Tag: Lawrence alumni

Music is everywhere as Mile 7 gets rolling; partnerships grow deeper

With a whistle in his mouth, Kenni Ther gestures while leading the Brazilian samba drumming workshop Thursday at Mile of Music.
Kenni Ther ’16 leads the Brazilian samba drumming workshop in Houdini Plaza during Thursday’s opening day of Mile of Music.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Kenni Ther ’16 had his young charges hanging on his every word, eyes focused, sticks in hand, a mix of drums and upside-down buckets in play on a gorgeous afternoon in downtown Appleton’s Houdini Plaza.

“I get tired of talking sometimes,” Ther told the gathering of several dozen kids and the adults they brought along for this high-energy teaching session on Brazilian samba drumming. “That’s why I have the drum. I’ll let the drum do the talking for me.”

And, so he did. And the young drummers followed suit as a couple hundred spectators nodded their approval.

A few hundred feet to the east, a crowd overflowed from the patio at Bazil’s Pub as singer-songwriter Christopher Gold played a heartfelt set and shared stories of joy and despair and the wisdom gained from both.

It was the middle of the afternoon. On a Thursday. Welcome to Mile of Music.

The annual four-day all-original music festival kicked off its seventh edition on Thursday, mixing nearly 900 live music sets in 70-plus venues with more than 40 interactive music education workshops, a blend that differentiates this festival from most any other music event on the planet. It continues through Sunday — and, yes, admission is free.

The Music Education Team, supported by a grant from the Bright Idea Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, is a full-on Lawrence University juggernaut, led by music education instructor Leila Ramagopal Pertl. It features more than 25 instructors, many of them, like Ther, alumni who developed their musical skills and nurtured their passion for music while students at the Lawrence Conservatory of Music.

Full lineup of Mile 7 music education workshops here.

Meet the Lawrence-led Music Education Team here.

Like the festival itself, the music education workshops have grown in size and scope since first launching in 2013. More than 7,000 people are expected to take part in the hands-on sessions before the finale, a ukulele workshop, brings it to a close on Sunday afternoon.

“It’s great to get out in the community and have people learn music in not a classroom setting,” Ther said after the samba drumming workshop ended. “Sometimes people think you only get to learn music in your private lessons or in a school band or orchestra or choir. No, music is for everybody. Everyone listens to music, so everyone has the right to be their own musician and figure out music on their own.”

Nestor Dominguez ’14 talks to the audience during a mariachi workshop in The Grove, a green space next to Brokaw Hall.
Nestor Dominguez ’14 is joined by Mariachi Jabali as they lead a mariachi workshop Thursday in The Grove, a green space next to Brokaw Hall, during Mile of Music.

A few blocks down College Avenue, on the green space next to Brokaw Hall known as The Grove, Nestor Dominguez ’14 was leading a mariachi band — Mariachi Jabali, featuring students from Appleton North High School — as they introduced the music to a couple hundred onlookers. They ran through a variety of music within the mariachi genre, from jarabe to bolero to ranchera to polka.

“Just get up and wiggle around and come up with a dance,” Dominguez encouraged the crowd as the band showcased the popular jarabe style. “If you’re going to be here with us, you need to get up and dance.”

Then there was bolero, the mariachi music of romance. Dominguez, who plays and teaches mariachi music in Chicago, encouraged the crowd to make and maintain eye contact with the person next to them as the music played.

“Eye contact is so important,” he told them. “Let’s connect as human beings. … I’m not saying you’re going to fall in love with the person next to you, but that would be all right.”

A world of music in our back yard

As the music education offerings at Mile of Music have evolved over the past seven installments, they’ve taken on a more global feel, Brazilian samba drumming and mariachi being part of a festival mix that also includes, among others, Ghanaian drumming and dance, Afro-Cuban singing, and Balinese gamelan. New this year are sessions on Native American music and dances of India.

That’s not by accident. Ramagopal Pertl said the team has purposefully set out to showcase as many cultures and styles as possible, a theme embraced by team members and the audience alike.

“That is really important, especially for the little ones,” said Francisca Hiscocks of Appleton, a native of Spain who attended Thursday’s Brazilian samba drumming session. “Just for their education, to be exposed to something different, that’s important. For me being from a different country, I think this is so great.”

More on the connections between Lawrence, Mile of Music here.

Porky’s Groove Machine returns to Lawrence, Mile of Music. Read more here.

Thel, who teaches music at a middle school in Oshkosh, said cultural variety in the festival’s music education outreach is all about being inclusive and enlightening.

“Maybe hip hop is your thing, that’s great,” he said. “Maybe acoustic guitar playing is your thing, or the ukulele workshop, that’s your thing. Everyone has a specific rhythm in their heart that they can relate and respond to. We’re just trying to help people figure out what that is.”

Mile of Music was drawing rave reviews as it got rolling Thursday. Music could be heard coming from everywhere along and near College Avenue — in bars and coffee shops, in Memorial Chapel, on patios, in alleyways and on green spaces on the Lawrence campus. Even from a camper parked on the Ormsby Hall lawn, home to the Tiny House Listening Lounge, a new venue for this year’s festival.

“I think this is just all really cool,” said Sarah Fischer of Appleton, taking in the festival’s opening day.

Bernard Lilly ’18, who performs as B. Lilly, puts on a songwriting and performance workshop at Copper Rock Coffee Company during Mile of Music.

More photos of the 2019 Music Education Team workshops here.

Cool, indeed. And the opportunity to bang a drum, get a lesson in songwriting, or learn about Native American flute playing while you’re here, well, that’s a bonus that is music to the ears of anyone who cherishes the connections between the festival, the community and Lawrence.

“We all agreed from the beginning that this wasn’t the type of festival that was ogling celebrity, it was craft focused,” said Cory Chisel, the Appleton-raised singer-songwriter who co-founded the festival with marketing executive Dave Willems. “It was like, here are innovative, exciting songwriters from around the world, and I wanted to bring all those people to Appleton specifically because of the specialness of this place and the music that was inside of us and the talent level we have inside of us here.”

It isn’t just about listening to and discovering new music, although that is a huge focus of the festival. It’s also about participating in the music-making, connecting the community with the music, Chisel said. Hence, the launch and growth of the Music Education Team. The partnership with Lawrence for that piece was as important as anything else in establishing the festival as one of the bright lights of the Midwest music scene.

“Mile of Music was about that connection,” Chisel said. “And Lawrence has been deepening and strengthening that community relationship.”

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

Generous donors put Lawrence’s annual fundraising at near-record levels

Nabor Vazquez '19 gives a presentation as students and faculty look on during Lawrence University's Biofest 2019.
Nabor Vazquez ’19 gives a presentation during Lawrence University’s Biofest 2019. A wide variety of academic endeavors are supported by the Lawrence Fund, which had its second best giving year to date.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The generosity of Lawrence University supporters shone bright in the 2018-19 fiscal year that concluded at the end of June.

Monies raised for the Lawrence Fund, a key funding mechanism to support students, the work of faculty and the upkeep of the campus infrastructure, surpassed $3.9 million, the second highest one-year total in the school’s history.

But that is just one slice of the good news the school is reporting. The overall giving across all funds topped $24.4 million, the fourth highest ever.

The ongoing generosity of donors speaks to the deep relationship Lawrence alumni and other supporters have with the school, the desire to enhance the Lawrence experience for today’s students and the pledge to pay it forward for future Lawrentians, said Cal Husmann, vice president for alumni and development.

“The impact of philanthropic investment in the college is profound and enhances all aspects of the student experience,” he said.

The Lawrence Fund plays a significant role in the campus’s operation, supporting everything from scholarships, study abroad opportunities and research to infrastructure maintenance, Conservatory performances and athletics. It affects every student and every member of the faculty and staff in some measure.

Students and faculty pose for a selfie on a D Term trip to Hong Kong in 2018.
Study abroad opportunities are supported by the Lawrence Fund. Here an LU group poses for a selfie in Hong Kong in December 2018 while studying sustainability, livability and urban design.

The alumni donor participation rates in the Lawrence Fund have an impact on national rankings and future funding opportunities. It’s estimated that without the Lawrence Fund, each student’s tuition would increase by more than $10,000 per year.

“Gifts to the Lawrence Fund keep the entire academic and co-curricular offerings robust,” Husmann said. “Donors have invested in the curriculum, allowing us to add new professorships, enhance classrooms, and fund student-faculty collaborations.”

The $3.9 million raised in the Lawrence Fund is second only to the $3.91 million raised in the fiscal year ending in June 2016.

Meanwhile, the overarching $220 million Be the Light! campaign, which launched quietly in January 2014 and had its public launch in November 2018, has reached $182.3 million in gifts and pledges. The ongoing campaign, the largest in Lawrence’s history, includes the Lawrence Fund as one of its four cornerstones. It also includes the Full Speed to Full Need initiative to make Lawrence accessible and affordable to all academically qualifying students, the Student Journey, which has welcomed numerous endowed positions aimed at supporting cutting edge programs and course offerings, and Campus Renewal, targeting facility and infrastructure upgrade projects on campus.

The recent $2.5 million gift from J. Thomas Hurvis ’60 to create an endowed professorship to teach the psychology of collaboration is the latest in a string of endowed positions, supported by Lawrence alumni, that have boosted and diversified the school’s academic offerings.

Mike O’Connor recently began his work as Lawrence’s new Riaz Waraich Dean of the Center for Career, Life and Community Engagement (CLC), a newly endowed position that aims to better prepare students for life after Lawrence by, in part, enhancing connections with alumni in the students’ fields of interest.

The Full Speed to Full Need fund has made progress toward its goal of reaching $85 million, Husmann said. When that number is finally reached, it will mark a major milestone for the university in its ongoing commitment to make sure the doors are open to students of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

The fund has already delivered direct financial aid assistance to 250 students, and another 100 incoming students are expected to benefit in the 2019-20 academic year.

“The Lawrence community has rallied around the Full Speed to Full Need fundraising initiative in an increasingly strong fashion,” Husmann said. “With more than $82 million raised, we can provide more financial resources for our students than ever before, which is driving LU student debt down — against a national trend of increasing student debt.”

That sort of engagement is seen from Lawrence alumni all year round, Husmann said, and not just in the form of financial gifts or pledges. Lawrence alumni give back to Lawrence in other ways, too, he said.

“Hundreds of alumni serve as resources for the Center for Career, Life, and Community Engagement, volunteer with Innovation and Entrepreneurship, volunteer with admissions, and serve on boards and advisory groups. This reflects the enthusiasm Lawrence alumni have for their alma mater.

“We in the Lawrence community are so grateful for this impressive support.”

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

A pioneer with Posse 1, Mei Xian Gong takes on new role as a Lawrence trustee

Mei Xian Gong ’11

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Mei Xian Gong ’11 was a trailblazer when she arrived on the Lawrence University campus in the fall of 2007, a member of the school’s first group of Posse Foundation scholars.

A dozen years later, she’s blazing a new trail as the first of the Posse alumni to be elected to Lawrence’s Board of Trustees. She joins the board as a Recent Graduate Trustee, a three-year term for an alum within two to 10 years of graduation.

It was in the fall of 2007 that Lawrence welcomed its first group of 10 Posse scholarship students after forming a partnership with the New York-based Posse Foundation. The nonprofit organization assesses and develops students from diverse backgrounds who show leadership potential.

For a story on newly elected trustees, click here.

For more on the Posse Foundation, click here.

Gong tapped into her leadership skills as an undergraduate, serving on the Lawrence University Alumni Association Board of Directors and as a member of the LUAA Connecting to Campus Committee.

Now a market manager for Mettler-Toledo in Columbus, Ohio, Gong called her Lawrence experience a “major force” in her development and wants to pay it forward as a trustee.

“I want to have a better understanding of Lawrentians at different points of their journey, from alumni to current students and future Lawrentians,” Gong said. “I am sure much has changed since I was last on Main Hall green, so I hope I can learn from our current students on how we can continue to nurture them.”

Gong majored in chemistry and interdisciplinary chemistry/biology at Lawrence, later earning an MBA at Ohio State University. She has been with Mettler-Toledo since 2016, and has stayed involved with Lawrence in various alumni volunteer roles over the past eight years.

Posse experience

Lawrence is one of more than 50 colleges and universities that partner with the Posse Foundation, nearly double the number of partner schools since Lawrence and Posse first linked arms in 2006.

Gong was selected as part of the debut Lawrence group — known on campus as Posse 1 — and she says she continues to lean on her Lawrence and Posse experiences to this day.

“I still remember the moment when I internalized who I want to be,” she said. “It was the summer of 2007, before we started freshman year at Lawrence, when my Posse was tasked to complete an activity together in New York City. We had a guideline, with minimal directions, an envelope to open when we completed the task, and many ideas for what we can do.

“After a long discussion, we finally decided to take the ferry to Staten Island and go clean up a nearby beach. We had a common goal and yet still went through the different stages of group development. … My Posse members were young leaders with different backgrounds, experiences, and thoughts. Yet, still, I was shocked that we went through the forming, storming, norming, and performing stages when completing this as a team. … We acknowledged what role we took, and shared what role we would want in the future. I wanted to take on a more adaptable role, be what the group may need at different times, and chose ‘trailblazer.’

“Many of my Posse memories are like this … open discussions in safe spaces where I learned more about who I was and who I want to be. I learned from my Posse, relied on them to help me grow and take risks, and welcomed the person I was becoming.

“This continued at Lawrence and throughout my four years there.”

Gong said much of what she learned at Lawrence came well beyond the classroom. She got involved in alumni relations and worked as a class agent, which gave her opportunities to connect with faculty and administrators in a different capacity and gave her insights into the importance of campus finances, alumni connections and university stewardship.

“I would not be who I am today if I did not have the Posse plus Lawrence experience,” Gong said. “The Lawrence bubble is a thriving environment where we had many opportunities and mentors to guide us as we took risks, stepping a bit outside of our comfort zone.”

For the Posse Foundation, seeing one of its scholars appointed to the trustee position is testament to the strong bonds between the program and Lawrence.

“We are so proud of Mei,” said Posse Foundation Founder and President Deborah Bial. “As a Lawrence Posse alumna, she exemplifies leadership of the highest standard. Her professional expertise combined with her commitment to giving back make her an invaluable member of our community. We are thrilled for her and grateful to President Burstein and his fantastic team for our 13-year partnership, which has allowed us to serve so many dynamic students.”

From NYC to Lawrence

Born in Guangzhou, China, Gong came to the United States with her family in 1998. She grew up in Manhattan, and, with parents who spoke little English, she assumed certain leadership and outreach roles in her family. She would become the first member of her family to attend college.

Then a senior at Millennium High School, Gong said the Posse scholarship opened new doors for her. She chose Lawrence as one of her preferred schools in part because of the small student-to-faculty ratio.

“I really like the small environment, so I picked Lawrence as one my top choices,” she said.

The Posse Foundation puts an emphasis on diversity and the benefits that come when diversity is celebrated and nurtured. Being part of a Posse group — particularly as a member of the first Posse class at Lawrence — provides insights and tools that she and other Posse students can take into their post-college careers as they build and encourage positive workplace relationships, Gong said.

“I think it definitely makes it smoother as we go to work in different organizations,” she said.

The ongoing connections with Lawrence, even before her appointment as a trustee, have continued to be significant and beneficial.

Gong praised Cal Husmann, Lawrence’s vice president for alumni and development, and his staff for their efforts to stay connected with Lawrentians after they leave campus.

“He takes a vested interest in the student’s world,” she said of Husmann. “That’s really helpful, especially early in our careers when there are so many changes in our lives. He continued to reach out and show interest in my growth. That helped me feel confident in my abilities, knowing there is someone back at Lawrence who cares about my development.”

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

O’Connor’s arrival puts Life After Lawrence initiatives in hyperdrive

Mike O'Connor poses for a photo in the doorway to the Center for Career, Life and Community Engagement.
Mike O’Connor began May 1 as the new Riaz Waraich Dean of Lawrence University’s Center for Career, Life and Community Engagement. The endowed deanship is part of new initiatives to bolster career advising and community, employer and alumni connections.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Connect. Connecting. Connectivity. Interconnected.

Spend 10 minutes with Mike O’Connor, Lawrence University’s new Riaz Waraich Dean of the Center for Career, Life and Community Engagement (CLC), and he’ll drop a variation of connected into the conversation a couple dozen times.

He may even throw in team sport, collaboration and networking.

That’s not by accident.

O’Connor’s hiring to fill the newly endowed deanship is all about ramping up connections with departments across campus, with alumni and with potential employers to help students better prepare for life after Lawrence.

Being connected to the CLC and its resources, be it through internships and fellowships or employment contacts and alumni resources, is something that will be part of every student’s journey from the moment they arrive as freshmen during Welcome Week. It won’t be something to be put off until senior year.

“To me, the messaging for first-year students would be, the Center for Career, Life, and Community Engagement is just part of what you do as a Lawrentian,” O’Connor said. “It’s not a stand-alone entity. It’s interconnected, it’s part of the tapestry of Lawrence.”

That initiative, including the endowed deanship, is supported by a $2.5 million gift from J. Thomas Hurvis ’60 that was announced last November at the public launch of Lawrence’s $220 million Be the Light! campaign.

O’Connor, who had been the director of the Career Exploration program at Williams College for the past five and a half years, sees opportunities for enhanced connections at Lawrence in every direction he looks. Many of those efforts were already under way before he got here, spurred by a Life After Lawrence Task Force that pushed for greater emphasis on preparing students for career and life opportunities after they graduate. Now, with more resources available and a renewed focus, those efforts are being supercharged.

“Life After Lawrence has a lot of moving parts,” O’Connor said. “There’s a big employer initiative and we’re building more pipelines for recruitment. More than that, though, is the potential for better integration with curricular goals and actualizing our alumni base at scale. We’ve got this amazing group of thousands and thousands of Lawrentians who want to help other Lawrentians. We’re working on tapping that power.”

For starters, career advising is being weaved into the Freshman Studies program in new ways. The Career Communities initiative has been launched and will continue to be fine-tuned and rolled out to students across all areas of study. And an interactive student-alumni mentor network is being developed.

“That will give us the ability to connect with alumni based on a certain major or career interest or geographic area, and be able to reach out to them in real time,” O’Connor said. “A student will be able to say, ‘Hey, I see you are working at Google in this data analytics role. I’ve been thinking about that as a career, can I hop on a call with you for 10 or 15 minutes to find out more about it?’ Or maybe I have this interview coming up and I need advice.

“This is something we onboarded at Williams and it was just a complete game-changer. It actualized our alums’ talents in real time in a useful way.”

The alumni relations work that’s already been done by the Alumni and Constituency Engagement Team puts Lawrence in a great position to roll out this enhanced recruiting network, O’Connor said. The recently launched Career Communities is a big step in that direction.

Read more about Career Communities here.

For alumni interested in helping Lawrentians in their career pursuits: Make yourself a Career Contact on AlumniQ”. 

Introducing an alumni affinity network to students will start during Welcome Week, although developing it and integrating it will be a work in progress.

“We’re trying to move on a lot of this very quickly,” O’Connor said.

There’s been encouraging cooperation from departments across campus as these initiatives have been explored, developed and tested.

“We’re lucky that we have a highly collaborative community with a lot of opportunities,” O’Connor said. “Not just our office but partnering with others across campus. The work of the CLC is really a team sport.

“We’re interfacing with Development and all across areas of Student Life, and we’re being increasingly intentional about how we’re working with broader alumni divisions, working with faculty and doing it in a more skilled way. If we’re all leaning into it, and I think we are, we stand a better chance to help a lot more students.”

On the personal side

O’Connor began his new duties on May 1.

He and his family — his wife, Kerrin Sendrowitz O’Connor, two daughters, Fiona Jayne, 3, and Isla Kelly, 7 months, two dogs and a cat — have embraced the move from the East Coast to Appleton, even if their move here from upstate New York in late April included a flat tire and a freak snowstorm.

“After logging over 100,000 commuter miles over the course of my Williams tenure, I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to bike to work,” O’Connor said.

Now it’s time to explore their new home.

“The family and I like to consider ourselves outdoorsy,” O’Connor said. “We’ve been to 14 or 15 national parks, and love hiking, biking, and camping. … Given the age of our children, we love the park system in Appleton.”

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

‘Central Park Five’ opera has Lawrence alum in a thoughtful, emotional place

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Derrell Acon ’10 stood shoulder to shoulder earlier this month with Antron McCray, one of the five New York City teenagers — now men in their 40s — wrongly convicted in the 1989 rape and beating of a Central Park jogger.

The Lawrence University alumnus was days away from performing as McCray in The Central Park Five, an operatic retelling of the emotionally charged criminal case, set to open in an opera house in southern California. An ACLU luncheon brought Acon and his castmates and the five men they’d be portraying into the same room for the first time.

“It gave me a little more weight in terms of the responsibility I had to give an accurate picture to the audience and to be true to how I explored and continue to explore that character,” Acon said of meeting McCray.

The Central Park Five story of the coerced confessions, the guilty verdicts, the Donald Trump call for the death penalty, the vacated judgments 13 years later, and the eventual settlement that set New York City back $41 million is getting plenty of renewed attention on the heels of the recent release of Ava DuVernay’s Netflix mini-series, When They See Us, the intense retelling of the case that dominated headlines 30 years ago.

While the Netflix series is getting the bulk of the attention, the jazz-infused opera production from composer Anthony Davis — more than three years in the making and separate from the DuVernay series — has drawn its fair share of looks as well. The New York Times and Los Angeles Times previewed the Long Beach Opera production in the days before it opened on June 15, and opening night saw reviews from both newspapers and the Wall Street Journal, among other outlets. The New Yorker is working on a story as well, according to a spokesperson with the opera.

Derrell Acon '14 sings on stage with the four other leads in "The Central Park Five," an opera being performed by Long Beach Opera in southern California.
Derrell Acon ’10 (center) and his castmates in “The Central Park Five” sing in unison. Acon portrays Antron McCray, one of five New York teenagers falsely convicted 30 years ago.

Two more performances are scheduled for this weekend at the Warner Grand Theater in San Pedro, California.

“I wasn’t really anticipating any particular response,” Acon said after getting an enthusiastic welcome on opening night. “I was more aware of my own responses, understanding that it would be a very emotional process for me. As a young black man in America, you know, a lot of these topics are very close to my own experience, and these struggles are very mirrored in my own life.

“I think a lot about the rehearsal process, tending to all of these emotions, letting them out, having a lot of beautiful discussions with my colleagues, especially the five of us in the lead roles.”

The timing is coincidental, Acon said, but that the opera arrives amid heightened attention on the Central Park Five case is certainly beneficial to the public conversation. An earlier effort by Davis to debut the opera — since retooled and renamed — in New Jersey drew little attention. But that was before the Netflix series arrived.

“I’m a firm believer that everything is happening when it needs to happen,” Acon said. “All of these things are happening at once. It’s almost because our society is so resistant to the truth being revealed that you almost need it to be thrown into the mix as an atomic bomb for people to really put their ears up and understand how important this is, how terribly, terribly unjust this was.”

A journey to Long Beach

After graduating summa cum laude from Lawrence in 2010 — he was a double major in voice performance and government — Acon went on to earn a master’s degree and a doctoral degree in 19th-century opera history and performance from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

He spent the next two and a half years on the road, performing, lecturing and studying. The schedule began to wear on his voice. Ten months ago, he relocated to southern California, drawn by what he calls the area’s “laid-back culture” and the plethora of arts opportunities.

He connected immediately with the Long Beach Opera, which was in the midst of a season based on issues of injustice. The casting for The Central Park Five was just getting started.

“I sang for them and was invited to join the cast,” Acon said.

He was working with people he didn’t know while immersing himself in the West Coast arts scene. He jumped into the mix as the opera company’s manager of education and engagement, organizing and facilitating community conversations in the months leading up to the opening of The Central Park Five.

“The journey began there,” Acon said. “It was kind of a crash course in introducing me to the classical music scene here. I am someone who has spent a lot of time in the Midwest and on the East Coast, so the West Coast scene was new for me, and this was just a beautiful introduction to that scene.”

The well-attended community conversations gave people a chance to speak their mind, to share with others in a very public and very cleansing way. To do it with the arts as an avenue to positive discourse on an emotionally charged topic was beautiful to see, Acon said.

“The key word is community,” he said. “The arts have this ability to create a community. Especially something like opera, where what you’re hearing is so visceral, it’s so emotional, so loud, as some of the younger people who have seen my work would say. You don’t really have an opportunity to do anything but listen. It’s so in your face, it’s in your soul, it’s in your heart.

“You may not always agree with the topic being put forth, but you are put in a position of contemplation, of consideration, and that is a communal experience. … Having the community of the opera house and the guidance of the voices and actors on stage may be enough to spark the conversation and the courage needed to really dig into some of these topics.”

The five lead performers in "The Central Park Five" sing on stage during the Long Beach Opera production.
“The Central Park Five,” by Long Beach Opera, opened just weeks after a Netflix series shined a new spotlight on the 1989 criminal case that resulted in faulty convictions of five New York City teenagers. Lawrence alumnus Derrell Acon ’10 (center) stars in the opera.

Opening night arrives

As the June 15 opener drew closer, the performance of The Central Park Five was being described as both emotional and powerful, with Acon and the other lead actors often singing in unison, a singular and pained collective character.

“I think operas work on multiple levels, and certainly a visceral level is one that I’m very concerned with,” said Davis, who created the production in partnership with Richard Wesley. “I want the audience to have an emotional experience that involves identifying with the characters and putting yourself in their place.”

After the opera opened, reviewer Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times wrote: “Most of the opera, which is in two acts, follows the five through their arbitrary apprehension, inappropriate questioning, dubious trial, conviction and harsh sentencing. The boys react much of the time in quintet, voices blending in disbelief and outrage. The most effective operatic innovation is the creation of the Masque, who is less a character than the embodiment of white racism, be it the police, a reporter or various others.”

The reviews from opening night have been mixed, with reviewer Zachary Woolfe of the New York Times suggesting that the tone and the angst was spot on but having the five leads often sing as a Greek chorus means they “never have the chance to come to life as individuals, either in music or words.”

That’s a complaint, Acon said, that he also heard from a high school student who was part of a group he brought to a dress rehearsal. It’s a legitimate perspective, he said, but one he doesn’t necessarily share.

“I personally believe the opera is very effective in the way it keeps the five in unison, for the most part,” he said. “In a way, it’s saying this experience is not individual. This experience happens to so many young black men and other men of color in this country, so much to the point that we can sing the same words at the same time, in a metaphorical sense, because we all have these same sentiments as it relates to the American criminal justice system.”

Acon’s next chapter

When The Central Park Five performances conclude this weekend, Acon, a bass-baritone, said he’ll turn his attention to new opportunities in southern California.

The arts as a vehicle for education and understanding will almost certainly be part of that journey.

Acon, who serves on the Lawrence Board of Trustees as a Recent Graduate Trustee — a position established for alumni within two to 10 years of their graduation — earned multiple regional and national honors as a student and already has more than two dozen operatic roles on his resume.

His deep thinking on issues related to the arts, race and public policy was plenty evident during his time at Lawrence, and Brian Pertl, Lawrence’s dean of the Conservatory of Music, isn’t surprised that Acon is seeing early career success.

“At Lawrence, Derrell was already an outstanding scholar and stellar performer,” Pertl said. “The performance he created in association with his honors project, Whence Comes Black Art?: The Construction and Application of ‘Black Motivation,’  stands as one of the most important and compelling student productions I have seen in the past 10 years.” 

Ten months after landing in southern California, Acon said he feels like he’s found his artistic groove. The work with Long Beach Opera is just the start of some promising things.

“I’m excited to see what comes next,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of opportunities, and they keep coming in. It’s very encouraging.”

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

A helpful guide to Reunion Weekend: Reconnecting and so much more

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Welcome home, Lawrentians.

We’re talking to you, alumni — in particular those of you who have signed up for Lawrence University’s 2019 Reunion Weekend. Nearly 800 of you will be back on campus this weekend, retracing old memories, reconnecting with friends and mentors and embracing new experiences.

We have drafted a helpful guide to hopefully get you excited about your return to campus. This isn’t the actual Reunion Weekend guide — the official booklet with a full itinerary will be handed out upon arrival or is accessible online — but we’ve pulled together some highlights, some tips to help you enjoy your stay in Appleton and some reminders of things that may have changed since you were last here.

If you’re on campus this weekend (June 13-16), we hope our guide will help you wrap your head around all the possibilities. If you chose to sit this one out, we hope it’ll get you thinking about next year. The light is always on.

Ready for a tour of campus? Much will be familiar, but if you haven’t been here in a while, much has changed. An official tour is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Consider the possibilities

There are dozens of activities, classroom sessions, gathering points, photo ops available during Reunion Weekend. You can’t hit ’em all. But here are 10 to get the conversation started.

1) Alumni College, all day Friday, multiple locations. One of the great draws of Reunion Weekend is the chance to engage in smart conversation on significant topics, led by faculty and/or alumni with expertise. This year’s topics range from The Great Migration and Chicago’s Bronzeville Neighborhood to climate change, Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, and The Beatles, among others. See a full listing on the Lawrence website.

2) Alumni Pride Reception, 4:30 p.m. Friday, Diversity and Intercultural Center, Memorial Hall. This is the third annual reception, but this one comes with some news. It’ll be co-hosted by the Faculty/Staff Pride Group and the newly formed Lawrence University Pride Alumni Network. The latter is a new initiative. Look for conversations about it at the reception and more detailed info to be released in late summer or early fall.

3) Supper club-style dining, 6-8 p.m. Friday, Warch Campus Center. We can’t take you all out to a supper club, but we can bring the supper club to you. Think fish fry, prime rib, and a full salad bar. Embrace your Wisconsin self, and save room for dessert.

4) Alumni Recital, 8 p.m. Friday, Memorial Chapel. A whole lot of talented musicians have come through the Conservatory of Music. Some will put their skills on display for fellow alums, including Karen Leigh-Post ’79 (mezzo soprano), Laura Caviani ’84 (jazz piano and vocals), and Kirsten Lies-Warfield ’94 (trombone).

5) Viking Room, cash bar, after 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Memorial Hall. This is the 50th anniversary of the VR opening as a bar. It was an on-campus hangout before that, but it didn’t become a full-service bar accessible to those of drinking age until the spring of 1969. Perhaps you carved your name into one of the booths all those years ago. Or bartending was part of your student work experience. Or you’re hankering for one of the VR’s specialty drinks (a Lawrentian, anyone?). Cheers to your return.

6) Parade of Classes, 10:30 a.m. Saturday. It’s a march into Memorial Chapel for the 11 a.m. Reunion Convocation. The Convocation, complete with this year’s Alumni Awards, is always cool. But being able to walk in as a class, that’s even cooler.

7) All-Reunion Picnic, noon Saturday, in the plaza between Wriston Art Center and Seeley G. Mudd Library. We all love a good picnic. Food and a cash bar will be available. And, we think, a balloon artist of impressive skill.

8) Boom! book discussion, led by history professor Jerald Podair, 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Harper Hall, Music-Drama Center. This is courtesy of the 50th reunion of the Class of 1969 because, well, they lived it. Boom, written by Tom Brokaw, explores the transitional events of the ’60s. That’s a sweet spot for Podair, who is all over 20th Century American history.

9) Alumni of Color Reception, 2:30-4 p.m. Saturday, Diversity and Intercultural Center, Memorial Hall. Hosted by Kimberly Barrett, vice president for diversity and inclusion and associate dean of the faculty, this marks a first-time event at Reunion Weekend.

10) Campus Tour, led by a current Lawrence student, 2:30 p.m. Saturday, departing from Alice G. Chapman Hall. If it’s been a while since you were here, you’ll want to be on this tour. Much has changed (see below).

Looking for best places on campus to take a photo? We’ve got that covered.

Hiett Hall is among the campus building additions in the past two decades.

Well, that’s different

If you are a 1994 graduate returning for the 25th anniversary, much has changed on the Lawrence campus. To keep you from mistakenly wandering into Chapman Hall, formerly Downer Commons, looking for lunch, we’re highlighting four notable changes here since news broke that Nelson Mandela was elected president, Friends debuted, and O.J. took that ride in the white Bronco (yes, that was all 25 years ago).

1) A shiny new campus hub. Warch Campus Center is, without question, phenomenal. You will most definitely want to take a look inside as it’s much more than just a dining hall. Built in 2009, it’s become a centerpiece of campus, home to two dining facilities, a movie theater, a campus store, meeting spaces of all shapes and sizes, and a must-see river view.

2) New places to learn. Two new buildings transformed the academic spaces on campus two decades ago. Briggs Hall, overlooking the Fox River, was built in 1997 to house instruction in mathematics and social sciences. Three years later, Science Hall was built, replacing Stephenson Hall of Science. It would be renamed Steitz Hall of Science in 2010. Both are worth a tour while you’re on campus.

3) A new place to live. Hiett Hall, the most modern of the residence halls on campus, was built in 2003. Like Briggs, it is built into the hill on the north side of the river. It’s the only residence hall with suite-style living quarters. Many of our alumni visitors will be staying there this weekend.

4) A garden for growing knowledge … and vegetables. You’ll find SLUG (Sustainable Lawrence University Garden) along Lawe Street, just east of the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center. It’s a living, breathing outdoor classroom, with lessons in sustainability, conservation, geosciences and so much more. Take a walk through the gardens to see the wonders of the earth being well tended.

The Rock, freshly painted green by the Class of 2019, sits in front of Main Hall.
The Rock, freshly painted by the Class of 2019, sits in front of Main Hall.

Bonus on-campus attraction I: The Rock is here. No, not The Rock of Hollywood fame, although that would be fun, too. We’re talking about the 2-ton boulder that has been hauled, carved, moved, hidden, buried, lost, returned and painted since its initial arrival on campus in 1895. The Rock now rests in front of Main Hall, and for the first time will soon have signage that speaks to its significance as part of Lawrence’s long and deep history. Pay it a visit. Paint it if you’d like.

Bonus on-campus attraction II: Bees are our friends. In your walks across campus, you’ll find a couple of hexagon-shaped bee houses, one near Main Hall and one in the SLUG gardens, and an observational honey bee hive visible from the fourth floor of Warch. We love our bees and embrace their important roles in our ecosystem. There’s a reason Lawrence was just given a Bee Campus USA designation by the Xerces Society. If you’re sticking around until Sunday, there will be an official unveiling of the observation hive at 10 a.m., followed by a pollination-themed picnic at 10:30 a.m. on the Main Hall lawn. All are welcome.

Reminder: Share your experience while on campus by using the hashtag #LUReunion

A view of Houdini Plaza and the Trout Museum of Art in the heart of downtown Appleton.
Houdini Plaza and the adjacent Trout Museum of Art are a few blocks west of campus.

Things to do nearby

Lawrence is, of course, part of Appleton’s downtown. If you want to explore a little while here, you’re in luck. The timing is fortuitous for these four possibilities:

1) Downtown Appleton Farm Market: One of the most robust farmers markets in the state takes over College Avenue in the heart of the downtown from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays during the summer. It makes its 2019 outdoor debut this weekend.

2) Houdini Plaza concert: The plaza serves as an outdoor gathering spot in the center of the downtown. If you are in town on Thursday, check out the weekly Heid Music summer concert from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Ask Your Mother, a popular regional band, will perform.

3) Fox Cities Performing Arts Center: If you haven’t been here in 25 years, well, you’ve missed one of the most significant developments in Appleton. The Fox Cities PAC opened along College Avenue in the city’s downtown in late 2002. It now hosts touring Broadway productions, concerts and a myriad of other arts offerings. If you want to check it out, area musicians will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in a Tribute to Maury Laws. The noted composer and arts advocate, who lived in Appleton, died earlier this year at age 95.

4) Trout Museum of Art: The former Appleton Art Center transformed into the Trout Museum of Art in 2010. Located adjacent to Houdini Plaza, it regularly features both touring exhibits and art from its own permanent collection. Its newest exhibit, Fifteen Minutes: Homage to Andy Warhol, opens on Saturday and runs through late August. It’s open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

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

‘Tonight is perfection’: McKees’ outdoor rink is an Appleton oasis on ice

An aerial view of the ice rink in the McKees' yard.
The McKee ice rink measures more than 100 feet in length and hosts pickup hockey games three times a week.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Welcome to The Venue.

It’s a Tuesday evening in February, and the super snow moon — the biggest, brightest full moon of the year — is hanging over the outdoor ice rink in the Appleton yard of Chuck and Lesley McKee, shining like a beacon on a scene that screams, “This is how we all should embrace our Wisconsin winters.”

The rink, more than 100 feet long and 35 feet wide, is crafted with detail; the ice tended to with care, perfectly smooth on this 20-degree night. A dozen friends and acquaintances, pads on and hockey sticks in hand, ages ranging from 30s to 70s, skate across the rink in a game of pickup hockey, navigating around a large shagbark hickory adorned with lights while firing pucks into mini-sized goals.

“Tonight is perfection,” says Bill Carlson as he scans the scene that unfolds on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons — weather permitting — during the winter. He’s been coming to these makeshift hockey games at the McKee house along Green Bay Road — just a few blocks north of the Lawrence University campus — for 25 years.

“This is called The Venue, and this is the finest athletic facility in the state,” Carlson says with a wink and a smidge of exaggeration. He smiles and gives a nod to Chuck McKee ’68, the architect who has lovingly tended to this winter oasis for nearly three decades.

The McKees are alumni of Lawrence — both 1968 graduates — and are longtime friends and supporters of the school. Chuck, who retired three years ago after a long career as an Appleton physician, was a football star for the Vikings in the 1960s. He was a captain on the 1967 team that went undefeated and was inducted into the Lawrence Intercollegiate Athletic Hall of Fame two years ago. Individually, he was a charter member of the Hall of Fame in 1996.

The McKees have stayed closely connected to Lawrence through the years, attending shows and games, serving on boards. Chuck once served as director of the wellness center on campus and assisted as a doctor for LU athletic teams. Lawrence hockey players will sometimes come to the McKee ice rink to play low-key pond hockey after their season ends.

In many ways, this house is an extension of Lawrence.

Lawrence alumni connections: Learn more here.

Intercollegiate Athletic Hall of Fame: See Lawrence honorees here

A party on ice

It was the McKee daughters who first inspired an outdoor ice rink in the years after the McKees moved back to Appleton in the late 1970s. The rink was much smaller back then. But through trial and error, it would grow and become a more elaborate undertaking.

Others have taken notice.

In its January edition this year, Better Homes & Gardens magazine featured the McKees’ rink, showcasing an outdoor ice-skating party they threw last winter — it was dubbed Moon Over Ice and featured everything from homemade ice lanterns to an outdoor spread of food and drink. The elegant party was initially launched in the 1990s when the McKees thought it would be a good excuse to get friends and neighbors outdoors in the winter. It was halted after a couple of years, then revived again a few years ago.

“Everybody wore old-fashioned fancy clothes and I had a tux that I wore,” Chuck says. “It was really fun.”

If the weather cooperates, it can be a fabulous experience. If it’s too cold or windy or the ice doesn’t cooperate, then not as much.

The 2018 party fell into the fabulous category, a blessing considering the presence of the photographer working for Better Homes and Gardens. It was like a dinner party in a snow globe.

“That day it snowed all day,” Chuck says. “People were out setting up stuff from 10 o’clock in the morning, hanging lights and fashioning the snowbanks to put the tables on. We had a 30-foot-long table on the ice. It was really nice. The whole idea was to spend all that time outside, and everybody loved it.”

A player brings the puck up the ice during a Tuesday night game at the McKee outdoor rink.
Players range in age from their 30s to their 70s. “You lose yourself in this, in the hockey. You’re all the same age out there,” says 72-year-old Chuck McKee ’68.

Then there’s the hockey

The activity on the ice the rest of the winter is a bit less sophisticated than a dinner party. It’s about hockey, but mostly it’s about camaraderie.

There are upwards of 25 guys who come for the hockey games on a semi-regular basis, usually 12 to 15 on any given Tuesday, Thursday or Sunday, skill levels varying from some to none. They’re not necessarily friends outside of the hockey get-togethers, but they come because they’re drawn to the casual nature of the hockey and the friendly banter that comes with it, not unlike pickup basketball games or weekly softball leagues that draw players well beyond their athletic prime who still revel in friendly competition. This just happens to be at somebody’s house, a side yard transformed into an elaborate ice rink and a basement turned into a makeshift locker room.

“I’m most taken by how these various people got here,” Chuck says. “The only thing we do together is play hockey. Otherwise, very few of us have any close relationship.

“Probably only half or a third of the people who try this actually stick with it. We’ve had a lot of people who have said, yea, I want to give it a try, and then said, nah. It’s hard to predict who is going to stick with it.”

Marty Thiel came to the group this year. He’s 62, has been playing hockey since high school but had put his skates mostly on the shelf while his kids were growing up. They’re out of the house now, and one day he was asking around about where he could play some “old guy hockey.”

A week later he got a call from Chuck and an invite to join the group.

“Now I’m here three times a week,” Thiel says. “It’s everything and more. I’ll be sad when the season ends because the setting here is just perfect.”

The group helps the McKees keep the rink in working order. They come together on a weekend in December to help set up the rink, and then tend to it during the winter as if it were their own.

“It’s a human labor of love,” Carlson says. “During intermissions, about 15 shovels come out and we shovel the ice. It’s like a Zamboni with shovels. And then at the end of the night, there are a few guys who use the hose and spray another layer so it’ll be ready for the next time.”

Getting the ice just right took years of starts and stops, Chuck says. He found silage film, typically used on farms, that he cuts to size and places on the ground before making the ice. He puts up 6-inch-wide boards around the rink, turning his yard into a massive bathtub. He replumbed a faucet in the basement to accommodate a 1-inch hose.

“So, we take that hose out of the window in the basement and I just let the hose run for 18 hours when I know it’s going to be sub-freezing for five days or so,” Chuck says.

Then it’s a matter of chasing falling leaves as the water freezes.

“Brown oaks are usually the last trees to drop their leaves,” Chuck says. “And these shagbark hickories, one of them didn’t drop its leaves this year until January.”

Aerial view of hockey players making their way across the ice on the McKee outdoor rink.
A rotating cast of players show up on a given weeknight or Sunday afternoon to play hockey on the rink in the McKees’ Appleton yard. They navigate around a shagbark hickory on the east end of the ice.

But now, on this Tuesday night in mid-February, the leaves are no longer an issue and the ice is gleaming, the super snow moon providing a glow.

“Now is the sweet time,” Chuck says.

When the hockey is done, the players return to the basement, remove their pads, drink some beer and hang out. It’s a ritual that’s been playing out over and over again, with an ever-changing cast of characters, for nearly 30 years.

“Here’s what I think,” says Chuck, who at age 72 takes a back seat to no one on the ice. “Who gets to do this at my age? Who gets to sit down in a locker room and drink beer and play darts? I suppose I should be reading AARP books instead. You lose yourself in this, in the hockey. You’re all the same age out there.”

Chuck, who on this night was not playing because he had broken a rib on a freakish fall during a game a couple of weeks earlier, says the rink isn’t going anywhere, even when he eventually hangs up his skates. This ice thing is a hobby he can’t quit.

“Honestly, I’m going to make ice even if I’m not playing hockey,” he says. “It’s really fun. It’s like winter gardening.”

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

Lawrence welcoming record-setting turnout for Reunion 2018

Alumni and guests returning to campus this weekend for Lawrence University’s annual Reunion celebration will be record-setters as part of the largest Reunion turnout in school history.

The welcome mats will be out out in abundance as an all-time high of some 1,100 alumni and guests from 41 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, as well as six countries, Japan and Sri Lanka among them participate in four days of activities. Betty Dombrose Brown, a 1947 graduate of Milwaukee-Downer, holds the distinction of being a member of the oldest class represented this year.A group shot of alumni at Reunion celebration

Eight alumni will be honored for achievement and service Saturday, June 16 as part of Reunion festivities. Each will be recognized at the Reunion Convocation at 10:30 a.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. The event is free and open to the public.

In addition to the awards convocation, Reunion will feature an address Thursday evening by Appleton native Dr. Ann McKee, a member of Lawrence’s class of 1975.

The director of the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center at Boston University and chief neuropathologist for the brain banks at VA Boston, McKee’s research has established herself as one of the country’s leading experts on brain trauma, concussions and their consequences.

A complete schedule of all Reunion activities can be found here.

As a partner at the Washington, D.C., law firm of Arnold and Porter, Bill Baer established himself as one of the country’s leading antitrust attorneys.

Among his notable victories was successfully defending GE against criminal charges of price fixing with DeBeers in the industrial diamonds business. Two separate stints in the Federal Trade Commission, where he led successful challenges to mergers involving Staples and Office Depot and four drug wholesalers, helped Baer earn an appointment to the U.S. Department of Justice by President Obama.

Bill Baer
bill Baer ’72

A 1972 Lawrence graduate, Baer will be presented the Lucia Russell Briggs Distinguished Achievement Award at Saturday’s Reunion convocation. The award recognizes Lawrence or Milwaukee-Downer graduates of more than 15 years for outstanding career achievement. The award honors the second president of Milwaukee-Downer College.

A resident of Bethesda, Md., Baer, who served as Lawrence’s visiting distinguished Scarff professor this spring, was the Justice Department’s assistant attorney general in charge of the antitrust division from 2013-2016 and acting associate attorney general — the number three position in the department — from 2016-17.

At Arnold & Porter, Baer oversaw 60 lawyers in the United States and Europe as the leader of the firm’s antitrust practice. His outstanding legal work earned him numerous awards, including being named one of “the decade’s most influential lawyers” by the National Law Journal. The International Who’s Who of Business Lawyers twice (2006, 2007) named him the “leading competition lawyer in the world.”

Bear served on the Lawrence Board of Trustees from 2001-2012 and then rejoined the board in 2017.

This year’s other award winners include:

Peter Kolkay
Peter Kolkay ’98

Nathan M. Pusey Young Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award — Peter Kolkay, Class of 1998, Nashville, Tenn. The award recognizes Lawrence alumni of 15 years or less for significant contributions to, and achievements in, a career field.  The award honors Lawrence’s 10th and youngest president and an exemplary figure in higher education in the 20th century.

Hailed as “stunningly virtuosic” by The New York Times and “superb” by the Washington Post, Kolkay is the only bassoonist ever awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant and first prize at the Concert Artists Guild International Competition. He is an artist of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and a member of the IRIS Orchestra in Germantown, Tenn.

An associate professor of bassoon at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University, Kolkay has performed numerous world premieres of both solo and chamber works. His 2011 debut solo CD “Bassoon Music” spotlights works by 21st-century American composers.

He was the recipient of the Carlos Surinach Prize by the BMI Foundation for outstanding service to American music by an emerging artist.

Francis Siekman de Romero
Frances Siekman de Romero ’74

George B. Walter Service to Society Award — Frances Siekman de Romero, Class of 1974, Guanajuato, Mexico. The award recognizes Lawrence or Milwaukee-Downer College alumni who exemplify the ideals of a liberal education through socially useful service. The award honors Walter, a 1936 Lawrence graduate, faculty member and dean of men, whose work at the college and beyond promoted his conviction that every individual can and should make a positive difference in the world.

An Appleton native, de Romero has been deeply engaged with humanitarian work much of the past four decades, focusing on Mexico’s less fortunate. The former first lady of Guanajuato, she served six years (2000-06) as president of Guanajuato’s Department of Infants and Family (DIF). The state organization works to support people earning less than $1,000 per year.

She also has worked to provide adequate eye care for the poor through the organization Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity and implemented the program “Mi Casa Diferente” for Guanajuato families whose homes were built with inadequate materials. The program provides building materials to families who own the land and build the homes themselves.

A passionate advocate for animal welfare, de Romero created a 600-acre sanctuary for abused donkeys, horses and dogs.

de Romero has a long family association with Lawrence. Her father, William Siekman and mother Martha Boyd Siekman were 1941 and 1943 Lawrence graduates, respectively. Her brother, Charlie, graduated in 1972, while two of her children earned degrees from Lawrence, Francesca in 2011 and David in 2015.

Terry Franke
Terry Franke ’68

Tom Kayser
Tom Kayser ’68

The Presidential Award, Thomas Kayser, class of 1958, St. Paul, Minn., and J. Terrence Franke, class of 1968, Winnetka, Ill. The award honors an alumnus or alumna of Lawrence University or Milwaukee-Downer College whose exemplary leadership and notable actions have contributed to the betterment of the entire Lawrence University community.

Kayser served as a member of the Lawrence University Board of Trustees from 2000-2012, when he was elected emeritus trustee. During his tenure, he has served as vice-chair of the Student Affairs Committee, Recruitment and Retention Committee and the Academic Affairs Committee. He is a past president of the Founders Club, served as a campaign working group member, regional club program committee member and college inauguration representative.

He and his wife, Marlene, are founding donors of Admission Possible, now known as College Possible, a nationally-growing nonprofit organization that works to make college admission and success possible for low-income students. Their support has helped Lawrence facilitate a high level of access to students in the program, coordinate a special college fair for Lawrence and other small colleges and funded an AmeriCorps staff person to serve as the direct liaison between the Lawrence admissions office and the program.

Franke has served as a member of the Lawrence University Board of Trustees for 19 years covering two different terms (1995-98; 2002-), including as four as chair of the board (2011–15).

He also has served on the leadership team for the Full Speed to Full Need scholarship campaign, been an admissions volunteer, a regional chair of the Founders Club committee, Legacy Circle National Council member, and an active participant in the Lawrence Scholars in Business program. Franke is currently a member of his 50th Reunion committee and serves on the leadership team for the class of 1968.

Christine Benedict
Christine Benedict ’99

Marshall Hulbert Young Alumni Outstanding Service Award, Christine Benedict, class of 1999, Stoughton. This award recognizes a Lawrence graduate celebrating his or her 15th cluster reunion or younger who has provided significant service to the college. It honors Marshall Brandt Hulbert, known as “Mr. Lawrence,” who made contributions to thousands of Lawrentian lives and served the college in various capacities for 54 years.

The vice president for enrollment management at Edgewood College, Benedict served on the Lawrence University Alumni Association (LUAA) board, including a term as board president.

Her service to her alma mater began as a student, when she served as a Star-Key Ambassador and volunteer for the admissions office. As a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, she served as the Panhellenic president and was elected vice president of her senior class.

After graduation, she brought valuable insights to the LUAA Board of Directors and led countless volunteer efforts to foster an impactful educational experience for future Lawrentians.

Linda Laarman
Linda Laarman ’73

etty Domrose Brown
Betty Domrose Brown M-D ’47

Gertrude Breithaupt Jupp Outstanding Service Award, Betty Domrose Brown, Milwaukee-Downer class of 1947, Green Bay, and Linda Laarman, class of 1973, Milwaukee. The award recognizes a Lawrence University or Milwaukee-Downer College graduate after his or her 20th cluster Reunion who has provided outstanding service to Lawrence University. It honors Gertrude Breithaupt Jupp, voted Milwaukee-Downer alumna of the year in 1964 for her long-standing service to the college as president of the alumnae association board, class secretary and public relations officer.

A loyal and long-time supporter of the university, Brown has served her classmates as a class secretary since 2004. She was a member of the LUAA Board of Directors from 1975–78, returning to the board for four more years in 1998 and has served as a reunion committee member.

Laarman, who served two years as president of the LUAA Board of Directors, has long had a special affinity for Björklunden. A frequent summer seminar attendee, she served as a docent for the Björklunden chapel, co-chaired the Björklunden Advisory Committee and helped create “This is Björklunden,” an all-day annual event that showcases all that Lawrence’s northern campus has to offer.

She also was instrumental in establishing the “Winifred Boynton Creative Spirit” award as a tribute to Mrs. Boynton and individuals who contribute significantly to life in Door County.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.