Yale Alumni College Newsletter Issue 3 Jan 23

Yale Alumni College is a Yale Alumni volunteer-led initiative

Welcome to Yale Alumni College’s Newsletter.  Over the past eleven years, we have become a national community and we hope to strengthen our connections by keeping you informed.

Gary Schlesinger ‘73 – Chair Yale Alumni College

Featured Content

Falling in Love Again...with YACOL

By Mark Landers '78
My wife, who is not a Yalie, will often tease me by suggesting that the first real adolescent crush in my life was on the English Department at Yale. (I know, I know; but after four long years at an all-boys high school run by Christian Brothers, I was open to anything.) When I first arrived on campus in the fall of 1971, it seemed as though everyone was aware of the fact that giants walked the earth, or at least the hallways at Linsley-Chittendon. It wasn’t long before I was entirely enthralled by them. They seemed to rearrange my neurons on a daily basis, and I could not get enough. It truly felt like a spell, and I had no desire to break it. I had absolutely no idea what I would ever make of it, but I frankly didn’t care. I somehow knew that it was a rare and powerful thing and I should take as much of it as I possibly could before my time ran out—which, of course, it did. 

That was almost fifty years ago. Like many of you, perhaps, I spent the larger part of my twenties in a daze of one sort or another before I entered into that longer period of my life that I tend to think of as the Paying of the Bills. I would often think back to my courses at Yale, as I commuted to work or I waited for yet another meeting to start, and at first the memories were nothing but warm and pleasant; but, over time, they began to be tinged by a growing sense of regret. When you are nineteen and a great professor exposes you to (say) the wonders of William Blake, you tend to treat them as you would a foreign country that you plan to explore a great deal in the future. It never really occurs to you that this might be your only visit. I would think back to a great lecture on Henry James and wish that I had done all the reading ahead of time instead of only some before ducking across the hall to join the hearts game that never seemed to end. Even worse, I would start to remember the courses that I never got around to taking. (Richard Sewell on Emily Dickinson? Edward Mendelson on W.H. Auden? What was I thinking?) 

The greatest regrets, however, are the ones that could not have been avoided—the ones that are built into a nineteen-year-old mind that has unlimited time and very limited experience. What exactly did I bring to a careful reading of Henry IV or of Don Quixote? I can vividly remember how we used to talk about taking a Melville course in the spring semester because we had already “done” Shakespeare. Were we really serious? I can recall being absolutely transfixed by a Dante course taught by John Freccero, but in the end, I was something of a stranger to the nature of sin and vice. So many cantos simply felt like a thrilling amusement ride through a medieval theme park. I think that there is a reason why so many undergraduate papers are focused on Paolo and Francesca. I began to regret something worse than the road not taken; it was the road that had been poorly traveled. 

All of this and more had been swirling around in the back of my aging mind when I first became aware of the Yale Alumni College. It was almost exactly five years ago. I live along the northern shore of New Jersey, and YACOL had begun to meet on Monday nights at the Yale Club in Manhattan. They had just announced a ten-week course on Milton’s Paradise Lost, and I thought, “This may be a sign.” Of course, Milton’s epic is a perfect example of the kind of thing that may dazzle an undergraduate for a moment or two (you know, the sympathetic Satan) but will eventually get an eyeroll long before we leave the garden. Milton himself had already lived a wildly eventful life before he even attempted to “justify the ways of God to man.” It occurred to me that maybe I was finally ready, at the age of 64, to understand what he was getting at. 

Of course, I approached the first class with a certain trepidation; it had been a while, and I might have lost a bit of the knack for this sort of thing. That was when I discovered the real secret—the difference in the other students. I can vividly recall how much I used to dread taking seminars at Yale, primarily because they tended to be a bit “performative,” as we like to say today. It is more than understandable that, when a nineteen-year-old asserts a certain reading of work to a roomful of other nineteen-year-olds, he or she has a great deal at stake in the moment, and much of it has nothing to do with the work at hand. As I walked into my Milton class, I suddenly realized that it was filled with people like me—people who had lived a bit of life and probably seen the ways of God to man. They had nothing to prove or assert. They were simply there for the same reason that I was; they knew that they were in the presence of something great, and they were finally ready to join with some like-minded souls to try to take the full measure of it. 

It should probably go without saying that I was newly addicted. I went on to take courses on Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen, the sonnet, Emily Bronte, Thomas Hardy, the Gnostic Gospels, even something called “Hellenic Judaism.” (I took that last one for the simple reason that I realized that I had no idea what the title even meant.) Of course, COVID intervened, and the lion’s share of the coursework was transferred over to Zoom—not the easiest tool to use when you are connecting with strangers, but a wonderful boon to the widening of the curriculum. I took a class on the essays of Montaigne (a complete revelation), then embarked on a thirty-class journey over the course of eighteen months with our old friend Dante—an experience that I can honestly say was the deepest and most profound of my long reading life. Best of all, I took the entire journey with a group of people who (for the most part) I have never met in person but I feel certain will be partners for life. In fact, we have gone on to classes on St. Augustine and, most recently, the work of T.S. Eliot. 

To all of which I can almost hear you thinking: “That sounds wonderful, Mark; I’m happy for you, but I already have a book club.” To which I politely insist, this is not at all a book club. It is something much more because it has one thing that no book club should ever be without: it has a great professor. As you certainly remember, they make all the difference, and they are really happy to do so. These are people who have devoted their entire lives to the love of their subject. You cannot imagine how much they enjoy being able to teach it to a room full of people who are solely there for the very same reason. If you do not believe me, you have only to take one of Markus Rathey’s courses on the music of Bach. You don’t need to read music; you can simply surrender to his gentle insistence that the world would be a far better place if he could only share this beauty with as many people as possible. You will be lucky to be among them. 

  Oh, and my wife is a true believer. I like to tell her that I am working my way “back to the garden.” There is really nothing like an older person who has stopped to smell a flower. I hope to share one with you. 

YACOL: A Forum to Gather and Learn 

by Michael Sanders '89
I have been a part of the Yale Alumni College Board for the past year and a half, and part of YACOL for the past four years. (If I recall correctly, my first class was a fiftieth birthday present to myself.) I have continued so long because I found YACOL to be a forum for curious and intellectual people to gather and learn. Before the pandemic we met at the Yale Club for a time that was both intellectual and social; after class we would talk in the lounge. Not only did I learn about poetry and literature, I made friendships that have endured. I feel blessed that my learning didn’t ended with graduate school. Continued education is now a vital part of my life. Not only is it thrilling, I am an example to my children and community. When friends ask what’s new, I feel better telling them about a class I am taking than a Netflix show I am watching.

After taking one class too many a fellow alum asked me to join the YACOL board. (Was I ever flattered!) I have found the board to be a group of selfless people who share similar values. They look to put together interesting class offerings and experiences for a discriminating audience: their fellow Yale alums. I am often assigned to interview professors and professionals from scientific or medical backgrounds that reflect my background as a medical doctor. I do my best to learn what they are excited about and see if that can translate into a class.

I have found that the people who want to teach for YACOL are brilliant, motivated teachers who love sharing their ideas and work. Many are retired from academia and want to continue doing what they love. In the YACOL students they find enthusiastic students. It’s a wonderful pairing that makes for a great experience for everyone. I hope to continue and deepen my experience with YACOL in the years to come.

We would love to hear from you with course suggestions or feedback. 

Discovering Governors Island with YACOL

By Laurie Treuhaft '73
YACOL at Governors Island
It was a glorious September day, and a chance to reconnect with old friends and meet classmates we had only known on Zoom. As a New Yorker, I knew I could visit Governors Island any time; therefore, I had never been. A two-hour walk with a YACOL group that fine afternoon was a perfect way to discover it.

Waiting for the ferry that would take us over, I spotted my friend and classmate Carol Fisler and her husband Larry Martin (Class of ‘72) heading over to say hello. I hadn’t seen Carol since early 2019 (when we were photographed together at a YACOL gathering). Things were off to a great start.
Our guide, Adam Arenson, had been handpicked by Marv Berenblum, organizer of the event and the founder of Yale Alumni College. Adam is a professor of history, and former director of urban studies, at Manhattan College.  He earned his PhD in history at Yale in 2008, working with renowned Civil War Professor David Blight. Adam enjoys taking his Manhattan College students on historic walking tours, and he brought all of that enthusiasm to our outing. It would be an understatement to say he was a fount of knowledge; “an entire New York Harbor of knowledge” might be closer to the truth.
Governors Island is a place rich in stories that go way back. Setting out, we learned that the Lenape tribe had originally named the island Paggank, meaning “nut island,” inspired by its abundance of chestnut, oak, and hickory trees. The island was utilized by the first Dutch settlers and came under British control before the end of the seventeenth century.

We passed through a picnic area and a field reserved for art displays and festivals, admired a stately British colonial governor’s mansion off to the left, then paused to gaze upon a row of elegant nineteenth-century homes with spacious verandas. Adam drew our attention to a big box in front of one home. It was filled with oyster shells that would be used to promote new oyster growth, reduce flooding, and protect against storm damage as part of the Billion Dollar Oyster Project. Students at the New York Harbor School located on the other side of Governors Island actively participate in the project.

We made our way toward some cannons atop Fort Jay, affording a view of the waterway and, below us in the other direction, a courtyard lined with barracks and offices from the years when the site was an active army fort. The juxtaposition of that Federal-style architecture with the Freedom Tower and lower Manhattan in the distance was spectacular. Adam reminded us of the sobering reality that, like almost any structure raised in New York before emancipation in 1827, the fort had been built with enslaved labor alongside any free or conscripted workers.

As we crossed the island, we witnessed families picnicking, kids romping up and down hillsides and what can only be described as a five-star glamping area! When we stopped along the Buttermilk Channel to look out at Brooklyn and New Jersey, a young Zoom classmate, Sara Ackermann, and her friend Carol Cui (both SOM, Class of 2020) introduced themselves. Sara and I shared memories of our summer course and the three of us took photos of each other against the backdrop of the choppy water.

Our tour wound up at Castle William, built a few decades prior to the War of 1812. This imposing, circular fortification later served as both garrisons and prisons during the Civil War and the two World Wars.

After such a pleasant afternoon, so rich in information, no one felt much like hopping onto the ferry back to Manhattan. People stayed on and sat around in the afternoon sunshine, chatting with each other and turning to our tireless guide with even more questions and thoughts. For those who weren’t able to take this fun and informative tour with us in September, it is well worth joining whenever it is next offered! 

YACOL Students "extend the magic"
with a group meeting. 

By Robin Aufses
Eliot Outing
Ralph Fiennes reading The Wasteland at the 92nd St. Y in early December? Sounds fun, but by the time I checked the Y website–in late August– the event was sold out. What the heck?
The fall semester of YACOL’s “The Poetry of T.S. Eliot”, taught by master teacher Peter Hawkins sold out quickly, like Ralph Fiennes 92nd Street Y performance of “The Wasteland,”. I was lucky to have gotten a heads up about the course from Gary Schlesinger, so I signed up the first day. What a lucky break that was!
Eight weeks of intense Eliot study: early works, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, two weeks on “The Wasteland”, “Ash Wednesday”, the Ariel poems, and two weeks on “The Four Quartets” –eighteen of us in conversations that extended beyond the 90-minute class, continuing,
via email, during the week. There were even phone conversations–so old school!-- as Peter, in his extensive, creative prompts, suggested pairs and groups to prepare for the class ahead. Not everyone loved Eliot’s poetry, but the great man himself might have approved. Eliot famously noted that “No one can become really educated without having pursued some study in which he took no interest–for it is a part of education to learn to interest ourselves in subjects for which we have no aptitude.” I loved the poetry but I was one of a tiny number of class members who had not previously studied with Peter–St. Augustine, Dante; I felt that distinction only briefly. I can say with confidence that everyone loved Peter and our lively classes. By the time the course was over in mid-November we were all worried about how we could take another course together with Peter as our guide. And, we also wondered, "How could we extend the magic a little longer?"
Valerie Komor and Trish Dorff, straws that stir the drink if ever there were, got the idea of putting together a class dinner before the Ralph Fiennes event at the 92nd St Y. A local recommended Sfoglia, across the street and, before we knew it, we had a plan to meet, a menu to consider, and the prospect of meeting each other in person. Someone even had an extra ticket for me! It was a glorious evening, and we must have looked like a group of people who’d known each other forever. Maybe that was the real magic. Connecting with fellow poetry fiends, we cut through the formalities and gobbled our pasta, laughing and catching up as if we were old friends. The folks who couldn’t make it chimed in on email, and we even welcomed some extras to our group: a couple of FOPs (friends of Peter) and a classmate’s daughter. Oh, yes, Ralph Fiennes was excellent!
Our classmate Liz Massey shared a video about Eliot and his happy marriage to Valerie Fletcher in which Tom Stoppard comments, “Reading early, middle, and late Eliot was what made us feel grown up.” Reading him now, at least for me, was humbling and inspiring; it introduced me to a lovely community; and it made me feel grown up indeed.

Upcoming YACOL Programming

Fine Art Boston

History of Collecting at The MFA
with Deborah Stein
Boston, MA
February 9, 2023
5:30 - 7 p.m. ET


The Critic's Daughter
with Priscilla Gilman '92
New York, NY
February 15, 2023
6:30 - 8 p.m. ET

Hallie Metzger

Timber! How Wood Shaped the Future British Nation
With Hallie Metzger
Chicago, IL
February 22, 2023
5:30 - 7 p.m. CST

Glimmerglass trip

Glimmerglass Opera Experience
Cooperstown, NY
August 10-14, 2023

Join us in Welcoming Our New Professors
Craig Wright
Craig Wright, Moses Professor Emeritus of Music, holds an M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard and has taught at Yale for more than forty-five years, where he continues to offer annually “The Genius Course” in the summer program. During his tenure at Yale, Wright served as chair of the Department of Music (1986-1992) and Academic Director of Online Education (2014-2017). Wright has published seven books on music and cultural history, the most recent being The Hidden Habits of Genius (Harper Collins), an Amazon Top-20 Book Selection for 2020. Yale
has recognized Wright’s contribution to undergraduate teaching in the form of its two most prestigious prizes, the Sewall Prize and the DeVane Medal. 
Professor Wright will be teaching: Exploring the Art and Science of Relaxation
James Charney, MD
James Charney received his M.D. from Duke University School of Medicine. Histraining in Psychiatry and Child Psychiatry was at the University of Washingtonin Seattle. He is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Child Study at theYale School of Medicine. For 13 years he taught Madness at theMovies, a popular Senior Seminar at YaleCollege. He has taught a version of Madness at the Movies at Arcadia University in Rome, The American Universityin Rome, and at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. His book, Madness at the Movies (Johns Hopkins University Press) is coming out in January 2023.
Professor Charney will be teaching: Madness at the Movies
Deborah Stein
Deb Stein specializes in eighteenth and nineteenth-century American and European fine arts, visual culture, and the history of collecting and museums. She holds a Ph.D. from Boston University. Deb is a Visiting Lecturer in the History of Art and Architecture at the College of the Holy Cross and has also taught introductory and specialized courses in her field at Boston College and Boston University. She has extensive experience teaching in the museum-based setting, particularly in the European and American galleries at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Deb’s current research focuses on transatlantic nineteenth and early twentieth-century collecting and display practices, with a focus on Italian Renaissance and Byzantine art. 
Professor Stein will be teaching: The Fine Arts in Boston, the “Athens of America” as well as a talk on Feb 9.
James Magruder
James Magruder has published four books of fiction (Sugarless, Let Me See It, Love Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall, and Vamp Until Ready). His stage adaptations of works by Marivaux, Molière, Gozzi, Dickens, Lesage, Labiche, Hofmannsthal, and Giraudoux have been staged across the U.S. as well as Germany and Japan. He also wrote the books for two Broadway musicals, Triumph of Love and Head Over Heels, the blank verse mash-up of Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia and the song catalog of the Go-Go's. He has taught dramatic literature at Swarthmore College, and translation/adaptation at Princeton University and the Yale School of Drama, where he received his doctorate.
Professor Magruder will be teaching: History into Drama
Steven A. Steinbach
Steven A. Steinbach teaches United States History and American Government courses and has served as History Department Chair at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. Previously he was a partner in the Washington, D.C., law firm of Williams & Connolly LLP, where he specialized in criminal and civil litigation. He graduated from Yale Law School and Harvard College and received a master’s degree from St. John’s College, Annapolis. He is the editor of With Liberty and Justice for All?: The Constitution in the Classroom (Oxford University Press, 2022). 
Professor Steinbach will be teaching: Constitutional Controversies: A Historical Survey
Emma Lieber is a psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City and faculty in Literary Studies at Eugene Lang College, The New School. She received her PhD (2011) from Columbia University and her BA from Yale University (2002) in Slavic Languages and Literatures. She is the author of The Writing Cure (Bloomsbury 2020) and co-editor of The Queerness of Childhood: Essays from the Other Side of the Looking Glass (Palgrave, 2022). She is currently working on a book manuscript, Impossible Professions, on psychoanalysis and education. 

Professor Lieber will be teaching:
The Brothers Karamazov: Love, IRL

Eve Berenblum Goldberg Scholarship

The board of Yale Alumni College is delighted to announce that our Founder and Emeritus Chairman, Marv Berenblum, ’56 has established a scholarship fund in memory of his daughter, Eve Berenblum Goldberg.  

Eve was a remarkable human being who had the courage of her convictions and believed in elevating the younger generations.  She was warm, caring and generous, and brought light onto the lives of so many people whom she befriended. Eve would have been excited to know that a Yale Alumni College scholarship foundation had been established in her memory to benefit a deserving group of "Bulldogs of the Last Decade" (BOLD alumni).

Scholarship recipients are able to join Yale Alumni College courses of their choice at no cost. Yale Alumni College aims to assist as many alumni as possible in joining our lifelong learning community each year. Meet our first group of scholarship recipients:
In the Spotlight: Scholarship Recipients
Sonam Choden '14
Sonam Choden graduated from the Yale School of Environment in 2014. She works with the National Service Project in His Majesty’s Secretariat in Bhutan, where she helped establish the Watershed Management Division and the Agroforestry program in the country. Sonam is passionate about ecosystem-based conservation and sustainable landscape management.
Minjae Kim '19
Minjae Kim graduated with an MPH from the Yale School of Public Health in 2019. He has worked as  Chief Nursing Officer at NY Spine care, Alumni board advisor at NYU Myers, and At Large Delegate at Yale Alumni Association. He is taking YACOL courses that will help him develop ideas that can be integrated into his profession. 
Kanako Koyama '21
Kanako Koyama graduated from Yale School of Music in 2021. Her focus is now on musicology studying in Philadelphia, where she is continuing her research on the reception of Japanese music and Europe fromt he sixteenth through eighteenth centuries. She is grateful to further her studies by taking YACOL classes.
Yu Sian Tan '19
Yu Sian Tan graduated from Yale in 2019 with an MBA from the Yale School of Management. She is currently at a startup called Singularity 6, where she is working toward forging alternate worlds to deepen players’ lives. She believes entertainment can be the key to building communities. 
Kelly Tran graduated from Yale in 2020 with a BA in psychology. She was a Yale-China Fellow (2020−22), where she taught English and U.S. history at the Chinese University in HongKong. She is very grateful to the Eve Berenblum Goldberg Scholarship for the opportunity to continue her lifelong journey as a student.
Jackson Zhu '17
Jackson Zhu graduated with an MBA from the Yale School of Management in 2017. After graduation, he worked as an analyst in the investment management space and later launched his own fund focusing on listed companies. He finds knowledge of history and liberal arts critical for his investment work. 
Sharyn Phu graduated with a BA in East Asian Studies from Yale College in 2019. She is a visiting tutor and Yale-China Fellow at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Sharyn is in the midst of MFA Creative Writing applications and hopes to continue developing her poetry.