Years Later, Still Learning
lot can change in 50 years, but some things stay the same.
Susan Kingsbury ’63 found that out last weekend when she arrived on campus for
her 50-year reunion.
When she moved her belongings
into her weekend room, in King House, moving in next door
was Debby Dutcher Bump ’63, who also occupied
the room next door to Kingsbury’s, in Wilder House, when they arrived on campus
as first-year students 54 years ago.
In the 50 years since Kingsbury
matriculated at Smith, she has lived a lot of life, visited
a good chunk of the world and worn several hats. But taking
up residence in King next to her former housemate brought
her back more than a half-century.
“Walking into that room [in King] reminded me of when I first walked into my
room back then,” she says, recalling visions from 1959 of the bare mattress awaiting
her linens, the empty bureau and closet soon to be filled with her belongings.
Though she physically left the
college upon her graduation in 1963, Kingsbury has always
remained in the Smith community. In fact, one could say she
was born into it: her grandmother is Smith Class of 1907,
her mother Class of 1935, an aunt 1937, a cousin 1962, and
another cousin’s daughter graduating in [circa]
Kingsbury has taken her Smith
legacy to heart, having served as Class of 1963 secretary
and returning to campus regularly, for her 10th, 20th, 25th
and 40th reunions, and again for the recent 50th.
who lives near Keene, New Hampshire, also returned to Smith
as a student in recent years, first auditing an introductory
course in Italian Language and Culture, then last year enrolling
in Accelerated Elementary Italian, taught by Maria Succi-Hempstead,
lecturer in Italian language and literature, making the one-hour
commute to attend classes and lunch tables.
That story, too,
is directly related to her early Smith years. “I
fell in love with an Italian girl, an exchange student—not in a romantic sense—in
my first year at Smith,” she describes. “Ever since then, I’ve always been in
love with Italy and everything Italian.”
Kingsbury has visited Italy
half a dozen times. But it was only during her recent trip
there, after studying Italian at Smith, that she could converse
with natives in their language and assist fellow travelers
around the language barrier.
Being a student is nothing new
to Kingsbury. Now 72, she completed her master’s degree,
in health advocacy at Sarah Lawrence College, at age 69.
Having dealt with serious
health issues, and experiencing the difficulty of navigating
the healthcare system, Kingsbury felt compelled to help others
in similar situations.
“I feel equipped now to help other people,” says Kingsbury, who will soon begin
a volunteer job as a patient advocate at Keene Cheshire Medical Center in Keene,
New Hampshire. “I’ll be happy to make the patient experience better, helping
patients in practical ways, and emotionally.”
It’s the latest in a rich, diverse half-century of professional and life experience
for Kingsbury. An art major at Smith, she has worked as an artist, a graphic
designer, and a massage therapist.
Returning to the place of her
undergraduate years just before starting a new job underscores
Kingsbury’s outlook and thirst
for knowledge and new experience. She has always considered herself a student,
after all, since well before the day she walked into her new home on campus more
than 50 years ago.
“My parents always encouraged me to learn more,” she says. “It just enriches
my life. Now, as an adult, I realize how much there is to learn, and not enough