You can catch up with your fellow Mermaids below—and share your own news here. We look forward to hearing from you!
Michael Daley ’68: With my marine electrical business killed by covid, I moved to near Santa Fe, NM. I still have a 36' sailboat on San Franciso bay, if anyone needs one...We live between two arròyos, and the coyotes and bobcats wander past on their way between them. I am only an hour from skiing, and qualify for a cheap old fart's pass, so I have picked that back up. I also have two motorcycles, one for pavement and one for dirt. I am obviously still unable to act my age...I am glad I do not have to come of age in this environment, and wish good forture on those who do.
Mark Simon ’69: I retired from 28 years of teaching high school, 12 of which I spent as the full time elected president of the teachers union in Montgomery County, MD. I still keep my hand in education, helping teachers organize and working with union locals to stand for improving the quality of teaching and learning for students and families, not just their members. It's a much more powerful agenda for the union.
James Barron ’62: After more than 10 years of research and writing, my book, “The Greek Connection: The Life of Elias Demetracopoulos and the Untold Story of Watergate,” was released at the end of July. The biography is a non-fiction political thriller about abuse of power, dark money, foreign interference in elections, and intimidation of journalists. And it’s not even about Donald Trump, though there are certainly lessons for today. It’s also a saga about an audacious Greek freedom fighter, relentless democracy champion, and a hero for our time. The book is receiving great praise from such respected authors as Doris Kearns Goodwin and Sy Hersh. For more information, visit thegreekconnectionbook.com.
David Freidel '64: Today I am remembering Adam Remigiusz Grocholski, Colonel, Hero of the Polish resistance, and friend of Charles Merrill. Mr. Merrill arranged for a group of Commonwealth students to travel behind the Iron Curtain in the summer of 1962. I had been just admitted at the beginning of that year, but my father enrolled me in this extraordinary adventure. Colonel Grocholski was tall, handsome, charming, and a gracious host to us in Warsaw. I recall being on the newly reconstructed "old town" plaza when he swept his walking stick to make a point and a cloud of pigeons dutifully rose in a graceful cloud. I could not have known what I know now: kind, artistic, patient with questions, he embodied a lifetime of courageous patriotism of the kind most of us are never called upon to manifest. Born in Ukraine, he is surely watching his countrymen prepare to discover that courage in themselves.
Tim Dickinson ’64: Retirement in the time of COVID-19: I am certainly not Gabriel Garcia Márquez, and I think cholera is far more dire than COVID-19, but how could I not steal that title? I retired six years ago, and to my wife’s chagrin it hardly shows. She retired this past December, so that when the pandemic began the countermeasures hardly affected us. Workplace closures? No impact. Quarantine and social distancing? We postponed some meals that we planned to share with friends. Toronto never banned solitary outdoor activities like walking, so we continued to take our walks. We can garden. We acquired masks, and wear them when we shop or interact with others. We count ourselves lucky because the impact on our lives has been so small, notably also because nobody that we know has gotten sick.
That said, it was a shock in April and May to see how many things shut down, and how constrained essential services like grocery shopping and public transport became, especially at first. Sometime in May I saw a newspaper article describing how a group at one of the research hospitals organized a service to do grocery shopping and delivery for people in public housing, mostly seniors, who could not for whatever reason get out to do this for themselves. At first my wife, Meher Shaik, volunteered seeing as how she is younger and seemed to fit this outfit’s criteria better. The idea was, she would be the volunteer of record, and I would drive her around. Then they had another intake of volunteers, and I put my name in to see if they would take me on officially as well. They did, and so since May we have been driving around our part of the city a couple of days a week, picking up groceries for two, sometimes three, people a day, and dropping them off at the apartment buildings where these people live.
Overall, it’s been fun in no small part because we do it together and so have each other to talk to, to help each other find things in the stores that we’ve never bought before, to navigate our way to addresses we’ve never been to, and to share the interactions with the different people who we’re helping out. Sometimes we simply drop the groceries off in a building lobby, or we meet the senior there and load up their bundle buggy for them. Other times, one or both of us wind up taking the groceries to the senior’s door. My wife is the organized one, so when we’re doing a cash pick-up and delivery, she’s equipped with a float so that we can make change when the senior reimburses the cost of the groceries. Other times, it’s the organizers who reimburse us, as they have arranged to get the money back from whoever is paying. All in all, it’s two to three hours at a time, once or twice a week, and so no great impact on us. Depending on which supermarket we visit, we often can do our own grocery shopping as well.
Doing this shopping for others and making these deliveries has been interesting because working together is something that we’ve only done in the context of home and family. It’s a new arena for bickering about directions and getting up tight about the tiny amount of administrative stuff that this volunteering entails (documenting our purchases, putting in for reimbursement). My wife, the big sister in her family of seven siblings, points out that the appeal of this work for me is that, having grown up as an only child, it’s a novelty to feel needed, even if by strangers, for something that I do so easily. Perhaps. For both of us, it’s just a way to give back a little bit to a city that’s given us quite a few opportunities.
Sam Clark '67: I retired two years ago, after working as a consultant for the United Nations Fund for Population Activities and other agencies, leading country program evaluations around the world. This is our final year in London, as my wife retires from the Foreign Service. We will be moving to a small rural town in central Italy, where we have built a house and resided part time for the past ten years. We have two daughters, Mahalia who lives in Burlington, Vermont and Lucy, living in Brooklyn, NY. For me, Commonwealth was a great experience and remains a truly worthwhile institution.
Jon Hiatt '66: I stepped down as General Counsel and then Chief of Staff of the AFL-CIO in 2017, before co-founding a global network of union and worker rights lawyers—the International Lawyers Assisting Workers (ILAW) Network, www.ilawnetwork.com. We now have a membership of some 700 lawyers and other worker advocates in 75 countries—sharing information, collaborating, and jointly strategizing on how to protect and expand worker rights around the world. All these decades later, I continue to give Commonwealth much credit for imbuing in me the social justice values that have helped steer my various career choices.
John Zalewski ’66: My wife, Sally, and I are over-the-moon, first-time grandparents to a beautiful, delightful, baby girl, Avabelle Mabel Zalewski born on November 23, 2020. Our son, Alexander, and his wife, Jen, are the proud parents.
Robert Johnson '67: I would like to introduce you to my new book, Lazarus Jones, which takes readers on a journey of self-discovery and redemption with the titular hero. The book is the story of Lazarus Jones, who sets off on a journey from Boston to East Africa in search of escape from the horrors of his daily life. Lazarus Jones is a gripping novel about a man on a quest to find a new life. This is my first novel. As the story begins, Lazarus Jones, a native of Boston and a Vietnam War veteran, travels to Mt. Kenya, East Africa, to escape from his haunting war demons and the racism of 1970s Boston. On his journey, Lazarus meets Mukuria, who has led a life of privilege in Nairobi and now seeks out her Kikuyu traditional roots on the mountain. What follows is a story of self-discovery and redemption as the two young people encounter in death spiritual transformations that force them to make unexpected and monumental choices in life.
Elisabeth Swan ’78: I published a book! The back story is not pretty but it ended well. Coming to Mr. Davis’s memorial was an opportunity to reconnect and reflect on how we move in this world. Hearing the tributes reminded me that it’s important to be yourself and be kind to others. Here’s a book blurb from my classmate and friend.
“Picture Yourself a Leader made me burst out laughing and provoked some serious reflection. As a department head in the ever-changing film and television business, I am always looking for better ways to communicate with my colleagues. Elisabeth’s relatable stories, quotes, and amusing drawings illustrate novel tactics to improve relationships and embrace change while promoting empathy and camaraderie. Her humor and writing style make for a warm, easy read but don’t be fooled by its accessibility. These topics resonate long after reading. Her positive intelligence is inspiring. Bravo!!”
• Anne McCabe, Director of Idina Menzel: Which Way to the Stage?
Alexandra Schweitzer ’70: To my surprise, I find myself back at school. For the past few years, I was a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and am now an Executive Fellow at Harvard Business School. I'm enjoying academic life immensely. I have time and headspace to pursue one of my passions: understanding whether and how health care organizations can improve social drivers of health at both an individual and systems level. Social drivers like housing and food account for the majority of health outcomes - much more than medical care does. I was equally surprised to have two papers accepted by a peer-reviewed journal and my greatest hope is that my time and insights can help leaders in the field help more people more effectively. It's been a trip attending classes and working with students and I feel fortunate to have this do over from my somewhat tortured grad school experience. Other than that, still in Lexington MA, still on/chairing non-profit boards, still passionate about Pilates and glad to be back in the studio.
Steve Liss ’73 spent the past three years directing and producing a four-part documentary series about Northshore Recovery High School (NSRHS). Students at NSRHS have been diagnosed with substance abuse disorders and the school provides both academic and emotional support as the students work towards earning their high school diploma. Click here for more information and to watch the trailer. "Proud to say I and my team were awarded the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award for our documentary 16 and Recovering, which aired in serial form on MTV last fall and which I directed and produced. The film documents a year in the life of a public high school for teenagers fighting Substance Abuse Disorder. For me, this is a second bite at the apple; it is a rare second RFK award. Since Bobby was my hero, next to my own father, growing up, it is especially satisfying."
Clara Simon '72: I'm busy working supporting older people aging at home and in long-term care facilities. I work part-time through Bethlehem Chabad Senior Connection's Program and as a Senior Resource Specialist at Jewish Family Services of Northeastern New York. This summer, I saw three of our children purchase their first homes and had the pleasure of watching grandchildren grow and develop!
David Perry '72: Hope everyone is well and safe. I’ve been hunkered down in a wee cottage by the sea in Mendocino working remotely on the legal/real estate aspects of renewable energy projects. Strange times.
Jonathan Krant '72: Greetings from Williamstown. Still in the Berkshires, commuting to Southeast Ohio for one week a month to run the Rheumatology service, teach residents and direct clinical research for Marietta Health. Would be pleased to host any alumni or current students at Williams looking for a rural retreat in a pastoral setting.
Jon Krant ’72, MD, FACP, shared this short vignette of an experience he had in Liberia as a Peace Corps volunteer as a written offering in honor of his classmate Elaine Gibson ’72, who passed away on November 17, 2020. As Jon notes: “Elaine always encouraged me to explore the boundaries of possibility, and I took her messaging to heart. We were very close at Commonwealth, and I deeply miss her goodness of heart and vision.” He graduated from CS in 1972, and spent the next decade or so in and out of college, medical school, residencies and fellowships, peppered by a two-year tenure in Liberia as a Peace Corps volunteer, to which his vignette speaks.
Julia Shepley '74 will be exhibiting her sculpture and drawings in two upcoming exhibitions: At Boston Sculptors Gallery, Julia Shepley: Carry, March 30–May 1, 2022; Receptions April 1, 5:00–8:30 p.m.; April 9, 3:00–5:00 p.m.; at the Piano Craft Gallery, Material Drawing Redux with Audrey Goldstein, Julia Shepley & Michelle Samour, in conjunction with Debra Weisberg's solo exhibition Holding the Center Still, March 4–March 27, 2022; Receptions March 4, 6:00–8:00 p.m. and March 27, 3:00–5:00 p.m.; Talk: Drawing to Touch: Expanded Drawing Practices, Tuesday March 15, 6:30–7:30 p.m.
Catherine Sevcenko ’79: I am still living in Alexandria, Virgina but have returned to my roots as the Senior Counsel to the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, an organization founded in the prison yard at FCI Danbury in Connecticut and now based in Roxbury, Massachusetts. I am working to get women home through compassionate release motions, including a trans man locked in a women's prison. We recently filed a lawsuit to stop construction of two mega-prisons in Alabama and are pushing for clemency. In March we had a rally in D.C. calling on President Biden to release 100 women in his first 100 days in office. He missed the deadline, but his staff is beginning to get the message. It took me a while, but I have found my life's work. #FreeHer
Amata Grenville '74: Six months ago we moved again to escape a house that was flooded last summer. Photos even made it on the cover page of the New York Times.
Tony Hill '70: I did a woeful job of dying at the end of last May when I endured a cardiac arrest, 95% of whose victims have that out of a hospital die. Apparently, I'm going to be around at least a bit longer. I hope long enough to see you guys at least two or three more times. Meanwhile, all best wishes and warm regards.
Philippe Simon ’79 is the Production Coordinator for Greenfield Community Access TV in Greenfield, MA. In his role, he works with the Greenfield and Franklin County community to document social currents and activities--creating a better understanding between community members of varying beliefs and backgrounds. Phillipe writes: "As a member of the media I am put in the position to be a human rights witness. Since we work among city officials, council members, and the general public we are visible, and through that visibility lies our greatest security. We share that security with community organizers and activists through documentation and the accountability of following up." Phillippe encourages Commonwealth students to get involved with outreach through community access media. He writes: "Let those involved in social movements look to you as one of the many people who will help tell the story and keep them from becoming isolated."
Jamie Kravitz ’84: My partner Jeff and I have been finding new ways to pass time during this long shelter-in-place. We started with an unlimited game of Rummy 500 but by the time we got to 30,000 points we looked for some other games and have found several good ones - Hive being our favorite. I've been fortunate to be able to continue my User Experience job uninterrupted other than finding the best setup to work from home. I had been teaching Pilates group classes and private training for the past few years and that's pretty much all on hold right now as gyms and fitness studios are all still closed in San Francisco. I recently started virtual/Zoom training with a private client and that's going well, but I'm looking forward to when we can safely get back into the studio. Before all the wildfires started we did manage to get away for a weekend in the country, including one of our favorite Bay Area locations in Bodega Bay (see photo).
Jessica Case '85: Hello from Wyoming! I completed my first year as a school board trustee in my conservative town of Cody, Wyoming. The community is opposed to mask mandates, and our vaccination rate is low, so keeping our schools open and safe was a challenge. Our school board meetings are often heated as many in our town oppose Critical Race Theory, books about homosexuality, and liberal ideas about education. I am fortunate to serve on a diverse school board that knows how to work together with civility even when we do not agree. If you are ever in Wyoming, look me up. I am near the East entrance of Yellowstone Park and would love to catch up with other Commonwealth alumni/ae.
Ivan Keilkramp ’86: My family and I are all doing okay in Bloomington, Indiana in what I hope is the late phase of the pandemic. My new book, A Visit from the Goon Squad Reread, is out from Columbia University Press, one of the first books in their new "Rereadings" series dedicated to works of contemporary fiction. Columbia University Press describes this series as: “Short and accessible books by scholars, writers, and critics, each one revisiting a favorite post-1970 novel from the vantage point of the now. Taking a look at novels both celebrated and neglected, the series aims to display the full range of the possibilities of criticism, with books that experiment with form, voice, and method in an attempt to find different paths among scholarship, theory, and creative writing."
Masha Portiansky '97: I was very excited to see that Commonwealth now has a cross country team. Back in the 90s, that wasn't an option, but I know some of my fellow alums have taken on running as adults. There is an annual Alumni Cross Country race that takes place at Bear Mountain in New York. I raced on behalf of Commonwealth last year and it would be really cool to field a scoring team if there are any alums in the area who might want to come out for a 3-mile run Thanksgiving Weekend.
After earning her Media & Cultural Studies Ph.D. and completing her Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) teaching certificate at Claremont Graduate University (CGU) in 2020, Tamar Salibian '94 taught a section of the PFF Ethical Pedagogy course at CGU and is now teaching a course on American society as a Visiting Scholar at The Webb Schools in Claremont, California. This year, Tamar has also been involved in the Free Britney movement, focusing on media literacy by sharing information via social media, webinars, interviews, and multimedia projects. In 2022, Tamar and a colleague at Webb will facilitate a weeklong course on Free Britney and the intersection of pop culture, media literacy, and social justice. The course will include documentary screenings, visits from guest speakers who are leaders in the movement, and listening to lots of pop music!
Josh Haselkorn '05: Sharing a belated update from Washington, DC, where the Haselkorn family recently grew to a total of five with the addition of Eleanor last November. She joins her sister Rosalind (5) and brother Max (3) in helping turn Allison and me prematurely gray. We've recently decided to (attempt to) homeschool the whole gang through elementary school, so appreciate your thoughts and prayers—as well as any advice from those who have gone down this road before us. I recently started a new role at an early-stage healthcare company called Maribel Health, which is helping hospitals offer more services to patients in their own home. It's an incredible team with a worthy mission. If you're interested in the space please reach out! I'd love to see some Commies along for the ride.
Ben Weisman '02: On January 1, I was sworn in as the newest member of the Boonton Town Council, having won my election in November by almost 20 percentage points. I'm also on our town's planning board and on a committee to restore an old theater on our Main Street. If you are ever in or around Boonton, NJ, drop a line!
Jonathan Kominski '05: This August, I started a tenure-track assistant professor position in the Department of Cognitive Science at Central European University in Vienna, Austria. I wasn't sure where the winds of the academic job market would land me, but I couldn't be happier to end up in a city as beautiful and vibrant as Vienna.
Max Palmer '04 co-authored Neighborhood Defenders: Participatory Politics and America's Housing Crisis. Published in December 2019, the book highlights the link between neighborhood participation in housing permitting and the affordable housing crisis. Max and his co-authors run the Housing Politics Lab, where they study the politics of housing in the United States.
Jo(anna) Rifkin '05 is still happily living in Toronto with their spouse M Dougherty in a small apartment with two extremely affectionate cats. It's been a big year for both of them! M is settling into their position as a professor at Emmanuel College, a divinity school nested within the University of Toronto, and their first academic book, Lost Tribes Found, came out from Oklahoma University Press. Jo has just left their postdoctoral fellowship in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department at the University of Toronto and started a new job as the lead geneticist at a green wall company. It's a big change from getting C's in Ms. Nulty's intro bio class, but they are excited to get started! Any Commies who find themselves in Toronto should definitely hit us up for a walk in High Park.
Alina Grabowski '12: My novel, Women and Children First, will be published by SJPLit/Zando in fall 2023.
Caleb Sander and Deneb Scott, both Class of 2017, hiked the Appalachian Trail together from Georgia to Maine during the summer of 2021. Along the way, they met hikers who were both ambitious and incredibly inspiring; enjoyed spectacular views, encountered bears, rattlesnakes, skunks, and moose; and ate a ridiculous amount of food. Sarah Wu '17, working for the Appalachian Mountain Club in the Berkshires, also kindly visited when they passed through Massachusetts.
Abby Kuchnir '15 had a busy summer! "I married Jacob Levin, whom I met during college at UChicago, in August and then started law school at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in September. I will remain in Chicago for the foreseeable future, so if any of my Commonwealth classmates or teachers come to town, please let me know!"
In May 2021, Laura Pedrosa '10 was awarded Carnegie Mellon's School of Design Service Award in May 2021. This award recognizes "outstanding leadership and citizenship in the School of Design."
In spite of the COVID pandemic throwing a wrench their final semester, Fay Saksonov ’14 graduated from Washington University School of Law in May of 2020, passed the Massachusetts Bar Exam in October 2020, and started working as an assistant district attorney in the Framingham district court division of the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office in February 2021.