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Constitutional process
Justice Samuel Alito's confirmation hearings thrust Valerie Frias, J94, into the midst of the constitutional process

  These boys' lives
Acclaimed documentary filmmaker David Sutherland, A67, has turned his lens once again on rural America

Other Tufts alumni in the news

photograph by Katherine Lambert

Constitutional Process

Valerie Frias, J94, played an important role in the appointment of Judge Samuel Alito as the Supreme Court’s 110th justice. As counsel on the legal staff of Senator Patrick Leahy, Frias vetted Alito in preparation for his confirmation hearings, evaluating thousands of pages of documents, including materials drafted by Alito when he worked for the Reagan administration. She also worked closely with members of the Judiciary Committee as well as the full Senate, answering questions about the nominee’s record in preparation for floor debates.

The decision to confirm Justice Alito carried a unique significance. He would be replacing Sandra Day O’Connor, a key moderate swing vote on issues such as abortion and the death penalty. If appointed, Alito could change the landscape of this country. As his confirmation hung in the air, the nation watched closely, and at each moment Frias felt the weight of her work.

“Each day and each task was part of a constitutional process,” says Frias, who also vetted Supreme Court nominees Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Harriet E. Miers. “These justices will have an impact on generations of Americans, and that reality was always on my mind and in my heart.”

Public awareness has always been important to Frias. She was taught that “you should always give back to your community more than you take.” Her first job out of college was in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where she was raised. She worked with HIV-infected substance abusers, assisting them with various issues, such as health care and permanency planning for children.

“Going to law school,” Frias says, “was a natural professional progression for furthering my commitments to human and civil rights issues.” She graduated from Northeastern University School of Law in 1999.

Since Justice Alito’s confirmation, Frias has accepted the position as counsel at the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), which has coordinated the national legislative campaign on behalf of every major civil rights law since 1957. In this role, Frias will work to advance LCCR’s mission and her own—promoting effective civil rights legislation and policy.

photograph courtesy of PBS

These boys' lives

Acclaimed documentary filmmaker David Sutherland, A67, has turned his lens once again on rural America . In Country Boys, which premiered this winter on PBS’ Frontline, Sutherland follows teenagers Chris Johnson and Cody Perkins as they make their perilous journey to manhood in the impoverished Appalachian hills of eastern Kentucky . Sutherland, who won praise for his film The Farmer’s Wife (1998), about a Nebraska farm family, spent three years with the Kentucky boys, documenting their triumphs and failures. The six-hour film details the boys’ struggle to overcome poverty and family issues as they strive to graduate from high school and achieve their dreams. “While this film tells the very specific story of two boys growing up in one remote part of America ,” says Sutherland, “it also tells a universal story about the awkward yet essential journey through adolescence we all must make.” That journey is fraught with seemingly insurmountable challenges. Cody Perkins, who was orphaned as a child after his mother’s suicide, plays in a Christian heavy-metal band and wants to be a preacher. Chris Johnson dreams of going to college but is constantly pulled into his family’s problems, including caring for an alcoholic father and dealing with a mostly absent mother. The audience cheers their every success, while knowing that the likelihood of both boys escaping their surroundings is going to take incredible determination and luck. To read more about Country Boys, visit www.davidsutherland.com.



Mark Becker, A91, received a 2006 Indie Spirit Award nomination for Best Documentary for his film Romantico, which portrays the lives of two Mexican musicians.

Charlene Berkman, D78, received the Emil Lentchner Distinguished Service Award from the Queens County Dental Society (QCDS). Berkman is secretary/treasurer of the International Center for Dental Education and chairs the District Claims Committee for QCDS.

The Somerville Community Health Agenda has selected Jessica Collins, N01, as its new director. She was previously project manager for Tufts’ research study “Shape Up Somerville: Eat Smart. Play Hard.”

Rosemarie Fisher, M71, director of graduate medical education at Yale-New Haven Hospital, was honored with the 2006 Courage to Lead Award, given to only two physicians each year by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe won the 2006 Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Family Film. The film was co-produced by Walden Media, an entertainment company founded by Mike Flaherty, A90, and Cary Granat, A90.

Frederick “Rick” Hauck, A62, A87P, J92P, has been named a member of the NASA Advisory Council, the body that provides advice and guidance on major programs and policy issues to the NASA administrator.

William Hurt, A72, received an Academy Award nomination for his supporting role in A History of Violence. This is his fourth nomination, including his 1985 Oscar for the leading role in Kiss of the Spider Woman.

In March the Hartford Symphony Orchestra presented the world premiere of Symphony No. 1, composed by Dr. Albert Hurwit, M57.

Diana Kerry, G75, has been selected director of North Shore Community College’s Public Policy Institute, a grass-roots organization dedicated to promoting civic engagement.

Cyndi Mark, J86, has been named managing attorney of Greater Boston Legal Services’ Asian Outreach Unit.

Barnas Monteith, A98, was elected chairman of the Massachusetts State Science Fair Executive Committee.

Marian Porges, J82, producer for NBC News Specials, received an Emmy Award for her work covering the death and funeral of former president Ronald Reagan. Porges also received an Emmy for the special coverage of election night 2004.

George Ross, A67, was named chief financial officer for the National District Attorneys Association and American Prosecutors Research Institute in Alexandria, VA.

Babson College awarded Melissa Shaak, J76, the 2005 Walter H. Carpenter Prize, the highest honor a Babson employee can receive. Shaak is associate dean of the college’s undergraduate school and director of student financial services.

Tara Stoinski, J91, a primatologist with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, coached actor Andy Serkis in gorilla behavior for his portrayal in the film King Kong.

Janet Williams, J69, E06P, received the Knee/Whitman Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Health and Mental Health Policy and Practice from the National Association of Social Workers. She currently teaches at Columbia University.

Walter Wright, A79, G80, A07P, was named an elite lawyer in Massachusetts by Super Lawyers, a joint publication of Boston Mag-azine and Law & Politics. He is managing director of the business law firm Rich May.