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Smith Alumnae do their Homework


Several alumnae for the first reunion weekend, May 17 through 20, arrived with books full of highlighted sections and protruding page markers, as well as lots of questions for faculty and each other.

This year’s “Read with Us” book discussions -- part of the Alumnae College Program coordinated by the Alumnae Association as part of reunion on May 18 -- offered faculty-led presentations and conversations about ten different books as well as three mini-classes in Italian, landscape studies, and principles of investing.

Topics in the “Read with Us” segment varied widely. Some addressed the complex paths to self-knowledge demonstrated in Geraldine Brooks’ March, Margaret Atwoood’s Alias Grace, and Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. Others looked at the human’s race’s vulnerability from objects as massive as asteroids (Surviving Armageddon by Bill McGuire) or as small as the H5N1 avian influenza virus (John M. Barry’s The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History).

Alumnae enjoyed the opportunity to ask questions throughout the presentations, from what might be the impact of a tsunami created by a volcano in West Africa on the Atlantic Coast (estimates range from a wave of 10-200 feet) to how prepared we are for a flu pandemic (no one has a complete plan, and there is only enough vaccine stockpiled for 75 million Americans).

The session on The Year of Magical Thinking, led by Jennifer Walters, dean of religious life, developed into a wide-ranging consideration of society’s discomfort with extended grief, the effects of a loved one’s illness and death on one’s sense of self, talking to the departed for comfort and to keep them in our lives, and the relative merits of Vanessa Redgrave’s performance in the current play based on Ms. Didion’s book.

A syllabus of the sessions and names of faculty presenters appears in this year’s reunion brochure.



5/22/07   By Carole Fuller
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