I hope each of you has watched the 175th celebration video, a tribute to Mount Holyoke’s founding, mission, and future. I particularly love the parallel images of past and present. Whether rowing on the river, studying in the library, or gathered around a seminar discussion table, students have Mount Holyoke experiences—both ordinary and extraordinary—that transcend time.
In the middle of this short film, Gertrude “Bobby” Walter Lerch MA’31 turns to her granddaughter, Beverly Lerch Nored FP’94, and gives beautiful articulation to their shared perception of Mount Holyoke, “As we drove into the campus, both of us said we both felt like we were coming home; yet our experiences of college were very different. And we were sixty years apart, so there’s still that… whatever it is.”
When alumnae and current students come together in conversation, this “whatever it is” is ever-present. In late November, I joined the class of ’64 for M&Cs with their granddaughter class, enjoying conversation until late into the night with these sisters across the years. The pressures in students’ lives are many, and each student there had chosen to set aside the call of studying, work, and friends for a few extra hours to indulge in the gift of this relationship.
By all external markers, today’s students live in a profoundly different world than those who graduated in 1964, yet they draw from the wisdom of those who have gone before with rapt attention and focus. Students asked questions about how the class of ’64 decorated their rooms, what activities they engaged in, and the traditions they value the most. Alumnae offered advice on how to reach out to alumnae mentors, and affirmed how the liberal arts education students are receiving will help them negotiate a rapidly changing world.
I was also witness to this thoughtful, active engagement at the Black Alumnae Conference, November 9–11, as the community of current students and visiting alumnae shared stories of both the challenges and the opportunities they experienced through Mount Holyoke. In a kick-off to the conference, keynote speaker Soledad O’Brien advised the audience to “seek untold stories.” I see this happen every day at Mount Holyoke.
Whether structured or informal, planned or impromptu, exchanges between students and alumnae better the participants and the College, and I am deeply grateful for the mutual affection and appreciation I see between you. Keep sharing your stories, your perspectives, and your wisdom. We are listening.