Maura Connors, AB’15. (Photo courtesy Maura Connors)


Highlights from the latest alumni news columns.

Irish pride

On March 11 Maura Connors, AB’15, reigned over Chicago’s 2017 St. Patrick’s Day Parade as queen. She competed against more than 50 other Chicagoans of Irish ancestry for the title and was crowned on January 15. Connors is an admissions counselor at UChicago. 

Federal and State appointments

President Donald J. Trump has named Ajit Pai, JD’97, chair of the Federal Communications Commission. An FCC commissioner since 2012, Pai is focusing on reducing regulations within internet and communications markets. Secretary of state Rex Tillerson has appointed Margaret Peterlin, JD’00, as his chief of staff. A former House Republican aide and US Patent and Trademark Office official, Peterlin serves as a liaison between the secretary and his 75,000 employees. 

Social health care

Raina Merchant, MD’03, has been named the inaugural director of the Penn Medicine Center for Digital Health at the University of Pennsylvania. Since 2013 Merchant has led Penn Medicine’s Social Media Laboratory, which studies how data from social media platforms can be used to evaluate, predict, and improve individual and population health. In her new position she will continue this work, with an emphasis on how physicians can harness social media to better care for their patients.   

Meeting special needs

Areva Martin, AB’84, has received a James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award for her work in extending autism care to underserved families. Herself the parent of a child with autism, Martin founded the Special Needs Network when she realized how difficult it can be to find and afford the right care for autistic children. She will use the $200,000 award to continue to educate low-income families in the Los Angeles area about the condition and help them navigate the health care system and access available state and federal resources, as well as advocate for children with autism. 

Collegiate leadership

Elizabeth Howe Bradley, MBA’86, has been elected the 11th president of Vassar College. Bradley was formerly the Brady-Johnson Professor of Grand Strategy and head of Branford College at Yale University and the founder of the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute. Her term at Vassar begins July 1. 

Movies and mental health

Unbroken Glass, a documentary by Dinesh Das Sabu, AB’06, had its Chicago theater premiere at the Gene Siskel Film Center in February. The film follows Sabu’s quest to learn more about his parents two decades after their deaths, one by suicide. In March, Fog, written and directed by Chelsea Woods, AB’11, was featured in the NewFilmmakers Los Angeles’s InFocus film series. The short film tells the story of a successful lawyer who navigates a changing career and the return of her grown daughter while struggling with mental illness.

Who run the world?

In February Shola Farber, AB’12, received a 2017 Young Women of Achievement Award from the Women’s Information Network, a professional networking and political organization. Farber worked for the Obama administration’s National Economic Council and for the Hil-lary Clinton presidential campaign as a regional director in Michigan, and is focused on increasing political engagement among millennials.

Delivered honor

The Evanston (IL) Post Office has been renamed in honor of late congressman, judge, and White House adviser Abner Mikva, JD’51. The Abner J. Mikva Post Office is “the perfect coming together of three things my father loved,” Mikva’s daughter Mary told the Chicago Tribune. “Congress, the city of Evanston, and getting letters.”

A new investigation  

Sarah Koenig’s (AB’90) new podcast production company, Serial Productions, launched its first limited-series project in March. S-Town began as an investigation into an Alabama man’s boasts that he had gotten away with murder, but then “someone else ended up dead, and another story began to unfold—about a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and the mysteries of one man’s life.” All seven episodes of S-Town are currently available for free download.