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   Date: 9/28/09 Bookmark and Share

Calling on the Smith Sisterhood

Aubrey Menard ’08 (left) and Gwen Mason ’82 consult in Mason's campaign headquarters.

New connections among Smith students and alumnae happen all the time. Alumnae often offer new graduates valuable career advice and host current students when the students visit new locales.

The Smith sisterhood is a lifetime membership to a global club, and the connection between Aubrey Menard ’08 and Gwen Williams Mason ’82 is the latest example.

After graduating with a degree in American government, Mason’s interest in public service led her to a career at the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C., and a successful run for the Roanoke, Virginia, City Council in 2006.

When a seat opened up in the Virginia House of Delegates—America’s oldest legislative body—Mason jumped at the chance to run. She teamed this year with Menard, who serves as the campaign’s finance director.

“Smith truly is a sisterhood,” attests Menard, “and we are proving that your sisters help you out when you need it. Regardless of partisanship, Smithies know that women bring dynamic representation to public office.”

Not only have her fellow Smith alumnae contributed monetarily to Mason’s campaign, notes Menard, but several have come forward with donations of their time and words of encouragement. In one such example, Mason’s classmate Amy Northcutt ’82, the deputy general counsel for the National Science Foundation, offered to travel to Roanoke, in Mason’s district, to walk door-to-door alongside the candidate talking to voters.

“It has been amazing for me to see how supportive Gwen’s classmates have been, nearly 30 years after their graduation,” she says. “Gwen’s talked to 1982-ers from California to Maine to Florida. And she’s seen friends from each of the graduating Smith classes from her four years in Northampton.”

As the House of Delegates campaign kicks into high gear this fall, the candidate appreciates the levity and camaraderie that comes with working alongside her college mate.

“Sometimes I feel like Aubrey lives on my hall in Wilder House,” quips Mason. “We’ve had many good laughs over eating too much first year, about beer parties, the beauty of the Quad.”

Being a part of the worldwide Smith community has given Mason a regular boost of moral support in addition to other contributions, she says. “It is an amazing sorority,” says Mason of the Smith alumnae network. “The support, encouragement and steadfast faith in me as a candidate strengthen me every day. Smith friends have emailed, or met me at events and shared their experiences, appreciation for public service and interest in the political issues of the day.”

Come November, when Mason hopes to join her state’s House of Delegates, the real work of change will begin for both women. If she is elected, Mason will be one of 100 state representatives charged with passing the state’s budget, which funds transportation and education. Menard will see what options surface from the Smith experience, and is hoping to work on one of the upcoming Congressional or Gubernatorial races in 2010.

Even as they campaign hard this autumn, the two Smithies’ thoughts of their alma mater remain close—they vow to take one afternoon off on an undisclosed day soon to “frolick in the fall foliage, pick apples, and picnic in honor of Mountain Day: we know we’ll end up visiting with some voters.”

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