New twists on old tales

May/June 2010

Reading time min

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, ’50, JD ’52, may have retired from the Supreme Court four years ago, but she’s still working hard. Her latest venture is a website designed to give kids a thorough grounding in civics through interactive lessons and games, including one where they can argue landmark Supreme Court cases.

Warren Leight had been writing plays for 20 years before one of them, Side Man, made it to Broadway in 1998—and it won the Tony award for best play that year. By 2002, Leight, ’77, had joined television’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent, where he rose to executive producer and head writer; in 2008, he moved to HBO as show runner for In Treatment. Now Leight is developing the upcoming FX series Lights Out, about an aging boxer.

People often eat too much for reasons that have nothing to do with food quality or their appetites. Brian Wansink, PhD ’91, has spent his career showing how such factors as container size or the particular presentation or packaging of foods can trick our brains into mindless eating. Last year, Wansink brought expertise gleaned in his Food and Brand Lab at Cornell to an unusual Minnesota experiment aimed at engaging  an entire town in healthier lifestyles and collectively adding 10,000 years to their lives. Wansink advised individuals, grocery stores and restaurants on ways to combat overeating, and by all accounts the Vitality Project succeeded.

Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree Jr., long active in civil rights issues, has been working to save a newspaper. The Bay State Banner is Boston’s only black-owned paper serving the African-American community; when plunging ad sales forced its closure last July, Ogletree, ’75, MA ’75, joined forces with Mayor Thomas Menino and banker Ronald L. Walker to mount a rescue plan. The Banner resumed publishing in August and the group is courting investors with a new business plan.

Poet Dana Gioia stepped away in 2009 from his job as head of the National Endowment for the Arts. On news of his being awarded this year’s Laetare Medal, Stanford blogger Cynthia Haven offers a mini-retrospective via links to a number of articles about Gioia, ’73, MBA ’77. The Laetare is the U.S. Catholic Church’s oldest honor, previously bestowed on John F. Kennedy, Sister Helen Préjean, Clare Boothe Luce and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, ’44, among others.

Chinese Internet pioneer Victor Koo, MBA ’94, was chief operating officer at the mainland online portal Sohu when we interviewed him in 2004.

Since then, he’s launched what is now China’s leading online video platform, Koo is one of the “Digital Giants” featured in a BBC World News series, where he talks about censorship, the difference between YouKu and YouTube, Google vs. Beijing, and problems of foreign companies operating in China.

In a world where data increases exponentially moment by moment, the ability to extract and present useful information thoroughly and accurately, yet concisely, is crucial. Information design guru Edward Tufte can do all that, with beautiful graphics to boot.

In March, President Obama appointed Tufte, ’63, MS ’64, to an independent panel that advises the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board. That’s good news for those who want better communication from Washington, writes a Newsweek blogger.

Read a November 2010 update on this story.

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