Photos by Katharine Reece ’08
When First Lady of New York Chirlane McCray ’76 presented a proclamation from Mayor Bill de Blasio declaring Nov. 14, 2015, “New York Wellesley Club Day,” the energy in the hall was goose-bump electric. McCray’s opening remarks kindled an emotion every woman in the room felt throughout the day: pride.
Over 450 Wellesley women gathered in the Kaufman Music Center to listen to 27 speakers representing class years from 1947 to 2014, celebrating what Lynn Sherr ’63 called “the perfect confluence of two of the most important things in all of our lives—having gone to Wellesley and living in NYC.” In addition to celebrating the New York Wellesley Club’s 125th anniversary, they came together to mark the New York launch of the Campaign to advance the Wellesley Effect.
Wellesley’s diversity was reflected on stage in all forms, from class year to ethnicity to profession. Brooke Bryant ’03, club president since 2014, says she wanted every alum in the audience to “see a piece of themselves on stage, and feel proud to be part of that network—part of the impact that Wellesley is making in New York.”
The thoughtful planning required to pull off the celebration began two years prior on Wellesley’s campus, at the Alumnae Leadership Council in the fall of 2013. Along with Bryant, former club president Whitney Shaffer Ackerman ’03 learned that Western Maine’s club had recently celebrated its 100th anniversary. They knew the New York club had been around longer, and discovered it started in 1890. The 125th anniversary was only two years away.
“We’re New Yorkers. We have to do this in a big way,” Bryant and Ackerman said to each other. And who better to pull off something big than a group of Wellesley women? They assembled a committee to plan the event, which topped out at 28 members, and met every other month. “There was never a moment where no one raised their hand to help. Everyone just said, ‘Yes, I’ll do it, I’m there, I’m on board,’” said Mary White ’79, College trustee and committee member.
For all the other clubs celebrating upcoming major anniversaries, Bryant says to cast a wide net, and think big. “The more diversity you have in the planning, the more rich the content will be,” she says.