Category Archives: Tiger of the Week

Tiger of the Week: Novelist Akhil Sharma ’92

Akhil Sharma ’92 (Bill Miller)

Akhil Sharma ’92 (Bill Miller)

Akhil Sharma ’92’s new novel, Family Life, earned front-page billing in this week’s New York Times Book Review — a notable distinction for an author whose only previous novel was published more than a decade ago. Reviewer Sonali Deraniyagala’s generous praise for the “riveting” and “brilliant” semi-autobiographical story stood in stark contrast to Sharma’s experience writing it, which he described in an essay, also published in the Sunday Times:

“Seven years into writing a novel, I started to lose my mind. … I would sit at my desk at 2 in the morning, unable to sleep, and drink pot after pot of tea and try to write. The panic attacks came then. I would be staring at the screen, examining a paragraph that I had already rewritten 170 times. Suddenly the screen would start to ripple, as if I were peering through water, and I would feel a pain like a punch in the chest. Months passed this way. My chest felt constantly bruised.”

Sharma went on to explain how a cathartic ride with a friend helped to change his outlook and enable him to eventually finish the novel, which deals with a family tragedy similar to the one that he endured when his brother was paralyzed after diving into a swimming pool as a teenager.

While the specific events in the novel are drawn from personal experience, Sharma also tries to connect with universal themes. “I tend to think that we are all pretty much alike,” he explained in a Q&A for Guernica magazine, with friend and fellow novelist Mohsin Hamid ’93. “We all feel despair. We all have problems with relationships. We all become afraid. We all look at others and think these other people are more fortunate than us.”

Do you have a nominee for Tiger of the Week? Let us know. All alumni qualify. PAW’s Tiger of the Week is selected by our staff, with help from readers like you.

Tiger of the Week: Conductor Hobart Earle ’83

Hobart Earle ’83 (Courtesy Hobart Earle)

Hobart Earle ’83 (Courtesy Hobart Earle)

Hobart Earle ’83 has conducted in concert halls around the world in a career that spans three decades. But his latest performance was a decidedly different experience: With a small collection of musicians, he led a flash-mob performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony in a fish market in Odessa, Ukraine, the Black Sea port where Earle has led the city’s philharmonic orchestra since 1991. “The idea was to bring the music — and bring this uniting spirit — to the people,” he told PAW.

The ensemble, featuring strings, brass, and percussion from the Odessa Philharmonic and singers from the Odessa Opera Chorus, played and sang portions of the fourth movement, including the iconic “Ode to Joy,” for an unsuspecting and appreciative group of Saturday morning shoppers on March 22, the day after Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Since then, the official video of the event (see below) has drawn more than 80,000 views on YouTube, as well as media attention ranging from a national TV program in Ukraine to WQXR, New York City’s classical music radio station. Other Ukrainian orchestras and choirs, inspired by the performance, have staged their own flash-mob renditions of Beethoven’s 9th at several of Ukraine’s major airports. Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Alzheimer’s Researcher Bruce Yankner ’76

Bruce Yankner ’76 (Courtesy Bruce Yankner)

Bruce Yankner ’76 (Courtesy Bruce Yankner)

Last week, the Harvard Medical School lab of Bruce Yankner ’76 added a key finding to the research on the causes of Alzheimer’s disease, identifying the role that a protein called REST (repressor element 1-silencing transcription factor) plays in a normal aging brain.

In studies published March 19 in the journal Nature, Yankner and his co-authors found that REST may protect the brain from stress, and that declining REST may contribute to the degeneration of neurons in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s or other cognitive impairment.

As Yankner, a professor of genetics and neurology at Harvard Medical School, told The Boston Globe, “One very positive, optimistic note from this study is that it suggests that dementia can be resisted by some people, and it provides the first molecular inklings of how that might occur.” Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Mike Brennan ’94, Big Dance Bound

Mike Brennan ’94 celebrated with his team in Boston March 12. (Courtesy American University Athletics Communications)

Mike Brennan ’94 celebrated with his team in Boston March 12. (Courtesy American University Athletics Communications)

Of the seven Princeton alumni who are Division I men’s basketball head coaches, only one will appear in the NCAA tournament this week — the group’s newest member, Mike Brennan ’94. After spending four years as a Georgetown assistant coach under John Thompson III ’88, Brennan was hired by American for the 2013-14 season, guiding the Eagles to an expectations-defying 20-12 record. Last Wednesday, American won the Patriot League Tournament with a 55-36 victory at Boston University, earning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

The Eagles were given a No. 15-seed when the brackets were revealed Sunday; they will face No. 2-seed Wisconsin on Thursday at 12:40 p.m. ET. Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: David E. Kelley ’79, TV Hall-of-Famer

David E. Kelley ’79 speaks at the Lewis Center in 2010. (M. Teresa Simao/Courtesy Lewis Center for the Arts)

David E. Kelley ’79 speaks at the Lewis Center in 2010. (M. Teresa Simao/Courtesy Lewis Center for the Arts)

Writer and producer David E. Kelley ’79 has left his mark on a string of influential television shows, from L.A. Law, where he got his start as writer, to his own hour-long drama creations, including Picket Fences, The Practice, Ally McBeal, and Boston Legal, and more recently, the half-hour Robin Williams comedy series The Crazy Ones. On Tuesday night, he added another line to his impressive credits: “inductee, Television Hall of Fame.”

Kelley was part of a six-member hall-of-fame class that included Jay Leno, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Fox Broadcasting founder Rupert Murdoch. Frequent collaborator Bill D’Elia presented Kelley for induction. The Television Hall of Fame is run by the Television Academy, which also oversees the Emmys. Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Rebecca Bergman ’78, Making the Leap to Academia

Rebecca M. Bergman ’78 (Photo: Courtesy Gustavus Adolphus College)

Rebecca M. Bergman ’78 (Photo: Courtesy Gustavus Adolphus College)

For nearly three decades, Rebecca Bergman ’78 has built a reputation as a leader in medical-device engineering. Now she is planning to apply her leadership in a new context as president of Gustavus Adolphus College. In July, she will become the first woman to lead the 152-year-old liberal-arts college in Saint Peter, Minn. Her appointment was announced Feb. 28.

Bergman has been a trustee of Gustavus Adolphus since 2007, but her career has been primarily outside of academia, in biomedical engineering. She’s spent the last 26 years at Medtronic, a Minneapolis-based medical technology company, and currently serves at its vice president of research, technology, and therapy delivery systems for cardiac rhythm disease management. In 2010, Bergman’s contributions to medical-device technology were recognized when she was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

At Princeton, Bergman majored in chemical engineering and served as a resident adviser. Following graduation, she studied chemical engineering and materials science at the University of Minnesota.

Bergman told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that a colleague on the Gustavus Adolphus board of trustees first asked her about the presidency last summer, and after considering the idea, she felt a “call to serve” the Lutheran institution that two of her four children have attended. Her family supported the move, she said: “Everyone’s smiling in my household, and that means a lot to me.”

Do you have a nominee for Tiger of the Week? Let us know. All alumni qualify. PAW’s Tiger of the Week is selected by our staff, with help from readers like you.