Index of Alumni Profiles

Browse a comprehensive list of all Harvardwood Alumni Profiles below, and find out who our regular Member Profile writers/interviewers are!

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December 2017 | Sarah Manguso AB '97

photo by Andy RyanPoet, Essayist, and Novelist (300 Arguments)

By Adrian Horton AB '17

Sarah Manguso AB '97 did not dream of writing while growing up in Wellesley, Massachusetts. She didn’t write creatively in high school. In fact, the first time this poet, essayist, and soon-to-be novelist remembers writing—or, as she says, “consciously writing in a directed way, thinking about myself as engaging in ‘writing,’”—was in college, when she began composing short poems. The shift to poetry was part of an unexpected course change for Manguso, who arrived at Harvard from Wellesley High School with pre-med ambitions. As a “middle class townie girl,” she recalls, “the only greater achievement than getting into Harvard that my family or I could imagine [was] becoming a doctor. So I set out to become a doctor.” (photo to the left by Andy Ryan)

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November 2017 | Sandy Climan AB '77, MBA/SM '79

Agent, Producer, Studio Executive (CAA, The Aviator, MGM, Universal)

By Dayna Wilkinson

Sandy_Climan-headshot.jpegWhen people want to hear your opinion, you don’t sugarcoat it or manipulate them.  You tell them the unvarnished truth in a way they can absorb and embrace.

When Sandy Climan was growing up in the Bronx, no one would have thought Variety would later call him “the consummate Hollywood insider.” He was the kid who went to math camp, won science competitions and graduated first in his class from the renowned Bronx High School of Science.  

“I grew up in a lower middle class, white-and-blue collar neighborhood,” Sandy says.  “I hardly ever left the Bronx and, of course, there was no internet then. I went to the movies all the time and watched television incessantly, including great PBS programming like Masterpiece Theatre, Greek dramas and Athol Fugard plays. The only way for me to travel and explore other cultures was through books, television and movies, and they informed me about worlds I had never seen.” 

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October 2017 | R.J. Cutler AB '83

Director & Producer (The BreachNashvilleIf I Stay)

By Nicole Torres AB '11

rjcutler1.pngR.J. Cutler AB '83 has had a long and varied career spanning the worlds of theater, television, and film. He spent his early years after college in the theater, first at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, and later in New York working with the likes of Steven Sondheim, Bernadette Peters, and Kevin Spacey. His passion since the first grade and throughout college was theater, and initially he had no intention of transitioning to Hollywood.

The film that would ultimately spark his Hollywood career, the award-winning The War Room based on Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, emerged from his own personal interest in politics. Cutler recalls, “In 1992, I got very caught up in the presidential election, really just as a citizen, and later that year had the idea to make a documentary about Clinton’s presidential campaign. That film became The War Room, which was directed by D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus and produced by myself, Wendy Ettinger and Frazer Pennebaker, and it was through that experience that I was exposed to the whole world of independent film and documentary filmmaking.”  

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September 2017 | Danielle Feinberg AB '96

Director of Photography for Lighting, Pixar

written & illustrated by Susan Bin AB '16

20150325DanielleFeinberg06_2015_HeadOnly.JPG“When I was seven years old, some adult asked—you know how adults love to ask kids that‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ I said, ‘I want to be an artist,’  and this person crushed my dreams without realizing it. ‘You want to be an artist? You can’t make a living being an artist!’”

Seven months after graduating from Harvard, Danielle Feinberg joined Pixar in 1997. Two decades later, she has an impressive roster that includes the world’s most beloved and popular films from A Bug's LifeMonsters, Inc.The IncrediblesRatatouilleWall-E, and Brave. After finishing work on Brave in 2012, Danielle Feinberg was attached to the upcoming Coco as the Director of Photography for Lighting.

As Director of Photography for Lighting, Danielle is responsible for the placement of icons of light in a virtual three-dimensional space. Pixar builds universes, Danielle lights those worlds, and we, the audience, see their cinematic screen projections: underwater ribbons of light for a clownfish to dart through, the ineffably translucency of Parisian fruits, stirring atmospheric canvasses of one robot’s epic.

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August 2017 | Yuga Cohler AB '11

Orchestra Conductor, The Great Music SeriesState of Art 

By Dayna Wilkinson

Yuga_photo_on_bridge.jpeg“I’m already in the hot seat as a twenty-eight year old conductor, but I feel incredible joy at the insanely high level of playing and extreme responsiveness of a professional orchestra.”

“Both my parents are professional musicians,” says Yuga Cohler AB '11. “My mother’s a violinist and my father’s a clarinetist so I took up those instruments—it didn’t go well.” Fortunately, those were minor bumps in the road for Yuga, who started studying piano and music theory at age three. By age twelve, his primary instruments were oboe and piano.

“Shortly after starting on the oboe, I went to a music camp called Greenwood,” he says.  “That’s when I first discovered people my age who took music seriously.  It became a social thing—people I liked were also playing music, which made me like doing it more. By the time I was in my teens, I realized music was really great.” 

Yuga was interested in many different musical genres. “I really got into Eminem, then the underground hip hop scene. Also J-pop, Top 40 and musical theater for a while. Plus I listened to tons of classical records from my dad’s collection.”

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July 2017 | Winnie M. Li AB '00

WL_-_headshot.jpgAuthor of DARK CHAPTER, an upcoming novel based on her experience as a survivor of assault

By Nicole Torres AB '11

It’s Friday morning in Los Angeles and mid-afternoon in London, and Winnie M. Li AB '00 and I meet over Skype to discuss her upcoming novel Dark Chapter. (Photo credit: Grace Gelder)

Born in New Jersey, Winnie Li was drawn to literature and storytelling from a very young age. In particular, she had a fascination with Celtic culture and mythology that she can pin down to a very specific memory from her childhood. “I traced it back to one incident, I would’ve been quite young, like 6 or 7. I was in a travel agency in suburban New Jersey at the time and my mom was booking a holiday to Florida or something like that. I remember sitting and looking at all these different travel brochures and I found these glossy travel brochures about Ireland and Scotland and there were all these crumbling castles and I was fascinated with it.”

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June 2017 | Mike Sheresky MBA '97

image001_(1).png

Agent & Partner, United Talent Agency

by Daniel Gale-Rosen AB '10

It all started with Lawrence of Arabia. Michael Sheresky MBA ‘97 was lucky enough to see the re-release of the epic in 70mm at the Ziegfield movie palace, and he says that was what set him on the path to his current life, as agent and partner at United Talent Agency. Day to day, he “represents writers, directors, and producers, and helps them put their movies together.”

Prior to watching that film, Sheresky had been thinking about a life in politics, or on Wall Street. He studied political science in his undergraduate career, though he did try his hand at making some movies. However, he says, “I didn’t think I was, frankly, talented enough. I thought I could have been proficient at it, but I didn’t think I could be great.”

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May 2017 | Leonard Chang AB '91

Novelist (The LockpickerTriplines) & Writer (SnowfallJustifiedAwake)

By Nicole Torres AB '11

Chang.jpgBorn in New York City and raised in Long Island, Leonard Chang largely credits his love of literature to his mother. Growing up, Chang read a majority of her English and American novel collections which she had brought with her from Seoul to America.

While his amateur writing career began at the age of seven writing long letters to camp friends, his ‘aha’ moment, the moment he knew he wanted to be a writer, came in high school during a memorable interaction with his best friend Joe. Perhaps during a conversation about their futures, Joe remarked that he wanted to be a writer and a lightbulb went off in Leonard’s head. He thought, “You can do that?” and from that point on the seed of desire to become a writer was planted in his brain. During high school, the two of them embarked on a mission to co-write a novel together, and while Leonard remembers it as “youthful, ambitious, and terrible,” he also remembers it as “damn fun to write.”

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April 2017 | Monica Beletsky AB '99

Writer & Producer (Fargo, Parenthood)

By Sara Lynne Wright

Beletsky.JPGGrowing up with an African American dad and a Jewish mom in a diverse neighborhood of Philadelphia, Monica Beletsky AB ‘99 cultivated the empathy she now uses as a TV writer to step into different characters’ points of view. “People who are different from me aren’t just an abstract idea. I was lucky to grow up in a unique neighborhood of ethnic, religious and economic diversity.”

This multiplicity of viewpoints is reflected in the wide range of shows on which she’s been a writer-producer, including Parenthood, Friday Night Lights, The Leftovers, and Fargo

“The decade before my parents moved to Philadelphia, Black people and Jewish people were being prohibited from getting mortgages. But there were these special twin sister realtors in my neighborhood, West Mount Airy, who found a way to get mortgages for would-be homeowners who were discriminated against.” So by the time Monica was born, her parents’ neighborhood consisted of African-Americans, Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, interracial and (later) gay families who were all homeowners or renters in the same neighborhood.

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