Our Favorite Stories of 2019

Tufts writers look back over the year and talk about the stories that meant the most to them
A man’s class ring on a hand. Tufts writers look back over the year and talk about the stories that meant the most to them.
“I was completely floored,” said Steve Howes, who didn’t know the last time he had seen his father’s long-lost class ring. Photo: Alonso Nichols
December 17, 2019

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Tufts Now writers turn out a lot of stories in any given year. We asked them to talk about one story they wanted to revisit—and why it was a highlight for them in 2019.

The School of Dental Medicine Has 15 Floors. These People Always Take the Stairs

Photo: Anna MillerMy favorite story of the year introduced me to the “stair masters” at the Tufts Dental School—staff, faculty, and students who take the stairs instead of the elevator, often climbing all fifteen floors at a time. I thought it would be a fun, well-timed New Year story, since exercise is one the most common New Year’s resolutions. But it proved to have a message relevant all year long, and for anyone trying to be fitness smart when time is limited. Reading it again months later I was inspired all over again by people who created personal fitness practices by taking advantage of a simple and accessible resource: the stairs. They offered a lesson that we all need to take breaks from the desk and sitting. I particularly enjoyed the chance to talk with Tufts staff, who are often not on my Tufts Now beat. They were generous and straightforward as they offered a glimpse into how a place of work can support health and well-being. —Laura Ferguson    

A 1957 Tufts Class Ring Found on a Beach Wends Its Way Homeward

Photo: Alonso NicholsThis is my favorite kind of story—not breaking news or an important research finding (although those have their place), but a reminder of the connections between us that make life beautiful. Maggi Duncan going out of her way to contact Tufts and send in the ring she found was just the first thoughtful act here. I was impressed with the detective work that Adam Bissonnette put into tracking down the ring’s owner—a less curious person might have given up at the first database roadblock. But it was Steve Howes’ thoughtful reflections that gave the story meaning. People don’t often write in when a story posts, yet this one prompted several responses from readers. Apparently, Howes’ story touched them the way it did me. —Julie Flaherty

Sonia Sotomayor and the Power of Asking Why

Photo: Anna MillerI loved covering Sonia Sotomayor’s visit to Tufts. It’s always hectic covering someone so high-profile—there’s this pressure you put on yourself to capture their impressiveness. So it was a lovely surprise to find that Justice Sotomayor was not only tough, wise, and passionate, but also hilarious and relatable. She spoke so frankly and shared so many personal anecdotes, it felt like we were really getting to know her. Plus, it was a lot of fun to feel the energy of the room and watch her walking around, hugging people and laughing with them. I walked away with so much inspiration and so many ideas, both for my own life and for what I wanted to share with Tufts readers, that writing the story wasn’t work at all—it was a pleasure. —Monica Jimenez

Twice the Pressure

Photo: Alonso NicholsWhen I heard from a faculty member about a lacrosse player who had not just set up a mindfulness program for fellow student-athletes, but devised it as a research project to study the program’s effectiveness, I was intrigued. Audrey Evers, A19, turned out to be as impressive and compassionate as I imagined, with the open inquisitiveness that the best Tufts students all have. She told me how student-athletes strive to win not just on the field but in the classroom, and the pressure they are often under. The mindfulness program she helped run, and then analyzed, was warmly welcomed by Tufts Athletics, and hopefully will continue for years to come. —Taylor McNeil

This Veterinary Technician Is Obsessed with Teeth

Photo: Anna MillerI don’t have the same breadth of work to choose from as the other writers, having arrived at Tufts in August. However, my favorite project was a pair of stories about dental health in pets featuring the staff at Tufts at Tech Community Veterinary Clinic, based at Worcester Technical High School and run by Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts. The clinic’s veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and students are amazing caregivers and enthusiastic learners, dedicated to improving their patients’ lives and educating the next generation of veterinary professionals. They’re hard-working people trying to do the most good. Everyone I spoke with was passionate about sharing knowledge both among the staff and with pet owners.  As a long-time cat mom, I came away with great tips and info that I hope readers find useful, as well. —Angela Nelson

Changing the Family-Run Business Model

Photo: Courtesy of the Farida GroupWhen I hear “third-generation family business,” I don’t immediately think “entrepreneurial.” So I was surprised and delighted when I learned about the unconventional approach that brothers Irshad Mecca, A90, F18, and Ashfaque Mecca, A95, take to running their family’s shoe manufacturing company. The Meccas told me that they and their other two brothers give their cell phone numbers to all their firm’s employees—that’s more than 29,000 people. The brothers also refuse to promise jobs to their own children. And they wear uniforms just like their factory workers. These and other innovations seem to be succeeding—the company their grandfather founded as a single tannery now produces more than 35,000 pairs of shoes a day for global brands. And all those factory workers who have their bosses’ cell phone numbers? “We get maybe one or two calls a quarter,” Irshad told me, and they are always about serious matters. —Heather Stephenson

Not the Same Old Grind

Photo: Helene RagovinI liked to think of it as “Molarpalooza”—a day devoted to challenges, contests, trivia, and a general celebration of all things dental. The School of Dental Medicine staged its first Dental Fest in September, where teams of predoctoral and postdoctoral students could use their skills to compete against each other in unconventional ways, such as carving teeth from a block of soap. In a profession that sometimes suffers from dreary stereotypes, Dental Fest showed that dental students, and their professors, can exhibit a healthy dose of creativity, and, most of all, good humor. The energy and enthusiasm bubbling on the seventh- and eighth-floors of One Kneeland Street would easily dispel anyone’s unease about the dentist. The event also raised money for several of the dental school’s outreach programs. My only regret is that I didn’t get a chance to give some of the challenges a try myself—using a tiny toy drill to work on Play-Doh teeth is probably as close to practicing dentistry as I’ll ever be able to get. —Helene Ragovin