Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Focusing on documentaries

Alum’s work airs on HBO

George Kunhardt '09 working on HBO documentary "Living with Lincoln"

George Kunhardt ’09 works on his HBO documentary.

Movie buff George Kunhardt ’09 grew up with dreams of one day directing an action blockbuster.

Little did he know that the Abraham Lincoln portrait that hung for years over his childhood bed would shape a different destiny. In April, HBO aired Living With Lincoln, a documentary Kunhardt produced that explores his family’s more than 150-year connection with the nation’s 16th president.

Kunhardt’s great-great-great-grandfather, a Union officer in the Civil War, gathered nearly 70,000 artifacts relating to Lincoln, including rare photographs, daguerreotypes and maps. Among the collection is the Lincoln portrait depicted on the $5 bill.

Kunhardt is a producer at Kunhardt Films, which was started by his father, Emmy-winning filmmaker Peter Kunhardt. The Lincoln project was the younger Kunhardt’s editorial and producing debut “and by far the biggest responsibility I’ve ever had on a project.” [Read more...]

Down-to-earth leadership

Nancy Pearlstine Conger ’67 takes reins as trustees board chair

By Andrew Faught

Nancy Pearlstine Conger ’67, who majored in history at Wheaton, never needs to look too far to be inspired by what is near and dear to her heart.

Her Rockaway Township, N.J., home rests on the crystalline shores of Green Pond, dug out by glacial activity more than 11,000 years ago. Nearby, legally protected wetlands lay in the shadow of Copperas Mountain, which on a clear day affords hikers views of the Manhattan skyline some 35 miles away. And within her home are plenty of reminders of her alma mater.

It is the perfect setting for the longtime conservationist and Wheaton loyalist, especially now as she steps into her new position leading the college into its next chapter as the newly elected chair of the Board of Trustees.

The role underscores her desire to protect the past, improve the present and plan for the future—a common thread that unites all the varied aspects of her life.

Those who know Conger say she’s a perfect choice to chair Wheaton’s board. She was unanimously elected to the post in February (and officially began July 1), after having served as vice chair alongside chair Tom Hollister for the past five years. [Read more...]

Building a better tomorrow

Ryan Letada ’08 works to transform communities

Letada IMG_7315Born in Kuwait to impoverished parents who dreamed their son would one day become a doctor or lawyer, Ryan Letada ’08 discovered something priceless at Wheaton College: the fire to ignite the entrepreneurial spirit of traditionally marginalized communities.

“Wheaton makes you ask the bigger questions about your purpose in life,” says Letada, who in 2013 co-founded Next Day Better, a New York-based company that, chiefly through its lecture series, showcases the accomplishments—or “tells the stories”—of people who have transformed their communities. The business, for now, focuses on the efforts of social entrepreneurs in the Philippines and the Filipino diaspora. There are plans to ultimately branch out and highlight other ethnicities.

In a series of six lecture engagements around the globe last year (which were also available online), Next Day Better highlighted people such as Illac Diaz, an inventor who created solar light bulbs using recycled plastic bottles. Thousands of poor Filipinos have benefited from his creation. [Read more...]

Director, screenwriter making Hollywood dreams reality


Alexa-Sascha Lewin ’97 working on the set of “The Honeysting”

It was as a student at Wheaton that Alexa-Sascha Lewin ’97, while studying the historic contributions of women around the globe, made a vow that she’s following through on 18 years after leaving Norton.

“I promised to myself that one day I would direct a feature film about a maverick female trailblazer—a complex, multifaceted female protagonist,” says Lewin, a German major who also did an independent study in film by taking courses at Brown University, Ludwig-Maximilians-UniversitätMunich and the University of Television and Film Munich in Germany.

With her husband, Brad Rister, Lewin penned “Kingmaker,” a screenplay that highlights seven years in the life of Gertrude Bell, the English writer and archaeologist who was known as the “female Lawrence of Arabia.” Bell is credited with creating the Kingdom of Iraq in 1921. [Read more...]