Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

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...]

The art of collaboration

Professors, students engage in multifaceted exploration of Goya, Beethoven

It is not known whether Ludwig van Beethoven and Francisco José Goya y Lucientes ever met. But the fact that their artistic lives were so strikingly parallel and intriguing inspired two Wheaton College professors to team up to teach a set of interdisciplinary courses on the two men.

The fall courses took students from Norton to Boston and New York, immersed them in a world of symphonies and fine art, and had them buying prints, curating an exhibition, attending concerts and learning from renowned experts, including an alumna who co-curated the first North American exhibition of Goya’s work in 25 years.

The collaborative project was, as Professor of Music Ann Sears put it, “a monumental task,” but one in which she and her colleague, Professor of Art History Evelyn Staudinger, “relished every moment.” It was also one that had a profound impact on Wheaton students, who acquired professional skills, made valuable art industry contacts, and greatly benefited from the varied and diverse approach to learning. [Read more...]

Diving in

Ashley Jennings ’07 spends years deep in shark research

Ashley Jennings '07

Ashley Jennings '07

What would it be like to be a shark?

Maybe you’re picturing rows of ragged sawteeth and remembering the last time your stomach growled at you. Or perhaps you’re imagining the feeling of cool water on a strong, streamlined body, and wondering what it would be like to have a superhuman sense of smell.

Most people really wouldn’t even know where to begin imagining. But this question lights up Ashley Jennings’s face. “I think about that pretty much every day,” she says.

Jennings, who graduated from Wheaton College in 2007, explored this question in her research at Boston University, where last year she completed a master’s degree in marine/sensory biology. Working with Jelle Atema, a professor of biology at Boston University and adjunct scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), Jennings spent three summers at WHOI studying smooth dogfish, small sharks that can be found along the coast of Massachusetts, for her master’s thesis. While urban legend tells us that a shark can smell a drop of blood in an Olympic-sized swimming pool, Jennings hopes that her research on sharks’ sense of smell will help to dispel that myth, as well as our overblown fear of these animals. [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...]