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Celebrating an Extraordinary Year

June 30, 2017

Dear Members of the Smith College Community,

As we head into the summer months, I want to take a moment to reflect on the past year at Smith and to share a video—at the end of this message—of some of the memorable moments that made it so extraordinary.

During this year’s Ivy Day celebration, I spoke about the value of our individual stories. Smith College has a remarkable story to tell. Here are some of the initiatives, ideas, programs and events that fill our latest chapter.  

For the 10th year in a row, we had a record-breaking number of applications—5,432, to be exact. As I told alumnae at Reunion, high-achieving and ambitious women want to come to Smith because they know they will receive an education that challenges them, supports their intellectual passions and prepares them for leadership in the 21st century.

We once again took the lead as the top producer of Fulbright award recipients among liberal arts colleges in the United States. This incredible achievement speaks to the strength of our academic program, the commitment of our faculty to mentor applicants, and the global aspirations of our students and alumnae.

Architectural designer Maya Lin brought excitement to the campus last October when she unveiled her design for the new Neilson Library. The building retains its original core but, with the addition of two “jewel box”wings, is reimagined as a vibrant intellectual commons. I am excited to share progress as site work begins in earnest this summer.

The Happy Chace ’28 Garden, adjacent to the President’s House, is a beautiful new addition to the campus landscape, providing a place for reflection and relaxation. The garden is named in honor of the late Beatrice (Happy) Oenslager Chace ’28 and was made possible by a gift from her daughter and son-in-law, Eliot Chace Nolen ’54 and Roly Nolen.

An incredible Presidential Colloquium series brought high-profile speakers—from Rachel Maddow and Ana Navarro to Henry Louis Gates Jr. —to campus throughout the year to encourage dialogue around topics that are shaping our global conscience.

After issuing an Innovation Challenge last fall, we are funding 11 projects focused on research, teaching and learning in support of diversity and inclusion. I am grateful for the creativity and commitment that students, faculty and staff displayed in crafting proposals for projects such as a social justice mediation institute, a School for Social Work conference on building community for refugees and immigrants, and a leadership program for an inclusive and sustainable Smith. I know the college will benefit greatly from the ideas that emerge from these initiatives.

Sustainability is a cornerstone of our commitment to being a college “of and for the world.” From the dining halls to Ainsworth gym, students, faculty and staff have dedicated themselves to sustainable practices. In March, the Smith College Study Group on Climate Change released a report—a year in the making—that provides a pathway to a healthier, sustainable future by recommending a set of collaborative solutions that, over time, will significantly lessen Smith’s impact on the environment. This aligns perfectly with Lives of Distinction and Purpose, our new strategic plan, which, among other objectives, commits the college to addressing complex, urgent problems.

One of our proudest accomplishments as a community was the completion of our Women for the World fundraising campaign. With support from more than 37,000 donors worldwide, we surpassed our $450 million goal, raising $486 million and shattering all previous fundraising records. Actress and social commentator Anna Deavere Smith helped us celebrate with a March 4 performance on campus. The success of the campaign has emboldened us to expand our curriculum through new majors like statistical and data sciences and Middle East studies, increase our financial aid to students and create myriad opportunities for leadership development.

As a college dedicated to the education and empowerment of women, Smith has a unique opportunity to inspire—and, at times, lead—conversations in the media about issues that are important to women, such as access to education, parental leave and the limits to opportunity that women continue to encounter every day. By doing so, we ensure that women’s perspectives and ideas are included in the national discourse.

There are so many other moments worthy of attention. We welcomed a stellar new class into the Athletics Hall of Fame. The Museum of Art was the only East Coast venue to host the spectacular exhibit, Leisure and Luxury in the Age of Nero: The Villas of Oplontis Near Pompeii. Ten Smith students were chosen as Smith’s first cohort of the BOLD Leadership Scholars Program. A comprehensive campus climate survey, conducted last fall, is informing many of the new initiatives shaping how we teach, learn and work. And our new Smith College Alumnae Business Network launched successfully with events around the country. With well over 500 members, the network is a powerful expression of our commitment to helping to meet the world’s need for more women business leaders.

We capped off the year with a terrific celebration of the class of 2017, sending our nearly 700 graduates out into the world with some advice from Commencement speaker Oprah Winfrey: “Love yourself, because only people who love themselves have enough love to give to the rest of the world.”

I invite you to watch a video (below) that captures the year in pictures. I hope you see, as I do, that Smith’s story is rich and meaningful. It is a story of creating a better, more equitable world that benefits from the strength of our diversity, our belief in fairness and justice, and our commitment to the health of the planet.

I wish you an enjoyable and rewarding summer.


Kathleen McCartney