It is hard to believe as I write this that I am well into my third year here at Weinberg College. Soon we will be marking the end of fall term, the end of 2010, and the end of the first decade of the millennium, and there is much to celebrate at Northwestern. We have had a beautiful fall here in Evanston, with day after day of clear blue skies and amazing foliage. We even had days in the 70s in November!
Imagine. The most important phone call of your life is coming in and your cell phone isn’t working. Dale Mortensen was having lunch with colleagues in Denmark, where he is a half-time visiting professor at Aarhus University. Luckily for him, the call from Stockholm, informing him of his 2010 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, was transferred to a colleague’s cell and Mortensen was able to receive the monumental news within minutes. Like everything else in his life since then—dinner with royalty and being featured in a Nobel video, for instance—he seems to have taken the news in stride.
Seventeen Weinberg students had anticipated spending the past summer—the one between their freshman and sophomore years—flipping burgers on a steamy grill, selling jeans at the Gap, or washing floors. Instead they found themselves living the life of scholars for eight weeks, free to explore a subject which intrigued them—the influence of a Spanish philosopher, the role of graffiti in public art, solutions to violence against Haitian women, and many others. Stipends from alumnus Brian Posner, whose generosity supports the entire program, liberated them from the need to earn a wage and gave them a chance to deepen their skills.
In 1971, when Terry O’Neill was a freshman at Northwestern, the first issue of Ms. magazine hit the newsstands. When she was a sophomore, Title IX banned sex discrimination in schools. Her junior year, the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion. Those were heady times for the women’s rights movement. But O’Neill had other preoccupations: clocking long hours in the library as a French major, waiting tables in Rogers Park, and having fun with her friends. She called herself an activist and marched against the war in Vietnam, but she didn’t call herself a feminist.
Making a sling for a toy rabbit was just one of the unexpected tasks Laura Retson performed while on a recent medical mission with her father, Dr. Nicholas Retson, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon. But helping people heal sometimes includes more than performing surgery. Sometimes it means listening to people’s stories and responding creatively.
To look at her now, you wouldn’t guess her backstory. Ina Jani graduated from Weinberg College in June. Recently named an American Dream Fellow by the Merage Foundation, she has done groundbreaking research on cancer patients and looks forward to med school and a career in pediatric surgery. But while her Northwestern classmates may have learned about war from history books or newscasts, Ina experienced its terror firsthand. She credits Northwestern with giving her the inspiration to rise above her troubles and the tools to reach her goals.
Tracy Vaughn thought she knew her limitations as an artist. Although she plays the flute and sings in a choir, in the visual realm, she says, she couldn’t draw an interesting stick figure. Then she entered a new friend’s house one day and what she saw hanging on the walls amazed her: quilts, in the softest silks and richest velvets, in swirling colors and unusual shapes, quilts just begging to be touched. Walking through that door, she walked into her life as a visual artist, and a maker of dazzling quilts herself.Back to top