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UMass people make their mark in the world.


UMass student Elisabeth Yang is pictured at the Seuss Museum.
John Solem


Commonwealth Honors College students, including Elisabeth Yang ’17 (above), worked behind the scenes throughout the academic year to prepare The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum for its June 3 opening in Springfield, Massachusetts. UMass Amherst student contributions include translating Seuss’s works, planning a conference, and assisting Professor of Art John Simpson with Seussian murals.




Marshall Jones

Marshall Jones ’72G, ’74PhD, a bright light of the UMass Mechanical and Industrial Engineering department, came up with lasers powerful enough to cut steel. This spring, he took his place alongside fellow famous innovators in the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Jones worked for General Electric and received more than 50 patents over 42 years.





A scene from the Broadway production of Groundhog Day
Joan Marcus


When she received an email with the subject line “Broadway audition,” Katy Geraghty ’16 thought it was spam. But two days after graduating, she won the role of a Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, resident in the original cast of the hit Broadway musical Groundhog Day. That’s her onstage (pictured at left) with star Andy Karl.

Geraghty, who grew up in Gloucester, Massachusetts, was ready for the song and dance-heavy role after her experiences with the North Shore Music Theatre, the UMass Department of Theater, the UMass Theatre Guild, and the UMass a cappella group the Hexachords. 

“If you told me this would happen so quickly, I would’ve laughed in your face,” Geraghty says. “It’s unbelievable that I’m checking off number one on my bucket list at 23.”






Andy Dowd's photograph captures Match Day at UMass Medical School
Andy Dowd


Andy Dowd ’08 is a professional photographer as well as a student at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester. His book, Med School: Photographs and Stories from Inside (Sargent Street Press, 2017), provides a candid look at his fellow students’ med school lives. Above, on Match Day, a fourth-year student and his parents learn that he’ll be staying at UMass Medical School for his residency.



The cover of the novel Lilli De Jong, by Janet Benton
Lilli De JONG
Janet Benton
Nan A. Talese/Doubleday

You would be hard-pressed to find a more intimate—even revolutionary—depiction of the emotional and sensory experiences of motherhood than you’ll read in Lilli de Jong, the debut novel from Janet Benton ’92G.

“When I became a mother, it was utterly transformative,” Benton says. “I wanted to write about this fundamental human process in a way that gets into people’s hearts.”

Benton imagined a heroine, Lilli de Jong, an unwed Quaker mother living in 1883 Philadelphia, who enters not only readers’ hearts, but also their minds, through her distinctive, questioning voice. The book, in the form of Lilli’s journals, relates her travails as she strives to keep her daughter and simply survive in a society with no tolerance for unmarried mothers.

In the days before any safe alternative to mother’s milk, ensuring an infant’s survival meant breastfeeding. Benton evokes the sensations of having a baby at your breast with unprecedented vividness; the act of nursing is central to Lilli de Jong. Lilli becomes a live-in wet nurse for a wealthy family, and must send her own daughter to a hovel to be fed by a poor woman who is nursing two more infants.

The novel, rich in historical detail, shines a light on the rights women won in the 20th century and reveals how far we have to go. “We, as a society, don’t support mothers well,” points out Benton. “Each time a woman has a child, it’s a crisis for her work life.”

As a UMass MFA student, Benton studied with authors Valerie Martin ’76G and John Edgar Wideman. She figures she spent 8,000 hours on Lilli de Jong, endeavoring to create a meaningful work. She says: “Some people would frown on this, but I think of fiction as having a moral purpose. I like to use writing to open people’s eyes to human experiences they otherwise would not consider. I love novels that make us more compassionate.” —Patricia Sullivan

For more new books by UMass authors, visit Bookmarks.