Women We've Become
Interviews by Tzivia Gover
For many alumnae, the most meaningful
part of Reunion is the Alumnae Parade. Truth be told, it
is a breathtaking sight. First, there are the hundreds of
alumnae dressed, according to tradition, all in white: white
hats, white coats, white pants, white shoes. They start gathering
early on Chapin Drive or, on second weekend, under the canopy
of trees along Neilson Drive. The earliest classes take
their place at the head of the line, and behind them file
the succeeding classes. Then the marching begins, strong
and steady. Each step carries this band of women forward,
but also takes them back to the days when they walked these
same paths as students, anxious and excited and perhaps
a little unsure of where the next four years would take
Watching the parade, it’s
only natural to wonder, Who are these women in white? All
were told when they first arrived on campus, whether it was
six years ago or eighty years ago, that they were among the
best and brightest. While here, they most surely had dreams—of
a career, of moving abroad, of raising a family, of changing
the world. So where did life take these smart, motivated
women after they accepted their diplomas and fled into the “real
Did they accomplish what they set out to, or were they pulled
in unexpected directions?
To find out, the Quarterly sought
out some of the alumnae fresh off the parade route and asked
them to reflect on how the women they are today measure up
to the ones they thought they’d become as undergraduates.
They share their thoughts below. If anything,
their stories show how wildly unpredictable life’s
narrative can be and how the life you have is often better
than the one you dreamed about in your youth.
Hometown: Ridgewood, New Jersey
Smith house: Capen
Major: Environmental biology
Most memorable professor:
B. Elizabeth Horner. She taught vertebrate zoology and animal behavior. I took both of those
classes. She was so enthusiastic. She loved what she was doing. She was such an inspiration. She never
said anything negative to anyone. She'd give you hints on how to improve, but always in a positive way.
My dreams as an undergrad: I was
very involved in ecology and saving the planet. I did try to get a job in that regard,
but they were all with volunteer or nonprofit organizations.
My life after Smith: I
decided to work at Rockefeller University and get some research experience. I went
back to school to get my Ph.D. at Vanderbilt and now I'm working at Wyeth, a pharmaceutical
company with a vaccine division. I've been doing research in regard to making viral
vaccines. I have two wonderful children. I was a single mom. I divorced very young,
and I did it all myself. Instead of harping on "poor me," I did it in
a positive way. Smith helped with that.
A lesson I learned at Smith: [Former
president] Jill Ker Conway said it during her baccalaureate speech. She said: "Don't
ever let anyone tell you can't do something." That
has really stuck with me.
How I've applied that lesson : When I went to Rockefeller, I was
doing research on viruses and I hadn't taken virology at Smith. I felt unprepared,
but I still had the confidence to learn what I needed to and that I would catch up.
How I'd describe my life today : Exciting. I run a lab. I work
ten- to twelve-hour days without question. I love going to work. My son is going
to Hampshire College and my daughter just graduated from Smith.
Recommended reading: The Secret, by
Rhonda Byrne. It says you have to go beyond what appears on the surface and say, "I
can do it."
Current hometown : New York, New York
I live with: My best friend
Smith house : Cushing
Major : Psychology
Most memorable professor : Psychology professors Jill and Peter
de Villiers. They were easy to relate to, and once they even taught a class together.
My dream as an undergrad : I wasn't sure, and I'm still thinking
My life after Smith : I'm in a premed postbaccalaureate program
at Columbia. I'm studying to be a doctor. That's the path right now. I have numerous
part-time jobs to pay the bills. I do pet-sitting, I'm a personal trainer, and I
play poker professionally. This summer I'm going to try to do it full-time.
If I could relive my Smith years: I would take a more diverse
set of classes. I would have taken advantage of the fact that you could take classes
at other colleges in the Five College system. I never did that.
A lesson I learned at Smith : You should take pride in what you
do and where you come from.
How I've applied that lesson : You can apply that to everything
you do, every day.
How I'd describe my life today : Changing. Eclectic.
What's on my iPod: My sister's music. Her name is Larissa Jaye.
She plays folk/pop and she's making her first album now.
Groton, Massachusetts. I live in
a retirement community. It’s
kind of like living in a Smith house again.
Smith house: Washburn. I loved it. I could
tumble out of bed and be in class.
Most memorable professor: They were all
My dream as an undergrad: I imagined I
was going to have a wonderful time teaching kids to play
My life after Smith:
I did it! I taught private lessons to the little ones and
I loved it.
A lesson I learned at Smith: I think the
general spirit of Smith College was great, and that has stayed
with me all of my life. You never cared where people were
from or what they looked like.
applied that lesson: I just
accept people how they are—though there were some I
tried to change.
Marlborough, New Hampshire. I
live on a dirt road in view of Mount Monadnock, about 150
yards from my son’s house. It’s very
pretty up there.
Most memorable professor: Mary Ellen Chase.
She taught English. She was a New England novelist, and she
spoke for the good life that we enjoy here in New England.
It made me realize how lucky we are to live here. I stayed
around New England after I retired, and it was because of
Mary Ellen Chase.
My dream as an undergrad: I knew what I didn’t want
to do. What I didn’t want to do was go into a law office—and
guess what I did?
My life after Smith: I went right from
Smith into a law office. I went to law school at night and
I worked in a New York law firm during the day. Then I went
into the Army. I was one of the original WACs. I met my husband
in the Army, and we were married on VJ Day. We had two children.
Then I taught in a Waldorf school in Garden City, Long Island,
for twenty-five years before I retired and moved back to
If I could relive my Smith years: I would
have studied much harder. I was only 16 when I came here.
I just breezed through. If I could do it over again I could
do it a lot better.
A lesson I learned at Smith: I learned
to play tennis here.
applied that lesson: When
I joined the Army, I showed up at the training base with
a tennis racket. Fort Des Moines had tennis courts. Later,
I lived in Forest Hills, Long Island, and I played a lot.