Photo by Richard Howard
When I reflect on the enormously important mission of the WCAA—to connect alums to the College and one another, and to support the institutional priorities of Wellesley—I can’t help but feel slightly overwhelmed and still very lucky to have my job. The work of the Alumnae Association requires a dual view of Wellesley. One eye is trained on a rearview mirror, so we can clearly see and understand the experiences and traditions of alumnae. And the other eye necessarily looks out the windows of our offices onto the Academic Quad, where we can bring into view today’s students.
As we close out the final aspects of reunion ’18, we have already begun preparations for reunion ’19, and are helping clubs schedule faculty speaker events for the coming year. We are also busy supporting the creation of a Wellesley Jewish Alumnae SIG (Shared Identity Group), facilitating the IDEA Working Group (Inclusion and Diversity Engaging Alumnae), and supporting WAPA (Wellesley Alum Pride Alliance) and local alumnae club participation in Pride parades in cities across the country.
Sometimes I see two women through my bifurcated WCAA lens: Jane and Lian.
I refer to Jane as my Wellesley mother. I have known her as a second mom since I was a child. She is the reason I wanted to come here. When she arrived on campus in the fall of 1959, a 16-year-old graduate of Bronx High School of Science, Wellesley wasn’t particularly welcoming. The dining halls served fish on Fridays, and the professor of her required Biblical History course was offended when she explained that she was Jewish and couldn’t honestly write a 10-page paper on her personal understanding of the resurrection.
I call Lian my Wellesley daughter. I have known her since she was 14, and I’m so glad that I encouraged her to consider applying to Wellesley. A junior psychology major with a minor in health and society, she worked in the Alumnae Association office her first year. She has participated in Girls Group (where she and fellow students developed STEM curriculum to teach to children at a public school in Boston), has been an R.A. in Shafer, serves as a public-speaking tutor, was named a Zimmerman Fellow by the psychology department, has at times been involved with Harambee House and Ethos, and plans to spend spring semester studying in Cyprus. Her credentials are so very Wellesley! And yet the experience by which Lian earned those credentials is refreshingly unique, shaped and influenced by her family and culture. Lian is a student of color, the daughter of parents born in Guyana. Lian brings a heartfelt and lived spirituality to her leadership. She possesses a rare empathy, compassion, charisma, and authenticity in everything she does.
Lian is just one example of so very many students on campus today, blazing their own trails as they set out to make a difference in the world.
Jane, who is a member of the class of ’63, attended her 55th reunion in June, after which she sent this lovely note:
“I want to share with you a wonderful thing that many classmates and I noticed and loved—the increasing diversity we saw as the parade advanced.” For Jane, the alumnae parade was tangible evidence of the College becoming more inclusive—a Wellesley she had hoped for as a student, a Wellesley that wouldn’t hold some members of the community at arm’s length. Seeing that increase of diversity as the parade progresses is as powerful to many alums as watching the eldest generation lead us in this wonderful tradition.
We need to own our past, so that we can move beyond it together. It’s not that we need to do away with or be critical of it for the sake of political correctness. But as an institution of higher learning, we need to understand why expanding our community benefits all of us. Diversity forces us to think, learn, and act on inclusion.
Sometimes I find myself listening to the tour guides from admissions outside my office as they provide tours to the ever-increasing crowds of prospective students and the people with them. The prospectives wander wide-eyed and slack-jawed around our gorgeous environs, visibly dreaming of the possibility of joining this most amazing and strongest women’s network in the world—just as Jane, Lian, and I each did.