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By Geoff Gehman


Bonnie Culver, director of Wilkes graduate creative writing program, prepares to recognize Anna Arnett as the University’s oldest graduate.  Photos by Linh Lam.

Kathleen “Kat” Ethington issued a gentle ultimatum in December 2013 to her then-89-year-old mother, Anna Arnett M.A. ’16.  It was high time, she told her mom, to write a book about her late Mormon parents, a pair of potato-farming school principals with a pioneer zest. She needed to preserve her tales on paper for her seven children, 28 grandchildren and 49 great-grandchildren.

That day Arnett at her Mormon church in Chandler, Ariz., she learned about the Wilkes Weekender Program in creative writing at the nearby Mesa Center for Higher Education. For once, Arnett – who describes herself as a “procrastinator from the word go” — defied her tendency to dillydally, driving that same day to the center. Learning that her late husband’s military benefits would pay for the degree, she enrolled. Two years and many written pages later, she became the oldest graduate in Wilkes history, earning her master’s degree in creative writing at 92. In the process she completed a memoir of her parents’ early lives called Forever Endeavor. Continue reading

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Viva Panamá, Go Wilkes!


By Francisco Tutella MFA ’16


Celebrating Panamanian culture with Wilkes friends are, from left, Henry Barrera, Raquel Cardenas, Wilkes intensive English teacher Dee Balice, Abdel Arauz, Keisy Gonzalez, Wilkes President Patrick Leahy, Panama Education Minister Marcela Paredes de Vasquez, Wilkes intensive english teacher Vito Balice, Alexis Anderson and Carmon Rodriguez. Kneeling in front are, left, Liriola Smith and Mariela Benitez.

The dance is called Congo. A woman and a man step close then twirl apart. She wears a multi-colored dress sewn in different patterns, he a colorful, tattered costume. Panamanian high school teacher Ana Aizpurua explains that his outfit, stitched from discarded strips of fabric, mocks the former Panamanian slave owners. The dance itself is a continual exchange of seduction and rejection accompanied by clapping and the occasional cheer.

Spectators watching the dance in the Henry Student Center cannot resist Congo’s allure. The dancers are joined by Wilkes President Patrick F. Leahy, Panamanian Minister of Education Marcela Paredes de Vásquez, and Laura Flores, permanent representative of Panamá to the United Nations. University faculty, staff and administrators join the Panamanian teachers to form a giant conga line, kicking their feet and waving their arms as they circle the floor.

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A Passion For Place


By Kelly Clisham MFA ’16


Photographer Sandy Long explores the banks of the Delaware River in Lackawaxen, PA. ©2015 Dan Z. Johnson

Browsing the work of photographer Sandy Long ’86 is like taking a nature walk with the best possible tour guide, one who not only knows the area, but has a deep knowledge built on love. When Long visits a location, she doesn’t merely take pictures. Instead, she engages the area in conversation, using camera and pen, to learn about what she calls the particularities of place. Someone viewing her work is just as likely to see the wonder of mushrooms growing on a mossy log as the majesty of a vast landscape.

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Control-Room Quarterback

Brian Nalesnik ’90 Directs “Face the Nation” with efficiency, savvy and humor

By Geoff Gehman


Brian Nalesnik with a member of his crew before the airing of “Face the Nation,” the weekly public affairs show he directs. PHOTOS BY STEVE BARRETT

Brian Nalesnik ’90 was a Little Leaguer when he earned the big-league nickname “Nails,” a simplification of his last name and a description of his hammer-tough character. Steely nerves have served him well during a 20-year career as a director of live television shows about sports, finances and politics. His latest job is perfect for a control-room quarterback who loves hard news.

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Memorable Moments

Athletics Hall of Fame Inductees Recall Their Favorite Memories

The last time an athlete walks off Wilkes’ athletic fields or exits the gym, he or she takes a host of memories and lessons. It’s true for the six alumni inducted this year into the Athletics Hall of Fame. Honored during a January ceremony following a Freedom Conference basketball double header, the 23rd class of inductees represents six sports.

Here they share memories and talk about the lessons they have carried forward into their lives after Wilkes.

Brian Gryboski ’99 — Men’s Basketball


Brian Gryboski ’99 MEN’S BASKETBALL

Where he is now: Gryboski is a territory manager for Boston Scientific Neuromodulation, a medical device company.

Colonels sports career: Gryboski was an integral part of three Middle Atlantic Conference Championships and four straight NCAA tournament teams, including a Sweet 16, Elite 8 and Final 4 run. An All-ECAC selection, he stands as the all-time leader in games played with 116 and career wins. He ranked seventh in field goal percentage (50.1), sixth in free throws with 313 made and 11th in rebounds with 623. He finished his career with 1,120 points, good for 25th on the school’s all-time scoring list.

Most memorable Wilkes moment: “My most memorable moment as an athlete was during my junior year basketball season when we defeated Rowan and Hunter on consecutive days at the Marts Center to earn a spot in the Division 3 Final Four for the first time in school history.” Continue reading

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A Brief History of Marlon James


Marlon James MA ’06 and Wilkes graduate creative writing program faculty member Kaylie Jones met to discuss his success since coming to Wilkes from Jamaica. PHOTOS BY EARL AND SEDOR PHOTOGRAPHIC

Wilkes Creative Writing Professor Kaylie Jones Talks with the Man Booker Prize Winner

By Kaylie Jones

When Marlon James MA ’06’s novel A Brief History of Seven Killings was selected in October 2015 as the Man Booker Prize winner, it catapulted the Wilkes creative writing alumnus to literary stardom. As the first Jamaican to win the international prize, James now is in the company of such notable authors as Salman Rushdie, Hillary Mantel, Philip Roth and Alice Munro.

James’ prize-winning novel is an epic 686 pages with 75 characters and voices. Set in Kingston, Jamaica, where James was born, the book is a fictional history of the attempted murder of reggae artist Bob Marley in 1976.

In this conversation with novelist Kaylie Jones, the Wilkes creative writing faculty member who discovered him and brought him to study at the University, James, who teaches at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minn., discusses the biases in publishing, his writing process and handling rejection. Continue reading

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Emergency Maestra


Vilma Schifano Milmoe ’76 plays a key role in education and training for the Federal Emergency Management Administration, working at the Emergency Management Institute at the National Emergency Training Center in Emmitsburg, Md. PHOTO BY STEPHEN BARRETT

Vilma Schifano Milmoe ’76 Found Inspiration at Wilkes For Public Service Career

 by Helen Kaiser

Ask Vilma Schifano Milmoe ’76 what inspired her to seek a career in public service and emergency management and she traces it to events in June 1972.

It was the summer before she was to join her two older sisters, Josephine Schifano Finlayson ’73 and Ann Schifano Nista ’74, at Wilkes College. A native of nearby Pittston, she was excited to be an incoming freshman majoring in political science.

The forces of nature intruded, in the form of Tropical Storm Agnes, giving the young woman a real-world education about disaster management and recovery before she even entered a classroom. Described then as the nation’s worst natural disaster, more than a hundred people were killed and at least 387,000 people were evacuated. Wilkes-Barre was the hardest-hit community in Pennsylvania.

“It was traumatic,” Milmoe recalls. “My father’s restaurant was destroyed by water which had risen eight feet over the roof.” Continue reading

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Environmental Protector

Greg Turner ’94 Champions Bats and Other Endangered Species

By Krista Weidner


Turner shows off his favorite bat species-the Virginia big-eared bat-in the Hellhole Cave in West Virginia. The cave houses 50 percent of the known species population. PHOTO BY: CARL BUTCHKOSKI, PENNSYLVANIA GAME COMMISSION

Greg Turner ’94, a wildlife biologist for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, isn’t easy to track down. If he’s not monitoring the state’s population of rare small mammals such as water shrews or spotted skunks, he might be rappelling down a cliff to band peregrine falcons or into a cave to count and identify hibernating bats.

As leader of the endangered nongame mammal section of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Bureau of Wildlife Management, Turner’s primary focus is to survey, monitor, and manage Pennsylvania’s protected mammals. “That includes everything you don’t trap and shoot—chipmunks, squirrels, wood rats, shrews, bats,” he says. “Yeah, I’m the bats and rats guy. It’s a good place to be: Of the world’s 5,000-some species, a third are rodents and a quarter are bats. That’s where all the diversity is. Only so many people can specialize in lions and tigers.”

Within the past several years, Turner, who lives in State College, Pa., has come to be known as one of the nation’s foremost authorities on white-nose syndrome—a fungal disease that has destroyed large segments of the bat population in the Northeast and has spread to the central United States. In Pennsylvania, the bat population has suffered a 99 percent decline, with the once-common little brown bat declining 99.9 percent. Continue reading