Welcome Ceremony for New Alumnae

“Scarf Ceremony” Turns a Skeptic into a Cheerleader

By Bonnie Barrett Stretch ’61

Seniors with scarves at the 2011 ceremony. Photo by Sue Carr

“What’s this welcome ceremony for new alumnae?” you may ask. It’s a new tradition, established in 2011 with the class of 1961, designed to welcome new graduates immediately into the worldwide community of MHC alumnae.

The special half-century relationship of the graduating class and the fiftieth reunion class was first officially recognized by the class of 1960, which bonded so well with the class of 2010 that the class of 2011 wanted the same relationship with their grandmother class of 1961.

Historically skeptical of “new traditions,” 1961ers tended to resist the label of “grandmother” but classmates who had arrived by Thursday afternoon dutifully went to Chapin to participate, and were overwhelmed by the event. Class President Bobbi Childs Sampson, in a short elegant talk, welcomed the seniors to “that half century journey that we, the class of 1961, have just traveled,” and recalled our own graduation day seeing the alumnae of the class of 1911, who had graduated into a world in which they could not yet vote! “Truly a different world.”

The ceremony was simple. Members of the grandmother class lined up across the front of the auditorium; members of the granddaughter class formed a line, each facing a “grandmother” who placed around each graduate’s neck a lovely silk scarf in their class color decorated with their class animal.

“I was immediately impressed with the huge number of seniors who were in Chapin for the ‘scarfing,’” recalls Sherry Welles Urner, who is now 1961’s class president. “With each successive wave of seniors, the intimacy seemed to build. Congratulations and questions about future plans seemed to end with hugs and best wishes and genuine emotion, even tears. It was an awesome experience. I was so impressed with the diversity of the graduates, their respect for us, their accomplishments and aspirations. For the rest of the weekend, I noticed yellow scarves as part of graduates’ attire—and if I said, ‘Your scarf is lovely,’ the student would invariably say ‘I love it—and thank you.’ I came to the ceremony as a skeptic, but now I think the scarves were a beautiful bridge to full maturity and alumnae status.”

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