May 24, 2013

Dear Joan,

The campus has been filled with all sorts of graduation activities. Commencement was especially moving, since all the degree recipients were alumnae. I felt quite old, however, since 3 out of the four alumnae were former students (Mazzio, Ramdas, and Sutphen). The speeches were quite insightful and moving. I was also delighted that one of my advisees, Jenna Ruddock, was selected by her class to give the senior commencement speech.

We had perfect weather for the ceremonies and this particular class (2013) was quite attached to the College. In my 36 previous graduations, I had never seen so many tears. The seniors truly loved the College and their spirit was palpable.

I'm gearing up for Reunion II. I'm giving a lecture on "American Foreign Policy: The Burdens of a Reluctant Hegemon." There were over 100 alumnae at the lecture last week and we had quite a vigorous discussion afterwards.

Finally, one of my favorite alumna, Betty Rothe, is coming for her 75th reunion. I know Betty from lectures I give at her retirement home, Kimball Farms, in Lenox, MA. Betty is getting a Loyalty Award this weekend and I'm very excited for her.

I hope you are well. I hope the rain ends for the weekend!

Meet Our Newest Classmate
Edwina Cruise
Eleanor Townsley
Vinnie Ferraro
Here is a recent (2014) photo of our one remaining original honorary, Margot Morgan.  To learn more, go to the Guest Book on the Home Page where Nan Mohr has written about her. 

Sonya Stephens, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty, and a Professor of French, joined Mount Holyoke College in July 2013. As dean of faculty, she serves as the chief academic officer of the College, and is responsible for faculty support, curricular support, faculty governance, and academic budgeting and infrastructure.

Ever since our "Back to School" Mini Reunion in the fall of 2013 she has been a special and valued  friend to the Class of 1955. 
Sonya and Eleanor made sure that our Symposium at our 60th was terrific. We are so pleased that we can now count Sonya as a member of our class.

Margot Morgan
May 2016
P.P.S. I would have chosen to communicate in my beautiful yellow but it didn't show up well enough, therefore I chose fertile green...our sister class color!

Halfway through my fourth year in the dean's office, I am enjoying the work but I miss the life of a faculty member. Its great to collaborate with talented colleagues to hire new colleagues, build new curriculum, and deliver programming around internships and other applications of the liberal arts that enhance student development. Honestly though, I miss the classroom. So, with Sonya's approval, I am happy to report that I am back teaching in Sociology next semester! Its a favorite class of mine, Contemporary Social Theory and I am happy to report there is a lot of student interest. On the home front life is speeding along. We moved to Amherst this year and are laboring on our new house which we love but oh my there is a lot of work to do. We watch our amazing daughters, Vivian and Sophia, now 12 and 14, blossom into astonishingly gifted, compassionate and hilarious young women. They are the delight of our lives. Ron and I continue to collaborate on our big textbook project and a few other research bits and pieces here and there. I am grateful for his support in keeping up with some writing and research work while deaning... now if I just can find time to design that syllabus….Love you all
December 2015
News from our new Acting President!   May 2016
What an honor it is for me to be a member of this wonderful class! The April 21 mini reunion at Wink's wonderful home, supported by a cast of many friends with much talent, brought food to our plates, music to our ears, the sharing of memories and memorabilia, and both joy to my heart and tears to my eyes. I have studied the student handbooks (now headed to the archives), modeled the scarf and pashmina (but not yet the straw hat), and will cherish the photographic and other records of your times together, to which I will add as we go forward together. I felt enormous good fortune and great delight to be among you, and look forward to our next gathering, whenever and wherever it may be. And the class ring, bearing the mark of MH, and *our* class year (as well as Nancy's cherished initials) will stay with me always, as a mark of my devotion to you, to Mount Holyoke, and to all that it represents. Thank you all!.
Edwina’s Olio to the class of 1955

Dear Class of 1955,

On October 12 I attended the class mini-reunion dinner at Willets-Hallowell, a splendiferous event, highlighted by the great good cheer and intelligent conversation of the attendees, and an insightful after-dinner presentation by Vinnie Ferraro on the political context that has colored the fractured and divisive presidential race. It was a great pleasure for me to celebrate with you, to share in the vibrant camaraderie that you embody. And, much to my chagrin, the promise I made to submit my remarks to the class website by noon of the following day, did not materialize. A failure not of effort, but of accomplishment. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.  

Here’s one stab at a letter to you all, written following the October 2015 mini-reunion:

Perfect Rice with Chef Frank Brigsten: Gifts From a Culinary Master 
Two weeks after our October reunion dinner at Mount Holyoke, I wished my garden a safe passage into the cold season, waved good-bye to a still flourishing and flowering “Ms. Class of 1955 Anthemis” and headed to New Orleans for a week of touristing with Trish and Pat (once dog-walking pals and now mightily treasured friends).

Our trip to the Big Easy in one breath: Café du Monde for the obligatory beignets (great if your favorite foods are white flour, sugar and fat); the more obligatory jazz at Preservation Hall (enthralling, but you to like sardine-packed, a dimly lit and mostly “standing room only” performance space), the Besthoff Sculpture Garden, (entirely wonderful outdoor sculpture, set in acres of plantings and water features, under a canopy of live oaks and giant glossy magnolias); and the Backstreet Cultural Museum (Mardi Gras Indian and “second-line” costumes, and the historical culture behind these traditions, compellingly recounted by a long-time participant). 

Food, of course, played a significant role in our travel itinerary. On our first day, for example, we went to the French Market for lunch, an adventure in alluring victuals (and lots of stuff, often with a “Made in China” label, that only tourists buy). Bypassing the chance to try alligator in a broad range of options (cakes, kebab, barbeque) we quickly opted for a stall that featured “Passion Crab Cakes.” The name lived up to the taste. The crab cakes were divine, with big pieces of crab showing, and served with a rich and tangy remoulade sauce. We returned for more crab passion the following day, and the day after that. 

My story for you here, however, is about a culinary evening spent with Chef Frank Brigsten, renowned New Orleans chef and restaurant owner, and protégé of the late/great Chef Paul Prudhomme. We had scheduled the “cooking experience” for our penultimate evening in New Orleans months in advance, even before the menu had been announced. Beforehand, we only knew that we were expected to arrive by 5:15, that there would be 12 guests, that Chef Brigtsen would cook in our presence the entire menu, and then we would retire to the beautifully appointed Victorian dining room and be served dinner.  

I never finished that story. I could not then—or now—capture the power of that evening. What might have merely a splendid evening of Cajun cuisine with a witty raconteur, Chef Brigsten—imagine keeping track of a quickly darkening and dangerous-looking roux and simultaneously regaling us with stories of his culinary apprenticeship--ultimately became a passionate ode to his mentor, Chef Prudhomme, who had passed away only a few days before.  

Here’s another stab at writing to you, after my return from a July, 2016 safari—with my ever dearer friends Pat, and Trish:
Jane Eyre in Africa

At night I read Jane Eyre, thrilling to the wild and raucous cries—not of the mad-woman wife locked in Rochester’s attic, but of leopards, elephants, and hyenas. Caveat emptor: I am not roaming the lugubrious halls that inhabit Charlotte Bronte’s novel! I am nestled in bed, under a fluffy comforter in a rustically luxurious tent at the Kwetsani Camp, Okavango Delta, northern Botswana. Real sounds, real animals.  

Yesterday was my first day in Botswana, my first time in a safari camp, and my first boma, the Monday night camp tradition at Camp Savuti, an outdoor supper around a huge bonfire in a large palisade of poles (so no elephants or other critters can wander into the festivities). Before the meal, the staff entertained us with singing and dancing. I was enthralled by the spontaneous exuberance that infected us all. Toward the end of the presentation, stomping around the fire, each of the performers beckoned to a guest to join in the circle of joyful noise, Now paired up (in my case “held up” because of my unwilling and aching body parts [still throbbingfrom six hours in the bush in a Land Rover]), we all stomped and chanted to the compelling rhythm of drummers. A magic moment of shared joy. After which a savory barbeque, which had been grilled on the coals shoveled from the bonfire.

Well, that story never got off the ground, either.

But, as promised to the class of 1955 last week, I submit my inadequate report of post-Mount Holyoke retirement. I would prefer to write about more worthy events—what’s going on in Putinized Russia, for example, but I no longer feel competent to comment. I was always better at speaking than writing, and the chasm grows with age.

As life moves quickly forward, I struggle to keep pace. But please know that I cherish the opportunities to be with the class of 1955. In closing, let me second Vinnie’s heartfelt gratitude to you as a class and to all MHC alums. Your ongoing commitment, energy and enthusiasm is inspiring. You make me proud to have had the opportunity to teach at Mount Holyoke. And prouder still to be able to celebrate with you as an honorary member of your class.