Julie Sudler ’81 has a perfect reunion track record: She has returned to Wellesley each of the seven times her class has gathered since they graduated. Ask her about favorite reunion memories and she will, like many Wellesley women, put the alumnae parade up near the top of the list.
“I tend to cry with joy and pride when I see the elder Wellesley alums ride by,” she says.
The parade—with all its jubilant class spirit and wacky costumes—is a generations-old Wellesley tradition, though its exact origins (and why alumnae wear white) have been lost in the mists of time. The Wellesley College Archives finds evidence of alumnae joining the commencement procession in caps and gowns as early as 1906, when commencement and reunion were held at the same time. “After commencement we shed our caps and gowns for our reunion regalia, consisting of green hat bands with the numerals, and bags in the class colors with our numerals. These, worn with white gowns and hats, were very pretty,” wrote an 1899 alumna in the Wellesley College Bulletin after her 20th reunion in 1919.
A year later, a record of the first separate alumnae parade appeared in the Wellesley Alumnae Quarterly. The 40th reunion class, 1880, participated in “a march to the Alumnae luncheon bravely decked out with scarlet banners and wands ready to salute or wave as occasion required.”
All these years later, there are still occasionally wands (or tiaras)—in addition to all manner of scarves, hats, umbrellas, glasses (the class of ’66’s sparkly flamingo glasses were up there with the best), bags (’65 had kiondo bags made by women in Kenya), necklaces (kudos to ’03 for rubber-ducky necklaces), and so much more.
In the last few years, a new item has popped up in the parade: a cape, because, as the class of ’04 put it, “every Wellesley woman is a Wonder Woman.” Bridget O’Connor Garsh ’04 dreamed her class’s version up and found two women with an Etsy store to make the capes, which sported snazzy Ws on the back. The response? Parade magic. “The excitement of walking the parade route and being the envy of the other classes was awesome,” she says. But, Garsh warns younger classes, “Don’t use all your great ideas at an early reunion. They are hard to top.”