Gryphon Basketball’s Double Clutch Captains

Photo by Quyen Nguyen

Taryn Penna ’19 and Graham Gilleran ’17 both jumped into sports their first year at Sarah Lawrence. “It was nice to come in knowing I’d have people here to bond with right away,” recalls Gilleran, “a family away from home.” Growing up with athletic older siblings, Penna played sports year-round and wanted to remain competitive in college. “I’ve always had fun being part of a team,” she says.

Gilleran and Penna’s casual demeanors belie their athletic talents and leadership skills. In fact, both were chosen captain by their respective teams. Gilleran was named Gryphon Athletics’ Newcomer of the Year and MVP while becoming the first men’s basketball player to score 1,000 career points at SLC. Penna, a two-sport athlete who also earned the Newcomer of the Year distinction, will be leading the charge as women’s basketball hits the hardwood for its first varsity season in 2017–18; then she’ll spend spring season on the diamond as one of the softball team’s top hitters.

Recruited by their current coaches, both student-athletes found Sarah Lawrence a great fit. Gilleran, who aspires to a career in social work or public health and enjoys coaching kids, discovered a new way to combine his talents as a tutor in Yonkers—an opportunity he found through “Poverty in America,” a service learning course. “Kim Ferguson (psychology) showed us many directions we could take to get involved,” Gilleran says. “I just love helping people succeed in any way I can.”

If Sarah Lawrence hadn’t offered NCAA sports, Penna says, she probably wouldn’t have chosen the College, though she admits, “I think that would have been a mistake.” In high school, sports were her passion. “But now that I’m here, I’ve been opened up to so many new things academically that I could be here on that basis alone,” she explains. “Some people don’t even know I’m an athlete. In high school, that’s really how I identified myself, but here, I’m so much more.”

All in the Family

All in the FamilyBill Lawrence, great-great-grandson of William Van Duzer Lawrence and Sarah Lawrence, didn’t attend SLC. Why? “Over by the president’s office there was a big painting of a guy who looked oddly like me but had mutton chops,” explains Lawrence, the creator of TV shows Scrubs, Cougar Town, and Spin City. “It just freaked me out too much.”

Thankfully, Lawrence was not too freaked out to come to campus with his wife, actress Christa Miller Lawrence, in October. The power couple spent almost 90 minutes talking with Frederick Strype (filmmaking and moving image arts) and answering students’ questions about the (often quite difficult) lives and work of TV creatives today. “But the truth is,” Lawrence said, “content is king. So while the big companies are scared about the industry changing, people like you are not. If you can create good content, there will be a place for it.”

Lawrence also spoke about the important balancing act of working with others—“how to both lead and follow, how to empower people, while at the same time staying true to whatever your creative vision is. That’s something I see here, just by glimpsing some of the classes.” He also invited any interested students to look him up if they move to Los Angeles—after graduation, of course.

Compassion and Commitment

Compassion and CommitmentThe Syrian refugee crisis has turned the world’s attention to the nearly 5 million people forced to flee their country since 2011. Last fall, a team of students, faculty, and staff formed the SLC Refugee Solidarity Group to help the Sarah Lawrence community better understand the crisis as well as the history of forced migration, its effects, and what can be done to help.

Led by Sky Mihaylo ’17, Rose Walsh ’17, and Annabelle Zadikoff ’18, with support from the Anita L. Stafford Office of Community Partnerships and Service Learning, the group has already facilitated several events and volunteer opportunities.

“I’ve been incredibly impressed with the students’ energy, commitment, and leadership,” says Janet Reilly (politics), director of refugee initiatives at the College. “For example, they organized a letter-writing campaign for immigrant detainees in the fall.” In addition, Zadikoff led a spring semester initiative that enabled students to tutor young refugees at the International Rescue Committee’s headquarters in New York City.

Sarah Lawrence is part of a larger effort with Vassar, Bard, and Bennington colleges that received funding from the Mellon Foundation to establish The Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement, and Education.

Timely Topics, Then and Now

Timely Topics, Then and NowIn 1972, Dr. Gerda Lerner not only co-founded the nation’s first graduate program in women’s history, but she also published Black Women in White America: A Documentary History. In March 2017, scholars at the Annual Women’s History Conference revisited Lerner’s pioneering work. Dr. Nell Painter, Princeton University Edwards Professor of American History, emerita, gave the keynote address, “Why Sojourner Truth Matters Today.”

“We wanted to celebrate the huge rise in scholarship about women in the past 45 years,” says Mary Dillard (history), director of the Women’s History Program, “and to explore what’s changed and what hasn’t.”

As women’s rights are under renewed threat in the US, speakers and participants discussed structural inequalities across the decades and grappled with current issues facing women in a country increasingly multiracial and multicultural, yet increasingly fractured.

Copious Campus Cabarets

Copious Campus Cabarets

Cabarets enjoy a long history and a loyal following at Sarah Lawrence. There’s the student-run Midnight Cabaret, the Faculty Show mounted each spring for graduating seniors, and the Reunion Cabaret that’s so eagerly anticipated by alumni. Each fall, Orientation Cabaret initiates new students into this beloved Sadie Lou tradition.

When Student Senate leaders announce the sign-up date, incoming first-years as well as current students quickly secure their spots to perform dance, theatre, and (most popularly) music for an enthusiastic audience of their peers.

“The cabaret is a great way for new students to showcase their talents and also for them to see talent from older students and make connections,” says Kamaron McNair ’18, a Student Senate member and co-host of the most recent Orientation Cabaret.

One such connection: The Musical Theatre Collective performed a choreographed group number from Spring Awakening at the 2016 event. Vocalist Kileen McLeary ’20 sang a show-stopper from Hamilton—and soon joined the collective and the a cappella group Treble in Paradise.

Saying What’s Unsaid

Saying What's Unsaid

“This play is an exploration of brownness,” says author Monét Thibou ’17 in summarizing 52 Shades of Brown, which ran at the Performing Arts Center Open Space Theatre in October. “It is about one black experience through the eyes of seven college students talking about interracial dating and colorism and homophobia and all that jazz.”

The scene is set: It’s the day before formal at Rothschild Community College, and the group of seven students sits together in a room. “Although the audience walks in on this intimate moment, they are also welcomed,” says director Julius Powell ’18. “The arms of these characters open in ways that are equal parts comforting and uncomfortable.”

A reading of 52 Shades of Brown in 2015 blossomed into a full workshop production the following year—one that sold out less than seven hours after tickets went on sale. “The student body wants to see works of different narratives,” Powell says. “They wish to experience art outside of their comfort zone. 52 is more than just a show—it is a reminder of the thoughts and words of millennials of color that are still left unsaid.”

Star Gazing

Star GazingWhen Jon Avnet ’71 filmed scenes for his upcoming feature The Three Christs of Ypsilanti at Sarah Lawrence last August, he and his star-studded cast upped the College’s cool factor for prospective students touring the campus. The film, to be released in 2018, is adapted from the novel by Dr. Milton Rokeach about his experiences with three paranoid schizophrenics at Ypsilanti State Hospital. Each patient believed himself to be Jesus Christ. The book, part biography and part psychiatric case study, is set in Michigan in 1959. The film’s cast includes two other Sarah Lawrence luminaries, Jane Quigley Alexander ’61 and Julianna Margulies ’89, as well as Richard Gere as the presiding doctor.