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26.2 for a Cause: Terriers Running the Boston Marathon with a Mission

Boston Marathon

26.2 for a Cause: Terriers Running the Boston Marathon with a Mission Charities, personal struggles, and lost loved ones motivate this year’s group of runners

The only thing stranger than an October Commencement? How about an October Boston Marathon? Traditionally the third Monday in April, instead the 125th running of the world’s oldest marathon begins at 8 am on Monday, October 11, and it will be the first in-person Boston Marathon since 2023, one of scores of traditions worldwide canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Boston Athletic Association expects about 20,000 people to run in the race, with entrants qualifying based on their time or by running on behalf of a charity.

Boston University will be well-represented at the starting line in Hopkinton, Mass., on Monday morning. Here are the stories of six members of the BU community—two students, an alum, two faculty (one also an alum), and one staff member—who are running for a cause.

Nicole Homerin was born with a large ventricular septal defect, meaning she had a large hole in the left ventricle of her heart. A month after the 30th anniversary of her surgery, she will run her second marathon, defying what doctors told her parents. Photos courtesy of Nicole Homerin

Nicole Homerin (Wheelock’17) is running the Boston Marathon for Boston Children’s Hospital Miles for Miracles.

Homerin had open-heart surgery three decades ago, at six months old. She was born with a large ventricular septal defect, a hole in the left ventricle of her heart. A month after the 30th anniversary of her surgery, she will run her second marathon, defying what doctors told her parents.

“I was told very young that I would never do anything really strenuous, and I was supposed to sit out in gym class,” she says. “For some reason, life didn’t turn out that way.”

Homerin had countless doctor’s appointments as a child, and her family was told she would have to have a second surgery when she was seven. At that point, her doctor said she could wait a year. That happened again and again, then the surgery was scrapped completely.

Her physical activity was restricted as a child, but her parents let her release her energy by dancing. Homerin tried Irish dance at BU, and credits its short, intense spurts of activity with strengthening her heart, allowing her to run marathons. Another factor motivating her to overcome her heart issue was her dislike of being singled out. She wanted to participate in school gym class so classmates wouldn’t look at her differently. That’s the main reason she works with disabled people, she says.

Things were not, and still are not, totally normal for Homerin. Her running consists of intervals of running and walking. She’ll run for five minutes and then walk for one minute for the entire marathon. “Out there training, a lot of times, people would pass me and say, ‘Oh, are you okay?’ because they saw me walking,” she says. “I have to explain, ‘Yeah, I’m fine at this moment, but this is the way I train.’ It was definitely mentally challenging to accept that it doesn’t work to run the entire race together like a lot of people do.”

An early childhood education major at BU, Homerin began running when she was working with disabled children. After graduating, she started out in the deaf-blind program at Perkins School for the Blind, then worked at the Boston College Campus School while getting a master’s at BC.

The children “got through their difficulties and just pursued life and really tried to live to the fullest,” Homerin says. “Unfortunately, I started losing a lot of my students to their disabilities. [Running] reminded me that I’m very fortunate to be in a position I wasn’t really supposed to be in…able to do physical activity.”

Since 2023, seven students with  disabilities Homerin has worked with have died. To help cope with her grief, she would run before she went to work.

“How do you go into a preschool classroom and tell your kids, ‘Your classmate is no longer coming back,’” she says. She continued working with disabled students when she moved to Los Angeles for a doctorate, but needing a break from the stress, left the classroom. “It just got to be a lot. I would see my student one day, and the next day I would get a call that they were gone.”

When Homerin flew to Boston to run the marathon route with her Miles for Miracles teammates in early August, she got a call that her dad was “on his final days.” He died on August 27.

“I’m running for the children, I’m running for myself, but now I’m also running in memory of my dad,” Homerin says. “I know I’ll be crying the entire way.”

After the pandemic canceled her plan to run the 2023 Boston Marathon, Caroline Adamson will run the 2023 edition for her mom, who died of leukemia in January. Photo courtesy of Caroline Adamson

Caroline Adamson (Sargent’22) expected to run from Hopkinton to Boston on April 20, 2023. Then the city and the BAA pushed the race to September 14, 2023, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fine, Adamson thought, I have more time to train.

Next the BAA announced the marathon would be virtual, and she had to put her dream of crossing the Boylston Street finish line on hold.

Almost a year and a half later Adamson will race through the streets of eastern Massachusetts towns to Boston with a new view on the same purpose. She raised over $10,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society before the 2023 Marathon because her mother had twice been diagnosed with the disease. In November 2023, doctors diagnosed her mom with leukemia for the third time, and she died in January. 

“The mission has changed, almost, since the first time when I was trying to run it,” Adamson says. Her mother “was such a big part of my fundraising team and my encouragement, so now it’s turned into a mission where I want to cross that finish line for her.”

Adamson says fundraising for the race took a mental toll. She had to talk about her mom’s illness every time she spoke about the cause she was running for. After exceeding her $10,000 goal for the canceled 2023 Marathon, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society halved her minimum fundraising goal to $5,000 for the 2023 race.

“My mom was my biggest champion when I was training the first time,” Adamson says. “I’m more focused on the actual act of running the marathon than fundraising this time.”

Her loss is motivating Adamson to do all she can to cross the finish line. As she does, she’ll be listening to “Lose Yourself” by Eminem—and thinking of her mom.

Aaron Stevens, a food addict, used to weigh close to 300 pounds. Now, the Questrom finance and computer science lecturer wants to run one marathon a month. Photo courtesy of Aaron Stevens

Aaron Stevens (MET’02), a Questrom senior lecturer in finance and College of Arts & Sciences senior lecturer in computer science, is a food addict. At his peak weight, he carried close to 290 pounds.

From the time he began his undergrad studies at Indiana University in the late 1990s until he moved to Boston in his late 20s, Stevens never discovered a way to make himself run regularly. He found some consistency 15 years ago when he met his first running partner, built up to running seven miles, and cut his weight to 238 pounds—his record-low adult weight at the time. But soon after that milestone, his first child was born and he became too busy to run, and his weight climbed back up to 290.

When he turned 36 eight years ago, his youngest child was born and he changed his eating and exercise habits for good. His weight dropped to 200, and he has been running ever since.

“What has made me successful is that I have a core group of running friends that I meet at 5 o’clock in the morning,” Stevens says. “When it’s cold or it’s dark or it’s raining, it’s so easy to cancel on yourself. But if you tell a friend you’ll meet them at 5 o’clock in the morning, you don’t cancel.”

He gained a new perspective on his food addiction when a neighbor asked to store a case of hard lemonade in his refrigerator. When he asked if she was out of space, she said no, but if she kept it in her house, she would drink the whole thing that night. Stevens feels the same way about cookies, brownies, and ice cream. 

“I still see myself as being obese,” he says. “I spent 35 years being the fat kid. That’s pretty well ingrained.”

In December 2014, while Stevens was training for the 2024 Boston Marathon, his father was diagnosed with bladder cancer. He made multiple trips home to Chicago for hospital visits. “I’m totally powerless—most of us are—when a loved one is sick with cancer,” he says. “My biology and chemistry skills are never going to help [cancer treatment research], but my running skills and my enthusiasm can help.”

Stevens’ dad received an immunotherapy treatment developed by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute that helped him regain his health, so his son will represent the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team on the course.

“This is my way of giving back,” he says, “but also to help support primary cancer science research so other breakthrough treatments will be available to help other people.”

Now that marathons are starting up again post-pandemic, Stevens aims to run 10 to 12 a year (he ran 11 in 2023). He will run marathons on back-to-back days later this month.

Madison Jolly at the 2014 Chicago Marathon. Photo courtesy of Madison Jolly

Madison Jolly, a financial analyst in BU’s Study Abroad office, is running to raise money to keep the after-school programming at the Boston Public Library free to local students.

Growing up in Carlisle, Mass., she did after-school reading programs at her local library, so she wanted to make sure the next generation of students had the same opportunity. “People have been really generous,” she says. “What I appreciate most is people send little notes with their donations, and it’s just great to hear words of encouragement.”

Jolly started running with her middle school cross country team, and hasn’t stopped since. She ran her first marathons—Chicago, Disney, and Quebec—during a gap year before she started college. Her most recent was the 2023 New York City Marathon, which she ran while she was at Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island, her alma mater.

“I have, over the course of my childhood, been adding miles,” Jolly says. “I started with a 5K in middle school, then got up to a 10K and a half [marathon] in high school, so I just wanted to see if I could do the full marathon.”

She is used to running long distances, but was not used to this past summer’s heat—the average temperature of 74.5 degrees was 2.9 degrees over the previous 20-year average. “I feel like every time I was going to go for a long run, it was either over 90 degrees or it was raining,” Jolly says. “Honestly, I got to the point where I didn’t really mind the rain compared to the heat.”

Sarah Sherman-Stokes, associate director of LAW’s Immigrants’ Rights & Human Trafficking Clinic, is raising money for the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project, which provides pro bono legal services to asylum seekers and unjustly detained immigrants in Massachusetts. Photo courtesy of Sarah Sherman-Stokes

Sarah Sherman-Stokes is a School of Law clinical associate professor of law and associate director of LAW’s Immigrants’ Rights & Human Trafficking Program, where she teaches immigration law and supervises students who represent immigrants in court proceedings. 

She is raising money for the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project, which provides pro bono legal services to asylum seekers and unjustly detained immigrants in Massachusetts. 

Sherman-Stokes worked at the PAIR Project from 2011 to 2013 before coming to LAW, and the school has a close relationship with the project, she says. Her work with immigrants during her undergrad years at Bates College motivated her to enter immigration law.

“I was a union organizer working with janitors in Washington, D.C., in college,” she says of how she entered immigration rights work. “I got to spend a lot of time in office buildings listening to janitorial staff tell me about why they fled their home countries and came to the United States for safety.”

In addition to that work, she studied abroad in Central America. “I got to hear stories from folks whose parents or grandparents or siblings had made the journey north to the United States. I also learned a lot about the history of US involvement in Central America and the violence that we had wrought on the region that had driven many people to go to the United States.”

Last year Sherman-Stokes started running with ultramarathoner Kathryn Zeiler, a fellow LAW professor. Zeiler gave Sherman-Stokes a book about marathons and said she should run one.

“I thought, ‘I can only be motivated to do that if I’m doing it for a good cause,’” Sherman-Stokes says. “The opportunity to run for PAIR came along, and I jumped at it.”

Matthew Reiss after finishing the Boston Half Marathon in 2023. Photo courtesy of Matthew Reiss

Matthew Reiss (MED’22), a fifth-year PhD student studying pharmacology, graduated from Binghamton University with an engineering degree, earned a master’s in bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania, and worked in a cancer research laboratory.

Former swimmer and soccer player Reiss turned to a more experienced runner when he decided to start running: his stepbrother, who helped him adjust to running.

“I used to think to myself, what’s the point of running if there’s not a ball to chase after?” Reiss says. A first-time marathoner, he is representing the Boston Medical Center team, raising money for the hospital. 

“My feet were so sore at the end of my first half-marathon that I said to myself, never again,” Reiss says. “And…here we are. You forget the hard parts of it eventually, and it really is a fun experience.”

The sense of accomplishment at the end of a race is a great feeling, but the camaraderie of running with other people during marathon training keeps Reiss, who missed the team environment he had with swimming and soccer, coming back. 

“The most recent long run I did in training was 22 miles,” he says. “That’s something I literally cannot fathom having been able to do. It’s these little goals and realizing you can do more than you thought you could.”

The 125th Boston Marathon, on Monday, October 11, begins with the wheelchair division, the men at 8:02 am and the women at 8:05 am. Professional male runners begin at 8:37 am, professional female runners at 8:45 a.m. The rolling start for amateur runners begins at 9 am. Prime viewing spots on and near campus are on Beacon Street and in Kenmore Square. Wheelchair racers will enter Coolidge Corner via Beacon Street around 9:15 am.

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Bupd’s Role In The Marathon Bomber Manhunt

BUPD’s Role in the Marathon Bomber Manhunt Captain Robert Molloy recalls “a terrible week”

BU police joined the officers massed in Watertown April 19 to hunt for one of the Boston Marathon bombers. Photo by Julio Cortez/AP Photo

At midnight Thursday, April 18, Boston University Police Captain Robert Molloy and other BU officers found themselves in an all-night, house-to-house hunt for the nation’s most infamous fugitive, a man who’d allegedly shot at and lobbed explosives at police, in a scene straight out of war-torn Baghdad.

It started at 10:30 p.m. with word that MIT police officer Sean Collier had been gunned down in his cruiser in Cambridge by two men later revealed to be Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, brothers suspected in the Boston Marathon bombing three days earlier. BUPD Chief Thomas Robbins, Deputy Chief Scott Pare, and Molloy were among those who raced to BU to make sure the campus was secure. They learned that police had tracked the brothers to nearby Watertown, Mass., and engaged them in a gunfight. When Tamerlan was shot and Dzhokhar fled, police from numerous departments, including BU’s, poured into Watertown to help with the manhunt.

Residents of Boston, Watertown, and several other communities who had been ordered to stay indoors Friday were glued to their televisions, computers, and social media channels. Molloy relied only on police radios and communications. “You’re looking for a suspect,” he says. “You’re not on your smartphone, talking through tweets.”

Molloy has been an officer for 31 years, 6 of them in Houston, a big city with big-city crime. Even so, he says, the hunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev capped “by far the craziest week I’ve ever experienced.” Tamerlan Tsarnaev died after the gunfight, his brother running over him in a carjacked SUV to escape, police say. Dzhokhar, recovering from injuries, has been charged with the bombings, which killed 3, including BU student Lu Lingzi (GRS’14), and injured almost 300.

Molloy spoke to BU Today about his involvement in the globally viewed drama.

BU Today: How did you get involved?

Molloy: We heard an MIT officer was shot, and we had to make sure our campus was safe. When we got here, things began to unfold, with the car that was stolen by the two suspects and subsequent car pursuit. Then our officers responded from BU to Watertown. That was around midnight.

You knew then it might be connected with the Marathon bombings?

We weren’t sure yet. As I drove to Watertown, we heard calls being made that they were throwing explosives out the window as they were driving. When I got out there, I could smell the residue of explosives and gunpowder in the air. We were in the neighborhood where this had happened, and we knew we had suspects in the area. The car chase happened fairly quickly from Cambridge to Watertown, so by the time we got there, the chase was essentially over, and there was a suspect at large.

Several agencies had responded: Boston police, state police, canine units, transit police, local university police departments, Brookline police, MIT. A grid search was coordinated by the Boston Police Department. We were assigned areas where we had to search backyards and behind houses and vestibules of houses to check for the suspect. That’s what I was doing. We spent the remainder of that night, from about one o’clock in the morning till we secured the streets we were searching, at about 5:30 in the morning. It took us that long to methodically check every single backyard, under vehicles, in vehicles, in vestibules, behind yards—that’s a slow process. The suspects had just fired on a police officer, and they may have had explosives. We had to be very careful.

Did you knock on doors and enter homes?

We wanted people to stay away from windows. We really didn’t want people coming to the doors. But any door that was unlocked, we looked for open vestibules and front doorways. Some doors we knocked at, some doors we didn’t. I was with four BU police officers: Lieutenant Taso Giannopoulos, Officer Jacob Verge, Lieutenant Robert Casey, and Officer Brian Abdallah.

Were you calm, or were you thinking your life was in danger?

It was scary, no doubt about it. I think everybody out there was very concerned. We knew we had a job to do. We had to do it correctly. You’re afraid for your safety and your fellow officers’ safety, but you had to put that fear aside for the urgency of being able to locate this dangerous person.

Were there times when police had their guns drawn?

We had the Boston and state police SWAT teams with us. They have rifles; obviously, they were out. There were some instances where our guns had to be drawn—if you’re checking a backyard and all that. You were at the ready, obeying proper police procedures. But we felt he had just killed a police officer. This was a very highly dangerous situation.

What happened at 5:30 Friday morning?

At that point, there was more organization in effect, with more gridded searches. So although we had many officers back here protecting our campus, we had to make the decision to pull out. We had to return to campus; there were some people who were working all night. We did a small debrief at the police station. Then, some people had to go home, others stayed, and we just kept a strong police presence at Boston University’s campus. We maintained that presence through the next 48 hours.

There’s an ensuing investigation. As the days go by, I’m sure they’ll be speaking to our officers in putting these pieces together.

You wanted to take Dzhokhar Tsarnaev alive to ask him questions. On the other hand, this is a dangerous situation. In a battle, are you shooting to kill?

If there’s a threat of serious bodily injury or to life, we’re trained to stop that person—not to kill him, not to maim him, not to shoot a gun out of his hand. Wherever the center of mass of that person is, you’re trained on stopping him. It could be a lethal shot. Any way you can, if he’s coming at you or shooting a firearm at you, you’re trained to stop him by center-of-mass.

Did you know Officer Collier?

No. I have a patrolman who knew him. He’s very upset.

What would you say to Tsarnaev if you were in his hospital room?

I just am so sad that he’s destroyed so many lives. He’s destroyed families, he’s killed people. I just—I don’t know what I would say to him. It’s been a terrible week.

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The Glue That Holds The Women’s Basketball Terriers Together

The Glue That Holds the Women’s Basketball Terriers Together Three-time team captain Corrine Williams a mentor on the court and off

Corrine Williams (CGS’16, COM’18) has helped the Terriers go from just eight wins over her first two seasons to double digit wins in the last two seasons. Photos by BU Athletics

“I think of somebody who’s probably the most consistent person I’ve ever met,” Steding says. “She’s always the same. You know exactly what you’re gonna get when you talk to Corrine. She’s caring, she’s steady.”

On paper, Williams’ stats won’t blow you away: 8.9 points, 5 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. What has made her an invaluable part of the team is her ability to command the respect of her teammates and her tenacity in helping the team struggle through a couple of lackluster seasons to become a real presence in the Patriot League.

The coach recalls the moment she and her staff realized Williams had the potential to lead the team. During a game at the start of the 2024–2024 season, Williams shouted some “choice words” on the baseline to her teammates, Steding says. The coaches side-eyed one another, realizing that Williams was ready to hold people accountable.

“She doesn’t get emotional because she’s so steady, so when she does get emotional, it really carries a lot of weight,” Steding says. “Coaches—we get emotional all the time, so sometimes it doesn’t carry as much weight because there’s this: ‘She’s amped up about turnovers again. She wants us to box out again.’ But when somebody like Corrine really lets you have it, then it’s like, ‘Wow, okay. This is really serious.’”

She’s “very, very level-headed,” says Naiyah Thompson (CAS’19, Sargent’19). “Regardless of if we’re having a rough practice or a rough game, whether we’re behind or we’re ahead, she keeps us on an even keel.”

“As I’ve gotten older,” Williams says, “when we’re all together and a few girls starting getting rowdy, I’m definitely the one who’s the peacemaker.”

At 6’1”, she has the size of a forward and the speed of a guard and has proven herself to be the ultimate jack-of-all-trades on the court. She plays “every position except the point guard,” Tenisha Pressley (Sargent’21) says.

“Throughout my whole career,” Williams acknowledges, “I’ve just played wherever I was needed. Wherever coach needs me to play, I can do it.”

Given her versatility and her leadership skills, it’s hard to imagine that at one point she contemplated walking away from her college basketball career.

A native of Bloomfield, Conn., Williams’ love for basketball came naturally. Her father had played at Eastern Connecticut State University. By the time she was in eighth grade, she had received an offer to play from Assumption College. “You always hear from your coaches and your parents that you can play at the next level, and you can go to school and get a free education,” she says, but it wasn’t until colleges started reaching out to her that she began to believe it. A four-time Central Connecticut Conference selection, she finished her high school career with 1,281 points.

Williams was recruited by BU during her high school junior year. She accepted, but just months before she was to start, there was an abrupt change in the coaching staff with the resignation of head coach Kelly Greenberg.

“I was a little taken back, but I never called any other school,” Williams says. “I was in it for the long haul regardless.”

A rough time

Her BU career began with a 3-3 record, but the season quickly went downhill—the Terriers went 2-for-25 the rest of the way. Off the floor, Williams struggled to adjust to college, to balance academics and athletics. The routine became onerous: “Wake up, go to class, practice, lift, do homework, and go to bed,” she says. “It was that same thing every single day.”

Midway through freshmen year, she seriously considered leaving the team. But with Steding’s encouragement, she hung in there despite a sophomore season that saw the Terriers lose their first 15 games and finish with a 3-27 record.

“Coming into sophomore year, it was kind of a continuation of how we ended the first year,” Williams says. “It was a rough time in general. Rough time.”

Over the past two years, the team’s fortunes have improved significantly. The Terriers finished last season with a 13-17 record and earned their first Patriot League tournament appearance under Steding. And despite beginning this season with a 5-5 nonconference record, they are 10-16 with just two games left in the regular season, a slight regression from last year.

Players call their captain the glue of the team, and they credit much of the past two years’ turnaround to her. “She’s just a great person to model yourself after, not just on the court, but off the court,” Pressley says.

For her part, Williams says she’s grateful to former captains like Courtney Latham (Questrom’17) for their example, which provided much needed perspective as the team battled during her first two seasons. “This season, when we hit a lull and had a six-game losing streak, we knew we had been in a worse scenario before,” she says. “We have had to fight through much worse games than that. You get stronger from going through those struggles.”

Williams has not only found her voice on the court, but balance off the court as well. As both a sophomore and junior, she was named to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll.

And as she begins contemplating life after BU, she says she plans to pursue a career in college athletics communications.

Both the coaching staff and next season’s returning players are already trying to imagine the program without her. “I don’t know what college basketball is without her,” Thompson says. “That’s gonna be wild.”

“Even thinking about not having her around, I’m like, phew, that’s a big pair of shoes to fill,” Steding says. “It’s going be a steep learning curve for whoever has to come behind her, because they’re going to realize how much Corrine did. We’re going to miss her a lot.”

The BU women’s basketball team takes on Army tomorrow, Saturday, February 24, at 2 pm, at Case Gym, 285 Babcock St. Tickets are $8 for the general public, $5 for faculty, staff, and students without a sports pass, and free for students with a sports pass. The Patriot League Network will broadcast the game live. 

Jonathan Chang can be reached at [email protected].

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Boston University Alumni Nominated For Tony Awards

And the Tony Award Goes to… BU alums nominated for theater’s top honor

Reed Birney (CFA’76) (from left), Sarah Steele, Jayne Houdyshell, and Arian Moayed in a scene from Stephen Karam’s Tony-nominated play The Humans. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe

If there’s any truth to the adage “Good things come to those who wait,” then veteran actor Reed Birney should be rewarded Sunday night. Birney (CFA’76), who has yet to win a Tony Award after nearly four decades in the business, is nominated for best featured actor in a drama for his critically praised performance in Stephen Karam’s moving family drama The Humans.

The play transferred from off Broadway to Broadway in February. Charles Isherwood writes in his New York Times review, “I have written many times of Mr. Birney’s excellence, but his performance here moved me so deeply I find myself reaching for new superlatives.” In his portrayal of family patriarch Erik Blake, Birney “draws a heartrending portrait of a loving husband, father, and son slowly withering inside, in a state of bemused bewilderment at the unforeseen turns his life has taken.”

Birney is one of four BU alumni nominated this year for a Tony Award, the American theater’s highest accolade.

For the 61-year-old actor, the nomination is a hard-won honor. He landed his first Broadway role in the long-running comedy Gemini in 1977. But that early success was followed by many lean years, offset by roles in off-off-Broadway productions, occasional supporting guest appearances in television shows such as Law & Order, and teaching gigs. Several times, he contemplated leaving acting altogether.

“There were many long periods where I was flat on my back with despair,” says Birney. But, he adds, “despair is the enemy, and you lose too much of your precious life being sad when sad doesn’t help you one little bit.”

His fortunes began to turn around in 2008, when he played a ruthless journalist who rapes a woman in the off-Broadway drama Blasted, by Sarah Kane. Critics—and a whole new generation of playwrights and directors—took notice. He was then cast in a revival of William Inge’s Picnic in 2012, marking his return to Broadway after a 35-year absence. And two years ago, he received his first Tony nomination, for his performance as cross dresser Charlotte in Harvey Fierstein’s drama Casa Valentina.

Birney describes his current role of Erik Blake, an equipment manager for a Catholic high school in Scranton, Pa., as a regular Joe. “I think he is like many men in America now who are struggling to make ends meet and take care of his family,” he says. “I don’t think he could ever afford to have big dreams. The reality of surviving took all his time and energy.”

The actor was drawn to the play because of the quality of the writing. “It’s one of the most meticulously crafted plays I have ever read,” he says. “And the part is astonishing. I get to go through virtually the full range of human experience every night. The best part of having been alive this long is that I am as beaten up as the character.”

Birney marvels at how fortunate he was to land the part. He typically portrays the guy in a suit—a teacher or a politician. He currently plays Donald Blythe, US vice president, on the Netflix hit series House of Cards. “At this late date in my career,” he says, “it’s very unusual to get to do something you’ve never done. I was nervous about people buying me as a janitor. The challenge was to find a way to play a man who has led an unexamined life. Erik has never had the luxury of self-reflection.”

His performance has struck a chord with theatergoers, many of whom (particularly men) leave the theater in tears. “The play touches everyone on some big level,” he says, “but I think that for men my age, they have never seen their lives and their struggles shown quite like this….I think it is very comforting for them to know that they are not the only ones who struggle.”

The show, which is nominated for six Tonys (and widely considered the favorite to win best play), has already earned a number of prizes this season, including a special Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Ensemble, as well as Outstanding Play, earlier this week.

Winning a Tony on Sunday, Birney says, would represent something of a vindication for all the lean years. “I am so happy to know that all the people who said to me, ‘Something will happen, Reed,’ were right. And to know that maybe I wasn’t crazy this whole time. I actually feel grateful for all the early-career heartbreak. It’s cliché, but having to wait this long for this moment has made it that much sweeter.”

One producer, six Tony nominations

Sue Wagner already knows the thrill of winning a Tony—four of them, in fact. One of Broadway’s most prolific producers, Wagner (CFA’97), who works with Joey Parnes Productions, is up for an extraordinary six Tonys this season: for best musical, for Bright Star (lyrics and music by Edie Bricklell and Steve Martin) and Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, starring Audra MacDonald; for best revival of a play, for The Crucible and A View from the Bridge, both by Arthur Miller; and for best new play, for Blackbird and The Humans. 

Growing up in New York, Wagner fell in love with live theater as a child. Her parents were musical theater junkies and often took her to shows. “My first Broadway show was Yul Brynner’s final performance in a revival of The King and I, and I remember sobbing at the curtain call. The entire company was, as he was dying of lung cancer at the time,” recalls Wagner. That moment made an indelible impression. “I remember thinking, this is everything. This is how lives get changed.”

Wagner says her years as a student in the College of Fine Arts School of Theatre proved good training for her career. “BU wasn’t the kind of experience where we had endless resources with which to create art,” she says. “Most of the time it was a classroom with track lighting and hideous black and red tiled floors, and then a professor would say, ‘Do a Lanford Wilson play in here.’ So we did. We just had to be resourceful, think outside the box, and make it work. That helped me immensely when I finally got out into the real world and had to make something out of nothing. I was used to it; it wasn’t scary. And the irony is that even when you get to create your art on Broadway, those same confines still exist. The budget isn’t carte blanche—you still need to be crafty and resourceful and think of clever solutions.”

After graduation, Wagner spent a few years working at theaters in New York City, taking any job she could get, and producing guerrilla-style fringe theater in basements and the back of bars when she could. Then she got her first big break: working as an assistant to the legendary Broadway producer Liz McCann. “What I learned from her over the eight years I worked for her was invaluable and an experience I am grateful for every day.” It was there that she met her current producing partners, Joey Parnes and John Johnson.

As a producer, Wagner puts together all of the elements that make up a show: the idea, the rights to that idea, artists to conceive and execute the vision, a space to stage the idea, financial resources, and an audience. “My favorite kinds of plays and musicals are the ones where you’re laughing so hard you think you’ll pee your pants, and suddenly you’ve burst into tears because you recognize yourself up there,” she says. “That’s what people come to the theater for. It’s a shared experience and if that experience is hollow or just surface, it doesn’t interest me. For me, it has to pack an emotional wallop.”

Wagner cops to being “weirdly superstitious” on Tony night. She’ll perform a series of rituals, as she does each year, in preparation for the awards ceremony, “because I’m convinced that if I were to change that routine, the luck would run out.” So, she’ll borrow something dazzling from noted Fifth Avenue jeweler Verdura and wear the same pair of Stuart Weitzman shoes she’s worn to every Tony ceremony since 2013.

“I’m convinced they are my lucky charms, and yes, I do have some lucky underwear,” she says.

Other BU alums nominated for 2024 Tony awards are producers James Nederlander (CGS’80), for best play, for The Humans, best musical, for Bright Star and School of Rock, and best revival of a musical, for The Color Purple and Fiddler on the Roof, and Jon B. Platt (CGS’74), for best play, for The Humans and King Charles II, best musical, for Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, and best revival of a play, for The Crucible, A View from the Bridge, and Blackbird.

The Tony Awards ceremony will be broadcast on CBS Sunday, June 12, at 8 p.m. EDT.

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The $4.5M Monster Trucks Running Gold Mines

The $4.5m Monster Trucks running gold mines

I’ll confess, my attention wasn’t entirely on Ford’s top-secret 2024 F-150 prototype when I saw the clandestine trucks in action at the Cortez gold mine. After all, it’s hard to concentrate when multistory monster-trucks are roaming a near-Martian landscape. Roughly $4.5m apiece, they’re the sort of heavy machinery most of us never come into contact with, so join me on a photo-tour of these big-wheeled behemoths.

Cortez has a mixed fleet of trucks, though most are Liebherr T282B. Rear-wheel drive, they’re 48 feet long and 24 feet high.

Tires for the trucks don’t come cheap. Cortez keeps a stockpile of spares – along with a specially-adapted Caterpillar loader to move them – costing around $50,000 apiece.

You get a lot of rubber for your money, however. The T282B uses six 59/80 R63 tires, more than 13 feet in diameter.

Big trucks need big engines, and the T282B doesn’t show up lacking in power. Liebherr offers a choice of two engines, either a 78-liter V18 or a 90-liter V20, for in excess of 3,500 HP.

The diesel engines themselves don’t directly power the wheels, however. Instead, they work as a generator for the T282B’s electric drive system, which can propel the truck at up to 40 mph.

Cortez runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with four shifts each working for 12 hours. The mine only shuts down on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving.

Maintenance on each truck takes place once a month, with Cortez’s on-site garage capable of doing a full overhaul of the vehicles if they require it.

Contrary to appearances, the Cortez miners didn’t quite trust me to drive the trucks myself. However, with no gears to navigate, and ample power-assistance to the controls, they’re said to be as easy to operate as an electric golf-cart.

Each truck has cruise control, along with differential wheel torque control, which can automatically boost the power sent to the right or left wheels when the driver is making low-speed turns.

The trucks don’t so much have a blind-spot as a moat of blocked visibility around them, and with easily enough power to crush a car there are strict rules on-site about how much space other vehicles should leave between them.

To help the driver, there are cameras on all of the corners of the trucks, feeding to LCD displays in the cab. All vehicles on-site drive on the left, too, since it’s then easier to position the truck on the road.

Rather than the system you’d find on most modern cars, the T282B uses electric retarding on the front wheels, while dry disc service brakes are automatically applied front and back. The driver assistance aids can also use them to help stop the truck from rolling backwards when at low-speed on an incline.

While the trucks handle on-site transportation, they don’t actually move the intermingled rock and gold to the processing facility. That’s the responsibility of a nine mile long conveyor – made of a solid length of rubber, a full eighteen miles long – which snakes across the scrubland between the two locations.

Cortez has only had one major accident with a dump truck, when a driver passed out due to a medical condition and the vehicle slowly overturned. Aside from some minor damage to the bodywork and railings at the front, it was undamaged, and the driver also recovered.

Cortez may have invested significantly into its fleet - it currently has around 55 trucks – but it pays dividends. In 2013, the mine produced 1.34 million ounces of gold, which at today’s prices would be worth around $1.68bn.

Thanks to Ford and Barrick for hosting me at the Cortez mine

Presidents’ Day Weekend In Boston

Presidents’ Day Weekend in Boston Plays, museums, and more on campus and off

This weekend marks the last three-day weekend until Patriots’ Day in mid-April. It’s a chance to get outdoors for some skating or cross-country skiing or hiking or to catch up on movies, try out a new museum, or take in a play. Whatever your interests, we’ve put together a list of some of the best goings-on around town to make your holiday fun. Know of other events taking place this weekend? Post them in the Comment section below.

Athletics Terrier Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey, Men’s Basketball

West Campus will host a number of sports games this weekend. The men’s ice hockey team hosts the University of New Hampshire on Friday night in one of the regular season’s final games. The Hockey East matchup begins at 6 p.m. The same evening, the women’s ice hockey team takes on crosstown rival Northeastern at Walter Brown Arena at 7 p.m. The tilt will be the latest chapter in the Terriers-Huskies rivalry (the women fell to Northeastern 3-2 in the Beanpot semifinal January 31). The women celebrate Senior Day Sunday, February 19, before taking on the University of Maine, with puck drop at 3 p.m. Students should come ready to eat as the game is the program’s 10th annual Chili Fest. Hockey East playoff seeding is on the line, so expect some great games.

Also on Sunday is the men’s basketball team annual Senior Day celebration, when they host Bucknell University at noon. The team’s four seniors will be honored before tipoff. The Terriers look to lock up a top seed in the upcoming Patriot League Tournament.

It’s men’s ice hockey vs. UNH Friday, February 17, at 6 p.m. at Agganis Arena. The women’s ice hockey team hosts Northeastern that night at 7 p.m. and Maine on Sunday, February 19, at 3 p.m., at Walter Brown Arena. The men’s basketball team hosts Bucknell for Senior Day on Sunday, February 19, at noon at Case Gym. Find tickets and directions here.

Fenway Park Tour

The Boston Red Sox don’t start spring training in Florida until February 23, but fans who can’t wait can kick off the 2023 season this weekend with a tour of Fenway Park. Guided one-hour tours take fans of all ages through the inner workings of the iconic ballpark. You’ll learn about baseball’s oldest manual scoreboard, view the 10 most memorable moments in Red Sox history, and tour the Fenway Archive, which includes baseballs, bats, and uniforms worn by players over the decades. Be sure to take a selfie from atop the storied Green Monster.

Fenway Park tours are daily on the hour from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the off-season. Tickets are $20 for adults and $12 for children 12 and under and are available at the ballpark, 4 Yawkey Way. Find tickets and directions here.

Outdoor Events Ice Skating in Boston

There are several ice skating venues around the city, but two are must-sees before the cold-weather season ends. Enjoy the picturesque scenes of the Boston Common, the nation’s oldest public park, while you pirouette around the Frog Pond. The classic winter setting is an ideal place to meet up with friends or have a romantic date, and is suitable for skaters of all skill levels. Don’t have your own skates? No worries. You can rent a pair for $12. New this year is the 11,000-square-foot ice skating path at City Hall Plaza, part of the city’s Boston Winter offerings. The rink offers skating lessons and other events and is open through the end of February.

The Frog Pond rink is in the Boston Common, 38 Beacon St. Weekend hours are Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Skating is free for kids 58 inches tall and below, $6 for those 59 inches and taller. Skate rentals are $6 for children and $12 for adults. Take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street.

The Boston Winter outdoor skating path is at City Hall Plaza, One City Hall Square, Boston. Skating is $10 for adults, $8 for kids 5 to 12, and free for children 5 and under. Skate rentals are $6. Find directions here.

Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing

Despite rising temperatures around Boston, snow is expected to remain on the ground through Presidents’ Day weekend, which should make for some good cross-country skiing. Fortunately, you can get out and exercise at two nearby locales.

Weston’s Leo J. Martin Golf Course is transformed each winter into a cross-country ski and snowshoeing center and is a popular destination for stir-crazy Bostonians. There are just over nine miles of track with natural snow, with another 1.2 miles on a lighted loop with artificial snow. Visitors can rent skis, snowshoes, and pulks (child carriers) on site. Find information about rentals here and ski and snowshoe lessons are available for a fee. Private instruction is also offered.

Just south of Boston, the Blue Hills Ski Area, part of the 7,000-acre Blue Hills Reservation, which stretches from Quincy to Dedham and from Milton to Randolph, offers 12 trails for downhill and cross-country skiing, with a combination of natural and man-made snow. Skis, boots, snowboards, and helmets are available for rental. Find more information about rentals here. Lessons for children and adults of all ages are also available; find out more here.

The Weston Ski Track is at 190 Park Rd., Weston. Visitors can rent equipment on site, and lessons are available for a fee. Find a complete list of services, hours, prices, and directions here.

The Blue Hills Ski Area within the Blue Hills Reservation is at 4001 Washington St., Canton. Find a complete list of services, hours, prices, and directions here.


Looking for a family-friendly event this Presidents’ Day? Head over to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the Fenway for the museum’s weeklong annual Winter Party, which coincides with Boston schools’ winter vacation. This year’s events include interactive theater from actress Black Venus, dancing in the courtyard with Nadine Martinez, and gallery games throughout the historic Venetian palace, among other attractions. And for those anxious for a taste of spring, there’s no better respite than the museum’s stunning courtyard, filled with fragrant flowering plants.

The Winter Party at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 25 Evans Way, Boston, is Monday, February 20, through Friday, February 24, at 11 a.m. (closed Tuesday). Find ticket prices and information and get directions here.

In recognition of the 75th anniversary of the publication of Robert McCloskey’s classic children’s book Make Way for Ducklings, the MFA has mounted an exhibition of the author-illustrator’s work. Ducklings tells the story of a family of ducks who take up residence in the Boston Public Garden and has not been out of print since first published in 1941. The exhibition contains more than 50 works by the two-time Caldecott Medal recipient, studies from some of his other classic children’s books, such as Blueberries for Sal and Time of Wonder, as well from the classic favorite.

Make Way for Ducklings is on display until June 18, 2023, at the Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston. The museum is open Friday, February 17, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday, February 18, through Monday, February 20, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Find regular hours and admission prices here (free to BU students with ID).

Valentine’s Day may be over, but this new exhibition at the Museum of Science is a must for all chocolate lovers. Visitors will learn the complete story behind the tasty treat. More than 200 objects are on display and will offer an overview of the culture of chocolate. Much of the exhibition is interactive.

Chocolate: The Exhibition is on display at the Museum of Science, One Science Park, Boston, through May 7. Admission is included with an Exhibit Hall ticket, $25 for adults, $21 for seniors, and $20 for children. Hours: Friday, February 17, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, February 18, through Monday, February 20, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Find more information and tickets here.

In anticipation of the centennial anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s birth this coming May, the National Park Service is opening the house where he was born to visitors on Presidents’ Day, Monday, February 20. (The house is usually closed during the winter months.) The Kennedy family lived in the house in Coolidge Corner from 1914 to 1920 and bought back the house in 1966, three years after Kennedy’s assassination. In 1969, after a restoration supervised by the late president’s mother, Rose Kennedy, the property was given to the National Park Service, which operates the National Historic Site. Visitors can see the upstairs master bedroom where Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917, as well as the small bedroom across the hall where the future president shared a room with his older brother, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Note: all of the clocks in the house are set to 3 p.m., the time of JFK’s birth.

The John F. Kennedy National Historic Site, 83 Beals St., Brookline, Mass., is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday, February 20. Guided tours are available on the hour and half hour. Admission is free. More information is available here. Find directions here.


The Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, dedicated to the production of new plays, is currently mounting The Honey Trap, a new drama by Leo McGann (GRS’17), a student in BU’s MFA Playwriting Program. The play, set in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, begins with two British soldiers out on the town for a pint of beer, but soon turns tragic. The drama received the National Partners of the American Theatre Playwriting Award at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in 2024. The production is part of the BU New Play Initiative and is produced by Boston Playwrights’ Theatre and the College of Fine Arts School of Theatre.

The Honey Trap is playing at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, through Sunday, February 26. Tickets are $30 for adults, $25 for seniors, and $10 for students with a valid ID. Tickets can be purchased online here.

A stunning production of Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s Tony Award–winning dark comedy The Beauty Queen of Leenane by Ireland’s Druid Theatre Company, directed by Tony-winner Garry Hynes, is being presented by ArtsEmerson. The story of a spinster and her homebound mother engaged in an emotionally wrenching tug-of-war stars Marie Mullen, who won a Tony 20 years ago as the daughter in the original Broadway run and here plays the mother (with Aisling O’Sullivan as the daughter). This subversive thriller is a must for theater lovers.

The Beauty Queen of Leenane is at ArtsEmerson’s Paramount Center, 120 Boylston St., Boston, through February 26. Find schedule, ticket prices, and directions here.


The Institute of Contemporary Art hosts the US debut of English director Steve McQueen’s Steve McQueen: Ashes, a standout from the 56th Venice Biennale in 2024. McQueen won an Oscar for his 2013 feature 12 Years a Slave. Ashes is a video installation by the filmmaker that presents footage on both sides of a freestanding screen. One side, shot on Super 8 film, tells the story of Ashes, a fisherman, who balances on a pitching boat against an expanse of sky and water. The other side shows a second projection, shot on 16 mm film, that chronicles the fisherman’s unexpected fate. The two films are united by a shared soundtrack.

Steve McQueen: Ashes is at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston 100 Northern Ave., Boston, through February 25, 2023. Admission to the museum is free on Monday, February 20, in honor of Presidents’ Day. Find hours, admission, and directions here and more information here.

In anticipation of the 89th Academy Awards on Sunday, February 26, the ICA is once again presenting Oscar-Nominated Shorts, featuring all of the live-action, documentary, and animated shorts nominated this year. Among the films are the family favorite Pixar short Piper, a deftly detailed piece of animation, and Joe’s Violin, a documentary about the passing down of a Polish Holocaust survivor’s violin to a young girl in the Bronx and the way it changes their lives.

Oscar-Nominated Shorts is at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, 100 Northern Ave., Boston, through March 5. Tickets are $5 for members and students, $10 for nonmembers. Find film times and buy tickets here up to two hours before most screenings or call 617-478-3103. Walk-up sales begin two hours before the screenings. Find directions here.


The Boston University Ballroom Dance team hosts its annual daylong Dancesport competition Sunday, February 19, at the GSU. The event brings together nearly 400 accomplished ballroom dancers from across the East Coast for a dazzling competition that includes Latin, rhythm, smooth, and standard ballroom dance.

The 15th Annual Terrier Dancesport Competition is at the George Sherman Union Metcalf Ballroom, 775 Commonwealth Ave., on Sunday, February 19, . The event begins at 7 a.m. and is expected to wrap up about 9 p.m. Admission is free. Find more information here.

Connor Lenahan can be reached at [email protected].

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