Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

The talker who almost cried

In January I almost lost it in front of a room full of sophomores.

Christine Koh '95

I spoke at Wheaton’s Sophomore Symposium, and it was a rather amazing day in several respects—from the thoughtful programming aimed at inspiring sophomores to avoid the traditional slump and explore life options; to the fact that some 100 or so sophomores opted in to this weekend programming; to the honor of being invited to tell the story of my linear then divergent paths; to the pleasure of interacting with a remarkably thoughtful, smart and mature group of students.

To take a few steps back: Wheaton was where my passion for studying music and psychology bloomed. And as I later progressed through my M.A., Ph.D., and postdoctoral fellowship, the notion that I had evolved into something of an academic poster child for the college was not lost on me. Let’s be frank: I photograph and speak well, was pursuing an interesting interdisciplinary research trajectory, and was an active alum. The stars were aligned.

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Commencement 2010. photo: Keith Nordstrom

On May 22 Wheaton will celebrate its 175th Commencement. As part of the celebration, honorary degrees and Alumnae/i Achievement Awards will be presented to acknowledge the accomplishments of individuals who have had a major impact on Wheaton and their communities, as well as on the nation.

The honorary degree recipients are: Edward William Brooke III, the first African American elected to the U.S. Senate by popular vote and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom; Ann Curry, NBC “Today” show anchor and host of “Dateline NBC,” who is also the Commencement speaker; Diana Davis Spencer ’60, a longtime Wheaton trustee and currently trustee emerita; and prominent allergist Dr. Gillian Shepherd Mestre ’70.

The Alumnae/i Achievement Award recipients are: Susan Cobean Cutillo ’74, vice president of the Friends of the Guilford Public Library; Josephine McFadden ’61, a full-time volunteer membership secretary and church administrator for the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church; Andrea Pelkey ’02, an Emmy Award–winning associate producer at ESPN; Elizabeth Jenkins Weber ’60, president of the National Executive Service Corps; and Karyn Wheeler O’Neil ’86, senior vice president and director of commercial banking at Citizens Bank of New Hampshire. (Some of the alumnae/i awards will be presented at Homecoming Weekend. Brooke will not be attending Commencement. His degree will be presented to him at a later date.)

Newsmakers: Julie Clarke White ’56

Julie Clarke White '56Cookbooks typically come with great recipes. But Julie Clarke White ’56 has put together the right ingredients to offer more than just interesting meals to prepare. She has found a way to help feed needy children. A resident of Savannah, Ga., White is active with St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, which sponsors a well-known antiques show and sale each year. Not only is the event a successful fundraiser for area charities, but it has also established St. Peter’s as a community of excellent cooks known for using food as part of their ministry. When White and two friends (both professional chefs) were responsible for providing food for the antiques event, they had the idea: why not put together a cookbook for additional fundraising? “We had an ideal recipient for the proceeds—Kids Café, which provides meals and mentoring to almost 3,000 children in need each day,” says White. “And my twin sister, Ruth Clarke Wendel ’56, suggested the title: Manna From Savannah.” This wasn’t your typical cookbook fundraiser. The group devised a rating system for the nearly 1,000 recipes submitted, and many volunteers—led by White and her co-chair—helped along the way with tasting and testing parties that built fellowship and enthusiasm for the project. The result: a beautifully produced and illustrated cookbook that has raised more than $35,000 for Kids Café. “It is achingly tragic that there are so many children in need in this relatively small community, but it was a truly wonderful feeling to support the superb people who run Kids Café and the children who benefit from it.” To order a copy of the cookbook, e-mail White at Papawhisk@aol.com.

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Up close: Linda Mandolini ’85

Linda Mandolini '85“It’s great to work in a place with such tangible results.” That’s how Linda Mandolini ’85 sums up the most rewarding aspect of her job as the executive director of Eden Housing, a nonprofit developer of affordable housing located in California’s Bay Area. As one of the area’s oldest affordable housing developers—starting in 1968—Eden is also one of the most successful and respected developers of its kind, creating over 5,000 units of affordable housing and serving more than 58,000 people throughout Northern California.

Mandolini, who has led Eden for nine years, says that the path to her current position began at Wheaton, where she majored in political science with a minor in urban studies. “It all started with Jay Goodman’s ‘Government 101’ class my freshman year. His ‘game’ classes, particularly the one in local government, got me hooked.” Though she had planned on attending law school, a college internship introduced her to the area of affordable housing. After a stint in the Mayor’s Office of Housing in Boston and other similar positions, Mandolini moved to California in 1996, when she started at Eden as a project manager. Along the way, she earned an M.B.A. with a concentration in public and nonprofit management, from Boston University.

“I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with a political science major if I didn’t go to law school, but I’ve landed in a place where I am literally working in applied political science. In our work at Eden we take local, state and federal housing policies and apply them with terrific outcomes and replicable results.”

Though the current economic climate has presented challenges for the area of affordable housing, Mandolini focuses on the positive fact that Eden is acquiring new property at prices that are more reasonable than they were in recent years. And she speaks with pride of Eden’s mission of providing high-quality affordable housing and the tangible effect it has on the people and communities they serve. “Every day I go to work and see the results: I meet the kids who live in our properties who are going to college, the seniors who live in the housing attached to our office who are out planting their gardens for the spring, and see the vibrant communities that now exist on lots that used to be underutilized or blighted.”

She adds, “At Eden we may not change the whole world in one fell swoop, but we have been able to create real impact on families and communities—one corner at a time.”

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