November 22, 2000

Class Notes








1991-2000 & Graduate School

Class Notes Features:

The wealthy need not apply: Larry Shinn *72 leads Berea College, where (only) poor students earn quality education

Part performer, part teacher: Rabbi Josh Zweiback '91 challenges his flock to develop a grown-up understanding of Jewish texts

A sisterhood for black teenagers: Angela Coleman '92 hopes to take her nonprofit national

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The wealthy need not apply
Larry Shinn *72 leads Berea College, where (only) poor students earn quality education

When the trustees of Berea College went looking for a president in 1994, it was as if the ghost of the college's founder led them to Larry D. Shinn *72's door. Founded in 1865 by a slaveholder's son, Berea was the first interracial, coeducational school in the South. Today, the liberal arts college in Berea, Kentucky, remains true to its founder's vision of inclusiveness with one exception - the wealthy need not apply.

"We're serving the poorest rural region in America, educating diverse students who otherwise couldn't afford an education the quality of Berea's," says Shinn, who earned his doctorate in religion. Eighty percent of those enrolled hail from southern Appalachia, with an average family income of less than $23,000 a year. Berea doesn't accept students from families making more than $44,000 a year. Students receive full scholarships and agree to work about 15 hours per week on campus or in the local community. With this novel mission in mind, you can see why this former vice president of academic affairs at Bucknell left his post for Berea.

A self-described "Christian open to all people and all faiths," Shinn embraced an inclusive worldview while teaching in Quaker mission schools with his wife, Nancy, in Jordan in the mid-1960s. As a Christian living among Muslims, he came to believe that "you don't have to give up your faith to build bridges to other faiths."

That realization led the father of two to study Islam and Hinduism as a Princeton fellow and to teach about India's religions, among other topics, for 14 years at Oberlin. When he moved on to Bucknell as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the egalitarian United Methodist minister more than doubled the number of people of color on the university's faculty.

Logically, his next step would be to a school whose motto is "God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth." Despite fundraising trips 110 days a year and a smaller salary than he could be earning elsewhere, Shinn says, "Berea is a good match for Nancy and me; it speaks to our passion for making a positive difference in the world."

By Regina Diverio

Regina Diverio is the former editor of Drew Magazine.

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Part performer, part teacher
Rabbi Josh Zweiback '91 challenges his flock to develop a grown-up understanding of Jewish texts

Josh D. Zweiback '91 is no run-of-the-mill rabbi. When he teaches or leads services at Congregation Beth Am in Palo Alto, California, he is likely to pull out his guitar or break into an ad-lib comedy routine. It's an unusual way of combining his love of performing, Triangle Club experience, and passion for Judaism.

His rabbinical practice is unusual in another sense: He is the first full-time adult-learning teacher ever in the Reform Judaism movement - and only the second in American Jewry (the first was Conservative). Most Jews complete their religious education at age 13, for their Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Zweiback is something of a pioneer - teaching the faithful at a more mature, perhaps more thoughtful, age.

A religion major at Princeton, he earned a rabbinical degree and a master's in Jewish education from the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, studying in New York, Los Angeles, and Jerusalem. He was ordained in 1998.

Rabbi Yosh, as his congregation calls him, doesn't focus only on adults; he has an uncommon way of teaching kids, too - as a Jewish rock star who, with a partner, has cut several CDs and performs in concerts to screaming teens from Jewish youth groups across the country.

He brings that same excitement into the classroom. The traditional adult courses he teaches at his congregation examine the Talmud and Old Testament. In another course, parents learn from an adult perspective what their children are studying in Sunday school. And one of his favorite courses "examines contemporary Jewish thought in conjunction with ancient texts" - making Judaism more relevant to people's own, modern lives.

"What I do addresses the growing interest in lifelong learning and the criticisms aimed at 'pediatric Judaism,' i.e., Bar Mitzvah and you're out," he says. "It's important to have an adult relationship with Jewish texts."

By Karen Regelman '89

Karen Regelman is a freelance writer and editor based in San Francisco.


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A sisterhood for black teenagers
Angela Coleman '92 hopes to take her nonprofit national

It's no secret that disproportionate numbers of African-American women are adversely affected by problems including dropping out of school, poverty, teen pregnancy, depression, and single parenting. So it's no surprise that when Angela D. Coleman '92 began offering a program designed to offset these problems, it met with an overwhelmingly positive response.

Sisterhood Agenda, Inc., established in 1994, is a nonprofit organization in Durham, North Carolina, dedicated to empowerment through the principles of sisterhood, self-knowledge, self-development, and self-esteem.

One of the organization's core activities is "A Journey Toward Womanhood," a 13-week curriculum created by Coleman for at-risk girls ages 12 to 17. The girls meet for four hours each week in small groups led by Sisterhood Agenda staff. Other Sisterhood Agenda activities include a teen club, a summer camp, and a forum for women.

Sisterhood Agenda is a direct outgrowth of Coleman's academic and personal experiences, including the culture shock she felt at Princeton in terms of race and class issues. Princeton is "a place where females and ethnic minority students are still kind of separate," she explains. "It was a shock getting acclimated to a new culture."

Academics, however, put things in context. "It wasn't until I went to college that I realized I had missed a lot of knowledge about myself and my culture," she says. A psychology major with a certificate in African-American studies, Coleman focused on issues related to African-American identity, self-definition, and self-esteem in her independent work - the same principles that drive Sisterhood Agenda.

Coleman is opening a satellite office in New Jersey, with future plans for national expansion. When she's not applying for grants or training staff, she travels extensively for speaking engagements. She regrets that she's too busy for hands-on work with the girls, and she initially resisted expansion in favor of keeping things small and intimate. "Now I don't fight it anymore," she says. "It's good because we can serve more girls."

By Andrea Gollin '88

Andrea Gollin is a writer and editor in Miami.


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