Leon Botstein, AB’67, leads the American Symphony Orchestra in the US premiere of the surrealist opera Julietta. (Photography by Matt Dine/American Symphony Orchestra)


A selection of UChicago alumni whose names are in the news.

An opera unforgotten

Conductor and Bard College president Leon Botstein, AB’67, led the American Symphony Orchestra and a nine-member cast in the US premiere of Julietta, a 1938 surrealist opera by Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů, at Carnegie Hall in March. Martinů’s dream-like opera centers on a Parisian bookseller named Michel and the coastal town where he searches for a girl whose voice has lingered in his memory for years. Botstein has been musical director of New York City’s American Symphony Orchestra since 1992, earning praise from the New York Times as a “tireless champion of overlooked works.” Awarded the 2012 UChicago Alumni Medal, he is credited with revitalizing both the ASO and Bard, where he became president in 1975.

P is for prize

At the Mystery Writers of America’s 73rd Annual Edgar Awards in April, Sara Paretsky, AM’69, MBA’77, PhD’77, received the inaugural G. P. Putnam’s Sons Sue Grafton Memorial Award. The award recognizes Paretsky’s Shell Game (William Morrow, 2018) as the year’s best novel in a mystery series featuring a female protagonist. Named for the late crime novelist whose best-selling “alphabet series” featured the female detective Kinsey Millhone, the prize honors fiction showing “the hallmarks of Sue’s writing and Kinsey’s character.” Paretsky wrote, “We worked on such similar themes and subjects that Sue liked to say she and I must have been conjoined twins in an earlier life.” Shell Game is the latest novel in Paretsky’s V. I. Warshawski detective series and has the protagonist investigating a stolen-antiquities scheme.

Stanley leads Michigan State

In August Samuel L. Stanley Jr., AB’76, became president of Michigan State University. A physician and researcher specializing in infectious diseases, Stanley comes to the school from Stony Brook University, where he had been president since 2009. At Michigan State, his appointment ends a succession of acting and interim presidents in the wake of former MSU physician Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse scandal and subsequent criminal convictions. Stanley aims to restore confidence in the institution’s stature as a leading research university. His message to incoming students, he told NPR in May, is that “Michigan State University is working to develop a culture of safety that’s going to be as inclusive and diverse as possible.”

A voice for justice

Esther E. Franco-Payne, AM’99, executive director of Cabrini Green Legal Aid, received the Jane Addams Social Justice Ally Award in May from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Jane Addams College of Social Work. Franco-Payne’s organization is dedicated to serving individuals and families affected by the criminal justice system. Overseeing legal and social support services to help clients pursue full and meaningful lives after an arrest or conviction, Franco-Payne also advocates for policy reform. “My aim is to elevate the voices of those who are not always heard in an effort to ensure that decisions made about their lives and communities are inclusive, equitable, and fair,” she told the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation.

Community developer

In April Ghian Foreman, MBA’01, was named chief executive of Chicago’s Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative, a nonprofit focused on coordinating development projects in the South Side neighborhoods of Woodlawn, Washington Park, and South Shore. A native of Hyde Park and Kenwood, Foreman previously directed the Greater Southwest Development Corporation, facilitating investment in southwest Chicago communities. As Emerald South’s first chief executive, Foreman wants to ensure that economic growth from the planned Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park benefits local residents.

Two in their 20s

Crain’s Chicago Business named Rachel E. Zemke, JD’16, and Chicago Booth student Yang Zheng to this year’s “20 in Their 20s,” a list of Chicago-area “change-makers” in their professions. Zemke, an attorney at LAF (formerly the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago), represents domestic violence survivors in consumer law cases. In 151 cases since 2016, Crain’s noted on May 10, Zemke has focused on financial problems survivors experience in overcoming abuse, “protecting $300,000 for clients facing foreclosure and eliminating nearly $411,000 in consumer debt.”

Zheng has cofounded two biotechnology start-ups, the cancer treatment developer MicroQuin and Oxalo Therapeutics, a 2018 New Venture Challenge winner he launched with UChicago Medicine’s Hatim Hassan to develop a kidney stone prevention drug. The former real estate investor says he found his “niche” in science ventures at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s Collaboratorium.