miya Masaoka (composer)

Thursday, June 18: Jenny Lin (piano) and Cliff Eidelman (composer)

Friday, June 19: Erin Lesser (flute) of the Wet Ink Ensemble and Erin Rogers (composer)

Monday, June 22: Charlton Lee (viola) of the Del Sol String Quartet and Luciano Chessa (composer)

Tuesday, June 23: Daniel Pesca (piano) of the Grossman Ensemble and Aaron Travers (composer)

Wednesday, June 24: Mariel Roberts (cello) of the Wet Ink Ensemble and Ashkan Behzadi (composer)

Thursday, June 25: Jannina Norpoth (violin) of PUBLIQuartet and Niloufar Nourbakhsh (composer)

Friday, June 26: Nathalie Joachim (flute) and Allison Loggins-Hull (composer), both of Flutronix

If you miss any of the premieres, no worries. You can watch any time on each event page or on the Library of Congress’s YouTube channel.

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

Class of 2020 celebrated with virtual Commencement: Don’t lose the joy

(Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The Lawrence University community gathered virtually on Sunday for a Commencement celebration unlike any other in the school’s 171-year history.

Held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic that moved Spring Term classes to distance learning, the ceremony celebrated the accomplishments of nearly 270 Lawrentians in the Class of 2020.

“We are at a time like no other, when both far too much—and not nearly enough—has changed,” President Mark Burstein told the graduates and their families, all looking in from locations around the world.

Watch the 2020 Lawrence University Commencement webcast in its entirety here.

Congratulatory messages from faculty and staff, shared via video and an online chat, were mixed with the traditional speeches and the conferring of degrees.

Commencement speaker Natasha Trethewey, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet whose book, Native Guard, has been on the Freshman Studies reading list at Lawrence for five years, implored the graduates to find inspiration in the arts as they make sense of a world that has changed mightily since they first stepped on campus four years ago.

Trethewey

Divisive politics, a pandemic the likes of which we haven’t seen in 100 years, and racial injustice protests that are shining new light on systematic inequalities have rocked the world. Find your voice, Trethewey urged the graduates. Seek inspiration in poetry, music, and other arts as a means to process and navigate these times.

“Art allows us the opportunity to reflect on the human condition, to see ourselves in others, evoking in us our noblest trait, the ability to empathize,” she said. “Art has always been a necessary part of our collective survival.”

Trethewey said she turned to poetry and other art in the aftermath of the murder of her mother, citing W.H. Auden’s poem, Musée des Beaux Arts, and Pieter Bruegel’s painting, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, as being particularly enlightening.

“It was the first time I understood that art could speak to me intimately about my own experience, that the language of a poem or a painting could save me from the feeling of overwhelming isolation brought on by trauma and grief,” she said. “In the midst of my despair, I suddenly felt part of something communal—ancient and ongoing.”

Cling to such beacons as you set out to make your mark in the world, Trethewey said. This moment in time isn’t an easy one, but it’s one that is ripe for change. And with it comes a need for compassion and empathy, and this generation is positioned to embrace each other wholly like none before.

“We are in a moment of shared national and international mourning and we are reminded of what links us to every other human being on this planet: our mortality, our need for justice, shelter, sustenance, sanctuary, air to breathe,” Trethewey said.

Samantha Lizbeth Torres ’20, selected as the senior class speaker, asked her classmates not to lose sight of the great accomplishment of graduating from Lawrence despite the global pandemic short-circuiting their final term on campus, not allowing for proper good-byes and celebrations. As a first-generation college student, a daughter of immigrants, missing out on an in-person Commencement has been painful, she said.

Samantha Lizbeth Torres ’20 delivers a Commencement address to her classmates.

“Like many of you, I am still grieving this loss. The act of physically walking across that stage to receive a hard-earned diploma is one of the pinnacle moments for first-generation families and our most marginalized students. Lawrence is not easy for us. It was never meant to be. But signing up for that challenge, whether that meant leaving home a mile away or a continent away, demonstrates the strength and audacity it took to make Lawrence your own. I implore you to recognize the sheer amount of work, dedication and heart you’ve poured into yourselves and this Lawrence community over the past four years. You may be tired, overworked, or even burnt out. Relish this moment and all you’ve accomplished. Recognize the sacrifices you and your families have made and remember the great joy you’ve experienced here.”

Torres, a Posse scholar from New York City, praised her classmates for raising their voices over the past four years on issues ranging from divisive politics and immigration to LGBTQ rights and Black Lives Matter protests.

“We followed in the steps of our ancestors and of the great Lawrentians who have paved the way for us to continue making Lawrence a safe haven for all identities to be embraced and celebrated,” she said.

Continue that work no matter where your journey takes you, she said. It’s a responsibility that comes with being a Lawrentian.

“When the world tries to dim your light, shine bright,” Torres said. “No matter what comes next, anxieties and all, shine your light as fiercely as you can.”

Burstein told the graduates that a virtual Commencement does not diminish in any way the celebration of their accomplishments. But he said he has agonized over the prospect of not celebrating in person, unable to shake the hands of each graduate as they cross the stage.

“Even harder,” he said, “is knowing that Lawrence graduates you today into a world more uncertain than many generations before you. As someone who graduated from college and graduate school in another moment of economic and societal stress, I have a sense of what you may feel as you face the future. I am confident saying that regardless of what happens next, I know you have all acquired the skills necessary to succeed in this increasingly complex world.  Your future homes and workplaces will benefit from your passion and skill. Your leadership will strengthen the world in which we live.”

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

Alumni Awards shine light on efforts to better the world, support Lawrentians

(Photo by Danny Damiani)

Seven Lawrence University alumni are being honored with 2020 Alumni Awards. While the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down the annual Reunion celebration, this year’s recipients are still being celebrated for their contributions to both the Lawrence community and the world. Full bios of the award winners can be found on the Alumni Awards page at Lawrence.edu.

The honorees include:

Riester

Jeffrey Riester ’70, Presidential Award: This award is presented to an alumnus or alumna whose leadership has contributed to the betterment of the Lawrence community. An attorney and manager at Godfrey & Kahn’s Business Practice Group in Appleton, Riester has been an active community partner, including being a founding member of the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. He also has provided exemplary leadership to Lawrence, including service on his 40th and 50th Reunion committees, the LUAA Board of Directors, the Björklunden Advisory Committee, and the Lawrence University Board of Trustees. In particular, he brought insightful leadership to the Board of Trustees as chair from 2002 to 2004, as chair of the More Light! campaign working group, and to the Björklunden Advisory Committee as co-chair alongside his wife, Jone ’72.

Chemel

Lee Dodds Chemel ’65, Lucia Russell Briggs Distinguished Achievement Award: This award is presented to an alumnus or alumna of more than 20 years for outstanding contributions to and achievements in a career field. Chemel, who served as Lawrence’s 2019 Commencement speaker, started her studies at Milwaukee-Downer College before transferring to Lawrence College during the merger. She would go on to have success as a theater director before embarking on a successful career as a television director, earning four Emmy nominations while working on such shows as “The Middle,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Arrested Development,” “The Bernie Mac Show,” “Spin City,” “Mad About You,” “Murphy Brown,” Northern Exposure,” and “Family Ties.” She is the recipient of three BET awards for outstanding direction in comedy and two Humanitas awards.

Reams

Zoie Reams ’14, Nathan M. Pusey Young Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award: This honor is presented to an alumnus or alumna celebrating a 20th cluster Reunion or younger for significant contributions and achievements in a career field. Reams, who earned a bachelor of music degree in vocal performance at Lawrence, has been gracing the stage in some of the world’s most renowned opera houses. A Mezzo-soprano, she was lauded by Opera News for her “velvety mezzo” and for how she “phrase[s] with elegance and articulate[s] coloratura nimbly.” Of particular note and achievement for a young musician was her 2018-19 season debut at Lyric Opera of Chicago singing Flora in La Traviata. On the concert stage, Reams has performed with the National Symphony Orchestra, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the Las Vegas Philharmonic, the Staatstheater Cottbus Philharmonic Orchestra, the New York Choral Society at Carnegie Hall, and the combined choirs of Auburn University and New Choral Society of Scarsdale, New York.

Colston

Brienne Colston ’15, George B. Walter Service to Society Award: This honor is presented to an alumnus or alumna who best exemplifies the ideals of a liberal education through its application to socially useful ends in the community, the nation, or the world. Colston is a black queer feminist youth worker, facilitator, and community organizer hailing from the South Bronx. She is the founder and executive director of Brown Girl Recovery, a non-profit collective dedicated to prioritizing healing justice and providing community spaces to women of color in the Bronx and other uptown areas through social justice programming and events. She also serves as a racial justice and political education facilitator for an array of small community-based organizations. With degrees in gender studies and history, Colston found her passion in grassroots organizing and resistance work. Her tireless work for her community and devotion to liberation has given many women of color a vital space for encouragement, support, and healing.

Hanley

Nancy Perkins Hanley M-D ’54, Gertrude Breithaupt Jupp Outstanding Service Award: Presented to an alumnus or alumna after a 20th cluster Reunion or beyond who has provided outstanding service to Lawrence. Hanley crafted an impressive 31-year career as an occupational therapist in rehabilitation, psychiatry, and pediatrics. She also has brought her appreciation of Milwaukee-Downer College to everything she has done for Lawrence University. Since 1991, she has held the position of class secretary. For four years, from 1996 to 2000, she served on the LUAA Board of Directors as a member of the Alumni Programs Committee and Alumni Development Committee. In 2004, she was a member of her 50th Reunion Steering Committee. In 2008, she helped to organize the Milwaukee-Downer Legacy Circle reception for M-D alumnae in southern California. She is a former class agent, admissions volunteer, and organizer of regional alumni programming.

Katzoff

Ted Katzoff ’65, Gertrude Breithaupt Jupp Outstanding Service Award: Presented to an alumnus or alumna after a 20th cluster Reunion or beyond who has provided outstanding service to Lawrence. Katzoff, a theater major, started the fencing program at Lawrence. An actor, manager, director, and sword master, he has spent a lifetime sharing his passions for theater and fencing. He returns to Lawrence often to mentor the fencing team, lead master classes for the theatre program, interview prospective students and represent Lawrence at college fairs. He has served on multiple Reunion committees, as a campaign volunteer for both the More Light! and Be the Light! capital fundraising campaigns, served on the Alumni Board of Directors from 2009 to 2012, and volunteered every year for the 50-year Connection program that honors the merging of Milwaukee-Downer College and Lawrence College.

Tuan

Chiao-Yu Tuan ’14, Marshall B. Hulbert Young Alumni Outstanding Service Award: This award is presented to an alumnus or alumna celebrating a 20th cluster Reunion or younger who has provided significant service to the college. Tuan, an international student who majored in psychology and math-computer science, produced the documentary, 5000 Miles from Home, while at Lawrence, capturing the perspective of first-year international students. Since graduation, Tuan she has maintained close ties to Lawrence by creating platforms to help effectively communicate with current and prospective international students. Tuan works for Airbnb as a software engineer in the Silicon Valley. She has never hesitated to share her experience with Lawrence students, whether that means coming back to campus to speak to computer science classes or mentoring international students on life after Lawrence. Tuan is a longtime host for the annual Silicon Valley Trek, a spring break excursion taken by Lawrence Scholars in Business.

Barnes, Neilson, Vance honored for teaching, scholarship excellence

From left: Celia Barnes, Rob Neilson, and Brigid Vance

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Three members of the Lawrence University faculty are being honored for academic excellence.

Celia Barnes, associate professor of English, is the recipient of the University Award for Excellence in Teaching; Rob Neilson, the Frederick R. Layton Professor of Studio Art and professor of art, is receiving the Award for Excellence in Scholarship or Creative Activity; and Brigid Vance, assistant professor of history, has earned the Award for Excellent Teaching by an Early Career Faculty Member.

While the annual awards are typically announced during the Commencement ceremony, the 2020 announcement is coming early this year because the June 14 Commencement will be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Celia Barnes: “Relatable, approachable”

Barnes, a specialist in 18th-century British literature who was recently inducted into the Johnsonian Society, an eminent assembly of scholars, lexicographers, and collectors, was described by a student as “one of those relatable, approachable professors that you really only find at Lawrence,” according to a citation in her honor from Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Kodat.

Students have praised her ability to deepen the learning experience with insightful engagement. One student said of Barnes: “She is unapologetic (in a good way), brazen, and encourages students to ask questions, challenge each other and pre-conceived notions, and step out of their comfort zones to expand their knowledge and horizons.”

Her ability to seamlessly reach across departments is not lost on her colleagues, Kodat said.

“Over the course of your 10 years at Lawrence, you have partnered with faculty colleagues in Philosophy and Physics to offer courses that help students understand the range and importance of 18th century art and thought, from Newton’s theories to the thinking of the Enlightenment,” the citation reads. “You are an eminent scholar, a generous colleague, and a dedicated, superb teacher.”

Rob Neilson: “The beauty of shared experience”

Neilson, meanwhile, was praised for his public art projects. In the 17 years since he arrived at Lawrence, Neilson has completed 14 public art commissions across the country. Five of those have been in Appleton.

“Most recently, you have contributed two elegant pieces to the new Fox Cities Exhibition Center,” reads Kodat’s citation to Neilson. “You Are Here evokes a large map of Wisconsin with a red push-pin denoting Appleton. The 10 dramatic, outsized images of We Are Here are comprised of some 10,000 photographs of Appleton community members, combined in mosaic fashion to represent a moving, composite portrait of human togetherness and community.”

The citation notes that Neilson’s work speaks to shared history, culture, and humanity and asks all of us to contemplate more directly the physical world.

“By your own admission, you did not set out to be an artist known for creating public work,” Kodat notes. “But you have clearly been called to make your aesthetic contributions to the world in ways that heighten our sense of the beauty of shared experience, to the benefit of us all.”

Brigid Vance: “Balance rigor with flexibility”

A member of the History department for five years, Vance is a specialist in late imperial China. She has quickly built a reputation for creativity that has resonated with students.

“We have seen a steady increase in the number of students who have discovered your courses and concluded that you are, indeed, exactly the kind of professor they would love to take more classes with,” Kodat writes in the citation to Vance. “Impartial faculty observers describe your almost magical effect on History 105, the department’s entry-level course. ‘Since Professor Vance began to teach that course,’ one colleague observed, ‘department enrollments and majors have climbed noticeably.’”

Kodat praises Vance for her attention to detail and her ability to engage with her students.

“Students appreciate your ability to balance rigor with flexibility, your skill in cultivating energetic classroom discussion, your detailed attention to their writing, and—above all—the warmth and respect with which you approach each and every one of them.”

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

A time to celebrate: What you need to know for June 14 virtual Commencement

Banners are on display along College Avenue to honor 2020 graduates. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

A virtual Commencement on June 14 will honor Lawrence University’s Class of 2020, celebrating graduates who had their final term disrupted by a global pandemic.

The COVID-19 crisis resulted in Spring Term courses being delivered via distance learning. That means the ceremony will take on a different look, one that will still honor the great accomplishments that Commencement represents, but this time with graduates and their families looking on from home.

“I promised that we would do our best to recognize your achievements and celebrate your graduation, even if we could not all be together on Main Hall Green,” President Mark Burstein said in a message to graduates. “We have been working closely with the senior class leaders to ensure that we celebrate you in a way that reflects the many contributions you have brought to Lawrence during your time on campus.”

Here’s what you need to know in advance of the virtual ceremony.

How to view Commencement

Commencement, honoring nearly 300 students from the Class of 2020, will be streamed at 10 a.m. You can access the ceremony at the Commencement page at lawrence.edu. There will be an opportunity to leave congratulatory messages during the ceremony. You also can celebrate the graduates using tools found in this Celebration Kit.

A message to classmates

Samantha Lizbeth Torres ’20

Samantha Lizbeth Torres ’20, a psychology and theater arts double major from New York City, will serve as class speaker. In addition to celebrating achievements, she said she’ll focus her message on opportunities to be part of the solution as she and her classmates confront societal challenges. 

“It is never my intention for all of us to agree, but we do need to be able to see each other and hear each other,” Torres said. 

“We also need to be able to unlearn and relearn. Lawrence taught me a lot about unlearning.  That unlearning meant accepting that someone like me can succeed at an institution that may not look like home to me. Thanks to Lawrence’s Posse Program, I, a first-generation child of immigrants, was able to leave my low-income home for a prestigious school halfway across the country. Now, I’m the Commencement speaker. But how do I reach an audience that doesn’t look or sound like me, that doesn’t know me, and I don’t know them? I think about how I see myself in them.” 

Torres said her speech will address the pain of having to finish her Lawrence education 1,000 miles from campus as the pandemic took its toll on people’s health and the economy. She’ll encourage her classmates to persevere amid challenges no graduating class has seen. 

“I chose to reflect, to be thoughtful and cognizant of the good and the bad of the moment,” she said. “We have all experienced loss. Not just the loss of our last spring term, but the loss of family members, jobs, financial security, and opportunities that awaited us after graduation. Still, we’ve experienced great joy through the kindness we’ve received from our Lawrence community. It’s also a time to be grateful. But we need to be respectful of all feelings. Not just good or just bad. It will take time for my class to process all of this after graduation. It’s not easy.”

A familiar, poetic voice

Trethewey

Natasha Trethewey, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet whose Native Guard has been required reading in Freshman Studies for the past five years, will deliver the Commencement address.

She served two terms as the 19th Poet Laureate of the United States and is the author of five collections of poetry: Domestic Work (2000), Bellocq’s Ophelia (2002), Native Guard (2006)—for which she was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize—Thrall (2012), and Monument: Poems New and Selected (2018). In 2010, she published a book of nonfiction, Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

“Having Ms. Trethewey’s commencement address will help us all remember the importance of inclusive social connection and the power of humanity,” Burstein said.

The ceremony details

While a virtual Commencement ceremony may not be able to duplicate the experience of an in-person event, many familiar elements will be incorporated. The ceremony will include opening remarks from President Burstein, the reading of the land acknowledgement by Shelby Siebers ’20,  speeches from Torres and Trethewey, conferring of degrees by Burstein, Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Kodat, and Dean of the Conservatory Brian Pertl, a message from Burstein, and closing words from Linda Morgan-Clement, the Julie Esch Hurvis Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life. Also, watch for congratulatory messages from faculty and staff.

Four long-serving Lawrence faculty members are retiring at the close of the academic year: David Burrows, Ruth Lunt, Thomas Ryckman, and Richard Sanerib. See details and reflections in this story.

Three members of the Lawrence faculty are being honored with annual faculty awards for excellence in teaching and scholarship. See details here.

More weekend celebrations

In addition to Commencement, you can find two other celebratory events being showcased virtually during Commencement weekend. The annual Commencement concert will be seen at 7:30 p.m. June 12 and the Baccalaureate Service will be seen at 3 p.m. June 13. Both are available at go.lawrence.edu/commencement. Also, the 2020 Senior Art Exhibition is viewable now. It can be found online here.

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

Diversity and Inclusion Award recipients honored for campus, community efforts

From left, top: Awa Badiane, Tim Hanna, Gaelyn Rose, and Jesús Smith.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is honoring several members of the campus community, as well as a former mayor of Appleton, with its annual Diversity and Inclusion Champion Awards.

The awards celebrate efforts to foster greater diversity and inclusion on campus while creating a climate that encourages and supports the expression of diverse perspectives and builds avenues to academic and personal success for groups that have been underserved and underrepresented in higher education.

“It is especially important given the current national context to recognize members of our community who make extraordinary efforts to create a more just Lawrence,” said Kimberly Barrett, vice president for diversity and inclusion and associate dean of the faculty. 

Recipients include:

  • Jesús Smith, assistant professor of ethnic studies, with the Faculty Award.
  • Awa Badiane ’21, a former president of Lawrence’s Black Student Union (BSU), with the Student Award.
  • LUNA (Lawrence University Native American), with the Student Organization Award.
  • Gaelyn Rose, associate director of admissions, with the Staff Award.
  • Tim Hanna, the former mayor of Appleton who opted not to seek re-election following 24 years in office, with the Community Partner Award.

“I am extremely impressed by this year’s Diversity & Inclusion Champion Award recipients,” Barrett said. “The fact that they are being recognized in this way will come as no surprise to those who are fortunate enough to know them, given their positive presence on campus and in the Appleton community.”

The awards announcement comes at a time of pain and unrest across the country. It amplifies the need for leadership as has been shown by these recipients, Barrett said.

“As our country has seen the consequences of centuries of inequities play out in real time over the past few months in terms of needless death and suffering, these impressive individuals have used their many talents, resources, influence, and privilege to help make Lawrence University more inclusive,” she said. “While excelling in their individual roles of faculty, student, staff, or community leader they are helping to create a new normal in which we are all treated with dignity and respect.”

Smith has been part of the Lawrence faculty since 2017. He was recently awarded a 12-month Wilson Foundation Career Enhancement Fellowship that supports the career development of underrepresented junior faculty in the arts and humanities.

“In just three short years on campus he has become a favorite role model and mentor to Lawrence students while also making his mark nationally in terms of his scholarly research in ethnic studies,” Barrett said.

Badiane is a government major from New York City who served as president of BSU and has been a writer in the Communications office the past two years. She is being honored for her ongoing advocacy for students of color.

LUNA helped create the mural on the side of the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center.

Also, the students who are part of LUNA are being recognized. It’s the first time a student organization has been given one of the D&I Awards. LUNA played a huge role in bringing Project 562’s Matika Wilbur to campus and creating the indigenous education mural that now adorns the side of the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center.

“Although we usually only give one student award, this year we had two extremely strong nominees in this category,” Barrett said. “One was an individual and the other was an organization. So, we decided to give two student awards. I think giving an award to both an individual student and a student organization will become a tradition for us.”

Rose has worked diligently to enhance Lawrence’s admissions process to make sure it is accessible and equitable for all.

“As associate director of admissions, she helped recruit international students, students from tribal nations, and domestic students of color,” Barrett said. “She also helped to create systematic changes in the way the admissions counselors recruit students by developing training materials that address issues of diversity.”

Hanna, meanwhile, is being honored for his efforts to champion diversity and inclusion in the community during his six terms as mayor.

“He was a true strategic partner with the university in its efforts to become more inclusive,” Barrett said.

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