Veneka Chagwedera ’09 and Jared Crooks ’11 (Courtesy Veneka Chagwedera)
By Agatha Gilmore ’04
In 2011, Jared Crooks ’11 was working at the National Academy of Sciences while Veneka Chagwedera ’09, now his wife, was starting an MBA program at the University of Virginia. With busy lives and an interest in staying healthy, the pair began making their own snack bars in their Washington, D.C., kitchen. They leaned on Crooks’ science background to cook dates, chocolate, and cashews into organic bars. Chagwedera’s growing expertise in entrepreneurship and the pair’s longtime interest in humanitarianism led them to found Nouri, which donates a portion of the proceeds of each bar to provide hot meals for children at school.
Nouri bars, made with all-natural ingredients from farms in the United States and manufactured at a facility in California, are sold at Whole Foods, local stores, and online. Crooks helps run the company while attending a joint masters-degree program in public policy and mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton. Chagwedera works at the University in the development office.
Nouri, which has 10 employees and is profitable, has sold more than 100,000 bars and provided the same number of meals to children at schools in Botswana, the Philippines, Guatemala, Detroit, and Oklahoma City.
The couple eventually hopes to produce the bars in other countries as well, using local labor and ingredients to promote development, job creation, and sustainability. Children are “more able to focus on classes when their stomachs are full, and it gives them more incentive to attend school,” Chagwedera says. “We hope that they can go on to graduate and make a difference as well.” Continue reading
Gevvie Stone ’07 (Courtesy TeamUSA.org)
When PAW’s pages last featured Gevvie Stone ’07, the elite rower was on the verge of competing for the United States in the London Olympics — and also midway through medical school at Tufts University.
Three years later, Stone is continuing to balance a career in medicine with her athletic goals. She completed her M.D. last year, and she remains the top American woman in the single scull. Earlier this month in West Windsor, N.J., a few miles from Princeton, she won her event in the National Selection Regatta, a key step on her quest to return to the World Championships. (Stone finished ninth at Worlds in Amsterdam last year.)
In the National Selection Regatta finals, Stone was pushed early by former U.S. champion Emily Huelskamp, but she took control and won by more than seven seconds. “It was fun,” Stone told U.S. Rowing. “Emily put together a good fight, and I really had to execute my best piece. And I did.”
If Stone can follow up her selection-regatta win with a top-7 finish in one of the remaining World Cup races, she’ll earn a place on the 2015 U.S. National Team that will compete at the World Rowing Championships in Aiguebelette, France, Aug. 30-Sept. 6. She’s also among the top contenders for the next Olympic team, which will row in Rio de Janeiro in August 2016. Continue reading
Gen. Mark Milley ’80 (U.S. Army)
Gen. Mark Milley ’80 has been described as “an Ivy League graduate and career grunt” (Army Times), “a soldier’s soldier” (defense adviser Maren Leed), and “a warrior and a statesman” (Defense Secretary Ashton Carter). He’s also Princeton’s first four-star general and, pending Senate approval, will soon head the Army as its next chief of staff. Carter introduced Milley as President Barack Obama’s choice for the post at a press conference in Washington May 13.
Milley, a politics major, ROTC cadet, and varsity hockey player at Princeton, was commissioned after graduation. In the last decade, he served on the secretary of defense’s staff at the Pentagon and oversaw NATO operations in Afghanistan. He currently directs the U.S. Army Forces Command, known as Forscom, the Army’s largest command. Based in Fort Bragg, N.C., Forscom includes more than 750,000 active-duty, reserve, and National Guard soldiers.
In a 2014 interview with PAW contributor E.B. Boyd ’89, Milley spoke about the pressures of being responsible for the lives of soldiers, specifically the 100,000 NATO troops who were under his command in Afghanistan:
“It’s incredibly high stress. You’re looking at four hours of sleep, maybe five on a good night. Usually it’s interrupted. I had 122 [U.S. and NATO soldiers] killed in action while I was over there, and several hundred more seriously wounded. That weighs on you heavily — every day, day in and day out — and it’s never far from your mind. But through training, through experience, through a strong sense of purpose and a strong sense of the moral rightness of your cause, you learn to deal with the stress.” Continue reading
Sarah Sherman ’08 (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Dutch Slager)
When the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite launched smoothly on Jan. 31, Sarah Sherman ’08 had cause to celebrate. As the mission’s launch-phase lead at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Caltech-managed NASA center in Pasadena, Calif., Sherman was in charge of putting procedures and contingency plans into place, as well as executing dress rehearsals of the launch.
SMAP uses the radar and radiometer it has on board to gather soil moisture data, which can be used to monitor droughts, predict floods, and improve weather forecasts, among other things. Sherman is now doing operations for the satellite, which involves being on console as a systems chair and overseeing the 90-day commissioning phase that precedes the beginning of the three-year science, or data-collection, phase.
Perhaps that seems like a lot of responsibility for someone who hasn’t yet hit 30. In reality, however, Sherman has been working on SMAP for almost seven years, since the summer after she graduated from Princeton. Before that, she worked in the summers of 2006 and 2007 as a Caltech research fellow analyzing wind models of Titan and developing control algorithms to steer a hot air balloon in its atmosphere. Her next project will be as a mechanical engineer on the Sample Caching System of the Mars 2020 Rover. Continue reading
Valerie Vigoda ’87 in ‘Ernest Shackleton Loves Me’ (Jeff Carpenter for ACT Theatre, Seattle)
Ernest Shackleton Loves Me, which stars Valerie Vigoda ’87 and is now playing at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, has an unusual premise: Kat, a blue-haired video game composer and single mother, has been when for 36 hours when Ernest Shackleton, a polar explorer famous for keeping his entire crew of 27 men alive for nine months after their ship Endurance sank in Antarctica, travels across time to reach her. Vigoda, who sings and plays her Viper electric violin as Kat, also co-wrote the music and lyrics for the show with her husband and partner Brendan Millburn.
“I’m passionate about all the work that I do and that I have collaborated on for the past many years,” she said. “But for me, this might be the one I’m most passionate about.”
Part of the reason is the nature of the story. Ever since she saw a museum exhibit about Shackleton’s harrowing adventures in Antarctica, Vigoda has been “sort of obsessed” with the explorer, she said. For her, the musical is “a combination of this inspiring story and the resonance of this modern character.”
Unlike Kat, Vigoda did not have blue hair or tattoos before she slipped into her role. She now embraces the head turns when she walks into a space. In addition to the musical, Vigoda is working on a solo album called Just Getting Good, which was fully funded through Kickstarter in the fall. Continue reading
Lili Anolik ’00
Lili Anolik ’00 has just published her debut novel, Dark Rooms. It is a story of “sex and murder and glamour set at a New England prep school,” as she describes it. Both a mystery and a coming-of-age story, Anolik wanted to write something that was “heavy on mood and atmospherics … sly and seductive … spooky, and [has] a fairy tale quality.”
The novel was six years in the making. “The writing process was pretty brutal,” Anolik said. “I loved writing the book but it definitely wasn’t a snap.”
Anolik was an English major and tennis player at Princeton, and wrote for The Daily Princetonian her senior year. Princeton, she said, “was hugely influential on my taste and sensibility.” She recalls the many great and inspiring teachers she had — Laura Quinney on film noir, Larry Danson on Shakespeare, Michael Cadden on Irish drama — but also the slow, agonizing process of churning out papers. “I used to spend forever on my papers when I was an undergraduate — was just completely anal retentive and obsessive about them,” she said.
As a contributing editor now at Vanity Fair (a “contributing editor” is actually someone who writes regularly for a publication; it doesn’t involve any editing), Anolik works on profiles and cover stories regularly.
“I think writing for Vanity Fair is the best job in the world. Not only does the magazine give its writers space, it’s respectful of voice. Meaning they don’t mess with your prose!” she said. Continue reading