Friday, February 15, 2008

Zoanne Clack

Dr. Zoanne Clack is a writer, executive story editor and producer on the award-winning ABC television hit “Grey’s Anatomy.” She has been with the show since it began and also acts as a medical adviser, assisting in production of all medical aspects of the show.

Zoanne grew up in Missouri City, TX, a suburb of Houston, with her mom. She entered Northwestern University with a major in Radio/TV/Film, but changed her major to Communication Studies and Neurobiology. Pursuing a stable career, her next ten years of Zoanne’s life were devoted to the practice of medicine. From medical school at UT Southwestern in Dallas, TX, she went to Atlanta, GA to pursue a residency in Emergency Medicine at Emory University. This was followed by a fellowship in Injury Prevention that led her to obtain a Master’s of Public Health (MPH) in Behavioral Sciences. Zoanne went on to spend a year with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doing International Emergency Medicine. Throughout that year, she helped develop an emergency medicine program in response to the bombing of the American Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, as well as playing a part in expanding emergency medicine to the pacific island of Palau.

Then, Zoanne moved to Los Angeles where she signed up for acting, producing and writing classes at UCLA. "I wasn't finding my niche in medicine," she told Manuel Mandoza. "It wasn't where I thought I wanted to be."

In 2002, she landed a staff job on the short-lived series Presidio Med based on spec scripts she'd written for Without a Trace and The Shield. After working as a consultant on ER, she was hired as a writer for Grey's after ABC picked up the pilot in 2004.
In 2006, she won a Writer's Guild of America award for "Grey's Anatomy" in the new series category. Zoanne also was awarded the Scroll of Merit in 2006 by the National Medical Association, the largest organization of black doctors in the country.

In addition to writing for television, she serves on the board of the Student National Medical Association, an organization with the goal of ensuring culturally sensitive medical education and increasing the number of students of color that enter and complete medical school.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Susan Fuhrman

NU alum Susan Fuhrman holds an extremely important job. She recently completed her first year as the president of Teachers College, Columbia University. Susan earned her bachelor's and master's degree in history at Northwestern University and her PhD degree in political science and education at Columbia University. She is also chair of the management committee of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education. Her many professional involvements include membership on the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Coca-Cola Council for Corporate and School Partnerships.

Susan is a noted education researcher who was an early analyst of the state education standards movement. Together with David K. Cohen of the University of Michigan and Fritz Mosher of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education, Susan recently published The State of Education Policy Research (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2007), a new compendium of essays about education policy research. Dr. Fuhrman notes that “The growing centralization and standardization of certain areas of education policymaking coexists uneasily with the public’s desire for local control of its schools. It results in a system that is very tightly controlled around some issues – e.g., civil rights, state standards and assessments – and very loosely controlled around other functions, most notably teaching and learning.”

NU alum with school aged children are keenly aware that their states are now dealing with difficult educational issues such as performance standards, assessment and accountability. Not to mention No Child Left Behind. We are fortunate that one of our most distinguished alums is playing such an important role in the discussions about public education policy.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

John Logan

Have you seen the movie "Sweeney Todd"? Did you know that NU alum John Logan wrote the adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler musical? Somehow I was so captivated by Johnny Depp that I neglected this important fact until just recently. John is an enormously talented screenwriter who has penned "The Aviator," "The Last Samuri," "Sinbad: The Legend of the Seven Seas," "Gladiator," and "Any Given Sunday."

John was a playwright in Chicago for ten years before writing, on spec, his first screenplay ("Any Given Sunday"). Among Logan's plays is Never the Sinner, produced in England and America. When the writers' strike ends, Logan will "be working on a film with Michael Mann about modern media a "Network" for the present time. John told Playbill, "And I'm working on a new play, I'm glad to say going back to my first and purest love."

NU Alums & Writer's Strike

From the "United Hollywood" Blog:

NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS WALK THE LINE: Northwestern University Alumni (otherwise known as the "NU Mafia") are cordially invited to join their fellow writers, actors and other supporters on the picket line, Wednesday, January 30, from 11:30-2:30 PM, at NBC Alameda. Scheduled to attend: Perry Rein, Maria Ferrari, John Lehr, Hank Chilton, Aaron Solomon, Tananarive Due, Pang-Ni (Bonnie) Landrum, JP Manoux, Robert J. Elisberg, Matt Johnson, Kristin Rusk Robinson and Ian Deitchman, among others. Please wear your NU gear and/or purple!

Margaret Allison Bonds

In these recessionary times, it's often good to listen to music that can sooth a weary soul. NU is fortunate to have among it's luminaries Margaret Allison Bonds, a highly accomplished composer, pianist, teacher and musical director. She is perhaps best known for her piano composition "Troubled Waters." She also composed some of our best-loved gospel songs such as "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," "Dry Bones," and "Lord, I Just Can't Keep From Cryin."

Margaret enrolled at NU in 1929 when she was only 16 years old, and stayed at Northwestern for her undergrad and Masters degrees. She was an incredible pianist, making her debut at New York's Town Hall in 1932, and performing a concertino at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933. While a student at NU, she became the first African American to solo with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1933.

Margaret's many accomplishments have been documented by Dominique-René de Lerma, Professor of Music at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. His research is available on the website. According to Prof. de Lerma, Margaret collaborated frequently with poet Langston Hughes in some of her best-known works, including the musical Shakespeare in Harlem and the cantata Ballad of the Brown King. Concerts dedicated totally to Margaret Bonds music were offered in Detroit in 1963 and in Washington in 1967. That year she received the Alumni Merit Award from Northwestern University and Mayor Richard Daley declared 31 January to be Margaret Bonds Day. Prof. De Lerma adds that Bonds was also honored by the National Council of Negro Women (1962) and by ASCAP (1964-1966).

I have sung "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" with my children many times, and it is a great feeling to know that it was written by a NU alum. What a gift!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Emily Gerson-Saines

NU alum Emily Gerson-Saines is a talent manager who manages the careers of actors such as Hayden Panettierre, Laura Benanti, Vanessa Williams, Cynthia Nixon and Kristen Bell. Emily was recently back on campus to speak to the Northwestern Women's Filmmaker Alliance. Gerson-Saines said she currently manages six NU alumni, hires NU interns, and donates to the university.

"(A degree from NU) isn't necessarily a guarantee of anything, but it's a guaranteed entree to a discussion about things, and you never know where things will lead you," she said.

Addie Swartz

Here is some very interesting news about NU alum Addie Swartz (a Kellogg alum). This is from PR Newswire:

Addie Swartz is the founder and CEO of B*tween Productions, Inc, home of the Beacon Street Girls award-winning book series, website and line of gifts and accessories for preteen girls. Addie created the Beacon Street Girls in 2002 to provide positive media and healthy role models for tween girls, whatever their challenges. Today, there are 14 Beacon Street Girls books with more than 500,000 copies in print. The company has "super-fans" in 174 countries and the books are available through leading book stores and online. Related BSG products are sold at more than 850 independent gift shops and through the COPPA-compliant Beacon Street Girls website ( A longtime entrepreneur with a commitment to developing quality products for children, Addie founded BrightIdeas in 1992. The company sold educational software to parents and teachers and was acquired by Addison Wesley in 1996. Addie has also held senior positions at The Walt Disney Company, Lotus Development, and Reebok. Addie currently lives in the Boston area with her husband and two daughters, ages 12 and 16. She is a graduate of Stanford University, and received her MBA from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. BSG Books and gifts provide positive role models for preteen girls by modeling appropriate behaviors. Also the company has access to a "Tween Advisory Board" for input and feedback from girls around the world. Recent books have addressed issues such as cyber-bullying and Internet safety, gossip, self-acceptance, positive body image, underage drinking, school pressures, childhood obesity, divorce, etc.

Very cool!

Check out the story about Addie in Kellogg World, Summer 2005. Go Beacon Street Girls!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dr. David Nah

We are so fortunate that along our alumni are some of the nation's best and most inspirational spiritual leaders. One spiritual leader linked to NU is David Nah, an Assistant Professor of Theology at Bethal University. Born and raised in South Korea, Nah immigrated to the U.S. when he was about 10 years old. He grew up in Chicago and earned a B.A. from Northwestern. He also holds an M.Div. from Alliance Theological Seminary, a Th.M. from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University.

Speaking at a ceremony at Bethal in which Nah was recently honored for his contributions to theology, Nah said:

"The 21st century should be characterized as the century of religious pluralism. We live in an increasingly religious world where religious pluralism is one of the most important, if not the most important, theological issues of our day.”

His current research plans include books on John Hick’s theology of religious pluralism, Voices in Asian-American Theology, Systematic Theology in a Global Age, and a book on a Christian theology of religions. We very much look forward to reading Dr. Nah's forthcoming books.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Mara Brock Akil

It's no joke that a lot of NU alums are feeling the consequences of the writer's strike. NU alum Mara Brock Akil is the creator of the hit comedy "Girlfriends" about three close-knit L.A. gal pals. It's now in it's eight season (!). 13 of 22 episodes for this season were filmed before the Writers Guild strike halted production.

A Northwestern University journalism graduate, Mara got her start writing scripts on the critically lauded "South Central" before moving to UPN's "Moesha," where she became a producer after four seasons. She landed "Girlfriends" just days before her 30th birthday. Honey magazine named her as one of the "Top 25 Hottest Women in Urban Entertainment." Mara was profiled by Northwestern Magazine in 2004. More good news: Mara and her husband Salim Akil have been hired by the Weinstein Company to produce, write, and direct a film under the Weinstein's new urban production banner "Our Stories."

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Jana Eaton

This year, Northwestern University ranks among the top 25 mid-sized colleges and universities with alumni currently serving in the Peace Corps. With 27 volunteers in the field, NU is 12th among colleges and universities with 5,001-15,000 undergraduates.

Joining NU on the list of mid-sized schools are Cornell, Boston College, Yale, the University of Vermont and the University of Virginia. (For the full list, see "Top Peace Corps Universities and Colleges (PDF)" on the Peace Corp's website.)

Many NU grads have served in the Peace Corps since it's inauguration in 1961. Among them is Dr. Jana Eaton, NU alum, Peace Corps volunteer, teacher and winner of the 2000 Global Educator Award.

When Jana won the Global Educator Award, she told the National Peace Corps Association:

“My interest in cultures goes back to my early childhood in Wyoming where I interacted with whites and Native Americans and came from a family of the same mixed heritage. My interest in other cultures continued at Northwestern University, where I headed the International Club and studied global issues and area studies. As a senior, I traveled to East and Southeast Asia as a USO-Department of Defense Professional Entertainer during the Vietnam war, became fascinated with the cultures of the area, and, as a result, became thoroughly committed to global education. Participation in study-travel programs sponsored by Fulbright, the State Department-American Councils for International Education, the Keizai Koho Center, the Korea Society and the Freeman Society have been tremendously motivating and educational and have kept me thoroughly ‘re-energized.’”

As an elementary education teacher, Jana shared her passion for multicultural understanding with hundred of students. Jana is currently retired from education but now has a second career as a watercolor artist in Arizona. More about Jana along with photos of her international travels can be found on her website.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mark Obmascik

The film "The Big Year" is currently in production and scheduled for release next year. The film is based on NU alum Mark Obmascik's well-received book The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession. The film is being produced by Deuce Three Productions, Red Hour Films and DreamWorks SKG. Ben Stiller is producer.

Several very interesting interviews with Mark about The Big Year are available online. They include:
An interview on the PBS Newshour.
Mark on "To The Best of Our Knowledge" from Wisconsin Public Radio.

Mark won a Pulitzer in 2000 for his reporting on the Columbine tragedy for the Denver Post. A copy of his award-winning article can be found here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Steven Harper

Northwestern alum Steven Harper is a very successful lawyer, adjunct law professor, novelist and author of a new book about Northwestern professor Richard Leopold. It is titled Straddling Worlds: The Jewish-American Journey of Professor Richard J. Leopold and is published by Northwestern University Press. The Winter 2007 edition of the Northwestern Magazine includes a fascinating story and video about the process of writing Straddling Worlds. Each Sunday for two years, Harper met with Leopold in his Evanston nursing home and listened to his former history professor's stories.

Harper writes:

To say that he had profoundly influenced generations of Northwestern’s finest sons and daughters seems wholly inadequate. Among his protégés were some of the University’s most illustrious alumni: 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern (G49, 53, H67); former Majority Leader of the House of Representatives Richard Gephardt (C62); journalist and commentator Georgie Anne Geyer (J56); General Dynamics Corp. chair Nick Chabraja (WCAS64, L67); director, writer and producer Garry Marshall (J56); former Assistant Secretary of State Phyllis Elliott Oakley (WCAS56); former Arizona Rep. James Kolbe (WCAS65). A long list of Leopold alumni at Northwestern and his previous employer, Harvard University, count him as their ultimate mentor.

“It’s not just that I took his class,” Crate & Barrel founder Gordon Segal (EB60) said. “He changed my life.

“He was supportive and nurturing. He spent most of his time pointing out what we’d done right rather than what we’d done wrong. Then he’d add just enough criticism to let us know we could do even better.”

Dick shaped many who would become famous, but he was something special to the rest of us, too. And we were something special to him.

Northwestern will host a publication launch of Straddling Worlds on Jan. 25. The event, free and open to the public, will take place at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 25 in 108 Harris Hall on the Evanston campus. For more information, call or write (847) 467-0885 or

John Lehr

John Lehr is the creator, writer and executive-producer of TBS's "10 Items or Less," a comedy series that combines scripted and improvisational elements. In this interview with the Daily Northwestern's Sara Peck, Lehr reveals that he came to NU with the intention of becoming a teacher. He taught fifth and sixth grade in Chicago Public Schools and student-taught in Deerfield, IL. He became interested in performing when he got into Mee-Ow. He credits Prof. David Zarefsky's class for being memorably mind-blowing. (It's quite amazing how many students have been influenced by Prof. Zaresky.) John stared in several of Geico's cavemen commercials. Here are some cool pictures from John's website of how the caveman transformation took place. Check out John's MySpace page.

Kristen Schall

In their wrap-up of Chicago-land comedy highlights of 2007, Time Out Chicago took notice of the very talented Kristen Schaal:

By playing an unsettling stalker of the titular band on HBO’s Flight of the Conchords, Schaal, a Northwestern alum, found a way to break out of indie-comedy circles and make a name for herself. After two fall weekends at the Lakeshore—where she performed her similarly awkward, but hilarious stand-up—there’s no doubt this is only the beginning for Schaal.
Here's a little gem from the Edinburgh Festival:

Kate Walbert

I saw Kate Walbert's name in the Author's Guild newsletter this month. She's the author of several books and was a 2004 National Book award finalist. You can see Kate and the other 2004 National Book award finalists in this interview with Charlie Rose. In 2004, she was also interviewed by Steve Inskeep on NPR. I recently read Kate's book Our Kind: A Novel in Stories and loved it.

Steven Colbert

Steven Colbert is still running for President and his book, I Am America, is still on the NY Times Best Seller list. It made Amazon's Best Books of 2007: Editors' and Customers' Top 100 Pick.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
and The Colbert Report went back on the air on Jan. 7th after going dark for several weeks as a result of the writer's strike.

Cloris Leachman

The beautiful Cloris Leachman appeared in the February 2008 issue of Vanity Fair in a photograph featuring actresses who are in the upcoming movie "The Women." The film is based on Clare Booth Luce's Broadway play which was adapted into a movie in 1939.

Diane English directs the latest version. It will include Jada Pickett Smith, Annette Being, Debra Messing, Candice Bergen, Meg Ryan, Cloris Leachman and Eva Mendes.

Cloris will play the feisty, warmed-hearted housekeeper of the frazzled, betrayed wife Mary Haines who will be played by Meg Ryan.

This will be Cloris's second film with Meg Ryan. In 2000, Cloris played Meg's mom in the film "Hanging Up." They have only one, brief scene together in "Hanging Up," and it is poignant and sad. Cloris will not come to Meg's aid, though Meg's character needs it desperately. It will be interesting to see Cloris and Meg together again in a different kind of film; one in which Cloris's character helps Meg's character, and plays an important part in her transformation.

In addition to "The Women," we'll also soon be able to see Cloris Leachman in the forthcoming comedy "American Cowslip" with Val Kilmer, Diane Ladd, Bruce Dern and Peter Falk.

A few years ago, Cloris Leachman was brilliant in "Spanglish," a fabulous movie. She is one of the hardest working actors in America, with a longer list of credits than practically any other American actor.

I had the privilege of seeing her perform "Twigs" at the Marriott Lincolnshire Resort Theatre in 1979. She played three adult sisters and their elderly mother each separately, each in her own kitchen on the same day, Thanksgiving eve. Amazing. Amazing. "Twigs" was made into a film starring Leachman in 1984. VHS copies are now selling for $64. Very hard to find and worth every penny.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been supporting the writers in the Writer's Guild Strike in Hollywood. Her show, The New Adventures of Old Christine, was shut down by Warner Bros because of the strike, and she's been a visible figure in the writer's campaign for equity. The KTLA website has a wonderful video interview with Julia about her views on the strike.

Robert Leighton

Robert Leighton, creator of Banderooge, a staff cartoonist for The New Yorker, and CEO of Puzzlability is also the illustrator of a great book for middle school aged boys. What's Going On Down There is informative, educational and kind of funny. I bought it for my 8th grade twin boys because I thought that in addition to chats about sex with mom & dad, it would be good for them to have a book they could read on their own. As usual, Robert's illustrations are great! Robert is also the author of The New Yorker Book of Cartoon Puzzles and Games. A great gift for people who want to exercise their minds and have a laugh.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Don Frederick

Are you watching the election unfold? NU alum Don Frederick is one of the journalists writing for the LA Times political blog "Top of the Ticket." Blogging at it's best!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sylvia Wolf

Seattle is thrilled that NU alum Sylvia Wolf will become the next curator at The Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington. As Jen Graves writes in The Stranger (Seattle's online newspaper):

By all accounts, Wolf is not a household name, a flashy personality, or an agent for radical change. Instead, according to colleagues around the country, she is a respected thinker and connoisseur, an impassioned professor, and an effective fundraiser who represents a wave of promising new women directors at American museums.

A native of Gloucester, Massachusetts, Wolf originally wanted to be a geologist. Instead, she earned her bachelor’s degree in French literature from Northwestern University, then went back to school for photography. She earned her master’s degree in fine arts at the Rhode Island School of Design. Wolf then took her degree into the museum world where she has become a leading curator. Fascinating!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Margo Bartsch

As admission to the top colleges becomes more and more competitive, students are looking for ways to stand above the crowd in the admissions process. NU alum Margo Bartsch created a company called College Essay Coach which helps prospective college students develop their personal essays for college admissions. She was recently profiled in an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Margo's background is in marketing communications. She was Vice President of Advertising, Marketing Communications and Corporate Public Relations at Prodigy Internet. She helped take Prodigy public in 1991. Margo earned her B.A in Economics and her M.S.J from the Integreated Marketing Communications program at Medill. As she told The Chronicle, there are many similarities between marketing one's self and marketing a product. It's all about the emotions that the brand's story evokes.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Peter Peterson

Peter Peterson on Big Think talks about topics such as economics and dumb luck. I love how he is wearing NU purple and white.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Jonathan Mandell

I recently checked out Jonathan Mandell's website and was so pleased to see that it has been updated with a video in which Jonathan discusses his mosaic art. Jonathan is one of the nation's leading mosaic artists. He began his pursuit in the fine arts during his senior year at Northwestern University, where he was enrolled in a general sculpture class. Jonathan's work is now featured in museums, private galleries and public spaces. Recently he has begun selling beautiful Giclee prints of three of his pieces including this one "Mountainscape With Flowers." I love his work.

On January 17, 2008 from 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm, Jonathan will host the NU Club of Philadelphia at his studio. Alums will get to learn about Jonathan's work while enjoying fine wine and cheese. Lucky people.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Clancy Brown

A big shout out to NU alum Clancy Brown on his birthday. Happy Birthday! Clancy, a well-known actor on stage and screen is also the voice of Mr. Krebs in "SpongeBob Squarepants." In addition, Clancy portrayed the role of "Kelvin Inman" on LOST. Two of Clancy's fans put together a website and blog dedicated to Clancy. Though the website looks not to have been updated since Dec. '06, it features quite an array of photos of Clancy from film, theater, television and personal appearances. Last March, the Official Clancy Brown Fan Club Charity Auction raised money for the Beth Brown Memorial Foundation. The foundation is a scholarship fund set up by Clancy's parents in memory of his older sister to help students who wish to study medicine.

(By the way, won't it be great when Lost finally goes back on air on Jan. 31.)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Fran Stoddard

On Monday nights here in Vermont, we are fortunate to be able to watch "Profiles" with NU alum Fran Stoddard on Vermont Public Television. This is Fran's 7th season as producer and host of "Profiles." She has interviewed musicians, politicians, writers, professors, CEOs. Not everyone is nationally famous, but each has made a significant contribution to society. The first person Fran interviewed for "Profiles" was musician/composer (and NU Alum) Paul Winter. Since then, guest have included Molly Ivins, Bruce Cockburn, E. L. Doctorow, Grace Paley and Ed Koren.

Fran has her own production video company. She was the first assistant director on "Windy Acres," a tv series set in Vermont, and also worked on the film "Strangers in the Kingdom." Fran gave an interview to Seven Days in which she discussed how she started "Profiles" and what the experience has been like.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Charles Cann

It's cold here in Vermont. Thoughts turn to warmer climates, sunny skies and fresh tropical food. That's why I was happy to hear about NU alum Charles Cann's new book Tropical Ghana Delights which was just released.

Tropical Ghana Delights
cookbook release coincides with the launch of the Tropical Ghana Spirit fund, which Charles set up to help and provide food for less privileged children in Ghana with a focus on education. Cann's idea is that as people enjoy the recipes in his cookbook, they are also encouraging a child in Ghana to stay in school by nourishing youth with meals that will help them remain focused on achieving their goals.

A great way to help people eat healthy food AND raise money for the kids in Ghana. The book is available for sale online at Lulu.