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The Women We've Become

They left Smith with dreams of worlds to conquer, lives to be made. As they gathered at Reunion, a few alumnae took time to reflect on their youthful ambitions, and what really happened.

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 them.

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 world”? 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.


Photos by Tanit Sakakini

Anne Deatly ’77

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."

Allison Schultz '02

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 about it.

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.


Photos by Tanit Sakakini

Nancy Lawson Brown ’42

Current hometown: 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.

Major: Music.

Most memorable professor: They were all great.

My dream as an undergrad: I imagined I was going to have a wonderful time teaching kids to play piano.

My life after Smith: I did it! I taught private lessons to the little ones and adults—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.

How I’ve applied that lesson: I just accept people how they are—though there were some I tried to change.


Jean Kiendl Hamshaw ’37

Current hometown: 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.

Smith house: Emerson.

Major: Government.

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 New England.

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.

How I’ve 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.

8/22/07   Excerpted from the Smith Alumnae Quarterly
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