Johns Hopkins Magazine -- April 1998
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APRIL 1998




A P R I L    1 9 9 8

Alumni News
Editor: Billie Walker

Blue Jays on the 'Net
90th Birthday Tribute
Reasons to Give are Doubled
Spring Schedule of Alumni Events
Peabody in N.Y.
Libraries Rededicated
Monroe Sarezky, A&S '38
Alumni Director Named To President's Office
Loretta Lee Ver Valen, Peab '26, '27

Blue Jays on the 'Net

Hopkins sports fans can find complete game results, schedules, and other information about their favorite Blue Jays teams on the athletics pages of JHUniverse,

Members of Blue Jays Unlimited are eligible for regular e-mail updates. For further information, contact Dan Flynn at 410-516-8722 or

90th Birthday Tribute

Trustee emeritus and presidential counselor Alonzo G. Decker Jr. (at center, with his wife, Virginia) listens as President William R. Brody plays `Happy Birthday' to mark Mr. Decker's 90th birthday. Several hundred trustees, alumni, and other friends joined in the celebration, held at Homewood in February.

Reasons to Give are Doubled

Some alumni give to the Johns Hopkins Annual Fund out of gratitude for their education or for the scholarship that helped make it possible. Some give to honor or memorialize a classmate, family member, or favorite professor. This year, many are giving to double the impact of their money.

The University trustees have pledged to match the first $1 million in new gifts (up to $10,000 each) by alumni who did not participate last fiscal year or the increased portion of gifts by alumni who did participate.

After only the first half of the fiscal year, more than 10,000 alumni had made annual gifts for 1997-98, representing a 10% increase over the same period last year. Of these, more than 680 were first-time donors and more than 1,850 were "lapsed" donors, all of whom had their gifts matched dollar-for-dollar by the trustees.

As Hopkins gears up for its spring phonathon cycle, 40,000 more alumni will be contacted and asked to participate. These individuals will play an enormous role in helping to reach the 21% participation goal.

To learn how your gift can be matched by the Trustee Challenge, phone the Annual Giving Office at 410-516-3400 or 800-548-5422.

Spring Schedule of Alumni Events

2 Chicago Chapter--Reception with President William R. Brody
2 Baltimore Chapter--Alumni/student reception
4 Baltimore Chapter--An evening with jazz singer Ethel Ennis
5 New York Chapter--Brunch and walking tour of Harlem
17-18 Alumni Council Executive Committee meeting
22 North Carolina Chapter--Dinner with Robert Lindgren, vice president for development and alumni relations
23 Baltimore Chapter--Tour of Maritime Institute of Technology
24-26 Homewood Homecoming II--Classes '20s through '60s
2 New York City--Peabody Concert at Lincoln Center, with reception; New York Alumni Chapter presentation of Bronk Award
2 Washington, D.C., Chapter--Greater D.C. Cares Serv-a-thon
9 Philadelphia Chapter--Dad Vail Regatta reception
12-21 Alumni College, Dordogne, France
15-17 Bologna Center Alumni Reunion
2 New York Chapter--Arts and entertainment networking evening
TBA Washington, D.C., Chapter--Evening at the Turkish Embassy
12-13 School of Nursing Homecoming
15-23 Alumni College in Voss, Norway
21 Baltimore/D.C. Chapters--Orioles game and bullpen party
25 New York Chapter--Orioles vs. Mets at Shea Stadium

For further information, click on, or phone 410-516-0363 or 800-548-5481.

Peabody in N.Y.

The Peabody Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Music Director Hajime Teri Murai, will make its New York debut at 8 p.m. on May 2 at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center. The concert will open with the world premiere of a work by faculty member Chen Yi, a Guggenheim Award winner, and will also feature faculty member Gary Louie (pictured) in a saxophone concerto. A reception for Hopkins affiliates will follow. Tickets including orchestra seat and reception are $40 per person. Call the Alumni Relations Office, 410-516-0363 or 800-548-5481.

Libraries Rededicated

A University convocation on February 8 paid tribute to trustee R. Champlin Sheridan and his wife, Debbie, for their extraordinary support of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library, including a current commitment of $20 million. During the event, which marked the completion of MSEL's 18-month renovation, the University rededicated the library's collections in their honor. The Sheridan Libraries encompass the Eisenhower Library, Hutzler Reading Room, John Work Garrett Library, and George Peabody Library. Flanking the Sheridans are President William R. Brody at left and trustee chair Michael R. Bloomberg.

Monroe Sarezky, A&S '38
Returning to Campus, Alum Finds JHU Still `Amazing'

It was a chance meeting in the winter of 1935 that changed the course of Monroe Sarezky's life. He was 16 years old, just graduated from high school, and certain he wanted to go on to college but unsure of his options. "I figured I'd go to the University of Pennsylvania the next fall," he recalls, "because that's where my older brother was a student."

Searching for a job to occupy the months before the start of fall semester, Monroe met a Johns Hopkins alumnus who told him that new students were accepted in January at the School of Arts and Sciences. "When I said I was interested, he picked up the phone, called Dean Edward W. Berry, and before I knew it, I was enrolled."

From his first day on campus, Monroe Sarezky knew Hopkins was the right place for him. "I was probably too young to appreciate it fully, but looking back, my Johns Hopkins experience was one of the great highlights of my life," Mr. Sarezky says with the broad smile that accompanies all conversation about his alma mater. It's quite an accolade from a man whose life has included more than a few highlights: a 57-year marriage and three flourishing offspring, a thriving business which he still heads, service in the U.S. Navy during WWII, and scores of trips to the farthest reaches of the world--most recently a voyage on a nuclear-powered ice breaker to the North Pole.

Indeed, Monroe Sarezky is a walking advertisement for the value of a liberal arts education, which he strongly believes prepares a person to make the most of whatever life offers. "I have always thought," he observes, "that the best education is well rounded--with exposure to the arts, science, literature, mathematics, history, philosophy. And the best way to get such an education is to be part of a college of arts and sciences."

During his three and a half years as a Hopkins undergraduate, Monroe Sarezky immersed himself in his liberal arts courses, played soccer "well enough to eventually earn a letter," made lasting friendships, and met the woman he would marry. He graduated in 1938 and soon after wed Roslyn Nevas--a Goucher student he had met on a blind date his junior year. "Neither one of us was very impressed with the other at first," he confides. But he asked her out again, this time to a dance, and things clicked. "She's a very good dancer," he says, grinning.

The couple moved to Monroe's native New York City, where he entered the construction business and they began a family. Both sons--Michael, A&S '63, now a physician, and Laurence, A&S '71, an attorney--attended Hopkins. Their daughter, Louise, heads a graphics business.

His career was put on hold for several years during WWII, when he served as a gunnery officer in the U.S. Navy--a tough period, he reports, but one which touched his life as profoundly as had his Hopkins experience. After the war, the Sarezkys moved to Stamford, Connecticut, where he established Monroe Construction Corporation, specializing in high-rise apartment and office buildings. "We were in the right place at the right time," he recalls, and his business prospered in the postwar building boom.

He has scaled the company back in recent years to allow more time for the travel adventures he and Roslyn enjoy, a list of destinations that includes China, Tibet, and Antarctica twice. Mrs. Sarezky opted out of the North Pole trek, which her husband admits "was pretty rugged" but featured a two-day celebration at the Pole.

Yet the recent trip Monroe Sarezky treasures most is the couple's visit to Baltimore last fall. "I went onto the campus and just beamed," he relates. During that stay, he and his wife presented Hopkins with a $1 million unrestricted gift that will strengthen the endowment of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and give the dean a significant fund to use where the need is greatest. Mr. Sarezky comments, "I felt that making this gift would give me a tremendous sense of satisfaction. And it has."

He beams in recollection of their visit. The campus had changed a great deal since they had last been at Homewood for their younger son's graduation. "But I had the same feeling I got when I was a student. We were especially struck with the sense of purpose, the seriousness, of the students we saw. It was just fantastic.

"Hopkins," he concludes, "is amazing, and we are pleased beyond words to be able to contribute to its future."

Alumni Director Named To President's Office

Jerry Schnydman, A&S '67, executive director of alumni relations since 1989, was named executive assistant to University President William R. Brody, effective February 1. In his new post, he assumes some of the duties previously fulfilled by Ross Jones, A&S '53, who is retiring at the end of June after 37 years of service to his alma mater.

Robert R. Lindgren, vice president for development and alumni relations, appointed India Lowres, A&S '76, as interim executive director of alumni relations. She has been associate director of the office since 1989.

A search for Mr. Schnydman's replacement is under way.

Loretta Lee Ver Valen, Peab '26, '27
Opera Star's `Spirit and Dash' a Boon to Baltimore

What does a 90-something retired opera star do for enjoyment?

If you are Peabody alumna Loretta Lee Ver Valen, you raft down the Snake River at age 92. The following two summers, you settle for a couple of riverboat trips down the Ohio and Mississippi, dodging floods. You organize musical programs and chair opera competitions. And you arrange bequests to benefit several Baltimore institutions, including Johns Hopkins.

Mrs. Ver Valen's $1.5 million gift to the Johns Hopkins Initiative campaign comprises $1 million in unrestricted endowment for the Peabody Institute and $250,000 each for endowed research funds at the Wilmer Eye Institute and the Oncology Center.

"I owe the Peabody something that goes far beyond monetary value," Mrs. Ver Valen said in announcing her bequest arrangements. "The school has always been very good to me. It gave me a scholarship and opportunities to perform when I was young. Now I want to give those opportunities back to other young people.

"I made the gift to the Wilmer Eye Clinic," she continued, "to honor the memory of my father, who was an eye, ear, nose, and throat doctor. I think the Hopkins Oncology Center is an important cause as well."

At 94, elegant in a blue silk suit, her white hair wavy, Mrs. Ver Valen still has that indefinable quality called stage presence. It is easy to imagine what a knockout she must have been when appearing up and down the East Coast as Nedda in Pagliacci, Pamina in The Magic Flute, or Mimi in La Boheme.

One of her early triumphs was singing in a movie theater in her hometown of New Castle, Pennsylvania. In May 1922, as a freshman at the Peabody Conservatory, Loretta Lee was chosen from among 1,500 students to sing at Peabody's annual showcase concert--an unprecedented honor for a first-year student. The following year, she was chosen to sing a lead role in her first opera, The Merry Wives of Windsor. A Baltimore Sun reviewer commented that she "displayed remarkable dramatic skill and played the part with fine spirit and dash."

A scholarship student for four years, Loretta received a teacher's certificate from Peabody in 1926 and a year later the artist's diploma in voice--a rarely bestowed award. Soon she married fellow student Alfred Ver Valen, who would embark on a successful career in real estate development. Loretta taught in the Peabody Preparatory during 1926-29 and 1940-48, with a hiatus during the '30s when son Henry and daughter Carolyn were growing up.

For the next five decades, Mrs. Ver Valen brought her "fine spirit and dash" to Baltimore civic and cultural organizations, including the Woman's Club of Roland Park, for which she still arranges musical events; the Baltimore Opera Company, which she helped to hold together through its incipiency and for which she chaired the annual vocal competition for 30 years; the Walters Art Gallery; and Grace United Methodist Church, which she joined after having sung there for many years.

In 1973, Mrs. Ver Valen received the Peabody Distinguished Alumna Award. This winter, at its 25th anniversary celebration, the Opera Guild International, of which she is a founding member, honored her with its Partners in Excellence Award.

"Loretta has enormous charm and a wonderful sense of humor," comments Baltimore Opera Director Michael Harrison. "She came to Madame Butterfly last fall dressed in a Japanese costume. We decided this was quite appropriate. If the lead had been taken ill, Loretta was ready to step on stage and take her place."

Special thanks to Anne Garside and Peabody News for the article on which this one was based.