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Great Expectations These impressive students are here because of you. Financial aid will give even more a seat in our classrooms.

From the President

The Gift of a Lifetime If it weren’t for financial aid, I would not be president of Tufts University. My story is similar to those I hear from many of our students whose families are still recovering from the economic downturn or who have limited incomes. The recession of the mid-1970s hit my family hard. My father, who worked in construction, was out of work ALONSO NICHOLS

for more than a year, and my mother had to go back to work. To help out, I took on an additional part-time job in the evenings. My older brother and sister attended the state university, and given my family’s precarious financial situation, I was expected to follow them. But my high school biology teacher had other notions. He encouraged me to think big: no one in my high school had ever attended an Ivy League school. Princeton offered me a spot—and a very generous financial aid package. I still remember sitting at the kitchen table, armed with detailed cost comparisons, convincing my father that the financial aid meant that his contribution to my education actually would be less than if I stayed in-state. I was a work-study student in the Princeton dining halls all four years, and eventually became a student manager. Still, I didn’t miss out. I participated in sports and secured a paid research position in a neuroscience lab that was formative for my career choice. When I needed extra money for the annual training trip with my water polo team, I pulled extra shifts in the dining hall. I remain grateful for the opportunities I never would have had without financial aid. Relieved of onerous debt from my undergraduate studies, I was able to go on to Harvard for an M.D./Ph.D. and then conduct genetics research at Oxford. Financial aid brings amazingly talented students to Tufts. They’re driven to get the most out of every opportunity here. You’ll meet some of them in this issue, as well as some of the generous donors who support them. Imagine this: among them might be a Nobel Prize-winning scientist or the composer of a


great symphony—or even a future president of Tufts.

ANTHONY P. MONACO President, Tufts University

Chairman, Board of Trustees Peter Dolan, A78, A08P President Anthony P. Monaco

Provost & Senior Vice President David R. Harris Vice President for University Advancement Eric Johnson

University Relations Tufts University, 80 George St. Medford, MA 02155 USA 617.627.3200 n

Published by Tufts Publications. Taylor McNeil, editor; Margot Grisar, design director.

Blueprint is published three times a year for alumni, parents and friends who generously support Tufts University as donors and volunteers.


Get Ready, World The Tufts Financial Aid Initiative has helped all these students  BY DIVYA AMLADI


AUNCHED IN 2012, Tufts’ Financial Aid Initiative matches any new endowed scholarship of $100,000 or more—so every donation has twice the punch. The university-wide campaign, which was initially slated to end in 2014, raised more than $35 million in its first two years. That success was contagious, and the initiative was extended. The goal is to raise $50 million in new gifts between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2016. Even more noteworthy are the exceptional students who are receiving a first-rate education on all three campuses. The nine financial aid recipients profiled here—and featured on the cover of Blueprint—exemplify the very best of the Tufts community, one that prioritizes their abilities over their ability to pay.

Brandon King, V18 HOMETOWN: East Hanover, New Jersey SCHOOL: Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine

Eva Batalla-Mann, A16 HOMETOWN: Ojai, California MAJORS: Community health; peace and justice studies, School of Arts and Sciences DECISIVE EVENT: Visiting Tufts as a high school senior through the Tufts Diversity Experiences program. “As soon as I saw the campus, I knew that was it.”

WHAT KEEPS HER BUSY: Working for Health Professions Advisors, participating in Vox: Students for Reproductive Justice and contributing to the Tufts Daily as an arts columnist. WHAT KEEPS HER ACADEMIC FOCUS SHARP: Opportunities for real-world engagement. “My favorite thing about both of my majors is that they require internships,” she says. “You get tired of talking about doing things; having the opportunity to actually do them is so valuable.” Last year, she interned at an organization in Spain that mounts interventions in cases of domestic and genderbased violence. Now she is leading health literacy and education efforts for Latina immigrants at an organization in Dorchester, Massachusetts. HER POST-GRAD PLAN: A master’s degree in public health SCHOLARSHIP: Monte and Jane Haymon Family Endowed Scholarship Winter 2016

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PASSIONS: Cycling and horse riding and training. “I plan to keep up with these activities to some degree throughout my life,” King says. “They keep me balanced.” And the horse riding and training has other benefits as well. “When I’m on my bike, what I put in is what I get out of it,” he notes. “But horse training requires give-and-take. It’s a spiritual relationship.” TURNING POINT: Ten years ago, King’s horse got colic and required surgery. Observing his veterinarian at work, he began to think that caring for horses could be his profession, not just something he loved to do. He started shadowing his veterinarian and planning for a career in equine practice. LEADS HIS FELLOW HORSE ENTHUSIASTS AS: President of the Tufts student chapter of the American Association of Equine Practitioners. Valuable contributions include organizing talks and hands-on learning experiences for students interested in large animal practice. LEADS HIS FELLOW CYCLISTS AS: A tireless competitor. At the University of Connecticut, where he earned a degree in animal science3 and pathobiology, King captained the cycling team. He still races as a member of the Tufts Cycling Team. SCHOLARSHIP: Dorothy Dudley Thorndike Endowed Scholarship

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Jessica Awerman Gonzalez, A09, M17 HOMETOWN: Wayland, Massachusetts SCHOOL: Tufts School of Medicine WHY MEDICINE: The turning point came when Gonzalez went to a benefit at the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Health Care in Boston. She was already majoring in biology, and hearing physicians share their stories about their relationships with patients inspired her to get on the pre-med track. And now? “Interacting with patients is my favorite aspect of medical school,” she says. WHY TUFTS SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: That was a no-brainer, says Gonzalez. “I already had a connection to Tufts, and then when I came for my interview day, I loved the school. Everybody’s great, from the staff to the attending physicians to my fellow classmates.”

CONTRIBUTIONS ABOVE AND BEYOND THE CALL OF CLASSWORK: Gonzalez has served as treasurer of the medical school’s student council and president of the Tufts Medical Spanish Club. She organized an interpreter program to train students to assist patients with limited English, and has applied her bilingual skills to communicate with Spanishspeaking patients at Tufts’ volunteer-run free clinic, the Sharewood Project.



SCHOLARSHIPS: Paul and Elaine Chervinsky Endowed Scholarship Fund and the Jaharis Challenge Rockel Scholarship

Zachary Thomas, A18 HOMETOWN: Arlington, Massachusetts MAJOR: Economics, School of Arts and Sciences WHAT MADE HIM WANT TO BE A JUMBO: Other Jumbos. “The people stood out to me as genuine, caring and wanting the best for themselves and other people. They made me feel like this was the place for me.” ATHLETIC PURSUIT: Football. As a defensive end, Thomas helped the team finish its fall 2015 season with a 6–2 record.

SPECIAL INTEREST: Entrepreneurship. His favorite class was last spring’s Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Start-Ups, offered through the Experimental College. Students took trips to explore Boston’s start-up scene.

COMING UP ON HIS AGENDA: Applying to Tufts’ Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies program. “I’m fascinated by how ideas can fix problems and impact the world,” he says. SCHOLARSHIP: Janice Savin Williams and Christopher J. Williams Family Scholarship

Rachael Grudt, E16 HOMETOWN: Seattle, Washington MAJOR: Chemical engineering, School of Engineering THRIVES ON: Finding solutions where none seem possible. “I really like problem solving, so I’ve always known I wanted to become an engineer.” WHAT DREW HER TO TUFTS: The close-knit cohort, and the professors and advisors in the chemical engineering community. “There are just 32 people in my year, and I know all of them,” she says. “Everyone is really rooting for each other.” HER FAVORITE CLASS: Reactor design, because “it was the first time I really saw how what we were learning applied to actual chemical engineering.” HER EXTRACURRICULARS: Grudt is president of the Tufts chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. She assisted Professor Maria Flytzani-Stephanopoulos in Tufts’ Nanocatalysis and Energy Lab last year, and is currently doing catalysis research as an advanced materials intern at the oil company Aramco Services. UPCOMING DECISION: Whether to attend graduate school SCHOLARSHIP: Jon A. Levy Endowed Scholarship

Rebecca Stavinoha, N20 HOMETOWN: Temple, Texas SCHOOL: Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Doctoral Program in Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition

HOW SHE FOUND HER CALLING: As an undergraduate at Texas State University, Stavinoha realized she could manage her health problems through changes in diet. She’d been studying business administration and entrepreneurship at the time, but the difference nutrition had made in her own life was so compelling that she did an about-face.

WHY SHE CHOSE THE FRIEDMAN SCHOOL: She says it has the best nutrition Ph.D. programs in the country. “The classes are small, the teachers are amazing, and the work being done at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging is so interesting,” she says. RESEARCH INTERESTS: Metabolism and disease, and especially the effects of diet and nutrition on obesity and cardiovascular illness WHAT’S NEXT: After graduation, she would like to continue doing research, but she hasn’t decided if she wants to take the government route or work in the public sector. SCHOLARSHIP: Stanley N. Gershoff Scholarship Winter 2016

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Aditya Kaushik, F17 HOMETOWN: Mumbai, India SCHOOL: Fletcher School WELL-VERSED IN: Science and technology. Kaushik immigrated to the United States five years ago to earn a master’s degree in electrical engineering at the University of Southern California. After graduating, he landed a job developing mathematical computing software at MathWorks in Natick, Massachusetts. MORE INTERESTED IN: Science and technology policy. After three-and-a-half years at MathWorks, he realized that what he really wanted to concentrate on was the bigger picture. “Fletcher was the only school I applied to,” he says. “It’s one of the best schools for international policy, so it was an easy decision.”

WHAT HE’S UP TO: Designing his program in science diplomacy. “I get to create my own field, and the people here are so supportive. There’s a practitioner of science diplomacy coming over next year, so everything’s falling into place,” says Kaushik. He is also involved with Tech at Fletcher and the Hitachi Center for International Affairs and Technology, and will soon be working as a research assistant for a professor studying cybercrime and cyber privacy. HIS GOAL: To work for a foreign government, or for an international organization, such as the World Bank or the United Nations SCHOLARSHIP: René Henri Bodmer Endowed Scholarship

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Lauren Marzouca, D16 HOMETOWN: Plains, Pennsylvania SCHOOL: Tufts School of Dental Medicine INTERESTED IN DENTISTRY SINCE: Third grade, when her

Tuan Mai, M18 HOMETOWN: Anaheim, California SCHOOL: Tufts School of Medicine BACKGROUND: Varied and likely to become more so. Born in Norway and raised in Southern California by Vietnamese parents, Mai was bitten by the travel bug at an early age. EYE-OPENER: During his junior year at the University of California, Irvine, Mai studied in New Zealand, where he became aware of global disparities in health care. When he returned home, he decided to pursue medicine and did research in the trauma department of the UC Irvine Medical Center and helped out at the Vietnamese American Cancer Foundation. WHAT HE LOVES ABOUT TUFTS MEDICAL SCHOOL: Its supportive faculty. “They give us autonomy and flexibility in terms of our schedule,” he says. His own schedule has included serving as the chapter president for the Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association and shadowing a family medicine doctor as part of a competency-based primary-care apprenticeship in Dorchester, Massachusetts. WHAT HE’S LOOKING FORWARD TO: Specializing in transplant surgery SCHOLARSHIP: Harry Rollins Houston Endowed Scholarship



orthodontist gave her a retainer with a night-sky design to correct her anterior cross bite. “I really liked my dentist, and as I got older, I realized there was a lot more to dentistry than braces,” she says. INTERESTED IN SPECIALIZING IN ENDODONTICS SINCE: Starting her studies in Boston. “Once I got to Tufts and learned more about general dentistry, I figured out that fighting the disease process and saving teeth was more up my alley.” She also found it gratifying to help patients manage their pain, which is an important aspect of endodontics. LEADERSHIP ROLES: Marzouca is a past president of the dental school’s Endodontic Society, has served on the Class of 2016 executive board and is involved with the university-wide Sexual Misconduct Prevention Task Force. She has been undertaking academic research projects for the American Dental Education Association for the last three years, and the organization awarded her a fellowship this year. SCHOLARSHIPS: Drs. William W. and Usha N. Sellers Scholarship and Dr. Frank D. Kasparian, D61, Scholarship Fund


“A good education is very important for the rest of your life, to enjoy life and know what’s going on in the world,” says Lyn Courant, shown here with her husband, Paul.

Arts & Sciences

The Joy of Learning A lifetime in education, combined with Jumbo pride, leads to scholarship BY DIVYA AMLADI


HEN LYN COURANT, J58, retired from teaching, she began the next chapter in her career as an educator. For 18 years, she has volunteered for Step Up to Excellence, a Massachusetts nonprofit that provides one-to-one mentorship for low-income high school students. The program was started by Carolyn Birmingham, E57, Courant’s best friend from Tufts. “As a former teacher, I place a high value on education,” says Courant, who serves on the Step Up to Excellence board and assisted Birmingham in selecting partner schools for the program. Step Up to Excellence pairs motivated students with educators, and the teams work together year-round during students’ sophomore,

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junior and senior years of high school. The mentors help students set and achieve longand short-term academic and personal goals. Education is transformative, Courant says. “A good education is very important for the rest of your life, to enjoy life and know what’s going on in the world.” But quality comes at a price. When Courant’s grandson, Paul Collins, A17, started his college search, she and her husband, Paul, A58—they met at a party at his fraternity— realized just how costly a liberal arts education had become. When they were Tufts undergraduates in the late 1950s, tuition was roughly $1,000 a year, compared with $49,520 this year. That led them to establish the Lyn and Paul Courant Endowed Scholarship Fund at the School of Arts and Sciences. “We know how expensive college is, and we don’t want that to be a barrier to an excellent education,” Courant says. Their gift was doubled through the university’s ongoing Financial Aid Initiative, a deal that Paul says he could not pass up. “We never thought we’d be able to make a large contribution, but this match sounded like a win for us and for the kids who crucially need the scholarships,” he says. After their graduation, Paul attended dental school at Harvard and went on to establish a periodontology practice in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, while Lyn taught middle school in Melrose; the couple raised four children. She also spent nine years setting local standards and policies as a member of the ConcordCarlisle Regional District School Committee. Their grandson is the most recent in a long line of Jumbos. Paul’s father, Reginald Courant, a 1919 Tufts dental school graduate who commuted by train from his family home in Gloucester, Massachusetts, encouraged family members to follow in his footsteps. Paul’s older sister and three brothers-in-law are Tufts graduates. The Courants’ daughter Lyann Collins, A17P, also attended Tufts. “We appreciate what Tufts did for us in terms of exposing us to a broader understanding of the world,” says Lyn. “As a liberal arts student, I took courses in subjects I otherwise7 wouldn’t have, like psychology and economics. And now my grandson is in the Tufts-in-Chile [study-abroad] program, and he’s learning to live, eat and sleep in Spanish. I’m amazed at what he’s being exposed to.” n

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Care for All KELVIN MA

Sam Ho, M76, has dedicated his career to providing for those who need it most  BY DIVYA AMLADI

“There’s a whole generation of inquisitive, curious, informed and committed medical students who can do anything to make change in this world,” says Sam Ho, M76.

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HE DARK STAIN on the sidewalk outside the Chicago coffee shop where Sam Ho had been hanging out with friends was unmistakable—a pool of blood that trailed 50 feet down the street. He followed it to an apartment building and up a staircase, where he found an intoxicated man with a deep cut in his scalp. Ho helped the man into his apartment and called an ambulance. As they waited, the middle-aged stranger repeatedly asked Ho why he was bothering to help him. “It was one of those moments that make you pause,” says Ho, the son of a doctor. “I thought, I need to go to medical school. I need to care for those who need it the most, the urban underserved and the urban poor.” He was just 20, about to start his junior year at Northwestern University, but it was the turning point out of which his career emerged with an intensity of purpose. Ho, who graduated from Tufts School of Medicine in 1976, recalls that night with characteristic humility. “It’s not a very interesting story,” he says, dismissing any notion of heroics. He had never before considered following his father, a primary-care physician in Honolulu’s Chinatown neighborhood, into medicine. Ho switched his major from sociology to the pre-med track, squeezing four years’ worth of physical science courses into two. “It was tough to change my whole career program,” he says. “But it was worth it. I was highly motivated.” Tufts didn’t have a family medicine program when Ho applied in the early 1970s—the Department of Family Medicine was not established until 1995. He did receive a hefty financial aid package, though, and the school’s longstanding mission of serving the community matched his values. “I had access to the best and bright-

est minds in medical science, and I was able to customize my curriculum so it was relevant to a family physician’s practice,” he says. Like his father, the young medical student found himself treating patients in a Chinatown neighborhood. Working with residents and social activists in Boston, Ho helped run a free health clinic there. “We operated on less than a shoestring budget, with donated microscopes and discarded exam tables from the medical and dental schools, but we were able to do simple health screenings,” he says. After graduation and a residency in family medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, Ho practiced for seven years in Visitacion Valley, a large working-class neighborhood of San Francisco. With National Health Service Corps funding, he started a clinic to care for the community—his patients ranged from infants to the elderly. He contracted with Medicaid HMOs to provide social services to his patients, such as bus tokens so they could get to their appointments and screenings at community health fairs. As Ho grew more aware of the complicated knot of underlying issues that prevent underserved populations from getting good care, such as the fee-for-service payment model that incentivizes quantity over quality,―he decided he could help even more patients by moving to the administrative side of medicine. Today, as chief medical officer and executive vice president of the country’s largest health insurance provider, UnitedHealthcare, Ho’s decisions affect one in six Americans. This family physician now cares for a nation of patients. Ho wants to make sure that other doctors can also work toward a health-care system where every patient can receive good, regular care, regardless of their means. To that end, he has established the Sam W. Ho, M.D., M76, Scholarship Fund, which will support students interested in primary care, especially in areas where there aren’t enough doctors. His gift will be matched by Tufts’ Financial Aid Initiative, thereby doubling his donation.

“My entire career has been focused on improving American health care,” he says. “Assisting students who are committed to underserved populations, predominantly in primary care, is fundamental to that vision.”

PATIENTS FIRST After Ho left his practice in Visitacion Valley, he remained in San Francisco, as deputy director of the city’s health department and San Francisco’s county health officer from 1988 to 1991. His charge was to restructure the department to improve patient care. It was a challenging time for medicine: the AIDs epidemic was in full swing; crack cocaine addiction was a growing public health concern; homelessness had reached an all-time high; and patients who once had been cared for in psychiatric hospitals were flow-

ing into community health clinics. Ho developed a community-oriented primary-care network integrating 14 disparate clinics and dozens of programs into a cohesive primary-care system within the health department. “You used to have patients come to one clinic on Monday for maternal and child health, come back on Wednesday for some substance abuse issue and come back on Friday for something else,” he says. “By addressing everything through a primary-care provider, we were doing a better service for the patients and for the community.” Once he overhauled the department, Ho decided he needed to make another career pivot to do even more for more patients. As executive vice president and chief medical officer of PacifiCare Health Systems, which

UnitedHealth acquired in 2005, he instituted innovative managed-care programs, such as report cards rating doctors on performance and affordability. Last fall, Ho visited Tufts School of Medicine for the first time since 1976. He met with students in the Student Service Scholars Program, which trains those who want to care for underserved populations. Financial aid helped him pursue his goals, and the importance of that is not lost on Ho. “There’s a whole generation of inquisitive, curious, informed and committed medical students who can do anything to make change in this world and make it a better place for patients and doctors,” he says. “Hopefully this scholarship fund can be just one factor in changing health care in America.” n


Trailblazers MAT THEW HEALE Y

Gift is largest by an alumni association in university history  BY BRENDA CONAWAY

Concerned about the amount of debt dental students carry into their careers, the Tufts Dental Alumni Association has created a scholarship fund.

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OMETIMES A GREAT notion begins quite simply. In writing about

the importance of financial aid, Tufts President Anthony P. Monaco observed, “Going back to the early days of the fledgling college, scholarships from Tufts’ most loyal supporters meant that bright students with more potential than wealth could come to college on the Hill.” Those words resonated with Cherie Bishop, D94, the immediate past president of the Tufts University Dental Alumni Association. One of the alumni association’s “biggest concerns,” she says, is the amount of debt dental students carry after they graduate. “It’s a totally different story now from when we went to school.” The alumni board decided to do something about that, creating a $250,000 scholarship fund that will support the best and brightest students with demonstrated financial need. The gift will be given over five years and matched through the university’s ongoing Financial Aid Initiative, meaning the scholarship ultimately will total $500,000. Their philanthropy is notable for another reason—it is the largest gift by an alumni association in Tufts history. “For us to be trailblazers was exciting,” Bishop says, “and we hope it sets a model for what other schools might have the potential to do as well.” 9 The gift is an important one for the entire dental school community, says Derek Wolkowicz, D97, DG00, the new alumni association president. “We wanted our efforts to have a lasting impact, not only on the individual receiving the scholarship, but really on the dental school as a whole. We want to show students that the Dental Alumni Association is here to help them in whatever way we can.” n

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Horse Lovers Veterinary student and his benefactor share a common bond  BY LAURA FERGUSON

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S A GIRL Dorothy Dudley Thorndike enjoyed the company of ani-

mals. Instead of playing golf and tennis with her family at a country club near their home in Bronxville, New York, she longed to ride horses. When her parents finally agreed, she would pedal her bike to neighboring Tuckahoe—her Dalmatian Tally-Ho tagging along— and ride for an hour. Her love of horses continued well beyond childhood. In the 1960s, she and her husband, John Thorndike, were living in Dover, Massachusetts, and she was able finally to own horses, first Socrates and then Quel Plasir, thanks to a neighbor who lent her an unused stall. She ran a busy landscape-planning business, and found pleasure on her frequent rides along bridle trails beyond their property—often as far as Medfield and Sherborn. The couple’s Dalmatians were her constant companions. “That was a most magnificent sight,” recalls John Thorndike. “She would ride for three or four hours.” Dorothy also loved Dalmatians—she and John always had two—and took them occasionally to the Foster Hospital for Small Animals for care. Dorothy Dudley Thorndike passed away in 2008, and now John Thorndike has honored his wife’s lifelong devotion to animals by establishing the Dorothy Dudley Thorndike Scholarship at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. A matching amount from the university’s Financial Aid Initiative doubled the gift, “making this fund even more substantial and meaningful,” John Thorndike says.


John Thorndike in front of a portrait of his late wife, Dorothy Dudley Thorndike, that the American artist George V. Augusta Jr. painted in 1966.

How fitting that the first recipient of the Dorothy Dudley Thorndike Scholarship, Brandon King, V18, shares her passion for horses. He has been riding and training them since he was 12. When his horse was stricken with colic about 10 years ago, veterinarians saved the animal’s life. “That sparked an interest in me,” King says. He graduated summa cum laude from the animal science program at the University of Connecticut, and now, as a veterinary student, he’s focusing on large animal and equine care. “Dorothy was devoted to animals, and we share a particular connection with horses,” says King. “It is a privilege to carry on her legacy here at Cummings School and in my future as a clinician.” That legacy and life story grew out of an era when not a lot of women went to college, let alone started a business. Dorothy Wood Dudley and John Thorndike married in 1950; she was a junior biology major at Vassar, and he had just graduated from Harvard. They had met years earlier, when Dorothy roomed with his sister at the Virginia girls’ prep school Chatham Hall. He says he was instantly smitten. The newlyweds settled in Brookline, Massachusetts, and Dorothy planned to finish her degree at Radcliffe, but it would accept only one of her Vassar credits for transfer. Undaunted, she changed directions and began working as a horticulturalist at the Arnold Arboretum. She won the Bulkley Medal at the 1966 Massachusetts Horticulture Society Spring Flower Show with her display of native New England orchids. “The arboretum was her heaven,” says her husband. After two decades there, she found herself increasingly sought out by people who wanted help planning their own gardens. Dorothy launched her landscape-planning business, which she ran for more than 30 years. “She was extraordinarily competent,” says John Thorndike. “Whatever she put her mind to, she did well.” She also took time amid her busy career and with her son grown to attend Wellesley College as a Davis Scholar; she graduated in 1975 with that long-desired degree in biology. Of the new scholarship at Cummings School, John Thorndike says, “I am happy to see that these gifts for education become tributes to Dorothy. They are appropriate in view of her tremendous interest in biology and in the important work going on at the veterinary school.” n


From the Prairie to the World In a life committed to international understanding, John Palenberg, F81, never strayed from his small-town roots  BY LAURA FERGUSON


HE AMERICAN PRAIRIE is a land of paradox. Its wide-open spaces

beckoned the pioneers. For later generations, that vastness often felt isolating, and so the prairie became a place to leave. John Palenberg, F81, loved the prairie for both its pull and its push. He grew up in rural Glen Ullin, North Dakota, which still has a population well south of 1,000 today. He was enamored with the exoticness of his German mother: her language, customs and the colorful stamps on letters she received from home. His parents encouraged his curiosity—and a college education. A brilliant student, he graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of arts in history and a minor in Greek from the University of North Dakota in 1977. He then traveled abroad on a Fulbright scholarship to Friedrich-Alexander University in Erlangen, Germany, where he studied the history of the Reformation. He followed that with yet more education: a joint M.A.L.D./J.D. degree offered by the Fletcher School and Harvard Law School, graduating cum laude. Degrees in hand, and fascinated by Asian culture, he found work as a legal assistant at two Tokyo law firms. Eager to immerse himself in the Japanese culture, he found an able tutor in a young college student, Chieko Kimura; he picked up the new language with characteristic alacrity. Later, after a long-distance friendship with Kimura deepened, he returned to Japan and proposed to her under a blossoming cherry tree.


Chieko Palenberg says her husband, John C. Palenberg, F81, would have encouraged students to “be happy and positive and curious.”

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Palenberg went on to become a partner at an international law firm. Fluent in German and Japanese, he rose to prominence as an international lawyer, working in Tokyo, Frankfurt and London. Wherever he went, he continued to embrace the full flavor of the place he lived. Yet he never lost touch with his North Dakota values or his family. He was, at heart, a “small-town person” who was “kind, thoughtful and grateful for the simple things,” says his sister, Janice Luck, who recalls her brother’s nostalgia for his boyhood summers fishing for bullhead catfish at a railroad dam. “The windswept prairies were always a source of wonder and beauty for John,” adds his sister, Fay VonTilius. “No matter where his life travels took him, North Dakota and his family always grounded him in modesty and humility.” Palenberg died of cancer in 2014 at age 57. His widow, Chieko Palenberg, says she chose to honor her husband in a way that befits someone whose warmth and curiosity made him a beloved colleague and friend. She created the John C. Palenberg, F81, Endowed Scholarship with a gift matched through the Tufts Financial Aid Initiative. The scholarship will be awarded annually to a Fletcher student from the frontier Midwest, preferably from a rural area, with an interest in international understanding. “John left his home in North Dakota with a scholarship in hand, and now this scholarship will help others to have their own adventures,” says Chieko Palenberg. “John loved the Fletcher School, and I would like others to have the opportunity to have his experience. “I want young people to know that if you knock, the door will be ready to open,” she says. “John’s life was like that. His parents didn’t go to college. He had a modest upbringing. But he was always happy and so curious 11 that people loved to help him. I hope that his life will inspire others. He would want Fletcher students to know that nothing should hold you back—just be happy and positive and curious, and you can go far.” n

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Diet and Disease Nutrition student learned firsthand about how food, microbiota and genetics affect our health


LEXANDRA SIMAS, a doctoral student at the Friedman School, is

no novice at making connections between diet and disease. Her first patient was, well, herself. During her freshman year at Wellesley College, Simas was tired all the time. She dragged herself to class, and found it hard to keep up with the regimen of competing on the varsity swim team. She wondered if her diet contributed to her symptoms, which not only included gastrointestinal woes, but affected her muscles, her mood and her overall sense of well-being. The problems became so severe she had to take time off from school. She spent the next two years on a nutritional odyssey of sorts, seeing physicians and investigating her family’s history of allergies, autoimmune disease, cancer and neurological disorders. She attacked her health problems with methodical precision, eliminating certain foods, addressing vitamin deficiencies and changing what she ate to improve her microbiota, the trillions of microorganisms that make up the gut’s ecosystem. After two years, she felt much better, and returned to Wellesley to complete her undergraduate studies in neuroscience. “It was really tough, but I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything, because it helped me to see firsthand how much genetics, diet and environment play a role in how your brain and body function,” says Simas, who’s pursuing a Ph.D. in biochemical and molecular nutrition. Having discovered how empowering it was to crack the code on her own dietary enigmas, Simas came to Tufts to learn about personalizing nutrition recommendations. “This isn’t about changing what you eat to lower your risk of disease by a certain percentage,” she says. “It’s seeing the differences you can make in your health on a day-to-day basis.” Her education is made possible by Tufts’ Financial Aid Initiative, a program that matches donors’ gifts for endowed scholarships. Simas is supported by the Stanley N.

Gershoff Scholarship Fund, named for a former dean of the nutrition school. “I know how lucky I am,” she says. “Without financial aid, I would not have been able to pursue my goals.”

THE COMPLEXITY OF HUMANS As part of her doctoral work, Simas is working as a research assistant in the Obesity and Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts. In collaboration with lab director Andrew Greenberg, she is trying to understand why some individuals—but not all—develop certain metabolic disorders, such as insulin resistance or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, even though they eat the same things. The key to the research, she notes, is untangling how our diet, microbiota and genetics play off each other, and what combinations make us more prone to the inflammation—brought on by an immune system in overdrive—that can cause such ailments as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. “Why do some people with very similar genetics develop celiac disease while others won’t?” she says. Being able to isolate which



Alexandra Simas, N16, is trying to understand why only some of us develop certain metabolic disorders, even when we all eat the same things.

Winter 2016

Jean Birnberg and sons Adam and Charlie, with a photo of Neal Birnberg, E76.


variables trigger the immune system to cause harm could lead to treatments that not only reduce obesity rates or the occurrence of food allergies, but could help unlock the persistent mysteries of autoimmune diseases, in which the body attacks and damages its own tissues. “How do we create a model for this incredibly complex human system that allows us to understand the nuanced effects of all these variables?” says Simas. “This is the big question that I hope to solve over the lifetime of my career.” To do that, she believes health-care providers need to move beyond broad nutritional recommendations. “What we’re learning is there isn’t one right diet. A lowfat or no-sodium meal plan might help one person, but have no effect on another,” she says. She envisions a future in which physicians can tailor treatment based on a patient’s genetics and microbiota. “I hope we will be able to take an individual’s information, and then create a custom plan that gives them the tools to be the healthiest they can be.” In addition to what she’s picking up in the lab, “I’m learning so much from my classmates through the student-run NEWtrition forum, which sponsors TED-style Nutrition Talks,” she says. “And the [school-sponsored] weekly policy talks have been fascinating, particularly about the economics of nutrition. Our research is only going to be useful if it’s economically feasible for people to make the changes we recommend.” She says she’s particularly inspired by those she has met as a student representative on the Friedman School Alumni Executive Council. “I was recently talking with Bill Reid, [N90], who is working to improve communications between different hospitals and patient systems,” she says. “It’s so cool to see what these alumni are doing to make a difference in society as a whole.” This kind of multidisciplinary focus is what brought Simas to the Friedman School. “Dr. Greenberg is always sharing findings from all different fields to see how it might apply to my research or illuminate new connections,” she says. “We’re tackling problems that are so multifaceted, and I want to be at a place where different disciplines, such as cell biologists and geneticists, are working to solve them together.” n


For the Love of Tufts Family and friends honor Neal Birnberg’s memory in a most meaningful way

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Y ANY MEASURE, Neal Cary Birnberg, E76, was exceptional. The

son of Holocaust survivors, he was the first in his family to attend college. Neal, who received financial aid from Tufts, and his sister, Jill Birnberg Perry, both earned college degrees thanks to the dedication and hard work of their parents, who owned a bakery in New Jersey. At Tufts, Birnberg was inspired by his professors and his coursework, and he forged lasting friendships with his classmates. Those experiences in and out of the classroom prepared him for a remarkable career. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Oregon and rose through the academic ranks to become an associate professor of pharmacology at the Yale School of Medicine. He founded the company Mercury Therapeutics Inc., and served as its CEO and chief scientist until shortly before he died of cancer in 2014. Birnberg had a special ability to build loyalty and trust among friends, family and colleagues. His Tufts classmate Marc Yagjian says, “My friendship with Neal was one of the wonderful fruits of our Tufts education. Neal’s deep curiosity and critical thinking were nurtured at Tufts and enriched our personal bond throughout many cherished years.” To honor Neal’s memory, his wife, Jean Birnberg; their sons, Adam and Charlie; Neal’s children from his first marriage, Andrew and Catie; and other family members and close friends took the lead in establishing the Neal Birnberg Scholarship Fund. They raised $100,000, and through the university’s Financial Aid Initiative, Tufts matched that amount, creating a $200,000 endowment that each year will benefit a deserving undergraduate engineering student who otherwise would not be able to attend Tufts. That would surely make Neal smile. “When Neal passed away after a brave battle with cancer, we all asked ourselves,13 What did Neal love?” Jean Birnberg says. The answer was clear: “In addition to his family and friends, he really loved Tufts,” she says. “So we are delighted to have the chance to remember Neal through a gift to Tufts that will benefit students like him. And we are deeply moved and grateful to the members of our family and incredible group of friends who have helped make this scholarship fund possible.” n

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Zoe Barnes and other 1+4 Bridge-Year fellows at orientation on the Tufts campus in August. Zoe is spending the year in Santa Catarina, Brazil.


Building a Bridge Year The first fellows are out in the world on Tisch College’s community service learning program  BY ROB PHELPS

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OOKING BACK ON his undergraduate years, Alan D. Solomont, A70,

A08P, says it was “probably not until I was a sophomore or junior that I started getting the most out of my Tufts education, and then it was life changing.” He wonders how a program like Tufts’ 1+4 Bridge-Year Service Learning Program might have made a difference in his life. Although he built a successful career in the private sector and in public service, which led to his appointment as U.S. ambassador to Spain and Andorra, Solomont, the Pierre and Pamela Omidyar Dean of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, believes a program like 1+4 would have made his undergraduate experience at Tufts considerably stronger. In its inaugural year, the 1+4 program, developed and run by Tisch College, provides a structured year of full-time community service before students begin their four years of undergraduate study at Tufts. The experience is designed to help prepare students to begin their first year of college with “a much greater sense of direction and purpose,” Solomont says. “Spending some time in service to your community or to your nation or to the world gives you a sense of responsibility and a sense that you’re part of something bigger than yourself,” he says. “We think the students in the program will come to campus next year better prepared for academic success, better prepared to take on leadership roles and better prepared for success in life.” Fresh out of high school, the dean says, students “have just gone through this pressure cooker called the college application and acceptance process. They’re coming into a big, different kind of world, living more independently, taking new courses. It takes a lot of students a while to find themselves, to point themselves in

the right direction.” For some students, the 1+4 program can serve as their compass. Fifteen 1+4 Bridge-Year fellows arrived on campus last August for a two-week orientation before they headed off to program sites in Brazil, Nicaragua and Spain. (Program organizers are planning to add a domestic site in Washington, D.C., next year.) Through the 1+4 partner organizations Global Citizen Year, Amigos de las Américas and United Planet, the fellows are volunteering in the fields of child development and education, community health, social entrepreneurship and nonprofit management.

MAKING CONNECTIONS Out in the field, the fellows report their progress through monthly Skype sessions with the 1+4 program administrator, Jessye Crowe-Rothstein, who also makes biweekly check-in phone calls with staff at each partner organization. The fellows build upon the bonds they formed with each other at orientation by participating in a collaborative online course, Communicating for Change, led by Felicia

Gabriel Yerdon, left, and David Vargas are in Brazil and Nicaragua, respectively, for the year.

Sullivan, a senior researcher at the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tisch College. Across seven time zones, they email, text, blog and post on discussion boards. Sharing and evaluating each other’s experiences, they complete assignments that range from self-evaluations to community needs assessments. The course also includes “virtual reflection sessions,” which Sullivan describes as guided series of questions. How are they coping? Finding their way around new places and situations? Moving forward in their work? “The answers help the fellows connect the experiences out in the field to their future education and careers,” says Sullivan. These exercises also provide important data to improve the program each year and demonstrate its impact. In May the fellows will return to the Medford/Somerville campus for a retreat, where they will further assess their experiences and plan ways to connect them to their next four years on campus. Fellow Isabel Schneider, from Lincoln, Nebraska, is working in a school in León, Nicaragua, “wrangling kids into doing their schoolwork or playing games fairly,” she says. In Madrid, Daniela Sanchez, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, works afternoons and evenings with troubled children and teenagers. On the occasional free morning, she puts Winter 2016


Daniela Sanchez is in Madrid, working at the Alicia Koplowitz Foundation, which supports children who have been separated from their families.

“We think the students in the program will come to campus next year better prepared for academic success, better prepared to take on leadership roles and better prepared for success in life.” her high school theater skills to use by volunteering with a branch of the international organization Payasos Sin Fronteras (Clowns without Borders). The mission of the NGO, Sanchez writes on the fellows’ blog site, is to “soothe communities that have undergone trauma,” such as refugee camps, conflict zones or any place where people have suffered adversity. Steven Schwab, from Danbury, Connecticut, is busy at a university in Brazil, where he’s “had the opportunity to work in a biotechnology laboratory and to help teach English,” he reports. “Our goal is to provide transformative learning experiences to the Bridge-Year fellows,” says Solomont, and based on these early reports, “we think we’re succeeding at that.” “The Tufts 1+4 program isn’t for everyone,” he notes. “There are students who want to get to college as soon as they can. But if I were a parent of a freshman, I’d at least want to have a conversation with my student about whether this might be a good bridge between

N ew s o f G i v i n g , G r ow t h a n d G r ati tude

high school and college, and whether they’re open to giving this a try. I think there’s incredible value for students and parents knowing that there is a springboard to make the most out of their Tufts education and beyond.” Unlike many gap-year programs, Tufts 1+4 has democratized the experience. No student accepted to Tufts is precluded from participating because of financial need. Alumni, parents and Santander Bank, N.A., through its Santander Universities Division, are providing financial support to the program. Santander has a longstanding relationship with Tufts, including supporting the Talloires Network, an international association of 325 institutions in 72 countries committed to strengthening the civic roles and social responsibilities of colleges and universities. Tufts is a founding member of the network, and15 Tufts President Anthony P. Monaco chairs the network’s steering committee. Learn more about the Tufts 1+4 BridgeYear Service Learning Program at go.tufts. edu/1plus4. n

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University Relations, 80 George Street, Medford, MA 02155


Now through June 2016, we’ll double the value of your gift to financial aid. If you’ve ever thought of creating a scholarship at Tufts, don’t miss this chance! For more information on the Financial Aid Initiative and its dollar-for-dollar match, please contact Jeff Winey, senior director of principal gifts and university initiatives, at 617.627.5468 or Or visit

Winter 2016 Blueprint for Tufts University  
Winter 2016 Blueprint for Tufts University