The 2015 Distinguished Alumni, Outstanding Service and McConaughy Awards will be presented at the Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Alumni Association on Saturday, May 23, and the Baldwin Medal will be presented at the 183rd Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 24.
Alan M. Dachs ’70, Hon. ’07, P’98
Alan M. Dachs is president, chief executive officer, and director of Fremont Group, a San Francisco-based investment firm.
Mr. Dachs’ remarkable record of service to the Wesleyan community over more than two decades has included leadership of the presidential search committee that resulted in the selection of Douglas J. Bennet as the University’s 15th president, and fourteen years as a trustee, for eight of which he was chair of the Board.
Through his service to society and to the University, Mr. Dachs manifests what he believes makes Wesleyan truly outstanding – its values. His dedication to sustaining a Wesleyan liberal arts education that he sees as incredibly robust, sophisticated, and challenging is well documented through his advocacy for vital initiatives and his gifts to the University. He established the Lauren B. Dachs Chair of Science and Society, the Alan M. Dachs Chair in Science and, in memory of his parents, the Martha and Sidney Dachs Endowed Scholarship.
Mr. Dachs is a member of the Boards of Directors of Bechtel Group, Inc. and the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and serves on the Board of the Brookings Institution. He also serves as chair of the Board of Trustees of The Conference Board and as a member of the Board of Trustees at The Landmark School. As a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he chairs the Academy’s Trust, is vice chair of its Board of Directors, is chair of its Development and Public Relations Committee, and serves as a member of its Investment Committee. He sits on the Board of Trustees of MIT Corporation and is a member of several Corporation Visiting Committees.
Alan Dachs received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University in 2007. Mr. Dachs’ son, Eric, is a member of Wesleyan’s class of 1998.
DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI AWARDS
E. Myles Standish Jr. ’60, MA ’62
Myles Standish spent most of his professional career at the California Institute of Technology’s NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), creating and continually improving high-precision planetary ephemerides (orbital positions) vital to the successful navigation of planetary spacecraft. Those ephemerides are now the world's standard, providing data to virtually all of the national almanac offices, astronomical researchers, and observatories.
A recognized leader in his field, Dr. Standish has been chairman of the American Astronomical Society’s Division on Dynamical Astronomy (AAS/DDA) and president of the International Astronomical Union’s Commission 4 (Ephemerides). He received the AAS/DDA Brouwer Award in 2000 and NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal in 2008. Asteroid “3420 Standish” is named in his honor.
Dr. Standish maintains that Wesleyan pointed him toward mathematical astronomy when its first computer was squeezed through the basement window of Van Vleck Observatory. He followed bachelor’s and master’s degrees here with a PhD at Yale University.
Father of three sons, Dr. Standish later volunteered for 25 years with the American Youth Soccer Organization as a game scheduler, regional commissioner, chief referee, and coach. In recognition of his contributions, the city of Pasadena hosts the annual Myles Standish Thanksgiving Tournament. He also was an active member of the local YMCA and of his sons' high school booster club.
Dr. Standish is now retired and lives with his wife on the shore of Lake Keowee in South Carolina. He is involved with community affairs and gives lectures on a wide variety of topics through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Clemson University. He also continues to referee professional papers, answer questions on astronomy, and fulfill computing requests from astronomers around the world.
Hugh R. Wilson ’65
Hugh Wilson is known internationally for his research in computational and experimental neuroscience of the visual system. For 28 years, he served on the faculty of the University of Chicago. Deeply committed to teaching as well as scholarship, he won the Quantrell Award, the nation’s oldest prize for undergraduate teaching. Dr. Wilson moved to York University in Toronto as professor of biological and computational vision and director of the York Centre for Vision Research, rated as one of the most prominent vision research institutes in the world. There he was instrumental in developing a world-class brain imaging laboratory (fMRI).
As a chemistry major at Wesleyan, he conducted honors research with Professor Peter Leermakers ’58 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. At the University of Chicago he pursued simultaneously an MA in philosophy and PhD in chemistry.
During postdoctoral research in mathematical biology, Dr. Wilson applied mathematical techniques from physics to simulate neural networks in the brain. This led to the derivation of the Wilson-Cowan equations, pioneering discoveries in computational neuroscience still used internationally to predict brain functions from the dynamics of underlying neural networks. He is the author of Spikes, Decisions, and Actions: The Dynamical Foundations of Neuroscience and has published more than 180 scientific papers. In 2006, he was awarded the Helmholtz Prize for outstanding lifetime achievements in visual neuroscience and neural modeling by the International Neural Network Society.
Dr. Wilson and his wife, Fran, herself a visual neuroscientist, live in Toronto with their dog, Subi.
Jennifer Finney Boylan ’80
Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of 13 books, is the inaugural Anna Quindlen Writer-in-Residence at Barnard College of Columbia University. She has been a contributor to the op-ed page of The New York Times since 2007; in 2013 she became contributing opinion writer for the page.
She serves as the national co-chair of the Board of Directors of GLAAD, the media advocacy group for LGBT people worldwide, and on the Board of Trustees of the Kinsey Institute for Research on Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.
Professor Boylan’s 2003 memoir, She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders, was the first best-selling work by a transgender American. A novelist, memoirist, and short story writer, she also is a nationally known advocate for civil rights. She frequently appears on such national media outlets as the Oprah Winfrey Show, Live with Larry King, the Today Show, the Barbara Walters Special, and NPR’s Marketplace and Talk of the Nation. She has also been the subject of documentaries on the CBS news series 48 Hours and The History Channel.
An undergraduate English major, she was a member of Eclectic, the editor-in-chief of the Argus, and a member of the Board of Directors of WESU. In 2011, she established the Boylan Prize in Nonfiction at Wesleyan, which honors students who use the power of storytelling to gain insight into the tale of their own lives.
She lives in New York City and in Belgrade Lakes, Maine, with her wife, Deedie, and her two sons, Zach and Sean.
The Honorable Denise Jefferson Casper ’90
In 2010, President Barack Obama nominated Denise Jefferson Casper to be a federal judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. With her confirmation and appointment to the bench, she became the first African American woman to serve as a United States district judge in Massachusetts. Judge Casper had served in several prior legal positions, including as Deputy District Attorney for Middlesex County and Assistant United States Attorney in the Criminal Division of the Office of the United States Attorney in Boston. Ultimately, she became Deputy Chief of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Unit.
A graduate of Harvard Law School and initially in private practice, Judge Casper has been a member of the governing council of the Boston Bar Association. She currently serves on the boards of the Steppingstone Foundation and the Park School and previously has been a member of the boards of the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston, the executive board of the Women's Bar Foundation, and the Massachusetts Black Women Attorneys. In addition, Judge Casper has taught legal writing and advocacy at the Boston University School of Law.
In 2013, the Boston Globe recognized Judge Casper with an honorable mention as one of the Bostonians of the Year. In 2014, she received the Trailblazer Award from the Massachusetts Black Lawyers’ Association in recognition of her contributions to both the bench and the bar. She was recently appointed by the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court to the Judicial Conference Committee on Judicial Security.
Judge Casper and her two sons, Harry and Jacob, both 11, live outside of Boston.
JAMES L. McCONAUGHY Jr. AWARD
David B. Potts ’60
Widely respected as a historian of higher education, Dave Potts has made significant contributions to the literature on American cultural and social history. Over a long career—as professor of American history, author of books on the nation’s colleges, and academic dean—he has kept a sharp, insightful eye on liberal education.
As a full-scholarship student at Wesleyan, he learned from the faculty recruited by President Victor Butterfield just how intellectually liberating such an education can be. Mentored in doctoral studies at Harvard University by Bernard Bailyn, twice a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for history, he learned a great deal about the historian’s craft.
As a professor and academic dean at Union College, followed by service as professor and chief academic officer at Gettysburg College and the University of Puget Sound, Dave worked to help these institutions strengthen their pursuit of liberal education. With faculty colleagues, he created first-year courses that introduced students to liberal learning. His decisions on recruitment and retention of faculty consistently balanced achievements in specialized scholarship with commitment to liberal arts teaching objectives.
Dave’s research and writing explores America’s growing faith in higher education. His early publications move from a chapter on Harvard’s history to a comparative study of 16 antebellum colleges. More recently, his book on an episode in Yale University’s history examines that institution’s influential advocacy of critical thinking skills. But it is the development of one institution in particular, Wesleyan, that becomes his preferred window through which to view the course of American higher education. His Wesleyan University, 1831–1910: Collegiate Enterprise in New England won the Babbidge Award for best book on Connecticut history. His latest volume, Wesleyan University, 1910–1970: Academic Ambition and Middle-Class America, was published this spring.
He and his wife, Betsy, have two sons and a daughter. Two of their seven grandchildren live nearby in the greater Seattle area.
Outstanding Service Award
Mark M. Edmiston ’65, P’91
Mark Edmiston’s service to Wesleyan extends over many years. Beginning in 1984, he was a University trustee for 12 years, including terms as chair of the Finance Committee and vice chair of the Board of Trustees. Following three years as chair of the New York Wesleyan Group, he became vice chair and then chair of the Alumni Association. He has been a member of several Reunion committees for the Class of ’65, and this year is serving as outreach coordinator for the 50th Reunion. Among other roles, he also has been a member of the Trustee Nominating Committee and the Binswanger Committee. He has been a key advisor to Wesleyan on communications and social media.
After graduating from Wesleyan as a government major, Mr. Edmiston joined Time Inc., where he held several positions, including a stint as circulation director of Life Asia in Tokyo. Positions in consumer marketing at Life, Saturday Review, and CRM, Inc. followed. In 1973, he joined Newsweek, ultimately becoming president and CEO from 1981 to 1986. Among the successful periodicals he has founded are Health magazine, TVTimes, Civilization, and University Business. He led the venture capital-funded acquisition of the Cable Guide (10 million circulation) and sold that property and TVTimes to TVGuide. He also had an 18-year media investment banking career, first as a founder of the Jordan Edmiston Group and later as a managing director of AdMedia Partners. Since 2010, he has focused on the rapidly changing media environment with Nomad Editions LLC, a startup that developed more than a dozen narrowly focused digital magazines.
For 12 years, two as chair, Mr. Edmiston served as a trustee of the Community Service Society of New York. Currently he is chair of City Limits, an investigative news and analysis site for New York City's nonprofit, policy, and activist worlds. He previously served as chair of the Children’s Aid Society of New York and was a member of the Governing Board for Publishing of the American Chemical Society.
He and his wife, Lisa, have two daughters, Ann Edmiston Rumberger and Laura Edmiston Carroll ’91, and three granddaughters.