Newsmakers

Alumni making headlines around the world

In Forbes’ November issue Nobel laureate K. Barry Sharpless ’63 was named one of the “Seven Most Powerful Innovators.” The W.M. Keck Professor of Chemistry at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, has been working on a research methodology he calls “click chemistry.” The concept involves “devising reliable ways to link together small chemical building blocks to form more complex structures,” Forbes wrote, adding that if Sharpless is successful, “drug design will become a bit like building with LEGO.”

Actress Sharon Washington ’81 grew up in New York City libraries—literally. Her father was a resident custodian for various Manhattan libraries, so his family lived in the apartments above them. “I would always be downstairs, creating these worlds for myself,” Washington, who most recently appeared in HBO’s Taking Chance with Kevin Bacon, told The New York Times last December.

Matt Glendinning ’87 was inaugurated as head of Moses Brown School in Providence, Rhode Island, The Providence Journal reported last September. The archaeologist was previously upper school director of New Jersey’s Moorestown Friends School, where he taught ancient history. “I believe that teachers should ask students to analyze and interpret evidence, both individually and in teams, and to use critical thinking to advance, critique and defend theories,” the Journal quoted Glendinning, citing an interview in Cupola, the Moses Brown alumni magazine.

When Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme wiped out the 401(k) retirement savings of nearly 60 of his employees, Robert I. Lappin ’43and his family donated $5 million to replace the lost funds. The one-time vacuum cleaner manufacturer’s charitable foundation also suffered an $8 million loss due to the disgraced Wall Street broker. But Lappin, who helped revitalize downtown Salem, Massachusetts, by renovating an old mill building into the Shetland Park business center, told the Boston Globe last July that his family felt it was important to restore the employees’ retirement savings. “He’s among moral giants,” Rabbi Yossi Lipsker told the Globe.

As an undergraduate Chris Plehal ’04 helped create Keggy the Keg. On December 11 CBS aired his latest creation, Yes, Virginia, which he penned and helped produce while working for New York advertising agency JWT. It’s based on the true story of Virginia O’Hanlon, a little girl who wrote an 1897 letter to The New York Sun asking if there really was a Santa Claus. The Parents Television Council named the animated special the best TV show of the week.

Since becoming the Syfy Channel’s executive vice president of original content in 2003, Mark Stern ’85 has put Battlestar Galactica, Ghost Hunters and Eureka on the air. Formerly a literary agent and a television writer and producer (The Outer Limits), Stern told Broadcasting & Cable last summer that he was initially leery of becoming a network executive and getting mired in layers of bureaucracy. Instead he’s found that Syfy is “like a production company in the sense that you’re doing very specific things, and you go very deep into the creative process.”

Directed and written by Phil Lord ’97 and Chris Miller ’97, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs—now on DVD—has grossed nearly $200 million worldwide at the box office since last fall and was nominated for a Golden Globe in the “best animated feature” category (it lost to Up). Lord told Starlog.com last September that the pair’s interest in animation began freshman year, and their careers took a fortuitous turn senior year when Miller got a call from then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner (father of Eric Eisner ’95), who had seen a Dartmouth Life article about the budding animator: “He reads about this young animation guy and hands it to someone who hands it to someone who hands it to someone, and by the time it gets down the line it went from, ‘Hey, check these guys out,’ to ‘These are Eisner’s boys! Get them! Bring them to Los Angeles and give them a job!’ And then Chris made the biggest mistake of his life and asked, ‘Can I bring my friend to the meeting?’ ”

“I’m fascinated by the idea that directors Ricki Stern ’87 and Annie Sundberg ’90, whose film The Devil Came on Horseback exposed the Darfur genocide, could switch gears to make a celebrity profile,” Salt Lake Tribune columnist Sean P. Means wrote last December. He was referring to their latest documentary, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in late January. The film follows the caustic comedienne as she “fights tooth and nail to remain the queen of comedy,” according to the Web site of the couple’s production company, Break Thru Films. Among the production assistants listed in the film’s credits are Annabel Seymour ’09, Sonia Schnee ’09 and Eric Schwager ’10.

Jennifer Murray ’09 spent three months last fall assisting with a safe motherhood teaching program and infant health survey at the Lwala Health Center built by Milton ’04 and Fred Ochieng ’05 in their home village in Kenya. A former competitive jump-roper in Canada, Murray also held daily “skipping” classes for students at two local primary schools and organized a jump rope show and competition. “When I first walked out onto the field I was kind of like a superstar with 400 kids around, so it was chaotic to say the least,” she told her hometown Abbotsford Mission Times in British Columbia. Also volunteering in Lwala at the same time were K.J. Hennessey Hill ’02, DMS’10, Greg Hill ’02, Caitlin Reiner ’06 and Ashley Carruth ’05.

Scott Macartney ’01 is one of the skiers featured in the documentary, Truth in Motion: The U.S. Ski Team’s Road to Vancouver, which premiered on NBC in January. Macartney qualified for two previous Olympics and has battled back from a torn ACL last January and the severe head trauma he suffered in a crash in the Kitzbuehel downhill in January 2008.

In December a collection of paintings and drawings by Thomas George ’40 was exhibited in Princeton, New Jersey. He also recently published a limited edition book of gouaches, Inscape, which sells for $20 and benefits the Thomas George Fund. This fund annually awards $5,000 to a student pursuing art at one of three central New Jersey colleges. “When I was young I was helped by others. The G.I. bill enabled me to study in Italy and France and my parents were sympathetic to my studying art. I had my career, so I want to help young people,” George told The Princeton Packet last September.

Acting out the entire seven-book Harry Potter series in one minute? That’s what Bradley Tavares ’05 did last fall in the debut performance of the Babbling Bubblers improv comedy troupe in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. “It went about as well as anybody could have guessed,” Tavares told The Herald Times Reporter in October. “I got the main parts, some Quidditch, Snape, Dumbledore. It was fun.

A movie based on the nonfiction book The Cure: How a Father Raised $100 Million—And Bucked the Medical Establishment—In a Quest to Save His Children by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Geeta Anand ’89 opened in late January. Extraordinary Measures stars Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser and tells the story of a father’s struggle to develop a drug to treat an incurable disease afflicting two of his children. Anand is a senior special writer for The Wall Street Journal’s investigative group and is currently based in her hometown of Mumbai, India.

In a cross between Cocoon and Bull Durham, Josh Faiola ’06 resided in an assisted living facility to keep expenses low while he played minor league baseball last summer for the Lake Erie Crushers in Avon, Ohio.

The documentary Hill 789: The Last Stronghold, produced by Dan Dimancescu ’64 and directed by his son Nicholas, aired on Romania’s national television station, TVR 1, in December. The 50-minute film relates the World War I experiences of Dimitri Dimancescu, Dan’s father, an officer who fought on the Romanian front and engaged in fierce battles with then 22-year-old German Lt. Erwin Rommel.

Nina Sethi ’05 has combined her family’s passion for chess with a fundraising project in India. While teaching with Project Why in New Delhi, Sethi established a chess club in the Govindpuri slum. She also began raising money for a severely burned girl, Meher, whom Sethi met there. With help from Chess Without Borders, a Chicago area group co-founded more than 10 years ago by her brother Rishi Sethi ’11 and their mother, $3,600 was raised to pay for Meher’s first plastic surgery. “She’s going to need many more surgeries,” Sethi’s mother, Kiran Frey, recently told Quintessential Barrington in Barrington, Illinois. Learn more about Meher by reading Sethi’s blog, "A Future for Meher."

Todd Stern ’73 is regularly placed in tough positions as chief climate negotiator for the United States. During the Copenhagen conference in December The New York Times covered his “good cop, bad cop” role. Since being named the special envoy for climate change in January 2009, one of Stern’s biggest challenges is making representatives from other nations understand the political constraints he faces. “They look at what Congress has already done and say, ‘Can’t you do 10 percent more?’ ” Stern told The Times. “The answer is no, not really. They have learned more about our congressional system and things like filibuster rules than they probably ever wanted to know.”

“When you leave the Eugene O’Neill Theater after a performance of Fela! it comes as a shock that the people on the sidewalks are merely walking,” raved a reviewer for The New York Times last November. Niegel Smith ’02 is the associate director of this critically acclaimed Broadway musical, and Peter Nigrini ’93 did the video design.

Former federal prosecutor James J. Benjamin Jr. ’87 made the case for trying the five accused 9/11 terrorists in federal court in The New York Times “Room for Debate” blog last November. “In the years since 9/11 the Justice Department has brought 119 federal court terrorism cases against 289 defendants, with a conviction rate of 91.1 percent,” wrote Benjamin, co-author of In Pursuit of Justice: Prosecuting Terrorism Cases in the Federal Courts and a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. “Although it would be naive to suggest that the 9/11 prosecutions will be simple or straightforward, there is good reason to believe that dedicated federal judges, working with prosecutors and defense counsels, can address and overcome the challenges that these prosecutions are certain to present.”

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