Photo by Webb Chappell
In early 2021, I joined a Zoom call with past presidents of the Alumnae Association. Their class years spanned 1952 (Janice Lane Hunt) to 1989 (our current president, Martha Goldberg Aronson), and their leadership tenures went back to 1980, the centennial celebration of the Alumnae Association. Including the staff on the call, we represented every decade from the ’50s to the ’00s.
Sharing stories with this group of women reflected the power of tradition and the enduring vocation of service to Wellesley. These women have “answered to her every call”—as the alma mater begs us to do—as trustees, volunteers, mentors, and leaders.
Our conversation also highlighted for me the significant changes this group has witnessed over the past 40 years of their WCAA leadership (73 years of Wellesley experience when you add in our years as students). These include significant shifts in the higher-education landscape, the demographics of our world and the college-bound population, the cost of a college education, and the advancement of women across multiple disciplines, with many Wellesley alumnae slowly but surely cracking glass ceilings.
In the past year, the Alumnae Association leadership and staff have learned lessons from our pandemic existence, including how to connect virtually and how alumnae engage around the most pressing issues of our time. We have seen the powerful allure of our campus, which will reopen to welcome alumnae back to Lake Waban when it is safe to gather again.
As we look toward the post-pandemic future, we have the opportunity to imagine the next phase of the Alumnae Association, to identify the ways alumnae can connect with and support the College now and into the future.
In the months ahead, Wellesley will articulate a strategic plan, which has been a collective effort of faculty, staff, students, and trustees, with alumnae serving on the steering committee and in working groups. Additionally, we have conducted the largest alumnae survey in our history (thank you for participating!), which will give us data about our alumnae body and allow us to understand patterns and trends. It will inform how we engage this powerful network in support of Wellesley’s future.
As an organization, we include living alumnae from over half of our institution’s 146-year history. We serve as stewards of tradition—sharing Stepsinging and Hooprolling and the alumnae parade at reunion. And we have an obligation to be forward thinking, embracing and enhancing what Wellesley is now and will be in the future.
Connecting across generations makes me proud to be an alumna. I am proud of Wellesley alumnae when we rally in support of students in need of virtual internships (over 200 projects sourced from more than 150 alumnae in January), when we support first-generation students through giving to the Wellesley Fund (over $100,000 raised on Nov. 19, 2020, from alumnae in every class from 1951 to 2020), and when we feature in a Jeopardy! clue (Feb. 15’s answer: “What is ‘America the Beautiful’?” by alumna Katharine Lee Bates).
I am looking forward to seeing how our community can evolve to support the traditions that we cherish as well as what Wellesley aspires to achieve in the decades ahead.