Alumnae Bulletin
August 2010

Reunion: celebrating the arts

With a focus on the arts, a special blast the entire 1950s decade, and invitation to all alumnae to celebrate the beginning of Bryn Mawr's 125th anniversary celebrations, Reunion hit a high record for attendance with a total of 1,016 alumnae, family and friends.

Melodee Siegel Kornacker '60 bicycled to Bryn Mawr from Ohio with her companion, Al Moore, and stepsons E.J. and Joe Honton. Joe, a cartographer, planned the route, complete with lodging locations. "The trip was challenging, even though the distances were modest for experienced cyclists," she wrote. "Fourteen cycling days, roughly 600 miles total, averaging just over 40 miles per day. Heat! Rain! Hills! Potholes! Gravel! Rough trails! Decent motels, funky B&Bs! All three men greatly appreciated the hospitality of the College, enjoyed meeting my classmates and learning more about Bryn Mawr, which has played such an important part in my life." E.J. and Joe are sons of Melodee's late husband, Ed Honton, who accompanied her to past reunions and was a nationally respected cycling advocate. "Ed's spirit was very much with us on the trip—he would have loved it!"

Kornacker has been cycling "pretty steadily" for 30 years and turned her odometer over (100,000 miles) a few years back. "Cycle touring is not an extreme sport but is within the capacity of many people, if they would only give it a try," she adds. "I'm very excited that in this area, as in so many, we enjoy President McAuliffe's encouragement and leadership!"

Class Editor Pat Franck Sheffield '46 was not reuning, but drove from New Jersey for the arts festival. "I got up at 3:30 a.m., drove 122 miles through wide open Pennsylvania, mostly Interstates, a way I have never traveled before," she wrote. "Everyone seemed appalled that I had driven all the way down and still planned to drive all the way back that night. It was actually so easy it was a bit boring, all empty highways. This trip, no pair of deer to dodge and no Canada goose and her five goslings either. Got home at 11:30, everything okay, not even sleepy!"

Seeing old friends and classmates is a typical high point of the weekend, but so are intergenerational experiences. The student Reunion helpers, current undergraduates and members of this year's Class of 2010, got the biggest applause. "They made me appreciate Bryn Mawr's role in preparing future scholars and citizens," commented one alumna. Sheffield "spent time sitting with Mary Macomber Leue '40, 90 years old and full of fabulous energy. She was the life of the party at our side table for drinks and again in the small dining room in Wyndham. And I kept somehow ending up next to Kimberly Blessing '97, a computer scientist in Web development at Comcast. That was lucky, since I had been an early computer programmer and we had endless things to talk about with that link."

Nona Abrams '40 wrote, "It was a pleasure and privilege to meet President McAuliffe and have time with her to reminisce and share with her our experiences as the only class of the war years 1940­–1945. It was a very nostalgic and kind of uplifting interlude for me, and I think all of us. I will long remember this."

"We have come back to refresh, renew and relive the halcyon years when Bryn Mawr gave us our first real opportunity to be responsible for ourselves and grow to become the women we are," said Leslie Kaplan Glassberg '55 in introducing Jane Miller Unkefer '55, the recipient of the Lifetime of Service Award, at the Annual Meeting.

The songs they sang more than 50 years ago filled the Goodhart Music Room as alumnae from these classes held a special step sing. Other events planned by and for the Giant Cluster included a woman's history tour of Thomas Library led by Natalie A. Naylor '59, a lively discussion of where they were and where they are now facilitated by Chloe Drabkin Garrell '54, a festive dinner in the Great Hall emceed by Nancy Potts Masland '56 and Marilyn Muir Pfaltz '54, and a memorial service on Sunday morning led by Bette Haney Duff '59. The Cluster's gift of exhibit cases for the Eva-Jane Romaine Coombe '52 Special Collections Suite was presented at a reception in Canaday Library featuring the works of painter Sheila Eaton Isham '50 and the Gilbert & Sullivan collection donated to the College by Ivy Borow Relkin '50.

This year's Reunion program highlighted the vibrant role of the arts in today's campus community and in the lives of alumnae/i. Other arts events included faculty talks on topics ranging from Renaissance art to Shakespeare in new media; a major exhibit by contemporary artist Red Grooms; movie excerpts from a new documentary on women journalists in World War II; a trip to the Barnes Foundation; a concepting discussion with Hepburn Medal recipient Jane Golden for a mural in West Philadelphia about the power of women's education that Bryn Mawr is creating in partnership with the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program for the College's 125th anniversary celebration; and an evening of dancing to African and Brazilian rhythms on Merion Green.

The centerpiece of the weekend was a performance by the Rebecca Kelly Ballet, founded and directed by Rebecca Kelly '73 in the beautifully restored Marjorie Walter Goodhart Hall. In introducing Kelly, Director of Dance Linda Caruso Haviland explained that Bryn Mawr's arts program encourages all of its students, not just those who plan careers as professionals, to cross boundaries and experiment, to seek inspiration inside and outside class, to incorporate their artistic work into their other courses and into the rest of their lives.

Foundation for a creative path

The world-class performance by the Rebecca Kelly Ballet (RKB) had balletomanes in the audience on their feet. The three pieces on the program, the lyrically romantic Trouve Moi, the comic La Belle and Le Bad Boy, and the deeply provocative Desire, showed varying degrees of Kelly's signature combination of classical and modern style and stunning dancers.

Kelly prefaced each performance with commentary on the work, the process of choreography and her own background. The company is well known for its environmentally themed works, but Kelly also makes dances inspired by human nature. "My ideas come from observations about people, from our concerns as parents, citizens and stewards of this earth," she said.

She described choreography as a three-dimensional painting that moves and evolves. "It is my job to inspire, persuade, teach, and collaborate with my 'paint,' so that it lands on the canvas according to my design," she said. "I'm responsible for the creation of a story or narrative thread, and in that sense like an author or playwright. Like a film director, I ensure that players convey the story; I place objects or people in beautiful light, in the most compelling moments, focus the shot, and cause them to appear and disappear on cue. And like a producer, I have to get the vision out there for all to see."

Kelly's Bryn Mawr education—intellectual exploration, independent initiative, advanced research, and a mastery of skills essential to scholarship–created a solid foundation for a creative path. At Bryn Mawr she studied sociology, psychology and English and created her own major in the history of oriental religion. "There wasn't a major in this area at Bryn Mawr at that time," she recalled, "but I was told, 'Certainly, you can get your degree in oriental religion, if you can figure it out.' So I arranged to study Sanskrit at the University of Pennsylvania, Buddhist texts at Swarthmore, and Hinduism at Haverford. Dr. Howard Kee here at Bryn Mawr was my guide. Bryn Mawr encouraged me to find my way—what a life lesson. It was a perfect preparation for a career in the arts."

Kelly had stopped taking classical ballet by her late high school years but rediscovered her passion when she was forced to complete the gym requirement at Bryn Mawr, studying with modern dance instructors Barbara Lember and Paula Mason. She described the effect as "galvanizing. My academic studies suddenly began to feel freshly relevant around this approach to dance."

La Belle and Le Bad Boy was only two weeks old at the time of the Reunion performance. Kelly called it a work-in-progress. It recalled an early Bryn Mawr assignment using props for which Kelly chose a bowler hat and a cane, inspired by Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp. Now the props were a tutu, a tie, and a chair in a witty and piquant pas de deux about distractions. Early in her career, Kelly was encouraged by dance pioneer Charles Weidman to "dare to tickle the funny bone" and develop her Chaplinesque character, which resulted in her 1980 ballet, Mignonne. (Pat Sheffield '46, who knew Rebecca and Craig "when they were just starting" and was an early board member of RKB, recalls that she made a few videos then "with my 1970-ish black and white camera. One was of Rebecca's solo of herself as Charlie Chaplin, which I loved.")

"While I had the wonderful opportunity to choreograph at Bryn Mawr, I did not graduate with the intention of becoming a choreographer," Kelly said. "I wanted to perform, and went straight to New York City for that single purpose. And that I did, dancing for several companies and as a freelancer, before launching Rebecca Kelly Ballet in 1979. With a background love for writing, I soon understood there were ways of telling stories and describing observations through dance. Everything I cared to consider to be could be rendered in movement.

"The arts are a risky business, filled with ups and downs," Kelly said in conclusion, "and place great demands on you and your family. In order to survive as an artist, you have to find your own way. I was fortunate to find a kindred spirit in my husband and dance partner Craig Brashear, a physics major at Haverford, and 'a master of applied physics' as a performer, carpenter, teacher, designer and manager. We share so many experiences, understand the same frustrations and joys, and we share our lovely daughter Hilary, now a sophomore at Haverford who dances with the Bryn Mawr ensemble and at Haverford."

New teaching theatre "not a black box"

Alumnae gathered in Goodhart's new teaching theater, the "Kate," learned about its versatility from Mark Lord, professor of theater, Alice Carter Dickerman Chair for the Director of the Arts, and Theresa Helburn Chair of Drama. Lord explained how the limitations of the old Goodhart stage had forced him to incorporate other parts of the buildings and outdoor spaces into his performances, pioneering site-specific performances at Bryn Mawr. He came to realize how appropriate this kind of staging is for liberal arts students, and when the time finally came to design the new theater, insisted that it not be just a "black box" but include architectural features. In addition to windows and a balcony, one of the old metal-studded wooden doors from the main building has been left as a small closet space from which actors can emerge. (Black curtains can be drawn around the room when needed.) The back of the stage has garage type doors that can be opened on a set room. This room in turn can be opened to show the renovated main stage.

Lord inaugurated the new theater last fall with a performance of Peter Handke's 1968 Offending the Audience, which is a superb vehicle for exploring and displaying the physical space of the theater. The Bryn Mawr audience, seated in the Kate, could see straight through the set room, the main stage, the auditorium seats and Goodhart's open front doors. Actors performed in all of these spaces and flew above the audience hanging from the sliding catwalks.

Lord made an analogy between black box staging and the development of a neutral self in the training of professional actors. The latter not only requires much training, but is counterproductive for college students who are still discovering their identities and growing into themselves, he said. Under his direction, "The ordinary life of the College and the personalities of the students are implicated in performances," Lord said. Pat Sheffield '46 was in the audience and writes, "You could tell how many of those old graduates were eating it up, since we had nothing but that dreary old stage, no scene shop, no this, no that, and you saw how many of them had to hang lights by carrying tall ladders, climbing them and so on. They oozed with envy at the fancy moving platforms on which you could pull yourself across light by light and hang them without the risk of falling! All I did was perform, safely on the ground. In the midst of the description of what the College offers now, without planning to, I yelled, 'I want to come back!' It brought down the house!"

Understanding Renaissance art

Professor of History of Art David Cast engaged a full classroom of alumnae in an account of the ways Renaissance works of art were appreciated at the time, as discussed in his book, The Delight of Art: Giorgio Vasari and the Traditions of Humanist Discourse (Penn State Press 2009).

In his book, The Lives of the most eminent painters, sculptors and architects (1550), Vasari, a friend of Michelangelo and an artist in his own right, laid out a set of principles for the appreciation of art, speaking of such general rules as order, proportion and design. But what else can we say of a beautiful image like that of Raphael's Madonna of the Chair, used on the cover of Cast's book and projected onto the classroom wall for the delectation of the audience? Did people in the Renaissance take note of it only for its subject? Or could they appreciate, more directly, those immediate aesthetic qualities that we recognize? These and other questions prompted a lively discussion as alumnae thought about all the issues.

Grooms' portraits celebrate/revel in other artists

The Canaday Rare Book Room has been home to an exhibit of Red Grooms' paintings, drawings, prints, and three-dimensional art, all of which are depictions of artists whom Grooms has admired. Reunion participants learned from Curator Emily Croll about the long-standing delight Grooms took in his fellow artists, as well as artists from the past. "Grooms' interest in other artists is very profound and very personal," said Croll, Bryn Mawr curator and academic liaison for the art and artifact collections. "He reveres them. He really isn't able to make art about something he doesn't love." Grooms named his only daughter after Rembrandt's wife and muse, Saskia.

The exhibition—Old Masters and Modern Muses: Red Grooms's Portraits of Artists, 1957–2009—was organized roughly chronologically. There were portraits of artists from every decade of Grooms's career, including Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dali, alongside old masters such as Francisco de Goya, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Titian. Also featured in the exhibition were group portraits, set at famous gathering places such as Les Deux Magots in Paris and the Cedar Bar in New York City's Greenwich Village. The recent works include individual large-scale drawings of German expressionist painters Otto Dix and George Grosz, and Dada artists Marcel Duchamp, Hugo Ball, and Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, among others.

Croll answered the unspoken question "why Red Grooms at Bryn Mawr?" The connection begins with Michèle C. Cone '51, who is a neighbor of Red Grooms in New York City and who is good friends with Grooms and his wife, Lysiane. Cone conducted an interview with Grooms that appears in the exhibition catalog.

The gallery talk was followed by a 20-minute documentary made in the 1986 and nominated for an Academy Award.

Documenting A Journalist's Journey

Sarah Schenck '87 entertained and inspired alumnae with her presentation on her NEH-funded documentary, No Job for a Woman: The Women Who Fought to Report World War Two. Schenck screened a 9-minute clip from the film about Martha Gellhorn '30, a magazine journalist whose experience of the Spanish American War led her inexorably to force her way to the front during World War Two. She was one of the few reporters, male or female, to make it ashore during the D-Day invasion; she was arrested and stripped of her credentials.

The film depicts interviews about Gellhorn, as well as direct footage of the reporter, for example, this scene, where she describes being on vacation with Ernest Hemingway, her husband: "We were drinking daiquiris in a dingy little bar on the Mexican border. A tattered child came in with some newspapers and said 'La guerra, la guerra!' "

Gellhorn grew up in St. Louis, in a privileged environment. Her mother was a suffragist and good friends with Eleanor Roosevelt. After Bryn Mawr, Gellhorn went to Paris to write and to see the world. By 1942, she had traveled the globe, covering war, sometimes with Hemingway at her side, and always with a letter from President Roosevelt granting her access to wherever she wanted to go.

Schenck, who is finishing her tenure as a Hepburn Fellow, says that Gellhorn and other women reporters changed the notion of what the war story could be, transforming it from the usual reportage of generals, politics and battles, to the story of the destruction rained down on ordinary people's lives.

Schenck has a master's degree from Stanford University. Among her other projects is the founding and shepherding of Parent Earth, a lively, personable and informative website to help parents nurture healthy children.

Visit the site at parentearth.com, to see what Schenck and her partners have created.

GSSWSR panel inspires hope

Reunion 2010 launched the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research's year-long 95th anniversary celebration. The Saturday morning panel discussion, "Carrying Social Justice Forward," focused on the theory and practice of social justice in local, national, and global contexts and challenged our understanding of "privilege" and "oppression," provoking new ways of thinking about inequity and social change. The panel, facilitated by Dean Darlyne Bailey, included Rosemary A. Barbera, M.S.S. '96, Ph.D. '03, an assistant professor at the School of Social Work at Monmouth University, where she also chairs the international and community development concentration; Gloria Guard, M.S.S. '78, M.L.S.P. '80, president of the nationally-recognized People's Emergency Center (PEC) and recent recipient of the Philadelphia Award in recognition of her social justice and public interest work; Ruth W. Mayden, M.S.S. '70, senior fellow and associate director of the office of the executive vice president at The Annie E. Casey Foundation, and dean of the GSSWSR from 1987 until 2002.

Dean Bailey led a discussion between panelists and audience that proved inspiring. Guard spoke about authenticity of motives, the need for social workers to set aside our own biases and to know when to step back and when to step up, and how to make it safe enough for others to step up. She also spoke about the importance of truth, and emphasized that real social justice work must recognize that the issues faced on the front lines are complex and sensitive, and require soul searching on everyone's part. Barbera, describing the United States as a primarily individualistic society, spoke passionately about the need for more collective concern, a stronger sense of community, and partnerships. She noted the incredible acts of solidarity she has observed in Chile and Haiti under the most challenging of circumstances, and referenced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted by the United Nations in 1948) that emphasizes a cooperative spirit among all peoples. Mayden observed that our understanding of social justice evolves, and that sometimes in moving social justice forward we need to choose the right time and the right place. She stressed that we need to be for something and not simply against something, and we need to be surrounded by people with a similar sense so that we may call upon the power of the collective.

In recognizing the challenges associated with carrying social justice forward, Dean Bailey asked the panelists to identify what kept them hopeful. Mayden's response was immediate: "A sense of the human spirit, a recognition that there is a way to make things better." Guard echoed those thoughts and added a belief that so much is possible. Barbera found inspiration in the hope and resilience of the survivors of horrific conditions. Bailey, in summarizing the morning's discussion of social justice, was clear that there are seeds of leadership in each of us. We have responsibilities because we have the ability to respond. She challenged us all to show up and step up as leaders, to bring people together in solidarity to achieve access and opportunity for all.

#1 of 10 ways you know you are a member of the Class of 1970

"You graduated (or maybe you didn't), and left the Gothic wonderland for greener (or not greener) pastures. You studied, worked, married, had children, worked, read, studied, worked, sought treatment for your bad knees, worked, but never forgot your days at Bryn Mawr. And that is why you are here today, to celebrate our survival and the survival of our College. You hope against hope that both you and the College are strong, stronger and wiser than in May, 1970. We all hope that we, and the College, will continue to study, work, and lead women for another 40 years, another 125 years—as long as it takes to make peace and justice prevail in our world."
Class of 1970 Remarks.

25th Reunion Address

Read the full Address by Lauren Buxbaum Kacir

Alumnae Association Officers

The following candidates for office were presented by the Nominating Committee to the Annual Meeting of the Alumnae Association during Reunion Weekend on May 30, 2010, and elected to three-year terms.

Treasurer:
Leslie S. Knotts '00, New York, NY

Representative for GSSWSR:
Cynthia C. Chalker, M.S.S./M.L.S.P. '98, New York, NY

Representative for Admissions:
Christine L. Pluta '91, New York, NY

Representative for Classes:
Sally Bachofer '97, San Diego, CA

Trustee Nomination:
The Alumnae Association's nominee to the Board of Trustees for a five-year term commencing in October 2010:
Edith Aviles de Kostes '88, London, England

Three outstanding volunteers were recognized at the Annual Meeting

The Young Alumna Service Award was awarded to Nia T. Turner '05. Turner was an active member of the African-American students' organization, Sisterhood, and its co-president during her senior year. While an undergraduate, she began planning the tremendously successful Black Alumnae Reunion that was held in 2008 and pursued the development of a Black alumnae/i network to foster a stronger connection between current Black students, alumnae/i and the College. Turner has served as the young alumnae representative to the Philadelphia Club's board and is a co-facilitator for the Black Alumnae Affinity Group.

The Distinguished Service Award was awarded to Eileen P. Kavanagh '75. Kavanagh was an ARS scholar and has served as an admissions representative, on the nominating committee and reunion committees for her class, and as representative to the executive board of the Alumnae Association for Alumnae Regional Scholars. Kavanagh makes an annual presentation to students on survival after graduation.

The Lifetime of Service Award was awarded to Jane Miller Unkefer '55, who was on the staff of the Bryn Mawr Alumnae Association from 1982 to 1996, first as director of annual giving, and from 1984 as executive director. Unkefer has attended reunions, conferences, alumnae councils, May Day events, and spent countless hours in the Association's board room. She lead the revitalization of the Bryn Mawr Club of Philadelphia. She has been a class president and served on the nominating committee. Miller is a member of the Friends of the Library board and was co-chair of this year's 1950s Decade Reunion.

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