NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—A $1 million gift to Smith College from alumna and former Congresswoman Jane Lakes Harman endowed a writer-in-residence program that will expose students to great writers and mentors in the field.
Harman, who is director, president, and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, gave the gift in honor of her mother, Lucille Geier Lakes, a writer who believed in the power of sharp observation and transformative imagination.
“This is an idea my mother would adore,” said Harman, a member of the class of 1966. “The writer-in-residence celebrates her passion.”
That passion for writing will be further explored by Harman and her daughter, Justine Harman, assistant features editor at ELLE Magazine, during an interview with President Carol Christ and Professor Susan Van Dyne on Monday, April 8. Harman’s daughter, Hilary Peck, will also be present for the event.
“Between Mothers and Daughters: A Conversation About Writing a Woman’s Life” will begin at 4:30 p.m. in the Alumnae Gymnasium.
The Lucille Geier Lakes Writer-in-Residence Program will bring distinguished writers to Smith College for a semester every year. Whether they are poets, playwrights, novelists, journalists, essayists or critics, the Lakes Writer-in-Residence enrich the Smith environment, creating a lively literary environment for students and faculty. The Lakes program relies on an intense workshop design, where visiting writers teach small classes and hold individual conferences with aspiring student writers.
In giving the gift, Harman also recognized the leadership of President Christ with whom she has worked in various capacities at Smith. Beginning when she served on the board of trustees, and, more recently, when she helped launch the Women in Public Service Project, Harman has worked with Christ for more than a decade. Christ will retire in June.
“I owe Smith so much,” said Harman, adding that she is looking forward to Monday’s event because “both of my daughters will be there, Carol will be there and hopefully the next generation of great writers will be there in the audience.”
Lucille Geier Lakes graduated from Hunter College in New York and worked during World War II, but left the workforce after marrying. “Jane speaks movingly of the ways in which her mother would have been gratified by a career with the scope and ambition of her own,” said Christ.
Harman’s career has included representing the aerospace center of California during nine terms in Congress, and serving on all the major security committees: six years on Armed Services, eight years on Intelligence and four on Homeland Security. She has made numerous Congressional fact-finding missions to hotspots around the world, including North Korea, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Guantanamo Bay, to assess threats against the United States.
During her long public career, Harman has been recognized as a national expert at the nexus of security and public policy issues. Harman received the Defense Department Medal for Distinguished Service in 1998, the CIA Seal Medal in 2007, and the CIA Director’s Award and the National Intelligence Distinguished Public Service Medal in 2011. In 2012, she was named one of the 50 most influential Democrats on foreign policy by Foreign Policy magazine.
Justine Harman is assistant features editor at ELLE magazine. Prior to that, she spent two years at PeopleStyleWatch, where she was an online fashion writer. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 2006 with a degree in communications and Hispanic Studies, Justine spent two years working with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen surrounding the launch of their high-end brand, The Row.
Smith College educates women of promise for lives of distinction. One of the largest women’s colleges in the United States, Smith enrolls 2,600 students from nearly every state and 62 other countries.
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