In this uncertain time, we want to help our community stay connected and inspired. Below are updates and recommendations from alumni/ae, faculty, staff, parents, and friends. We hope these notes and ideas can make this difficult situation just a little bit easier. If you would like to submit an update and/or share suggestions for the community, please fill out this form.
Steven Bloomstein ’66: "During this COVID-19 time, in my role as president of the Turimiquire Foundation (turimiquire.org), I have been catching up on the evitable administrative backlog and working with colleagues to both improve our administrative capacity and prepare for the increased need for our services when we re-open. We must all prepare for a more complicated and demanding world, and this may well be even more so in lesser developed countries like Venezuela where we work."
Roy DeBerry ’66: I co-wrote a book, Voices from the Hill Country, that will be published in July 2020. You can learn more about it at hillcountryproject.org. Additionally, my daughter, Aisha, and I started a podcast -- Dad and Daughter Dialogues -- together in April. Aisha donated a kidney to my nephew, Jarvis, just before the pandemic. This was fortuitous because elective surgeries were recently shut down in New Orleans (where Jarvis lives). I am glad to report that both Aisha and Jarvis are doing extremely well. They are healing, and like the rest of us, trying to stay safe, healthy and sane.
In February 2020, G. A. Finch ’73 received the Chicago Bar Association's Earl B. Dickerson Award. The award recognizes minority lawyers and judges whose careers at the bar emulate the courage and dedication of the late Earl B. Dickerson in ensuring that the law is the key to justice for all in our society. A former Commonwealth School trustee, G. A. is the past co-managing partner of the law firm of Querrey & Harrow, making him the first African American lawyer to be a managing partner at a majority law firm in Chicago.
George Levy ’74 was recently made president of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in Daytona, FL. He writes: “Though I sometimes feel like the only such enthusiast in Commonwealth’s history, I invite my fellow alums and their friends to tour the Hall of Fame when things return to normal and learn about the special men and women who risked it all without shame or apology. In the meantime you can learn more about us at mshf.com.”
Janna O'Loughlin ’79 is a Real Estate Agent at MV Seacoast Properties in Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard. She writes: “After raising three wonderful young men, I decided to gather my experiences as a banker, sociologist, traveler, photographer, and parent into a profession that utilizes all my skills. I get to be a matchmaker for families and businesses looking for the right connection to a property. I have fond memories of Commonwealth School, especially Mr. Merrill. He was a very special person and had faith in each student he met which increased their self esteem and success.”
Jeremy Berlin ’80: “Recently, I realized that I've lived over half my life on Martha's Vineyard. My son, Silas (22), is studying piano in Seattle, but he’s home for now. We have a full house with my daughter, Elda (6), and my partner, Betsey Guest. Silas plays many hours a day, and we have lovely sounds to weather these times: Beethoven, Chopin, Rachmaninoff. I’ve been playing piano in the same band — Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish — for 27 years. I have also had a jazz duo residency for 17 years at Offshore Ale Company in Oak Bluffs. We're easy to find if you come to the Vineyard.”
Jane Cutter ’81: "My husband and I are both working from home. As a Special Education Coordinator, I helped quickly transition 14 teachers serving students with disabilities in private schools to remote work. I worked at the office for a week as an "essential worker" supporting distance learning and then transitioned to my home. My daughter is a cook and she lost her job when the restaurants closed. She spent almost 4 weeks navigating the unemployment system to get her benefits due to system overload. Some people are bored in quarantine; I am busier than ever. I recently donated blood at a "pop-up" donation center at Safeco Field (home of the Seattle Mariners) and was the first in line. My theme was "I am a red-blooded Red.""
Dominic Montagu ’84: “We are in week four of our lockdown in San Francisco, and some weeks beyond that since UCSF (where I work in international research) put the kibosh on all travel for work before the lockdown. Things get more surreal by the day, but at the same time days blend into one another pretty seamlessly, so perhaps the gradations are less vivid than I imagine them to be in retrospect. Both of our kids were away at college but they are now home and brought their respective boyfriend and girlfriend. So, there are six of us alternating between sitcom-style movie nights, board games, and cooking sprees. We are also retreating to our own corners of the one room with wifi to each do homework/take classes/prepare classes/write/work and surreptitiously watch TikTok (my daughter), play video games (my son), or read the New York Times (me) when we hope others won’t notice that we’re slacking off. We are lucky to be together during this emotionally stressful time. The frenetic energy of too many people is fun and we are grateful. For the most part we don’t do much except retreat ("they also contribute who stay out of the damn way” as a mentor at UCSF would say) and help the people around us when we can. We worry for family and friends, and hope the end result of this might include more empathy rather than less.”
Francesca Bignami ’87 published the edited volume, EU Law in Populist Times (Cambridge University Press, 2020), which covers fiscal solidarity, migration law, and combating democratic backsliding. George Washington University Law School hosted a book launch and panel discussion in February 2020.
Tiffany Higgins ’87: “I've transitioned from writing environmental poetry to writing narrative journalism on Brazil & the environment. I am writing from Salt Lake City, where I am pleased to be the 2020-2021 Annie Clark Tanner Fellow in Environmental Humanities at the University of Utah. This is giving me time to write a book about how hydroelectric dams in Brazil's Amazon basin impact indigenous and traditional peoples and animals, as well as peoples' continuing resistance to dams. COVID-19 has, in a sense, stranded me here in Salt Lake as I don’t have a car so travel back to California is likely not a good idea from the public health standpoint. I am chagrined to reside for now in one of only eight states where no statewide stay at home orders are in place, so people are still going to work here. I was delighted to have received a Fulbright scholarship to continue my research in Brazil’s Amazon later in 2020, but due to COVID-19, all programs have been paused. I hope Fulbright will give all grantees the ability to do their research in 2021."
Margaret Urban ’87: "Several of my co-workers and friends have become my students in sourdough bread-making, as the lockdown creates a resurgence in (read: desperate need for) home baking. I'm hoping that after this is all over, the 'from scratch' cooking will continue, and there will be a fresh interest in the provenance of ingredients. Meanwhile, I'm grateful to be employed and be able to work from home, but still finding it a challenge to adjust to the new isolation."
Stephen Frug ’89 published his first graphic novel, HAPPENSTANCE. You can read more about it and purchase it at www.stephenfrug.com. Stephen writes: “I hope any Commonwealthers who pass through Ithaca, NY look me up!”
Zoe Kafatou Bunnell ’90: "I trained as an EMT last spring and now serve on an ambulance with my local volunteer rescue squad. I also run blood deliveries for the Red Cross, and have joined their Disaster Mental Health response team. Meanwhile I'm refreshing my Social Work license with training related to crisis and trauma counseling. I originally started all this so that, when my kids have left home in a few years, I will be prepared to volunteer in disaster relief wherever I will be useful. The Covid-19 crisis we all find ourselves in right now has refocused my attention on immediate needs within my own community. I am grateful to be using my skills to help, here and now."
Conor Detwiler ’07 wrote a book about spiritual awakening — Undividing: Returning to Oneness for the First Time — that will be published in August 2020. It was edited by Caitlin Timmons '08. For more information, visit conordetwiler.com.
Kate Potter ’09 finished her museum studies master's degree in December 2019. She loved writing her capstone paper, “We've Always Been Here: Interpreting Queer History at Historic House Museums.” In May 2020 she started working for the National Park Service at the Longfellow House-Washington's Headquarters National Historic Site. She is very happy to be discussing poetry and literature again after five years of giving tours about history and architecture.
Alina Grabowski ’12: “In May 2019 I moved to Austin after completing a fellowship at Vanderbilt, where I earned my MFA in fiction. My short story, "A Girl Walks Into a Bar," was published in Story magazine's Spring 2020 issue, and I continue to carve away at my novel-in-progress.”
Maria Ronchi ’15 graduated from Brown in spring 2019. She writes: “I loved materials science so much that I am now doing research at MIT while pursuing a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering. I also recently got engaged to Ken, a wonderful biologist I met at Brown. We are planning to get married next year.”
Former faculty member Polly Chatfield P’71, ’79: “My daughter, Barbara Post '71, is living with me and she deals with our two dogs - lots of walks - and continues with what she can do for the Community Charter School of Cambridge’s library (cover books, deal with the database etc.). I cook our meals, keep at the exercises to strengthen my left side, write and text and email so many far-flung friends who need just a word, and walk whenever there is some sun to my favorite bench in Kennedy Park to pray for all the people I can think of and their friends and family. It’s a very quiet life.”
Headmaster Bill Wharton: "When I go out walking these days, the relative absence of mechanical sounds makes more noticeable the sounds and sensations of this unusual spring—birds, freshening air of spring, trees greening, little kids out playing with siblings or neighbors, families and couples walking. This brings vividly to mind my own childhood in the 1960s, and its feel of closeness to the natural and human worlds as I spent hours outdoors playing with friends, interacting with their parents, and exploring the shrubs, soil, and swamp of my middle-class Chicago suburb."
"The Mirror and the Light, by Hilary Mantel" - Headmaster Bill Wharton
"I'm reading The Dutch House (Ann Patchett), and I recently re-read A Separate Peace (John Knowles)." - Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Carrie Healy
"Madeline Miller's Circe, read by Perdita Weeks (Audible) is fully amazing." - Margaret Urban '87
"The Office, Westworld (season 1), Unorthodox" - Headmaster Bill Wharton
"I just started Little Fires Everywhere. I've also been revisiting episodes of The Office...maybe because I'm not in an office right now I'm finding it funnier than ever." - Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Carrie Healy
"Unorthodox, Mom, Gentefied" - Jane Cutter '81
"Nature Shows" - Roy DeBerry '66
The Whisperer - Headmaster Bill Wharton
"Bombshell, The Farewell" - Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Carrie Healy
"Most recent documentary: Skid Row Marathon. Note: Not about running, but about people who happen to run. Beautiful and inspiring." - Margaret Urban '87
The Blue Dahlia - Jane Cutter '81
"Walking the dog" - Headmaster Bill Wharton
"Morning walks, late afternoon runs, yoga, cooking" - Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Carrie Healy
"Running, hula hooping" - Jane Cutter '81
"Spending quality and quiet times in the wood near my 1919 old house--ideal place to think, meditate, relax, dream, pray and watch the birds, other wild animals and insects." - Roy DeBerry '66