Congratulations and thank you for publishing a wonderful magazine. It continues to be interesting, entertaining, and inspiring—and even improves over time! It is another reason I am so grateful to have attended Wellesley.
Georgea Ryan Culpepper ’56, New Bern, N.C.
I just finished reading Anisa Mehdi’s eloquent and informative essay on documenting the Hajj (“On Hajj,” spring ’14). The knowledge of the Hajj being our planet’s largest diverse annual gathering fills me with awe. Anisa writes with such sensitivity and sensibility that I feel honored to be a fellow alumna and thus able to share the vehicle, this magazine, of her insights on both the Hajj and herself. In short, thank you.
Libby Chiu ’73, Ogden Dunes, Ind.
Appealing to Everyone
You put out such an excellent magazine! I always enjoy the editor’s page and much of the content, but, like many my age, deplore the tiny print! You are addressing people of so many different ages yet there is always something that appeals to everyone and all of it stretches our minds. Long may you remain in place.
Dona Chumasero Everson ’45, North Branford, Conn.
On Campus Renovation
“Wellesley Reimagined” (spring ’14) asserts “… almost 70 percent of [the College’s] buildings have not been renovated in more than 50 years,” “… leaky roofs, dark and dank labs, and whole departments ‘temporarily’ shoehorned into nooks and crannies—for years.” Such conjured images are not unique to the magazine; similar statements have been voiced by the College’s top administrators.
A different picture of conditions emerges when the record is examined. Thirty-five buildings were renovated between 1964 and 2000; they are listed in The Landscape and Architecture of Wellesley College, on pages 284–5, along with the architects’ names who did the work. Turning from lists to dollar amounts confirms the trustees’ attention to renewal. Sciences: $15 million for the expanded Science Center in 1974; an addition in 1991, $12 million; $5 million for periodic upgrades; and $2.5 million for the greenhouses. Clapp Library: three-stage renovation starting in the 1990s, $22 million. Academic Quad Buildings: Founders, $8 million; Green Hall, $6 million; Pendleton East, $18 million; Jewett, $11 million. Residential dormitories: renovation of all 13 residential dormitories and their satellites such as Dower, the French House, and the infirmary with annual set-asides of $3 million to $5 million. Infrastructure: renovations include the chilled water plant drawing from Lake Waban, $3 million; the pioneering cogeneration plant, $8 million; deferred infrastructure work funded by alumna Leonie Faroll ’49, $27 million. Parking: the Davis parking structure and periodic upgrades, $18 million. Landscape: detoxification of 40 acres of Paintshop Pond and deferred maintenance, $75 million. Wang Campus Center: expanding the old student center into the new, $45 million. Allowing for inflation, more was spent than is being proposed for Wellesley’s forthcoming renovation campaign.
Far from being asleep at the wheel during the period cited, the College’s administration and trustees remained committed year in and year out to the renewal of Wellesley’s buildings.
Peter Fergusson, Feldberg Professor of Art emeritus, Wellesley, Mass.
The College responds:
We thank Professor Fergusson for underscoring the investment that the College has made in our incomparable campus over recent decades. Notwithstanding all that has been done, however, the available evidence supports the conclusion that a major effort to renew Wellesley’s buildings is in order.
The College uses a firm called Sightlines to assess campus facilities and recommend the appropriate amount of funding required to “keep up” with building renewal each year so as not to add further to the backlog of deferred maintenance. Sightlines works with almost 300 colleges and universities nationwide, including many of the leading liberal-arts colleges, and thus is uniquely positioned to provide benchmark data that are comparable across institutions.
Sightlines resets a building’s effective age to zero after completion of a major renovation project that costs at least 50 percent of the building’s current replacement value, with renovations touching all, or nearly all, building systems. By this criterion, our renovations of Alumnae Hall, Houghton Chapel, Whitin Observatory, Pendleton East, Lake House, Stone Davis, and Weaver House have reset the effective ages of these buildings. On the other hand, annual maintenance and more modest renovations do not result in resetting the age of a building; the age of a building which has not undergone a major renovation is counted from its date of original construction. Sightlines uses this methodology with each of its clients, so any distortion that results from this simplification is applied consistently.
For 2013, Sightlines reports that 61 percent of Wellesley’s total square footage has an effective age that is greater than 50 years (and only 12 percent is under 10 years old). This is the second highest percentage among the 13 selective liberal-arts colleges using Sightlines. Within this immediate peer group, the average percentage of total space with an effective age greater than 50 years is 35 percent.
In sum, in the majority of our campus facilities, the life cycles of major building systems are long past due, systems are failing at an increasing rate, and many spaces no longer meet the needs of today’s faculty and students. The plan for campus renewal is the only responsible response.
Benjamin Hammond, Vice president for finance and administration
Andrew Shennan, Provost and dean of the College
The Role of Art
As an Italian studies major, with many hours spent at the Davis Museum, and even more at the Uffizi in Italy viewing the David, I would have been excited and perplexed to have viewed a piece like the Sleepwalker (“The Show at the Center of the Storm,” spring ’14) as I walked to class from Munger Hall. I would have liked that he was outside, in the elements and the snow. I would have enjoyed the hyperrealism of the piece but wondered if he was cold and why his eyes were closed. Then I would have thought about my life going forward: Was I asleep too?
Artists and the artwork they create are important because they encourage us to discuss, debate, dialogue, and argue. They have us look at our world anew, with fresh eyes. They ask us to extend our boundaries, examine our politics, consider our choices, and analyze the world we live in with our eyes open. Art can be harsh, chaotic, assaultive, beautiful, calming, refreshing. It can be all that and more. Even the iconic David was pelted with stones when it was first placed in the piazza in 1504. Art is after all what the viewer sees and then reinterprets for his/her own psyche. I applaud Wellesley for bringing a world-class artist to the campus to expand the artistic dialogue. Sometimes art is uncomfortable, and this is precisely why we need to look at it.
Katherine Thorp Boyer ’73, Portland, Ore.
I don’t know who was happier to get the current issue in the mail, me or my son, Victor. I always enjoy reading the articles and catching up on class news, but when my heavy-equipment-obsessed 3-year-old saw that there was construction equipment on the cover, he decided that it must be his magazine. He proceeded to carry it around the house as he looked for more pictures. He was a little disappointed when the article didn’t have more “big yellow trucks,” but he still decided that he wanted to go to Wellesley when he grew up because there were excavators and bulldozers there. I didn’t have the heart to burst his bubble. My 6-year-old daughter, Audrey, however, has decided that she wants to go to Wellesley because her class of 2030 will be a purple class and that’s her favorite color. Nothing would make me happier than being able to share Wellesley with her! Keep up the great work on the magazine.
Virginia Slaughter ’00, Smithfield, R.I.
Wellesley and Divestment
I wish to bring to present mind the consideration of divesting Wellesley’s endowment from the fossil-fuel industry (“Trustees Say No to Divestment,” spring ’14).
As an alumna, I had always felt proud of my education at Wellesley. However, having read that the Board of Trustees decided against divestment earlier this year, I’ve become less proud of my alma mater. In fact, I’d be somewhat embarrassed now to admit to acquaintances and friends that my alma mater has not taken this socially, politically, and environmentally meaningful step.
I am disappointed that a well-connected institution as well-placed as Wellesley should make financial decisions without regard to society’s future, which is what divestment, at least in part, is about. If Wellesley will not embrace a future that embraces life, what kind of future is Wellesley investing in?
Nancy Ka Po Yuen ’93, San Diego, Calif.
Adrienne Asch arrived to teach at Wellesley long after I had graduated but our paths crossed slightly as disability-rights activists (“In Memoriam,” spring ’14). I find it disconcerting that as Professor Burke’s piece states, some might find her goal to make disability an unremarkable attribute and an acceptable human variation to be “bizarre, or at least utopian.” I see this simply as a logical step in achieving human justice. I am knowledgeable about Laura Ingalls Wilder and the background of her books, and once while corresponding with someone for this reason, she asked, “Are you the Lisa Blumberg with a disability?” I replied, “For your purposes, no.”
Lisa Blumberg ’74, West Hartford, Conn.
The Philip Johnson Connection
FreshInk (spring ’14) listed the new publication Cleveland Goes Modern: Design for the Home 1930–1970 by Nina Freedlander Gibans ’54 and James D. Gibans. Many books about modern architecture have been written over the years, but this is the first to address what happened after Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier influenced architectural students and creative designers of the next generation. Cleveland was the birthplace of Philip Johnson, so it begins with the story of his roots and family influence.
Johnson’s mother and sisters went to Wellesley. Sister Jeannette Johnson Dempsey ’24 died only recently, so we had opportunities to talk about Johnson’s early life: from the roles of parents on the boards of the Cleveland Museum of Art and MoMA to the art lessons in the Johnson living room. Their home in Cleveland Heights was elegant, decorated in the eclectic fashion of the day. Philip’s teen-age room was modern.
One wonders then just how Philip Johnson, from Cleveland, got to head the first Department of Architecture at MoMA. That’s where Wellesley plays a huge role. I asked Agnes Gund, from Cleveland and past president of MoMA, to tell me what she knew. She said:
“As I recall being told, the inaugural meeting of the two such influential men in art, Philip Johnson and Alfred Barr, took place at Wellesley College. Alfred Barr, who at the time was a young professor of art history at Wellesley, had taken quite an admiration for Johnson’s beloved sister, Theodate [Johnson Severns ’29], after seeing her perform under the campus’ theatrical spotlight. [At her graduation,] she took the opportunity to introduce her brother, Philip Johnson, to the professor, Alfred Barr. The two men struck up what is remembered by onlookers as a riveting conversation, and I can only imagine the topic: art. Due in part to this chance encounter, both men continued on to have an immeasurable influence in modern art. Johnson changed the course of his life from studying law to his true life passion of architecture and design, and Barr, of course, went on to become a premier director, donor, and influential voice of MoMA.”
Nina Freedlander Gibans ’54, Cleveland
Those of us who live near 80 Thoreau enjoy the wonderful desserts made by Katherine Hamilburg CE/DS ’08 (“A Matter of Taste,” spring ’14), as well as the great dinners made by Carolyn Johnson ’96, as often as we can. The last time I was there was to celebrate my 77th birthday when I enjoyed the Asparagus Menu, which had a dessert of black-pepper cake, asparagus ice cream, olive oil and lemon. Yum, yum. The gentlemen in my party had souffled lemon custard, pistachio ice cream, white chocolate and sumac or mint-julep ice cream, chocolate and bourbon—equally delicious. All were beautifully presented, reflecting the elegance of Katherine’s ballet training. I celebrate these Wellesley women’s answer to the call sed ministrare.
Cynthia Dexter Schweppe ’59, Carlisle, Mass.
More Fire Stories
I appreciated the articles associated with your cover: “March 17, 1914: The Night that Changed Wellesley” (spring ’14).
My great-great-aunt Ruth Miner 1916 used to tell the story that the fire, ironically, was one of the best things that ever happened to her. Although a very sad day for Wellesley, it meant her grades were destroyed along with the Registrar’s Office. For a young woman who reportedly spent more time playing softball than studying, she was glad to see her poor grades go up in smoke.
It also meant she could start afresh and apparently did so, as the first woman graduate of the Albany Law School. I understand she was an active alum throughout her legal career and encouraged her niece to attend Mount Holyoke. The fire seems to have rallied the campus around Wellesley’s reconstruction and renewed mission.
Perhaps her stories of truancy and second chances were exaggerated, as tall tales often are. But they kept the fond memories of Wellesley alive for the rest of us, and led to me applying over 85 years later. Once again, your story demonstrates the resilience and resolve I associate with our alma mater. I’m about to give birth to a daughter, and this story and its history will be passed to her, as it was to me. Thanks for the memories!
Carla Sapsford Newman ’95, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Need Bigger Type
I usually look forward to reading your magazine, but the current issue has been lying on my desk for days. I tried to read it a couple of times and had to put it down. Why must it be in such a tiny print element? I practically need a magnifying glass. Very annoying. Perhaps you could edit the magazine a bit tighter and make the print a bit bigger for us older alumnae? I would appreciate your attention to this matter!
Jill Coxhead McManus ’62, New York