Swarthmore Bulletin Winter 2024

Swarthmore Bulletin logo
Winter 2024
in this issue
star finder
laurence kesterson
Professor of Astronomy Eric Jensen is Walter Kemp Professor in the Natural Sciences and interim dean of academic success. Read about his work on pg. 84.
Alumni collaborate to solve some of the world’s most urgent challenges.
by Heather Rigney Shumaker ’91, George Spencer, and Tomas Weber
Sharing a goal of showing students how to shift, and sometimes reshape, perspectives.
by Nia King
War in the Middle East has illuminated how language can be both a barrier and a bridge to understanding.
by Alisa Giardinelli
star finder
laurence kesterson
Professor of Astronomy Eric Jensen is Walter Kemp Professor in the Natural Sciences and interim dean of academic success. Read about his work on pg. 84.
An opera about the life of Malcolm X is center stage at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Kip Davis ’75 spent decades making it happen.
by Laura Markowitz ’85
Two alumni co-curate a major exhibition at Lincoln Center reframing the history of modern dance. The exhibition is focused on how war and inequality shaped aesthetic philosophies that reconfigured ‘the modern’ in dance.
by Tara Smith
Breathing life into the past.
by George Spencer
Andrew Stobo Sniderman ’07
Frog Focused
Amy Kapit ’06
common good
Alexander Joseph ’92
Barbara Harris ’85
Heather Hightower ’09
class notes
spoken word
Professor of Astronomy and Interim Dean of Academic Success Eric Jensen
On the cover

The crane is often an international symbol of peace. (See pg. 83). Illustration by Mayuko Fujino

Head shot of S. Brooke Vick
courtesy Muhlenberg College
S. Brooke Vick was named Swarthmore’s inaugural Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
(See pg. 14)
Editor’s Column

Flight Patterns


THE CRANE, often an international symbol of peace and longevity, landed on our winter cover by a fortuitous route. A decades-old wreath of folded paper cranes tucked away in the Swarthmore Peace Collection called out to be noticed (“Looking Back” pg. 83), a poignant reminder of the persistent partnership humanity has always had with violence.

Even in the shadow of atomic dust, art and the human spirit persevere.

With nations embroiled in wars and conflicts across the globe, our aim was to elevate. And nature led the way. Illustrator Mayuko Fujino’s crane inspires us to remain in a place of hope. “Seeing Change” (pg. 22) shares the stories of alumni working to “be the change they want to see,” committing to making it real in their daily lives. Offering insight across disciplines on the ongoing debates around war in the Middle East, our faculty ask difficult questions in “The Emotional Weight of Words” (pg. 38). They encourage students to do the same. Stories on art, at the end of this issue, refocus our conversations with an opera about Malcolm X and an exhibition on migration and war.

With so many earth-shaking concerns, a small moment with students this fall sustains. On a freezing Friday night in November, the Swarthmore Bird Club gathered at the Willistown Conservation Trust in neighboring Chester County. The van ride through lightless, twisty back roads brought about 15 students to a field station to explore how banding ­(a way to to identify and collect data) helps us understand more about the elusive northern saw-whet owl. With the staff’s guidance, the students learned about the species’ habitat, conservation status, and migratory behaviors. Then they had the chance to gently hold one of the diminutive raptors. They marveled, they smiled, they gazed into the bird’s round eyes.

But it was the release that was something to behold.

At the end of the night, the group tramped out into the dark field following the staff member who was holding the owl. They stopped near the woods’ edge. The rule was no talking. Not a sound. In frigid air, they waited for the tiny northern saw-whet to make its move. It was magic, in a way, to realize the students were so invested in learning about something new, and small, and often invisible — and that they were willing to gather in a field in silence to wait to watch the journey begin.

Then, soundlessly, the bird lifted off and flew headlong into the night.

Swarthmore College Bulletin/Winter 2024

swarthmore college bulletin

Vice President for Communications
Andy Hirsch

Director of Content Strategy
Mark Anskis

Kate Campbell

Managing Editor
Ryan Dougherty

Editorial Specialist
Nia King

Class Notes Editor
Heidi Hormel

Phillip Stern ’84

Laurence Kesterson

Administrative Coordinator
Lauren McAloon

Editor Emerita
Maralyn Orbison Gillespie ’49

Email: bulletin@swarthmore.edu
Telephone: 610-328-8533

We welcome letters on articles covered in the magazine. We reserve the right to edit letters for length, clarity, and style. Views expressed in this magazine do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or the official views or policies of the College. Read the full letters policy at swarthmore.edu/bulletin.

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The Swarthmore College Bulletin (ISSN 0888-2126), of which this is volume CXXI, number I, is published in October, January, and May by Swarthmore College, 500 College Ave., Swarthmore, PA 19081- 1390. Postage paid at Philadelphia, PA, and additional mailing offices. Permit No. 129. Postmaster: Send address changes to Alumni Records, 500 College Ave., Swarthmore, PA 19081-1390.

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On Our Radar

Pass the Pawpaws

Enjoyed the paper copy that arrived this week. Highlights — the pawpaw article — both the Smore people working with the plant, the plant itself, and attractive drawings.

Also the remembrances of centenarians. What a solid, remarkable group of people, humble, ordinary yet extraordinary. This year I lost my mother in that group (Moravian College “for Women” at that time, Class of 42) and an uncle/godfather (Lafayette College, all men at his time). Thank you for this. I will pass the pawpaw article onto horticulture friends.

—ANNE THOMPSON ’70, Silver Spring, Md.

The Pawpaw Connection

Especially lovely article on Swarthmore and the pawpaw tree connection!

—PETER SCHMIDT, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of English Literature


“A New Age” [Fall, 2023] telling the stories of centenarians and their time at Swarthmore during World War II was enthralling and evoked many memories.

My father, Paul Marshall James, M.D., ’29 had just established his general practice of medicine when war broke out following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He was a lifelong Quaker, and at 34 years of age, would not have been drafted. However, he felt compelled to volunteer to serve in the Navy and did so for five years at considerable personal sacrifice. His first assignment was as ship doctor on an oil tanker in the Atlantic Ocean where German submarines were taking a great toll on American vessels.

His last assignment was to serve as the physician for the V-12 sailors at Swarthmore as well as taking care of the Chinese naval personnel who were also training at Swarthmore. To express their thanks for his care, the Chinese officers presented him with a wonderful picture made of bamboo depicting a small village in their country. This last assignment to serve at his alma mater proved to be meaningful, rewarding, and restorative to him. For that I am thankful.

—FRANK JAMES, M.D. ’57, Winston Salem, N.C.

Every Day Counts

I received my copy of the Fall 2023 issue today. While I haven’t read the whole Bulletin yet, the article featuring Lucy Selligman Schneider ’42 caught my eye. I was especially surprised to read that: “At 102, she is the last surviving member of her class.” I am attaching a copy of the photo my husband took of me and Janice Robb Anderson ’42, on October 11, 2023, when we visited with her at her home in Palo Alto, Calif. Jan was very much alive and well and dynamic as ever. As Jan reaffirmed to us during our visit, she is “102 and a half” because “at my age, every day counts!”

The Swarthmore connection caused our now 40+ year friendship with Jan and her husband Bill Anderson to happen, as at a gathering at the Smithsonian she recognized my surname and asked if I might be related to a young man who was a year behind her at Swarthmore, the young man being my father, Daniel Ganister, Class of ’43. Our lives have been greatly enriched by our friendship with them ever since.

It was a joy to read about Mrs. Schneider’s Swarthmore memoir. I especially liked the picture of her at a Swarthmore football game. There is a good possibility my father was on the gridiron at that time.

I hope that the Bulletin will be a bit more careful before making tontim-like declarations. Both ladies (and any other surviving members of the Class of 1942) deserve our recognition. Three cheers for them all!

—RUTH E. GANISTER ’72, West Chester, Pa.

Student-built miniature of Parrish Hall.
SCALED DOWN: A miniature version of Parrish Hall surrounded by puffy artificial snow was created by students in December. The 3D masterpiece stands at the ready for its close-up as part of the 2023 holiday video. (bit.ly/3DParrish)
Swarthmore College Bulletin/Winter 2024
community voices

Let’s Talk

We change our minds with difficulty, but that shouldn’t stop us from listening
by Andrew Stobo Sniderman ’07
Maria Isabel Barros Guinle, alone, wearing a lab coat and a stethoscope
“I refuse to let go of the possibility of people changing, or at least the importance of attempting to persuade others who have totally different views than my own,” says Andrew Stobo Sniderman ’07.
I have spent much of the last five years speaking with people in a small, conservative town in rural Manitoba (just north of North Dakota), to try to figure out why relations with a neighboring Ojibway community were so poisoned. I sought out the town’s mayor, whom some considered a racist. I wanted to hear him out.

I expected the worst, of course. I was based at a fancy university in a big city and read all the highbrow newspapers deploring the usual suspects.

My work is about racism in Canada against Indigenous Peoples. It is tempting to give up on those who seem stuck in their thinking — we change our minds with difficulty, our biases and opinions so often calcifying over time.

Swarthmore College Bulletin/Winter 2024
Students in knee-high boots stand in water up to their ankles, conducting research with Associate Professor of biology Itzue Caviedes Solis.
IMMERSIVE LEARNING:IMMERSIVE LEARNING: (from left) Assistant Professor of Biology Itzue Caviedes Solis and Stephanie Kim ’25, Aimi Holmes ’25, Isabella Wyatt ’25, and Bryn Mawr’s Leila N’Diaye ’24 conduct field — and stream — work in Crum Woods.

studentwise: frog focused

by Cara Anderson
FROM CRUM WOODS to the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve in Mexico, Swarthmore women are blazing trails in the field of herpetology.

Though women have historically been underrepresented in the study of amphibians and reptiles, Aimi Holmes ’25, Stephanie Kim ’25, and Isabella Wyatt ’25, along with Bryn Mawr’s Leila N’Diaye ’24 are pursuing it under the canopy of Crum Woods and the mentorship of Assistant Professor of Biology Itzue Caviedes Solis.

They started by learning about Swarthmore’s native wildlife to gain insights about the state of the local environment and waterways. They focus on amphibians because they have incredibly permeable skin, making them excellent bioindicators. An amphibian’s health reflects the health of its ecosystem.

Swarthmore College Bulletin/Winter 2024

Submit your publication for consideration: books@swarthmore.edu

HOT TYPE: New releases by Swarthmoreans

Peter Biskind ’62

Pandora’s Box: How Guts, Guile, and Greed Upended TV
Harper Collins

The cover of Pandora's Box is bright orange with light yellow text.
Bestselling author of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, and Down and Dirty Pictures, Biskind turns his eye toward the new golden age of television, sparked by the fall of play-it-safe network TV and the rise of boundary-busting cable, followed by streaming, which overturned both. The book features candid and colorful interviews with executives, writers, showrunners, directors, and actors.

Cleveland Justis ’91 and Daniel Student

Don’t Lead Alone: Think Like a System, Act Like a Network, Lead Like a Movement!
Fast Company Press

The cover of Don't Lead Alone is navy blue with white text and a light blue arrow pointing towards the right.
It’s not easy to figure out what kind of impact you want your work to have, find and connect with the right collaborators, and get them all moving in the same direction. Justis and Student have created a road map for effective partnerships to increase impact and profitability.
Swarthmore College Bulletin/Winter 2024

Suppressed Through Subtle Means

Amy Kapit ’06 is alarmed by increasing illiberalism in the U.S. and other liberal democracies
by Elizabeth Redden ’05
As senior program officer for advocacy at Scholars at Risk, Amy Kapit ’06 works closely on norms around academic freedom and freedom of expression. She has become increasingly concerned about the ways these rights are being curbed in the United States and other democracies and how that relates to human rights practices.
Amy Kapit '06 sits on a bench with fall leaves behind her.
laurence kesterson
“I’m interested in the ways in which people’s rights are suppressed through subtle means,” says Amy Kapit ’06.
amy kapit ’06
Peace Scholar
“Classical liberal democracies like the United States are becoming increasingly illiberal,” says Kapit, “and that presents challenges for those societies, but also legitimizes the actions of the classic authoritarian states. I think that’s connected to this increasing disregard for human rights norms.”

In addition to her work for Scholars at Risk, a New York University-based organization focused on global academic freedom, Kapit also works closely with the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund, for which she produced a recent report highlighting four mechanisms of supression of student protesters. One of these is delegitimization — “the framing of students as troublemakers, rabble-rousers, violent criminals.”

Swarthmore College Bulletin/Winter 2024

sharing success and stories of swarthmore

common good

Three hip-hop legends -- Chuck D, KRS-ONE, and Wise Intelligent -- perform on a red-tinted stage with a DJ behind them in Pearson-Hall Theatre.
laurence kesterson
From left: Chuck D, KRS-ONE, and Wise Intelligent performing on stage in the Lang Center, with a DJ behind them. Swarthmore’s Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility and the Dance Program partnered with Lincoln University to stage the events, which were free and open to the public in October 2023.
Happy Birthday

Icons on the Mic: Hip-Hop Turns 50

Swarthmore celebrated the many facets of hip-hop this fall through three events that comprised Hip-Hop is 50! From the Streets to the Globe, presented by the Cooper Series.

The kickoff Oct. 6 started with hip-hop icons Chuck D, KRS-One, and Wise Intelligent discussing cultural sustainability and political resistance in front of a capacity crowd in Pearson-Hall Theatre in the Lang Performing Arts Center. It was followed by a talent exhibition with all three artists and the renowned hip-hop dance company Urban Artistry.

Swarthmore’s Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility and the Dance Program partnered with Lincoln University to stage the events, which were free and open to the public.


Swarthmore College Bulletin/Winter 2024

Zine Scene

DIY publications find a home in McCabe Library
by Nia King

hough anything self-published can be called a zine, the word implies a certain scrappiness that differentiates a zine from its more glamorous cousin, the glossy, ad-filled magazine. Scholarly Communications Librarian Maria Aghazarian calls it a “punk ethos.”

“Zines can be free, or traded without currency, and often are informative,” she says. There are zines about knowing your rights if you’re stopped by the police, for example. Swarthmore’s zine collection in McCabe Library is largely donated and includes about 200 publications. The collection creators, Aghazarian and Nooria Ahmed ’22, curated for diversity from the very start. At McCabe, “we were really lacking both independent publications and independent voices [in the comics collection],” says Aghazarian. “Noria came up with the idea of creating a zine library as a way to balance that, and to highlight really diverse and local voices.”

Zine-makers explore whatever topic interests them. “Some are fantasy, some are realistic, some are just purely art with no words,” says Aghazarian. As an extension of the participatory, punk ethos of zine culture, anyone can donate to the collection.

The Sager Series is offering a ZOOM panel of queer and trans zinesters and comic artists, March 21 from 6-8 p.m.

The panel features Cristy C. Road, Vo Vo, Joe Hatton, and Sawyer Lovett, who all have work in the Swarthmore Zine Collection, and will be moderated by Nia King. Register here: bit.ly/3FcAKAE

The cover of As Night Falls features an illustration of a bright yellow-orange tiger with red stripes on a blue background of talons, fish, and cityscapes.
sala/ Penguin Random House
Professor of Linguistics and Social Justice Donna Jo Napoli’s latest children’s books, As Night Falls: Creatures That Go Wild After Dark and We Are Starlings: Inside the Mesmerizing Magic of a Murmuration, were both selected for the New York Times/New York Public Library’s Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2023.

A Lifetime of Linguistics

by Cara Anderson

Professor of Linguistics and Social Justice Donna Jo Napoli is the 2024 recipient of the Victoria A. Fromkin Lifetime Service Award (LSA). This Linguistic Society of America award recognizes individuals who have performed extraordinary service to the discipline of linguistics and the Society throughout their career.

Napoli, who joined the College faculty in 1987, is a renowned author and linguist who works to protect deaf children’s right to language.

In Spring 2024, Napoli will teach Supporting Literacy Among Deaf Children, and co-teach (Dis)ability: Perceptions and Music, and Defying Categorization: Contemporary Dance and Sign Language Performance. In Fall 2024, she will teach Sign Language Literature from a Linguistics Perspective and How Children Talk to Each Other: Oral and Written Language. In addition to her work at Swarthmore and with the LSA, Napoli has co-written or co-edited 19 books and 124 articles in linguistics. She’s also written, co-edited, or contributed to six poetry books, written 23 publications on creative writing, and worked on over 90 children’s and young adult books.

Swarthmore College Bulletin/Winter 2024
fashion forward

We’re All Interwoven

He looks for connections to our clothes
by Nia King
alexander joseph ’92
Chief Storyteller
Alexander Joseph stands by a sewing machine, with spools of colorful thread behind him.
Matthew Septimus
“You’re connected to the materials and the sustainability issues that your garment raises,” says Alexander Joseph ’92. “I found that fascinating.”
Alexander Joseph ’92 didn’t have a background in fashion when he first applied to work at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). At that time, Joseph says, “I couldn’t tell the difference between Galliano and The Gap.”

He’s now been at FIT for 23 years, working his way up from communications specialist to chief storyteller. Over that time, he’s come to understand the complexities of the industry.

“When you buy a piece of clothing, you are connected to so many people, whether you understand those relationships or not,” says Joseph.“You’re connected to the person who designed it, the person who made it, the people who shipped it. You’re connected to the materials and the green issues that your garment raises.”

Swarthmore College Bulletin/Winter 2024
challenge accepted
Barbara Harris stands in shallow waves on a beach, holding her bike over her head with one hand.
courtesy barbara harris ’85
A 3,396-mile ride across 15 states helped Barbara Harris ’85 raise nearly $38,000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation, dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease. More than 6 million people worldwide suffer from Parkinson’s, a debilitating neurological disease.
barbara harris ’85

Coast To Coast For A Cure

A 3,396-mile tribute to persons affected by Parkinson’s
by Madeleine Palden ’22
with each 5 a.m. alarm, Barbara Harris ’85 rose and began a daily ride of roughly 85 miles.

Her journey from Los Angeles to Boston last spring took 49 days. It was a tribute, Harris says, not only to her parents, but to the millions of people constricted, confined, and immobilized by Parkinson’s disease.

barbara harris ’85
“My dad suffered with the disease for more than a decade,” says Harris. “The physical and mental deterioration was so hard to watch.” Her mother took on the role of both caretaker, and then patient, when she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s several years later.

The disease sadly defined their last years, she says. “That was just when they had the time and resources to travel more freely, something they always enjoyed.”

Harris decided a coast-to-coast ride on a custom-designed carbon fiber Alchemy Helios was a fitting way to honor her parents’ lives. The ride was not Harris’ first impressive feat to support Parkinson’s research: She climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro 10 years ago and raised more than $25,000 for the cause.

“While the genetic connection to the disease is not definitively known, I have a vested interest in a cure being found,” says Harris.

Harris spent several years planning and training for for the U.S. trip. In January 2023, she worked with a coach, and then she took two months away from work for the ride.

Her family supported her solo, seven-week sojourn. One of her daughters organized a send-off dinner for her in Los Angeles. Though she was away from her husband, Ben Woloshin, for the majority of that time, he and her other daughter flew to Santa Fe, N.M., and met her at the finish line in Boston with their dog.

Swarthmore College Bulletin/Winter 2024
patient advocate
Headshot of Heather Hightower
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
“You can use your voice to really send a powerful message,” says Heather Hightower ’09, a nurse at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
heather hightower ’09
Pediatric Nurse

breaking down barriers

A nurse’s focus goes beyond medicine
by Nia King
“Nurse” is a deceptively short title for the position Heather Hightower ’09 holds at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Their responsibilities require advocacy, education, and translation skills in addition to medical know-how.
heather hightower ’09
Pediatric Nurse

“I used to work pediatric oncology at the bedside. Patients come in with cancer and you’re treating them and they’re acutely ill. I did that through the pandemic and got a little burnt out,” says Hightower. “We started a new program called the Adolescent and Young Adult Program. That focuses on patients who are between the ages of 15 and 39, providing additional support to them.”

The needs of this age group are very different. In addition to trying to beat cancer, they’re trying to figure out high school and college, careers, and possibly starting a family.

“I try to facilitate getting them additional resources,” says Hightower, from help with child care to selecting an insurance provider. That’s the advocacy part. The education and translation comes in when Hightower explains to patients, “This is what this means when a doctor is saying this, this is how you read your labs, this is how you figure out how many pills to take each day.”

As a Black nonbinary nurse, Hightower also focuses on health equity.

Swarthmore College Bulletin/Winter 2024
A blue crane, in silhouette, morphs into a yellow origami crane as it takes flight.

Seeing Change

Collaborating to solve some of the world’s most urgent challenges, Swarthmore alumni are building more equitable and just communities through their efforts in the fields of law, medicine, academia, humanitarian relief organizations, and others. What inspires them to engage in the toil of global problem solving and —importantly — what hope is on the horizon?
by Heather Rigney Shumaker ’91, George Spencer, and Tomas Weber

Feeling gratitude in the face of crisis

“Send me,” says Allison Oman Lawi ’91, the deputy director of nutrition at the World Food Programme. “Send me in, and let me do my job rather than feel the pain of watching it unfold and not being able to do anything.” Oman Lawi, now in her 10th year with the United Nations organization, went on missions in 2023 to crisis hot spots in eight nations — Chad, the Congo, Ghana, Guatemala, Madagascar, Niger, Senegal, and South Africa. She is in her 27th year of humanitarian work with the U.N.

Based in Rome, she is supporting the World Food Programme’s (WFP) efforts in Sudan, Chad, Gaza, and DRC, she says. “I have deployed members of my rapid response team to those locations and I attend bi-weekly operations meetings to discuss what is needed.” The WFP won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2020. Its relief efforts in 120 nations reached 160 million people in 2022. Oman Lawi’s humanitarian work began at Swarthmore, where she had a special major in anthropology, sociology, and religion. “I called it peace studies,” she recalls. While a sophomore, the amount of food wasted at the former dining hall troubled her. Soon she began taking plastic tubs full of leftovers to a Chester homeless shelter in her Chevy Tracker. Later, she created a feeding program on 69th Street in Philadelphia.

Swarthmore College Bulletin/Winter 2024

Can Peace Building Be Taught?

A shared goal of showing students how to shift, and sometimes reshape, perspectives.
by Nia King


The experience of teaching in prisons
“has changed everything about how I teach, try to co-create communities of learners in the classroom, and support students through their own development,” says Johnson.

The Pathfinder

When associate professor of Sociology Nina Johnson was growing up, her father supported men who had been incarcerated and were returning home from prison.

“I was very young, maybe 4 or 5,” says Johnson, who also teaches in the Black Studies and Peace & Conflict Studies departments. “But I remember very vividly [a man] who had been incarcerated. He was somebody my father mentored and loved deeply. When he came home from Attica, he stayed with us. We just adored him. So it was never something that I was afraid of. My parents taught that we cannot be reduced to our worst moment. We are all so much more. More importantly, it isn’t about the choices we make, it’s about the choices we have. The outcomes we are seeing are the result of the social, political, and economic conditions that have been created by those in power.”

Swarthmore College Bulletin/Winter 2024

The Emotional Weight of Words

War in the Middle East has illuminated how language can be both a barrier and a bridge to understanding. How do college campuses function in the midst of so much anger, fear, and pain? Faculty members across disciplines address what resources they draw on, and useful lessons from their respective fields.
by Alisa Giardinelli

photos by Laurence Kesterson

Beware Simplistic Frameworks
Dominic Tierney, Political Science

The liberal arts in general, and political science in particular, teach us to beware simplistic frameworks of good guys versus bad guys. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complex and the more one learns, the more complex it becomes. The people who are most confident about the solution often know the least about the issue.

Multiple things can be true at the same time: Hamas is a brutal and extremist group that committed appalling atrocities, and Israeli governments have made choices that oppressed Palestinians and closed off pathways to a Palestinian state.

We should beware a “zero sum” view of grief where admitting the sorrow felt by the other side is seen as diminishing the moral clarity of the “cause.” Otherwise, good people can end up apologizing for atrocities and seeing truth in terms of who it benefits.

Swarthmore College Bulletin/Winter 2024
wesley bunnell
CENTER STAGE: It was thrilling to bring Malcolm X’s story to the Met, says Christopher “Kip” Davis ’75 in New York City.


An opera about the life of Malcolm X is center stage at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Kip Davis ’75 spent decades making it happen.
by Laura Markowitz ’85

HE DAY after he retired from his job as an insights director for a market research firm in Manhattan, Christopher “Kip” Davis ’75 wasn’t worried about being bored.

Instead, he rushed downtown to attend rehearsals for the opera he’d helped to write in the mid ’80s. X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X opened at the Met on Nov. 3, 2023.

The project was inspired by his years at Swarthmore. Davis had taken Chuck James’s African American Autobiography course in the spring of 1974. “We read an amazing array of books, but I was especially taken with The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” he says.

He called his older brother, Anthony, who was studying music at Yale, and said, “We’ve got to write a music theater piece about Malcolm. There’s so much music in his story.” Davis saw parallels between Malcolm X’s spiritual journey and the spiritual journeys of jazz musicians in the late ’50s and early ’60s.

Swarthmore College Bulletin/Winter 2024

Manifesto of the Unsung

New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
MOVING ART: At The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. Bruce Robertson ’76 and Ninotchka Bennahum ’86 collaborated for an exhibition that brings dance, war, and inequality into the light.
New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
MOVING ART: At The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. Bruce Robertson ’76 and Ninotchka Bennahum ’86 collaborated for an exhibition that brings dance, war, and inequality into the light.
Two alumni co-curate a major exhibition reframing the history of modern dance. The focus is on the ways war and inequality shaped aesthetic philosophies that reconfigured ‘the modern’ in dance.
by Tara Smith

he air fairly crackles with energy as Ninotchka Bennahum ’86 and Bruce Robertson ’76 describe the rigorous, Socratic-seminar-style debate that characterizes their collaborative process. “We argue a lot. We’re good at it,” says Bennahum.

The two friends, colleagues at the University of California-Santa Barbara, where Bennahum is director of dance studies in the Department of Theater and Dance, and Robertson is is Professor Emeritus, History of Art & Architecture, approach historical material very differently. They ground their lively exchange of ideas in interdisciplinary research, a commitment to pedagogy, respect for their subject and one another, and an overarching passion for social justice. Border Crossings: Exile and American Modern Dance, 1900–1955 at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center is the third major exhibition they’ve curated over 12 years of working together.

Deconstructing traditional dance modernism requires strong documentation, but “dance is focused on elusive imagery: a dancing body that appears to disappear … gone after the moment of performance,” says Bennahum. When they discovered photos by Carmen Schiavone from 1947 of Katherine Dunham on a Cuban tour, “leaping and dancing in nature in the most profoundly liberated fashion,” says Robertson, “we knew we had an exciting exhibition.”

Swarthmore College Bulletin/Winter 2024
Jen Myronuk STEM on Stage
HISTORIC ADVENTURES: Susan Marie Frontczak ’77 performs as scientist Marie Curie. As a living history scholar, Frontczak appears in character and brings historic figures to life. “I’ve had a blast,” says Frontczak, who has a degree in engineering.
Jen Myronuk STEM on Stage
HISTORIC ADVENTURES: Susan Marie Frontczak ’77 performs as scientist Marie Curie. As a living history scholar, Frontczak appears in character and brings historic figures to life. “I’ve had a blast,” says Frontczak, who has a degree in engineering.

Re:living history

Breathing life into the past
by George Spencer

usan Marie Frontczak ’77 engineers stories. Over more than two decades, this computer designer-turned-living-history scholar has given more than 875 performances abroad and in almost every U.S. state.

She likes to joke that she travels with “my ladies” — performing as Red Cross founder Clara Barton, dancer Irene Castle, scientist Marie Curie, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, author Mary Shelley, and humorist Erma Bombeck.

The passion for precision this engineering major brings to her roles befits a person who created integrated circuits and medical software for Hewlett Packard for 14 years. After a year’s sabbatical from HP and more time honing her craft, Frontczak spent two years developing her first historic persona — Curie, the discoverer of radium and two-time Nobel Prize winner.

Reading a biography of Curie when she was 10 inspired Frontczak to become an engineer. At Swarthmore, only three other women shared her major. Curie inspired her to conquer tough courses.

Swarthmore College Bulletin/Winter 2024
class notes
A treasury of alumni-related items

class notes

Alumni Programs


This fall alumni, families, and friends joined College leadership in Boston and New York City to hear updates from campus from President Val Smith, learn about current initiatives from faculty and key administrators, and reconnect with Swarthmore friends and classmates.

Attendees at the Oct. 30 event in Boston heard about recent successes in athletics and new initiatives in support of well-being on campus from Provost and Dean of the Faculty Tomoko Sakomura and Marian Ware Director of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation Brad Koch.

At the New York City event Nov. 1, Vice President for Student Affairs Stephanie Ives spoke about the College’s commitment to educating the whole student. Visit swarthmore.edu/SIYC to explore photo galleries and learn about upcoming Swarthmore in Your City programs.


Board members and family enjoy a Swarthmore event in New York City.
BoHee Yoon ’01, Lucy Lang ’03, and Jose Claros Jr. heard Vice President for Student Affairs Stephanie Ives speak about the College’s commitment to educating the whole student at the Swarthmore in Your City event at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture on Nov. 1. Visit swarthmore.edu/SIYC to learn about upcoming Swarthmore events near you.
The Bulletin happily includes submissions from all Swarthmore alumni in this section. Please note that opinions expressed in Class Notes do not necessarily reflect the views of the College. Currently the Class Notes are only available in the print edition.
Swarthmore College Bulletin/Winter 2024

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Make your gift now: gift.swarthmore.edu
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in memoriam
Snow falls upon branches with small yellow flowers.

their light lives on

our friends will never be forgotten
  • William “Bill” N. Hayes GR

    Bill, a retired professor and lifelong pacifist, died Aug. 18, 2023.

    Bill earned an associate’s degree at Lees-McRae College, a bachelor’s at the University of North Carolina−Chapel Hill, and a Ph.D. in psychology at Princeton University. He also did graduate work at Swarthmore from 1956−58, where he met and married first wife Johanna Metzger ’59. By 1973, Bill was the chairman of the Psychology Department of Albion College and helped to develop its first human sexuality course and another on drug abuse and treatment, retiring in 2000.

  • Edith “Edie” Graef McGeer ’44

    Edie, who made profound contributions to the fields of neuroscience and Alzheimer’s disease research, died Aug. 28, 2023.

    After graduating Phi Beta Kappa with Distinction at Swarthmore, she completed her Ph.D. at the University of Virginia, was a research scientist, married, and moved to Vancouver, Canada, eventually working at the Kinsmen Lab for Neurological Research at the University of British Columbia with colleagues including husband Pat. They eventually became a world-renowned research team on neurodegenerative disorders, producing three books, over 1,000 refereed publications, 10 patents (the latest granted after Edie’s 90th birthday), and over 100,000 citations.

  • Jane Ludemann Andrews ’45

    Jane, a retired research assistant and mother of six, died July 25, 2023.

    She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at Swarthmore, followed by two master’s from the University of Delaware: one in human development in 1976 and another in liberal arts in 1995. Married to the late Robert K. Andrews ’44, Jane was a retired research assistant at the Winterthur Museum.

  • John R. Wenzel ’47

    John, who fought the Nazis and for justice and equality, died Oct. 2, 2023.

    A WWII fighter pilot, he finished his education at Swarthmore, earning an economics degree, followed by work at Chase Manhattan Bank and Ideal Corp., an automotive parts manufacturer, eventually becoming its president. When Parker Hannifin Corp. acquired Ideal, John became a division president, and as a member of the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association, called for the automotive industry to develop a comprehensive energy policy. After retiring in 1986, he began to paint again and, with his wife, fought for equality and justice.

  • Stephen Mucha Headshot

    Stephen “Steve” Mucha ’49

    Steve, who helped develop a 3D camera and the tandem-rotor transport helicopter, died Oct. 18, 2023.

    After graduating with an engineering degree from Swarthmore, he started his own company, serving as a manufacturer’s representative. During his WWII Navy service, Steve helped create a type of 3D camera, then worked on the first successful tandem-rotor helicopter. Over the years, he was involved with photography, community theater, and sports, as well as playing dulcimers, autoharps, and with the Greater Pinelands Dulcimer Society. He also read to schoolchildren with the BookMates program.

Swarthmore College Bulletin/Winter 2024

looking back

A faded wreath of multicolor paper cranes that say “We hope for peace” in English, and “for peace” and “for better life” in Japanese.
swarthmore peace collection
photo by laurence kesterson
peace cranes donated by Milton Lowenthal, who lived from 1907 to 1995 in Harrisburg, Pa., and was involved with the National Committee for Sane Nuclear Policy and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

1,000 Paper Cranes

Even a short life can have a long-lasting impact. Sadako Sasaki was 2 years old when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and living less than a mile from the detonation site.

Though she initially appeared unharmed, she developed leukemia 10 years later as a result of radiation exposure from the bomb.

In Japan, cranes are a symbol of long life. While in the hospital, Sadako learned about the tradition of senbazuru, folding 1,000 paper cranes to have a wish granted, which dates back to the late 17th century.

She began folding origami cranes using the little papers that held her medicine and any other paper available. According to her older brother, she folded over 1,300 cranes before she died on Oct. 25, 1955, only eight months after her diagnosis.

Today, a statue of Sadako holding a paper crane stands on top of the Children’s Peace Monument in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park. Sadako’s story spread through the world, popularizing the paper crane as a symbol of the peace and anti-nuclear movements. Almost 10,000 are left at the Peace Monument each year.

This paper crane wreath was donated to the College’s Peace Collection by the family of peace activist Milton Lowenthal, a sponsor of the Japanese anti-nuclear artist Kazuaki Kita. You can find more artifacts of Lowenthal’s activism — including correspondence with Kita, audiocassettes, and posters — in the Peace Collection.


swarthmore peace collection
photo by laurence kesterson
peace cranes donated by Milton Lowenthal, who lived from 1907 to 1995 in Harrisburg, Pa., and was involved with the National Committee for Sane Nuclear Policy and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
Swarthmore College Bulletin/Winter 2024
spoken word
Eric Jensen poses with a giant telescope in a red-tinted observatory.
laurence kesterson
“Although we have our individual roles, we’re all looking out for the same students,” Interim Dean of Academic Success Eric Jensen says of his role with Student Affairs. “We’re communicating and sharing information to make sure we’re doing all we can to support students and faculty.”


Astronomer Eric Jensen shifts his focus to supporting academic success across the College.
by Ryan Dougherty
Eric Jensen, recently appointed to an endowed chair in astronomy at Swarthmore, is a widely respected expert in the fields of star formation, young stars, and exoplanets. He also works with NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite mission and often provides expert commentary on astronomy news. This year Jensen is shifting focus to serve as interim dean for academic success.

What about your new role appealed to you?

I thought it would be fun to take on some new challenges. Working with faculty to make sure they have the resources to support students, to think about our policies and whether there are areas where we can improve, has been exciting.

What does your most recent work with NASA entail?

I’ve received two grants recently related to a small NASA mission, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. It’s surveying the whole sky and searching for planets around other stars. I’m part of a big team connected with that mission and especially follow-up observations here on the ground.

Swarthmore College Bulletin/Winter 2024


Swarthmore’s Bird Club learned about the migration patterns and overall health of the northern saw-whet owl. The student group was part of a volunteer effort in November at the Willistown Conservation Trust in Chester County, Pa. Holding a saw-whet owl is biology major Richard Garcia ’24. (Birds were handled and banded for research purposes under state and federal permits.)


Swarthmore’s Bird Club learned about the migration patterns and overall health of the northern saw-whet owl. The student group was part of a volunteer effort in November at the Willistown Conservation Trust in Chester County, Pa. Holding a saw-whet owl is biology major Richard Garcia ’24. (Birds were handled and banded for research purposes under state and federal permits.)

Richard Garcia '24 holds a tiny brown owl with large black eyes.

Back cover

Students study.
Students build structures out of wood in a lab.
Vector minimalist illustration of a white circular design target with several small skinny white thin lines expanding outward to resemble a star-like shape object


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