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OXYFARE 

Day For Oxy: Behind the Numbers Total giving: $1,342,189 Total gifts: 2,297

Volume 42, Number 2 oxy.edu/magazine

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OCCIDENTAL COLLEGE

Arturo Chávez P’15, ’18

Jonathan Veitch President Wendy F. Sternberg Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Charlie Cardillo Vice President for Institutional Advancement Vince Cuseo Vice President of Enrollment and Dean of Admission Rob Flot Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Amos Himmelstein Vice President & Chief Operating Officer Marty Sharkey Vice President for Communications and Institutional Initiatives James Uhrich Vice President for Information Technology Services and Chief Information Officer Jim Tranquada Director of Communications

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3 9

10

8

5 10

1

Top 10 States in Total Gifts

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1. California 1,350 2. Washington 123 3. New York 90 4. Oregon 64 5. Colorado 46 6. Texas 45 7. Arizona 42 8. Massachusetts 40 9. Illinois 38 10. Connecticut 28 (tie) Virginia 28 (tie)

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editorial staff

Keith Malone ’85

Claire Petersky ’83

Julie (Mancia) Fortune ’04, husband Brandon Fortune ’23, daughter Camila, and Chloe

Dick Anderson Editor Laura Paisley, Jasmine Teran Contributing Writers Marc Campos Contributing Photographer Gail (Schulman) Ginell ’79 Class Notes Editor SanSoucie Design Design DLS Group Printing OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

Published quarterly by Occidental College Main number: 323-259-2500 To contact Occidental magazine By phone: 323-259-2679 By email: oxymag@oxy.edu By mail: Occidental College Office of Communications F-36 1600 Campus Road Los Angeles CA 90041-3314 Annie McGrath ’24

Wherever you may find yourself sheltering in place, show your Oxy spirit! Stay safe, shop online, and we hope to see you back on campus very soon. (Thank you to our Oxy Wear models for this issue!)

Occidental College Bookstore oxybookstore.com To order by phone: 323-259-2951 All major credit cards accepted

Letters and class notes may be edited for length, content, and style. Occidental College online Homepage: oxy.edu Facebook: facebook.com/occidental Twitter: @occidental Instagram: instagram.com/occidentalcollege Cover photo by Max S. Gerber

Giving by Class: Top 25 Class counts include gifts from alumni, parents, and students. Donors who are associated with more than one year are only counted once toward one class. #

Year

Amount

#

Year

Donors

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25.

1973 1970 2004 1971 1981 2023 1968 2019 1977 1955 2022 2021 2020 1987 1962 1989 1974 1986 2006 1995 1966 1988 1994 1972 1964

$155,140 $120,395 $103,834 $89,330 $73,720 $70,276 $64,770 $62,552 $52,570 $35,950 $33,614 $30,772 $24,750 $23,565 $23,437 $19,960 $19,650* $18,370 $13,630 $12,710 $12,250 $12,105 $10,670 $10,375 $9,351

1. 2. 3. 4. 4. 6. 7. 8. 9. 9. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 16. 18. 19. 20. 20. 22. 23. 24. 25.

2023 2022 2021 2019 2018 2013 2020 2016 2017 2015 2014 2012 2008 1980 1994 1968 1988 1987 2007 1971 2010 1970 2009 2005 2004

133 122 98 79 79 66 57 53 52 52 50 44 41 38 37 36 36 35 32 31 31 30 28 25 22

* Total does not include a matching donation from Anne Cannon ’74.

Day For Oxy Athletics: Giving by Designation

Alumni Reunion Weekend: We’ll Meet Again

All In For Oxy: Buoyed by a vigorous social media effort by our student-athletes, the Day For Oxy Athletics campaign crushed all expectations, raising $187,272 from 879 gifts. (Rankings below are by total gifts to each sport.)

With the health and safety of our community first and foremost in our minds, we have postponed this year’s June 12-14 Alumni Reunion Weekend. While this wasn’t how we envisioned celebrating the 2020 milestone classes, keeping our community safe is our highest priority. An email regarding the reunion postponement was sent to alumni in early April. If you didn’t receive that email, please contact alumni@oxy.edu to update your contact information. We are currently exploring other ways of celebrating reunion at a later date, and we plan to share details with the community soon. We are thankful for the many reunion committee volunteers that have shared their time, energy, and passion planning this year’s event and know that they will be critical in helping us reimagine the reunion experience.

#

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 15. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22.

Sport

Gifts

Amount

Football Men’s Basketball Baseball Tiger Club Athletics Women’s Track and Field Men’s Water Polo Women’s Lacrosse Women’s Soccer Men’s Track and Field Men’s Soccer Volleyball Men’s Cross Country Women’s Water Polo Women’s Basketball Women’s Tennis Softball Men’s Tennis Men’s Golf Women’s Swimming and Diving Men’s Swimming and Diving Women’s Cross Country Women’s Golf

157 134 89 59 53 46 45 41 39 35 32 29 27 25 23 23 21 20 19 16 13 11

$42,150 $28,308 $12,582 $9,520 $5,349 $10,230 $9,931 $7,545 $7,330 $7,130 $3,850 $4,540 $2,321 $5,140 $3,825 $2,690 $6,735 $10,740 $1,490 $3,360 $1,420 $1,085

Monika J. Moore Director, Alumni and Parent Engagement

alumni.oxy.edu


SPRING 2020

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Features 10 A Quiet Place As the novel coronavirus brings campus life to a standstill, Occidental soldiers on.

14 From a Distance In a race against two calendars— academic and pandemic—how did Oxy transform in less than two weeks from a high-touch curriculum to a remote learning model? Jason Yu ’20, a studio art and Japanese studies double major from Shanghai, stayed on the Oxy campus for the remainder of the semester after being unable to secure a flight home to China. 18

Departments 34

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4

60

First Word In his final column, President Veitch reflects on the importance of a liberal arts education in meeting the challenges of the moment. Speaking of challenges: How did we make this issue?

From the Quad Professors Dan Fineman, Adelaida Lopez, and Linda Lasater had a lasting impact outside the classroom—just ask their students. Also: MAC professor Aleem Hossain on his first feature film.

Page 60 The 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic claimed the lives of more than 675,000 Americans and shut down the College for seven weeks—but it could have been even worse for Oxy.

Tigerwire Remembering the lessons of Nadine Skotheim.

Class Disrupted Many special senior moments have been upended by COVID-19—and a traditional Commencement will have to wait. But the Class of 2020 has made memories no virus can destroy.

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OxyTalk This year’s Alumni Seal recipients reflect on their daily routine in “the new normal.”

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18

Duty Calls When the pandemic turned Oxy’s operations upside down in March, President Veitch had to throw out the script for his final days in office—but he and his team responded with commitment, collegiality, and flexibility.

28 In Good Hands Harry J. Elam Jr. prepares to take center stage as Oxy’s 16th president as the College faces a new set of challenges—and he’s ready.

PHOTO CREDITS: Marc Campos Class Disrupted, First Word, Tigerwire | Todd Webb Good News in a Pandemic | Babak Motamen From the Quad | Occidental College Special Collections Page 60


FIRST WORD » FROM PRESIDENT VEITCH

Stay Close—Your Alma Mater Needs You

Jonathan Veitch in the President’s Office on Dec. 16, 2016. Photo by Marc Campos

I’m not sure what I expected my last semester as president of Occidental to be. I know I was looking forward to making the rounds among faculty, staff, trustees, alumni, and friends to thank them for their support; dedicating our gorgeous new pool, along with the Anderson Center for Environmental Sciences; giving my colleagues one last chance to knock their president into the dunk tank on Founders Day; graduating the Class of 2020; saying goodbye to many of our alumni at Reunion Weekend; and then, after 11 years in the saddle, riding off into the sunset on June 30. It hasn’t been anything like that. I was in New York City in early March, visiting my daughter Margaret, when I began to hear about colleges and universities sending their students home. Initially, I must confess, I thought it was an overreaction. But as I looked around the increasingly empty streets of Manhattan, I began to experience a sense of foreboding that I hadn’t felt since the aftermath of 9/11. The full magnitude of the situation didn’t hit me until Margaret and I went to a Brooklyn supermarket to help her stock up on food. 2

OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE SPRING 2020

After standing in line for nearly an hour, we got into the market and the shelves were empty. It was then that I realized I was in the middle of something resembling an apocalypse. For a while, each new day brought an entirely different universe of demands and concerns. The unthinkable suddenly became not only thinkable but the new reality. My days were spent on the phone and in front of a computer screen, first trying to get nearly 1,800 students safely home; then doing what I could to ensure that we could move the curriculum to a digital platform; updating trustees and reassuring anxious employees; and more recently, working through the various scenarios for what the fall might look like on campus. Through it all, I have relied on an excellent senior leadership team who have done the heavy lifting, working around the clock to address the challenges of an unprecedented situation. They have done so with a level of thoughtfulness, care, and good humor that is exemplary (page 24). But they are not alone. Occidental’s deans and vice presidents have depended

heavily on their own staff to implement this ambitious agenda. Many of our employees are working from home, while homeschooling their children and fretting anxiously over elderly parents or grandparents. Others bravely come to work each day to serve food to the handful of students and staff who remain on campus, keep the boilers humming, clean residence halls and offices, and make sure everyone gets paid. Heroism, it turns out, is pitching in, showing up, getting the job done, looking out for each other. This is what a community looks like. It is an inspiring thing to watch. Through it all, our students and faculty have displayed a remarkable degree of imagination, flexibility, grit, and resilience. They pivoted to remote learning in little more than two weeks. Classes are being taught with very few hiccups, books are read and lively discussions ensue. Papers are still, well … something to agonize over, put off, and then, when the chips are down, pull an all-nighter. Some things never change. Of course, this wasn’t the semester our students anticipated. They have missed spring sports, dance and theater


FIRST WORD

productions, and parties. And our seniors will miss their graduation (though they will have a chance to walk across the stage next year). But I am confident that they will take strength from their faculty and comfort from their families and friends. As bad as it seems right now, this crisis will have an end. We will get through it and be better for it. Occidental has been through major crises before. Just eight years after Oxy enrolled its first class, fire destroyed its first—and only—building on the original Boyle Heights campus. The Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-19 shut down classes for seven long weeks (page 60). A decade later, the Great Depression caused student enrollments and faculty salaries to shrink and deficits and administrative anxiety to rise. In 1944, during World War II, a polio outbreak on campus killed three students and hospitalized dozens of others. The College survived it all. It is crises like these that demonstrate how important a liberal arts education truly is in meeting the challenges of the moment. Our students will need to understand the structural transformation of the economy around us and be equipped to address the dramatic social inequities exposed and compounded by the pandemic, even as they are positioned to take advantage of new opportunities opened up by it. And most important, their education at Occidental will give them the opportunity to spend time with the things that make life worth living—with or without a crisis. For me, the circumstances we face today are reminiscent of the economic downturn in 2008. When I first arrived in July 2009, Occidental found itself at the nadir of the Great Recession, with a shellshocked economy, a battered College endowment, and the prospect of tough times ahead. Little by little—step by incremental step—Occidental came back stronger than ever before. We did it then, and we can do it now. But we cannot do it without your commitment, support, and, yes, your financial help. Stay close. Your alma mater needs you.

» FROM THE READERS

president as he is a person, Oxy has hit a home run with his selection! If you get a chance to meet Harry, whether on campus or at an event in your part of the country, I think you’ll agree that he is a great addition to the Oxy family, and we should welcome and fully support him. Marcie Chan ’89 Pasadena

Get Me Rewrite!

Making a Splash What an outstanding Winter issue! Everything about the publication is first-class, from the writing and photography to the layout and paper—even the inks and fonts. Every article was superb and inspirational. What a fine impression it makes on new readers. Keep up the great work! Anne Marie Novinger ’57 & George W. Novinger ’54 Tehachapi

A year ago, you published an article about the professors leaving with kudos from their best and brightest students (“A Generation of Greats,” Spring 2019). I wanted to respond about Dr. Keith Naylor. I am certainly not among his best and brightest students, but he had a positive lasting impact on my abilities in college and beyond. I had him for Multicultural Summer Institute and Revivalism and Social Reform. That first paper I wrote at Oxy was for MSI, done on a manual typewriter in 1989. When he returned the papers, he told us that all of the papers he had received were so bad that he wouldn’t even grade them, save one. I was not that one. He told us to go home and rewrite the papers entirely. I will be forever grateful to him for insisting on quality and helping me to up my game. Jed Carosaari ’93 Maarif, Casablanca, Morocco

Seal of Approval Fantastic pool. Not like the one I swam all my laps in! Don Gambril ’56 Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Wild About Harry With all the current uncertainty and gloom in the world, I’d like to chime in on a very positive recent event. When my husband, Bob Gutzman ’87, and I heard the news that Occidental had chosen Harry J. Elam Jr. as the next president of the College, we were delighted for both Harry and for Oxy. Harry was one of the first senior-level administrators Bob and I met when we went to Stanford Admit Weekend with our son, Will, four years ago. He was very engaging and approachable. We’ve kept in touch with Harry over the years and have visited with him at events down here in Southern California as well as up in Northern California. Harry is a quality human being, and if he is half as good a

From the Editor: Home Edition On the first weekend of March, when we interviewed and photographed Harry J. Elam Jr. for the cover story of this issue, social distancing was in its infancy. (Remember elbow bumping? Doesn’t that seem like a lifetime ago?) Concerns over COVID-19 were already prompting the cancellation or postponement of concerts and festivals, but things moved rapidly after that. Eight days after the photo shoot, I was working on this issue on my couch in Highland Park. Our story lineup quickly evolved as well in the hopes of bringing you as complete a picture of Oxy’s response to the pandemic as humanly possible given the challenges of working from home. We’ve tried a few new things out of necessity, including photographing six Oxy seniors remotely with a little help from cellphones and video apps. (Check out the results on pages 18-22.) Wherever this magazine finds you, stay safe and enjoy this issue.—DICK ANDERSON SPRING 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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FROM THE QUAD Photos (pages 4-6) by Marc Campos | Inset photo by Joe Friezer

far left: Fineman talks with first-year students at Orientation in 2013. left: A 1977 headshot. above: Fineman maintained a darkroom in Thorne Hall and taught photography over the years. His students included Lisa Jack ’81, center, shown at the May 2009 opening of her exhibit Barack Obama: The Freshman with Fineman and Eric Moore ’83.

Firestarters, Facilitators, and Influencers Professors Dan Fineman, Adelaida Lopez, and Linda Lasater had a lasting impact outside the classroom—just ask their students

It’s a rite of passage each spring—as Oxy says goodbye to a newly minted class of graduates, a handful of professors grade their last set of papers. Following the conclusion of the academic year, English professor Dan Fineman, Spanish and French studies professor Adelaida Lopez, and adjunct chemistry professor Linda Lasater are retiring from the College. But this year, their customary sendoff—a department party, an academic reception, recognition during Commencement in Hillside Theater—has been upstaged by a once-in-a-century pandemic. Fineman, who turned 70 last September, has been riding out the quarantine with his wife of 38 years at their home in Eagle Rock. “On one hand, we don’t have to go anywhere 4

OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE  SPRING 2020

in order to make our livelihoods,” says Fineman, who met Pamela Hillman in 1979 when she was working in the Oxy registrar’s office (where she worked for three years). “On the other hand, we are the people who are most liable to die from this. “It’s an interesting mixed bag.” In his 44 years of teaching at Occidental, Fineman’s main educational passions have been the work of Herman Melville—the subject of his dissertation at Princeton University—and Emily Dickinson. “My wife calls her ‘the other woman,’ ” he says. A native of Vineland, N.J., Fineman came to Occidental in 1976 from Princeton, where he taught for two years while completing his Ph.D. in American literature. With the job

market slumping in 1975, “The tactic was to send out as many applications as you could possibly muster,” he recalls. “Oxy was kind enough to interview me. I thought it was unbelievable here.” Compared to the Princeton winters— which are “basically mud [but] very good for scholarship,” he says—“out here it was birds of paradise and wonderful warm weather. Oxy was the first one that called me up and offered me a job. I accepted it and had the great pleasure of calling up four schools and say, ‘No, thank you.’ ” Fineman has shared his enthusiasm for 19th-century American literature with generations of Oxy students. Among them is Rob Williams ’86, a Melville fan who had just


FROM THE QUAD

dropped a class and was shopping for a replacement when he eyed a stack of Melville’s novels in the Occidental bookstore and thought, “Here’s my ticket.” “We plowed through all Melville’s novels,” says Williams, who majored in history at Oxy. “It was fantastic—probably the most interactive, completely collaborative class I ever had at Oxy. We argued about things constantly. Dan would come to class with a different take on something every time. After that, I took lots of other classes with him.” Williams utilizes Fineman’s teachings to this day as owner of Ontometrics, the L.A.based software development company he founded in 1988. “Dan uses a fusion of literature and philosophy, so that influenced me a lot. I feel like philosophy plays a pretty ongoing role in software development.” For Fineman, the greatest reward of teaching is simple. “Some students catch fire. When you see someone wake up intellectually, that’s the most thrilling thing,” he says. “He teaches with such passion and intensity,” says Ethan Goldberg ’14, who majored in English and comparative literary studies at Oxy and is currently an adjunct professor and fellow at Queens College, City University of New York. “He cared on a visceral level about people understanding the material and making the material relevant for them beyond just some poem.” When he completes his Ph.D., Goldberg —who took four classes with Fineman— plans to look for a job as an English professor, passing on the Fineman fire. “Each piece of writing that we looked at was considered at an almost life-or-death level,” he says. “And he makes his passion contagious. I still think about classes that I took with him.” Delarys Ramos Estrada ’19 encountered Fineman as a sophomore when she took American Literature Before 1900. “It was divided between Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman,” she says, “and I just fell in love with his teaching style and his personality. He’s very clear about really abstract things. And he’s funny. He made me laugh a lot. “One of my favorite refrains that he had in class was, ‘How can you be effing bored? You’ve never been here before in this singular, particular moment!’ Trying to explain concepts like that, he just gets really excited.” For Estrada—who was teaching English at a high school in Umlazi, South Africa, as a Fulbright Scholar before the pandemic sent

Lopez took her class to the hallway of the Arthur G. Coons Administrative Center during the student occupation of the building in November 2015.

her home—Fineman left an impression both as a person and as an academic. “Sometimes he can come off as curt or a little distant but I think there’s a tenderness about him,” she says. “It’s really subtle and was helpful to me throughout my time at Oxy.” Fineman—who served as president of the Faculty Council (1998-2000) and has at times been a vocal critic of the College—has a typically pragmatic view of his Oxy legacy. “Once you leave, you pretty much disappear into the woodwork,” he says. “I get calls from students from 30 or 40 years back saying, ‘Thank you for teaching me how to write.’ That’s probably the most enduring thing.” For Eduardo Garcia ’22, Professor Adelaida Lopez was his introduction to the Spanish department at Oxy. “I took a high-level grammar class with her and I fell in love with the department,” says the resident of Healdsburg in Sonoma County. “After that class I decided to declare my Spanish major.” Lopez was drawn to Occidental because she “wanted to teach in a city that had a large Spanish-speaking population.” She joined the faculty in 1990 after receiving her B.A. from Wellesley College and her master’s and Ph.D. from Columbia University. Part of her teaching emphasis focused on novels in the realm of magical realism. “Reading and thinking about literature was an important part of my work,” says Lopez, whose classes also canvassed women’s literature of Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina. “Listening to

students’ thoughtful reactions to literature was always very meaningful to me.” And that became meaningful to Garcia. “The second semester we read One Hundred Years of Solitude [the acclaimed 1967 novel by Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez] and that’s a difficult text even in English, right?” he says. “What really surprised me were two things. First was her ability to make a really complex text very digestible for college students who are taking their first high-level analytical literature course.” Second, “Her knowledge about things would just trip me out,” Garcia continues. “Like connecting things from the text to biblical passages. I would find myself walking out of class thinking, ‘Wow. I can’t believe I thought of that.’ But in reality, it wasn’t entirely me that thought of it, she just drew it out of me.” Lopez says her most memorable moments in the classroom were “when all the members of a class laughed together.” That occurred often, according to Garcia. “There was a lot of humor in the class—someone would be struggling with the text, and then suddenly there would be that aha moment. It was like, oh, that’s what was going on. “The other thing too was that she’s funny, but I don’t think she knew how witty and funny she was until we all laughed,” Garcia continues. “She was just being herself, and she’d say something and we’d start laughing, then she’d start laughing, too, when she realized we were getting a kick out of her.” SPRING 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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FROM THE QUAD

left: Linda Lasater on the Oxy campus, photographed in mid-April. “She never failed to put a smile on the face of students,” says senior Marc Kawada. above: Professors Donald Deardorff (chemistry), Lasater, and Mary Beth Heffernan (art and art history) at a reception in 2008.

But in between the spontaneous hilarity, Lopez inspired deep respect. “I feared and revered her at the same time because of her greatness,” says Hady Cortez ’95, an assistant principal in the Los Angeles Unified School District. “She helped me improve my critical thinking and writing skills, and I loved her classes. She influenced my career choice without even knowing it.” Prior to her current job, Cortez taught Spanish in the L.A. school system for eight years. “I emulated my classes after Professor Lopez,” she says. “She was challenging, and she pushed our thinking.” In spring 2001, Carl Fischer ’02 returned from a semester of study in Madrid. He was steeped in the Spanish experience but knew little about Latin America. “So I took a class with her on exiled Latin American writers. I really loved it,” says Fischer, now a professor of Spanish at Fordham University. “It was my first introduction to it, and something that I now have dedicated my career to. It was a pivotal moment for me.” Fischer did his Ph.D. on Chilean literature and in 2016 published Queering the Chilean Way: Cultures of Exceptionalism and Sexual Dissidence, 1965-2015 (New Directions in Latino American Cultures). Lopez “helped me narrow down my interests into kind of a workable academic project,” he says. “She’s a great listener and really interested in helping students talk through different ideas.” Lopez says she’ll spend her retirement “continuing to read, write, and learn about other literatures, cultural expressions, and 6

OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE  SPRING 2020

languages.” She sees her legacy at the College as “simply a part of the legacy of the Spanish department, which encourages and stimulates student interest in the Spanish language and in Spanish and Latin American language, literature, and culture.” Ask Linda Lasater how she arrived at Oxy and her answer is quick and easy: “I ended up here because I love teaching,” she says. “I don’t know how else to put it.” Her trajectory to Occidental is a bit more circuitous. Lasater discovered her passion after her student teaching experience at State University of New York at Cortland, where she graduated in 1973 as an education major. She later spent six years teaching biology, chemistry, and general science at a Florida high school, but something was missing. “I went and got my master’s in administration of education, thinking I could be a principal, but that took me out of the classroom,” she explains. “So I ended up getting my Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of South Florida and did my postdoc at UCLA. That’s what brought me to California.” Lasater took a job as a research chemist with the Veterans Administration Medical Center and UCLA School of Medicine, but when a teaching position opened up at Oxy, “I bit the bullet, quit my job that was paying more, and came here. I’ve been happy as a lark ever since.” In 1994, then-department head Chris Craney asked her to take over Occidental’s Academic Mastery Program, which supports students enrolled in introductory classes in general and organic chemistry, physics, cell and molecular biology, and calculus. Lasater

agreed—with the provision that she could continue teaching as well. “I’m the director of the entire program, doing administrative duties, budget management, all payroll, and providing training for all 17 facilitators,” she explains. “I’ve had a lot of really talented students who have applied to be a facilitator for me in chemistry. And I’ve seen them get excited about teaching rather than just doing the research.” “She was a very tough teacher, but she did a great job of explaining everything,” says Joey Najjar ’19, a chemistry major from Santa Fe, N.M. “I’ll be going to med school next year, and she was one of the big influences in helping me get there. She encouraged me to go into the Academic Mastery Program and start tutoring my peers. That’s where I found out I really liked teaching.” Senior chemistry major Marc Kawada never missed a week of AMP when he began taking intro-level science courses as a firstyear. “Dr. Lasater was behind all of the hiring and training of the wonderful facilitators who host these workshops and mock exams,” he says. “After that first year, I was recommended for the AMP job and eventually got the position as a general chemistry tutor. I consider this to be the beginning of a very fulfilling chemistry experience at Oxy.” Bringing human warmth to the cold world of science is a Lasater trait. “Whenever I ask my fellow chemistry majors why they chose this major, one reason that always comes up is that it truly feels like a family of chemists, and Dr. Lasater has had a huge role in that,” Kawada says. “She also made sure to bake sweets for chemistry socials, whether it was related to AMP or not.” Lasater is leaving the AMP going strong, with at least one major change over the last quarter-century. “Now at least of half, if not two thirds, of my AMP staff are female,” she says. “That confidence growth in terms of women in science is something that I’ve seen a big change in here at Oxy.” How does someone who loves teaching plan to spend her time in a world without classrooms? “Oh, I’ll get caught up on my housework,” Lasater says with a laugh. “But the biggest thing I want to do is travel.” Given the current realities of COVID-19, “It’ll be a while,” she admits. “I still have a lot of family on the East Coast, and I have nieces who live in Norway. But those trips will be down the road.”—PETER GILSTRAP


» WORTH NOTING

Medina photographs a specimen in Moore Lab. Photo by Jenny Wong

Tales of the Bird Dimension Joshua Medina ’19 has developed a new technique for documenting the colors of bird plumage in 3-D Joshua Medina ’19 had long had an interest in 3-D modeling before he took a class his sophomore year from Damian Stocking, associate professor of comparative studies in literature and culture (CSLC). Stocking had recently returned from Greece with videos of classical sculpture and, knowing of Medina’s interest, asked him if he could create a 3-D statue mockup from the videos. Having read a paper on photogrammetry —the extraction of three-dimensional measurements from 2-D images—Medina, a CSLC major from Seattle, set to work. Then fate took a hand when he met James Maley, the collections manager of Oxy’s Moore Lab of Zoology, out walking his dog, Fred. Maley gave Medina a tour of Moore Lab —home of the world’s largest collection of Mexican birds—“and I was absolutely blown away,” Medina remembers. “You get the sensation of being around a lot of hidden history, and all the DNA data likely could fill shelves. That feeling was just as striking as the beauty for me.” He soon realized that the 3-D modeling techniques he had used on Greek statuary could also be applied to bird specimens, and from that emerged a multiyear project to digitize the lab’s specimens in 3-D. That idea snowballed into a submit-

ted journal article, an appearance on NPR’s Science Friday, and a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant proposal. In addition, Medina is the recipient of a prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Awarded annually to candidates in the sciences and social sciences who are pursuing a master’s degree or Ph.D., the fellowship provides three years of support for graduate study leading to research-based advanced degrees and is intended for students in the early stages of their graduate work. “Josh essentially started and ran his own research operation,” says John McCormack, associate professor of biology and director of Moore Lab. “He invented something that the evolutionary biology and systematics community needed: a way to analyze wholeorganism, full-spectrum color.” Although the pandemic has complicated the graduate school process, Medina hopes to pursue his Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where biologist Duncan Irschick uses 3-D modeling to explore animal functional mechanics. He sees lots of possibilities for his technique for museum collections generally, although he’s not quite done with birds: “Using UV light, we’ve been asking questions about the colors we can’t see.”

Bhavna Shamasunder, associate professor of urban and environmental policy, is the recipient of a $479,480 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Science, Technology, and Society for a study of women in immigrant communities in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and New York City who use potentially toxic beauty products to lighten their skin. Titled “Race, Immigration, and the Public Understanding of Science: The Case of Skin Bleaching,” the study’s goal is to examine women’s understanding of the risks involved in using the products and their rationales for doing so. The project first uses archival sources to understand the global skin-lightening market, how mercury came to be added as an ingredient, and efforts by companies to replace it with less toxic alternatives. Second, it examines how diverse communities perceive scientific and public health information about chemical toxicity, their reasons for purchasing skin-lightening products, and whether and how scientific and public health data influences consumer choices. » Regions with low-income populations and low Internet penetration are less likely to follow safe-at-home orders and are thus more vulnerable to the COVID-19 coronavirus, according to a new study co-authored by Lesley Chiou, professor of economics at Occidental, and Catherine Tucker, Sloan Distinguished Professor of Marketing at MIT Sloan School of Management. Titled “Social Distancing, Internet Access, and Inequality,” the study is based on voluntary tracking data from 20 million cellphones nationwide and demographic data from the U.S. Census’ 2018 American Community Survey. The results suggest that policymakers should consider the impact of the digital divide in fighting the pandemic. “Income inequality is cited as one of the chief causes of why some individuals are able to stay-at-home and limit exposure to coronavirus while others cannot,” says Chiou. “But while we found that income is correlated in differences in stay-at-home rates, it is the unequal distribution of highspeed Internet in homes that appears to drive much of this disparity. In this case, access to the Internet represents access to potentially life-saving choices.” SPRING 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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FROM THE QUAD Red carpet photo by Babak Motamen | After We Leave stills courtesy Aleem Hossain

left: On the red carpet: Hossain, second from right, with cast members Anslem Richardson, Brian Silverman, and Anita Leeman Torres at the film’s February 21 premiere. above: Hossain’s brother, Blaise Hossain, oversaw the film’s visual effects. below: Silverman, who also produced, plays the film’s flawed protagonist—a man who needs to find and reconcile with his estranged wife to emigrate off a dying Earth.

The Last Picture Show Assistant professor Aleem Hossain realized a dream when his first feature film was released theatrically in February—just before cinemas suddenly closed “I’m not a very earnest filmmaker,” Aleem Hossain admits. “I was never going to say, ‘Let’s tell the story of visa quotas.’ ” But the beauty of science fiction is that it allows filmmakers to explore social issues in the trappings of a genre film. And by setting his debut feature, After We Leave, in a near-future America, “It also allowed me to sit and meditate on the question of ‘Where is our country going?’ ” Hossain says. Long before he joined the Oxy faculty in 2018 as assistant professor of media production and digital storytelling, Hossain completed principal photography for After We Leave. And in May 2019, after 22 consecutive rejections from festivals around the world, his feature premiered at the Sci-Fi London film festival, where it was awarded Best Film. Further defying the odds of indie film these days, he managed to not just find streaming 8

OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE  SPRING 2020

distribution for his movie (on Amazon and iTunes) but also a limited theatrical release in Los Angeles in February—less than a month before the pandemic brought the exhibition business to a standstill. With an economy of words and a budget of $30,000, Hossain quickly draws viewers into the story of a man searching for his estranged wife in the hopes of emigrating off a dying Earth together. He wrote the script during the first term of the Obama presidency. “When I feel a little more dystopian in our current life, I have a desire to write more utopian stuff,” he says, “and I was feeling more optimistic in some ways when I wrote this film.” The central idea of immigration and visa quotas is very personal to Hossain, whose dad emigrated to America from Bangladesh in 1970. “He’s a Muslim, South Asian guy,” Hossain says. “Then he met my mom, who

was a white girl who grew up in a Catholic, Spanish-Italian family.” Aleem and his younger brother, Blaise, grew up in a small Connecticut town. “Over the next couple of decades, I watched my relatives back in Bangladesh—which is one of the poorest countries on Earth—try to come to America,” he says. He saw how the process could “warp” a person’s behavior, and those memories informed the writing of his film. With script in hand, Hossain bought a camera and two lenses, and surrounded himself with a team that included cinematographer Julie Kirkwood (who shot the recent Nicole Kidman film Destroyer) and lead actor Brian Silverman (who had starred in his thesis film at UCLA). Production began in December 2010, with the hopes of completing principal photography within nine months. The film wrapped in early 2014. “I let go so much more than I ever have on a film,” Hossain says. “I gave my other collaborators a certain amount of freedom. And the movie I got back is the closest to the one I saw in my head that I’ve ever made.” In conjunction with After We Leave’s release, Hossain wrote a lengthy article for the popular No Film School website titled “How (and Why) I Made an Indie Sci-Fi Feature Film for $30K.” (It’s been shared more than 1,800 times.) He’s also bringing these lessons to his classes at Oxy. Fifteen years into his teaching career, Hossain says, “I’ve decided that I’m a filmmaker-professor. I wouldn't quit this job in a million years.”


FROM THE QUAD

» MIXED MEDIA Humbug! The Politics of Art Criticism in New York City’s Penny Press, by Wendy Jean Katz ’88 (Fordham University Press). Approximately 300 daily and weekly newspapers flourished in New York before the Civil War. A majority of these newspapers, even those that proclaimed independence of party, were motivated by political conviction and often local conflicts. Their editors and writers jockeyed for government office and influence. Political infighting and their related maneuvers dominated the popular press, and these political and economic agendas led in turn to exploitation of art and art exhibitions. Humbug traces the relationships, class animosities, gender biases, and racial projections that drove the terms of art criticism, from the emergence of the penny press to the Civil War. The inexpensive “penny” papers that appeared in the 1830s relied on advertising to survive. Sensational stories, satire, and breaking news were the key to selling papers on the streets. Coverage of local politicians, markets, crime, and personalities, including artists and art exhibitions, became the penny papers’ lifeblood. These cheap papers, though unquestionably part of the period’s expanding capitalist economy, offered socialists, working-class men, bohemians, and utopianists a forum in which they could propose new models for American art and society and tear down existing ones. Arguing that the politics of the antebellum press affected the meaning of American art in ways that have gone unrecognized, Humbug covers the changing politics and rhetoric of this criticism. Katz demonstrates how the penny press’ drive for a more egalitarian society affected the taste and values that shaped art, and how the politics of their art criticism changed under pressure from nativists, abolitionists, and expansionists. Katz is a professor of art history at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she has taught since 1998. She also created a related website (katzsnewspapers.org) of primary sources that might be of interest to readers, with hundreds of items from penny papers.

Demythologizing Revelation: A Critical Continuation of Rudolf Bultmann’s Project, by Chester O’Gorman ’00 (Fortress Academic). What is revelation? In the 20th century, radical theologian Rudolf Bultmann sought an answer by demythologizing scripture and Christian tradition. Most philosophers and theologians agree that he failed adequately to demythologize revelation through his notion, the kerygma. In Demythologizing Revelation, O’Gorman corrects this shortcoming, demythologizing Jesus Christ as revelation through the philosophy of Slavoj Žižek. Drawing support from notable thinkers, he proffers a non-supernatural account and theory of revelation. This theory enables both Christians and atheists to identify sites of revelation today so that all might better understand and participate in its ongoing liberation of humanity from sin and oppression, for the sake of all creation. O’Gorman (formerly Chester Barber) is adjunct instructor at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minn. Vegas: An Imploded Life, by Mike Newman ’62 (Kindle Direct Publishing). Newman moved with his family from Palm Springs to Las Vegas in the mid-1950s, when his father was hired to work at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. He would later work for 22 years at the Dunes hotel and casino, a fixture of the Las Vegas Strip from 1955 until its implosion in 1993. From the atomic explosions of the 1950s until the hotel implosions of the 1990, Newman intertwines the history of a tenacious town with his own experiences as a dealer and educator. “In this great game of chance and change,” he writes, “does growth get the final flop or does history have the hole card?” Newman lives with his wife, Paula, in Las Vegas. Burn It Down! Feminist Manifestos for the Revolution, by Breanne Fahs ’01 (Verso Books). The manifesto—raging and wanting, quarreling and provoking—has always played a central role in feminism. Its urgent rawness—the bleeding edge of rage and defiance

—ignites new and revolutionary possibilities. In this landmark collection spanning three centuries and four waves of feminist activism and writing, Burn It Down! is a testament to what is possible when women are driven to the edge. Collecting over 75 manifestos from around the world with titles like “Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female,” The Manifesto of Apocalyptic Witchcraft,” and “Riot Grrrl Manifesto,” Fahs argues that we need manifestos with their insistence that we have to act now. She is professor of women and gender studies at Arizona State University in Glendale, Ariz. Listen to this: Contemporary folk singersongwriter Terry Kitchen ’81 returns with Next Time We Meet (Urban Campfire Records), a new collection that blurs the line between personal and political, just like real life has a way of doing. His songs range from gently driving bluegrass (“Melanie,” “How Many Horses”) to midnight confessional (“The Times We Almost Kissed”) to protest folk (“Party on the Roof,” “White Lung”). The heart of the record is a trio of songs about the recent loss of a childhood friend, musician Bill Kuhlman (above, right), “and our inability to accept that we only get one chance at life,” says Kitchen. His chiming guitar and intimate vocals are joined by Rebecca Lynch ’81, who contributes harmony. Kitchen lives with his wife and cat in Boston. Image courtesy Terry Kitchen ’81

For the song “How Many Horses,” from his new CD Next Time We Meet, Terry Kitchen ’81 produced a “post-COVID, socially distanced” video featuring Rebecca Lynch ’81 and other classmates. It’s on Kitchen’s YouTube channel. SPRING 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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RESPONDING TO COVID-19

A QUIET PLACE As the novel coronavirus brings campus life to a standstill, Occidental soldiers on By DICK ANDERSON | Photos by KEVIN BURKE


Shadows fall on the Oxy campus just before sunset on April 3, 2020.


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O ONE NOTICED THE CHIMES. On April 1, the Westminster Chimes that ring on the quarter hour from Johnson Student Center had been replaced by a sequence of sounds that were once likened to those coming from “an alien ice cream truck.” They were the compositions of three music faculty commissioned by President Jonathan Veitch as a sort of performance art experiment for Founders Day in 2011 (prompting then-sophomore Anna Kurnizki ’13 to create a Facebook petition against the replacement chimes, garnering more than 500 supporters within 24 hours). When the chimes returned to campus for an April Fool’s Day encore—a prank that had been planned, auto-programmed, and long forgotten by the President’s Office— you’d have thought the aliens had abducted everyone. And of the handful of denizens occupying the Academic Quad at mid-morning, no one seemed to notice anything different about the carillon bells. Then again, this was the spring when everything was different at Oxy—when campus life ground to a halt as classes went online, students and faculty went home, and a calendar bursting with activities, culminating with Commencement in May, was all but erased thanks to the novel coronavirus. Six days into the semester, on January 26, the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported in Los Angeles County, a traveler from Wuhan, China. Forty-six days later,

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with 32 cases and one known death, President Veitch and his senior leadership team concluded “that the best and most responsible path forward is to complete the spring semester remotely, using online methods, and minimize the number of students living on campus. We don’t take this step lightly,” he wrote in an email to the Oxy community March 12. “We know this will be disruptive and disappointing to many of you.” By the time of Veitch’s announcement, evidence of community transmission was growing. The World Health Organization officially declared a global pandemic the day before, and the NBA suspended its season after a player tested positive for COVID-19. Disneyland announced its closure soon after. With spring break extended by a week, Oxy faculty scrambled to master the basics of remote learning, and over 1,500 students faced the challenge of moving out of the College’s residence halls. Not everyone wanted to leave: Out of 432 petitions from students to remain on campus, 217 were approved. And not everyone could leave easily: Roughly half of Oxy’s 138 international students, facing travel restrictions or potential visa limitations, were among those who stayed. Robin Craggs, executive director of international programs, and her IPO staff faced their own logistical challenge: how to get Oxy’s 89 students home safely who were studying abroad this semester. In Morocco, for instance, two students squeezed onto the

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last chartered flights out of Rabat, with the College footing the bill. A handful of students saw their programs in China, Japan, and Korea canceled outright in January, while students in New Zealand, Australia, and Argentina—whose programs started in late February—enjoyed only 18 days abroad before being evacuated. “Our incredible partners in 49 programs around the world literally bombarded us with information about local conditions, student health alerts, evolving travel restrictions, and finally the details about program closures and academic continuity,” Craggs says. “Nothing prepared us to have the very purpose of our chosen career in international exchange— building world peace one student at a time— summarily unraveled in a matter of weeks.” The first communication to the Oxy community on the novel coronavirus (or “2019-nCoV,” as it was known at the time) came on January 27 from Sara Semal, senior director of Emmons Wellness Center. “We are keeping busy with student appointments, especially in counseling,” she says in April. “This is a very difficult time for students and we are seeing how social isolation, change in routine and structure, lack of independence, and loss of community have affected their mental health and academic focus. “As a therapist, I understand how mentally taxing the current situation is,” she adds. “As a public health clinician, I understand the fear a pandemic evokes and the desire to


1. Maddie Sellergren ’20 (a media arts and culture/ critical theory and social justice double major from Arlington Heights, Ill.) maintains social distancing as cashier Joana Munoz rings up her purchases in the Marketplace. 2. Sandra Saavedra of Campus Dining demonstrates hand sanitizer protocol at the MP entrance. 3. Tyler Webb (politics; View Park) and Siddhant Jain ’22 (biology; Jaipur, India) head back to their dorm rooms after a food run. 4. From left, Kaye Jenkins ’21 (urban and environmental policy; Normandy Park, Wash.), Collin Mazeika ’21 (politics/philosophy; Chicago), and  Sandy Kupfer ’22 (undeclared; Camp Hill, Pa.). 5. Branca Family Patio remains closed to dine-in traffic. 6. Progress on the Gilman Fountain plaza project continues. Elsewhere on campus, work on the Anderson Center for Environmental Sciences and Sycamore Glen projects remains on pace as well, with just a few rain delays. 7. Maria Elena Ramirez of Cleaning Services mists the surfaces in a Johnson Hall classroom. 8. In addition to selling essential items to students and employees still on campus, the Oxy bookstore offers virtual personal shopping experiences to remote customers by appointment using video apps. 9. Wheels up in a bike rack outside Johnson Student Center.

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keep one’s self and family away from harm. And yet everyone at Oxy has been working so hard and devoting so much of themselves to keeping the community healthy and safe.” In the Marketplace—currently the only dining choice open on campus, serving takeout only since March 17—“We are feeding about 200 students, our own staff members, and 30 to 40 other essential workers each day,” says Amy Munoz, associate vice president of hospitality services. “Most students buy two to three meals each time they visit, so the number of meals is definitely higher than the transaction count.” Comfort foods such as pot roast, mac and cheese, and pizza are popular, and “Asian dishes are also big sellers,” she notes. “We have pulled out the panini presses, and are able to make paninis to order at the sandwich station. During the regular school year this would be too time-consuming.” Having experienced earthquakes, power outages, building flooding, and windstorms over the years, “I can say that this is much more impactful than any of those,” Munoz adds. “But in the end, our job is to provide sustenance and comfort, and we do it very, very well under any set of challenges.” Just below the Marketplace, bookstore manager Donna Huebner and her team are typically working right now on textbook orders from faculty for fall, as well as ordering clothing, supplies, gifts, and convenience items to come in after July 1. This semester,

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she has been stocking the shelves with certain necessities for people on campus to purchase, buying them at retail if needed. “Every day someone comes in and asks for sanitizing cleaner, rubbing alcohol, or wipes. I ran out of all those sanitizing items very quickly, and receiving more has been impossible,” Huebner says. “Most of the students who have come into the store seem fairly upbeat and relaxed, although some of them come in and get what they need and get out quickly. Other students come in and spend time browsing. Perhaps they were looking for something to do other than going straight back to their rooms.” With all their facilities closed, Athletics has worked with Admission to give virtual tours to recruits and has hosted studentathlete panels online as well. “Recruiting is always a top priority but it is especially important right now, and we’ve been creative and collaborative in our efforts,” says athletics director Shanda Ness. A program in the works called Tigers Rising “will provide our student-athletes with important content in ways to grow and improve even through challenging times,” she adds. The absence of most students has given the Facilities Department a head start on preventive maintenance projects in residence halls, as well as access to work on mechanical systems throughout campus. “Normally, we maintain a balance of long-term planning and immediate project/task execution,” says Tom

Photo 7 by Marc Campos

Polansky, director of facilities. “Lately, we’ve had to shift our focus to the more immediate work that lays before us—keeping staff safe while they work in occupied buildings, shuttering unused buildings, and cleaning.” The ongoing efforts of Oxy’s essential workers have not gone unnoticed. “Very few of us ever think of showing up to work as an act of heroism,” says President Veitch. “But we have housecleaning, dining, and facilities staff who not only show up to work but go into relatively high-risk environments—from cleaning dormitories to serving food to students all day long. That’s extraordinary. And it’s a testament to their commitment to this institution that they’re willing to do that.” As of May 1—the first day of final exams —there were 24,215 cases in L.A. County and 1,172 deaths from COVID-19. Back at Oxy, grades were due to the registrar’s office for graduating seniors May 12, and for all other students six days later. A virtual celebration for graduating seniors will be livestreamed in mid-June, with the promise of an in-person ceremony during the coming academic year. “This is not what any of us anticipated when the semester started,” Veitch wrote to the Class of 2020 on April 28. “But we look forward to marking your graduation in June and then welcoming you back to campus next year for the celebration you have earned.” And when those seniors return to Oxy, you can bet the Westminster Chimes will ring loud and clear. SPRING 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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RESPONDING TO COVID-19

From a

Distance By DICK ANDERSON

In a race against two calendars—academic and pandemic— how did Oxy transform in less than two weeks from a high-touch curriculum to a remote learning model? Screenshot from twitch.tv/nite_jewel

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above: From left, Lilly Eluvathingal, instruction and research specialist for the sciences in the Library/CDLA (Center for Digital Liberal Arts), gives faculty members Peter Dreier, Anita Zachary, and Heather Lukes a tutorial in online learning and teaching on March 16. Remote classes began a week later. left: Ramona Gonzalez ’09, far left, Johnston-Fix Professor of the Practice in Songwriting, talks with singer-songwriter Julia Holter for her Introduction to Songwriting class in an April 24 livestream on Twitch.


“ ELLO FROM RAT GRAVEYARD,” Ben Smith ’20 writes, and classmate Lindsee Diaz smiles and waves from her home in National City, some 130 miles away. “We have a lot of weird [off-campus] house names around Oxy,” Diaz explains to the YouTube audience for the live preshow to the 2020 Media Arts and Culture Production Comprehensives—a virtual film festival showcasing the work of 13 MAC seniors. “It feels really great that we can still do this, and I’m very thankful that now people who maybe couldn’t watch it previously can now tune in. So, that’s awesome.” “Thank you to everyone who is watching far and wide,” adds co-host Asher Tessier ’20 from his home in Thorndike, Mass. “This is not what we anticipated doing.” Nearly two hours later, when the credits rolled on the last student film, close to 200 viewers had tuned in—and the festival became the most visible manifestation of the swift turn of events that swept through the Oxy academic calendar this spring. Classes and lectures and comps had gone digital, and remote learning—while not a fullblooded substitute for the campus experience—had demonstrated the ability of students, faculty, and staff to roll with the changes. The April 18 livestream was the handiwork of Diana Keeler ’09, Oxy’s manager of digital production, who worked remotely with the 13 production seniors in her Advanced Editing class in the weeks leading up to the festival just to get their films finished on time. “The idea was to create a virtual event that had different elements—a premiere of their films, a place viewers could comment, and a digital program in one place,” she explains. “We wanted it to be a synchronous screening where people all over the world could be watching simultaneously, so we set it up as a YouTube premiere with a countdown to a show that we could all watch together.” “I have been looking forward to the MAC screenings in Thorne Hall since I was a first-year,” Diaz admits during the preshow. “But you know what? This is the new age … and I’m feeling good, frankly.” For students in Oxy’s 44 majors and minors, the College’s foray into remote learning officially began March 23, following an extended spring break. But for James Uhrich, vice president for information technology services and chief information officer, and his team, the process began before there was even a COVID-19. “It’s hard to know where to start,” Uhrich says in an interview April 9. “It’s been such a circus and arguably still is.” So, let’s begin at the beginning: A small group of senior administrators had worked during the fall 2019 semester on outlining what

Karina Goussev ’23, photographed on April 1, takes her studies to an empty table outside the Hameetman Career Center. Goussev remained on campus for several weeks of remote learning before returning home to Lake Hopatcong, N.J., to complete the spring semester. Photo by Kevin Burke | Opposite page: Photo by Marc Campos

resources were available at the College as related to academic continuity planning. “We knew the College had to have plans in place for regular emergency preparedness—how we would be able to deliver remote education for a week or 10 days in the event of an earthquake or other natural disaster,” says Uhrich. In January, he shared a framework of available resources as well as what Occidental would need to continue instruction with the Emergency Operations Committee. As the coronavirus situation began to develop earlier this semester, he adds, “We realized we had to take those plans and make them happen.” When Wendy Sternberg, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College, updated faculty about academic continuity planning in a March 3 email, “At that moment we went from a shared set of documents for internal planning purposes to a situation where we knew this was not theoretical anymore.” In moving 200-plus faculty and over 2,000 students online, “The biggest challenge was not making sure that the system worked— it was making sure the system worked for each faculty member’s classes based on the way that they teach,” says Uhrich, who joined the College in 2010. “It was an unprecedented volume of work, more than I’ve ever experienced in my two-decade-old career.” BlueJeans—a video conferencing platform the College has used since 2013—“was one of the resources on our emergency planning list, one of the five or so apps we knew would be central to maintaining our continuity of education,” he explains. (It also didn’t have all the bells and whistles that the situation called for, which is why the College has augmented it with Zoom—the video app equivalent of Coke to BlueJeans’ Pepsi.) Working with the newly formed Academic Continuity Execution (ACE) team, “I could not have asked for a more responsive and helpful support system,” says Peter Dreier, the E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics, who is teaching two politics courses— Urban Politics and Policy and Democratic Socialism—this semester. SPRING 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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Screenshots from Instagram (@oxyletterpress)

above left: L.A.-based artist and adjunct assistant professor Jocelyn Pedersen uses Instagram to interact with students in her letterpress and book arts classes. center: Pedersen demonstrates a few mark-making possibilities for her students’ books. right: Psychology major Gabi Saliamonas ’20 shares pages from her artist book project, “The Distance Diaries.” “It’s fun to have other letterpress and book arts programs leave comments and share ideas,” Pedersen says.

In addition to doing test runs using BlueJeans in advance of his first class, he says, members of the library team were extremely helpful in making e-books available to his students and digitizing several films for his courses so students could watch them at home. “I’ve gotten quite a few emails from students saying that they enjoy the class,” Dreier says. “Attendance has been excellent so far. In fact, more students ‘show up’ for class than they did during the first half of the semester. Also, more students actually participate in the class discussion. I think they are relieved to have some kind of normal activity every day by attending the class sessions and are more likely to participate.” Students in a BlueJeans session of Tom Burkdall’s Writing on Travel class were transported to the virtual classroom through photos taken by Helena de Lemos, Special Collections instruction and research librarian. From their homes, students examined images spanning from the 18th to the 21st centuries culled from Oxy’s Special Collections and College Archives—locales ranging from England’s Lake District to Yosemite National Park. “Helena talked about the context of the materials,” says Burkdall, associate professor of writing and rhetoric. “It was a great exercise in bringing historical elements to courses, no matter where everyone is.” “One of our guiding principles on the academic continuity planning team has been we will do everything we can to get faculty and students whatever they need to successfully deliver the curriculum,” Uhrich says. Regardless of their role, “Everyone has a singleness of purpose and the goal of keeping Oxy vital and operating, and that shared purpose is bringing people together in ways I haven’t seen.” Twice a week, music production instructor Jongnic “JB” Bontemps uses a new video platform called Panopto to record his lectures from his home studio. “Panopto is great in that it captures both video of me and my desktop and combines it all into one video feed,” he says. “It’s much like the classroom experience—students can see me and watch what I am doing on screen.” An added feature of the platform is the ability for students to rewatch or rewind the lessons if they didn’t get something the first time. 16

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Bontemps augments the Panopto lessons and discussions on Moodle (an online platform) with weekly Zoom sessions where the class can interact more directly. “Students learn so much from each other’s questions,” he says. “It’s an important part of their learning.” For Kathryn Leonard, professor and chair of computer science, the move online has not changed her approach to her lessons for the two classes she is teaching this spring, even if it has changed their delivery. “I have students in almost every time zone for the junior seminar class [Second Stage Writing], so that class has moved to asynchronous—I post activities for them to do on their own schedule,” she says. “For the research course, I’m meeting with students in their subgroups—and each week, one subgroup posts a video presentation of their project status on a Slack channel that we all belong to, and the rest of us can ask questions and make comments.” Leonard shares her teaching space with two cats, “who ignore me until I’m talking on a video call—then they desperately need my love and affection. But I like those interruptions—it always lightens the mood.” Before spring break, Nalsey Tinberg reached a milestone—even if she didn’t realize it at the time. “Unknowingly I had taught my last ‘in-person’ class, and that was a moment for me,” says the longtime professor of mathematics, who joined the Oxy faculty in 1980 and is taking a sabbatical year prior to her official retirement in August 2021. Working with Jacob Sargent, training and support team lead for ACE, Tinberg got a tutorial in BlueJeans and Zoom for conferencing. The most challenging thing about adapting to distance learning, she says, has been “adjusting to the technology while trying to maintain the same kind of classroom structures and interactions.” In lieu of day-to-day assignments in her Calculus 1B and Linear Algebra classes, “I have gone to set our weekly expectations so that students have a bit more freedom,” she adds. “I don’t know the pressures they are under from other classes or family issues.” Teaching from her home office, which is also her guest room, Irene Girton has embraced the demands of remote learning with a vigor that belies the fact that this is also her last semester in the


Screenshots from YouTube (Occidental College Media Arts & Culture)

above left: Seniors Asher Tessier and Lindsee Diaz emceed the MAC production comprehensives on YouTube, bringing on 11 of their classmates, including Olivia Adelman and Poncho Tian, prior to livestreaming their films. above right: Fiji Hill served as a location for more than one student film, including Note to Self, starring Tal Chatterjee and written and directed by Emma Choate, top; and On Being Alone, starring writer-director Kendrick Shoji.

classroom. “In anticipation of my upcoming departure from teaching, I had just recently downsized my desk to a much smaller one— not great timing,” says the professor of music, who has taught at Oxy since 2000 and is also on sabbatical next year. “I have an old Steinway upright that’s an OK substitute for the wonderful grand pianos I’m used to using in Booth 204, and all the online media I’ve always used in class are still available to me.” In adapting to remote learning, Girton reconciled the balance between teaching specific compositional and analytic skills and techniques, “which are very time-intensive and require considerable one-on-one attention,” and presenting broader theoretical concepts by creating video presentations relating to those specific skills and techniques. “If I teach music theory to students as a way of thinking about music—with clarity, specificity, and in cultural, historical, technical, aesthetic, and emotional context—then I’ve done the best job I can do,” she says. In “this brave new virtual world,” Sophal Ear, associate professor of diplomacy and world affairs (DWA), feels he has come close to replicating the in-person classroom experience. Livestreaming backto-back sections of his Introduction to Global Political Economy— a required class for DWA majors—Ear has seen a boost in attendance from earlier in the semester, when he was teaching his class in Johnson Hall 314, one of the balcony rooms above Choi Auditorium. “It takes incredible concentration when you are focused on a computer screen trying to sound erudite and witty, but also thoughtful and deep, all while delivering your slides and trying to engage students whose faces you don’t all see,” Ear says. Because he can’t stand up and walk around the classroom, he adds, after nearly three hours at the computer, “You are extremely sorry you did this to your back.” COVID-19 has already found its way into his syllabus. “My first class was supposed to be about behavioral and institutional critiques of liberal political economy but ended being mostly about the political economy of COVID-19,” he says. “I think every class will have a bit about that. It’s inescapable.” (It’s also the topic of his third book

manuscript: Viral Sovereignty and the Political Economy of Pandemics: What Explains How Countries Handle Outbreaks?) The pandemic has found its way into other class curricula as well. For Health and Humanity, an eight-unit course in Oxy’s Cultural Studies Program that uses interdisciplinary tools to study various elements of health and medicine, professor Kristi Upson-Saia (religious studies) and associate professors Brandon Lehr (economics) and Clair Morrissey (philosophy) pivoted away from the content they had planned prior to COVID-19 and asked students to analyze the pandemic using the skills they had learned prior to spring break. In the following weeks the professors broadened their gaze to the history of pandemics dating back to the ancient Mediterranean. Not every class can be translated to virtual work. Absent the ability to do hands-on experiments, Professor of Biology Roberta Pollock’s Bio 395 students spent the remainder of the semester “talking about their project, our data, and where we were going,” she says. “It was a huge disappointment.” Although it was no substitute for in-person presentations, many of her biochemistry seminar seniors completed their comps by posting their presentations online. Despite the physical challenges of remote learning, Pollock says, “The pandemic has brought us closer together. It seems easier for many students to meet virtually rather than having to come to my physical office. It helped me personally to be able to help them.” “Even with all the challenges and obstacles in their way, all 13 of my seniors not only finished their comps projects but excelled in their execution,” Keeler says of her MAC production students. “They told me how they had a group chat going, and they weren’t going to let anyone slip through the cracks, especially not after coming this far. While they might be miles apart now, their Oxy community spirit is strong, and it’s for them that I try to give my best every day.” Ear concurs. “We are all apart and yet we are sharing space we would never have on campus. A cat sneezes. There’s a huge library of books in the background of one student’s video shot, and in another there’s artwork that a student’s mom got from Africa. We are all experiencing the same dislocations. They may be back in their childhood bedrooms, but I’m also broadcasting from my bedroom.” SPRING 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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RESPONDING TO COVID-19

Class DISRUPTED

Teagan Mucher


Many special senior moments have been upended by COVID-19— and a traditional Commencement will have to wait. But the Class of 2020 has made memories that no virus can destroy

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N MARCH 15, about 50 Occidental seniors padded into Remsen Bird Hillside Theater and took seats on its concrete benches. It was a made-to-order Sunday morning in Los Angeles: The mercury stood at 70 degrees, and a few lingering clouds were the only remnants of spring rains that a day earlier scrubbed the skies crystalline blue. Anticipating their last days on campus, they could not have foreseen this moment —an impromptu “commencement” thrown together in response to COVID-19. Some students dressed formally, while others wore stoles over their T-shirts and jeans. Seniors wrote their names and majors on notecards, which were read over a small speaker as they crossed the stage. They were invited to share something about themselves—such as being the first in their family to attend college, or that they were graduating magna cum laude. “Things changed overnight,” says Teagan Mucher ’20, a computer science major from San Francisco (he wore jeans). “We wanted to have some kind of ceremony to wrap up our time.” Hand sanitizer was available, he adds. Afterward, there was a small get-together at an off-campus house where social distancing was at least encouraged. For the 447 members of Occidental’s Class of 2020, the pandemic signaled an abrupt end to college life as they knew it. And while they are completing coursework remotely online, many of the final rites of passage—senior week and Commencement among them—were canceled or postponed to an uncertain future. (Out of 290 respondents to a senior survey conducted in mid-

By ANDY FAUGHT | Photos by MARC CAMPOS

Emily Jo Wharry

April, an overwhelming majority indicated their preference to have an in-person Commencement experience.) On March 12, Mucher was driving home from a camping trip to Mojave National Preserve when he and his girlfriend, Catherine Terry ’20, got an email from President Jonathan Veitch announcing Oxy was moving classes online, and asking students to leave campus by March 20. “We drove in stunned silence for about 20 minutes, just trying to process anything,” recalls Mucher, who is taking a job as a technical product manager at Facebook. “And then I started calling friends and family and just lamenting and grieving together, and figuring out our next plans.” Resident adviser Emily Jo Wharry ’20 says a second note was sent to RAs, informing them that their duties would cease in a few days. Many students were in a daze at the sudden news, says Wharry, a history major from Fillmore. Others, she notes with a chuckle, took advantage of the lack of official supervision.

“A lot of the freshmen were like, ‘Well, the world is ending. I guess we’ll just party and see what happens after that.’ We all realized that it wasn’t a two- or three-week thing; it was indefinite because of coronavirus.” During spring break in early March, as the rapid spread of the coronavirus dominated the national conversation, Leah Harman ’20 and her friends watched as USC and Loyola Marymount University were among the first schools in Southern California to shift to remote learning. “We all kind of knew it was coming,” the history major recalls. “The moment that Pomona decided, we were like, ‘OK, we’re gone.’ ” After a 30-hour drive from campus, Harman continues to shelter in place at her mom’s home in Minneapolis. She keeps in touch with friends via FaceTime, sharing virtual happy hours and playing online group trivia on Jackbox. “It’s one of those situations that is so out of everyone’s control that we’re kind of taking our disappointment with a grain of salt,” SPRING 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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“A lot of my senior year was getting through all-nighters by visualizing the act of walking across a stage, getting the diploma handed to me, and seeing my name on a program.” she says. “We all feel very lucky that we were able to have 3½ really amazing years under our belt.” While Harman is morose about missing Commencement and senior week, she considers giving her senior comp in December a kind of satisfactory closure. The work, coincidentally, happened to address topics that would inform conversations about COVID-19. Her presentation, “Manly Medicine: Masculinity in the 19th-Century Debate on Pueperal Fever,” considered in part the importance of handwashing in combating the often-fatal uterine infection that struck women after childbirth. “Having a deliverable that shows all of the hard work you’ve put in over the years is a really cool thing,” she says. “I can definitely frame my closure that way.” Harman has always been passionate about the history of medicine. She wrote her junior seminar paper on the eradication of smallpox. She also researched H1N1 during her time at Oxy. “My professors always rolled their eyes and said, ‘Oh, Leah, how are

Jason Yu

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you going to spin my class so you can write about the history of medicine?’ ” she says. “I’d usually figure out a way to.” She eventually wants to pursue a doctorate in the history of science of medicine, but in the short term she’s planning to take a job at the University of Wisconsin, where she’ll serve as an administrative liaison in the history department.  Others are presenting their comps remotely. From her family’s home in Woodbury, Minn., Jane Crosby-Schmidt ’20 is finishing her math comp project and her economics honors project as her family— including a brother, a sophomore at the University of Puget Sound who also is finishing classes online—bides its time outdoors. “A lot of these big milestone moments just got taken away,” the economics/media arts and culture major says. “I’ve talked to a lot of my classmates, and we’re all kind of scrambling to try to find some closure, in other ways, for these things that have been super important in our lives over the last four years.” In April, she and her classmates recorded their math comps and sent them to professors, who in turn broadcast them over a livestream to viewers, who could then ask the presenters questions. “When I was done, I went back into the kitchen and had a late dinner by myself while I was texting one of my friends who also presented—rather than celebrating in person with my classmates and my professors,” Crosby-Schmidt says. “If we do have a graduation at some point, I think it’ll be even more meaningful than it would have been originally, because of how this semester ended.” Graduation wasn’t the only casualty of COVID-19. Dance Production, the College’s largest student-run group on campus— of which Crosby-Schmidt is pres-

Jane Crosby-Schmidt

ident—canceled its performance dates, the first time since the group’s founding in 1948. This year about 250 students took part in the program, in which students learn dance styles from around the globe. No experience is necessary. “That was a big source of community for me,” Crosby-Schmidt says. Across campus, in Oxy’s residence halls, students packed their belongings and headed home. The other option was to leave their possessions in the dorms and retrieve them at an indeterminate date. When spring break started, the coronavirus wasn’t on the minds of most students, says resident adviser Wharry, who was sitting on her couch at home when she got the email. “I was crushed, because I love school so much,” she says. “To have not only academics taken away so quickly but friends and mentors and professors—people who I knew I would never see again in my role as a student—was totally devastating. I had a day when I just sat by myself and cried and let out all of the pathetic emotions in one go.” Not every student left campus in midMarch. Jason Yu, a studio art/Japanese studies major from Shanghai, was among nearly 200 students permitted to stay in one of three residence halls for the remainder of the semester due to extenuating circumstances. In Yu’s case, he was unable to secure a flight home to China: “It’s extremely hard to get tickets,” he explains. This fall, he plans to begin graduate studies at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. 


Max Peng

Yu, who is taking sculpture and printmaking classes this semester, is unable to use studio space at Occidental because most College facilities have been shuttered since remote learning began. “It’s really strange to make art outside of the studio,” says Yu. Art projects are small-scale efforts that he can work on in his dorm room. As for a typical day as the semester winds down, Yu adds, “Some of the time I chat with my friends, and the rest of the time I do my homework and read.” He sets aside an hour for exercise, including yoga, pushups, and abdominal workouts. When he leaves his room, Yu dons a mask—as is required in Los Angeles. Because he is a Chinese national, the Chinese consulate delivered him a package with 20 surgical masks, an N-95 mask, sanitizing wipes, and antibiotics. Also remaining on campus is Max Peng ’20, who was planning to stay in Los Angeles rather than risk going home to Nanjing, China, and not be able to return to the United States because of federal travel bans. After Peng served an internship for a finance company in Rancho Cucamonga last summer, the company said it would give him a full-time job.  But for now, there is a hiring freeze, and Peng’s immediate future is unclear. Peng spends his days walking to the Marketplace for meals (which he carries back to his room) and running in the surrounding neighborhood. “It’s so I can get some fresh air, because

I feel claustrophobic in my room,” he says. “Other than that, I don’t really go off campus. There’s really no reason to, and I want to keep things safe by not going out.” Group language major Darla Howell ’20 enjoyed tutoring schoolchildren in Northeast Los Angeles through an education course and was looking forward to conducting theater workshops at local elementary schools after spring break. Having helped organize Occidental’s Black Graduation since her sophomore year, she was anticipating her own cultural celebration in May. COVID-19 erased all those plans.  The pandemic poses other challenges for Howell, who grew up in Canoga Park, less than 30 miles from the College. While attending Oxy, her mother moved to Las Vegas and downsized her living space. Howell and her two college-age siblings are squeezed into a two-bedroom home; Howell sleeps in her mom’s office on a pull-out couch. “My mom was empty-nested, and then all of a sudden we’re back at home,” Howell says. “I’m the youngest kid again—the baby. It’s frustrating for all of us.”  Howell was among a group of 17 Oxy students who visited China in summer 2018 as the capstone of a contemporary Chinese history course. She also has been treasurer of the Black Student Alliance and has been active in Oxy’s MLK Day of Service, which drew a record number of participants in January. This year she also volunteered with Girls on the Run, an organization that em-

powers preteen girls by teaching life skills through running. While she has communicated with many of her friends via FaceTime and Instagram since leaving campus, “They’re just very sad conversations,” she says. “Most of us aren’t really doing that well.” It’s not all bad news these days: Howell was recently awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in Taiwan, and is in the process of deciding whether to accept that or a writing and speaking fellowship from NYU Shanghai. “I don’t know if I want to be traveling internationally right now,” she admits. Baxter Montgomery ’20, an economics major from Houston, worries that he’ll never see his friends again. After word broke that the year was done, “Everybody had the realization that it’s over,” says Montgomery, who knocked on doors in Missouri for U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s reelection efforts as a Campaign Semester participant in 2018. The harsh reality of the moment created a sudden aura of kindness among all students.  “It’s not the best thing to do during a pandemic, but people were a lot more open to hanging out,” says Montgomery, who even made the 1,500-mile drive home in a caravan with classmate Clay Pollock ’20. “They were kind of in that mood of, ‘Let’s try to make

Darla Howell

these days and hours special, and have something good to remember each other by.’ ” Back in Houston, Montgomery and his younger siblings —one who attends Tulane, the other a student at Clark—are all completing their semester’s studies online. During his time at Oxy, “the main thing on your mind is doing schoolwork,” he says. “Back home, it’s a million different things. There are always chores, and cooking for myself is a big adjustment.” Looking ahead, Montgomery SPRING 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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will attend law school at Texas Tech this fall—assuming there will be a fall semester. Few students understand the dangers of the novel coronavirus better than Gianna Zinnen, the Gianna Zinnen daughter of a Denver lung doctor. Restaurants and bars in the city have been closed during the pandemic. While masks are recommended but “captain’s logs” in their parlance—that sumnot mandatory, she, her sister, and their fa- marize the mundane ways in which they ther wear the coverings as a matter of course. are spending their time in self-quarantine. When she’s not completing her course- Entries are everything from pithy to uproarwork online, Zinnen, a biology major, keeps ious: “went on a run,” “ate cereal for lunch,” busy by walking, running, and bicycling. She “had an existential crisis nap in the middle was skiing with friends in Colorado over of the afternoon.” spring break when news broke that Oxy was The sting of recent events, in spite of the closing. She quickly took stock of her losses. balm of humor, isn’t so easily vanquished for “A lot of my classes are lab-based, and I Wharry: “A lot of my senior year was getting was also taking a ballet course, which obvi- through all-nighters by visualizing the act ously is not happening as it was,” says Zin- of walking across a stage and getting the nen, who studied abroad in Buenos Aires her diploma handed to me, and seeing my name junior year. “I was also supposed to present on a program. It hurts a lot.” my honor thesis, and that got washed away.” For all the milestones disrupted by the It’s a common refrain among the Class of coronavirus, it’s the everyday moments of 2020. “I’m going to miss the slow wrap-up to campus life that many students miss the things, where you have those conversations most: Before the coronavirus, Wharry recalls with folks about what they want to do with many seniors considering the thought of their lives,” Mucher says. “There are so many class reunions as “dorky.” Now, she says, “It’s people who I didn’t get to say goodbye to or going to be so emotional and so profound have those conversations with.” because we’ve all had such an absolutely wild Wharry and classmates have developed a end to our Oxy career.” bent sense of humor about unfolding events. Faught wrote “The Campaign for CommuAt the end of most days, they send texts— nity” in the Fall 2019 issue.

Baxter Montgomery

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COVID-19 TIGERS 0 The SCIAC spring sports season ended abruptly—and these senior studentathletes will miss their Oxy families almost as much as the thrill of victory WHEN OXY RELIEF PITCHER Cade Denyer ’20 stepped off the Anderson Field mound on March 11, having pitched four innings of relief in the Tigers’ 13-2 win over the University of Rochester Yellowjackets, he didn’t know that it was the last game he would play in an Oxy uniform. But with the news the following morning that Occidental was moving to remote learning for the rest of the semester, the College suspended the remainder of the spring season not only for baseball but for golf, lacrosse, softball, tennis, track and field, and women’s water polo as well. During his four years at Oxy, Denyer says, “Coach [Luke] Wetmore always told us to play our hardest because we never knew when our last game could be. I always heard that message and understood what he meant —but now it is a whole new level of understanding.” “There was so much I wanted to achieve this season,” says LaShauna Porter, a twotime All-American and defending SCIAC champion in the 100- and 200-meter dash. “Knowing that I’ll never be able to run again with the orange uniform and big ‘O’ on my chest is completely heart-breaking.” On April 20, the SCIAC announced that it would “recognize and honor all of its senior spring sport student-athletes who had their final seasons cut short by the COVID-19 outbreak.” For our part, we reached out to more than a dozen Oxy standouts for their thoughts on the season that might have been, and their favorite memories of wearing the orange and black. What’s the most frustrating thing about having your senior season cut short? Nolan McCarthy, baseball: The abruptness of it. If we had known going into the season that there even was the possibility of it being canceled, that would have made it much easier for me. The “100 to 0” full stop was tough and made it hard for the reality of it all to sink in. Vinny Bartholomew, tennis: I don’t get to finish what would have probably been the best season the team has had since I’ve been here. Watching the team grow has been amazing and not being able to see that growth come to fruition is extremely frustrating. Sabrina Thurber, track and field: I wasn’t emotionally prepared for such an abrupt end to being a collegiate athlete. I thought I would have more time to say goodbye to all my teammates and coaches, and give more recognition to what was my last competition and practice.


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Photo credits: Sam Li/Sam’s Photo Services (1-2, 4, 8-9, 12), Marc Campos (3, 5, 10), Kevin Burke (6), and Eddie Ruvalcaba (7, 11)

Nyla Gatison, softball: Not being able to enjoy and complete the last season of softball that I will ever play and not being able to celebrate those final moments. Thomas Robertson, track and field: This season was extremely difficult for our team already because of the loss of Ilah Richardson ’23 and our teammate Jaden Burris ’22 earlier this semester. In spite of these unimaginable circumstances, our team was coming together in a transformative and uplifting way. Not only was our season cut short but our path to processing the loss of our friends together (because Oxy track and field is a family) was interrupted. Leaving Oxy for the last time as a student was so abrupt. I couldn’t even hug my coaches goodbye because we were practicing social distancing. Looking back on your time as a studentathlete, what moments stand out? Nicole Henderson, golf: My last four years on the team have been full of amazing memories, but the moments that stand out to me are actually off the golf course. My teammates were my family on campus. We formed such close bonds, and I enjoyed our study sessions, trips to the Americana, movie nights, and staying up far too late in our hotel rooms despite having early tee times (sorry, Coach). Monica Chernoff, water polo: I will never forget our game at Redlands on March 11. We had a team meeting before the game and our coach told all of us that this is probably going to be the last time we will be playing this year. I was sad hearing this news, but having that informa-

tion made me really appreciate all the moments in the game. It was a close and competitive game. We played our hearts out. Alana Adelman, tennis: What stands out to me most is the resilience of the student-athletes as we experienced so many changes within our program, and the unconditional support we always had for one another. I remember many nights just gathering together with the men’s and women’s teams after away matches, just being so goofy and comfortable with each other. I never expected to find such a family within this team—one that remained united even as new students entered and others graduated. Denyer: One of my favorite memories was during my sophomore year where we traveled up to Oregon to play other D3 teams. Being able to spend a whole weekend with the guys was something I’ll never forget. Another favorite memory was our first game this season where we made a late-inning comeback against Willamette, capped by a walk-off homer by Antonio Andrade ’21. Starting the season with a walk-off was a great feeling. Emma Barrow, lacrosse: Two memories that stand out are our 14-13 upset of Pomona last year and our win this season over Bates, a team out of one of the best conferences in our sport. To come out with wins in two underdog situations was a feeling that I will never forget. Porter: If I could give any advice to future student-athletes, it would be to not take any race, meet, game, or competition for granted— you never know if it could be your last one. Enjoy every moment of it because it goes by fast.

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1. Vinny Bartholomew (a history major from Belleville, Ill.). 2. Nolan McCarthy (economics, Portland, Ore.). 3. Nicole Henderson (biology, Fremont). 4. Cade Denyer (kinesiology, Long Beach). 5. Alana Adelman (Spanish studies, Ojai). 6. Oxy’s athletic facilities have been locked up since the middle of March. 7. LaShauna Porter (psychology, Minneapolis). 8. Sabrina Thurber (politics, Simi Valley). 9. Nyla Gatison (kinesiology, San Leandro).10. Emma Barrow (politics, Simi Valley). 11. Thomas Robertson (diplomacy and world affairs, Newport Beach). 12. Monica Chernoff (psychology, Palos Verdes Estates).

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RESPONDING TO COVID-19

Duty

Calls

When the pandemic turned the College’s operations upside down in March, President Veitch had to throw out the script for his final days in office—but he and his team responded with commitment, collegiality, and flexibility By DICK ANDERSON | Illustrations by TODD WEBB

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USED TO JOKE THAT I COULD WORK FOR 14 hours a day behind my desk and be energized,” says Jonathan Veitch, “but one cocktail party and I’m a wreck.” There’s not much worry of that these days. When Veitch steps down as president of Occidental after 11 years on the job at the end of June, there won’t be any of the traditional fanfare one might expect—no final Commencement address in Hillside Theater, no last goodbyes at Alumni Reunion Weekend. But in a way he never could have imagined, the role he finds himself in as his tenure ticks down is far better suited to his personality. “The idea that I can put my head down and keep working and make decisions to put the College in a better position is more satisfying to me than simply doing the Queen’s wave,” Veitch says. “One doesn’t really have the luxury of being exhausted,” he adds of the challenges of keeping Oxy going during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I see the commitment of the people around me, so I’m just trying to keep up with all of them and be a good partner.” 24 OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE  SPRING 2020

As colleges nationwide responded to the onslaught of COVID-19 in early March, there was a period of 10 days or so “where every day brought a different gravitational pull or topic to be worried about,” Veitch says from the relative quiet of his office in mid-April. “You were just figuring out the problems of one day when the next day would put us all in an entirely different universe. “Even when things had stabilized somewhat by early April,” he explains, “that only allowed you to catch your breath and begin to sort out what summer might look like at Oxy—and then, more importantly, what to do about the fall.” He adds, “One of the strange satisfactions of the job of being president is the adrenaline rush of solving problems, and this is the mother of all problems.” How does Veitch prioritize what to address in a given day or week in the face of the pandemic? “I wish I could say I prioritize it,” he says. “The urgency of the situation is such that it prioritizes me because of such questions as: How do we get 1,800 students out of our dormitories safely? How do we handle move-out? What’s the messaging?


What does the reimbursement look like? How do we handle students who are engaged in hardship? And that was just a couple of days.” Then there are the questions that relate to the College’s 700 employees: “How do you develop a plan about who should work from home? Who has to be on campus? That’s not to mention calming everyone’s concerns about their jobs and the solvency of the College. Of course, Occidental will survive,” Veitch says. “But the coming year will be very, very challenging.” Of all the decisions made in March, the biggest was the transition to remote learning. Student reviews have been mixed, but “some faculty have said their students are doing the best work that they’ve seen,” notes Wendy Sternberg, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College. “It’s not the way we want to continue operating but I’ve been so impressed how each one of our offices has been able to shift their operations in a way that helps our students approximate every aspect of the academic experience remotely.” “Remote learning runs antithetical to the traditional ideas of a liberal arts education but the substance or pith of the education is

top row, l-r: President Veitch; James Uhrich, VP for information technology services and chief information officer; and Rob Flot, VP for student affairs and dean of students. middle row: Wendy Sternberg, VP for academic affairs and dean of the College; Vince Cuseo, VP of enrollment and dean of admission; and Marty Sharkey, VP for communications and institutional initiatives. bottom row: Amos Himmelstein, VP and chief operating officer; Charlie Cardillo, VP for institutional advancement; and Kimberly Uribe, chief of staff.

there, even online,” Veitch says. But ultimately, he expects that the limitations of remote learning will only reinforce the advantages of a residential liberal arts college: “There are certain things that cannot be replicated from your parents’ home office. “Whether or not people can continue to afford a residential education is another question entirely,” Veitch muses. He is especially concerned about providing financial support to sustain Oxy’s diverse environment for first-generation students. “We may come to see 2019 as a high-water mark for diversity on college campuses nationwide and at Oxy unless we are successful in raising more money for scholarships”—the highest priority of The Oxy Campaign For Good. SPRING 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE 25


“This model of education is expensive, and many families are not going to be able to keep up.” One of the things the College will be focused on this summer is staying engaged with students. “It’s key to us to have as many students as possible return to the College, and to yield as many admitted students as possible,” says Rob Flot, vice president for student affairs and dean of students. Over the summer, he and his staff will be working hard to build community with Oxy’s new and returning students and stay “tethered with them as we move forward.”  And just how many students can Oxy expect this fall? We won’t have a good idea of that until mid-summer, according to Vince Cuseo, vice president for enrollment. Unlike a typical April in admission— when many students and their families make their last visits to college in advance of locking in their final choice by May 1—the campus was closed to visitors this spring, and admitted student days were canceled. “We are doing all that we can to engage our admitted students and parents—creating videos, hosting webinars, responding to emails and calls, and working social media, all in an attempt to best simulate the Oxy experience from afar,” Cuseo adds. “The virus has upended this spring’s college choice process. This year is the most challenging and unpredictable of my career.”

On April 22, Veitch announced the formation of a formal working group to assess essential changes in Oxy’s academic programs and other College operations for the 2020-21 academic year. (He has asked for recommendations and a report by the end of May.) Oxy is weighing multiple scenarios for the fall semester—from the traditional delivery mode to remote learning to some hybrid model in between. “All these different plans need to be thought through and stress-tested with financial and staffing implications,” Veitch says. “To add to the complexity of the situation, we won’t know a lot of what we need to know for quite a while. Student deposits for fall are very strong so far [with the May 1 deadline for deposits extended in some cases by up to two weeks] but summer will produce all kinds of new information about whether or not the virus has been mitigated and what the directions are from county and state health officials.” By the time the fall semester rolls around, Harry J. Elam Jr., vice provost for undergraduate education at Stanford University and Veitch’s successor as president, will be mapping out Occidental’s future. “Harry has been very engaged and bringing what he’s hearing at Stanford to us,” Veitch says. “Far from being daunted by what’s ahead for Oxy, he’s all in—and has demonstrated that with ongoing conversations with the vice presidents. We’re going to be in good hands.”

“This is a crisis with an ending but the next few months won’t be easy,” Veitch says. “They’re going to require imagination and resourcefulness.”

Has Veitch learned anything about his leadership team during the pandemic that perhaps he didn’t know? “Crisis reveals character,” he says, “and the character of the vice presidents to a person is extraordinary—their commitment to the institution, their thoughtfulness, their flexibility, their collegiality, their competence, and their good humor in the midst of so much drama and trauma. There is a métier for praise that people have come to discount—especially from college presidents—but I mean those words to their fullest.” He can’t imagine any bigger challenges than his senior leadership and their staffs have faced during the pandemic. “Each person has been the difference between this institution going sideways or going forward. It’s hard to reckon any bigger responsibility than the one Vince has in bringing in an entering class, or that James Uhrich [vice president for information technology services and chief information officer] and his team had in enabling remote learning in the space of a week. Wendy helped her faculty understand what needed to be done to transition to remote learning, and Rob moved out legions of students safely.” Amos Himmelstein, vice president and chief operating officer, “has his hands full helping us minimize the financial damage of all this and anticipating what we need going forward,” Veitch says. Marty Sharkey, vice president for communications and institutional initiatives and chair of the College’s COVID-19 Coordinating Task Force, “has kept us focused on the priorities and kept me from getting into the weeds and missing some important things that had to happen.” Charlie Cardillo had his institutional advancement team “turn on a dime to focus our fundraising efforts to address Oxy’s immediate needs,” he continues—and with the success of Day For Oxy, the College has surpassed its dollar goal for 2019-20. (Cardillo even enlisted his TeleFund callers to assist the admission team in reaching out to incoming members of the Class of 2024.) 26 OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE  SPRING 2020

This wasn’t the way Veitch expected the final months of his presidency to go. He had been looking forward to the completion and dedication of three long-simmering projects: the De Mandel Aquatics Center, the Anderson Center for the Environmental Sciences, and the renovation of the Lucille Y. Gilman Memorial Fountain and surrounding plaza. “I sometimes tease the trustees that they promised me a victory lap,” he adds. “This has been anything but that.” One unexpected side effect of the pandemic has been having all three of his children under the same roof with Veitch and his wife, Sarah. (Margaret, the oldest, is home from New York and writes for Interview magazine. Son Alex graduated from Stanford last year and is thinking about grad school. The youngest, Eleanor, has two years of high school remaining.) “I never expected to have them all back again except for the holidays,” Veitch says. “It’s like a reunion of The Beatles.” Everyone is getting along fine when they aren’t locked in discussions over what to watch together—“That is like negotiating the new NAFTA,” he says. And yes, they have seen Tiger King: “It’s the one program we can all agree on.” When he’s not wrestling with COVID-19 or reflecting on the life choices of Joe Exotic, Veitch has been reading A Journal of the Plague Year—Daniel Defoe’s novel, published in 1722, about one man’s experiences in London during the bubonic plague of 1665. “If I were to teach a class related to this, I would use a plague— whether it’s this one or the Great Plague of the 17th century—to explore what are the premises of social interaction and how easily it breaks down,” Veitch says. “I am interested in the whole idea of contagion and sociability and the fragility of human interaction and what has to be in place for people to be comfortable engaging with one another”—although the same themes could apply to Tiger King.


In

Good

Hands BY DICK ANDERSON

|

PHOTO BY MAX S. GERBER

Harry J. Elam Jr. prepares to take center stage as Oxy’s 16th president as the College faces a new set of challenges—and he’s ready There aren’t that many college or university presidents who come from a theater background—but if you think about the leadership attributes common to both jobs, you have to wonder: Why aren’t there more? “My experiences of being a leader have been shaped by being a theater director,” says Harry J. Elam Jr., who was named Occidental’s 16th president in February following a nationwide casting call. “Theater directors are sometimes thought of as autocrats, but I see them as collaborators. And my style of leadership has to be collaborative. What the theater director has to do is work to get the best performances out of all of the people involved. How do you incentivize people to do their best work? “That’s what good leadership does, I think—make people feel part of the whole,” he continues. “That’s the designers, cast, and crew all feeling that their voice matters, like they’re working together toward a shared vision. And the show’s got to go on, right? So, that sense has shaped how I think about doing a project, or starting a strategic plan—

but more than that, of working with people toward a cohesive, collective end.” A member of the Stanford faculty since 1990, Elam is an award-winning professor of theater and performance studies, internationally renowned scholar, and a veteran senior administrator. As Stanford’s vice provost for undergraduate education for the last decade, Elam has been responsible for nearly all policies and programs relating to the university’s 7,200 undergraduate students. Elam helped lead a major rethinking of Stanford’s undergraduate curriculum as well as a separate effort to create a new vision for the university’s student residences. A leader on issues of diversity and inclusion, he also created the Institute for Diversity in the Arts, initiated a summer bridge program for firstyear students from under-resourced high schools, and designed a program to increase the number of students of color pursuing graduate degrees in STEM fields. Elam has won the highest honors from the scholarly professional organizations in the fields of theater and drama—the Distin-

guished Scholar Award from the American Society of Theatre Research and the Career Achievement Award from the Association of Theater in Higher Education. In April 2006, he was inducted into the College of Fellows of the American Theatre. And last year, Elam was elected into the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation’s oldest learned societies. The Boston native emerged as the clear frontrunner out of an impressive field of candidates during a national search conducted by a 21-member search committee drawn from all segments of the College community. “Harry has the proven leadership skills, profound understanding of undergraduate education, and enthusiastic embrace of our commitment to access and excellence that we were looking for,” says Steve Rountree ’71, chair of the Occidental Board of Trustees. “In addition to his academic credentials, Harry has a genuine ability to connect with people. He was the Board’s unanimous choice.” “His lifelong commitment to promoting diversity and equity, supported by his scholSPRING 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE 29


In addition to his role as vice provost for undergraduate education, Elam has served as Stanford’s first vice president for the arts since 2017. Photo by L.A. Cicero/Stanford University Communications

arly pursuits in social justice, are a natural fit with Oxy’s own mission,” says John Lang, associate professor of sociology, Faculty Council president and search committee member. “Dr. Elam brings an openness, warmth, and collaborative approach that was evident throughout the search process.” Student members of the search committee echoed Lang’s assessment. “Dr. Elam showed that he is comfortable relating to students on their level, regardless of background or identity,” says Dafna Erana ’20, a biology major from Los Angeles. “He is someone who has experience in community building and will consider the voices of his constituents when developing a way forward,” adds Alejo Maggini ’22, a diplomacy and world affairs and economics major from Argentina. Following the news of his appointment as Jonathan Veitch’s successor—Elam officially 30 OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE  SPRING 2020

begins his tenure July 1—response from the Oxy community was overwhelmingly positive on social media. “Excited to have Dr. Elam as the newest president of my beloved alma mater!” Jonathan Wenn ’96 M’01 wrote on Facebook. University of Delaware professor of English Gabrielle Foreman, who taught at the College from 1991 to 2011, tweeted, “I launched my career at Oxy, am in touch with hundreds of former students, and am over the moon with this selection. Congrats Oxy!” “What’s been amazing is the reception by Oxy alumni in particular,” Elam says in early March during his first visit to the Occidental campus since the announcement. “I’ve heard from alumni across the country with warm welcomes. Somebody asked me if I had learned the Oxy yell [‘Io Triumphe’] yet. “I still don’t know what that is,” he adds with a smile.

Elam is the second oldest of four children— two boys and two girls. His father, Judge Harry J. Elam Sr., became the first Black chief justice of the Boston Municipal Court in 1978, and retired in 1988 as associate justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court. (He died in 2012.) His mother, Barbara, was a librarian, children’s advocate, and lifelong community activist. (She died in 2017.) “I think from them came that sense of a concern for others and a belief in the possibility that individuals can impact change,” says Elam. (In addition, his aunt, Harriet Elam-Thomas, enjoyed a four-decade career in the Foreign Service and was appointed by President Clinton as U.S. Ambassador to Senegal, serving from 2000 to 2002.) In Harry Elam Sr.’s days as a lawyer, the one time he invited his family to the courtroom involved a case of police brutality where a Black man had been beaten by three white police officers. Elam was maybe 7 at the time, he recalls, “and I’m sure my father wanted us to see justice served. He had tons of witnesses to this case. He showed the man’s face, brutally beaten by the police, in a photo taken in the aftermath.” As part of their defense, Elam continues, “The police officers brought in their torn uniforms and said that they, in fact, had been beaten up by this one man”—and the presiding judge hearing the case, Jerome P. Troy, sided with the officers. “I believed them,” the judge said, “because the cops don’t lie. I used to be a cop myself.” (Troy was disbarred and removed from the Dorchester District Court in November 1973 after being found guilty on six charges unrelated to the case, including lying under oath.) The “devastating” verdict stuck with Elam, who recalls talking about it with his father years later. “It stays with me even now, this idea of how do we create or impact change? How can education contribute to thinking differently about the world? What needs to be in place for everyone to thrive and have a system of equity and access?” Growing up, Elam shared a passion for performing with his younger brother, Keith, who achieved international renown as the rapper and producer known as Guru, onehalf of the hip-hop duo Gang Starr. Back in 1993, when Guru played at Stanford in support of his album Jazzamatazz, Vol. 1, “I walked into the auditorium, and instead of saying, ‘That’s Professor Elam,’ some of the


left: Playwright August Wilson (1945-2005) has been the focus of much of Elam’s scholarship. below: Elam, center, first met Wilson during a 1986 production of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom in Washington, D.C., in which he played Ma’s stuttering nephew, Sylvester. right: Elam with members of Stanford’s Theater and Performance Studies community (TAPS).

Photos courtesy Harry J. Elam Jr. and Stanford Theater and Performance Studies

students were looking at me like, ‘That’s the Guru’s brother,’” he recalls fondly. (Keith died in 2010 from multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer.) “What I learned from him is the sense of how important it is to follow your dream,” Elam adds. When Keith dropped out of graduate school at the Fashion Institute of Technology “to do this rap thing,” he recalls, “As his older brother, I said to him, ‘What are you doing? This is crazy.’ But he made it work.” As a high school student in Boston, Elam and his brother and their friends formed a Black youth theater group called the Family. “Some of the people in that group have been my friends for life and will be here at the inauguration,” he says. After enrolling at Harvard College as a social studies major, Elam continued to work with the Family, and he was vice president of the Harvard Black Community and Student Theater Group (Black CAST) as well. “I always thought that I’d be a lawyer,” he says, “but by the time I got to my senior year, I realized that the only thing that excited me about being a lawyer was the drama of the

courtroom—not a good reason to go to law school.” He was determined instead to go to UC Berkeley for graduate studies in dramatic arts and was “scared” to tell his father out of concerns over what he would think. To his surprise, Elam says, “My father told me that the one thing he would’ve been if he wasn’t a lawyer or a judge was an actor. And he showed me pictures that I’d never seen before of him when he ran for city council in 1959.” Harry Elam Sr. had staged a musical that he wrote and produced to raise money for his campaign. (He didn’t win.) “My older sister did go to law school because she wanted in a way to talk to my father, but what she really wanted to be was a writer,” Elam adds. (Patricia Elam-Walker is now a creative writing professor at Howard University and is working on her second novel.) “She used to write books for me when I was a kid, but they were always about a little brother who got beaten up or eaten up.” Elam completed his doctorate in the dramatic arts at UC Berkeley in 1984. He has since written or co-edited seven books, and

his scholarship has significantly impacted the study of contemporary American theater. His groundbreaking first book, Taking It to the Streets (1997), helped to inaugurate the field of comparative race studies as the first book to connect critically African-American and Chicano theater. Elam is most closely associated with the work of August Wilson, the Pulitzer Prizewinning playwright whose 10-play opus, The Pittsburgh Cycle, examines the African-American experience in the 20th century, decade by decade. His second book, The Past as Present in the Drama of August Wilson, is considered a touchstone in Wilson criticism and was published in 2004, a year before the Pittsburgh native’s death from cancer at age 60. “Wilson’s quote was, ‘I’ve lived a blessed life, I’m ready,’ which sounded like a character in his play Fences,” says Elam, whose book was awarded the Errol Hill Prize for outstanding scholarship in African-American theater and performance. He also has directed several of Wilson’s plays, including Radio Golf, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, and Two Trains Running. A production of Fences directed by Elam won eight Bay Area “Choice” Awards. The first time he met Wilson was when Elam was acting in a 1986 production of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at the Studio Theater in Washington, D.C., following the Tony Awardnominated play’s successful Broadway run. “That was my first contact with him,” he says, “and we had a big reception for him. You can imagine this room with tons of people and he was over in the corner, just observing.” When Elam was writing his book on Wilson, he had the chance to meet with him again in 2001 in Los Angeles, and the two talked for 3½ hours outside the Mark Taper SPRING 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

31


During a visit to campus in early March, Elam dropped in on a meeting in Choi Auditorium to briefly address and meet the members of Harambee, a group of Black male students who strive to empower and support their peers at the College.

Photo by Rob Flot

Forum (because Wilson chain-smoked, they couldn’t do the interview inside the theater). The experience “was incredible—that someone could be that giving,” he recalls. “He was an example of the kind of person I would want to be, in the theater or in life.” Elam’s longtime interest in Wilson also led to his meeting his wife, Michele, who is now the William Robertson Coe Professor in the Humanities at Stanford and an associate director of the Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence. Two decades ago, Elam was invited to the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., to give a series of lectures on community theater and African American theater and performance. “So I went up there and the night before my first lecture was an August Wilson play, King Hedley II. And so I was at the theater and the guy who invited me said, ‘In addition to doing the lectures, we want you to teach this class on the Harlem Renaissance.’ And my mind is going, ‘They’re not paying me for more work,’” he recalls with a laugh. “Then Michele walked up and said, ‘I’m the teacher of the Harlem Renaissance class.’ Immediately, I changed my mind and taught her class. For both of us, it was love at first sight.” The University of Puget Sound is about half the size of the Oxy campus, he says, and after her class, Michele, smitten, actually got lost walking Harry from her office to the English department. “We talked for hours on the night before I left campus,” Elam says, “and I came back to visit the next week.” After a long-distance courtship, the two were married in 2004 (Michele had joined the Stanford faculty a year earlier). “We’ve been partners in academia ever since,” Elam says. “When I write anything, my toughest, 32 OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE  SPRING 2020

my most loving critic is Michele. I hear her voice when I’m writing sentences—and she says she hears mine in hers.” The couple even taught a humanities class together for first-year students at Stanford from 2007 to 2010. “We share similar tastes, interests, and commitments and are close intellectual companions,” Michele told The Stanford Daily. They taught together because they are both interested in diversity, art, and politics. “Students quickly realized that we were married, and I guess this led to some entertainment value during class when we would appear to disagree.” The Elams’ daughter, Claire Patterson, a 2016 Stanford graduate, lives and works in Los Angeles. Her parents plan to move into the Wallis Annenberg President’s House on the Occidental campus in July. After 30 years at Stanford, Elam was ready for a new challenge—and he sees Oxy as a great fit. “As I think about it more, and listening to my wife, we both feel that way,” he says. “Certain things about Oxy stand out. One is its commitment to social justice and how that is manifested. Two is the ability to make what’s dynamic and democratic about the liberal arts work. I like what I saw in the Core curriculum, and I like the idea of comps. “Oxy prides itself on being a distinctive urban liberal arts education. That urban part excites me,” Elam continues. “The possibilities for furthering the relationship with Los Angeles are exciting. This is a dynamic place and Oxy has so much to offer. In turn, the city has many things that it can offer Oxy— the relationship is best as reciprocal.” As part of the search process, he says, “I took a tour of the campus incognito and I just loved it. The environment spoke to me and it felt like this is where I want to be. There’s still

so much I’ve got to learn about Occidental, but everything I’ve seen and learned is so totally compelling.” As vice provost of undergraduate education at Stanford, “In some ways I’ve been leading a liberal arts college within a research institution,” he says. “What I’ve been studying in a sense and thinking about is liberal arts education.” In coming to Oxy, “What better place is there to put those thoughts into practice and work with people who are fundamentally concerned about this issue?” As he thinks about his top priorities coming in, step one is “meeting the community,” Elam says. He hopes to restore the tradition, begun under President Richard C. Gilman in 1965, of meeting every member of the incoming class during matriculation. “Making those connections is really important,” he says. “I’d like to know all 2,100 students.” So he plans to meet students “on their terms—that’s in the residence halls, or in the MP, or by going to club meetings.” On March 6 in Choi Auditorium, Elam surprised the members of Harambee, Oxy’s student group for Black men, by speaking to them briefly at their meeting and asking each member to introduce himself. The group greeted Elam with a standing ovation. As far as Occidental’s faculty go, “I want to learn about their work and research as well as their plans for teaching,” he says. “One of the major things for any president to do is create an environment conducive to the best work of faculty.” Elam served for a number of years on the Advisory Board at Stanford, which reviews the tenure, promotion, or appointment of every faculty member at the university. “I come from a place where there’s 2,200 faculty,” he adds. “I feel like I should know them all—and I can’t—but with 190 faculty at Occidental, I will.” A third key constituency is Oxy’s alumni community—listening to what people say about Oxy and its aspirations for the future. “From all the input that I have, there’s a yearning among alumni to have contact with the College and with the president. How do we make space for that to happen? It’s going be a busy time.” (These days, there’s also the


question of how soon: Plans to hold an alumni event in the Bay Area in May had to be scratched in the wake of the coronavirus.) When Elam was introduced as Oxy’s next president in an email and accompanying video message on February 11, the world was a different place—and that’s not just hyperbole. That same day, with 43,000 confirmed cases worldwide of the novel coronavirus, the World Health Organization officially named the disease it causes “COVID-19.” As his tenure winds down at Stanford, Elam has been on many calls about next steps for the university in the wake of COVID-19. “One of the things that I realize is that we’re not alone in this, and the questions that Stanford is facing are not unlike the ones Oxy is facing as well,” he says. At both institutions, “We need to do as much as possible to get out in front of these questions and be active rather than reactive.” The pandemic has magnified the case of students in need—“first-gen students, lowincome students, and students whose home situation may not be ideal,” he notes. “Now that they’ve had to either go home or find a space to work at home, it’s been challenging. James Uhrich [Occidental’s vice president for information technology services and chief information officer] told me about a student in Chicago whom he helped purchase computer equipment, over the phone, that she needed to do her work. Without that personal touch, this student would have been unable to keep up with her classes. So how we can even the playing field for our students is one of the key lessons of the pandemic.” Has the coronavirus changed his thinking about his agenda for his first 100 days on the job? “In some ways those first 100 days have started,” says Elam, who addressed the Oxy faculty as a group for the first time in a Zoom meeting in mid-April. “Right now I’m working with Oxy’s very strong executive team to learn as much as I can, so that I’m informed about the decisions that need to be made for fall.” Elam will begin his term some 14 months after the College launched the public phase of The Oxy Campaign For Good, which has raised more than $155 million toward its goal of $225 million. “What I really like about the campaign is that it’s about fundamentals— scholarships and professorships,” he says. “The notion of a campaign for good speaks to Oxy’s values.”

Harry and Michele Elam, photographed at Stanford in February. Photo by Marc Campos

In the face of COVID-19, he adds, “Trying to run a campaign when people are feeling the loss economically, socially, and culturally will be challenging. I still want to meet Occidental’s important donors and the community, but it won’t be with the end of thinking immediately about how we are going to grow the campaign—but rather how we are going to be sensitive to the community’s needs.” August Wilson once said, “I was born to a time of fire.” Coming of age in the 1960s, Elam explains, “There was a fire around our revolutionary change of Black Power, and Wilson was politically active at that time. His father was a white German banker, but

Wilson felt his primary allegiance was to his mother’s African-American roots. So the idea of art and its connection to politics was something he believed in deeply.” Is it a time of fire for higher education? “The simple answer is yes,” Elam says. “For Occidental, the challenge is how do we come out of this trial? How do we position ourselves not only to survive but to thrive? “This is a difficult time, but we are committed across the board to keeping Occidental’s values, vision, and mission alive,” he continues. “All of us are working together to create a ‘new normal,’ building on the past, defining what we need to do in this present, and imagining fresh futures.” SPRING 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE 33


OXYTALK Gloria C. Duffy ’75 (alumna of the year) is a longtime Occidental trustee and president of the San Franciscobased Commonwealth Club, the largest and oldest public affairs forum in the United States. Duffy has had an extensive career in the nonprofit sector, journalism, and public service, including serving as deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Clinton White House.

Zaryn Dentzel ’05 (Erica J. Murray ’01 Young Alumni Award) is the co-founder and chair of Tuenti, a popular Spanish social media platform. Tuenti was acquired in 2010 by telecommunications provider Telefonica, where Dentzel serves as a strategic adviser for digital transformation. He is also the founder of Auro, a ride-share company in Spain operating over 2,000 vehicles.

Louis Hook ’80 P’12 (service to the community) has demonstrated a passionate commitment to supporting his local community, dedicating nearly 30 years of service to the Compton Jr. Posse Youth Equestrian Program. His service extends to support of his alma mater, exemplified by his work with the Blyth Fund, Black Alumni Organization, and Alumni Board of Governors.

William M. Kahane ’70 (service to the College) is a co-chair of The Oxy Campaign For Good, a former trustee, and a longtime supporter of the College. He and his wife, Elizabeth, gave generously to ensure that the Kahane United Nations Program will flourish in perpetuity, offering students one-of-a-kind experiences and giving Occidental a competitive edge academically.

Chris Varelas ’85 (professional achievement) is co-founder and managing partner at Riverwood Capital. Having brokered some of the biggest deals in finance, he was listed among the top 100 dealmakers by The New York Times. In 2019, he published How Money Became Dangerous: The Inside Story of Our Turbulent Relationship With Modern Finance.

Dale Wright (faculty emeritus), the David B. and Mary H. Gamble Distinguished Professor in Religion Emeritus, is an expert in Buddhist philosophy and joined the Oxy faculty in 1980, retiring in 2018. Wright taught courses on the religious traditions of East and South Asia and has authored or co-authored multiple books, most recently Buddhism: What Everyone Needs to Know.

34 OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE  SPRING 2020

Living La Vida Lockdown With plans for Alumni Reunion Weekend on ice, this year’s Alumni Seal recipients reflect on their Oxy experience and their daily routine in “the new normal”

For the last 55 years, the Alumni Association has paid tribute to members of the Occidental family who represent the values and spirit at the core of the Oxy experience. When this year’s Alumni Seal recipients were announced in March, the plan was to honor them during Alumni Reunion Weekend in June, as is tradition. But in a year where tradition has been uprooted in every direction, plans for reunion weekend are on hold until a date to be determined. We reached out to this year’s six distinguished honorees in April to see how they are faring while sheltering in place. (Some replies have been edited for length; visit oxy.edu/magazine for the full Q&A.) How has the pandemic affected your daily routine? How are you spending your time now? Gloria C. Duffy ’75: The Commonwealth Club hosts daily inperson events, so we are heavily impacted by the need for social distancing. As our awareness of the coronavirus pandemic grew, we moved quickly to stop our in-person events on March 6, closed our building, and moved all our events to livestreams online. In the first month of sheltering at home, from March 11 to April 11, the Club livestreamed 35 events. I spend my time in Zoom meetings with our staff and others, and hosting public programs online with guests like UC President Janet Napolitano, former FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, and former National Academy of Medicine President Harvey Fineberg. I also order the food and supplies for our family, including my 96-year-old mom, who lives with us, and her caregivers. I monitor her care and also my husband’s safety, since they are both in the high-risk population. Zaryn Dentzel ’05: I have homes in Spain and California and normally travel every month. Now I have had to stay in one place and do most of my meetings over the phone. It’s difficult to not be able to interact and meet physically with all the people in my different companies, especially so during these difficult times.


OXYTALK

Dale Wright: I’m amazed that the pandemic has so little effect on my daily life. I now spend my days writing, virus or no virus. Having a new book just out, I’m not out at other colleges or bookstores talking about it, but that just provides more time to write another one. I wish there were something more I could do to help, but I’m told that the biggest help most of us can offer is staying home and isolated to prevent further COVID-19 spread. Louis Hook ’80 P’12: I’m still going to work every day as the COO of an ophthalmology medical group. I left retirement this past January to join classmate Richard Casey ’80 to help his organization build and execute a plan for growing the 100-employee, 12-doctor, eight-location medical group throughout Southern California. Due to the coronavirus, I’ve ended up overseeing the massive contraction of the company. As of April 17, we are down to 30 staff from 100, two offices from eight, and three physicians from 12. We are a poster child for the impact of the virus-driven economic shutdown on a medium-sized business. Laying off people, closing offices, and managing creditors and vendors has consumed me. Through all of this, working hard to self-quarantine, while preparing for the birth of my second grandson any day now. William M. Kahane ’70: I ordinarily travel a substantial portion of the year, primarily in connection with my foundation work. I was on campus in February to participate in Oxy’s U.N. Week. However, sheltering in place has confined me to my farm in upstate New York for the past six weeks. Absent the usual travel, I am actively engaged daily with the various philanthropies which our foundation supports. These are challenging times, and the needs are great. Chris Varelas ’85: I could never have imagined going more than 30 days without flying, let alone driving, not eating any meal from a restaurant, drinking no alcohol or consuming any sugar. My mornings of working out, yoga, meditation, reading and writing have been a real gift. And there is no better time to teach your teenage daughter to drive than during a global pandemic. What do you miss the most right now? Dentzel: It’s frustrating to not be able to hop on a plane and fly wherever I feel like, a luxury I realize I have become very used to. Also going to the gym and meeting friends at bars and restaurants is something that I really look forward to as soon as it’s allowed. Duffy: I miss the opportunity to visit with our kids and our grandkids, who live next door, but who are isolated separately. We do FaceTime with them, talk and wave from a distance, and leave a few gifts on one another’s porches! Wright: I do miss getting together to dine with friends and going off into the local mountains and deserts to hike—these would top my list. But I love to cook and the stay-at-home requirement gives me the perfect excuse to experiment in the kitchen. Kahane: The blessing is that I am confined with my family, the weather in the East is improving, and we all have our own space and our own work. Harry, my son, is completing his senior year of high school online. Elizabeth, a photographer, is spending her time in her studio. Our two dogs keep us company. What I really miss is the personal, less-than-six-foot interaction with friends and colleagues. Varelas: I only miss one thing—getting together with people to make new friends or connect and share with those you care most about. Zoom can only get you so close. It cannot facilitate the creation of new friendships or truly growing existing relationships.

What does receiving the Alumni Seal mean to you? Duffy: An Oxy education provides the tools to help one navigate through unexpected and challenging situations, and I am happy to be able to share how that has been the case in my life. Dentzel: I enjoy being recognized for the work I’ve done by the peers with whom I started college. Our college is where we start our professional aspirations and a recognition like this brings my accomplishments into perspective from the point where it all began. Wright: To be remembered by former students after their departures and mine, to be regarded as having had an impact on the lives of students, and to have this long-term relationship honored after leaving the College—I am deeply moved and grateful. Many thanks to all of you. Hook: Receiving the Alumni Seal is an immeasurable honor for me. Through my many years as an alumnus, I have cycled between being very actively involved with Oxy to being so busy with my own life and career that I could barely keep up with developments and activities at the College. I’ve always continued to cherish the experiences, growth, and opportunities I encountered due to attending Oxy. It is beyond humbling to have the school turn around and honor me. Varelas: My wife, Jessica, consistently comments to me how interesting my Occidental friends are, not just in what they do but in how they do it. To be singled out from this unique group I would hope is a testament that my own walk is truly special. Kahane: Oxy has much to do with who I am. Giving back to Oxy pays it forward, and receiving the Alumni Seal is a great honor. Any message that you’d like to share with the Oxy community? Duffy: The coronavirus pandemic is a terrible experience for our society. And yet, like most traumatic events, it can have useful outcomes. These include accelerating trends like telemedicine, taking advantage of the ability to work remotely, and decreasing our carbon emissions and slowing global warming. Along with better pandemic preparedness so we are never again caught as unready as we were this time, we should be sure to apply the constructive lessons we are so painfully learning. Wright: Earlier today for the first time I heard that someone I knew had died from the coronavirus—the first time it really hit me as immediate and close at hand. As we move forward past this peak of danger and come out the other side of the crisis, I hope that we can all join together, taking this opportunity to fashion a new world that embodies greater wisdom and compassion so that we are more humane and more skillful in facing all dimensions of the future together. Varelas: Do not let your wishes and fears be the father of your thoughts. Use this time to assess the many narratives you have come to believe. Ask why you believe them and for what ends. Think about how to connect to the other and make a sincere attempt to understand where they come from and how you can achieve common ground. Dentzel: I think that it’s important to value the whole experience the College offers beyond the classroom. My experience in school government, summer travel grants, and the U.N. program were all really big drivers helping me build the valuable perspective and experience that prepared me to be a successful entrepreneur. Kahane: Support the College—at the end of the day you come to realize how important the Oxy experience is in who you have become. Hook: Our Oxy experience bonds us together forever. SPRING 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE 35


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Virus of the Century The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918–19 claimed the lives of more than 675,000 Americans and shut down the College for seven weeks— but it could have been even worse for Oxy

The numbers were alarming: 22 cases of the virus reported on Monday, 36 on Tuesday, 64 on Wednesday, and 200 on Thursday. After conferring with public health officials in Los Angeles, the mayor made a decision before the week came to an end: All public gatherings would be banned and all schools, colleges, churches, theaters, and other places of amusement in the city would be closed until further notice. It sounds all too familiar in the era of COVID-19 and coronavirus, but this particular sequence of events unfolded in October 1918 as the Spanish flu pandemic swept across the country. Little remembered today, Los Angeles Mayor Frederick Woodman’s decisive action is credited with giving the City of Angels one of the country’s lowest big-city mortality rates during the epidemic. It also was responsible for shutting down Occidental for seven weeks—the first time a public health emergency suddenly disrupted the College’s operations. In that pre-Internet era, Oxy had no choice but to end classes and send students home. But just days prior to Woodman’s October 10 order, the College’s new Student Army Training Corps (SATC) program had officially begun, part of a nationwide campus initiative run by the U.S. War Department. The precursor to today’s ROTC program had produced the largest freshman class and largest overall enrollment in Oxy history—179 first-year men, compared with just 54 the previous year. The influx of men for the war effort boosted total enrollment to a record 462. Because SATC was a federal program, it was exempt from the mayor’s order. While 60 OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE  SPRING 2020

health authorities,” The Occidental reported. “In other local SATC organizations death claimed several of the members.” SATC also proved a boon for the financial health of the College—the War Department continued to pay the College $1 a day per cadet plus a daily equivalent of Occidental’s $100 annual tuition during the seven-week closure. By late November, Oxy President Silas Evans—who had taken office less than 18 months earlier—was fielding growing numbers of questions as to when classes would begin again. “Watch President Silas Evans, center, reviews military the papers,” Evans said in a statecadets on campus in 1918. The presence of the Student Army Training Corps was a financial ment to The Occidental. “We canboon to Oxy during the Spanish flu pandemic. not make any certain predictions. … The day the ban is removed is the day that school duties are rePhoto courtesy Occidental College Special Collections newed for all students.” As for other students went home, SATC cadets how the lost time would be made up, Evans stayed on campus and continued to attend said it would likely be through a combination classes and drill—even after the war ended of some Saturday classes, shorter vacations, on November 11. “Despite the fact that the and an extension of the school year. war was over, the men are working as hard When the Occidental Board of Trustees as ever with their training in hopes that they met on December 6, four days after the city’s may be of some service yet,” the Los Angeles ban was lifted and classes resumed, Evans Times reported November 18, the day after noted with considerable understatement, the opening of Oxy’s new SATC mess hall. “This school year has been one of readjustBruce Kirkpatrick of the Class of 1920 later ment. The college … had to meet the requirejoked, “During the short life of this unit the ments of the Government for a war program, men of ’22 conducted themselves with valor, and recently readjust again to the peace proespecially when they placed themselves in the gram, with the embarrassment of the inchair of the company barber, Frank Nelson. fluenza being added to our difficulties.” And yet, looking ahead, he was upbeat. … Many of his customers earned but did not “It has been on the whole a splendid experireceive the Purple Heart.” But even on the city’s outskirts in then ence; a great good will come out of it,” he semi-rural Eagle Rock, the flu was no laugh- said. “The waters have been seriously dising matter. A total of 135 cases were reported turbed but there is health in the flow as a at Oxy during the citywide shutdown—but consequence. Education means more and no deaths. “Occidental is the healthiest spot has better purpose than was possible before in Southern California, according to the the war.”—jim tranquada


OXYFARE 

Day For Oxy: Behind the Numbers Total giving: $1,342,189 Total gifts: 2,297

Volume 42, Number 2 oxy.edu/magazine

2

OCCIDENTAL COLLEGE

Arturo Chávez P’15, ’18

Jonathan Veitch President Wendy F. Sternberg Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Charlie Cardillo Vice President for Institutional Advancement Vince Cuseo Vice President of Enrollment and Dean of Admission Rob Flot Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Amos Himmelstein Vice President & Chief Operating Officer Marty Sharkey Vice President for Communications and Institutional Initiatives James Uhrich Vice President for Information Technology Services and Chief Information Officer Jim Tranquada Director of Communications

4

3 9

10

8

5 10

1

Top 10 States in Total Gifts

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1. California 1,350 2. Washington 123 3. New York 90 4. Oregon 64 5. Colorado 46 6. Texas 45 7. Arizona 42 8. Massachusetts 40 9. Illinois 38 10. Connecticut 28 (tie) Virginia 28 (tie)

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editorial staff

Keith Malone ’85

Claire Petersky ’83

Julie (Mancia) Fortune ’04, husband Brandon Fortune ’23, daughter Camila, and Chloe

Dick Anderson Editor Laura Paisley, Jasmine Teran Contributing Writers Marc Campos Contributing Photographer Gail (Schulman) Ginell ’79 Class Notes Editor SanSoucie Design Design DLS Group Printing OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

Published quarterly by Occidental College Main number: 323-259-2500 To contact Occidental magazine By phone: 323-259-2679 By email: oxymag@oxy.edu By mail: Occidental College Office of Communications F-36 1600 Campus Road Los Angeles CA 90041-3314 Annie McGrath ’24

Wherever you may find yourself sheltering in place, show your Oxy spirit! Stay safe, shop online, and we hope to see you back on campus very soon. (Thank you to our Oxy Wear models for this issue!)

Occidental College Bookstore oxybookstore.com To order by phone: 323-259-2951 All major credit cards accepted

Letters and class notes may be edited for length, content, and style. Occidental College online Homepage: oxy.edu Facebook: facebook.com/occidental Twitter: @occidental Instagram: instagram.com/occidentalcollege Cover photo by Max S. Gerber

Giving by Class: Top 25 Class counts include gifts from alumni, parents, and students. Donors who are associated with more than one year are only counted once toward one class. #

Year

Amount

#

Year

Donors

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25.

1973 1970 2004 1971 1981 2023 1968 2019 1977 1955 2022 2021 2020 1987 1962 1989 1974 1986 2006 1995 1966 1988 1994 1972 1964

$155,140 $120,395 $103,834 $89,330 $73,720 $70,276 $64,770 $62,552 $52,570 $35,950 $33,614 $30,772 $24,750 $23,565 $23,437 $19,960 $19,650* $18,370 $13,630 $12,710 $12,250 $12,105 $10,670 $10,375 $9,351

1. 2. 3. 4. 4. 6. 7. 8. 9. 9. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 16. 18. 19. 20. 20. 22. 23. 24. 25.

2023 2022 2021 2019 2018 2013 2020 2016 2017 2015 2014 2012 2008 1980 1994 1968 1988 1987 2007 1971 2010 1970 2009 2005 2004

133 122 98 79 79 66 57 53 52 52 50 44 41 38 37 36 36 35 32 31 31 30 28 25 22

* Total does not include a matching donation from Anne Cannon ’74.

Day For Oxy Athletics: Giving by Designation

Alumni Reunion Weekend: We’ll Meet Again

All In For Oxy: Buoyed by a vigorous social media effort by our student-athletes, the Day For Oxy Athletics campaign crushed all expectations, raising $187,272 from 879 gifts. (Rankings below are by total gifts to each sport.)

With the health and safety of our community first and foremost in our minds, we have postponed this year’s June 12-14 Alumni Reunion Weekend. While this wasn’t how we envisioned celebrating the 2020 milestone classes, keeping our community safe is our highest priority. An email regarding the reunion postponement was sent to alumni in early April. If you didn’t receive that email, please contact alumni@oxy.edu to update your contact information. We are currently exploring other ways of celebrating reunion at a later date, and we plan to share details with the community soon. We are thankful for the many reunion committee volunteers that have shared their time, energy, and passion planning this year’s event and know that they will be critical in helping us reimagine the reunion experience.

#

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 15. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22.

Sport

Gifts

Amount

Football Men’s Basketball Baseball Tiger Club Athletics Women’s Track and Field Men’s Water Polo Women’s Lacrosse Women’s Soccer Men’s Track and Field Men’s Soccer Volleyball Men’s Cross Country Women’s Water Polo Women’s Basketball Women’s Tennis Softball Men’s Tennis Men’s Golf Women’s Swimming and Diving Men’s Swimming and Diving Women’s Cross Country Women’s Golf

157 134 89 59 53 46 45 41 39 35 32 29 27 25 23 23 21 20 19 16 13 11

$42,150 $28,308 $12,582 $9,520 $5,349 $10,230 $9,931 $7,545 $7,330 $7,130 $3,850 $4,540 $2,321 $5,140 $3,825 $2,690 $6,735 $10,740 $1,490 $3,360 $1,420 $1,085

Monika J. Moore Director, Alumni and Parent Engagement

alumni.oxy.edu


Office of Communications F-36 1600 Campus Road Los Angeles CA 90041-3314

SPRING 2020

Nonprofit U.S. Postage Paid Occidental College

RESPONDING TO COVID -19: AN 18-PAGE SPECIAL REPORT

Address Service Requested

SPRING 2020

When planning for Occidental’s Day of Giving began last summer following the public launch of The Oxy Campaign For Good, it was designed to be a largely virtual experience to generate community spirit and philanthropic support. Little did anyone know what the coming year would bring. Following the spread of COVID-19, Oxy’s fundraising and marketing teams quickly pivoted to a Day For Oxy, with a goal of raising 420 gifts on April 20—Founders Day—to support the College’s immediate needs, including technology equipment, academics, and financial aid. A Day For Oxy Athletics campaign, held concurrently, set out to raise 100 gifts to directly support the sport of the donor’s choosing. When all the counting was done, Day For Oxy generated 2,297 gifts for a total of $1.34 million, including 879 gifts totaling $187,197 to enhance the student-athlete experience. “It has been a deeply moving 36 hours, to say the least,” Charlie Cardillo, Oxy’s vice president for institutional advancement, said on a video call to the campus community on April 21. President Jonathan Veitch added, “This is an extraordinary result by any measure.” Essential to the day’s success were over 20 matching gift challenges fueled by members of the College community. Collectively, they raised $500,000 for the Oxy Fund. But much of the enthusiasm for the 36-hour campaign can be attributed to Oxy’s student-athletes and TeleFund callers, whose creative videos, posted to social media with the #dayforoxy hashtag, kept the momentum going. Shortly after the College closed the books on the first Day For Oxy, Cardillo received word of “a very generous gift, motivated by all that went on over the last 36 hours,” to meet the anticipated increase in financial aid for our students. “We have established a new tradition for the College,” he says, a bit overwhelmed. “How often can we say that?”

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GOING VIRTUAL: THE RACE TO REMOTE LEARNING /// LESSONS FROM THE SPANISH FLU

Day For Oxy: A New Tradition Dawns

3

4

Meet

Harry Elam

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1. Caleb Reyes ’22, a catcher for Oxy baseball. 2. Emerson Thomas-Gregory ’23 asked for support to ensure that Oxy “continues to thrive” after the pandemic has passed. 3. Clarissa Kiyomura ’22, a point guard for women’s basketball. 4. Oxy quarterback Bryan Scott ’17 challenged the 2010-20 “Foxhole Era of Tigers” to support the 2020 football team. 5. Katie Wood ’20, a midfielder for women’s soccer.

oxy.edu/giving

oxy.edu/magazine

Invest in the kind of education that can only happen at Occidental. Give. Encourage. Connect.

Oxy’s 16th president takes the reins on July 1. But his “first 100 days” on the job have already begun

Profile for Occidental College

Occidental Magazine - Spring 2020  

Occidental Magazine - Spring 2020  

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