President’s Pen: Fall 2015

President Pasquerella and alum

During her summer travels President Pasquerella met up with Elizabeth McInerny McHugh ’87 in Santa Fe. Photo by John Kuchle

The summer provided an extraordinary opportunity to connect with alumnae across the country, from Seattle, San Francisco, and Jackson Hole to Aspen, Santa Fe, Austin, Tampa, and Cape Cod. One of the most frequent questions I hear from alumnae on these visits is how they can encourage young women to apply to Mount Holyoke College. Mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and other alumnae who have smart women in mind are interested in ways to explain the benefits of a women’s college, and Mount Holyoke in particular.

There is, of course, much we want prospective students to learn about Mount Holyoke: the rich diversity of our student body, our incomparable faculty who become lifelong mentors, the breathtaking beauty of our campus, the College’s vast resources that help students link curriculum to careers. And then there are our well-connected alumnae. Let’s not forget about you. Alums are invaluable in lending students a hand with securing internships and jobs after graduation.

To be honest, we realize college-bound students are bombarded with emails and envelopes extolling the virtues of countless schools. I have encountered more than one student who confessed that in today’s information-overload world, the college search is like jumping into a surging eddy of data, digits, and lists.

I felt privileged, grateful, and emboldened to be in a place that took me seriously.

Lynn Pasquerella ’80

We want Mount Holyoke’s story to surface, and there’s one way I have found that alumnae can make a difference. Talk with potential students about what you loved about your time at the College. Perhaps you relished conversations with faculty members who always had time for you. Or classrooms where you never hid your intellect. Or dorm mates who became friends for life and stretched your mind in ways you never could have imagined.

Sometimes the best way to talk about Mount Holyoke is to share memories of a special spot on campus. I loved the old basement of Blanchard, where my post office box was. I liked nothing more than checking my mail and then darting into the bookstore for a bag of Milanos (sometimes polishing off a whole pack if the night’s studying was long). Like many other students, I also loved the library, with its leaded glass windows and view of Clapp’s soaring tower.

The spot on campus that inspired me the most, however, was the amphitheater. I distinctly remember sitting there one autumn afternoon making my way through Soren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling and the Sickness Unto Death. I read and read, grappling with ideas about existentialism and despair. And I was totally uplifted. When I looked down from my green perch atop the steps, I played a game with myself: I imagined walking across the amphitheater stage at graduation. In that reverie, I never felt fear or trembling. Instead, I felt privileged, grateful, and emboldened to be in a place that took me seriously. “Here’s the future,” I told myself, “My life begins here.”

There’s one more piece of advice I’d like to pass along: Tell your daughters, granddaughters, and friends to visit the College. Encourage them to come to Mount Holyoke, roam around, and imagine a future that begins here, in their own best place. We know that if they join us, they will find their own best selves as well. 

—By President Lynn Pasquerella ’80

This article appeared in the fall 2015 issue of the Alumnae Quarterly.

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