After 13 years as Wagner Magazine editor, the time has come to say farewell to you. February 14, 2020, is my last day at Wagner College.
I came to New York City in January 2007 from a small town in Tennessee, having never lived in this city or even in this region before. Wagner allowed me to find a home here, for which I will always be grateful. Now, I am starting a new adventure in my life. I have accepted the position of executive director of strategic marketing and communications at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.
I have many indelible memories of my work from these years at Wagner. In parting, I would like to share with you a few notable stories as well as experiences that have changed me forever.
A Somber Anniversary
I begin on a somber note. February 12, 2020, was the eighth anniversary of the death of Wagner nursing student R. J. Tillman. He was riding his bicycle on Howard Avenue to go home after an evening of studying in Horrmann Library, when a car struck and killed him. The driver left the scene and was never apprehended.
For me as a bicycle commuter, this horrible news was particularly chilling. R. J.’s death impelled me to action and advocacy on behalf of safer streets for all users of the roads. A year after his death, I reflected on how R. J.’s untimely death changed my life in a column for Wagner Magazine.
Wagnerians: Undercover Heroes
The story of Robert Mazur ’72 (“The Man Behind the Mystery,” summer 2010), who infiltrated the Medellin drug cartel as an undercover government agent and helped to bring it down, is the most frequently visited page on wagner.edu/wagnermagazine. I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing this remarkable man, and publishing an excerpt from his book, which was made into a movie starring Bryan Cranston.
Mazur is emblematic to me of the type of a Wagner alumnus. I have come to know Wagner alumni as a group of true originals. While they are not typically found in the limelight, they are the people who are running things and making things happen. They are driven by incredible dedication to a cause.
I think of people like the Renaissance man Cliff Oster ’69 (“Master Mixologist,” fall 2014), a Wagner history major whose keen palate was behind the success of Vitaminwater. By the way, he also invented a unique ingredient used in the art of stained glass.
In the research sciences, Vincent Fischetti ’62 H’10 (“Germfighter,” fall 2011) has worked diligently for decades to increase our understanding of infectious diseases and discover novel approaches to the problem of antibiotic resistance.
Paul West ’58 (“The Right Notes at the Right Time,” by David McKay Wilson, fall 2017) has created the bass line behind many of the greats in jazz.
Cynthia DiBartolo ’84 (“The Tigress,” by Joan Oleck, summer 2015) overcame crushing setbacks to start her own investment bank and brokerage firm, one of the few women-owned companies in this business.
Arno Minkkinen ’67 (“Risk Made Visible,” winter 2013–14) forged a unique, beautiful, often humorous form of photographic self-portraiture, partly out of personal pain and shame he felt about his own appearance.
Dan Stormer ’68, the public-interest lawyer out of California, has taken on human rights cases around the world, representing the poorest and most disenfranchised against the world’s most powerful political and corporate forces (“On the Side of Truth and Justice,” fall 2008).
Pat Dugan ’57 (“Question Everything,” summer 2013) used his own fortune to create the respected organization that rates nonprofits for how well they use their resources to create good results, Charity Navigator.
I could go on and on about the stories and people whose lives I have so enjoyed chronicling and highlighting. I hope these brief capsules tease you to read further and feel pride in your Wagner College heritage and community.
I will continue to stay in touch and follow your fortunes — the fortunes of Wagner College — with great interest.
Thank you for your time, treasure, and support that has made these stories possible. Thank you for your contributions, often unsung, to making this world a better place, each in your own way.
— Laura Barlament, Editor, Wagner Magazine