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Alumni News

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Contributing Writer: Mike Field

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Mary Frances Repko, A&S '89
Clifton R. Wharton Jr., SAIS '48
Shelf Life
Homecoming 2001
Amy Reiter, A&S '88
Christina Mattin, A&S '75
Where There's a Will, There's Crabs
Chapter Chatter
Distinguished Alumnus Award
Heritage Award

Mary Frances Repko, A&S '89
How Clean is Clean?

Mary Frances Repko has a mathematically precise way of defining what she does for a living. "My job is helping one one-hundredth of the United States Senate to do the right things on the environment," says the 34-year-old. She's doing an excellent job, according to the League of Conservation Voters, a non-partisan environmental watchdog. Her boss, Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, has a 100 percent LCV voting record. "John Kerry and Joe Lieberman come close in their lifetime records," Repko says proudly, "but Senator Feingold's record is without parallel."

Repko: "the top environmental aide in the Congress" As legislative assistant to Feingold, Repko advises the senator and his colleagues on issues ranging from the proposed oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the fate of the Rio Grande River's silvery minnow. After seven years in a job with a notoriously high burn-out rate--many Senate staffers last only two or three years before throwing in the towel--Repko has achieved a reputation as one of the Hill's most knowledgeable insiders in the realm of the environment and energy policy. She is a voracious reader and the kind of person who can answer questions about, say, Minnesotan geography, in the most explicit terms: the soil deposits in the eastern third, boundary water acreage, indigenous animals and their habitats.

Her talents are well-matched to the needs of her boss, who holds the Senate seat formerly occupied by Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day. A Midwestern progressive, probably best known for the campaign finance reform legislation he co-sponsored with Republican Senator John McCain, Feingold is a leading advocate for tougher environmental regulations, and he depends on Repko for the scientific facts and policy analysis that can help win undecided votes on the Senate floor.

"Mary Frances is simply one of the most knowledgeable persons in general, and especially in environmental issues," says the senator. "She is widely regarded as the top environmental aide in the Congress."

No small praise for a woman who admits: "People who knew me at Hopkins would never describe me as outdoorsy." Repko's particular specialty, and what makes her so invaluable as a Congressional aide, Feingold says, is her ability to make sense of the numbers. "I technically translate," is how she describes it. "My responsibility is to know if the five-parts-per-billion of PCBs in the fish in the Fox River is a good or bad thing. That's my job, to give numbers context. It's sort of like, 'How clean is clean, Senator?'"

But it's not all about numbers. In the past several years, often at Repko's recommendation, the senator has made a point of visiting many of the places he'll vote about. Says Repko, "Now the Senator understands that wilderness exists in the tiny glaciated lakes of Minnesota, in the vastness of southern Utah, in the Sonoran desert of southern Arizona, in the mountains of Colorado."

While thousands of hours of research and work often go into a piece of legislation, there are times when Repko and the rest of the senator's staff must rush to keep up with the unpredictable pace of the Senate floor. "You might have 15 minutes," she says, "and there are certain things he always wants to know before he votes: How much will it cost? Are we talking about something that exists, or a new program? Have constituents called us on the matter? Then he'll say, 'What do you think and why?'"

The recent shift in the Senate to Democratic control means that environmental protection issues have gained new momentum. "What's changed is how we think about some of the bills the senator has introduced," says Repko. "We know they'll get a hearing now. That changes our broader strategic thinking." She was instrumental in helping her boss create a bipartisan Wilderness Caucus aimed at developing consensus in the Senate over the thorny issue of federal wilderness designation for public lands. On the horizon is a proposal to introduce mandatory civilian review of proposed Army Corps of Engineers projects.

"In a way it's like being a physician--I'm a Senate staffer all the time," says Repko of her 60-plus hour work weeks. "But I'm still in the 'Pinch me!' stage of working here. I walk on to the Senate floor with the senator and right next to me may be John McCain or Ted Kennedy. It's incredible."

"A lot of other staffers turn to Mary Frances for her grasp of the issues," says Senator Feingold. "She's a star." --Mike Field

Clifton R. Wharton Jr., SAIS '48
A Lifetime of Firsts

Occasionally, a life will reflect and influence contemporary events so completely that it becomes nearly impossible to separate societal achievements from individual actions. Each one becomes woven within the other, helping to create the tapestry of the times.

Such has been the life of Clifton Wharton, whose career in higher education and business, foreign economic development, and philanthropy has included so many firsts--often without much fanfare--that he is sometimes called "the quiet pioneer." As he eases into retirement now, at age 75, Wharton is currently working on his autobiography, to be published by Harcourt later this year.

Wharton has been called "the quiet pioneer." Born in 1926, he is the son of the first African American named a career ambassador in the U.S. Foreign Service. Wharton entered Harvard at age 16. Four years later he graduated cum laude with a degree in history and became the first African American admitted to Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies. Wharton went to SAIS thinking to emulate his father's Foreign Service career. Instead, SAIS professors like Latin American Studies specialist Simon Hansen turned his talents to the study of a new interest: economics. In 1958 he would become the first African American to earn a PhD in economics from the University of Chicago.

In the half century that followed Wharton's graduation from SAIS, he became the first African American in many important positions. He was the first to lead a major, predominantly white university when he served as president of Michigan State University from 1970 to 1978; the first appointed chancellor of an entire system when he headed the State University of New York System (the nation's largest) from 1978 to 1987; the first to lead a major foundation, as chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation beginning in 1982; and the first to be chairman and CEO of a Fortune 500 company, when he performed those duties at TIAA-CREF from 1987 to 1993. He went on to serve as President Bill Clinton's deputy secretary of state. These days Wharton is devoting considerable energy to his autobiography. "I've been working on the book for quite some time," he says. "At issue is factual memory; you find that your memory and everyone else's don't always agree." Luckily, Wharton has a 650-cubic-foot archive of the documents and memorabilia of his career on which to draw--and a lifetime of stories that illustrate the tremendous changes in American society during the past half century.

Like the time when he was a SAIS student and a friend from his Harvard days asked to meet in the lobby of Washington's Willard Hotel. In 1948 the nation's capital was still a Jim Crow segregated city, a fact in stark contrast to Wharton's international upbringing and Harvard education. He strolled into the Willard and took a seat in the lobby. His friend came in just in time to find Wharton being unceremoniously escorted out.

"Years later, the Willard closed, and wanted to refurbish itself and reopen," says Wharton with a chuckle. "So they came to TIAA-CREF for a loan. We approved it." --MF

Shelf Life

Tattoo Girl by Brooke Stevens, A&S '91, St. Martin's Griffin (2001)
Readers burdened by nightmares can find kinship in Stevens' second novel; those not so afflicted can taste what they've been missing: Two freakish yet appealing women team up to overcome a noxious pair of circus-tent terrorists. But do they succeed?
--Lew Diuguid, SAIS '63

The House of Gucci< by Sara Gay Forden, SAIS '88, William Morrow (2000)
For all the world's fascination with high fashion from Italy, it's the passions run amok among the country's dysfunctional families that ultimately catch the crowds. Gucci answers both appetites. Forden, in so thoroughly chronicling the lurid tale, raises a paradox: to follow the family on each turn of its journey to hell in a handbag is to learn, ultimately, that we really don't need to know. --LD

Dinosaur Field Guide, by Thomas R. Holtz Jr., A&S '87, and Michael Brett-Surman, Random House (2001)
Here's an attractive, easy-to-use guide packed with profiles of 100 prehistoric creatures, for kids 8 and up.

Homecoming 2001

No class seemed tighter than the one from '56--most in attendance proudly sported Hopkins tattoos. "We got really carried away last night," explained ringleader Joel Fine (A&S), "and wound up at this tattoo parlor." Really? Fine laughed. "No, I'm just kidding. They're temporary!"

This reunion was the first that alumni could register for online. And physicist Louis Witten, Engr '41, was the very first to log on and register for the big event. "Everybody was expecting someone from the class of '97 or '98," said Witten. Said his wife, Frances, "I told my husband that physicists are really clever people."

"That's me!" Elizabeth Stehly Cantrell, Nurs '51, tells everyone at the Nursing reunion lunch table, as she points to a photo in Johns Hopkins: Knowledge for the World, the book that commemorates the University's 125th anniversary. "I had forgotten about this picture. I was very, very fond of Anna Wolf [School of Nursing Director, 1940-55], so this picture is really special."


"Have you ever gone home to an old house?" asks Lisa Kuhar, sitting near Shriver Hall with fellow A&S '76 friends ( l to r): Virginia Donovan, (also Med '81), Kuhar, Carol Smith, and April Moreno. "You have a memory of what it was like. To me, my memory of Hopkins is the Lower Quad, the six buildings that frame it, and the magnolias in bloom." A quarter century after she and her buddies graduated, she says, "the two quads have maintained that same ambience."

A children's program debuted this year at the School of Medicine reunion, with face painters, cotton candy, and balloon artists on hand to make the event more festive for all. "It's a lot of fun," said Tony Ho, Med '91, as he poses with his daughter, in their "Bear" balloon hats. Ho adds, "I hope they become the latest Baltimore fashion!" (Though he kept the hat on all afternoon, the trend didn't catch on.)

"I spent four years going to games like this," says Mark Salevitz A&S '86, as his family cheers for the home team. (The Blue Jays wound up beating Navy, 13-11, Hopkins' 27th consecutive win against the Annapolis team.) "It's nice to come back and relive it without the pressure of studying and passing!" His 10-year-old son was so impressed by the day's events he plans to apply to Hopkins for admission.

Amy Reiter, A&S '88
Getting Personal with the Web's Gossip Diva

"Delicious" is how Amy Reiter describes a job that allows her to work from home...and chat with starlets, schmooze at celebrity parties, attend high-profile trials, and be read by millions of Web-users each week. She is, suddenly, one of America's most popular gossip columnists.

As a senior writer at the online magazine Salon, Reiter produces a five-days-per-week column called Nothing Personal, in which she merrily dishes the dirt on the quality of Brad Pitt's kisses (low, due to chapped lips), the contents of Madonna's letter to a 12-year-old Gwyneth Paltrow ("Don't smoke, I don't smoke"), and the loves, divorces, marriages, and ill-advised utterances of the rich and infamous.

Reiter merrily dishing the dirt, as seen at Reiter also writes book reviews, profiles, and opinion pieces for Salon and has written for a variety of other online sites, including She spent many years, in fact, as a theater critic and can switch, it seems with ease, from lightheartedly cataloging gossip tidbits (in a voice her editor calls "offhand, witty, and naughty") to composing rich, intelligent lines of commentary on theater, literature, or politics.

When Reiter first started publishing her column in the People section of Salon in 1999, the section recorded 360,000 hits per month. Today it records over 3 million hits per month and Reiter's editor doesn't hesitate to give her significant credit for this increased popularity.

Reiter can switch with ease from lightheartedly cataloging gossip tidbits to composing rich, intelligent lines of commentary. TIME magazine joined The New York Times and a long list of other publications when it praised Salon, noting, "While many have tried, few have succeeded in building a truly compelling magazine on the Web. Salon has managed to move to the top of the Web's short must-read list."

To find the juicy material for Nothing Personal, Reiter scans dozens of print and web publications daily, listens to the radio, reads the wires, attends celebrity parties, and talks on the phone to famous people and their publicists.

One of her favorites is Shirley MacLaine, whom she "got an amazing charge out of interviewing." Says Reiter of the New Age icon: "She gets it and she's in on the joke. The fact that people don't take her seriously is a big hoo-haa to her."

The path Reiter took to her current glamorous job started at Hopkins, where one of her favorite classes was taught by eminent literary scholar Hugh Kenner. ("His class was so crowded and I was so habitually late that I had to sit on the floor.") For the News-Letter, she critiqued plays at Center Stage and the Mechanic Theater--an experience that steered her toward graduate school at Columbia, where she earned an MFA in dramaturgy and theater criticism. "It was great fun--all the theater you can eat. A smorgasbord," she says. After Columbia, she spent five years living in New York writing about theater, opera, and dance for magazines like Entertainment Design, American Theatre, Back Stage, and Theater Week.

Sometimes, Reiter says, "I wrote about the sets, costumes, and lighting, and it was fascinating because that was what I had been taught not to pay any attention to in grad school. But the set really tells the story. Set designers are really poets, using images instead of words."

In 1995, when she moved from New York to Columbus, Ohio, her friends thought she had gone mad. But it was there, in an office "plunked down in the middle of farmland," that she joined the Internet revolution as an online editor for CompuServe's short-lived, family-oriented online service, WOW! "It was supposed to knock AOL on its booty, but as we all know, that never happened," Reiter says. Nevertheless, her time with the company and at subsequent positions, including as VP of content at, gave Reiter valuable experience in the business.

The exposure Reiter gets on the Web these days also serves to keep her connected to old friends from Johns Hopkins. "I got this e-mail from Professor Kenner, pointing out a mistake I had made in my column with a Shakespearean allusion. I thought, God, what is this great scholar doing reading my column! I wrote him back and told him that I had been in his class at Hopkins but that I didn't in any way hold him responsible for my mistake."

Professor Kenner--author of more than 30 books and considered the foremost scholar on the Modernists--admits to being a fan: "I read Amy's column because it's witty, in its way..."

When asked if she sees a book in her own future, Reiter replies, "It's certainly possible. I love a new challenge. But right now, I'm just having a whole lot of fun." --Emily Richards

Christina Mattin, A&S '75
A New Center for the Arts Energizes Campus

"I loved my time at Johns Hopkins," Christina Mattin, A&S 1975, says without a second's hesitation.

The first member of the Mattin family in several generations to turn down an invitation to enroll at Cornell, the New York native was attracted to Hopkins by the prospect of small classes, close interaction with faculty, and the possibility of an internship in a Congressional office.

Christina Mattin with President Brody at April's dedication ceremony After attending an all-female prep school, the idea of being a member of the first coed class of undergraduates at Hopkins held a kind of pioneering challenge, Mattin admits. But she claims that the small pool of women students was an advantage in athletics. Although "a complete novice at lacrosse," she made the women's varsity team and also played varsity tennis.

With a major in social sciences, she landed that hoped-for Congressional internship, spending a semester in the offices of U.S. Senator James L. Buckley of New York. Academics at Hopkins more than met her expectations, as well.

But there was not a great deal of emphasis on the arts at Homewood during her student years--a situation she has helped to change dramatically through her leadership support for a new student arts center named in honor of her family. "I wanted Johns Hopkins to have an arts center," she says. "With all the other strengths at Hopkins, it seemed to me a real void on the campus."

After graduation, Mattin joined Mearl, a manufacturer of synthetic pigments used in products such as paints and cosmetics that had been founded by her grandfather, Harry E. Mattin. During two decades in sales and marketing at the company, she served as vice president and led the development of a successful new division that specialized in iridescent films.

Christina Mattin's exceptional commitment for the student arts center, initially made anonymously, was made in memory of her grandparents, Harry and Edith Mattin and Mauricio and Josefa Heusch, and her parents, Henry and Sylvia Mattin, and in honor of her children, Edward and Sandra Fischetti. Mattin also has endowed the Sylvia Mattin Heusch Scholarship Fund at the Krieger School in memory of her mother.

At the Mattin Center dedication ceremony, Trustee Chairman Michael R. Bloomberg said, "Christina Mattin has set an impressive example for other alumni of her generation with her generosity. Recognizing that most institutions the caliber of Hopkins have arts activities facilities for their students, she saw the need and she stepped up and made it happen."

University President William R. Brody commended Mattin's vision, adding, "This is a transforming gift. It will make an enormous difference in student lives."

In her own remarks at the dedication, Mattin told the more than 100 students assembled on the upper balconies, "Enjoy yourselves, express your creativity, plan great things, and most of all, have fun while you're at Hopkins!"

Where There's a Will, There's Crabs

From Atlanta to Los Angeles, Johns Hopkins alumni chapters are crazy for Maryland hard crabs. Each summer, chapters across the U.S. invite local alumni to roll up their sleeves, grab a mallet, and get down and dirty in Old Bay and crab claws.

With the help of the Alumni Relations Office and Federal Express, bushels of authentic Maryland blue crabs get shipped from a Baltimore restaurant straight to the feast's location. Sounds simple, but there's plenty of room for hitches.

One year, the crabs never made it to a feast in San Francisco. "The Fed-Ex employee smelled something 'rancid' and destroyed all the crabs," says the alumni office's India Lowres.

And things can go wrong even after the crabs arrive. Fran Levy, SPSBE '74, who started the alumni crab feasts in St. Louis 16 years ago, recalls the first one hosted at a local restaurant. "Saturday morning, after the crabs arrived, the chef came to me and said, 'The crabs were filthy, so I washed them for you.'" Says Levy, "I just about died." Even worse, the restaurant had set the tables with white linen tablecloths. "I told them, 'You gotta' put the newspapers down.'" The next year, and every year after, the chastened restaurant threw a crab feast in true Baltimore style.

Alumni hosts say all the trouble is worth it. "When I first tasted steamed crabs, they were so delicious," says Levy, who now calls herself a "crab snob." In fact, she's even made a provision in her will for a memorial crab feast: "Raise a claw--remember me!" --Emily Carlson

Chapter Chatter
Focus: San Diego Chapter

Alumni in the San Diego area certainly get their fill of sea life. At a recent lunch and tour of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 43 Hopkins alumni and guests enjoyed presentations from two Scripps experts, Wolf Berger and Ralph Keeling, on the latest science about global warming and its effect on the ocean and climate. Afterward, the group sat down to a Mediterranean buffet lunch served on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Later that day, alumni were treated to an insider's look at Scripps's Birch Aquarium, thanks to chapter member Kirk Gardner, A&S '65, a Scripps fundraiser. The aquarium features among its many conservation efforts and exhibits the world's most successful sea horse and jellyfish propagation programs. It also offers a host of events and classes to help the public better appreciate and understand animals of the ocean.

Oceanside at Scripps: Marie-Claire Brien, SAIS '82, with guest Stephen Fox All who attended the Scripps event deemed it informative and entertaining (reported one alum, "They really rolled out the red carpet for us!").

San Diego, it seems, is becoming a fantastic place to stay in touch with fellow alumni. "We've been having more events than usual," reports longtime chapter president Jim Zevely, A&S '66. "And we're going to begin inviting alumni from Orange County, which doesn't have its own chapter." --ER

Quick Facts about the Sand Diego Chapter

Of the 609 Johns Hopkins alumni in San Diego, there are...

3 Naval officers
30 physicians
1 psychiatrist
2 company presidents
1 violin teacher
1 trombone professor
1 college vice president
? an undetermined number of professional surfers

Distinguished Alumnus Award

Recognizes personal, professional, or humanitarian achievement

Richard Axel, Med '71, a world-renowned neuroscientist and professor at Columbia, is an expert on genes affecting the human sense of smell, and was one of the first scientists to discover the links between viruses and certain forms of cancer.

David C. Cordish, A&S '60, '69 (MLA), founder of the Cordish development company, has been honored for his contributions to urban landscape. He has chaired the Baltimore Housing Authority and been a director of a citizens planning group and of HUD.

Heritage Award

Recognizes outstanding service to the Johns Hopkins University

Lawrence R. Goldfarb, a longtime friend of Hopkins athletics, received his award in March, shortly before his death. An all-around athlete and a Homewood neighbor, he inspired many students with his advocacy and generous support for varsity and recreational athletics.

Hilda Perl Goodwin, Peab '54, '67 (MM) , a member of the Peabody Advisory Council, has long served the Institute as a dedicated advocate and generous donor. With her contagious enthusiasm, she has helped recruit many important new donors to Peabody.

Shale Stiller, A&S '77 (MLA), has devoted exceptional amounts of time, resources, and talents to Hopkins, serving as trustee of both the University and Medicine and as chair of the advisory councils for Public Health and the MSE Library.

Charles Roger Westgate, highly respected Engineering faculty member from 1966 to 2001, enriched the University by his dedicated service as associate dean for academic affairs, chairman of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and dean of part-time programs at the Whiting School.

Paul Wolfowitz, dean of the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies from 1994 to 2001, significantly strengthened academic programs and repositioned SAIS from a Cold War orientation to one focusing on the impact and challenges of 21st-century globalization.

Alumni awards are presented to alumni and friends at events throughout the year. They are voted on by the Awards Committee twice a year. Deadlines for nominations are July 1 and December 1.

Return to September 2001 Table of Contents

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