Jelani! Exclaim it. Feel its inner poetry. Jelani is the Swahili word for “mighty” or “powerful.” While at Bucknell, India Branch ’03, along with three other student-dancers, created a dance group that bore this potent name. The exultant syllables might well be a mantra for Branch’s career in New York City’s arts community today. Born in Harlem, she learned about Bucknell University through one of her high school mentors at the Institute of Collaborative Education, a progressive high school, located on 14th Street in Manhattan. She believed that Bucknell could extend the educationally rich and personalized atmosphere of her high school.
For Branch, who is the marketing manager at New City Center in Manhattan, dance is life. While at Bucknell, she was able to combine her love of dance with the practicality of economics and marketing. She felt it was very important to participate in a serious and challenging dance program, and that is what she found in Bucknell. However, when she began her studies, African dance was not a part of the University’s offerings. To Branch, the movements of African dance are “fluid and low to the ground, showing respect for the Earth, the environment.” She feels that this style of dance has much in common with ballet, as it tells stories of every day life.
Serendipitously, Branch forged a way to share her own knowledge of West African dance with a community eager for cultural expansion. With a collaborative effort from fellow students, Jelani presented its creative work at the Black Box Theater in 2002.Since her Bucknell days, Branch has continued her dance outreach through The Fall for Dance Festival every September, during which time 20 dance companies perform six programs over a period of 10 evenings. A ticket for each performance costs only $10, a real New York bargain, says Branch who is both a skilled dancer and marketer. — Maria Jacketti
Attorney Matthew Jaffe ’63 could make Pheidippides proud. In 1976, the U.S. Marine Corps established the Goundpounders Marathon, a race covering the Washington, D.C., area. To date, only four runners, including Jaffe, have participated in every run since 1976. While at Bucknell, the-attorney-to-be wrestled. He also discovered Mike Ekiss ’64, a passionate runner, who helped extend Jaffe’s cross-training. He began with relatively short three-mile runs. Within a decade his conditioning rose to a level allowing him to take on his first marathon. To date, Jaffe, 69, has run 33 Groundpounders’ marathons, as well as other marathons and shorter races.
A member of an aerobically-oriented family, he currently has a new interest, race-walking, another sport with ancient and venerable roots. His wife, Karen D. Weiss, a medical doctor, bikes back and forth to work, covering some 34 miles a day. Jaffes’ four children also have participated in running, no doubt inspired by their parents’ feats.
Jaffe says that running has improved every aspect of his life. “Running makes life better and allows you to get frustration out of your system.” He plans to run 50 marathons for Groundpounders, a goal that will take him into his 80s. He says, “I’d rather die than not do this!” — Maria Jacketti
Theodore Bayless ’53 was born in Atlantic City into a family with a keen interest in medicine. While at Bucknell, he met his future wife, Jaye Nides ’54, who inspired and motivated him in his career.
In the early 1960s, a fellowship brought him to Johns Hopkins, where he began an academic “triathlon” of patient care, research and teaching, culminating in a named professorship of medicine. Over the course of this career, he has treated more than 5,000 patients suffering from a variety of gastrointestinal disorders. In each case, he has spent 90 minutes doing preliminary evaluations, a rarity in the field.
The time and investigative depth evident in this diagnostic platform led to discoveries revolutionizing patient care. Bayless was able to recognize that lactose intolerance was a genetic trait by studying patients with milk intolerance. This research inspired the innovation of lactose-hydrolyzed milk, “a commercial product for the millions who are lactose intolerant,” which received the Franklin Institute Nutrition Medal in 1987.
Much of Bayless’ work is with adolescents and adults suffering from Crohn’s disease. Again, genetics proved essential in charting and improving patient outcomes. He was able to recognize disease patterns that recurred in families. One particular grateful family provided funds to establish a genetics laboratory. Research generated from this facility helped to locate the main gene responsible for Crohn’s Disease, verifying many of Bayless’ observations. Today the medical community has isolated more than 30 gene mutations, and new medications derived from this research are helping countless individuals to lead lives of greater ease and comfort.
A former patient, Richard J. Danzig, who served as Secretary of the Navy, recalls Bayless in this way: “There is about him a kind of warm humanity and careful reflectiveness, concerning both the individual patient and the general disease. An interest in both is by no means universal among good doctors.” — Maria Jacketti
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