Tag: Lawrence alumni

Work with economics faculty leads 2021 grad to EPA-funded research program

Doan Thu Thuy Nguyen ’21 at her June commencement at Lawrence University.

By Karina Herrera ’22

It was in an environmental economics class at Lawrence University that Doan Thu Thuy Nguyen ’21 realized her interest in economics and her passion for the environment could co-exist.

The experience in that class, taught by David Gerard, the John R. Kimberly Distinguished Professor in the American Economic System and an associate professor of economics, led Nguyen to two summers at Lawrence spent on environment-related research tied to her home country of Vietnam. And that work has now led the economics and mathematics double major to her next academic adventure—acceptance into Carnegie Mellon University in the doctorate program in Engineering and Public Policy (EPP) as a graduate research assistant. She will join a group of Carnegie Mellon researchers this fall.

Reflecting on her undergraduate experience, Nguyen said her time at Lawrence could not have had a more positive or fruitful impact on her academic interests, pointing to her collaborations with Gerard and other economics faculty as key to getting into the Carnegie Mellon research program.

Find more on Lawrence’s economics program here

Get to know economics professor David Gerard here

The Carnegie Mellon team, led by Nicholas Z. Muller, the Lester and Judith Lave Professor of Economics, Engineering and Public Policy, secured an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant to fund the research, which will explore environmental impacts of certain manufacturing processes. Among other things, the funding provides for financial assistantships for graduate students. For Nguyen, this means that she will be given full tuition and a stipend for the initial academic year.

Although a little nervous, Nguyen said she is ready to begin. She’s excited to work with Muller and his team in part because she’s read academic papers of his and admires his work. She’ll also be working with people from different STEM fields and expects to be challenged.

“I expect it to be very intense but I also like that environment,” Nguyen said.

However, making the decision to apply to the Carnegie Mellon Ph.D. program in EPP was not an easy one, Nguyen said. She had offers from numerous economic Ph.D. programs and was hesitant at first to consider Carnegie Mellon because it was the only program that she applied to that was not solely focused in economics. She explained that what drew her in at the end was that the EPP program is exceptionally strong in areas regarding energy and environment, which are her main interests surrounding economics.

“It was clear that it was such a great place to be and I’ll be working with a lot of people who are really pioneering areas in research,” Nguyen said.

When asked how she found her passion for environmental economics and energy, she explained that it was initially through taking the environmental economics class with Gerard. Nguyen has since worked closely with Gerard and associate professor of economics Jonathan Lhost. They and other faculty have helped facilitate and augment her academic interests, she said.

She spent two summers at Lawrence conducting research—one summer focusing on the cost of decarbonizing Vietnam and the other on the air quality and public health in Vietnam. Both professors recommended that she apply to present her research at professional academic conferences and helped her to prepare and practice for her presentation.

“This is just one example of how professors at Lawrence go above and beyond for their students,” Nguyen said. “My professors really didn’t have to do any of those things, but they did because they care.”

Gerard also encouraged her to consider the EPP program at Carnegie Mellon and wrote her a letter of recommendation. He saw Carnegie Mellon as a great fit for her in part because of his own experiences there; he was on the faculty for eight years prior to coming to Lawrence in 2009, serving as executive director of the Center for the Study & Improvement of Regulation. He continues to serve as an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy.

Although he knows it was a tough decision for Nguyen, he doesn’t doubt she’ll exceed expectations.

“She was certainly an extraordinary student,” Gerard said.

Karina Herrera ’22 is a student writer in the Office of Communications.

Legacy of Olive Hamar to live on with renaming of President’s House

The president’s residence at Lawrence will now be known as Hamar House. (Photo by Liz Boutelle)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University’s President’s House is being renamed the Olive Hamar House in honor of a student who a century ago sought to create a new social space on campus and advocated for women’s rights.

The house that serves as the residence for Lawrence’s president and is often the site of campus gatherings takes on its new name courtesy of a $2 million endowed gift from Patricia (Pat) Boldt ’48, niece of the late Olive Hamar.

Part of the City Park Historic District, the house along North Park Avenue has served as the president’s house since 1956, when Sampson House was converted from a presidential residence to administrative offices. Outgoing President Mark Burstein is the sixth Lawrence president to call it home; Laurie Carter, joining Lawrence as its 17th president on July 1, will be the home’s newest resident, the first under the name Hamar House.

Hamar was a student at Lawrence when she died of meningitis in March 1925. She had been active with student organizations and with the local YWCA and was leading a push to open a hospitality center on campus.

An article in The Lawrentian described her as “one of the most beloved girls on the Lawrence campus. … She dreamed of a place where Lawrence students could meet on a common ground, unhampered by distinctions of any kind, in a house that would offer them that homelike atmosphere missed at college.” 

The endowed gift in her honor will now fund the upkeep of Hamar House as well as the maintenance of several other Lawrence-owned homes along North Park Avenue.

Legacy of Olive Hamar

This portrait of Olive Hamar, part of Lawrence’s art collection, was on display in the President’s House for the past eight years.

Because the president’s house is often a gathering place for campus celebrations and meals with Lawrence guests, it’s appropriate that it will now carry the name of a student who put such emphasis on hospitality and friendship.

Boldt, who followed her aunt’s path to Lawrence, said family stories and cherished letters detail the kindness and generosity of Hamar, including her love of Lawrence.

“Olive was a beloved girl,” Boldt said. “And not just by her family. If you read all the stuff that I’ve got, you can tell people were really fond of her. And when you read some of these letters, you see that she was a darling and a wonderful woman, so generous and humble.”

The story of Hamar and her quest to create a social center on campus—it eventually happened after her death, with a building at the northeast corner of Union Street and College Avenue serving as a gathering place for Lawrence students and members of the Appleton community—became a frequent topic of conversation over the past eight years. Before settling in at Lawrence, Burstein and his husband, David, selected the painting of Olive Hamar from the university’s art collection to hang over the mantel in the living room. They were unaware at the time of her history or her connection to the Boldt family, longtime supporters of Lawrence.

“The spring before we arrived, David and I had the wonderful opportunity to look through the art in Wriston Gallery storage to pick out pieces for the President’s House,” Burstein said. “Our goal was to display the quality of Lawrence throughout the house. We fell in love with a portrait of a young woman. We were drawn to the idea of giving the work a prominent place over the mantel in the living room. We also liked the idea of having a woman in this location given Lawrence’s history as one of the first co-educational institutions in the country.”

Boldt, meanwhile, was plenty familiar with the painting of her aunt. She has letters that document the commissioning of that portrait for Lawrence following Hamar’s death. An almost identical painting, created by the same artist using the same photograph, was on display at her grandparents’ house for as long as she can remember, she said.

Shortly after Burstein assumed the Lawrence presidency in 2013, he and David hosted Pat Boldt and her husband, Oscar C. Boldt, for a social event at the house. It was then that Pat noticed the painting of her aunt on display. The stories flowed from there.

The Olive Hamar stories have now been told and retold—the joy she found on campus, her work with the YWCA, her advocating for women’s rights, her generosity of spirit, the mourning of her death—and they will live on as the house transitions to Hamar House.

“Both David and I have had the honor of retelling Olive’s story and describing the impact she had on the Lawrence community,” Burstein said. “Her care for individual community members and her passion for women’s rights resonated with us and with the many visitors we’ve hosted at the house. It is a pleasure to know this connection to Olive will live on with the naming of Hamar House. That this naming also links the house to Pat Boldt, someone renowned for hospitality and also someone so generous to us and other past presidents in so many ways, was such an added bonus.”

About the house

The Queen Anne-style house was built in 1904—the same year Olive Hamar was born—and acquired by Lawrence in 1947. Designed by architect George W. Jones, its initial occupant, the house is described as an English-inspired mansion with touches of the Victorian era thrown in for good measure.

After Lawrence purchased the house, it briefly converted it into a residence hall, known as the Park House Dormitory. That lasted until 1956, when then-President Douglas Knight and his family moved into the home. It has been renovated multiple times over the years, including a complete renovation in 2000, and has housed, in addition to Knight, presidents Curtis Tarr, Thomas Smith, Richard Warch, Jill Beck, and Burstein.

Carter will be joined in Hamar House by her husband, Gary Robinson, and their family dog, Pepper.

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

Alumni Award winners to be honored as annual Reunion weekend goes virtual

Trees frame the Main Hall cupola on the Lawrence University campus. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Lawrence University alumni will come together June 17-20 for a Virtual Reunion that will include honoring eight 2021 Alumni Award winners.

Pandemic protocols are keeping Reunion from being in person again this year, but virtual programming will allow alumni to join together for various events and to celebrate this year’s award winners. Details can be found on the Reunion page at Lawrence.edu.

The 2020 Alumni Award recipients also will be honored during the Virtual Reunion. For a look back at last year’s winners, see here.

The 2021 award winners are:

Presidential Award (2 recipients)

(Presented to an alumnus or alumna whose exemplary leadership and notable actions have contributed to the betterment of the entire Lawrence community.)

Patricia (Pat) Hamar Boldt ’48: She is being honored for “unwavering dedication” to not only Lawrence but to the Fox Valley and the state of Wisconsin as well. She has long been a beacon of goodness and generosity in civic life and volunteer service, partnering with her late husband, Oscar C. Boldt, in strengthening Lawrence and its position in the community.

She has served as president of the Founders Club, the campaign working group for the More Light! Campaign, and with O.C. as an honorary steering committee member of the recently completed Be the Light! Campaign. She was recognized in 1994 with the Jupp Outstanding Service Award, and both Pat and O.C. received honorary doctor of law degrees from Lawrence in 2003 and the Richard Warch Outstanding Service to Bjӧrklunden Award in 2015.

Pat has provided important counsel to every Lawrence president over the past four decades. She has long embraced the value of breaking bread together as more than sharing a meal; it’s a means of coming together. She has frequently cited the lessons learned as a Lawrence student in the ’40s with informing her journey of philanthropy, outreach, and kindness.

Susan (Susie) Stillman Kane ’72: The former Board of Trustees chair has been a passionate advocate for education, focusing volunteer efforts on helping students with financial need obtain access to higher education.

For example, she has worked closely with the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) in Massachusetts, a network of free, open-enrollment public charter schools helping students in underserved communities. Several KIPP students have enrolled at Lawrence. KIPP also has provided internship opportunities for Lawrence students.

A tireless advocate for Lawrence, she began serving on the Board of Trustees in 2003. She has served on most every committee and served as vice chair before beginning a three-year term as chair in 2016. She served on the Presidential Search Committees that selected both Lawrence’s 16th and 17th presidents, as well as the Task Force on Life After Lawrence, President’s Advisory Committee, and campaign planning and steering committees.

Lucia Russell Briggs Distinguished Achievement Award

(This award is presented to a member of the alumni community after their 20th Cluster Reunion for outstanding contributions and achievements in their career field.)

Harry M. Jansen Kraemer Jr. ’77 P’10’13: The business career of the former economics and mathematics double major has been impressive, first at Northwest Industries, then at Baxter International Inc., and now as a professor of management and strategy at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and as an executive partner with Madison Dearborn Partners.

Kraemer has published articles on leadership and business in Fortune Magazine and authored three books on values and leadership, From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership (2011), Becoming the Best: Build a World-Class Organization Through Values-Based Leadership (2015), and Your 168: Finding Purpose and Satisfaction in a Values-Based Life (2020).”

Often praised for his ability to open doors and forge lasting connections, Kraemer has remained an effective voice among Lawrence alumni. He has served on the Board of Trustees and the Lawrence University Alumni Association Board of Directors and has been active on multiple Reunion committees, through leadership roles during the More Light! and Be the Light! capital campaigns, and in providing student support.

Nathan M. Pusey Young Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award

(This award is presented to a member of the alumni community celebrating their 20th Cluster Reunion or younger for significant contributions and achievements in a career field.)

James J. Moran ’00: A chemist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, he serves as lead for the Isotope and Chemical Analysis team within the Environmental Transformations and Interactions group. He works with scientists around the world, providing insight into isotopic analyses and how they can address challenging questions in fields such as stable isotope geochemistry, biogeochemistry, and microbial ecology, among others.

In 2016, he received the United States Department of Energy Office of Science’s Early Career Award in Biological and Environmental Research. In addition to his accomplishments as a scientist, he has been a mentor for aspiring scientists. Through multiple programs at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the United States Department of Energy, Moran has worked with high school students, undergrads, and graduate students, many of whom have continued their educations and careers in the sciences.

Moran studied geology and chemistry at Lawrence. He has remained connected to Lawrence, serving as a class officer, class agent, and Class Leadership Team member. He has helped others give back to his alma mater, stewarding them through his 10th Reunion Gift Committee, the Viking Gift Committee, and Giving Day.

George B. Walter ’36 Service to Society Award

(This award is presented to a member of the alumni community who best exemplifies the ideals of a liberal education through its application to socially useful ends in the community, the nation, or the world.)

Andrew H. Motiwalla ’96: He is the founder of several organizations focused on sustainable and immersive service programs for teens and adults. In 2006, he founded Terra Education, an experiential education company that offers travel programs throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Its flagship program is Global Leadership Adventures, a service-learning program that allows high school students to learn first-hand about social issues in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and North America. In 2011, he created Discover Corps, a travel program for families to engage in community service as part of their international vacations. And in 2016, he founded Summer Springboard, a hands-on exploratory program whose mission is to help pre-college students make informed decisions about college selection, academic majors, and careers that stay true to each student’s personal vision.

Motiwalla remains closely connected to each of these organizations and continues to serve as the executive chairman of Terra Education.

Motiwalla also co-founded monitorQA in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is an inspection and auditing software platform to improve health and safety operations in the workplace. The company seeks to help organizations around the world achieve operational excellence. As chief revenue officer, Motiwalla leads sales, marketing, and customer success efforts for the company.

Motiwalla studied Spanish and anthropology at Lawrence.

Gertrude Breithaupt Jupp M-D’18 Outstanding Service Award (2 recipients)

(This award is presented to a member of the alumni community after their 20th Cluster Reunion who has provided outstanding service to Lawrence within or apart from the Lawrence University Alumni Association.)

Dorothy E. Fischer ’77: She graduated from Lawrence with a focus in economics. After earning her MBA from the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business and beginning her career as a manager of financial analysis for a division of The Standard Oil Company, Fischer turned a keen sense for the business world into her own consulting firm. As the owner of InnerAwareness Inc. Fischer has helped thousands of clients create positive change through consultations, workshops, seminars, and training classes.

Fischer has given back to Lawrence in a number of volunteer capacities. She has held the role of class secretary, served on her 30th and 40th Reunion committees, connected with peers through her Class Leadership Team, and held a seat on the Founders Club National Council, and has given her time to help prospective students through college fairs, interviews, and admitted student receptions.

Donna M. Weltcheff Schroeder M-D’54 P’79: She has been a loyal supporter of the university and a stalwart champion of upholding Milwaukee-Downer College’s legacy at Lawrence. Immediately after graduating from Milwaukee-Downer College, Schroeder began a long and successful career in the U.S. Social Security Department.

Since her graduation, Schroeder has consistently supported current and future generations of Lawrentians, as well as shared her belief in a liberal arts education with her son and granddaughter, both Lawrentians themselves.

Through her volunteer efforts, Schroeder has served as class secretary, a member of the 2014 Lawrence University and Milwaukee-Downer Anniversary Consolidation Celebration committee and 50-Year Connection committee, as a Class Agent from 1998 to 2001, and as the chair of her Reunion Gift committee in 2005. Her leadership in these capacities, and in more personal conversations with other Downer alumnae, has encouraged many to connect to Lawrence for the first time.

Marshall B. Hulbert ’26 Young Alumni Outstanding Service Award

(This award is presented to a member of the alumni community celebrating their 20th Cluster Reunion or younger who has provided significant service to the college within or apart from the Lawrence University Alumni Association.)

Chuck Erickson ’02: A double major in Spanish and music education with a focus in choral music while a student at Lawrence, Erickson has devoted significant time to guiding prospective students in making their college decisions.

His passion for education and for his alma mater ultimately led him back to Lawrence, where he provided leadership in the admissions department for more than 13 years, working with hundreds of prospective students, keeping track of diversity and college-access programs in partnership with the university, and providing support to domestic transfer students.

In 2015, Erickson began working as an independent educational consultant. In this role he helps clients and their families through each step of the college search and application process, supporting them with honesty and compassion.

He has been an active volunteer at Lawrence and in the Appleton community. He’s served, among other organizations, the Friends of Appleton Public Library, the A Better Chance house, and Appleton Noon Optimist Club. At Lawrence, Erickson has been a leading voice for his 10th and 15th Reunion committees, connected with classmates as a member of his Class Leadership Team, planned events with the Fox Cities Regional Club, and facilitated important fundraising and stewardship efforts through the Viking Gift Committee, Reunion, and Giving Day.

Lighting the Way With … Tom Coben: When Kimmel calls and statues dance

Tom Coben ’12

About this series: Lighting the Way With … is a periodic series in which we shine a light on Lawrence University alumni. Today we catch up with Tom Coben ’12, a motion graphics artist whose work in the past week has been viewed more than 5 million times.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Nearly a decade after leaving Lawrence University with a growing portfolio of 3D graphics and other visual effects, Tom Coben ’12 has gone viral.

Well, his creative skills have gone viral, if not his name.

A freelance motion graphics and visual effects artist in the Twin Cities, Coben hooked up earlier this month with the creative team of ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! They were looking for an artist who could animate statues dancing and singing for a video they were making to mark the end of the Trump presidency.

Coben delivered 14 shots of statues, monuments, and paintings that became the heart of the video – the Statue of Liberty, the faces on Mt. Rushmore, the statue of Martin Luther King Jr., among them – all in full celebration mode. Jimmy Kimmel, the host of the late-night talk show, posted the video late last week, and it quickly bounced around social media, racking up more than 5 million views on YouTube in the first four days.

See the Jimmy Kimmel video here.

“I sent a sample video of the Statue of Liberty dancing as a proof-of-concept on spec and they hired me for the bit,” Coben said. “We used a type of motion-capture technique where they filmed an actor with facial tracking markers and I used that information to apply the facial motions to the different sculptures and paintings.”

From there, he watched the final product roll out, and the social media shares and video views quickly grow, all in the days following the Jan. 20 inauguration of President Joe Biden.

Between social media and TV views, it’s the widest his work has been seen. But Coben said he did have one other brush with the power of the internet when Will Smith shared on his Instagram account an animation Coben made of a robot bowling. That got him a ton of exposure and some new freelance work, which is always a good thing.

“But this Kimmel video is definitely the most amount of attention any of my work has had,” he said.

It started at Lawrence

Coben first got a taste for motion graphics and 3D visual effects while studying at Lawrence.

An environmental studies major, Coben developed an interest in animation and 3D artistry. Lawrence’s Film Studies program was launching just as Coben was graduating. He was able to put together a self-directed film/animation-related minor.

“One of my favorite experiences at Lawrence was during the summer after my sophomore year when I got the opportunity to travel to the Philippines for five weeks with my advisor, (Associate Professor of Biology) Jodi Sedlock,” Coben said. “She knew I was interested in film production and asked if I would come and produce a short documentary about cave-roosting bat species and conservation of cave ecosystems on the island of Siquijor. Besides just being rad as hell, that experience helped me get a job the following summer at the Smithsonian National Zoo making promotional videos for their YouTube channel, filming the different exhibits.”

Then during his senior year, Coben took an intermediate sculpture class with Rob Neilson, the Frederick R. Layton Professor of Studio Art and professor of art, and was given the green light to focus on using 3D software to create digital sculptures that he would incorporate into footage taken around campus.

It got wonderfully weird. There was a supersized octopus clinging to the cupola atop Main Hall. And snow goons waging a battle on the snow-covered campus green.

Neilson said he recalls Coben taking to heart the prompt he gave to the class at the outset of the term: “Construct a sculptural piece in any medium you choose that somehow closes — or exists within — the gap between art and life and addresses sculpture as a ‘thing’ in all its ‘objectness’.” Coben chose to use 3D modeling and video, and Neilson said he was all in.

“My approach to teaching art has always been: Sculpture can be anything we, the students and I, collaboratively decide it is,” Neilson said. “While I certainly love to ‘make things;’ to me sculpture is more about ideas than objects. Indeed, this is the fundamental beauty of sculpture; its ability to carry and convey meaning through material — even if the material is bits and bytes in a computer. Otherwise, it’s just an object.”

Coben took that approach and ran with it. He’s still running with it.

“After I graduated, I used some of those animations along with some other personal work to put together a reel, which got me my first few freelance jobs out of college,” Coben said. “After that I worked at a small video production company for about three years before deciding to get back into freelance animation, which I have been doing for the past five years.”

Much of his work is with local clients in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market, doing 3D product renderings, motion graphics for commercials and online marketing videos, and visual effects for music videos.

He’s also designing custom 3D-printed sculptures, selling them on Etsy under the name Tomforgery3D. 

“They’re based on the classics but I’ve screwed with them to make them more absurd,” he said.

It might not draw the 5 million views of a Kimmel video, but it’s interesting, challenging, and creative work, Coben said.

“I had a lot of very cool opportunities at Lawrence and I can honestly say that I don’t think I’d be doing what I am doing today if my professors hadn’t given me the ability to pursue my interests with as much freedom as they did,” he said.

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

Eight alumni, eight stories: Endurance, vision, and brilliance show the way

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

One of the great joys in the Communications office is being able to catch up with Lawrence alumni who are shining their light brightly along whatever paths their journeys have taken them.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have canceled our 2020 Reunion weekend, but over the course of the year we had the chance to talk with and write about many amazing Lawrentians, graduating as far back as 1954 and as recently as 2019.

Most-viewed Lawrence stories of 2020: Read here.

Here are eight who caught our attention in our second annual Eight Alumni, Eight Stories end-of-year feature.

If you haven’t read these stories, we invite you to do so now. See story links below.

_ _ _

Jack Nilles ’54

Jack Nilles ’54: “We’re still in the middle of a giant experiment.”

Living amidst Los Angeles’ traffic congestion, Nilles floated the wild idea that employees could be productive working from home or in neighborhood offices instead of commuting to corporate headquarters. This was in the early 1970s. He studied it. He wrote books about it. He was called the father of telecommuting. But corporate America mostly shrugged. Then, in 2020, when the pandemic sent employees en masse to home offices, people started paying attention. “I keep saying lately, ‘after 48 years, I’m an overnight success,’” Nilles said.

_ _ _

Jim Miller ’80

Jim Miller ’80: “I felt a sense of urgency.”

The one-time Lawrence cross-country star has been running marathons ever since he caught the bug while an undergrad here in the late 1970s. It turns out he was pretty good at it, qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials in the marathon in both 1980 and 1984. He hasn’t stopped running. In August, just days before turning 62, Miller ran a marathon in 2 hours, 53 minutes, 59 seconds. That’s significant because it made him just the fourth runner in the world known to have run marathons in under 3 hours in six different decades.

_ _ _

Katy Hopkins ’85

Katy Hopkins ’85: “I said I’d love to help out, but I can’t keep up.”

Like many in the arts world, Hopkins found her livelihood at a standstill when the pandemic hit in the spring. The operator of Yahara River Woodwinds, an instrument-repair shop in Stoughton, Wisconsin, Hopkins quickly learned that musicians don’t need instruments repaired when much of the music world has shut down. She quickly pivoted and began making masks, which led to requests for specially made masks that music students could wear while practicing and performing. When her alma mater reached out, Hopkins, already overwhelmed with orders from around the country, agreed to teach students in the Theater Department Costume Shop to create the masks. Those masks are now being worn by students across the Conservatory.

_ _ _

Andrea Lewis Hartung ’05

Andrea Lewis Hartung ’05: “I’d say the victories are bittersweet.”

As a student at Lawrence, Lewis Hartung knew she wanted to go to law school. She just hadn’t quite centered on what path she would take in law. She eventually landed at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, where she worked as a student in the school’s Center on Wrongful Convictions. It’s there that she found her passion in post-conviction work. She would eventually join the faculty at Northwestern and now spends her days both teaching and working cases for clients believed to have been wrongfully convicted.

_ _ _

Dr. Ben Weston ’05

Dr. Ben Weston ’05: “Our public health infrastructure is not designed for this.”

A biology major while at Lawrence, Weston credits his work in the classroom and as a leader in Student Life with preparing him for the lead role he’s taken in battling the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides teaching at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, working two shifts a week in the emergency department at Froedtert Hospital, and serving as the Office of Emergency Management’s director of medical services for Milwaukee County, Weston has taken on the temporary role of medical director of the Milwaukee area’s COVID-19 Unified Emergency Operations Center. To say the least, he’s had a busy year.

_ _ _

Alex Damisch ’16

Alex Damisch ’16: “For Jeopardy!, you make it work.”

While at Lawrence, Damisch was a regular in the Quizbowl student club. She also was a trivia master for the Great Midwest Trivia Contest. If there was a brain game to play, she was in. It turns out that was great training. It paid off when she finally got her shot at Jeopardy!. For three straight days, she was on a roll, winning more than $35,000 along the way. “After I taped the shows, I thought to myself, ‘Man, it went by so fast, and I was always so focused on my next move, I hope I remembered to smile.’ Spoiler alert: I did not.”

_ _ _

Spencer Tweedy ’19

Spencer Tweedy ’19: “Thankfully, we all get along really well.” (Photo by David Zoubek)

When you grow up a Tweedy, singing around the house is just the way life happens. So, when the pandemic hit and Spencer and his brother, Sam, were homebound with their famous father, Jeff Tweedy, founder, singer, and guitarist of Wilco, and their mother, Susan, entertainment ensued. A bathroom rendition of Jeff Tweedy’s Evergreen featuring Jeff, Spencer, and Sam ended up on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Tweedy Show debuted on Instagram.

_ _ _

Kir-Sey Fam ’19

Kir-Sey Fam ’19: “There was a bit of firefighting going on in different areas during launch.”

Even before he graduated from Lawrence in June 2019, Fam had himself a job offer as a software engineer at Disney+. The streaming service hadn’t yet launched, but the buzz was huge. It’s not often you step from the stage at Commencement and immediately land in the midst of one of the most talked about media developments in the world. When it launched, Disney+ had 10 million sign-ups the first day, 29 million in the first three months, and a new bankable star in Baby Yoda. Fam was part of the team that made it all happen.

See 2019 edition of Eight Alumni, Eight Stories here.

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

Most-viewed Lawrence stories of 2020: Bright lights in midst of a daunting year

The President’s Handshake, a tradition of Welcome Week, was reimagined at the outset of Fall Term, one of many adjustments made to keep campus safe during the pandemic. President Mark Burstein met each incoming student and presented them with a luminary to be displayed. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

It’s been a different sort of year. The COVID-19 pandemic certainly altered life on the Lawrence campus.

But one thing proved true. Lawrentians (and future Lawrentians and friends of Lawrence) are hungry to read about Lawrence and their fellow Lawrentians. We’ve dived into the analytics to share today the most viewed stories of 2020 on the Lawrence news site. (A few of the stories that placed in the top 20 are partnered here because they are so closely related.)

Eight alumni, eight stories: See 2020 edition here.

From voice professor John Holiday’s success on NBC’s The Voice to Lawrence again being hailed as a world-class school to adjustments made to campus life in the midst of a pandemic, there was no shortage of Lawrence news that drew a lot of interest. We provide here links to those most popular stories. Check out what you missed or take another look at stories that remind us of what makes Lawrence shine.

1. John Holiday hits big on NBC’s The Voice.

“There are people who dare to dream bigger than themselves; they never stop learning, never stop growing. I wanted to show my students what that looked like.” See stories here and here.

2. Princeton Review names Lawrence one of nation’s Best Impact schools.

“I see it and hear it when I meet with our alumni around the world. They point back to their time at Lawrence as unlocking something for them, discovering an interest or talent they didn’t know they had until they started working with professors here who helped guide them in that discovery.” See story here.

3. We say farewell to beloved Lawrentians.

“I will always remember Lifongo as the warmest, kindest, and most generous, joyful, and magnanimous of colleagues and friends.” … “I know many Lawrentians join me in remembering moments when Terry’s advice provided exactly what you needed to hear to be the best version of yourself.” See stories here and here.

4. Campus life changes amid COVID-19 pandemic.

“All of us living, learning, and working on campus this fall need to understand and to honor the responsibilities outlined by the Pledge.” See stories here and here.

5. A professor’s guide offers look at Freshman Studies.

“The entire list shows a remarkable range and an admirable ambition.” See story here.

6. New trestle trail adds to trails, parks near campus.

“The abandoned railroad trestle has been transformed into a 10-foot-wide trail that spans the Fox River at the southern edge of campus.” See story here.

7. Bidding good-bye for now to retiring faculty.

“You have served as a steadying force, stepping into a host of academic leadership positions that have lent stability in moments of uncertainty and grace in times of worry.” See story here.

8. Six faculty earn tenure.

“I’m absolutely delighted that their contributions are being recognized through the awarding of tenure and promotion, and look forward to continuing together our rich, rewarding work for years to come.” See story here.

 9. Jake Woodford ’13 elected mayor of Appleton.

“It has been a pleasure to watch Jake’s energy turn toward the city he loves.” See story here.

10. Princeton Review names Lawrence to Best Colleges list.

“As we head into another academic year, albeit one that looks different from any other in history, it’s reassuring to see that some things have remained the same.” See story here.

11. President Mark Burstein announces plans to leave Lawrence.

“During Mark’s tenure, our curricular offerings became deeper and broader, applications and the endowment increased dramatically, and our community became more diverse, inclusive, and equity-minded.” See story here.

12. Lawrence offers assistance during pandemic.

“We have always risen to the challenges that face us with resilience and ingenuity.” See story here.

13. Conservatory named ‘hidden gem,’ adapts to life in pandemic.

“It’s beautiful, creative flexibility. We’re working with our students all the time to say, ‘This is what you’re going to need out there in the world, and this is what’s going to be exciting about being a musician in the world today.’” See story here.

14. Natasha Tretheway named 2020 Commencement speaker.

“Our journeys have been intertwined since I visited Lawrence four years ago, and I am delighted and honored to be able to reconnect with this class in such a meaningful way.” See story here.

15. Spencer Tweedy ’19 enjoys Kimmel appearance, Instagram show.

“One of the really, really cool things about my time at Lawrence was that the boundary between the Conservatory and the college is pretty permeable.” See story here.

16. Lawrence adds major in Creative Writing, minor in Statistics and Data Science.

“We’ve seen more prospective students articulating their desire to focus directly on creative writing.” … “Data scientists are working with bioinformatics, genetics; it’s huge in economics, and it’s become a huge thing in political science.” See story here.

17. Four alumni added to Board of Trustees.

“At this critical moment for higher education, I couldn’t be more appreciative for the diverse group of individuals who are giving so much of their time and talent as trustees to ensure that the college continues to distinguish and differentiate itself.” See story here.

18. Alexander Gym court gets a redesign.

“While resurfacing was certainly a maintenance requirement, the fresh new design work is an added bonus.” See story here.

19. Our 2020 Alumni Awards are announced.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down the annual Reunion celebration, this year’s recipients are still being celebrated for their contributions to both the Lawrence community and the world.” See story here.

20. Alex Damisch ’16 cherishes her Jeopardy experience.

“After I taped the shows, I thought to myself, ‘Man, it went by so fast, and I was always so focused on my next move, I hope I remembered to smile.’ Spoiler alert: I did not.” See story here.

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

Lighting the Way With … Dr. Ben Weston: On the COVID-19 front lines

Dr. Ben Weston ’05 (Photo courtesy of Medical College of Wisconsin)

About this series: Lighting the Way With … is a periodic series in which we shine a light on Lawrence University alumni. Today we catch up with Dr. Ben Weston ’05, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Medical College of Wisconsin who has been a leader in the Milwaukee area in the COVID-19 pandemic battle.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

When Dr. Ben Weston ’05 tells you “it’s been an interesting year,” know that is his understated way of saying it’s been an emotionally draining, frustrating, holy-cow-I-can’t-believe-that-just-happened, gut-wrenching, exhausting, pants-on-fire sort of a year.

So, yes, interesting.

The Lawrence University alumnus is among the army of front-line health care workers who have been living the COVID-19 pandemic up close and personal on a daily basis, and he’s done it wearing three important but vastly different hats.

For two shifts a week, Weston works as an emergency department physician at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, part of his role as associate professor of emergency medicine at Medical College of Wisconsin. It’s here where he sees COVID patients fighting for their lives, where the latest surge threatens to overwhelm staff and space, where he and colleagues have to wear the same protective masks for multiple days for fear of resources running short.

He also lives it in his role as director of medical services for Milwaukee County, working through the Office of Emergency Management to coordinate 14 fire departments, ambulances, and other first responders in providing emergency medical care for a region with a population of nearly 1 million people.

For more Lawrence alumni features, see here.

And he lives it in his role as medical director of the Milwaukee area’s COVID-19 Unified Emergency Operations Center, working with the city of Milwaukee, the county, and a bevy of municipalities to coordinate responses to the pandemic and provide consistent messaging to residents.

Three hats, three perspectives of a pandemic that has shown no signs of abating, and a day-to-day schedule that has been dominated by the coronavirus since the earliest days of 2020.

And when Weston’s work day is over and he settles in with his wife and three young kids, can he move away from the brutal realities of the health care crisis? Well, not completely. His wife, Dr. Michelle Buelow, is a physician with Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers on the south side of Milwaukee, treating a heavily Hispanic population that has been hit hard by COVID-19.

“She’s been right in the thick of it as well,” Weston said. “So, the evenings usually start with a little pandemic conversation, and then we try purposely to shift to other things.”

Beyond the imaginable

Weston knew his world was about to change in January as the virus began its spread. What he didn’t know was that nearly a year later we would be staring into what could be a very dark winter as cases surge across the United States, hospitals are stretched to capacity and beyond, and the death toll nears 275,000.

“I don’t think anybody anticipated the longevity or the extreme impact that COVID would have,” Weston said of those early days before the virus landed in the U.S. “We would talk through scenarios about if long-term care facilities were hit or if there were outbreaks in regions of the community. I think it was certainly hard to imagine back then that we would be having this widespread outbreak everywhere like we have now. Every county in Wisconsin, every state in the United States, every country in the world is having these surges in cases right now, along with hospitalizations and deaths. We would have been naïve to think it wasn’t going to affect us at all, but I don’t think anyone anticipated this.”

Weston has been front and center in messaging to the public about the spread of the virus, the significance of the threat, and the need for personal responsibility. He’s spoken at news conferences and done dozens of interviews with media, locally and nationally. He’s done so while fighting conflicting messages coming from the national level.

“There have been a lot of novel aspects to the virus that makes it very challenging to control,” Weston said. “Biologic aspects of the virus, the incubation period, the asymptomatic spread. Things like that make it very hard to control, and difficult to message from a disease perspective. And then you compound that with messaging at the highest level and the national response that a lot of times is contradictory to the local response and the local messaging and you have a pretty difficult situation.”

There are consequences that come with that lack of a unified national response. One, of course, is the accelerated spread of the virus when segments of the population refuse to take it seriously, continuing to gather in confined spaces and refusing to wear masks. Another is the emotional toll it’s taking on health care workers. They not only face burnout because of the workload, but they also have to deal with backlash from people who see the pandemic as politics, Weston said.

“Everyone is really strained from a work standpoint,” he said. “Our public health infrastructure is not designed for this, nor is it funded, nor is it staffed in a way to manage something like this.”

To then receive hateful messages from someone taking exception to the daily news cycle adds to an already overwhelming burden, Weston said.

“It’s disheartening for public health practitioners when they are working these 60-, 70-, 80-, 100-hour weeks, and then at the end of the week when they feel like they’ve done something positive, they open up their email or listen to their voice mail and that’s what they hear.”

Through it all, though, there are opportunities to smile, Weston said. Health care workers need to cling to those moments. For him, it’s a kind email from a woman who opted to skip an indoor Thanksgiving gathering after hearing him speak on the dangers of such behavior. Or seeing multiple health care organizations across the state come together to share data and strategies, something that would have been unheard of a year ago.

“They come in somewhat small victories,” Weston said.

A path forged at Lawrence

Before Weston earned his medical and Master of Public Health degrees at the University of Wisconsin, he was a biology major at Lawrence. The classroom instruction prepared him well for medical school. But he points to campus experiences outside of the classroom that helped him develop the leadership and collaboration skills that are in play now. He worked his final three years at Lawrence in residence hall leadership positions, first in Plantz Hall and then in Hiett Hall, and chaired the Lawrence University Community Council’s Judicial Board.

“I loved my Lawrence experience,” Weston said. “I had the privilege of having leadership opportunities at Lawrence that I think helped to develop and hone my ability to be in these positions I’m in now.”

He cites then-Dean of Students Nancy Truesdell and current Dean of Students Curt Lauderdale as mentors who helped guide his journey.

“They were great mentors, and I saw great examples of principled leadership and steadfast collaboration from both of them that have certainly carried forward to my career,” Weston said. “Those were critical building blocks for me.”

Those lessons, he said, will be close at hand as the calendar flips to 2021 and he looks to help colleagues weather at least a few more months of distress before a vaccine hopefully brings some relief.

“It’s been hard the last few weeks to see the surges going up, knowing that no hospital can keep up with those sorts of numbers,” Weston said.

But the recent news of a vaccine that could be coming soon has buoyed spirits among health care workers, even though they know things will be difficult between now and spring.

“What changes is the perspective,” Weston said. “If we had talked back in July, August, September, we didn’t know when the end point was. We hoped it would be maybe in the spring, but we didn’t know. We had no evidence to point to, to say there’s an end to this, it’s coming. There was talk that this could go on for years.

“And now we see promising signs that there is an end point. We see the vaccine trials and we see this news and we start talking about how we’re going to distribute it. And I think that’s great news and we should celebrate it. But we also should recognize that the vaccination campaign isn’t going to take off and get everyone vaccinated this winter. We have to get through what’s going to be a really hard winter. So, the message has to be that we can celebrate the vaccine, but for the next few months we really need to buckle down. We have winter coming. It’s going to be a challenging time. But we know an end is in sight.”

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

Internship put Lawrence physics student on research team that earned Nobel Prize

An image created by Professor Andrea Ghez and her research team from data sets obtained with W.M. Keck Telescopes shows stars that are in very close, very fast orbits around the Milky Way’s central black hole. It’s research that Amelia Mangian ’18 participated in during a 2017 internship. (Courtesy of UCLA Galactic Center Group – W.M. Keck Observatory Laser Team)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University’s Physics Department is again celebrating close connections with the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Amelia Mangian ’18, then a fourth-year physics student at Lawrence, spent an internship in the summer of 2017 working with a team of scientists at UCLA led by astronomer Andrea Ghez, who earlier this month won the Nobel for her years-long study of supermassive black holes in the universe.

“She is the model of the perfect scientist,” Mangian said of Ghez. “She persevered, she worked hard, and she proved a lot of people wrong on the way to becoming a world-class researcher and educator. I think the other thing that is remarkable about Andrea is how easily she can communicate her work to people of all ages and how much she cares about spreading her love of science.”

Ghez is one of three recipients of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics, joining Roger Penrose, a mathematician at Oxford University in England, and Reinhard Genzel, a professor at the University of California Berkeley and director at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany. All were honored for their work advancing the study of black holes.

Amelia Mangian ’18

“Working with this team—Andrea, her collaborators, particularly Mark Morris and Tuan Do, as well as her research team, post-docs, and graduate students—has helped my career tremendously,” said Mangian, now pursuing a doctorate in astronomy at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “It helped me find a passion for black holes, for astronomy, and for being a role model to other young astronomers who want to be researchers, too.”

A year ago, the Nobel went to two astronomers whose breakthroughs in the 1990s led to the discovery of thousands of exoplanets in the Milky Way galaxy, a research subject that Megan Pickett, associate professor of physics and chair of the Physics Department at Lawrence, has focused on for much of her career.

The 2019 Nobel announcement felt like a win for Pickett and her students. The 2020 announcement is much the same. Having a former student so closely connected to the research team is an opportunity to shine a light on undergraduate internships and research opportunities that are plentiful for Lawrence students in the sciences.

Not lost on Mangian or Pickett is that Ghez is only the fourth woman to win the Nobel in Physics, joining Marie Curie (1903), Maria Goeppert Mayer (1963), and Donna Strickland (2018). The Nobel adds to Ghez’s growing profile as she blazes trails as a role model for women scientists.

“One of my particular interests, long before coming to Lawrence, has been the history of women in physics and astronomy—our stories, representation, and how we can tear down barriers to success and recognition,” Pickett said. “There are a number of ways we get at this problem, but primarily it comes down to creating a sense of belonging with the department, and the discipline.”

Lawrence is part of a Howard Hughes Medical Institute initiative that challenges U.S. colleges and universities to substantially and sustainably increase their capacity for inclusion of all students, especially those who belong to groups underrepresented in science. It was one of 33 schools selected in 2018 to receive a $1 million grant from HHMI through its Science Education Program to implement its Inclusive Excellence initiative. Another 24 schools were selected the year prior, part of HHMI’s push to reimagine science education to better engage students from all backgrounds.

“Our primary focus is inclusive excellence — how can we increase our successful engagement and the success of students who are under-represented in the sciences, whether first-generation college students, for example, or under-represented minorities?” Pickett said.

Megan Pickett

Seeing scientists such as Ghez be awarded a Nobel—also of note, two women won the Nobel in chemistry the following day—helps ring that bell, and having a Lawrentian so closely tied to the work adds fuel to the fire. But it also is a reminder that while great strides have been made, the work is far from finished when it comes to equity and opportunity.

“Having those role models, and being able to send our students off campus, potentially to work in a Nobel lab, is huge,” Pickett said. “Closer to home, though, we are today more diverse and more dedicated to that diversity as a department than we have ever been. In particular, the addition of professors (Tianlong) Zu and (Margaret) Koker help make our department begin to look more like our student body—and the importance of that cannot be overstated.”

Mangian, meanwhile, counts Pickett as a mentor who helped her believe in herself as a scientist. That relationship, she said, drives her to pay it forward as a mentor as she carves out her own career.

“She has guided me through rough times and helped me be the best version of myself during the good times,” she said of Pickett. “She’s the reason that I’m where I’m at today, academically and personally.”

At Illinois, Mangian is studying actively feeding supermassive black holes and their host galaxies, using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) to infer properties of the black holes such as its luminosity and mass. She’s also building on mentoring lessons she took from Pickett and others at Lawrence.

“I’ve been very active in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts through the organization I run called the Society for Equity in Astronomy,” Mangian said. “We are a group focused on improving the astronomy department at Illinois and those across the country. We run a mentorship program with about 40 individuals involved and have monthly discussions about culturally significant topics such as the Strike for Black Lives, #BlackInTheIvory, and the ongoing situation with the Thirty Meter Telescope being constructed on indigenous lands on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. I am also starting up a tutoring program aimed at helping students with disproportionate educational backgrounds coming into the astronomy program at Illinois.”

Mangian’s work in 2017 with Ghez’s group came after being selected for a National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates program, a highly competitive process. Lawrence students in recent years have gone through that program to land research posts at the University of Indiana, University of Wisconsin, Harvard, University of Rochester, and the University of Twente in the Netherlands, among others. 

“These experiences are valuable regardless of whether you end up going to graduate school or not,” Mangian said. “Having the opportunity to work in a research environment early on in your life allows you to explore areas that interest you the most, helps you build skills to prepare you for a wide variety of jobs—collaboration, computer skills, communication—and helps build your professional network. This, along with my time working with Megan, convinced me that I wanted to be an astronomer, and an educator, too.”  

It also gave her the chance to get to know and learn from a future Nobel Prize winner, something she reflected on when she heard the Ghez announcement from the Nobel Committee for Physics, relayed to her by her mother.

“My excitement grew throughout the day as I came to terms with the fact that I not only worked for a Nobel laureate, but I’d been to her house, too, for wine and cheese. I couldn’t think of a more deserving person to win the award.”

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

Creativity, ingenuity will allow mask-wearing musicians to perform together

Isabel Kelly ’21 works on a flute mask in the Lawrence University costume shop. Seven Lawrence students are creating masks to be worn by musicians in the Conservatory of Music. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University music students will soon be getting specially made face masks suitable for their music-making needs.

The music, after all, must go on even though life in the Conservatory of Music has been altered in almost every conceivable way in this pandemic. Every student, whether playing a brass or woodwind instrument, will have an appropriately designed mask so they can safely partake in ensemble practices or performances.

That’s the short story.

The deeper story is about alumni connections and Lawrence ingenuity, all leading to students in the Theatre Department’s costume shop, fresh off a master class from the alumna who designed the masks, creating more than 100 of the face coverings for their fellow Lawrentians. Masks and music-making are not easy partners.

“The Conservatory has been wrestling with how to get their large ensembles together this term,” said Karin Simonson Kopischke ’80, instructor of theatre arts and costume shop supervisor. “Just trying to figure out a safe way to do it.”

Katy Hopkins ’85

Enter Katy Hopkins ’85, who operates Yahara River Woodwinds, an instrument-repair shop in Stoughton, Wisconsin. With much of her business curtailed because of the pandemic—out-of-work musicians are less likely to need instruments repaired—she began making and selling face masks, including three specialty models she designed and developed for musicians, one for playing brass instruments, one for playing the flute, and one for playing other woodwinds.

“It took a long time for me to design these masks because there’s just a different set of issues,” Hopkins said. “If you’re playing a reed instrument, you have to have a mask that’s not going to interfere with your mouth, and you don’t want the reed to break. You have to be very careful about the kind of material you use. For flutes, when they blow across the instrument, a lot of their air goes out into the room. You have to figure out how to contain that air.

“You also need to find the right material that will still stay on your face when pulling a mouthpiece in and out,” she said. “It still has to contain your air when you’re not playing. The material has to be lightweight enough that the poor musician doesn’t die from heat exhaustion. Most wind players, they get pretty warm when they play anyway. To have something over your face and mouth can exacerbate that feeling of being flushed. There are just a lot of things to consider when you’re designing these.”

Students pitch in to make cloth masks for campus. Read more here.

When Hopkins, an oboe player who majored in music performance at Lawrence, landed on workable designs this summer, she shared them on Etsy. The response was immediate. She has been flooded with orders from around the country, to the point where she’s had to turn down sales because she can’t keep up.

Among those who came calling was her alma mater. After flute professor Erin Lesser gave one of the Yahara masks a thumbs up, Dean of Conservatory Brian Pertl, a Lawrence classmate of Hopkins in the early ’80s, reached out for a large order, perhaps 100 or more.

“At that point I was already overwhelmed by orders,” Hopkins said. “I said I’d love to help out, but I can’t keep up.”

Lilly Kuipers ’23 holds a finished woodwind mask in the costume shop.

Pertl then floated the idea of Hopkins teaching her design to the costume shop students, under the direction of Simonson Kopischke. Funds were allocated for a contingent sale of the design and for a master class that involved Hopkins coming to campus to teach the particulars of her design.

It’s a win-win, Simonson Kopischke said. The musicians get their masks and the students in the costume shop, who had been looking for a project to take the place of theatre costume work that has been partially sidelined by the pandemic, get a chance to put their creative skills to work.

“It’s a chance to use their hands and use their creativity and release the stress,” Simonson Kopischke said. “And it’s a work-study program, so a lot of them depend on the money they make.”

Hopkins delivered the master class to seven students in the costume shop on the lower level of the Music-Drama Center, reconfigured with sewing machines now spaced eight feet apart.

The masks will be black, suitable for concerts. The Conservatory purchased the black fabric, but other material, from the thread to the elastic, was already on hand.

“We’re set up pretty much like a professional costume shop,” Simonson Kopischke said.

Work stations in the costume shop have been adjusted keep student workers safe. Here, Isabel Kelly ’21 works on a flute mask at one of the sewing machines.

For Hopkins, the mask work is a satisfying detour for an instrument repair business that just launched a year ago.

“I was a lifelong sewer and I started just making regular masks for friends and family,” she said of the early days of the pandemic. “And they all said, ‘Hey, these are really nice, you should sell them.’ I needed extra income and I needed something to do and I’m a very creative person, so I started making masks and selling them on Etsy.

“In mid- to late summer, I started getting requests from my music educator colleagues and friends saying, ‘Have you thought about developing masks for musicians? We all have to go back to school and our administrators are requiring us to have something that’s going to work and protect us and our musicians.”

She went into her lab and started tinkering with designs, finally settling on three that are distinct and functional.

Hopkins is hopeful this is but a brief rerouting of her business.

“I hope for all of us that COVID is short-lived and we can go back to normal,” she said. “I expect this is a short-term business venture. But I’ve enjoyed the creative process, and I’m very excited about working with Lawrence students again.”

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

Lighting the Way With … Jim Miller: Running where few have run before

Jim Miller ’80 runs the Old Mill Marathon through the countryside north of Burlington, Vermont, on Aug. 30.

About this series: Lighting the Way With … is a periodic series in which we shine a light on Lawrence University alumni. Today we catch up with Jim Miller ’80, whose love of running has, to say the least, been lifelong.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Jim Miller ’80 caught the marathon bug while running cross-country for Lawrence University in the late 1970s. What he’s done with that passion over the 40-plus years since puts him in very select company.

On Aug. 30, just days before turning 62, Miller ran a marathon in 2 hours, 53 minutes, 59 seconds, making him one of only four runners known to have run marathons in under 3 hours in six different decades, according to data shared at PodiumRunner.com.

That is 26.2 miles of high-level achievement spanning more than 43 years and touching the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and, now, the 2020s.

“I set a goal to get that sixth decade and I was really excited to get it,” Miller said.

To do it, he had to get a bit industrious. He initially planned to run a marathon in North Carolina in March, but it was canceled as the COVID-19 pandemic began wreaking havoc on running events across the country. He signed up for a marathon in Fargo, North Dakota, that was scheduled for late August, hoping the pandemic would loosen its grip by then. No such luck.

“At that point it seemed unlikely any marathons were going to be held the rest of this year,” Miller said.

He didn’t want to wait out the pandemic, knowing his training was on target and the body felt good.

“There’s no guarantee I’ll be healthy and fit next year,” Miller said. “I was very confident I could run a fast time right now. I’ve been in really good shape for six months, and it’s hard to maintain that indefinitely. So, I felt a sense of urgency.”

Jim Miller ’80 (center) organized the Old Mill Marathon and limited it to 14 runners.

Like Lawrentians are apt to do, he opted for ingenuity. He organized his own marathon near his home in Burlington, Vermont, named it the Old Mill Marathon, got it officially sanctioned, set up a COVID-19 safety plan, and recruited 13 local runners to run it with him.

“It’s probably the most fun I’ve had in any marathon I’ve run,” he said.

And that’s saying something. Miller has run 40 marathons through the years. The enthusiasm for it has never waned, despite injury setbacks and that inevitable march of Father Time.  

The Lawrence difference

Miller said he was a decent but not great runner in high school in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He came to Lawrence for the academics, but he opted to run for the Vikings, and that experience lit a fire inside him.

He’d go on to have a Hall of Fame career at Lawrence, earning All-America honors in cross country and track and winning two Midwest Conference (MWC) championships. By the time he graduated with a degree in economics, he held school records in the 2-mile, 3-mile, and 6-mile distances.

It was a longer run Miller took early in his time at Lawrence, though, that set him on a different path. He ran the 1977 North Dakota Marathon, well before marathon running became the widespread boom it is today, and he won, posting a time of 2:34. It felt good. He wanted more. He won in North Dakota again the next year. Then, on the advice of Lawrence alumnus and advocate Chuck Merry ’57, he entered Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, and proceeded to run an eye-opening 2:19 that got him noticed nationally.

He quickly set a new goal—the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

“My senior year at Lawrence I spent training for the Olympic Trials,” Miller said. “I got so much support on campus.”

Always chasing a goal

He moved to Vermont following Commencement in June of 1980 to continue his training. He took a number of odd jobs while focusing on his running. He worked at a store selling running shoes. He took temp jobs. He began working part-time as a janitor at a bank in Burlington.

“I became a ‘running bum’,” Miller said. “Not exactly your typical Lawrence post-graduation route.”

He set a personal record of 2:18:18 and qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in both 1980 and 1984.

He never did make the U.S. Olympic team, but that part-time janitor job led to opportunities at the bank to put his economics degree to work. He would go on to forge a more than 30-year career as a trust officer and financial planner with the Merchants Trust Company.

And the running would continue, always with goals in place. He’d run one or two marathons a year when injuries weren’t sidelining him. One decade ran into the next, and while that 2:18:18 time would become a distant memory, the sub 3-hour times would continue.

“One of the key factors is enthusiasm and passion,” Miller said. “To run at my best, I need to be excited about a goal. Without that, I won’t come close to my potential. It’s really setting new goals as I age and trying to find a goal that excites me. It’s certainly not to run faster than I’ve ever run before, but it’s pretty easy to find goals that will challenge me.”

Does he have his eye on stretching his sub 3-hour brilliance to a seventh decade? That, he said, might be difficult. He’ll be 71 when 2030 rolls around.

“Even a year out our bodies change so much at this point,” Miller said. “I haven’t written it off in my mind, but that would be some challenge.”

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