October 10, 2001: Class Notes
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McPhillips helped found an Episcopal Church in Montgomery, Alabama.
Julian L. McPhillips, Jr. 68,
a trial attorney in Montgomery, Alabama, is used to taking on big challenges.
Backed by his 10-lawyer firm, he twice managed to overturn laws used to
harass poor residents in Montgomery. He has won race-, sex-, and age-discrimination
cases against dozens of employers. He once halted a governors taxpayer-funded
flights to for-profit preaching gigs. (The Alabama governor was also a
preacher.) Hes helped residents keep nuclear plants and hazardous-waste
dumps out of their neighborhood. And hes won acquittals in each
of the five death-penalty cases hes taken on.
But call McPhillips a crusader
for the underprivileged and he momentarily backs off. That word
conjures up different images, says McPhillips, who majored in history
at Princeton. Some people assume that it means tilting at
windmills. Only one percent of my cases make the news. The others
help make the firm money. Even so, most of those cases tend to be
populist in nature.
meaning and purpose comes from helping other people, says McPhillips,
profiled by Carroll Dale Short last year in The Peoples Lawyer:
The Colorful Life and Times of Julian L. McPhillips, Jr. (NewSouth Books).
Along with his wife, Leslie, McPhillips is among the founders of Christ
the Redeemer Episcopal Church in Montgomery and is raising two daughters
and one son. According to the book, McPhillips and his wife have been
involved in spiritual healing laying hands on individuals to help
McPhillipss next big mission is going after a seat in the U.S. Senate, running as a Democrat. It wont be easy. Alabama is often unfriendly territory for Democrats, and McPhillips faces a tough primary battle leading up to next Junes vote before he even gets a shot at Jeff Sessions, the incumbent Republican senator. Hes shifting his focus to the political arena, he says, because he wants to go from the Peoples Lawyer to being the Peoples Senator, responding to the needs of everyday Americans.
By Louis Jacobson 92
Shens film A Neon Life documents the work of artists who create neon signs.
One evening last June, just
hours before she was scheduled to leave for a shoot in Cambodia, independent
documentary filmmaker Joanne Shen 94 received word that the driver
shed hired to escort her crew and their 300 pounds of equipment
through the streets of Phnom Penh had backed out. For a film producer,
this is the equivalent of a football coach having a key player sprain
his ankle the night before a playoff game. These are not the moments Shen
While shooting another film,
her award-winning A Neon Life, about artists who make neon signs, she
strapped on a harness and hung from the side of a skyscraper, camera in
hand, to capture an installation in progress on a building in Oakland,
California. Now, thats her kind of adrenaline rush.
There are times when
Im shooting when I literally feel like Im eating life, its
that exciting, says Shen, who lives in San Francisco.
Shen got her start in filmmaking in Hong Kong, where, in 1997, she was freelancing for a weekly newspaper and looking for a change of pace.
Thats when she caught
wind of an 80-year-old graffiti artist who uses calligraphy ink and paintbrushes
to make his mark. Shen joined forces with a local television producer
to direct King of Kowloon, a 30-minute documentary that went on to tour
the U.S. festival circuit.
Working on King of Kowloon,
says Shen, taught her an important lesson: In documentary filmmaking,
finding an intriguing subject is paramount. No matter how compelling the
story, the person on screen makes it come alive for an audience.
What does she look for in a
subject? Im attracted to visionaries, Shen says: People
like Ted Hayes, an activist for the homeless in Compton, California, who
started a cricket team for inner-city kids. Hayes and his team are the
subjects of Cricket Outta Compton, a movie Shen directed while attending
Stanford Universitys documentary film program from 1997 to 1999.
The film landed her a semifinalist spot in the Student Academy Awards,
and won first place in the Black Maria Film Festival, which tours the
nation. (For more on Shens films, go to www.joanneshen.com.)
Thinking back to Princeton,
Shen, an English major, credits her undergraduate education with laying
the theoretical groundwork for her career. John McPhee 53, whose
nonfiction writing class taught her to be meticulous with details, was
a key influence. Today, Shen is still focused on the details, but the
payoff comes in celluloid.
By Tamar Laddy 94