Most of Kathryn Levy Feldman LPS’09’s cover story, “Pulling Weeds,” has to do with Penn’s hospice and palliative-care director David Casarett’s recent work investigating the efficacy of marijuana to relieve symptoms like pain and nausea or treat certain conditions, as detailed in his new book, Stoned: A Doctor’s Case for Medical Marijuana. But she also talked with Casarett more generally about the field and what drew him to specialize in it, as well as about his writing for a general audience.
A passing reference to his first book—Last Acts, about the choices people make at the end of their lives, which was prompted by Casarett’s “lack of a satisfying answer” when a dying patient asked him how he should spend what time he had left—stuck with me. I was reminded of it while reading some of the other stories in this issue, about alumni who seem to have found their “calling” pretty much straight out of school, or even sooner—not that any of them are done yet!
Todd Haimes C’78 was 26 years old when he took a job as managing director at New York’s floundering Roundabout Theatre in 1983. Just months after he was hired, the press release announcing its demise was being written when a last-minute cash infusion provided enough breathing room to open the show that would begin its revival and extraordinary growth under Haimes’ leadership. The Roundabout is celebrating its 50th season this year, and Haimes has been at the helm for most of them—worrying all the way, as Molly Petrilla C’06 details in “The Roundabout Way.”
In “Passion Projects,” we offer interviews with two founders of organizations—Paul Downs EAS’85 and Jacob Lief C’99—along with excerpts from their recent books. Downs owns a small furniture-making business that he started after graduating from Penn, and Lief is co-founder of Ubuntu Education Fund, a nonprofit working in South Africa, begun while he was still an undergrad [“Gazetteer,” Sep|Oct 2000]—but the two men share an unusual thoughtfulness and candor about what they do, as well as a willingness to counter the pieties of their respective fields.
While the typical business book is full of confident advice and stories of success, Downs’ Boss Life focuses on his mistakes, the kind of things “a lot of people wouldn’t have told their spouse,” as the editor of a New York Times blog Downs wrote for says. And as Lief recounts in I Am Because You Are, Ubuntu’s operating method of supporting a limited number of children from “cradle to career” flies in the face of philanthropy’s prevailing focus on cost-efficiency and reaching the maximum number with the fewest dollars.
Since Ben Franklin had the idea that became Penn, his University has been through many changes. Back in 1940, longtime faculty member Edward Potts Cheyney C1883 W1884 chronicled the institution’s first 200 years, but there’s been no comprehensive follow-up until now, with Becoming Penn: The Pragmatic American University, 1950-2000. In “Building Blocks,” coauthors GSE Professor John Puckett and University Archives Director Mark Frazier Lloyd talk about the process of writing the book and share their thoughts about the University’s development through this pivotal period.
Penn has been the site of many medical advances in its long history, and another one occurred this summer when a team from Penn and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia successfully performed the first pediatric double hand transplant on eight-year-old Zion Harvey of Baltimore. Dave Zeitlin C’03 tells the story in “The Gift,” and also goes beyond the headlines to describe how the team was built, the hard work of rehabilitation that patients face, and the challenges to making hand-transplant surgery more broadly available.