President’s Pen: Winter 2014

President Pasquerella

Becca Faria ’14 and President Pasquerella ’80 in the dorm room they have in common. (Photo by John Kuchle)

“You can’t go home again,” novelist Thomas Wolfe tells us. But recently, I did. Last fall I returned to 103 Dickinson House—my old dorm room. It was my first time back in more than thirty years.

Like many of you, I have indelible memories of my first Mount Holyoke room. My bed was in a corner, near the window. I brought my old bedspread from home—a white coverlet with tufts of brown. One of those area rugs from Kmart covered the floor. And then there were the media essentials of the day: a turntable for my Meg Christian, Tret Fure, and Jackson Browne records, and a small television complete with a crooked set of rabbit ears. I must confess, I rarely missed an episode of Days of Our Lives or Guiding Light.

Becca Faria, a senior from Bourne, Massachusetts, is living in 103 Dickinson now. We arranged a date for me to get a peep at the room. I couldn’t stop smiling when I walked in. At first glance, the room looked the same: the tree outside the window, the painted woodwork, the ample closet. Becca and I agreed we had lucked out. The room has character and is bigger than those in many other dorms. It’s a good place to study, and—being a bit removed from the center of campus—the walk back to Dickinson after a day of classes feels like heading home.

At first glance, the room looked the same: the tree outside the window, the painted woodwork, the ample closet.
Lynn Pasquerella ’80

While I have lived in many other places since I left that corner room, Mount Holyoke always feels like home to me. There is a sense of rootedness here that years and distance cannot diminish. Our connection comes from the excitement of ideas we encountered, the profound friendships, and that exhilarating glimpse of who we hoped to be when our minds wandered during late nights in our dorm rooms.

In 1978 as I whiled away the hours, I never dreamed of being president of Mount Holyoke College. I thought I would become a philosophy professor or maybe a lawyer. Life, of course, takes us in directions we never imagined.

One of Mount Holyoke’s greatest strengths is preparing us for what we could not at first envision for ourselves. Being deeply rooted in a community that believed in me gave me confidence and optimism to face the future. It still does.

Elizabeth Kennan ’60 was president of Mount Holyoke College when I moved into Dickinson House. She inspired us with her energy, her intellect, and her extensive vocabulary. These days when I’m checking email or sorting through letters on my desk, it is not uncommon to find a note from Liz. The message may be brief, but it is always encouraging. Her words connect me once more to Mount Holyoke’s sustaining landscape.

On that morning as I stood with Becca and looked around 103 Dickinson, I thought again about how rooted we are to this wonderful place.

Mr. Wolfe, you can go home again—just not with rabbit ears and the Guiding Light.

— By President Lynn Pasquerella ’80

This article appeared in the winter 2014 issue of the Alumnae Quarterly.

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