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Rodney Glasgow

Rodney Glasgow

A noted educator, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and equity, Rodney Glasgow visited campus to work with students, faculty, staff and administrators on issues of race and identity this spring. Milton’s administration engaged Mr. Glasgow in response to events in which many Upper School students demonstrated through peaceful sit-ins—a result of rising tensions and incidents of what students viewed as insufficient disciplinary response. Chair of the National Diversity Practitioners Institute, Mr. Glasgow has a long and distinguished career in this work. He serves today as chief diversity officer and head of middle school at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Maryland. Mr. Glasgow earned degrees in Afro-American studies and psychology at Harvard University and holds a master of arts in organization and leadership from Columbia. He is an independent-school alum, having graduated from Gilman School. He is also president of The Glasgow Group, a consortium of dynamic and innovative consultants.

“The privilege of being in this community is that you can make the community what you want it to be.”

Annie Jean-Baptiste ’06

Annie Jean-Baptiste ’06, diversity programs manager for Google’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Team, works to diversify the next generation of technology professionals and promote inclusion programs among the tech giant’s 60,000 employees. She returned to Milton as the 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. Day speaker, asking students to honor other people’s perspectives, and sharing her beliefs about what people can do to be more inclusive and follow the life and lessons of Dr. King. Students have the power to effect change when they check their privilege, love harder, take risks, break rules, experience discomfort, and take an empathetic approach to disagreement, Annie says.

“At Google we talk about ‘building for all,’ and in order to do that, people with different perspectives and backgrounds need to be at the table, with equal agency to voice opinions and get things done. Research shows that teams with more diversity and deeper inclusion are more innovative and successful. We can extend that to Milton—we need the diversity of experience and backgrounds to foster the creativity and genius that Milton is known for.”

Kimberly Cheng

All history is global history, says Kimberly Cheng, this year’s Hong Kong Distinguished Speaker. Ms. Cheng presented an overview of her research on Jewish refugees living in China during World War II, explaining the confluence of world events that led 20,000 migrants to flee persecution in Europe. Ms. Cheng is a doctoral student in the joint Ph.D. program in Hebrew and Judaic Studies and History at New York University. She was a Penn Teaching Fellow in the history and social sciences department at Milton. She has also previously worked at the Roman Vishniac Archive at the International Center of Photography in New York City and the archives at the History Center of Tompkins County in Ithaca, New York. She holds a Master’s of the Science of Education from the University of Pennsylvania and an A.B. from Cornell University in history, Jewish studies, and German studies.

“The study of German Jewish refugees in Shanghai teaches us that history is always global, always transnational. We tend to isolate studies of history, but we cannot think of it as bound by national borders, nor can we think of current events that way.”

Chris Waddell

Thirteen-time Paralympic medalist and monoskiing world champion Chris Waddell asked Upper and Middle School students to shift their perspectives of people with disabilities and to push beyond the limits of the labels placed on them. Mr. Waddell became the first paraplegic person to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. He wants his climb, along with his One Revolution Foundation, to improve visibility and opportunities for people with disabilities. Mr. Waddell was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and the Paralympics Hall of Fame. The Dalai Lama honored him as an “Unsung Hero of Compassion.” People Magazine named him one of the “Fifty Most Beautiful People in the World.” Skiing Magazine placed him among the “25 Greatest Skiers in North America.” Middlebury College presented him with a Doctorate in Humane Letters. National Public Radio (NPR) named his 2011 commencement address to Middlebury as one of “The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever.”

“Not being able to walk was the worst thing that I could imagine happening, but it was also the most powerful thing that ever happened to me, because I had to get better. I always had to find some sort of solution to every problem.”

Jamaica Kincaid

Speaking with students as the spring’s Bingham Visiting Writer, award-winning author Jamaica Kincaid urged young writers to throw off the restraints of convention. During her time on campus, which coincided with International Women’s Day, Ms. Kincaid reflected on her career and on womanhood. Born in Antigua, Ms. Kincaid came to the United States at age 16. In her first writing job at the teen magazine Ingénue, Ms. Kincaid interviewed Gloria Steinem about her teenage years. Soon, she joined the staff of The New Yorker. Her works of fiction frequently examine topics of race, gender and sexuality, and colonialism, along with complicated mother-daughter relationships. Ms. Kincaid is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and she teaches at Harvard. Her works include At the Bottom of the RiverAnnie John, Lucy, The Autobiography of My Mother, and Mr. Potter. See Now Then, her most recent novel, won the Before Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award in 2014.

“When I first came to America, feminism was a topic of great debate. I don’t know why it was resisted. I don’t know why we have to make the case for ourselves.”

Cindy Pierce

Knowing and being consistently yourself—in private and in public—is the key to making healthy choices, says Cindy Pierce, this year’s Margo Johnson Endowed Speaker. Ms. Pierce, a social sexuality educator and comic storyteller, discussed the pressures that come with “hookup culture” on high school and college campuses, telling students they have the power to set boundaries and build healthy relationships that fit their lives, instead of focusing on meeting external expectations. Ms. Pierce is the author of Sex, College and Social Media: A Commonsense Guide to Navigating the Hookup CultureSexploitation: Helping Kids Develop Healthy Sexuality in a Porn-Driven World; and the coauthor of Finding the Doorbell: Sexual Satisfaction for the Long Haul.

“A lot of young people are using social media to present a view of themselves that isn’t real, just to feel like they’re enough. In a lot of cases, it’s not cruelty or outright bullying that makes for a negative social media experience. It’s a low-grade, constant reminder of what you could be, should be, or would be.”

Graeme Wood

Graeme Wood, last spring’s Class of 1952 Speaker for Religious Understanding, is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and lecturer in political science at Yale University. His Atlantic cover story, “What ISIS Really Wants,” was the most-read piece on the internet in 2015. Mr. Wood spent the last few years reading and analyzing Islamic State propaganda and speaking with its followers from around the world. Mr. Wood is the author of The Way of the Strangers: Encounters With the Islamic State. He has been a Turkey and Kurdistan analyst for Jane’s, a contributing editor to The New Republic, and books editor of Pacific Standard. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The American Scholar, Bloomberg BusinessweekThe Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune.

“Savagery we were unaccustomed to seeing was put on camera. The Islamic State wanted us to see, in high definition, and show the entire world. This was disarming to many in my profession. For media and journalists there has been a learning curve in how we approach this story, this content, and how we cover it as news.”

Franny Choi

Exploring the intersections of race, gender, sexuality and immigration, poet and activist Franny Choi read several of her poems at an assembly sponsored by the Asian Society and GASP student groups. Ms. Choi, the author of Floating, Brilliant, Gone, shared work about life as the queer daughter of Korean immigrants. Ms. Choi has received awards from the Poetry Foundation and the Kentucky Women Writers’ Conference for her work, which has been published in Poetry Magazine, The Poetry Review, Indiana Review, Margins, New England Review, and others. Her work has been featured by the Huffington Post, PBS NewsHourFeministing, and Angry Asian Man. She was a 2016 Rhode Island State Council on the Arts Fellow and former co-director of the Providence Poetry Slam, one of the most highly regarded spoken-word poetry communities in the nation. As a Project VOICE teaching artist, she has taught students of all ages and experience levels.

“Our liberation is all tied up in the same thing. If one of us is not free, then none of us is free.”

Matt Trammell ’09

When you find something you love, you’ll never be bored, Matt Trammell ’09 told students this spring. Matt is a music writer and the nightlife editor for The New Yorker. His work includes following both rising and well-known artists through New York City’s concert scene; reviewing new albums; connecting good music to the culture that it reflects; and sharing that perspective with the world. During a visit to campus, coordinated by English department chair Tarim Chung, Matt attended classes and met with student groups and publication leaders. Milton was the first place he learned that he could write well, he says. At New York University, Matt realized that he could marry his lifelong love of music and his skill for writing into a career, taking a freelance job writing album reviews for Rolling Stone. After NYU, Matt worked at FADER magazine, prior to his role at The New Yorker.

“Every person is as original as they allow themselves to be. To look at something that’s happened in your life, and to draw meaning from it that hasn’t already been assigned to you, is work you’re going to have to do, regardless of whether you’re writing a memoir. It’s going to help you find out what you want and what you have to contribute.”

Dr. Angelika Fretzen

Victories in pharmaceutical research may be life-changing, or they may be very small, says Dr. Angelika Fretzen, senior vice president of product development at Catabasis Pharmaceuticals. This year’s Science Assembly speaker, Dr. Fretzen discussed Catabasis’ research into a drug to regenerate muscle and lessen the effects of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Prior to joining Catabasis, Dr. Fretzen was vice president of pharmaceutical chemistry and development at Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, where she led the development and approval process for the irritable bowel syndrome drug Linzess. She was an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University. She holds a Diploma (M.S.) in chemistry from the University of Würzburg in Germany and her Ph.D. in organometallic and synthetic organic chemistry from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. Dr. Fretzen also has an MBA from Suffolk University in Boston.

“If you are open to finding what fascinates you, what will grow into a passion over the years of your life, the next steps will come to you. You don’t know exactly what those next steps are going to be, but discovering that passion is perhaps the most important thing you could do at this stage in your life.”

Bob Ryan

Well-known sports journalist Bob Ryan made the case that sports play an important role in people’s lives, whether they are athletes or fans. Along with other “leisure pursuits” such as books, movies and the arts, Mr. Ryan said sports fill a gap, enriching lives with a competitive and unifying spirit. Mr. Ryan is a retired columnist for the Boston Globe’s sports section, where his work still appears semi-regularly. He has been writing for the Globe since 1968, covering all of Boston’s sports teams. Mr. Ryan is also a regular panelist on ESPN’s Sunday morning roundtable, “The Sports Reporters.”

“Some people say sports are just entertainment. But sports are unscripted, which is what makes them different from just entertainment. When you go to a concert, you don’t want to be surprised; you want to hear the music you expect. With sports, there is a good chance for surprises.”

Doris Edwards

To better understand humanity and where we are today, young people should seek out the stories of older relatives and loved ones, Holocaust survivor Doris Edwards told students.

Born in southern Germany in 1929, as a young girl, Ms. Edwards witnessed the rise of the Nazi party. She and her older brother were evacuated to the Netherlands through the Kindertransport rescue program, while her parents fled to the United States. Her grandmother, along with her aunt and cousins, died in concentration camps. After a dangerous journey through Europe, Ms. Edwards and her brother reunited with their parents in New York City. Ms. Edwards now shares her story through the Facing History and Ourselves nonprofit, an educational program that asks students to examine topics of racism, prejudice and anti-Semitism. Her visit to campus was sponsored by the Jewish Student Union.

“If you have an older person in your family, ask them to share their life with you. Once they are gone, those stories disappear.”

3Peat

Beginning with a single suggested word from the audience, the 3Peat improv troupe rolled out a series of hilarious scenes for students in King Theatre. Five members of 3Peat, an acclaimed part of Chicago’s vibrant improv comedy scene, came to Milton as Melissa Gold Visiting Artists. They performed for and with students, held a master class in the basics of improv, and visited several classes, including improvisation and public speaking. 3Peat, which plays every Monday at Chicago’s legendary iO Theater, formed in 2012. The performers, who are all black, were friends and improv teachers involved in Chicago comedy but felt pressured to compete with one another for a limited number of parts in theater and television, which inspired them to form 3Peat.

“The student performers were way ahead of where I was expecting them to be. They didn’t hesitate to get up and participate. As a group, we don’t judge one another. It’s a space where you can feel safe to be silly and just have fun.”
— Torian Miller

Bob Inglis

A revenue-neutral reduction in carbon emissions is within reach for the United States, former U.S. Representative Bob Inglis told students. He says that achieving it, however, will require politicians who deny mankind’s effects on the climate to change their tune. Mr. Inglis is the founder of RepublicEn—a network of Republicans acknowledging humankind’s impact on climate change. He proposes a carbon tax that would provide financial incentive for manufacturers to lower carbon-dioxide emissions. When he publicly acknowledged the human influence on climate change, Mr. Inglis lost his congressional seat in a primary to Trey Gowdy, the Tea Party Republican currently representing South Carolina’s 4th district. Mr. Inglis was this year’s Earth Day speaker, sponsored by the student environmental group Lorax and the Sustainability Board.

“There are people who say that humans aren’t responsible for changes in the climate, but that is contradicted by the research and opinions of 97 percent of climate scientists. Frankly, we’d better hope that climate change is human-caused. If it’s human-caused, we can do something about it. If it’s not, we’re hosed.”

ART WORKS

Artists move mountains: shifting perspectives, opening hearts and minds, instructing us quietly, revealing difficult truths. Over the ages, we have been grateful to artists, or angry with them, or astounded, or affirmed. In the most difficult times, we rely on artists to wrestle with the most complicated issues, take us to unfamiliar places, and burrow into spaces that need light. They connect us powerfully to beauty and transcendence. Artists help us reach for our deepest selves and for each other.