Features

Voices in the Wilderness

Courtney Banghart ’00 • Carolyn Levine Lanzetta ’00 • Dimitri Gerakaris ’69 • Katherine Brown ’98 • Andrew Lewin ’81 • Jeremy Teicher ’10 & Alexi Pappas ’12
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Courtney Banghart ’00
Court Order
Princeton hoops coach expects more from her Ivy championship players than great play. 

Few people would turn down a chance to meet the president. But Princeton women’s basketball coach Banghart did just that when Barack Obama dropped in to watch her team earn its first NCAA victory over Green Bay last March. The opposing coach greeted Obama before the game, but Banghart purposefully stayed away from the commander-in-chief, opting to focus on her players instead. “I always talk about being ‘all in’ for my kids,” she says. “What better way to prove it than when the president of the United States was 20 steps from me and I never went to shake his hand because I was so invested in them?”

That attitude has helped Banghart become one of the country’s top college coaches. Taking on a squad that had never reached the NCAA tournament before, she’s led the Princeton Tigers to five Ivy League championships in six years. Last season, the Tigers went 30-0 until losing to Maryland in the tournament’s second round, the best season in Ivy League basketball history for men or women. Those accomplishments have earned Banghart her field’s highest honors, including the Women’s Coach of the Year award from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, another Ivy first. A more surprising accolade, however, was being named one of Fortune’s 50 Greatest World Leaders for 2015, alongside VIPs such as Apple’s Tim Cook, Pope Francis and Taylor Swift. “It’s so surreal,” she says. “It means I’ve made an impact and left a legacy.” 

As Fortune noted, Banghart has high expectations of her players on the court—and in the classroom. “We really require the best and brightest students,” she says. “The fact that we’re still able to beat teams while making sacrifices to get high-level athletes is what makes it a really special success story.” 

Banghart describes her coaching style as “relational,” offering guidance in a direct, no-nonsense manner. She’s quick to offer encouragement but won’t hesitate to confront students who aren’t giving their all. “The fact that I care about them is genuine,” she says. “When I say I love my players, I just do. They’re people I like to call when they’re away for the summer. They’re people I like to have over for dinner. They’re people I just really like.”

After the Green Bay win she had to get her team through some extraordinary circumstances. Minutes before tipping off against Maryland, Banghart was told that police received a death threat against forward Leslie Robinson, who is First Lady Michelle Obama’s niece. Knowing increased security was in place, Banghart opted to not inform Robinson or her teammates until after the game. “The clock was ticking and I had to make a decision,” she says. “I figured telling Leslie would ruin not only her experience, but our team’s.”

Growing up in Amherst, New Hamsphire, Banghart was a high school superstar in tennis, soccer and basketball. At Dartmouth, where she majored in neuroscience, she was a two-time first team all-Ivy League guard. She then worked as the girls’ athletic director at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia, but didn’t consider coaching as a career at first. “I didn’t know coaching could be a vocation,” she says. “I see now it’s so much more than sports. It’s mentoring and teaching and so many other facets.” She returned to Dartmouth in 2003 as an assistant basketball coach while working toward a master’s in writing and leadership development from the College. Interviewing legendary college coaches such as UConn’s Geno Auriemma for her thesis taught her a valuable lesson. “I can’t try to emulate a successful coach because they’re all different,” she says. “It showed me that I don’t have to become anyone else. I just have to be me.”     —Heather Salerno

Carolyn Levine Lanzetta ’00
Kid Curation

Lanzetta’s daughter hadn’t completed her first year of preschool when her art projects began to overwhelm the family’s cramped Manhattan apartment. Sick of construction-paper masterpieces tumbling off the top shelf of 3-year-old Lily’s closet, Lanzetta realized she needed a better solution. Pretty soon Lanzetta, who had left a job as a Wall Street trader before giving birth, had an idea for her next professional pursuit.

The result, cofounded with cousin Meg Ragland, was Plum Print, a service that turns children’s art into custom coffee table books. Parents send in a deposit and receive a prepaid box they can fill with art. Employees at the company’s Asheville, North Carolina, facility combine industrial scanning with digital photography to capture the texture of a macaroni necklace or a glitter-covered birthday card. Graphic designers create custom layouts, then send back proofs for customers to approve. The business—which has garnered raves from Parents and Real Simple magazines and The Today Show—raised $1 million in seed funding last January.

Initially, Lanzetta assumed Plum Print’s chief appeal was in minimizing clutter, but she’s realized that customers are interested in more than just freeing up storage space. “What’s more important is the desire to hold onto the memories,” she says. Lanzetta recently created a book of her own childhood artwork. Her daughters, now 7 and 4, were entranced. “It made it so real that I was actually their age at one point,” she says.     –Kaitlin Bell Barnett ’05

Dimitri Gerakaris ’69
Forged in Fire

From heading Beta Theta Pi and Interfraternity Council as an undergrad to managing the lively Dartmouth Club of the Upper Valley last year, Gerakaris has enjoyed a glowing reputation among peers for his passion and creativity—traits equally relevant to his career as a metalworker. Taking a break from school in the late 1960s to work and ski, the German and studio art major read a book on blacksmithing that promptly changed his life. “The combination of mental and physical efforts, the fact that I could be my own boss and live anywhere I wanted—that really appealed to me,” Gerakaris explains.

Honing his craft through the next few years, he evaded the corporate route favored by his classmates to open his own forge in 1971. “People were shocked,” he says, but “I knew this was the right thing for me.” Now based in Canaan, New Hampshire, the blacksmith is focused on site-specific works of bronze and steel. To achieve his highly sculptural, “flowing” style, Gerakaris says he likes to unlock a metal’s “suppleness” by applying heat and innovative cutting techniques.

He has attracted an impressive list of clients, both public and private, including the College. Of his various additions to Dartmouth’s campus, most prominent are his relief sculptures for the Corey Ford Rugby Clubhouse (Gerakaris played as an undergrad), the Class of 1965 Bunkhouse and one he completed this fall for the renovated Memorial Stadium.

“It’s a gas!” he says. “In some ways I feel like I’ve just begun after 44 years. It’s the whole same excitement.”     —Marley Marius ’17

Katherine Brown ’98
Tour Guide to the Stars

Leading a mock mission to Mars? Pretending to live on the International Space Station? That’s just a typical workday for Brown, director of the New York City Center for Space Science Education, where more than 7,000 local schoolchildren enjoy virtual space and aviation adventures each year. Equipped with launch simulators, a realistic Mission Control room, a wind tunnel and special NASA-designed software, the center lets first- through 12th-graders explore the solar system—all from inside a nondescript brick building on the Lower East Side. “Sometimes I think of us as Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory. You can’t really tell what it’s like from the outside,” says Brown. “Then the doors open up, and it’s just magic.” 

Though there’s been a push toward science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in recent years, Brown says space and aviation sciences are largely absent from the city’s curriculum. A trip to the center, which offers class visits, afterschool programs and camps, is often a child’s first experience. “Maybe you’re a kid who would love to be an aerospace engineer, but you have no idea because you’ve never had the opportunity to be exposed to it,” she says. Students train as junior astronauts, flight controllers and pilots and work together to solve problems, whether they’re searching for Halley’s Comet or programming a robot rover. “The feedback we get is incredible,” says Brown. “We’ve had kids ask if they can move in or sleep over.” 

Brown started her career as an intern for the U.S. Geological Survey’s earthquake hazards team in Menlo Park, California, helping create underground maps. She received a master’s from Columbia University’s Teachers College in 2002 and taught eighth grade science and math for five years at a Manhattan public school. Now she hopes to inspire a new generation to reach for the stars. “It’s such an amazing vehicle for getting kids excited about science,” she says.     —Heather Salerno

Andrew Lewin ’81
All About Eve

Selecting pioneer Eve Arnold to launch a new series of books about Magnum photojournalists was a no-brainer for managing editor Lewin. As one of the first women hired by the esteemed agency in the 1950s, the largely self-taught Arnold took intimate portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Malcolm X but was renowned for documenting the poor and disenfranchised in the United States and abroad. “She was a spectacular photographer,” says Lewin, “but her personal history was fascinating too.” 

The series’ goal is to explore the lives of Magnum photographers by combining iconic imagery with personal archive material. The next title, expected in April, focuses on Bruce Davidson, followed by Inge Morath (2017) and Josef Koudelka (2018). Although each tome is coffee table-worthy, Lewin says they have wide appeal. “I did not want these to be books just for the photography crowd,” he says. 

A New York City native, Lewin has been a photography buff since Dartmouth, when he and several friends published a photojournalism magazine called Campus. He moved on to a 25-year career as a corporate and securities attorney but maintained a keen interest in the field, serving on the board of the International Center of Photography and amassing his own eclectic collection that includes works by Robert Capa and Matthew Pillsbury. “Lately I’ve been buying more vintage because contemporary prices are ridiculous,” he says. In 2012, when Lewin and his wife moved back to Manhattan after a year in London, he decided to swap the law for Magnum’s book project. “I wanted to pursue a passion,” he says. “I find this work a lot more fulfilling.”     —Heather Salerno

Andrew’s Top 5 Photographers

  • Eugene Atget “The pioneer, he changed the way we see the ordinary.”
  • Walker Evans “The hungry eye”
  • Robert Capa “War revealed”
  • Diane Arbus “Humanity stripped bare”
  • David Goldblatt “Witness to the truth of South Africa”

Jeremy Teicher ’10 & Alexi Pappas ’12
Going the Distance

Dream team runner Pappas and filmmaker Teicher explore the world of elite running in Tracktown, a feature film scheduled for release to precede the 2016 Olympics, in which Pappas hopes to compete. The pair are co-writers, co-directors and co-producers of the film, which stars Pappas as Plumb Marigold, an Olympic hopeful long-distance runner. “Tracktown takes place in the world of sports, but is not a sports movie,” Teicher says. “The emotional core of the story is universal.”

The film has evolved from a vague idea conceived over a picnic into a project backed by Sundance Institute’s Creative Producing Lab and the San Francisco Film Society. Despite a budget of less than $1 million, Tracktown features talent such as Rachel Dratch ’88 of Saturday Night Live, Andy Buckley of The Office and Olympic runners Nick Symmonds, Ian Dobson and Andrew Wheating. Cassie Siegel ’12 is an executive producer. 

Tracktown is the couple’s second professional film venture. They began collaborating at Dartmouth and co-wrote Tall as the Baobab Tree (2012), after which Teicher was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film. 

Pappas’ schedule keeps her running as she balances Tracktown with training to make the 2016 Olympic track team. She is a three-time collegiate All-American and 2012 Olympic trials qualifier. “The common misconception about both running and writing is that you’re gifted or you’re not,” Pappas says. “It’s much more about hard work and being disciplined. I’m extremely busy, but I’ve never been happier.”     —Rianna P. Starheim ’14

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