Last year, Science magazine published a study revealing that the North American continent has lost nearly 3 billion birds over the last 50 years. This means there are 29 percent fewer birds in the United States and Canada today than in 1970. Wellesley alumnae, faculty, and students are among those responding to the crisis with reseach and action.More
Some were tangible. There was the portrait of Chaucer that an alumna returned to me, after she had “borrowed” it from the English department 40 years ago. There was a rare second-edition copy of Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, originally published in 1548, presented to Wellesley in my honor at my inauguration. There was a painting by our beloved Kathryn Wasserman Davis ’28, which I received after her death in 2013, and that now hangs in my office. There were countless smaller gifts: magnets from alumnae in Tokyo; scarves and a gorgeous silk kimono; homemade southern pralines from an alumna and proud Wellesley grandmother; chocolates, nuts, dates, and fruitcake at the holidays. There was a cowboy hat from students—a nod to my Montana origins—and Swedish Fish from my staff. (It’s my favorite candy.) And then there were the Wellesley memorabilia: a copper teapot used by students in the early 20th century, now in the President’s House; a hoop with the names of Wellesley women from the 1930s to the 1960s inside, now at the President’s Office; and a photo album, which shows how much the campus has, and has not, changed over the last century.
Some of the gifts were intangible. Whether sipping a cup of coffee or a glass of wine on my terrace overlooking Lake Waban, discovering the hidden gems of our buildings and landscape, or walking my enviable “commute” from the President’s House to Green Hall, living and working on this beautiful campus has been a gift.
There has also been the gift of “my” students—watching the growth and development of young women over their four years at Wellesley. I very much look forward to seeing the class that started with me in 2007 (the yellow class of 2011) at their fifth reunion this June.
‘There has also been the gift of “my” students—watching the growth and development of young women over their four years at Wellesley.’
—H. Kim Bottomly
And there were the many, many people who gave the gift of themselves to make Wellesley an even better place. There were those faculty, staff, and alumnae who joined with me to create our innovative Madeleine Albright Institute for Global Affairs, including the indomitable Madeleine Korbel Albright ’59 herself. There were so many alumnae around the world who offered their expertise and advice as we became more international. There were countless faculty and alumnae who joined hands with me to stand firm against those forces that would undermine the most basic tenets of the liberal arts—to defend open debate on all topics, to celebrate artistic freedom, and to insist upon unfettered intellectual discovery. There were those alumnae whose hard work and support advanced their vision of a new career services model for the 21st century—an innovative part of the Wellesley experience that will be a gift to our students and alumnae for generations to come. There were those many staff members, faculty, and trustees who rolled up their sleeves to tackle the problem of how to upgrade and refurbish an iconic campus whose buildings had not been redone in decades. And always—always—there were our faculty members, who worked ceaselessly and creatively to maintain an exciting classroom experience, including those adventurous few who joined our WellesleyX venture to bring a small part of Wellesley to thousands of people around the world.
I will always be grateful for these, and so many other gifts. I will also be grateful for the memories of Wellesley. I will miss hearing the carillon play “To Alma Mater” and “Hedwig’s Theme” from Harry Potter. I will miss being called KBot and seeing the thousands of daffodils each April on the Weaver House hill. I will miss the Scream Tunnel, Lake Day, Hooprolling, tea with students, and the many traditions that make Wellesley Wellesley. I will miss our students. I will miss the sisterhood.
But I won’t be leaving Wellesley behind. As I have told every graduating class, once you are Wellesley, you will always be Wellesley. You will always belong here. Wherever I go, whatever I do, I will always carry the gift of Wellesley with me. Wellesley is now a part of me, and I am grateful for that gift.
Until recently, few people at Wellesley talked about the challenges first-generation college students face—or about how those women enrich the community. That is changing, as students, faculty, and staff proudly say, ‘I am first-gen.’More