2009 in Review

Quite a year, 2009—marked by an economic recession, the start of a historic American presidency, and the deaths of beloved icons like Merce Cunningham, Michael Jackson, and Ted Kennedy, to name a few.

Here at Sarah Lawrence, the year was full of change, achievement, and endings that made room for new beginnings. Prestigious awards were bestowed on poets and dancers. Thoughtful current-events commentary was delivered on high-profile national news outlets. The achievements of alumnae/i and faculty alike were vaunted in the media. To all this we say, “Well done!” For the scoop on the latest and greatest of 2009, scroll on.


The Trophy Case

When it comes to accolades, this year there was no shortage of praise to go around. Members of the Sarah Lawrence community—students, staff, faculty, and alumnae/i—were recognized for a variety of achievements. For example:

Sara Rudner, Director of the Dance ProgramCalled “one of the greatest dancers of her generation,” faculty member Sara Rudner won the 2009 Dance Magazine Award for her outstanding contributions to the world of dance. The magazine also credited her with revitalizing Sarah Lawrence’s dance program.

Matthea Harvey (poetry) received the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award from Claremont Graduate University, for her book “Modern Life.”

Maria Negroni (literature) received the top nonfiction award in Latin America for Galeria Fantastica, a book that examines the most important works of Latin American literature in the 20th century.

The Milton Society of America awarded Literature faculty member William Shullenberger the James Holly Hanford Award for Best Book on Milton in 2008 for Lady in the Labyrinth: Milton’s “Comus” as Initiation.

The American Academy of Arts and Letters honored Dennis Nurske (writing) with the 2009 Academy Award in Literature, to honor “exceptional accomplishment” in poetry.

Theatre faculty memember Dan Hurlin '79Meanwhile, in the world of theatre, Dan Hurlin ’79 (theatre) was one of 50 fellows named by the United States Artists, a grant-making and advocacy organization. The recipient of a $50,000 unrestricted grant, Hurlin was recognized for his original puppet theater, combining puppets with human actors in dance and drama.

Theatre program director John Dillon was featured as one of the “50 at 50” at the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society gala celebration of the union's 50th anniversary.

Melissa Frazier (Russian language and literature) received a Fulbright fellowship and will spend the spring at Urals State University in Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Alumna Tovah Feldshuh received a slew of prestigious awards this year. Accolades include the Friend of the Arts Award from Town Hall, an award from the Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center; an award from The American and International Societies for Yad Vashem, Inc.; an honorary doctorate from Yeshiva University; and the first Theatre Arts Award from the America Israel Cultural Foundation (coming in January). Congrats, Tovah!

This summer, rower extraordinaire Chantal Gil ’10 joined the Israeli national crew team and earned silver and bronze medals at the Maccabiah Games, an annual, Olympics-style competition in Israel with more than 8,000 athletes. Gil also rows on the SLC crew team.

Bianca Galvez '11(left) and Elissa Hutson '11 (right)Closer to home, Elissa Hutson '11 and Bianca Galvez '11 won the Robert Frank writing contest at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in December. Each wrote a story based on a photo in the exhibit Looking In: Robert Frank's “The Americans.” Their stories will be performed on NPR this spring.

Rounding out the awards news, it appears that alumnae/i, students and faculty aren’t the only ones who need to make some space on the: the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) awarded the College the Grand Gold Award for periodical design for the fall 2008 issue of Sarah Lawrence magazine. In addition, The Fund for Sarah Lawrence “thank you” video won gold and silver awards in the CASE district II competition.

Current Events

There were plenty of big issues to grapple with in 2009. Here are a few that the College took on:

Mona EltahawyIn March, the 11th Annual Women’s History Conference focused on “Gender and Power in the Muslim World,” with a keynote address from journalist Mona Eltahawy.

Leading advocates of health-care reform tackled the minutiae of health care reform with the Health, Science, and Society Health Care Reform series in the fall. As one might imagine, Laura Weil, director of the Graduate Program in Health Advocacy, kept a full dance card this year, discussing health care advocacy in articles appearing in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and MSNBC.

Carl SafinaMacArthur Prize-winning scientist and author Carl Safina waxed both poetic and scientific on the subject of climate change at the annual science lecture, In the Same Net; Biodiversity, Ethics, and the Human Spirit.

In October, the economics faculty held a teach-in about the economic crisis, explaining the fall of the credit and housing markets and the effects of the bailout packages.

Media veteran Fawaz Gerges, holder of The Christian A. Johnson Chair in International Affairs and Middle Eastern Studies, appeared on CNN, discussing the elections in Iran and, most recently, Obama’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan.

On Screen

Julianna Margulies '89No stranger to the spotlight, JJ Abrams ’88 directed the summer blockbuster Star Trek. Abrams, the creator of popular TV shows such as Felicity and Lost, was profiled by Entertainment Weekly in September as part of the mag’s retrospective on the people who have shaped television over the last 50 years.

Looks like it was also a full year for Julianna Margulies ’89 , who was recently honored at the 25th Anniversary New York Stage and Film (SAF) winter gala for her lifetime achievements in theatre, film, and television. Marguiles stars in the new CBS hit show The Good Wife (Westlands gets a cameo in episode 3, which contains a scene shot on campus).

In December, Marguiles and fellow alum Kyra Sedgewick were nominated for the Golden Globe award for Best Dramatic Performance by an Actress in a television series. Sedgwick is the lead in another hot show, TNT’s The Closer.

Invention of Lying writers/directors Matt Robinson '00 and Ricky Gervais - Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images North AmericaAlong with comedian Ricky Gervais (of The Office fame), Matt Robinson ’00 co-wrote and directed The Invention of Lying, a feature film starring Jennifer Garner, Louis C.K., Tina Fey, and Rob Lowe.

Sarah Lawrence continued to make its mark on pop culture, with mentions of the College on the small screen, including The Conan O’Brien Show, Gossip Girl, and MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews.

In the New Yorker

Writing faculty member Vijay SeshadriTo people of a certain literary bent, nothing says success like an article in the New Yorker. This year the magazine featured no shortage of Sarah Lawrence faculty members and alumnae/i on its storied pages. Writing faculty members, Marie Howe (January 14), Dennis Nurske (April 20), and Vijay Seshadri (October 12) all published poems in this venerable rag this year.

Leslie Morgenstein ’89, president of Alloy Entertainment, was profiled in the October 19 issue for having built an entertainment empire for teenage girls. (Some of his biggest hits include the Gossip Girl and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants franchises.)

The work of Nell Minow ’74, co-founder of the Corporate Library, was highlighted in an October 12 article about CEO compensation. The article’s author, David Owen, called Minow “one of the country’s leading experts on the fiduciary obligations of executives and directors.” (The Washington Post profiled Minow’s dual career in July—she also works as a movie critic.)

The White House and Beyond

On the November 20 episode of MSNBC’s Hardball, Chris Matthews jokingly asked if Sarah Lawrence College was the “key to the [Obama] administration,” when the pros and cons of the types of institutions attended by his administrators were being discussed.

Rahm Emanuel '81 addressing the class of 2009 at CommencementModesty prevents us from speculating on the topic, but it’s true that in January, Rahm Emanuel ’81 became President Obama’s chief of staff. Despite the dramatic changes in his professional life, Emanuel returned to One Mead Way to deliver the 2009 commencement address. (The move was prompted by senior class co-president Neil Makhija ’09, who interrupted Emanuel and Al Franken at the 2008 Democratic National Convention to invite Emanuel to speak on campus. Lucky for us, Emanuel responded in the affirmative.)

Emanuel isn’t SLC’s only in at the White House. Valerie Jarrett, a member of Obama’s inner circle of advisers and assistant to the president for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, is the daughter of Barbara Bowman ’50, a pioneer of early childhood education and co-founder of the famed Erikson Institute.

In other political news, President Obama named Brooke Anderson ‘86 as the new deputy ambassador to the United Nations in December. The post is the latest achievement in Anderson’s impressive history of foreign policy experience, which included a stint as foreign policy/national security communications director for John Kerry’s presidential campaign.

In Sustainability

As the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen came to a close, Sarah Lawrence had much cause to celebrate the ecological efforts of students and alumnae/i.

Annie Novak '05Annie Novak ’05, co-founder of Rooftop Farms, played host to Martha Stewart as part of a November 10 show about the sustainable food movement in Brooklyn. Novak also promoted rooftop gardens on CBS on August 19. As it turns out, her work got her noticed in other ways, too: the Huffington Post nominated Novak as one of the “hottest” (read: sexiest) organic farmers around. Kudos to Novak for making the good food revolution sexy.

Back on campus, the results are in for the energy-saving efforts of Warren Green, the College’s first eco-friendly residence. Maybe it’s not easy being green, but it sure is worth it: a year after renovating the building (with solar panels, an on-demand hot water heater, and other energy-saving measures), the College reported a 91% savings in energy and a 68% cost savings. Nice job, Warren Green!

This fall, When Learning Comes Naturally, the latest film in the Child Development Institute’s Learning Child series, premiered in September and aired on public television stations across the country. The film explores the connection between nature and learning, as well as how to foster children’s appreciation for the environment.

On Campus

Quality of life on campus went up significantly this year, with improved facilities, a new food service provider, and the arrival of a new dean.

Taking that old adage “You are what you eat” seriously, Sarah Lawrence launched a new partnership with AVI Fresh, a food service provider which takes sustainably sourced foods and local economies into account when preparing their menus. To match the gastronomic upgrade, Bates Dining Room also received a top-to-bottom refurbishing and opened to returning students in the fall.

Marking the start of a new academic cycle, Jerrilynn Dodds assumed the role of Dean of the College in August. Prior to the new post, Professor Dodds was distinguished professor and senior faculty advisor to the provost for undergraduate education at the City College of New York, where she had previously been chairman of the department of architecture.

This year, the College hosted a variety of luminary thinkers whose ideas shape both the world and, thanks to their visits, intellectual life on campus.

The Graduate Reading Series featured bestselling novelist Amy Bloom and Marilyn Nelson, former poet laureate of the State of Connecticut, among others.

Richard LouvIn March, author and journalist Richard Louv delivered the stirring 2009 Longfellow Lecture, entitled “Nature Deficit Disorder: The Movement to Connect Our Children, Ourselves, and Future Generations to the Natural World,” emphasizing the importance of outdoor play for children.

Renowned pediatrician Dr. T. Berry Brazelton joined Dr. Joshua Sparrow, psychiatrist and child development expert, to give a joint lecture on child development in May. In “Touchpoints: A Developmental and Relational Model for Working with Children and Families,” they explored how to prepare children to be academically successful in ways that nurture the whole child.

Amanda Foreman ’91 returned to campus in April to discuss The Duchess, a film starring Keira Knightley that was based on Foreman’s award-winning and bestselling book Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Gabrielle Tana ’85, who produced the film, also participated in the discussion.

Speaking of homecomings, choreographer Lucinda Childs ’62 returned to campus as an artist-in-residence in the fall, working with students on her masterpiece Radial Courses (1976), which was performed on campus in December.

The Sixth Annual Poetry Festival brought together some of the most spirited names in poetry, including Mark Doty, Rita Dove, and Jorie Graham. The three-day festival comprised craft talks, readings, panel discussions, and a “Graphic Poetry Champagne Reception.”

Here’s to a bright and prosperous 2010 for all!