Welcome to my clips blog

A little about myself: I have written for newspapers, edited copy as well as pitched it, and worked on a university’s fund-raising side. I have an eye for good stories that engage readers and, at the same time, promote an organization’s mission.

Recently as a free-lancer I have written for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, the Harvard Gazette, the MetroWest Daily News, the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, Holy Cross Magazine, the University of New Hampshire Magazine, and the University of Rhode Island’s alumni magazine.

Previously, as editor in the advancement communications department at Tufts University, I oversaw the advancement and alumni sections of Tufts Magazine and the advancement periodical Blueprint, which conveyed the impact of philanthropic giving through sharp graphics, compelling writing and a focus on human stories.

As a senior writer in the public affairs office at Boston College, I oversaw news content on the university web site; found and developed stories for placement in outside media; and covered university news and features for the faculty-staff biweekly.

As a free-lance correspondent for the Boston Globe, I regularly contributed pieces on topics including human interest, history and the arts. I also worked as a reporter and political columnist for community newspapers in the Boston area and, for a time, as a press secretary for a congressional campaign.

Here is my résumé.

Thanks for visiting!

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Holy Cross clips


Recently I’ve enjoyed a number of opportunities to write for Holy Cross Magazine. My articles have included:

A cover interview with Holy Cross’ new athletic director in the Spring 2014 edition of Crusader Nation.

“A Distinct Note of Generosity,” on the renovation of the Brooks Concert Hall, made possible by alumni generosity (Spring 2014) * Print version

A cover story on Holy Cross and Worcester, exploring the relationship between the college and the city it calls home (Summer 2013) * Online version

“Living and Learning,” a feature on the residence life experience at Holy Cross (Winter 2012)

“We Few, We Happy Few,” a feature on 50 years of rugby at HC, with accompanying “Stories from the Rugby Pitch” (Fall 2011)

“Memories of Coach Curran ’48, on a legendary baseball coach (Fall 2011)

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Tufts Magazine: Alumni News & Notes

As editor of the Alumni News & Notes section of Tufts Magazine I set out to find and tell good stories about members of Tufts Nation, whose loyal numbers span generations. The aim: to engage alumni and encourage their continued active and enthusiastic participation in the life and mission of their alma mater. We sought to go beyond the after-the-fact reports of chapter meetings with reader-submitted snaps; to spark alumni interest and involvement by spotlighting graduates whose colorful life experiences had begun in the shared environment of Tufts. We took an interactive approach, inviting alumni to share their stories. We introduced “Super Class Notes,” drawing on biographical blurbs alumni had submitted themselves and expanding them, beyond the agate type, into reported features that were showcased not only in the print magazine but on the alumni website, in the alumni e-newsletter, and on the broader university website. And we introduced stronger graphics and illustrations, leading the section with an eye-catching image. Some examples:

Lost Tufts: The college of years past brought to life in the memories and the words of alumni. Page 2 * Page 3 * Page 4 * Page 5

Remarkable Tufts grads: The creators of eBay and Blogger. New York’s greatest political intellect since Alexander Hamilton. The inventor of Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup. All Tufts graduates.

Tufts in 150 Characters or Less: We invited graduates to describe Tufts thus on the occasion of the alumni association’s sesquicentennial. Page 2 * Page 3

If you could be a Tufts student again for 24 hours, what would you do? We queried grads in advance of the first Back to the Hill event for young alumni.

The bear painting above was done by a Tufts alumna who is a wildlife artist and whose story came to us via Class Notes. We responded by doing a feature on her and used one of her artworks on the opening page of the section. Similarly, another Class Note received from an ambassador to Mongolia led to a striking photo and feature in the magazine’s After Image section.

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Annual Fund: Tufts

As an editor and writer at Tufts I did a good bit of work for the Annual Fund. The Winter 2012 edition of Blueprint, for example, spotlighted some of the remarkable people whose work and lives at Tufts benefit from annual giving.

What does your gift to the Annual Fund buy? An article (here and here) and ads (here and here) in Tufts Magazine provide the answer.

Another article in Tufts Mag asks: What kind of person gives to the Tufts Fund?

Appeal letters: drafts on behalf of the Tufts Rowing and Men’s Ice Hockey

The Fund for Tufts Medicine: two more appeal letters.

An ad: Annual Gifts. Daily Impact.

UPDATE, 2/5/13: Not an annual fund piece, but one that likewise promoted philanthropic support, in this case, for scholarships at the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy.

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Recent freelance work


Harvard Gazette (2013-):
Lectures that Last
Visual Studies conference
‘Swarm intelligence’ in Marathon bombing response
Wynton Marsalis on New Orleans jazz
Harvard cricket
Women on a mission
Black like we
Beyond belief
Study mixed with cello

MetroWest Daily News (2013-): Home of the Week profiles

Holy Cross Magazine:
A distinct note of generosity (Spring 2014) * Print version
Cover story on Holy Cross and Worcester (Summer 2013) * Online version

Worcester Telegram & Gazette (2012-):
Geography bee
UMass Med students matched to residencies
Roll Call editor says ‘spirit of community’ missing in DC
I-495 corridor transformed
Luge team has good run
Holiday home makeover
Airport pumps $$ into region’s economy
Adoption day brings joy
Economic Club hears ‘think global’ message
Milford Regional begins expansion drive
Germs may replace steel in Worcester’s factories
Honey Dew puts dent in Dunkin’ business
Obamacare architect at Worcester Economic Club
Expo heralds Worcester’s fertile ground for manufacturing
Mansion provides unique workplace
Auditor saves bar owners thousands
Project raises new hope for airport
CEO One on One: Virtusa Corp.
CEO One on One: Reliant Medical Group
Renovated DCU Center set to reopen
CEO One on One: FLEXcon
Silent sentinels adapt to wider field
Wellness program at HC gets boost
CEO One on One: Domitek Inc.
Web tool assesses crime risk
Boston FBI chief at Assumption
Metal-etching technology
Ambassador to Mali
CEO One on One: Courion Corp.
CEO One on One: EMC Corp.
Athlete with disability offers hope
Wire company keeps up with times
High-tech insurance
On accountability in financial services
Colleges use new tools to reel in students
Marlboro development a place to ‘live, work, play’
Front-yard ice rink
DC insights served at Worcester Economic Club
Bucket list brings band back together
Illegal downloads lead to trouble
Latin radio

Worcester Business Journal (2014): Prep schools ramp up math, science * Corporate Citizen of the Year

Tufts Veterinary Medicine: Leading the fight against pandemics in Africa (Summer 2013)

University of New Hampshire Magazine: The “Pitching Professor” (Spring 2012)

Dartmouth Alumni Magazine: “Rolling up the Rug,” a feature on the Dartmouth Indian Chiefs jazz band (Jan/Feb 2012)

Holy Cross Magazine: “Living and Learning,” a feature on the residence life experience at Holy Cross (Winter 2012) * “We Few, We Happy Few,” a feature on 50 years of rugby at HC, with accompanying “Stories from the Rugby Pitch” (Fall 2011) * “Memories of Coach Curran ’48, on a legendary baseball coach (Fall 2011)

Quadangles, University of Rhode Island: Brief profile of whale researcher (Winter 2011-12)

* * *


Milford Daily News (2006-2007): Sikhs on parade * Civil War re-enactors * New Torah * Celtics Dancers * Patriots fans ecstatic * Rottweiler found not guilty * A Norman Rockwell Fourth

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Globe: Old Time Baseball


Mark Sullivan, Globe Correspondent. Boston Globe. Boston, Mass.: Jul 27, 2006. pg. 1


ASHLAND – Before the Red Sox and Yankees, before the Dodgers and Giants, there were the Upton Excelsiors and the Medway Unions.

The two teams from small towns in Boston’s western suburbs were archrivals during baseball’s early flowering in New England before the Civil War.

On July 28 and 29, 1859, Stone Park in Ashland was the site of one of their epic barnburners if you can call a game that lasted two days and featured breaks for lunch and dinner a barnburner.

Medway beat Upton by a score of 100-78 in a contest that drew as many as 8,000 spectators.

Society for American Baseball Research historian Phil Lowry, who has made a study of marathon games, said the Ashland contest under the old “Massachusetts rules” was the second-longest ballgame ever. It ended when Medway reached 100 runs, after 14 hours and 10 minutes, in the team’s 106th turn at bat.

He said the two teams also hold the record for the longest ballgame ever recorded an 1860 meeting in Worcester when it took Upton 172 innings, spread over seven days, to beat Medway, 50-29.

The game was different back then, said research society member Joanne Hulbert, an authority on 19th-century baseball and town historian in Holliston, where the Mudville neighborhood, residents like to believe, inspired the poem “Casey at the Bat.”

Baseball, as played under rules prevalent in Boston and New England in the early- to mid-19th century, echoed its English relations, rounders and cricket. No foul territory meant a ball hit backward was in play. A runner was put out by being hit, or “soaked,” by a thrown ball.

And marathon game records were set that never have been equaled, because under Massachusetts rules, a team got one out per inning, and games lasted until the winner reached a predetermined tally of runs, such as 50 or 100. A game played to 100 could take days.

The New York set of rules, which standardized innings and formed the basis of the modern game, eclipsed the Massachusetts version in the years following the Civil War.

But the New England game was at its peak of popularity when the Medway Unions and the Upton Excelsiors took the field in Ashland 147 years ago. The challenge match carried a prize of $100, put up by the Alpha Club of Ashland, as well as local bragging rights.

The game was “the great event of the season, in the ball playing line,” reported the Dedham Gazette’s correspondent, who went by the pen name “Nemo.”

“The rival Clubs arrived in Ashland at an early hour, and were escorted to the ground by the Alpha Club of that town, to the inspiriting notes of the Ashland Brass Band. The battle field consisted of four acres of level mowing land, and was kept entirely clear of spectators through the day by a numerous and efficient police.

“Extra trains, stages, omnibuses, and vehicles of all descriptions discharged their living freight through the forenoon, and at noon the crowd was accurately estimated to number at least eight thousand persons.”

The Milford Journal called it “the greatest match game of Base Ball . . . yet played in New England.

“Ashland was absolutely crowded, out of doors, by strangers; and the oldest inhabitants of that quiet and neat village say their streets were never before thronged by such an army of men or string of teams. It electrified them to see all this, and a general cessation of labor was the result,” the newspaper reported.

With its pomp, speeches, and brass-band processions, the exercise had a lot in common with that other great Massachusetts sport, the political rally, said Hulbert, who is writing a sports history of Holliston.

“People backed these teams from town to town,” she said. “This was something that fired people up.”

Spectators from Milford, Holliston, and Hopkinton cheered the Medway players, and fans from Worcester and Grafton backed Upton.

The game “passed pleasantly” until the noon lunch break, the Journal reported, with “the crowd flocking to dinner as doves to their windows,” then “returning to the ball-ground, refreshed and puffing the Principes and cheroots.” Play resumed until 7 p.m., when the match, knotted at 70 after 85 innings, was adjourned until the next day.

No provisions having been made for an overnight stay, the ballplayers were put up in private homes and at the town’s hotel, where Nemo reported the Upton team slept 10 to a room, using mattresses spread on the floor.

But the ballplayers didn’t make an early night of it, to read between the lines of the Milford Journal, which noted the “good humor” with which the contestants left the field: “All were weary, and many `beat out,’ by the day’s work, and yesterday morning needed a deal of physical courage to bring them to the scratch but they were `thar,’ at the nick of time, spunky as ever, if not as agile.”

They were probably a bit hung over, Hulbert said.

“The social aspect of the game was extremely important,” she said. “They probably got together at Stone’s Tavern, and we can speculate a little drinking went on. I’m sure things went on well into the night. You can imagine these guys getting up the next morning for another day’s worth of game.”

The game resumed at 8:30 a.m., and stayed close until Medway pulled away with eight runs in the 90th inning and finally reached the winning score of 100 in the 106th.

“As soon as the last tally was made, the crowd, which had restrained its enthusiasm till it could be controlled no longer, burst all bounds and rushed in from all sides, with as many wild cries and as much elan as distinguishes a charge of the renowned Zouaves,” wrote Nemo.

At the Upton Historical Society, a painted banner from 1859 commemorates Upton’s triumph in a rematch between the two teams in Worcester that October.

“It was the World Series of its time,” society vice president Barbara Burke said.

On the banner’s front, an allegorical figure of a woman strides a hilltop under a flag reading “Excelsior” (Latin for “ever upward”), while the back carries a Latin inscription that reads, “Post Proelia Praemia,” or “After the Battles Come the Rewards.”

The cheers have faded, but interest remains in the games played a century and a half ago.

“George Will once said `baseball trivia’ is an oxymoron, because nothing about baseball is trivial,” Lowry, author of a baseball park history, “Green Cathedrals,” said via telephone from his home in Minnetonka, Minn. “I think George Will’s right.”

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Globe: Boston Post Canes

Mark Sullivan, GLOBE CORRESPONDENT. Boston Globe. Boston, Mass.: Jun 30, 2002. pg. 1


In 1909, Boston Post publisher Edwin Grozier, whose colorful publicity stunts made his paper the region’s top-selling daily, hatched a unique scheme. He arranged the shipment of gold-tipped ebony walking-sticks to 700 New England towns, with the request the canes be presented thereafter, with the Post’s compliments, to each town’s oldest citizen.

The paper promised items from time to time on the “venerable men” who held the canes, to “present an interesting galaxy of the vigor and longevity of New England Manhood.”

While the Post itself gave up the ghost in 1956, the publicity stunt outlived the paper. The tradition of awarding the Boston Post Cane to the oldest local citizen continues to this day in communities across New England, including several on the North Shore, in what one local historian has described as “the longest running advertisement” of the past century.

Amateur historian Barbara Staples of Lynn has devoted herself to tracking the inscribed canes that were presented 93 years ago to towns in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine.

“Since 1909 canes have been lost, some burned, some stolen,” Staples writes. “It has been said that a few have descended into the sod with their holder. Many have been stored away in town hall closets and vaults, only to resurface years later. Some have been found in dumpsters; others sold at estate auctions. In addition, there are the canes that journeyed thousands of miles, [and were] found and returned to their native towns years later.

“The cane has been highly prized by many; to others it symbolized the `kiss of death.’ It has been honored and coveted, shunned and cursed. Yet no cane in New England has touched so many hands and touched so many hearts.”

By contacting town clerks and poring over Boston Post microfilms at the Boston Public Library, Staples traced the 258 canes distributed in Massachusetts for her 1997 book, “The Bay State’s Boston Post Canes: The History of a New England Tradition.” She came out with a New Hampshire sequel two years later that accounted for more than 170 of the canes in the Granite State.

She said she currently is completing a book on the Maine and Rhode Island canes. The canes were not distributed in Vermont or Connecticut.

A freelance writer whose late father was a newspaperman in Boston and Salem, Staples said she was motivated by discrepancies in news accounts of the Boston Post Canes to attempt an accurate inventory of the relics.

“I enjoy the research [into] the people who have held the canes and the stories they tell,” she said. “It’s just a human-interest story.”

Among her favorite honorees: Nirum Neal, of Hamilton, 98 in 1909, who voted for Andrew Jackson, cut a third set of teeth at age 82, and was known to walk from North Berwick, Maine, to Hamilton. “He didn’t need the cane,” Staples said.

According to Staples, not all towns in New England received a cane. Cities were not on the distribution list, though perhaps by accident, the Campello section of Brockton received one of the gold- headed walking sticks.

Post publisher Grozier originally specified the cane be given to the oldest registered male voter in town, she said, but after women were given the vote, the newspaper in the 1930s endorsed the idea of awarding of the cane to citizens of either sex.

When Staples published her Massachusetts book five years ago, 161 original Boston Post Canes remained of the 258 distributed in the Bay State. Since then, Leominster’s surfaced in an Internet auction, she said. And this month, Leicester’s was returned after having been discovered in an attic; the town had had a replica made, and with the return of the original, now has two.

Most towns that still have the original canes now hold the heirlooms in safekeeping, preferring to award replicas of the cane or certificates. One of the canes of African ebony, with its inscribed 14-karat-gold head, was appraised at upward of $700 three years ago, Staples said, and likely would fetch more today.

But the original cane – or a remnant of the same – is given out in a few towns, including, in Essex County, Groveland, Manchester- by-the-Sea, Middleton and Topsfield.

In Manchester-by-the-Sea, the cane remains a males-only honor. The Manchester Elder Brethren Association, open to town men 49 or older, awards the cane at its annual summer picnic to the oldest man in attendance, who holds the honor for the following year. The cane will be presented at this year’s picnic, July 6 at Tuck’s Point.

Retired Manchester-by-the-Sea postmaster Jeremiah Noonan said the town’s cane was missing until about a dozen years ago, when the gold head was found in a local attic. The 14-karat inscribed top was fitted to a new stick and has been awarded annually ever since.

In Groveland, the cane was presented last month to Bruno Coppola, a great-grandfather who at 92 remains so hale and hearty he at first was unclear as to why he was being given a walking stick. “He was telling us adamantly, `I don’t need a cane,’ ” Louise Boucher, program developer for the Groveland Council on Aging, recalled of the award ceremony.

Coppola, who was president of an Italian-American credit union and operated a funeral home in his native Haverhill, and was married 64 years to his late wife, Dena, credited his longevity to “hard work.”

The cane? “I’ve just got it in the corner in the living room,” he said. “I could hit someone over the head with it if they got fresh.”

In Middleton, Anne Thornton Bishop Swenson, who turns 104 on Aug. 1, has held the Boston Post Cane for nearly six years. Born in Yorkshire, England, in 1898, she moved to Wakefield at 13 when her father, a chimneymaker, went to work helping rebuild Chelsea after a devastating fire.

She jokingly attributes her longevity to “cold showers,” and celebrated her 94th birthday 10 years ago with a ride in a helicopter, though her longstanding wish to go aloft in a blimp will have to be deferred, according to daughter Barbara Bishop.

Marblehead used to give out the original cane but now stores it in a vault in the town house, Abbott Hall, said Town Clerk Thomas McNulty. The last to hold the cane, Helen Doane, a Wellesley College- educated teacher who had been one of the earliest disciples of Maria Montessori, died in 1995 at the age of 107. McNulty said the cane was recovered from her home and is now kept in his office vault. A certificate is now given to the eldest citizen.

In Nahant, too, a decision has been made to retire the cane from circulation. The curator of the Nahant Historical Society, Calantha Sears, said the cane is to be placed on exhibit in the new quarters the society will assume in the renovated Valley Road School in late August. An honoree to be chosen in the next few months will receive a scroll, said Sears.

Sears said the cane had been missing for a time, but was returned in the late 1970s by the family of a longtime resident who had taken the stick with him to New Hampshire. Since 1978, the cane has been awarded six times, once to a couple.

“We don’t want to lose it again,” said Sears, who has lived all 80 of her years in Nahant. “It’s a very interesting and important part of our history, a great record of the residents of our town.”
Barbara Staples’ books on the Boston Post Cane are available from the author, in care of Flemming Press, 725 Lynnfield St., Lynn, Mass., 01904. Email: flemstap@juno.com

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