Chief Marshal 2017
Selection as chief marshal of the alumni for Commencement is a special honor, and the Harvard Alumni Association continues to follow the tradition whereby the 25th Reunion Class elects one of its members to serve in this position. The chief marshal represents all of the alumni of the University, presides at a spread honoring the assembled dignitaries and guests, and leads the afternoon alumni procession.
Last August, your class officers were contacted and asked to select a class nominating committee. The committee invited suggestions from the Class and screened candidates based on the following criteria: success in one’s career(s), vocation(s), and/or avocation(s); contribution to one’s community and the larger society; and service to the College. The following persons were recommended by the committee and approved by the Harvard Alumni Association Board of Directors as candidates for chief marshal. Each has consented to serve if elected.
|Geraldine Acuña-Sunshine||Gabrielle C. Burton||Angela Duckworth|
|John H. Finley IV||Maura Healey||Ketanji Brown Jackson|
|Kelsang Khedrub (formerly Donald Kidd)||Thomas Lauderdale||Tracy Kramer Seckler|
President and Founder, Sunshine Care Foundation, Inc., and Senior Counsel in Trading and Alternative Investments, Bracebridge Capital
House Affiliation: Currier
Freshman Dorm: Canaday
Harvard Degree(s): AB ’92, cum laude, government; MPP ’96
Harvard-Related Activities: Co-Chair, 1992 Class Reunion Committee; Co-Chair, 1992 Class Campaign Leadership Committee; Co-Chair, Harvard College Fund Executive Committee; College director, Harvard Alumni Association; Member, Harvard Board of Governors Joint Committee for Alumni Affairs and Development; Co-Chair, HKS Fund Executive Council; Member, Harvard Kennedy School Dean’s Council; Co-founder and alumna mentor, Harvard World Model United Nations (Hosted in a different country every year and run by Harvard undergraduates, Harvard WorldMUN attracts over two thousand delegates from over 110 countries to debate global issues. It recently celebrated its jubilee year in Rome where Geraldine spoke, alongside Prime Minister Matteo Renzo and His Holiness Pope Francis, on the need for greater communication and understanding among nations to further world peace.)
Achievements and Honors: Geraldine is founder and president of the Sunshine Care Foundation, an international NGO dedicated to finding innovative ways of delivering health care to impoverished rural areas in the Philippines, and encouraging international collaboration in the fields of medicine, public health, and science to find the cure for rare neurodegenerative diseases. Under Geraldine’s leadership, the foundation has established free clinics, family support systems, patient advocacy, community building initiatives, and pilot projects in telemedicine; and has spurred local and international research in the areas of genetics, cellular biology, neuroimaging, brain science, and clinical work with respect to movement disorders. Her efforts have fostered cross-collaborations among several institutions including Harvard, Yale, and MIT, and among scientists in Japan, Germany, the U.S., the Netherlands, and the Philippines, all under the auspices of the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Collaborative Center for XDP, which Geraldine also co-founded. To further brain science research, Geraldine is establishing the Philippines’ first brain bank in partnership with the Philippine National Institutes for Health. Geraldine has worked for 16 years as a corporate attorney in banking, private equity, and investment management. Prior to the corporate world, Geraldine served as a strategic consultant on various projects for the Philippine government, including for the Office of the Senate President, the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Chief Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court.
Other Activities: Member of the Board of Directors of Columbia Law School, the Massachusetts General Hospital President’s Council, and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston. Proud mom of Teddy (age 12), David (age 10), and Sophie (age 7).
Reflections on Harvard: I feel so incredibly blessed to be co-chairing our 25th Class Reunion alongside my great friend, Gabrielle Burton. As Gabby and I go around speaking to classmates in preparation for Reunion, I find myself in awe of the many ways each of us has grown—from the starry-eyed young adults of Freshman Week, eager to drink in everything that Harvard has to offer, to the wiser, more mature alumni, who now realize what it is that really matters. It is an enormous honor to plan our biggest gathering to date, and I love that after 25 years we can all return to Harvard in May with friendships to deepen or rekindle, and meaningful life stories to share.
Over the passing years, I have grown increasingly grateful for the ways that Harvard has shaped the course of my life. As a student at Harvard, I experienced my most transformative relationships, discovered who I am (mostly through a great number of failures), and met my lifelong partner without whose friendship and love I would not be as brave nor as strong. To this day, I am fortunate enough to say that Harvard continues to nurture me through the work I do with the Harvard College Fund, the Harvard Alumni Association, and the other volunteer roles that I take on in joyful service of our Harvard alumni community.
I have also, over the past 25 years, had the pleasure of mentoring many undergraduates, whose unbelievable intellects, creative talents, and dedication to social justice, fill me with great hope for a better world. I am an unabashed fundraiser for the Harvard College Fund because I believe that the best philanthropic investment anyone can make is in human capital. Just as past alumni invested in me, so too do I now eagerly support financial aid in order to strengthen future generations of smart and caring Harvard students in whose hands our global destiny resides.
Even though the work I do for Harvard is reward in itself, I do thank my classmates for this nomination for Class Marshal. I am unbelievably humbled to be counted among this amazing group of alumni whose lives and deeds not only celebrate the intellectual, artistic, and humanitarian accomplishments of our Class, but also, more importantly, reflect our genuine affection for one another and the true love we share for our greater Harvard family.
Partner, Director/Producer/Writer, Five Sisters Productions
House Affiliation: Adams
Freshman Dorm: Pennypacker
Harvard Degree(s): AB ’92, English and American literature with special concentration in creative writing
Harvard-Related Activities: Harvard and Radcliffe 5th Reunion Committee; 10th and 15th Reunion Chair; 20th and 25th Reunion Co-Chair; Harvard College Gift Committee, 15th, 20th, and 25th Reunions; College admissions interviewer; regular Harvard Office of Career Services mentor and advisor; Harvard Spring Break Externship Program mentor; volunteer work at Phillips Brooks House, political and environmental organizations; ran programs including Adams House arts cafe, house events and dances, support group for undergrad women, political and women’s engagement group; theater and music performance throughout college; Signet Society; published in Harvard literary magazines; worked in Harvard libraries, House teas, office and research work for professors and administrators
Achievements and Honors: Wexner Center for the Arts artistic residency (current); TEDx Talk selected by TED for national playlist; CEOs for Cities national conference guest speaker, 2016; Ohio Artist of Excellence in 2015 for poetry and in 2013 for filmmaking; director, Kings, Queens, & In-Betweens (Candy Factory/Amazon); director, Manna From Heaven (MGM/Sony); producer/writer, Temps (Netflix); producer, Just Friends (AMC/WE); producer, Julia Sweeney’s Letting Go of God (Showtime); creative partner leadership development, Victoria’s Secret; director, “Your Stories,” Ford commercial campaign; semifinalist, 2016 Nicholl Award by Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, finalist, 2014; The Black List, 2016; The Athena List, 2014; Bechdel List, 2015; finalist CineStory, 2015; film festival awards, and selection for Toronto International Film Festival and South Arts Film Circuits; grant recipient for filmmaking from multiple arts organizations; Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference scholar, staff; poetry and creative nonfiction published in literary magazines and reviews; Hawaii Review prize finalist for nonfiction and for poetry, 2015; Common Ground Review poetry prize, 2014; Southern Indiana Review, Thomas Wilhelmus Prize for Best Nonfiction Essay, 2013
At Harvard-Radcliffe: Agassiz Scholar; Harvard Scholar; Pratt Scholar; Phi Beta Kappa; David Aloian Prize for House Life; received grants to produce plays, salons, and arts-related or political discussion related events from the Office for the Arts, Harvard/Radcliffe Dramatic Club, Radcliffe, Adams House, and Harvard Foundation; received Pforzheimer, Stafford-Loehmin, and Radcliffe Presidential Grants for work on Ozark music; graduate school Rotary Scholarship for studying film in France; and American Isobel Briggs Fellowship for studying music synthesis at Berklee College
Other Activities: Host for past 10 years of three annual food/toys/fund drives for children at Choices Columbus (center for families escaping domestic abuse) and People In Need Delaware (food bank and support network); heavily involved in political grassroots activism, fostering involvement in politics through voter registration, participation, and input; engaged with non-profits and local government on educational and environmental issues, participating in local clean-ups and ecological development planning; film work for political and social causes, including short documentary and multiple public service announcements about human slavery and trafficking in the United States; currently on tour with engagement events and community discussions around gender expression, personal identity, and human rights; additional current projects: Half the History, a series of videos encouraging inclusion of women in American historical museums, textbooks, and sites; and Old Guy, a short comedy addressing stereotyped and limited images of aging in the media
Reflections on Harvard: I am grateful for having had the luck in life to go to Harvard-Radcliffe. It is a remarkable privilege, not just to be able to hold an original James Joyce manuscript, or put on a play in a professional theater space, or converse with professors who are expert in their fields, or live within beautifully constructed, historic spaces…but to study, work, and live alongside people who care deeply about learning, with a fundamental belief that intellectual inquiry is important and that engagement with the world around us can indeed change it for the better. And it is also a responsibility, and one I’ve been keenly aware of since I first arrived at Harvard: to make good on my luck, to make it matter, and to give back all I can.
As most of you know, I’ve been excited to serve as one of the organizers of each of our Class Reunions since we graduated, with my passion being to create a welcoming atmosphere of connection, inclusion, appreciation, and celebration of every classmate and all the roads we’ve traveled in life. I love keeping in touch with so many people. Our Class is inspiring, and the fabric of our Class’s experiences can serve as strong support for each of us as we move through life. I am devoted to our Class and College, and I feel it is important for me to help keep us connected and unified.
Without sounding Pollyanna, I look back on those four years as halcyon days—full of discovery, adventure, sadness, richness, and complexity—and I am filled with gratitude. I remember keenly the first gathering of all the Class, when an administrator told us that the responsibility of Harvard-Radcliffe was to teach us “to learn how to learn.” At the time, many of us thought it was a goofy idea coined by a consultant, but I see now how noble that goal was. I do feel that the College gave me the tools and foundation to seek knowledge and understanding, be it in my work, relationships, or community. Harvard-Radcliffe instilled in me a strong sense of social responsibility, and as a result, I am passionate about engaging people in the complexity of topics, working to build bridges of understanding among sometimes delineated communities. I have a lifelong commitment to inclusion, human rights, and social justice; and much of that stems from the strength that Harvard-Radcliffe honed in me—the belief that hope is the most powerful tool for change, and that what we choose to do matters.
I am deeply honored to be nominated for Chief Marshal; I feel that any one of us classmates could represent our Class, so it’s exciting to think of sharing this with you—carrying our ’92 flag high as we walk together into Harvard Yard to celebrate the past and welcome the future.
Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, and Founder/Scientific Director of Character Lab
House Affiliation: Dunster
Freshman Dorm: Grays
Harvard Degree(s): AB ’92, magna cum laude, advanced studies neurobiology
Harvard-Related Activities: Co-Director of House and Neighborhood Development Program (HAND): oversaw over 450 Harvard undergraduates in tutoring, big sibling, arts, and other volunteer programs serving the children and elderly of Cambridge
Achievements and Honors: Phi Beta Kappa, Fay Prize, K.J. Lee Public Service Fellowship, Pforzheimer Fellowship, Samuel Huntington Fellowship, Glamour Magazine Top Ten College Women, In View magazine National Community Service Award, Marshall Scholarship
Other Activities: With Philip King (’92 Dunster), I founded Breakthrough Greater Boston (then called Summerbridge), a nonprofit academic enrichment program that gets younger kids into learning and older kids into teaching. The program will celebrate its 25th anniversary the same month as our 25th Reunion. I have been a math teacher in the public schools of New York City, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. I am a MacArthur Fellow, a professor of psychology, and the leader of a nonprofit I started to advance the science and practice of character development.
Reflections on Harvard: I was in line in the dining hall at Dunster House, scrutinizing the selection of bagels at brunch, when the boy ahead of me stopped, looked over his shoulder, and said, “You lead a charmed life.”
This observation—combined with the general wisdom that “From those to whom much has been given, much shall be expected”—summarizes how I feel about Harvard.
I have not led a perfect life. In fact, I’m deeply flawed. I have a short temper. I’m a micromanager. I am prone to drop the f-bomb in interviews that get published in places where such language reads vulgar rather than emphatic.
And, like anyone else, I’ve dealt with misfortunes small and large. But to that wry and observant boy who quite literally stopped me in my tracks, I’d say yes, I’ve been blessed. Not least of my mitzvahs was the decision Bill Fitzsimmons made to pluck my application from thousands of, no doubt, equal or superior qualifications. When I ran to the mailbox and saw that the envelope from Harvard was fat, not thin, I knew my life was going to change forever.
I also knew I didn’t deserve admission to the world’s greatest university. I was, I think, ranked twelfth in my graduating high school class. I hadn’t flown a plane, won an international math competition, started my own business, or distinguished myself as a competitive athlete—just a few of the collective accomplishments of my freshmen dorm roommates. In my father’s words, I was “no genius.” Instead, I was a girl from South Jersey who divided her time equally between studying, community service, and cheerleading. I was, you know, just a good kid cut a lucky break.
But the funny thing about fortune is that, well, you do feel the weight of it. You realize you’re obliged to capitalize on the opportunities that were meted out, fairly or not, more to you than to others.
At Harvard, I learned to write from Richard Marius. He read my work to me aloud. He told me when he was moved by this sentence, that description. When, senior year, I entered the competition to deliver a speech at graduation, he became my editor and coach. I lost to a more eloquent classmate. But the real victory was a lifelong affection for words and wordsmithing.
I learned the scientific method from Jerry Kagan, then chair of the psychology department. The two of us spent hours side by side, rewinding, over and over, video of infants and children, looking for behavioral expressions of shyness. More than a decade later, Jerry wrote a recommendation that pried open the door to graduate school. In so many ways, he made me the psychologist I am today.
I could go on, but I won’t. Because the most important thing is this: at Harvard I discovered that you can indeed take all that has been given to you and give back. And that insight, I think, is the greatest blessing of all.
Head of School, Epiphany School
House Affiliation: Adams
Freshman Dorm: Grays
Harvard Degree(s): AB ’92, fine arts
Harvard-Related Activities: Harvard Square Homeless Shelter (founding board member, 1997–2002); Memorial Church (Overseers Visiting Committee, 2003–2012); Signet Society (board member, 2005–present); Open Gate Foundation (trustee of fund supporting GLBTQ programs and academic research, 2005–present); Happy Observance of Commencement Committee (2008–present); Harvard Episcopal Chaplaincy (board member, 2005–2014); Charity of Edward Hopkins (trustee of program which awards scholarships and book prizes to students at Harvard and nearby Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, 2009–present)
Achievements and Honors: Ordained an Episcopal priest (2006); Honorary Doctor of Divinity, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale (2010); Massachusetts Historical Society (elected 1994)
Other Activities: Associated Independent Schools of New England (board member); Bethany House of Prayer (board member, 2008–2012); Bridge Boston Public Charter School (founding member, 2009–2010); Codman Academy Public Charter School (founding member, 2000–2001); Epiphany School (co-founder and head, 1997–present); Esperanza Academy (board of advisors, 2005–2012); Nativity Schools Network (founding member, 1999–2008); Nashoba Brooks School (trustee); On The Rise (founding board member, 1994–2006); Phillips Scholarship (director of foundation awarding several million dollars a year in college scholarships, 1998–present)
Greatest Personal Rewards: My husband, Stan, and I have been together since 1995, and after all these years I am still the apple of his eye. Unlike, say, my mother, he is under no obligation to love me, but he does, which is such a blessing. My family also is a great joy. My parents and I talk almost every day, and in the summer our whole tribe shares a house in Maine together. Stan and I have no kids of our own, but we enjoy being uncles, and I have several wonderful godchildren. I also really enjoy my work as an educator and as a priest. The little parish (St. Mary’s, Dorchester) where I serve has gone from the brink of extinction to being a vibrant, diverse community, and Epiphany School, a tuition-free, independent school for economically disadvantaged children and children who have been abused and neglected, which I founded with the Rev. Jennifer Daly in 1997, has gone from being an audacious dream to an established reality. In the early days, I walked the halls often in a blind rage; nothing was going the way it should, but now I smile seraphically because my colleagues do such a good job. Students arrive at Epiphany far behind academically but make on average 1.7 years of improvement each year, and since we support our students in high school, college, and beyond we know where they all are, and their trajectories are inspiring! We now have over 30 “Epiphany-inspired” schools around the country. Almost a third of our teachers are former students, and we are just about to expand into early-education work with infants and toddlers. Finally, I have been one of the many people trying to address the increasing challenges of college access in the face of rising costs. Through the Phillips Scholarship, we have awarded nearly $100 million last-dollar scholarships to students in colleges across the country.
Reflections on Harvard: In hindsight, serving at the homeless shelter in the basement of the University Lutheran Church set the trajectory for my life. The guests there had so much promise and potential but often lacked the skills they needed to succeed. In response, I found myself drawn into education, first as a teacher at a brand-new Jesuit middle school and then founding Epiphany School.
My time at Harvard, however, was not all spent at the shelter. There were classes after all, and I still treasure the relationships I had with certain professors, a handful of whom became close friends like Peter Gomes or Stuart Cary Welch. I also still especially treasure the time I had with my peers who taught more lasting lessons than anything I learned in class. I hope today’s students have similar opportunities and have continued to support the various institutions at Harvard where undergraduates come together to form their own little communities within the dizzying world of amazing resources that is Harvard.
Attorney General of Massachusetts
House Affiliation: Kirkland
Freshman Dorm: Matthews
Harvard Degree(s) AB ’92, government
Harvard-Related Activities: Varsity Basketball, Project H.A.N.D., Harvard Varsity Club
Achievements and Honors: American Constitution Society’s Award for Public Service; Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association’s Memorial Award for Public Service; Ad Club’s 2015 Rosoff Award; Bay Cove’s 2015 Human Services Changing Lives Award; Disability Law Center’s Francis X. Bellotti 2015 Civil Rights Award; Friends of the Charlestown Navy Yard’s 2015 Commandment Award; Girls’ LEAP’s 2015 Government Sector honoree; New England Jewish Labor Committee’s Clara Lemlich Shavelson Award; Massachusetts Psychological Association’s 2015 Stanley R. Berkowitz Allied Professional Award; National Federation of the Blind’s 2015 Newel Perry Award; Women’s Fund of Massachusetts and the Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact’s 2015 “She Changes the World” Award; recognized by the Boston Business Journal as one of its 2015 Most Powerful Bostonians; recognized by HealthQuarters for work and advocacy around women’s access to reproductive health care; Generation Citizen’s 2015 Civics Day Community Change Maker Award; Union of Minority Neighborhoods’ 2015 Paul Wellstone Award for Political Courage; District Attorney’s 2016 Role Model Award in recognition of work to protect the youth of Suffolk County; the Equal Justice Coalition’s 2016 Champion of Justice Award; Fenway Health’s 2016 Dr. Susan M. Love Award; Codman Square Community Health Center’s 2016 Spirit of Justice Award; Worcester County Bar Association’s 2016 award; Shooting Touch’s 2016 Game Changer award; Boston CASA’s 2016 Susan Gantz award; New England Basketball Hall of Fame
Honorary Degrees: Honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Salem State University (2015); honorary degree from Northeastern University School of Law (2015)
Reflections on Harvard: Pulling into the Yard in my mom’s Dodge Caravan, packed to the gills, it felt like I’d traveled much farther than the 60 miles from my small town of Hampton Falls, New Hampshire. I found a home with my incredible women’s basketball teammates, my blockmates in Kirkland, and at Dillon Field House, where I folded towels for work study. After my senior year as team captain, I jumped at the opportunity to play in a European professional basketball league on a team in Salzburg, Austria. Having rarely left New England, I knew that it was my opportunity to explore the broader world that Harvard introduced to me through classmates and courses. After two years abroad, I returned to Boston for law school. When I graduated, another Harvard alumnus (federal district court Judge A. David Mazzone ’50) hired me to be his law clerk. From his example (Boston Harbor is clean now because of him), I learned the importance of having good people in government. After practicing at WilmerHale, I joined the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office as Chief of the Civil Rights Division.
As civil rights chief, I had a chance to defend the rights of our most vulnerable residents. I led the state’s successful challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), sued banks and stopped home foreclosures in the wake of the financial crisis, and defended laws ensuring reproductive health care. After seven exciting years, I decided to run for Attorney General myself.
Ours was an underdog campaign, and I’d never run for office before. But I loved campaigning and we built a grassroots team that surprised political observers. I was honored to have such strong support from the Class of ’92. 0n January 21, 2015, I was sworn in as the state’s 59th Attorney General. I became the second woman elected to that office and the country’s first openly LGBT Attorney General. Since taking office, I have prioritized reducing gun violence, tackling the opiate epidemic, student loan assistance, criminal justice reform, protecting civil rights, and advancing clean energy. It’s been humbling and exciting to see what we can achieve.
I’ve been lucky to collaborate with Harvard students and faculty on projects including marriage equality cases, unconscious bias training, and initiatives on data privacy and life sciences. In the past year, I’ve spoken with students at Kirkland’s Senior Common Room, the Kennedy School on women in politics, and the Varsity Club, where I’ve participated in career counseling evenings for years. So, in many ways, I feel like I’ve never left Harvard, just as Harvard has never left me.
The lesson I have taken from Harvard, as I’m sure we all have, is that—no matter what you are doing or where you find yourself—we each have a huge responsibility that comes from having a Harvard degree. In exchange, we have to give back, not just to Harvard, but to our communities, to ensure that the chances we’ve been given are shared and used to expand opportunity for all.
U.S. District Judge
House Affiliation: Cabot
Freshman Dorm: Hollis
Harvard Degree(s): AB ’92, government; JD ’96
Harvard-Related Activities: Board of Overseers (first meeting, September 2016); HAA, elected director (2004-2007); local interviewer for Schools & Scholarships Committee (2004-present); Harvard Club of Washington, D.C. (2002-present)
Achievements and Honors: Twice confirmed by the U.S. Senate for presidential appointments (District Judge and Sentencing Commission); served as an Assistant Federal Public Defender; clerked for SC Justice Stephen Breyer (October term, 1999); Harvard Law Review (supervising editor, volume 109)
Other Activities: Member, Harvard Board of Overseers; member, Council of the American Law Institute; vice president, Edward Bennett Williams American Inn of Court; board member, D.C. Circuit Historical Society; board member, D.C. Council for Court Excellence
Reflections on Harvard: It is impossible to overstate the impact that Harvard has had on my life since graduation. I got married to my college boyfriend (Harvard ’91) the year I graduated from Harvard Law School, and have spent the better part of the last quarter century doing what I can to give back to the institution that has given me so much. As a local interviewer in Boston and D.C., I always herald the benefits of a Harvard education to hopeful college applicants, making sure to emphasize how difficult my transition from Miami public school kid to Harvard freshman would have been had it not been for the warm and welcoming environment of the Yard and the Union, and the emotional support that I received from various advisors and faculty that first semester. I also wax quite eloquently about the enduring friendships that experiencing college life in Cambridge creates—there is nothing like braving the collective crucible of academic anxiety and endless winters to bring people together!—and I can say without hesitation that some of the people I met while at Harvard have become my closest friends, while others remain my biggest professional allies. There is absolutely no question that I would not be a federal judge today, nor would I have been able to do much of what I have done in my career as a lawyer, without the extraordinary network of Harvard graduates who are at work throughout the country and the world, and who routinely open doors and pave paths for one another. I have also cherished the complexity, depth, and range of the many people I have gotten to know through my connections to Harvard; in this regard, to interested interviewees, I say this: the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is real, and it yields intangible benefits for all those who have the privilege of getting to know people from other walks of life. My status as a member of this august group of Harvard degree holders is among the many things for which I am eternally grateful, and I am so fortunate that, in my prior service as an HAA elected director and my current service as a member of the Board of Overseers, I have had the opportunity to return to campus regularly and to work diligently toward the betterment of Harvard for generations to come. It would be my honor to reconnect with—and help to motivate—the members of our great Class as Chief Marshal for 2017, the 25th Reunion of the Harvard and Radcliffe Class of 1992.
KELSANG KHEDRUB (formerly DONALD KIDD)
House Affiliation: Quincy
Freshman Dorm: Holworthy
Harvard Degree(s): AB ’92, economics
Harvard-Related Activities: Men’s Varsity Swim Team; Harvard Investment Club; Quincy House Film Society
Achievements and Honors: Buddhist monk since 1995
Other Activities: See below
Reflections on Harvard: I am an unconventional nominee. On reflection, though, I have always regarded Harvard as a special place because it accommodates the unorthodox and relishes the individuality of its students.
I entered Harvard in a pretty typical way, interested in continuing my personal passion at the time, swimming, and pursuing economics on the way to a career in business. But Harvard exposes us to things not expected. For me it was a class in world religions with Diana Eck.
Upon graduation I was accepted into an MBA program, and went to work for KPMG. Then in 1995, I took a risk and got ordained as a Buddhist monk. I’ll avoid the cliché “and never looked back” because I have looked back, but I’m glad I took the risk.
In 1997, I started and built from the ground up a Buddhist meditation center in Chicago, working on everything from incorporation and programming to fundraising and real estate. Since 2007, I have served as the spiritual leader of a Buddhist temple in Seattle.
So what does it mean to be a Buddhist monk? Each day includes time for meditation, but like a minister or rabbi, I lead a congregation and care for a community of people. Being a Buddhist monk means figuring out how the type A personality I brought to Harvard adapts to a life centered around contentment. It means wrestling with the urge to strive and the urge to find balance. It means appreciating the importance of both doing and being.
These lessons continue to feel salient in middle age. The Harvard competitive swimmer in me got ordained wanting to be, not just a Buddhist monk, but the best Buddhist monk. There is delicious irony in that picture. I have since shifted my focus to being the best version of me, and helping others to become the best version of themselves. It is work that has far more human connection than the term “monk” typically conjures.
Achievements and honors? That is not really the style or ambition of a Buddhist monk. I’ve been on National Public Radio, taught meditation retreats in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, etc., and taught meditation to an international crowd of over 1,000 people. I have enjoyed seeing classmates in different cities when I travel and talking about the paths we all have taken. I leave inspired and grateful every time. In my journey, I have aimed to explore some of what it means to be human; to let go of conventional markers for success; and to have the courage to strike out on a different path lit by a spark years ago.
I have always viewed Harvard as a special place, but I think our Class of 1992 is a special group as well for extending the honor of being on this ballot to someone rather atypical. Thank you.
Founder and Artistic Director of Pink Martini
House Affiliation: Adams
Freshman Dorm: Matthews/Massachusetts
Harvard Degree(s): AB ’92, cum laude, history and literature
Harvard-Related Activities: Undergraduate Council; Adams House Committee; Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club; Students for Creative Action; American Repertory Theater; founded and operated Café Mardi, a Tuesday night coffeehouse in Adams House; threw numerous campus-wide parties, including the Annual Waltz with the Bach Society Orchestra, the acquisition of two foo dogs which are still in the Adams House dining hall, and ice sculptures of San Sebastian; Bungle in the Jungle (which inadvertently led to the closing of the Adams House indoor Gothic swimming pool); and the Nancy Reagan Winter Formals; often seen running around campus during Harvard tours in a bunny outfit, carrying a whip and a Hello Kitty lunchbox
Achievements and Honors: Worked on the passage of the City of Portland’s (Oregon) Civil Rights Ordinance; convinced civil rights leader Myrlie Evers-Williams to realize her childhood dream and make her Carnegie Hall debut at age 79 in December 2012, playing the piano and singing “The Man I Love,” by George Gershwin.
With Pink Martini, performed a multilingual repertoire on concert stages and with symphony orchestras throughout Europe, Asia, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, Northern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, South America, and North America. Pink Martini made its European debut at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997 and its orchestral debut with the Oregon Symphony in 1998. Since then, the band has gone on to play with more than 50 orchestras around the world, including multiple engagements with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, the Boston Pops, the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center, the San Francisco Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Sydney Symphony at the Sydney Opera House, and the BBC Concert Orchestra at Royal Albert Hall in London.
Collaborations include NPR’s Ari Shapiro, host of All Things Considered; Cantor Ida Rae Cahana (former cantor at Central Synagogue in NYC); Japanese legend Saori Yuki; Little Jimmy Scott; Carol Channing; Phyllis Diller; Dame Edna Everage; puppeteer Basil Twist; Philippe Katerine; Rufus Wainwright; the von Trapps; the original cast of Sesame Street; Henri Salvador; Chavela Vargas; Kim Hastreiter (publisher/editor-in-chief of Paper magazine); Meow Meow; and fashion legends Ikram Goldman and Alber Elbaz. In 2014, Pink Martini was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame and the Oregon Music Hall of Fame.
Pink Martini has just released its ninth studio album—Je dis oui—featuring songs in French, Farsi, Armenian, Portuguese, Arabic, Turkish, Xhosa, and English, affirming the band’s 22-year history of global inclusivity and collaborative spirit.
Other Activities: Currently serve on the boards of the Oregon Symphony; the Oregon Historical Society; Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Oregon; and Confluence Project (Confluence Project began 15 years ago, when Native American tribes along the Columbia River commissioned Maya Lin to commemorate the Lewis & Clark Expedition of 1804–1806 from the perspective of the Native American and the landscape that has changed since. At six different sites along the Columbia from the Idaho border to Cape Disappointment, Maya Lin has done art installations and landscape restorations.)
Reflections on Harvard: I came to Harvard with a dream of someday becoming Mayor of Portland, Oregon, and 1,000 chocolate chip cookies I had baked in my Aunt Juanita’s oven in Ohio the week before. Although there were dozens of eager beaver future politicians working the crowds, I was the only one doling out something almost everyone—conservatives, liberals, artsy people, jocks, economists, socialists—could agree upon. I mean, who could resist chocolate chip cookies?! Gluten-free wasn’t on the table in 1988!
I indicated on my dorm application that I liked diversity. I sure got it: Pablo Calva (a Catholic from Mexico City) and Karl Rodriguez (a ROTC stud from Texas) were my first roommates. A few months later, I moved to Massachusetts Hall to live—not so legally—with Amy Shuffelton, Shirley Thompson, and Owi Ruivivar (now all fancy professors and economists), until discovery by the Freshman Dean whose office was directly below.
Later, in Adams House, with its eclectic assortment of artists, internationals, activists, and crossdressers, I became the house cruise director, throwing waltzes with pineapple dance cages and opening a Tuesday night coffeehouse called Cafe Mardi featuring love balls made by Tanya Selvaratnam ’92 and live music by saxophonist Joshua Redman ’91 and his jazzy friends from Berklee.
But what I loved most was bringing disparate groups of people together. The joint Adams-Eliot Masquerade not only celebrated our differences, but showed us that not all Adamsians were necessarily Marxists, and not all Eliotonians were necessarily straight. What I continually learned throughout my four years at Harvard was that, like all of my freshman roommates, we are—all of us—in the same boat in the end, hoping to love and be loved in return.
Instinctively I knew to write “I like diversity” on my freshman roommate application. Four years later, I really knew what that meant.
After college, instead of running for office, I started a band—Pink Martini—to play at political fundraisers. For the past 22 years, China Forbes ’92 and our “little orchestra” have been touring the world, performing songs in 25 languages, bringing disparate groups of people together—liberals, conservatives, people of different generations, different countries, different beliefs—under one rooftop. It’s a little like Adams House on the road. And I don’t have to work under fluorescent lighting facing angry constituents every day.
In October, 2016, after playing the triangle and crash cymbals with us at London's Royal Albert Hall, Ambassador Matthew Barzun ’92 quoted the director of diversity for the 2012 London Summer Olympics: “Diversity is a fact, inclusion is a choice.”
In an era of unprecedented divisiveness, I am thankful that my years at Harvard taught me how to include.
Chief Visionary Officer, Charley’s Fund
House Affiliation: Eliot
Freshman Dorm: Wigglesworth
Harvard Degree(s): AB ’92, magna cum laude, history and literature; MA, Columbia University Teachers College, 1995
Harvard-Related Activities: Editor, the Harvard Crimson; Eliot House committee; planning committee, An Evening with Champions; alumni interviewer, Berkshire County
Achievements and Honors: Testified (twice) at Congressional hearings regarding rare disease drug approval process; published columns in The Hill and the Huffington Post; TEDx Berkshires speaker (“Lessons from a Teenage Wise Man,” 2016); featured in Shape Magazine’s Women Who Shape the World; finalist, Smart Cookie Award, Cookie Magazine; appeared on the cover of U.S. News & World Report in a feature story about public school teachers; cook dinner six nights/week and sit down to eat it with the whole family (I count that as an achievement and an honor!)
Other Activities: Co-founder and board member of Charley’s Fund, public charity dedicated to ending Duchenne muscular dystrophy (#1 genetic killer of children worldwide); Board of Directors, Akashi Therapeutics; co-founder, The Race to Yes, movement to urge efficient approvals of safe and effective medicines for rare, fatal diseases; founding teacher, Neighborhood House Charter School, Dorchester, Massachusetts
Reflections on Harvard: Even back when we were undergrads, I knew Harvard would change my life. I expected the name, and the famous mystique it conjures, to command attention. I suspected that my honors degree would open professional doors. I thought the rigorous academic training would help ensure success in any field. But as it turns out, it was the people who ended up making all the difference in the world.
Twelve years ago, a bolt of lightning struck my husband (Benjy Seckler ’92) and me out of the clear blue sky. Our middle son Charley was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, an aggressive muscle wasting disease that is 100 percent fatal. The doctors told us there was nothing we could do.
We chose to fight.
Over the past 12 years, we have funded $37 million of medical research. We’ve knocked down hurdles that get in the way of developing new medicines for rare diseases. We’ve shined a light on the cumbersome, outdated regulatory process that has not kept pace with incredible advancements in medicine.
From the moment we received Charley’s terrifying diagnosis—and to this very day—we have been fortified by so many from the Class of ’92. Wigglesworth entryway mates held a fundraiser in San Francisco. A bunch of guys from Eliot House co-hosted a dinner in Connecticut. A classmate we didn’t meet until years after graduation serves on the advisory board of the biotechnology company we founded. Hundreds of classmates signed a petition we circulated to demand swift and clear action from the FDA.
I know this isn’t supposed to be about you; it’s supposed to be about me. But who I am today and what I have accomplished is really about you. You have donated money. You have advised us on science, drug development, and legal matters. You have cheered us on and provided critical emotional support.
As a result, Benjy and I have been able to sustain the fight of a lifetime for more than a decade. And we are winning. In 2016, the FDA approved the first therapy ever to treat this murderous disease. This was a historic achievement, but our work is not done until all children have access to new treatments.
When I was notified of my nomination as Chief Marshal, I had some trouble envisioning myself in the esteemed and honorable position. After all, who am I but simply a mother determined to give my son a happy and healthy life? But upon reflection, it does seem fitting for me to serve in this role. Harvard alumni, many from the Class of ’92, have rallied around me as I do everything in my power to change the future I was told is immutable. You are propelling me to save my son and to make Duchenne history. I represent the best of our Class, not because I am the best among us. A twist of fate I never could have imagined has caused me to channel the best in all of us.