Smith College Admission Academics Student Life About Smith news Offices

Home > Offices > News Office > News Releases > News Release

News Releases


New Collection Chronicles Women's Detours and Triumphs En Route to a College Degree

Cecily Morrow grew up on ice skates. Life as a competitive figure skater meant acquiring a distinctly separate education, one that emphasized learning the now-defunct compulsory school "figures" while scrambling for inexpensive daytime ice. About those years Morrow says: "My official transcript read Ice Skating I, II and III. Where was education?" As she skated in Europe and across North America, was sought after for private lessons and wrote technical manuals in figure skating, a formal education continued to elude her until, at age 28, she enrolled in Smith College's program for nontraditional-aged students.

Growing up Mexican-American, Rita Minero attended a parochial school where education focused on preparing her for motherhood. College was something she could only daydream about. Her impression was that "...only women in books...[or]...white women went to college," Minero recalls. Predictably, Minero married after high school and raised four children; but when the marriage failed after 23 years, she had to re-evaluate her life. Eventually, she enrolled at a community college and, not long after, at Smith College, a school she once thought was for white women only.

Lusia Stewart, the daughter of Amherst and Radcliffe graduates, knew early on she would go to college. But during high school, she took what she calls, "a big detour." "Six years, a failed marriage and a baby later, I found my way back to school." While studying at a community college and surviving on Aid to Families with Dependent Children, Stewart read a newspaper article about Smith College's program for older students. She applied, was accepted and, thanks to a Smith-administered grant that covered childcare and heating costs, enrolled.

Morrow, Minero and Stewart all realized their dreams of obtaining a first-rate college education through Smith College's Ada Comstock Scholars Program for nontraditional-aged students.

According to Erika J. Laquer, director of the program, their stories reflect the extraordinary experiences of the women who make up the Ada Comstock Scholars Program. She shares the opinion of Smith's president, Ruth J. Simmons, that Adas, as they are called, "are some of the most interesting and capable women of our times." Now, in the program's 25th year, the essays, personal reflections and art of more than 50 of these remarkable women have been gathered in a book titled "Textured Lives: Ada Comstock Scholars at Smith College."

"Textured Lives" features a foreword by Smith College presidents Jill Ker Conway (1975-85), Mary Maples Dunn (1985­95) and Ruth J. Simmons (1995­present). The book, compiled and edited by Professor of English Language and Literature Patricia Skarda, was dedicated to the program's founding director, Eleanor Rothman, during a silver anniversary celebration for the program last fall.

With 28 art reproductions and 38 essays, "Textured Lives" reflects the broad range of talent among the more than 1,400 graduates of Ada Comstock Scholars program. The contributors span generations, race and socio-economic status; and their life journeys, often unconventional, span coasts and continents. Whether chronicling obstacles overcome or dreams fulfilled, the stories are about the exhilaration and transformation experienced when women are welcomed into a world of learning.

"The 'textured lives' described in this collection of essays and art testify to the fact that there is no typical Ada Comstock Scholar," writes Skarda in the book's introduction. "What Adas have in common is passion for learning, a passion inculcated by a demanding academic program that these writers and artists have successfully completed despite rugged starts, unanticipated interruptions or unimagined difficulties, often long before they heard of this extraordinary way to complete their undergraduate studies."

The Ada Comstock Scholars Program accepts nontraditional-aged women as undergraduates and welcomes them into all aspects of Smith's residential college life. Named for Ada Louise Comstock, who graduated from Smith in 1897 and later served as dean of Smith and president of Radcliffe, the program has grown from its original 33 students to more than 220 students a year and has served as a model for similar programs across the country.

The Ada program's growth reflects a national trend of adults returning to college. The Census Bureau reports that more than 25 percent of today's undergraduates are age 30 or older. A reported 63 percent of those students are women.

"Textured Lives," published by the Smith College Press, can be purchased for $20 by calling the Grécourt Bookshop at (413) 585-4140 or visiting its Web site at

Contact: Laurie Fenlason,

March 13, 2001


News Release Directory // News Office Home Page // Smith College Home Page

© 2000 Smith College // Please send comments to:
Page maintained by the Office of College Relations.