1955’s Wonderful 60th Reunion!
May 21 – May 24, 2015
A report from our reunion scribe, Betsy Horton
Thanks to all who wrote with memories: Eileen Karpinski Bogdanowicz, Anne (Susie) Riker Buttrick, MC Bachman Churchill, Issy Scherer Cunningham, Mollie Hibbard, Sue Nutter Keller, Nancy Nutting Lane, Joan Willenbrok Leonard, Janice Williams Libby, Win Pettus Losa, Sue Stien Maire, Deb Hazzard Nash, Jane Estey Peters, Joan Winkel Ripley, Juli Shea Towell, Peggy Henry Weeks, and Nancy Stratford Zambelli) The direct quotes are in green.
1955’s class reunion really began in 2014, when Reunion Chairs MC Bachman Churchill and Willie Willenbrok Leonard gathered a committee full of classmates willing to do the numerous tasks leading up to such a major event in our lives.
So it was that on Thursday, May 21, greeters and committee members began arriving on campus. Each arriving classmate was greeted by our welcoming committee: Weezie Kugler Bush, Susie Riker Buttrick, Nancy Schuster Hanson, Gay Chaffee Hartman, Betsy Winters Horton, Judy Vernon, and Nancy Stratford Zambelli. Miz Comey Grant and Chirpie Wesseler Monroe created our big, legible nametags – which we were glad to have after 60 years! Meanwhile, Sylvia Johnson Lucas and Rhoda Ernst Bannon made sure that everyone who needed a ride to campus had one.
Said one of us, “Who could have imagined, 60 years ago, that we would come together in 2015 to celebrate our graduation day with such enthusiasm and vigor!” Another classmate wrote, “I was overcome by the welcome we experienced. Abbey was the perfect place for us...easy walking to everything, lots of students to help with our ‘luggage’, spartan but adequate dorm rooms, easy parking for our cars, well-planned meetings and experiences to enjoy.” “We also had fabulous weather, the campus was more beautiful than ever, and the meals in the dorm were unbelieveable!” We can thank our hospitality committee for it all: Nancy Nutting Lane, Ellis Batchelder Weatherly, Jane Estey Peters, Sue Nutter Keller, Weezie Kugler Bush, Sylvia Johnson Lucas, and Pat O’Keeffe Brodt. A special touch was the floral dining table displays: Ellis and Nancy decorated vases with decoupaged yellow sphinx seals and filled them with beautiful yellow flowers. (Honorary Edwina Cruise took two vasefuls home to plant in her garden!)
It was quite wonderful that several of us with disabilities came too – each accompanied by a friend or spouse, whose loving and careful attention made it possible for them to be with us. All of us kept aware of their needs and were happy to assist as needed.
For our first meal, Thursday’s early arrivers gathered at The Dockside, a lively lakeside restaurant where Willie and MC had arranged a delicious buffet dinner. “I loved dinner at The Dockside—a great way to bring friends and acquaintances together.”
Friday morning our breakfast site was Willits-Hallowell –at the other end of the campus from Abbey! But campus vans were plentiful and spared us the long walk. “One big perk of riding in vans and golf carts was getting to know the students who drove them. They were doing such interesting things, so inspiring.” It was also quite special that all the campus workers kept greeting us with the words “Welcome Home!”
The rest of the day included 3 fascinating faculty-led seminars – all planned and sponsored by ’55 and open to all alumnae. (I felt very proud that our class sponsored such stimulating events!) The first one featured English Professor Chris Benfey, a noted campus favorite. One of us wrote, “Chris Benfey's literature forum explored with us literature that "equipped us for living," and "what if" literature that brought us adventure.” Said another, “I might have enjoyed English 101 with such a lively professor!” We have Deb Hazzard Nash to thank for arranging this engaging event.
As MC reported, “Willie, Wink and I had so much fun planning for reunion. The committee was great: everyone was enthusiastic and willing! I was worried that since Chris Benfey’s class was our first program early Friday, attendance would be limited. Wrong! Standing room only and other classes came. He was charming, erudite and inspiring. He evoked many memories by asking what we read as a child. The Secret Garden was unanimous for women. I was riveted by Nancy Drew. I am going to read Alice in Wonderland—not sure I ever did read it all—and I will read a couple of Benfey’s books. He is a star for the college -- he just makes you want to sit and read forever.”
After lunch came the second seminar: “W(h)ither the Liberal Arts – Can the Humanities Thrive in a Money-Driven World?” Sonya Stephens, Dean of Faculty (and our newest class honorary!) chaired a faculty panel which included Katia Vavova (Associate Professor of Philosophy): Stephen Schmeiser (Assistant Professor of Economics and Complex Organizations; Chris Benfey (Andrew W. Mellon Professor of English); and ‘55’s honorary Vinnie Ferraro (Ruth Lawson Professor of Politics & World Affairs). President Lynn Pasquerella opened the program and spoke about the importance of a Liberal Arts Education. Her passion was evident. It was a lively discussion and the panelists made a powerful case for the liberal arts, “Lynn P. spoke so cogently about the importance of a Liberal Arts education that I came away with a renewed appreciation of my years at Mt. Holyoke.”
Following the panel, our brilliant honorary Eleanor Townsley took us through powerpoints of a highly participatory socioeconomic case study. It focused on key decisions confronting a fictional MHC student (“Maia”) as she prepares for her future. Eleanor presented a series of vignettes, each followed by 3 or 4 choices of action, and then challenged all of us to pick the “best” choices for Maia! The discussion was spirited, we didn’t all agree, but each of us thought and talked about what we might have done in Maia’s situation. Talk about life-long learning! SEE A LINK BELOW TO TO VIEW THE CASE STUDY
Afterwards, our class’s planners had arranged for a private tour of the Art Museum, led by Museum Director John Stromberg. As we had requested, he focused on a small number of art objects including two lovely paintings donated by classmate Nancy Young Putnam; also a photo portrait of a Native American woman, purchased with a gift in Susan Colby McGreevy’s honor, given by those of us who had attended the 2008 Santa Fe mini-reunion led by Susan. (The pictures can be viewed on our web site.)
Comments from those attending the art tour: “The Art Museum tour was a real eye-opener for me. I had no idea of the depth of treasures the college owns.” Another said, “I have never before had art presented giving the context and news of the day when it was produced.” Another summation: "The art tour, focusing on only a few objects, showed us how the artists takes risks beyond the conventions of his day to express ideas in ways that may get him (or her) into trouble. Two sides of the same coin, sharing our experiences in some way but also trying to make changes. When looking around our class’s creative room, I felt that's just what we had done too: we used our experience to push the boundaries.” “All three special programs on Friday were unique and very interesting. They added food for thought and an extra zing to the weekend.”
Those who took time to visit the Creative Arts Room enjoyed displays created by several of our talented classmates: Knit woolens, artistic wooden boxes, quilts, lovely paintings, needlepoint cushions, and several books. Check the web site to see pictures of our creative room and a list of classmates who contributed to our Creative Room
Later we strolled over to the Rooke Theater Patio for a class cocktail party, followed by a tasty dinner at Abbey. Some of us ended the day at the annual Cornerstone reception held at the President’s house by Lynn and her gracious spouse.
Saturday morning began with our class meeting. See the class website for the minutes of the meeting, which includes the new class officers: President Wink Ripley, Co-Vice Presidents Sylvia Johnson Lucas and Nancy Nutting Lane, Treasurer Jane Barth, Scribe Betsy Horton, and Members-at-Large MC Churchill and Willie Leonard. Jane Barth also gave the Treasurer’s report. Wink also described our very successful fund raising, reviewed class activities during the last five years, and thanked many classmates for their services to the class. Although the college suggested that we might want to donate our treasury to the MHC Fund, we voted to keep our assets (currently about $10,000) for at least the next 5 years.
Saturday was also Alumnae Day, a highlight of the weekend. Our parade “costume” was yellow infinity scarves and big yellow bags. “As we lined up at Mary Lyon's grave for the Alumnae Parade, Lynn explained a long tradition: ‘We wear white because the Suffragettes wore white!’” The parade of classes was led by a spectacular bagpipe band with skirling pipes, twirling drumsticks, and a drum major masterfully twirling his baton. “We marched down and around the campus road to Mary Wooley Hall” to the sound of cheering, catcalling, and MHC noisemakers (handed out to all present).
Our yellow parade signs included the following: “We survived college curfews, gracious living, mandatory chapel, and the Halfway House!” “Our high tech was a slide rule.” “50 shades of…yellow!” “80 is the new 60!” “Shopping list: salad, yogurt, hips, knees!” …and to top them all was this: “100% Annual Giving 4 years in a row. ’55 rocks!” Said one classmate, “I was so happy (and misty-eyed as well) walking through the two lines of smiling, applauding younger alumnae at the end of the parade. It was very special and made me proud to be a MHC alum.” ((Kudos to our creative parade sign committee!)
Then all classes filed into Chapin for the 143rd Alumnae Association Meeting. This included amusing class histories read by the presidents of each reunion class. You will be proud to know that the class of 1955 won more awards by far than any other class! These include:
Alumnae Medal of Honor FINALLY awarded to Wink (Joan Winkel Ripley)
MHC Loyalty Award awarded to Gay Chaffee Hartman
Class of 1955 awards
Class Laurel Chain Society award
for having 97 percent of its members
in the Laurel Chain Society;
Laurel Chain Society Individual Lifetime Membership awards
to class members who have given to MHC for at least 50 years; we had 100 of these!
Laurel Chain Society Platinum Lifetime Membership awards
to 14 class members who have given to MHC every year since graduation
An award for having the highest percentage of living classmates at reunion (25%)
The Griffin award
for special achievement presented to the classes of
1965, 2015, and 1955 in recognition of their leadership and inspirational optimism;
The Sphinx Award
for highest participation in giving: 100 percent,
which 1955 has achieved for 4 consecutive years!
"The meeting was special----touting accomplishments and dollars raised for our MHC cause and good laughs at the class histories describing our foibles thru the years. (Restrictions on men in dorms, etc. seems so laughable now!) I thoroughly enjoyed the meeting, especially when our class won so many awards.”
Lunch was followed by the fourth (and final) 1955-sponsored symposium, ”The Science of Happiness,” presented by brilliant and vivacious Amherst Professor Catherine Sanderson. She mesmerized us with her wise, humorous presentation about why we care about happiness, what doesn’t make us happy, and what really does make us happy. For those of us who are computer-literate, you can Google “Sanderson – Science of Happiness” to access her power-point presentation in its entirety!
Then came a wondrous surprise: a showing of our wonderful reunion DVD, with a copy for each of us whether we were at reunion or not. We will all treasure this memento, which was beautifully produced by (you guessed it) our multi-talented President Wink.
Saturday night we wound up the weekend with a cocktail party and dinner at Willits Hallowell with our class honoraries. Your scribe especially enjoyed hosting ebullient honorary Edwina Cruse (retired chair of Russian language and literature) at what became a lively Russian-focused table. Also sitting with Edwina were fluent Russian speaker Gay DeLong Goodhart, Debbie Walsh Kenney (who has two adopted Russian grandchildren), former diplomats and expert conversationalists Sallie Barr & Peter Palmer (still adorned with his “luxuriant” face whiskers), and John and Nancy Mohr, whose collaborator on Nancy’s most recent book was Edwina!
Back at the dorm after dinner, we were treated to a delightful musical entertainment by Jack Craig, a charming pianist and singer who led us in singing old popular favorites from his All American Songbook. “I loved the song fest and felt everyone sang out with gusto - good voices and bad, blending to sound fabulous.” “I was sitting up front so I could see faces as years of nostalgic memories floated by, even a few tears. Mine were for “Moon River.”
On Sunday morning we held a moving memorial service for our recently departed classmates, conducted by Anne (Susie) Riker Buttrick and Juli Shea Towell. Susie read several beautiful poems, including one by Emily Dickinson. Then Juli read the names of those who had left us since our last reunion (55th). As the 29 names were read aloud, memories of all of them came to mind for me, along with gratitude that so many of us were still here and well enough to attend this marvelous reunion.
As we left campus for home, we all agreed that “this was the very best Class of 1955 Reunion that we ever had! Didn't we all feel the magic?” Other classmates said:
“My favorite part was being with my old good friends, and speaking with other classmates whom I did not know as well, and finding a common thread!!”
“I felt everyone present at this one was so open, friendly, grateful, and happy to be healthy! As we move through life each one of us has had our difficulties. Somehow this makes us more compassionate.”
“My takeaway was that MHC continues to thrive as a rigorous, stimulating academic community with professors who love what and who/whom they teach. The seminars were stunning and we were so fortunate to have faculty give up their time to share their expertise and thoughts with the ‘older generation’.”
“Mostly it was seeing everyone, and seeing how those of us present are still actively involved. A few classmates had disabilities, and we were all impressed with their friends and family members who made it possible for them to be there.”
“I loved the way everyone mingled and shared what was going on in their lives. I was impressed by how good everyone looked and how enthusiastic everyone was. We are so lucky to have Wink always cheering us on, and MC and Willie did a fabulous job organizing everything! Wink should be elected for life!”
“Every day was filled with adventure and joy. Even the food was superb.”
“I was somewhat reluctant to sign on to Reunion this time…how to get there with all that driving intimidated me.....but, throwing aside such cares, and heeding a wish to see South Hadley again, lit the pathway for three of us to sally forth to South Hadley with its beautiful leafy green campus to welcome us.”
“We are now into our 80th years and still able to enjoy recalling what this "MHC idea" has meant to each one of us! Truly it was a moving experience:”.
“My favorite part of reunion was seeing all the smiles and happy faces of our classmates. Everyone seemed to be having a great time, and as we learned in the Science of Happiness, “I felt so happy that they were enjoying the weekend we had planned.. It seemed to be ‘corners up’ at all times and that was thrilling.”
“It was so wonderful to just pick up as if you had last seen your close friends yesterday instead of years. But also to discover that the classmates who you had not known well while at school were women that you still could instantly connect with and wish that you lived closer to, to continue the connection.”
“Best of all was renewing old friendships with classmates. We won't ever forget those memories.”
One of our especially eloquent classmates summed up our experience as follows:
“Who Could Ask for Anything More? (to crib a line from the American Songbook)
Opportunity to reminisce with friends, weather from Heaven,
The chance to shed a few years and be back in an MHC classroom,
good and plentiful food (and wine), enjoyable entertainment,
pleasant and comfortable arrangements, and a green light to
revel in a boundless (but allowable) nostalgia spree.”
Here’s looking forward to our 65th in 2020!