| Alumni News
The Years Have Been Kind
New Anthro Group Digs In
WNUR turns 50
Lowell Komie (L54)
Christine Brennan (J80, GJ81)
Maria Ponce de Leon (G90, 98)
Alumni Association Salutes 20 Who Contribute Above and Beyond
Honorees come from varied backgrounds, but all of them bear the mark of excellence.
Proof that a Northwestern education can open doors to success and achievement was abundantly in evidence at the Northwestern Alumni Association's 68th Awards Banquet.
Nearly 400 Northwestern faculty, administrators, families and friends came together in April at the Renaissance Chicago to celebrate the 20 award recipients for their varied and enduring contributions to the University and to society. As they have so many times in the past, Stu Hirsh (Mu76, GMu82) and his orchestra were on hand to lend a festive air to the occasion. For the second year, the NU Club of Chicago co-sponsored the event.
Judd A. Weinberg (EB47), the recipient for the year 2000 of the NAA's highest honor, the Alumni Medal, "is living proof of the value of a broad education it can take you anywhere," said Catherine Stembridge (GS00), director of the Department of Alumni Relations, before presenting him with the award.
A University Trustee since 1982 and currently a Life Trustee, Weinberg established deep ties to Northwestern early on that far transcend his original connection to what was then the School of Commerce.
Throughout the years, he and his family have contributed much of their support, time and energy to, among others, the Kellogg Graduate School of Management, the Medical School, the School of Speech, the School of Music, the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art and, of course, the Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, which received its name in 1998.
Beyond Northwestern, the Weinbergs have been involved with a host of organizations and institutions. Among them: Gottlieb Health Resources, the Orthopedic Research and Education Foundation, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, the Ravinia Festival, the Art Institute of Chicago and New York Medical College.
Yet Northwestern has always been the major focus for Weinberg, based in good part on his positive experience as a student. He told the audience that his closest relationships stem from that time. "Those were interesting days right after the war," Weinberg said. "Much has changed, much remains the same."
Ronald Burton (SESP60) received the Service to Society Award, given to alumni for their advancement of causes or for their improvement of society.
Introducing him, Leslie Donavan (L82), chair of the 2000 Alumni Awards Committee, pointed out that Burton, who became a Wildcat legend on the gridiron, "grew up poor and didn't always have enough to eat."
After a professional football career, Burton became a successful insurance executive in Boston and, perhaps more important, never wavered from helping others. In 1985, Donovan related, Burton borrowed against his retirement to establish the Ron Burton Training Village, a camp in central Massachusetts that each year gives 125 underprivileged children an unforgettable summer. Burton also volunteers his time and money to the Boy Scouts, the Boston Shriners Hospital, the Salvation Army, the Arthritis Foundation and the Massachusetts Association for the Blind.
Merit Award Winners
Twelve alumni, one from each school and three from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, received Merit Awards.
Teruaki Aoki (GMcC70) has spent nearly 30 years with Sony Corp., generating more than 20 patents in the United States and Japan. He is also one of the company's leading managerial experts.
Louis A. Bradbury (WCAS68) has achieved great success in the legal world and on Wall Street but decided at age 44 to donate most of his time on a pro bono basis to philanthropic causes. In particular he has devoted himself to the Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York City, the first and now the largest AIDS service organization in the world.
Erwin Chemerinsky (S75) is considered one of the leading scholars on constitutional law. He is the Sydney M. Irmas Professor of Public Interest Law, Legal Ethics and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law School. One of Chemerinsky's proudest accomplishments was chairing the Los Angeles Charter Reform Commission, whose recommendations were adopted by public referendum last year.
Dieter M. Gruen (WCAS44, G47), a senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, has conducted lifelong research in surface science, nuclear and solar energy, chemical heat pumps, high-temperature superconductivity and laser phototherapy. He has written more than 400 articles and has 30 U.S. patents in his name.
Maj. John M. Kapp (SCS52) gave his country 20 years of active military duty and served in Japan under Gen. Douglas MacArthur as assistant chief of staff. In every place he has lived, he established a Boy Scout troop. Kapp was executive director of the USO in the 1960s and 1970s and is a former president of the Eden Charitable Foundation.
David Loebel (S72, GMu74) serves as associate principal conductor for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and last year was named music director and conductor of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. Off the podium, Loebel is a popular speaker on radio and before live audiences and has been heavily involved with community outreach.
Richard C. Longworth (J57), former editor of the Daily Northwestern, was with UPI for 16 years, where he was a foreign correspondent. In 1976 he joined the Chicago Tribune as an economic correspondent, rising steadily to become a senior writer. Longworth has reported from more than 75 countries on five continents.
C. William Pollard (L63) has devoted the last 20 years of his life to expanding ServiceMaster, considered one of the top service companies in the world, to the point where it now employs more than 250,000 and has 10 million customers.
Neil J. Stone (WCAS66, M68, GM74, 75) is a leading specialist on the prevention of heart disease. A professor of clinical medicine at the Medical School, he was named the first Jacques M. Smith Distinguished Physician in Medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in 1993.
Lawrence K.W. Tseu (D62) has been dentist to non-stars and stars alike in Honolulu, including guest celebrities on television's Hawaii Five-O. The governor appointed him to the state's Board of Dental Examiners in 1982, and Tseu has won numerous fellowships and honors throughout his career. He is also a longtime supporter of the Dental School and a member of the John Evans Club.
Wayne D. Watson (SESP69, GSESP70, 72) came to the City Colleges of Chicago in 1978 after a distinguished career in business. At City Colleges he rose to become chancellor. Under his leadership, the college system raised academic standards, embarked on a myriad of capital improvements and reached out to Chicago's educational, corporate and service communities.
Tadahiro Yoshida (KGSM72) is president of YKK, which has 36,000 employees in 50 countries and under his guidance has developed a worldwide reputation for high-quality fasteners and architectural products. He is an active member of the Kellogg Advisory Board and a key participant in the Kellogg Alumni Club of Japan.
Alumni Service Awards
Six alumni received the Alumni Service Award for their work on behalf of the University. "These six people have worked tirelessly and creatively to support Northwestern and its educational mission," Donovan said.
Rance Crain (J60) is president and editorial director of Crain Communications. Crain is a longtime member of the Medill School of Journalism's Board of Visitors and a strong supporter of the Magazine Publishing Project. Last year he and his wife, Merrilee, started the Gertrude and G.D. Crain Jr. Public Affairs Lecture Series on campus, which has attracted the biggest names in journalism and become hugely popular with students and faculty.
Marilyn Moats Kennedy (J65) enjoys a national reputation as a career consultant through her company, Career Strategies. She was one of the founding members of the Council of One Hundred in 1993, an alumni organization of women who are leaders in their chosen professions and who share their experience with undergraduate women.
Harry M.J. Kraemer Jr. (KGSM79), chairman and CEO of Baxter International, returns to campus regularly to speak with students and to work on academic programs and advisory boards. On the Kellogg Alumni Advisory Board and Kellogg Dean's Advisory Board, he also serves on several civic and educational organizations and he teaches Sunday school.
Robert L. Peskin (GMcC75, 77) is a highly successful civil engineer and transportation systems consultant who has been using his engineering expertise for 15 years to ensure that Washington, D.C.'s Northwestern Alumni Admission Council runs like clockwork. He also has offered stimulating technical seminars to graduate students.
Carole Browe Segal (WCAS60) also uses her expertise, in this case, as co-founder of Crate and Barrel, to serve as co-chair of the Campaign Northwestern leadership committee for the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. She also is co-chair of the college's Wilson Society and a member of the John Evans Club.
William Weinbaum (J82, GJ83) is an award-winning producer for ESPN-TV. He is also an involved member of the NU Club of Greater New York and served as its president. Said one nominator, "In many cases, certain events in New York simply would not happen without Willie's planning and leadership."
Above, from left, Tadahiro Yoshida, Louis Bradbury, Erwin Chemerinsky and Ron Burton, who received the Service to Society Award
(Photo by Jim Ziv)
Bonnie Kistner Wefler (S50), left, and her husband, Dan Wefler (J50), were two of the three reunion co-chairs. Patty Olmstead Jantho (WCAS50) is at right.
(Photo by Mary Hanlon)
| The Years
Have Been Kind
Classes from the past return.
Fiftieth reunion committee co-chairs Dan (J50) and Bonnie Kistner (S50) Wefler and Richard Damisch (EB50, KGSM79), members of the committee and the Department of Alumni Relations' reunion staff welcomed the class of 1950 to Northwestern's 142nd Commencement ceremony on Friday, June 16.
After dressing in the traditional caps and gowns at the John Evans Alumni Center, the class members were escorted to Ryan Field, where they took places of honor behind the class of 2000.
On Saturday the classes of 1940, 1950 and other alumni who graduated more than 50 years ago gathered for the Half Century Club luncheon at Norris University Center and the installation of the class of 1950. University President Henry Bienen and Northwestern archivist Patrick Quinn spoke.
The class of 1950 reconvened at the Evanston Golf Club Saturday night for a dinner dance to the sounds of the Bob Wessberg (Mu59, GMu60) Trio. Meanwhile, the class of 1940 celebrated at the Omni Orrington Hotel and enjoyed the Ernie Wieder (EB41, Nav41, GSM55) Combo. A brunch was held the next day for the class of 1950 at the Orrington.
The 1997 Northwestern Archaeological Field School at Cahokia (Ill.) Mounds State Historic Site, under the direction of Mary Beth Trubitt (G89, 96), second from right.
(Photo by Stephanie Russell)
Group Digs In
Friends of Anthropology at Northwestern get hands-on experience with research and projects.
Alumni don't need a degree in anthropology to help Northwestern anthropologists unearth some of the secrets of the past.
All it takes is a bit of curiosity and a willingness to do some dirty work, thanks to a new organization, the Friends of Anthropology at Northwestern.
FANs can participate in a variety of anthropology projects from lectures and symposia, led by Northwestern anthropologists, to local and international trips to archaeological sites and museums.
"The alumni can be of great help to us and have some fun along the way volunteering in the anthropology lab, supporting our students' research, even going along on digs," says Tim Earle, outgoing chair of the Department of Anthropology and a founder of FAN.
The idea for FAN actually was conceived by Northwestern alumnae in a winter 1998 continuing education course taught by Gil Stein, associate professor of anthropology. "It seemed to me it would be fun if we could continue with programs that would let us know what is going on in the anthropology department. I wasn't aware at all about its activities before the class," says Leila Foster (EB50, L53, G66), a member of FAN.
FAN started last fall with a lecture series in which the inaugural address, given by Stein, drew more than 90 alumni and friends. Other FAN highlights this year included a symposium on the history of chocolate and a May excursion to a Native American mound site in Collinsville, Ill., with anthropology professor James Brown. For decades Brown has been studying the Cahokians' long-distance trading patterns and religious and burial practices. The mounds near St. Louis provide a rich picture of the life of the indigenous population from 1050 to 1350 A.D., when the civilization died out.
From buried artifacts, anthropologists can determine interesting facts about an area and its ancient inhabitants. For six summers, Stein and a team of undergraduate and graduate students excavated the site of a small Anatolian town in southeastern Turkey. By uncovering such artifacts as animal bones and ceramic record-keeping seals, Stein has concluded that early Mesopotamians established peaceful trading colonies among the Anatolians along the Euphrates River.
This spring FAN was able to award five small grants to graduate and undergraduate students to help them pursue research projects all over the world from Arizona to Iceland. One student plans to investigate how the metabolic rates allowed the Yakut, a Siberian reindeer-herding group, to adapt to the severely cold temperatures of that region.
Another student hopes his anthropology project in Iceland will unearth some clues to better understand how the first Viking colonists changed from an egalitarian society to one that was more socially stratified. "The whole idea is to understand how groups all around the world in different times and places have adapted both biologically and culturally to their environments," Stein says.
Without the generous support of FAN members, these grants would not have been possible, he adds, hoping that FAN will continue to support undergraduate and graduate research projects. "We want to share with the public just how fascinating anthropology is," Stein says. "We want people in the community to know more about it."
FAN hopes to expand its programs with more lectures, field trips and museum tours. FAN also plans to start its own book club.
For more information about how to become a FAN, contact the Department of Anthropology, Northwestern University, 1810 Hinman Ave., Evanston 60208-1330, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 847-491-5402.
Members of the WNUR 50th Reunion Committee were key organizers of the May celebration. They and 200 former on-air personalities, family and friends came to Evanston to salute WNUR and its status as one of the best college radio stations in the country.
(Photo by Mary Hanlon)
Northwestern's WNUR-FM has come a long way since its 10-watt years, when programming included University chapel services and adult education programs. Yet even then, the station with a history of being on the cutting edge found a way to generate controversy.
"The 1951 coverage of a speech by [Sen.] Joseph McCarthy at Northwestern was probably the most controversial broadcast that we had done to date," said WNUR alumnus Robert Conrad (S55), who covered the event with his friend Ray Nordstrand (WCAS53, G56). "Some listener was so opposed to it that he cut the microphone cord to try to stop the broadcast."
Conrad, now president of WCLV-FM in Cleveland, and Nordstrand, former president of Chicago's WFMT-FM, are two of WNUR's pioneers. They were among some 200 WNUR alumni who celebrated the station's five decades on the airwaves at the station's 50th Anniversary Reunion in May.
In addition to attending a round-table discussion on the current state of the media and a picnic lunch outside Annie May Swift Hall, alumni also got the opportunity to get back behind the microphone and relive their favorite WNUR moments.
"A lot of people in the studio did a double-DJ broadcast with their kids," said Helen Kriz Marshall (GS78), chair of the 50th reunion committee. "People from the '70s and '80s who were here, when Northwestern football was at its worst, got to call the play-by-play for the 1996 Rose Bowl game."
Alumni also found time to share their most glorious WNUR memories. Kasey Crabtree Pierce (S83), now an on-air personality at Cleveland's WNCX-FM, remembers when Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne's planning committee for ChicagoFest '83 solicited the help of local college radio stations to attract students to the festivities.
"Here we were, a bunch of college kids sitting in a meeting with all these Chicago bigwigs, and we knew we had a lot of pull as the biggest college station out there," she remembered. "We told them, 'Give us ['80s new-rave rock artist] Marshall Crenshaw in studio, or we're out.' and they did."
Now a 7,200-watt station that boasts a state-of-the-art studio, WNUR has won numerous awards for music, news and athletic programming. At the re-union, the station complemented the live broadcast signal by launching a music Web site (www.wnur.org) that allows listeners to pick from any of three streams of WNUR's music programming rock and live bands, jazz or eclectic.
As for athletics, WNUR has long had a successful sports department despite Northwestern's historically losing teams.
"In 1978 the Athletic Department called us to cover a basketball tournament in Las Vegas because no one else would," said Ron Gleason (J78), now director of sports and programming at Chicago's WSCR-AM. "For a kid who just turned 21, it was certainly a great road trip, even though the team was awful."
Darren Rovell (S00), now a reporter for ESPN-TV, was lucky enough to be at the station during Northwestern's short-lived "glory days" in football during the mid-1990s. He remembers his reaction after the Wildcats' 1996 comeback victory against Michigan.
"It was my first assignment at WNUR, and I was the statistician," he recalled. "After that game was over, I jumped so high that I hit my head on the roof of the press box. I was so happy I just kept doing it."
Ed Fanselow (J02)
The NU Club of San Diego honored alumni regents Walter Doren, Jane Smith and Kenneth Rearwin. Smith is wearing a Wildcat necktie designed by Marjo Kraft, wife of Ken Kraft, Northwestern senior associate athletic director.
Young alumni in the NU Club of Atlanta gathered at the Leopard Lounge in Midtown in July. And in August a party for incoming students was held, as it traditionally is, at the home of Edie Bostic (SESP74).
As usual, the NU Club of Chicago has been busy. In June, many members attended and enjoyed the revival of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, starring Gary Sinise, at the Steppenwolf Theatre. Before the performance, members were treated to brunch at Vinci and to a discussion of the play by Martha Lavey (S79, GS86, 94), Steppenwolf's artistic director.
Later in the month, members gathered at the Field Museum for hors d'oeuvres, a scholarship pledge announcement and the viewing of the latest star at Field Sue, the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex in the world. The group also was awed by an exhibit of the ancient Dead Sea scrolls.
In July everyone enjoyed hearing famed violinist Itzhak Perlman at Ravinia. And in August, it was a day at the races at the Governor's Suite at Arlington Park.
Head football coach Randy Walker braved entering enemy Buckeye country, returning to his native Ohio in May to speak at a dinner organized by the NU Club of Columbus. Shon Morris (SESP88), former Wildcat basketball player and current associate director of athletics for external affairs, was also on hand.
In February David Zarefsky (S68, GS69, 74), former dean of the School of Speech, appeared before the NU Club of Kansas City to put today's political discourse in a historical perspective. In May Jeff Spivak (J85) took alumni on a tour of the recently restored Union Station. Spivak is a reporter for The Kansas City Star and author of Union Station: Kansas City (Kansas City Star Books, 1999).
The Young Alumni of the NU Club of Greater New York held a wine-tasting get-together in June at which the annual Doron Abosch (WCAS86) Memorial Scholarships were presented to current seniors Natalia Cortez and Keeva McLeod.
For members of the NU Club of Orange County (Calif.), it was off to the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana in May, where they were treated to a tour of the Chinese art collection by docent Carol Hallenbeck (J49).
The board of directors of the NU Club of San Diego honored three local alumni regents at an April dinner. Recognized were Walter Doren (WCAS57, M61), Kenneth Rearwin (EB35) and Jane Smith (GSESP62).
In March Zarefsky also visited the NU Club of Sarasota (Fla.). The group met again in May, only to find that the scheduled speaker had canceled at the last moment. In a show of Wildcat élan, club members Leslie G. Arries Jr. (McC45) and Marguerite Dye (Mu39) offered their services as substitute speakers. Arries discussed the latest in the communications field, and Dye read some of her poetry.
Wine-tasting parties? Très passé, says the NU Club of Switzerland. So in May its members held an asparagus-tasting get-together in France's Alsace region, which produces some of the world's tastiest varieties of the lanky delicacy. The white asparagus enjoyed by club members was picked at dawn before being exposed to the morning sun on the day it was eaten.
The feast was followed by a trip to Mulhouse to visit the Collection Schlumpf Musée National de l'Automobile, which has the largest car collection on earth.
The NU Club of Washington, D.C., another busy organization, toured the U.S. Supreme Court in May, saw exhibitions featuring artist Georgia O'Keeffe and illustrator Norman Rockwell at the National Gallery of Art in June and took in a baseball game, watching the Baltimore Orioles battle the Cleveland Indians in July.
University President Henry Bienen, far right, invests associate professor Dominic Missimi as the Donald G. Robertson Director of Music Theatre at the John Evans Club's Waa-Mu dinner. Looking on are David Zarefsky (S68, GS69, 74), left, former dean of the School of Speech, and Bernard Dobroski (GMu81), dean of the School of Music.
(Photo by Jim Ziv)
In what was a pleasant surprise to many in attendance, associate professor Dominic Missimi, founder of the Music Theatre Certificate Program, was officially named the Donald G. Robertson (WCAS13) Director of Music Theatre in May at the John Evans Club's annual gala dinner preceding the Waa-Mu show.
The gift was made possible by Robertson's son, Sanford, and his wife, Jeanne. University President Henry Bienen praised Missimi, who "has done so much to enhance the musical theater legacy begun by Donald Robertson."
Robertson was the composer of the Northwestern fight song, "Push On," also known as "Rise, Northwestern." While a student at the University, he also wrote the music for several productions and contributed pieces to the Northwestern University Song Book. He remained an active alumnus until his death in 1975.
And keep these JEC dates open: On Oct. 7, the Wildcat Warm-up 2000 will take place in the Aon Tent east of McGaw Hall after the Indiana football game. On Nov. 9, join Kenneth Janda, Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science, for an analysis of the presidential election. On Nov. 30, spend an evening in the expanded Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art.
In April the Medill Club of Greater New York heard Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist Tina Rosenberg, (S81, GJ82), talk about her career. Rosenberg now writes weekly opinions on international politics and history for The New York Times, where she became a member of the editorial board in 1996. She has also authored two books, one on violence in Latin America and the other on Europe after communism's collapse.
In June, the New York club presented a forum in conjunction with the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications on magazine startups. Featured were editors from O (the Oprah Winfrey magazine), Real Simple, FHM (For Him Magazine), Offspring and Hamptons.
More than 40 alumni attended the first-ever Career Round Table for Writers in April at Los Angeles' Hollywood Entertainment Museum. The event was organized by the Medill Alumni Club of Southern California and the Northwestern University Entertainment AllianceWest.
Eight career professionals gave advice on advancing in the field. The panel included Roger Bell (J73), news director at KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, and Sue Bohle (J65, GJ69), president of an eponymous public relations firm in Los Angeles. Other professionals included individuals from the Los Angeles Times, film and television executives and several writers.
At the Kellogg European reunion: from left, Ed Buckley (KGSM90), Christiaan Lebbink (KGSM92), Annmarie Vlaeminck, Kellogg Alumni Club of Belgium president Sam Youssef (KGSM98), Sophie Laval, Philippe Laval (KGSM95) and Megan Byrne (KGSM90), assistant dean and director of alumni relations
Kellogg Graduate School of Management
It's now officially a tradition. Kellogg's second annual European reunion, held April 28 through 30 in Brussels, Belgium, attracted more than 70 alumni and guests from across the continent.
As one might expect, the thematic focus was heavily on e-commerce and entrepreneurship. A high point was a daylong symposium featuring some of the best in European business, such as Jim Rose (KGSM86), CEO of QXL.com, a leading auction site, and Kurt Staelens (KGSM96), CEO and founder of on-line bookseller NV Proxis International. Afterward, everyone enjoyed an elegant evening at the Château du Lac outside Brussels.
Kellogg's Alumni Advisory Board was also on hand for the festivities.
The board had convened in Brussels for its third international meeting
several days before the reunion. During those sessions, members engaged
in several high-level cultural and economic dialogues with, among others,
Leo Tindemans, former prime minister of Belgium; Luc Van Nel, CEO of Samsonite
Corp.; and the Diamond High Council in Antwerp, Belgium.
Not content to rest on its laurels as one of the leading providers of continuing legal education, the School of Law is expanding those programs to reach beyond lawyers and target other people for whom the knowledge of law and lawyers is crucial in their professional lives.
Recent initiatives include the Summer Mock Trial Institute for undergraduate students involved in moot court activity, the Mutual Fund Directors Education Council Conference for mutual fund directors, the Fred Bartlit Conference on Trial Strategy and the Summer Institute in Law and Business for international lawyers and businesspersons.
"We believe that expansion of these programs will extend our reputation, provide our faculty with ideas for research and teaching opportunities and generate financial resources," said dean David E. Van Zandt.
These new programs are being led by associate dean Pete Wentz (L74), who also directs the school's communications and marketing efforts. Contact www.law.northwestern.edu/contexec for additional information.Medical School
More than 500 alumni, family and friends attended Medical School Alumni Weekend 2000 on April 28 and 29. In those short 48 hours, they had the option to partcipate in 35 activities, including tours of the campus facilities and Chicago attractions, continuing education programs, class dinners and much more.
The culminating event was the Millennium Ball, a black-tie gala at Chicago's Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The classes of 1950 and 19515 were saluted, and Thomas Starzl (GM50, 52, M52, H82), one of the world's premier transplant surgeons, received the Distinguished Alumni Award. Students from the School of Music provided entertainment.
In other news, school officials report that the medical alumni directory is now online with pass-word protection through the Medical School Web site (www.nums-alum.northwestern.edu).
And in June the class of 2000 was feted at a luncheon at Harry Caray's restaurant to welcome them into the Medical School's alumni association.
Lowell Komie (L54) found a way to combine legal and literary careers with style.
Literature abounds with examples of anti-Semitism as a theme, but few writers have dared to treat the issue humorously. Lowell B. Komie (L54) is one who did and quite successfully.
That fact is even more surprising given that he has witnessed and been on the receiving end of discrimination on more than a few occasions during his 72 years.
"To treat [anti-Semitism] with humor was a very difficult thing," says Komie, a practicing attorney who, in addition to his novel, The Last Jewish Shortstop in America (Swordfish paperback, 1997), has published three collections of short stories. "When I was a little boy, don't forget, the German American Bund's brownshirts with their swastikas were in Milwaukee. Those kinds of things stay fresh in your mind."
Peppered with angst-ridden witticisms throughout, The Last Jewish Shortstop in America follows David Epstein and his dream of opening a glass, solar- powered, rotating Jewish sports hall of fame in the shape of the Star of David. Epstein's plans are nearly foiled at several points, and, after being open for only a few days, the building is vandalized and destroyed.
When Komie was a boy, the relatively few Jewish sports figures around were inspirations to Jewish youngsters. "They had made it into mainstream America," he says.
After graduating from Highland Park High School in suburban Chicago, Komie began studying at the University of Michigan, but his education was interrupted by a stint in the Navy. A year as editor of his base newspaper convinced Komie he wanted to be a writer, so he returned to Michigan and focused on English literature and writing.
Facing facts "I never was able to go out and make a living as a writer because most writers simply don't make a living. They don't have pensions or benefits." Komie decided on law and received a degree from Northwestern. Upon finishing, he received an anti-Semitic slap in the face far more personal than marching Nazis.
"There were ads on the bulletin boards of the law school for attorneys, and some of them would say, 'Christians only,'" he remembers. "Times were different. When you got out of law school, you found that few of the gentile law firms employed Jewish lawyers."
Komie, who lives in Highwood, Ill., made out just fine anyway. This is his 44th year as an attorney. He's a specialist in trust and probate law and has been articles editor of Chicago Bar magazine. Yet for all his legal success he has kept writing for more than 40 years.
The Last Jewish Shortstop in America won the 1998 Small Press Award for Fiction. The Lawyer's Chambers and Other Stories (Swordfish, 1994) received the Carl Sandburg Fiction Award in 1995 from the Friends of the Chicago Public Library, and in 1987 The Judge's Chambers became the first collection of fiction published by the American Bar Association.
Komie's most recent publication, The Night Swimmer (Swordfish paperback, 1999), includes 19 short stories set in Chicago's North Shore suburbs, London, Israel, Prague, Warsaw, the Florida Keys and other locales.
A new novel, Conversations with a Golden Ballerina, is due out at the end of this year. Komie describes it as a comic novel, even zanier than The Last Jewish Shortstop in America.
"Most writers in a sense write about their own experiences, their own lives," he says. "That's true of any writer, no matter what he or she may say. If you're going to be a writer, you have to have it in your heart and soul."
(Photo by Mary Hanlon)
Christine Brennan (J80, GJ81) has blazed trails for women sports journalists.
It's one of sports journalist Christine Brennan's most vivid memories. At the 1988 Olympic preliminaries in Seoul, South Korea, Brennan (J80, GJ81) happened to be standing just a few feet from diver Greg Louganis when he smacked his head on a board in mid-dive.
"The next half-hour was amazing; it seemed like every journalist in the world ran into the arena," she recalls. Brennan shared the details of Louganis' dive with the other reporters as Louganis was stitched up.
"He made another dive, and it was the same kind, coming back toward the board," she says. This time, Louganis completed the dive cleanly and the next day went on to win the Olympic gold medal.
Not every moment in Brennan's life is as action-packed, but she nonetheless maintains a schedule that can only be described as frenetic. Brennan's sports column for USA Today is a mainstay in that publication. She is an ABC News on-air sports analyst and worked for the network in Sydney, Australia, during the Summer Olympics. She has written two best-selling figure skating books, does ESPN golf telecasts, sports commenting for National Public Radio's Morning Edition and has appeared on NBC's Today show, Meet the Press and many CNN shows. In 1999 she co-hosted with Mary Murphy (SESP80) a Lifetime Television show focusing on issues within women's sports, called Face Off.
Before USA Today, Brennan wrote for the Washington Post for 12 years, becoming the first woman to cover the Washington Redskins.
Her career began at the Miami Herald, where she was the newspaper's first woman sportswriter. Looking back on that time, the Toledo, Ohio, native now realizes the great responsibility that was on her shoulders. "Had I fallen flat on my face, I would have ruined it for myself and for women coming after me," she says. Brennan faced some obstacles in that "man's world," but she's now proud to say that women are a common sight in the sports journalism industry.
From the start, Brennan was a sports fan and an athlete. "Sports were my passion [as a child], whether it was playing catch with my dad in the backyard or trading baseball cards with the boys in the neighborhood." She still enjoys in-line skating, jogging, golf and skiing only now, she gets to report as well as participate in athletics.
One of Brennan's favorite stories was the Tonya HardingNancy Kerrigan saga at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Norway. At the time, she broke the news that the U.S. Olympic Committee preferred that Harding not participate in the Olympics. "You're never going to get a better story than Nancy and Tonya," she says.
Her earliest journalistic inspiration came from watching ABC sportscaster Jim McKay's professionalism under trying circumstances during the massacre of the Israeli coaches and athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. "I never forgot that, and I never will," she says.
Brennan finally met McKay at the 1996 world skating championships. Only she wasn't a teen-ager anymore; she was his colleague. "I've still got a bit of that 'gee whiz' in me," she says. "[Sports journalism] is my job, but it's also my passion."
Sarah Bellows (J01)
Maria Ponce de Leon with artist and former prisoner Gaetano Campo
Maria Ponce de Leon (G90, 98) finds her volunteer work with prisoners in Rome liberating and fulfilling.
When Maria Ponce de Leon (G90, 98) began her dissertation as a graduate student in Italian at Northwestern, she never imagined it would land her in prison as a volunteer, that is.
Her thesis on Italian prison literature eventually led her to the organization Volontari in Carcere and to Rome's Rebibbia Prison, where the professor of languages spends much of her free time helping inmates. In addition to organizing and conducting biweekly English conversation workshops, Ponce de Leon, who holds teaching positions with Temple University and the American University of Rome, conducts a weekly round table with inmates on the subject of divine and human justice to coincide with this Jubilee Year of the Roman Catholic Church.
"It's been a year that I've been doing this, and I have seen people change, open up, become more interested in learning and less in self-commiseration," she says.
The positive effect that Ponce de Leon and the other volunteers have is evident in the polite and trusting way the prisoners treat them. One inmate, a convicted robber and recovering drug addict, told Ponce de Leon that he too wants to become a prison volunteer when he completes his sentence so he can help drug addicts who are worse off than he was.
In addition to the conversation courses and discussions Ponce de Leon leads, she is organizing an exhibition of three former inmates' artwork at Temple's Rome campus in September. One ex-convict, Gaetano Campo, was once a notorious bank robber who now does surrealist oil paintings (he's currently working on a project for the Vatican).
In May Ponce de Leon began a 25-week literature and cinema workshop for inmates who will be leaving the prison relatively soon. "The purpose is to give them some notions that will widen their cultural horizons and create new awareness for them," she says.
While she was an undergraduate at Loyola University Chicago, Ponce de Leon fell in love with Italy during her junior year abroad. After leaving Loyola with a degree in political science, she returned to Italy and spent 14 years there, teaching English as a foreign language. In 1987 Ponce de Leon began her graduate studies at Northwestern, and in 1992 she returned to Italy to teach at the American University of Rome while working on her dissertation.
At Temple, Ponce de Leon teaches Italian, and at American University she is a professor of sociology and Italian language and literature. Her gift for languages and teaching is hardly surprising. Ponce de Leon is descended from Pedro Ponce de León, a 16th-century Spanish Benedictine priest believed to be the first person to develop a method for teaching the hearing-impaired to speak and write, and Friar Luis de León, the man responsible for educating Spanish immortal Miguel de Cervantes. And her star-studded family tree doesn't end there she is also a direct descendent of Juan Ponce de León, the first governor of Puerto Rico and the explorer who discovered Florida in 1513.
Ponce de Leon says her last name has resulted in many interesting encounters and conversations, especially among Europeans, who she says are quite attached to concepts of nobility and family. Yet Ponce de Leon isn't one to ride on the coattails of her ancestors' accomplishments. "Even though I admire the accomplishments of relatives in the past, they have little to do with my own life," she says.
AnnMarie Harris (J00)