Wednesday, December 17, 2014

YWAA Highlights, 2014

Bill Nightingale '53 (top, R) kicked off Debate Night in Tarrytown in November, accompanied by co-Chair Susan Kaminsky '86.  The Yale team emerged as winners over Brown and Princeton (YWAA photos)
We say this every year, that the year rushes by in a blur with activities, events, happenings, dinners, and special occasions coming and going one after the other.

In 2014 at YWAA within the blur, there was the blend of the usual and the unusual. There were new events, familiar and traditional events, a greater push for community service, reunions of all kinds and sporadic chances to return to New Haven to learn more about what makes Yale tick these days and to mingle with other alumni groups.

Day of Service in May in Scarsdale
There was something new, when in January Yale vs. Harvard in men's ice hockey decided to transport the rivalry to Madison Square Garden in Manhattan and erase post-holiday blahs by transforming The Game into a Midtown contest on ice.

Yale students, not yet back on campus after the holidays, and alumni all over the New York area watched, along with 15,000 other fans, as Yale walloped the Crimson, 5-1. A good time was had by all, so much so that the Rivalry on Ice (as it is called by promoters) resumes in Jan., 2015.


Throughout the year, Westchester students excelled in impressive ways on campus. They sang in concerts, won academic awards, prepared arts exhibits, played in arenas and on fields, volunteered, and earned prestigious scholarships. In essence, they were consummate Yale students. They exceeded expectations.

Matt Townsend '15, power forward, Rhodes Scholar
Edgemont's Claudia Rosenthal '08, '14 MM had featured roles in Yale Opera during the year.

Chappaqua's Matt Townsend '15, an important contributor on the Yale basketball team as a power forward, earned a Phi Beta Kappa key as a junior in January, was announced a Rhodes Scholarship winner in November, and was on the floor when Yale defeated NCAA defending champion UConn, 45-44, in a thrilling game in December. He graduates in May with a degree in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and follows Rye's Isador Beshar '14, a Rhodes winner a year ago.

Natalie Warren '17
Emily Feldstein '16 of Scarsdale and Amy Weixler '16 of White Plains helped organize a special exhibition at the Yale Center of British Art, "Art in Focus: Wales," highlighting the Welsh landscape through oil paintings, water colors and sketches.

New Rochelle's Joshua Ackerman '14, during commencement weekend, received the David Chantler 1910 award for courage, moral strength and character.  He graduated with a double major in Latin American Studies and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology.

Natalie Warren '17 from Berea, Kentucky, was selected as YWAA's Community Service Fellow in 2014.  Warren worked as a summer-intern counselor at Camp Success at Family Services of Westchester and was hosted by Westchester alumni Barry Abramson '77 and YWAA vice president B.K. Munguia '75. At the end of her counseling internship, Warren spent a week volunteering at the Scarsdale Sustainable Garden Project, directed by Maggie Favretti '85.

Cornelius Sanders '14, fencing captain 

Elsewhere on playing fields,  Bronxville's Stephen Shoemaker '15 finished up four years on the Yale football team this fall.  Rye's Cornelius Sanders '14 captained the fencing team, which included Irvington's Peter Cohen '14.

Bedford's Richard Slenker '17 stepped onto the baseball diamond as a freshman and batted his way onto the All-Ivy team by leading the league in batting (.352) and winning the team Darst Award as the best hustler.

Both Sanders and Townsend of Chappaqua were selected to the Ivy League's Winter All-Academic squad.

Bronxville's Meredith Rizzo '17 had outstanding finishes during the season for the women's cross-country team.


Yale students follow the tracks of accomplished Yale alumni. In Westchester in 2014, New Rochelle's Richard Buery '97 Law was appointed Deputy Mayor of New York City for Strategic Policy Initiatives by new Mayor Bill de Blasio. Buery had been president and CEO of the Children's Aid Society for four years.

Suzanne Clary '83, president of the John Jay Heritage Center in Rye, hosted "A Night at the Opera" at the center in February and invited Grant Herreid, director of the Yale Baroque Opera Project, and other musicians to perform.

Maggie Favretti '85 at the Scarsdale Garden
Maggie Favretti '85 continued her leadership of  the Scarsdale Sustainable Garden Project. The Garden Project held an all-day conference to promote community gardening in April. Favretti was cited for her community contributions in August by receiving a White House Honorable Mention for the President's Innovation in Environmental Education Award. The Scarsdale Garden was again a Yale Day of Service site in May.

Many know Maya Lin '81, '86 MA for her design of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.  Yale students and alumni know Lin for her design of the Women's Table in 1993 on Cross Campus to celebrate the history of women at Yale.

Early in the year, Lin made an imprint in Yonkers when she announced she and her husband, Daniel Wolf, would purchase the old jailhouse in downtown Yonkers and convert it into an arts museum and studio to spur Yonkers' downtown transition into a SOHO-like arts district.

Sidra Bell '01 of Greenburgh held performances throughout the year for her contemporary modern-dance company in New York. Her work has been described by media as "brainy, exuberant audacity" and "ferocious, (physical) dance-making."

Acclaimed violinist Akiko Kobayashi '07 performed works from Beethoven, Prokfiev and Schumann at concerts in Greenburgh and Scarsdale in May.

Bruce Jennings '71, a YWAA director, was the co-editor (along with Timothy Kirk) of a new book on issues in hospice care, Hospice Care:  Policy and Practice in Palliative Care. Jennings, who annually organizes YWAA's Shakespeare-Boscobel event, is a Director of Bioethics at the Center for Humans and Nature and has taught at the Yale Medical School.

YWAA board member Eve Rice '73, national Vice Chair of YaleWomen, helped plan a landmark all-day conference in in November in New Haven, "Gender Rules." The conference featured panels and sparked discussions about women, equality, and opportunity in academia, business and law. "Asking the right questions is fundamental to finding the right solutions," Rice wrote on the national alumni group's website leading up to the conference.

YWAA mourned the passing of Tom Hodge '46 in March. Hodge, who was 87, was a long-time board member of YWAA who won the Yale Outstanding Service Award in 2000. After he retired as an AT&T executive in the 1990's, he helped form the Retired Executive and Professional Think Tank. He was known for his interests in Westchester history and support of YWAA's Shakespeare-at-Boscobel outings.

In New Rochelle in April, the Janifer Lighten Leadership Awards were launched and presented to deserving high-school students in Westchester who showed excellence in academics, community service and athletics. At the time of her death in 2012,  Lighten '83 had been a YWAA board member, the president of the Yale Black Alumni Association, and a leader in many community activities.

Just weeks after being named to the All-Era team, honoring the best Yale football players to have played at the Yale Bowl, White Plains native Dean Loucks '57 died in October at 79.  He was one of 67 Yale players, past and present, who made the team, as the Bowl celebrated 100 years.

Loucks was a quarterback and safety on the Yale team in 1956 that went 8-1 and whipped Harvard convincingly, 42-14, in one of the Bulldogs' best seasons ever.  One of his teammates said this year, "He was way ahead of his time in quarterbacking intelligence. He called a lot of his plays at the line of scrimmage after looking at the defense."  Loucks was elected to the Westchester Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.


Day of Service at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation

In May, Suzanne Burger '82 and Susan Kaminsky '86 organized one of the best-ever Yale Westchester Days of Service.  Burger coordinated the four YWAA-sponsored events in Westchester.  Kaminsky was a New York State regional director.

Kaminsky also coordinated activities at the SPCA-Westchester site, where volunteers helped clean up the shelter for puppies and kittens. Favretti led the Scarsdale Garden site. Volunteers there erected a deer fence around the garden and prepared the garden for summer production. The garden produces over 1,000 pounds of food each year.

Career Day in Mount Vernon 
Regina Possavino '01 was site coordinator at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Cross River, Westchester's largest park. Her team was involved in planting perennials and laying mulch at the park's entrance. They also created two new butterfly gardens.  The park is known to host 83 species of butterflies within its boundaries.

In Mount Vernon, site coordinator Kaminsky and other Yale alumni spent a half-day at William H. Holmes Elementary School speaking to students about careers in law, medicine, banking, public relations, real estate and education.  The Yale volunteers marveled at the clever questions and commentary from the students, who dressed up for the occasion and dared to ask the volunteers thoughtful, amusing questions about their occupations. 


Despite slim odds for applicants to Yale in getting an acceptance letter (or acceptance e-mail with "Bulldog, Bulldog" ringing in the background), alumni from all corners of Westchester have been eager, engaged interviewers working with the Admissions Office.  Each year, in April, YWAA hosts a reception for admitted students in Bronxville (This year it was the Class of, wow, 2018!) to encourage those accepted to sign on for the "shortest, gladdest years of life."

At the YWAA reception this past April, admissions officer Debra Johns reported 335 Westchester students had applied to Yale, and 29 were admitted. Westchester ASC director Bill Primps '71 greeted over 50 students, parents, and alumni interviewers. A panel of Yale students answered questions and recounted colorful details of college life.

Joshua Ackerman '14 of New Rochelle, one of the student panelists, explained to the admitted students why he felt Berkeley College (his residential college) was the best, why the food and cuisine in the dining halls at Yale are special, and why a course he took, "Perspectives in Technology and Science" was one of his favorites.

Bruce Jennings '71 and Murray Biggs at Boscobel

YWAA's Shakespeare-at-Boscobel, for many, is always a culminating highlight of the summer.  Alumni look forward to Murray Biggs' illuminating lectures about the performance that is scheduled that evening.  Biggs guides his Yale audience through plot, characters, and history of Shakespeare.

In 2014, again led by YWAA board member Bruce Jennings '71, in August, Yale alumni and their guests were enlightened first by a Biggs talk, basked in the glory of mouth-opening scenery along the Hudson River at a pre-performance picnic, and then soaked in every bit of the tragedy of "Othello," performed by the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival.

The new director of the group, David McCallum, is a Princeton man. Leopold Lowe, who played Othello for the evening, studied at Harvard. Biggs, the Yale professor, explained it all beforehand.

YWAA, guided by Peter Santhanam '85 Ph.d., presented the Yale Book Awards to 40 Westchester high-school students, honoring them for "personal character and intellectual promise." Students received a copy of Yale Law School's Fred Schapiro's Yale Book of Quotations.

Early College High School, a new magnet school in Yonkers, participated for the first time.  White Plains High School honored two students. A YWAA tradition for many years, the award has been presented to over 130 students the past three years. A few winners have gone on to become Yale students.

Debate Night in Tarrytown was electric, spirited as teams from Yale, Brown and Princeton competed to tackle a formidable current topic on a chilly Friday night in November:  Should the U.S. lead military intervention against ISIS?  

Bill Nightingale '53 and Susan Kaminsky '86 chaired the event, the 18th annual Westchester competition, which attracted an over-flow audience of about 200 guests.  At the podium with Kaminsky before the debaters sparred, Nightingale kicked off the event, making sure his Hackley School hosts accommodated every audience member with a seat and every debater with proper microphones.  Richard Bradley '86 was the competition's emcee, and local judges (actual Greenburgh Town Court judges) selected the winners.

Winners, event organizers and judges at Debate Night
Yale squeaked out the victory with polished arguments from teammates Tony Nguyen '16 and Zachary Young '17, seizing the title from Brown, which won a year ago.

Six high-school teams followed and amused the audience with passionate presentations on topics ranging from hate speech to reducing the voting age to 16.  A Hackley duo was pronounced the winner among the high schools and earned prizes, funded by YWAA's William Nightingale Debate Fund.

YWAA's year of activities climaxed with a  Westchester lecture in December from Yale professor Meg Urry, Chair of the Physics Department at Yale, head of the American Astronomical Society, and a leading researcher of black holes. YWAA treasurer Rich Fabbro '76 organized the event.

A Scarsdale audience of about 90, including local high-school physics students and Yale alumni decades removed from a physics course, gathered to learn the latest on galaxies and gravity. Urry brought to town her passion for physics, her understanding of black-hole equations, a jovial manner in explaining such complexity, a colorful array of graphics to help make sense of it all and a load of confidence to assure the audience that any topic in physics is within easy mental grasp.

 "No person on earth can't learn physics, if I'm given enough time," she said and smiled at the end of her presentation, while her audience applauded and agreed.

Meg Urry, Yale professor of astronomy and physics in Scarsdale
A year, such as 2014, rushing by in a blur, usually means an active, impactful year for Westchester students racing across campus or roaming Science Hill and for Yale alumni in the Westchester community.  With the holidays upon us, a new year, expected to be just as busy, beckons. Get set, get ready, happy 2015!

A Message from Timothy Mattison '73, YWAA President

The YWAA was founded in 1908 for the principal purpose of providing financial aid for undergraduate students at Yale. Today we still support scholarships, but we also do much more to serve our Westchester community and Yale University.

The YWAA brings Yale to Westchester with concerts, debates, faculty lectures, the Yale Day of Service and support for a Yale summer intern in Westchester.

The YWAA brings Westchester to Yale with 50 Yale Book Awards given annually at Westchester high schools, and more than twenty-five Westchester undergraduates currently at Yale receive financial aid that comes in part from local donations to YWAA. Through the Yale Alumni Schools Committee, we enlist volunteers to meet with undergraduate applicants.

How can you help? We welcome your participation and attendance at all YWAA events and activities. You can also volunteer to share your time and talent. Unfortunately, all of this costs money. Your support makes YWAA possible.

All Yale alumni and parents living in Westchester are members of YWAA, whether you make a donation or not. However, YWAA depends upon contributions from the Yale Westchester community for support, and as a 501(c)(3) organization your YWAA contributions are tax deductible to the fullest extent permissible by law.

To make a donation online, please visit our website where you may also find more information about our organization and future events. Alternatively you may complete the donation form below and return it with your contribution. Your continuing support is very much appreciated.

We look forward to seeing you at an upcoming YWAA event.

Sincerely yours,

Timothy Mattison ‘73
President, YWAA

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