President’s Pen: Winter 2015

I always love hearing
students and alumnae invoke Mary Lyon’s name. From “Mary Lyon would want me to take this job” to “Mary Lyon would want Mountain Day on Tuesday” (or Wednesday or Thursday or whenever a paper is due), calling forth our founder speaks to how close we feel to her legacy. We are all descendants of Mary Lyon. Even 178 years after the Seminary’s founding, we remain connected to her vision of excellence and opportunity.

Calling forth our founder speaks to how close we feel to her legacy.
Lynn Pasquerella ’80

But alumnae and students aren’t the only ones who feel that special kinship. Families of alumnae also share that affinity: daughters, nieces, partners, husbands. In fact, all over the world there are sons and grandsons of Mary Lyon—boys and men who respect the education earned by the women in their families.

Take eleven-year-old Elliott Laibson-Brown of Minneapolis. His mothers are Tracy Laibson ’98 and Kristen Brown ’95. To hear Elliott tell it, he has two favorite blankets for curling up to read Harry Potter. “It’s a tie,” he says, between the “green, fuzzy one” and the blanket with all the Mount Holyoke buildings on it. Elliott has never been to Mount Holyoke—at least not yet—but he imagines it. “I think it’s on the side of a mountain,” he says. “With a forest. There are nice teachers and good classroom materials.” It has to be a wonderful place. After all, he says, “It helped make my moms who they are.”

Tom Clark of Deerfield, Massachusetts, could be called a grandson of Mary Lyon. His grandmother, Margaret Bacon Griswold Clark, class of 1904, transferred to Mount Holyoke from Wesleyan when the Connecticut institution stopped accepting women. “Mount Holyoke rescued her,” Tom says. Although his grandmother died before he was born, Tom says his family remembers her as highly principled, warm, and caring. Now the third-generation owner of Clarkdale Fruit Farms, Tom donated three apple trees to Mount Holyoke several years ago. “My pickup barely made it,” he recalls, “It was so loaded down.” But the trek was important to Tom—a lasting tribute to a woman whose gifts were enhanced by the College. “She was very forward thinking,” he says.

Then there’s Christopher West, whose mother is Cassandra West ’79. Chris remembers visiting Mount Holyoke when he was in the sixth or seventh grade. “Gorgeous,” he says. The campus impressed him as a place where students took academics seriously. Now a professional in the Denver recreation department, Chris thinks about his mother’s college friends. “These women have been around since I was born,” he says. They stick together, embracing a passion for education and hard work and supporting each other in ways that he finds admirable. “How can you not be influenced by a network of positive and successful women?” he asks. “If I have a family, they’ll be reminded every day of their motivated and smart grandmother.” What will he tell them about Mount Holyoke? Two words, Chris West says, “I’m thankful.”

—By President Lynn Pasquerella ’80

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

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