Assembly lineup boasts groundbreakers, changemakers

Four alumni among the visitors scheduled for winter term.

December 9, 2021

Poet and legal advocate Reginald Dwayne Betts opened the winter assembly lineup Dec. 10.

Starting with a poet and Yale Law School graduate whose work is shaped by eight years spent behind bars and including appearances from Exeter alumni working in varied fields, all-school assemblies will highlight Friday mornings throughout winter term.

Most of the assemblies are streamed at Exeter Live. Here are some of the coming headliners:

Reginald Dwayne Betts, poet and lawyer

Dec. 10

Betts is a poet and lawyer promoting the rights and humanity of incarcerated people. The work is personal to him: He was tried as an adult for a carjacking at the age of 16 and sentenced to eight years in prison. Today, he fights for clemency and parole for individuals facing lengthy sentences, and he is a member of local and national taskforces dedicated to ending cash bail, limiting sentence lengths and prohibiting the practice of sending juveniles to adult prisons. This year, Betts was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship for launching Freedom Reads, a program that donates books and shelving for libraries, organizes author visits, and sets up book circles in prisons and juvenile detention facilities.

Devi Lockwood '10, journalist

Dec. 17

If you think the research needed to complete the notorious History 333 paper is exhaustive, consider Lockwood’s mission over the past five years: Traveling — mainly by bicycle — in 20 countries on six continents to document 1,001 stories on water and climate change. Lockwood, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard in 2014, has worked as a journalist and writer ever since and currently is ideas editor at “Rest of the World.”  Her research to collect stories on the effects of climate change has resulted in her first book, published in August.

Sarah Milkovich '96, NASA Jet Propulsion Lab

Jan. 7

During the summer between her upper and senior year at Exeter, Milkovich interned at Cornell University, working on a project that designed a spacecraft that could orbit an asteroid and record its findings. Her career in space exploration was launched. It has continued through undergrad years at Cal Tech and doctoral studies at Brown. She’s been working as a planetary geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab ever since, currently serving as the lead of science operations of the Mars 2020 rover mission.

Willie O’Ree, NHL pioneer

Jan. 14

On Jan. 18, 1958, Willie O’Ree stepped onto the ice at the Montreal Forum in a Boston Bruins uniform, becoming the first black hockey player in NHL history. While O’Ree’s NHL career was short, his professional hockey career stretched over three decades, and his impact on the sport endures. A native of Fredericton, New Brunswick, he is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Canada Sports Hall of Fame. His jersey number, 22, will be retired by the Bruins in a ceremony on Jan. 18, four days after his assembly address.

Chester Finn '62, education expert

Jan. 21

Only eight years removed from his graduation from PEA, Finn was advising the Nixon White House on matters related to education. Finn has dedicated his life to the topic as a professor of education, an education policy and a for four years in the 1980s as an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education. A longtime advocate of school choice, he founded and is president emeritus of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to educational excellence in American schools.

Stephanie Clifford '96, writer

Jan. 28

Clifford is a dual threat — a best-selling novelist and an award-winning journalist — who fell in love with writing as a reporter for The Exonian. “It was the best education of my life — it was so hard — I learned how to work, I learned how to hit deadlines in a way that I think a lot of people never have to,” she told a virtual assembly last year. Her second novel, "The Farewell Tour," will be published in 2023 by HarperCollins.