A 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] 2003.
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.
Kingsbury, 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 time.”