Alumnae Bulletin May 2008


Vision, vitality, visibility
President-elect Jane Dammen McAuliffe

When Jane Dammen McAuliffe entered the University of Toronto's new religious studies graduate program in 1976, she planned a philosophy of religion approach. "It was with that orientation that I took courses in Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, and various forms of Christianity," she says. "But it was a course on medieval Islamic philosophy that utterly captured me because I was struck by how very foreign the tradition was in some ways to me, and yet what resonance it had in many of its aspects with a tradition that I did know very well, Christianity. It was the fascination of the 'unknown-known' or 'known-unknown,' however you might put it, that drove me to make those interrelationships my primary focus."

Jane Dammen McAuliffe
While on campus for her introduction to the community, Jane Dammen McAuliffe addressed members of the Alumnae Association Executive Board at its February 9 meeting. From left, McAuliffe, Representative to the Executive Board for Clubs and Regions Barbara Schieffelin Powell '62, and Associate Director of the Alumnae Association Sarah Doody.

Photo by Jim Roese.
McAuliffe received her Ph.D. in Islamic studies from Toronto in 1984, having threaded her graduate work with the raising of three children—her fourth was born during her first year of teaching at Emory University. Her academic expertise is in the Qur'an and its interpretations, early Islamic history, and the interrelationships between Islam and Christianity.

Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Georgetown University, McAuliffe was named Bryn Mawr's eighth president on February 8 and will take up her new office on July 1. "I've known about Bryn Mawr from the time I was a little kid," she told staff during a visit to campus in early March, "but only during these last weeks in which I've had a chance to connect with people as your president-elect have I had a felt sense of how strong and vibrant its reputation is.

"I can't begin to tell you how many people have come up to me since the announcement of my appointment and congratulated me, saying, 'You are so lucky!' They never went to Bryn Mawr, but they have met Bryn Mawr graduates, and they recognize the sense of excellence that is conveyed by their lives, ideals and values. When alumnae themselves talk about Bryn Mawr, they give you this great, sparkly glance, saying 'I just loved it there.' "

She plans to start a "crash course in Bryn Mawr" on July 1. "I want to walk every inch of every building," she said. "My first year will be spent listening, meeting people, and beginning to discern the vision that is already here.

"The more I learn about Bryn Mawr, the more appreciative I am of what Nancy J. Vickers has been able to do in the last 11 years. She has created an extraordinary platform for her successor to build from. I can see the effects of her thoughtful and careful leadership in so many areas. It's very gratifying that she's been willing to put herself at my disposal to debrief me on everything I could possibly hope to be informed about."

McAuliffe says the warm greeting she has received, from the search committee and the board of trustees, and people from all parts of the campus at her introduction to the community in Thomas Great Hall in February, "was a life-affirming and life-changing moment. I never expected anything of the sort."

Her husband, Dennis McAuliffe, a scholar of medieval Italian literature, will join Bryn Mawr's Italian department as a visiting associate professor. "Dennis has been able to do a great many things at Georgetown," she said. "He's hoping to make an equivalent contribution at Bryn Mawr and become part of a community that draws on both his personal and professional qualities."

Sally Hoover Zeckhauser '64, chair of the board of trustees, and Arlene Joy Gibson '65, chair of the presidential search committee, wrote in their letter announcing McAuliffe's appointment to the community, "As a graduate of a women's college herself, Jane appreciates the transformative role that Bryn Mawr plays in both a student's immediate learning and later life. As president, she will ensure that our students have the diverse, dynamic, and challenging undergraduate experience that will serve them well as members of an ever more connected global society."

McAuliffe told staff in March, "Three words—vision, visibility, vitality—describe my understanding of a college presidency. The president of a college does not create its vision—that is an undertaking we're beginning right now, in which we work collectively to imagine ourselves forward as ambitiously as we can. Once those moments of creativity have crystallized, it is the responsibility of the president to convey that vision, to continue to grow it, and to communicate it, both internally and externally. Visibility. This is a fabulous institution! I want to be part of making it even stronger. Vitality. I want to be energizing, allowing new ideas to grow and promoting the implementation of the best ones that we come up with. That's my view at 30,000 feet. Now I want to meet each of you!"

Choice of college
"My choice of college was very much geographically and economically circumscribed," McAuliffe says. "I had to put myself through college, but my father was perfectly willing to continue to offer me room and board, so that meant I could live at home, but I would have to earn money for tuition. I was only looking at schools in the D.C. area, where we lived. I don't think I had a sense at that point of the possibility of going away to other schools or of scholarships at other places, although I certainly had fantasies of going to a Seven Sisters' school. I knew at an early age of their reputation and the quality of education that they conveyed. We had, however, a very good Catholic women's college in Washington, Trinity, which was one of three schools at that time, along with Marymount and Manhattanville in New York, that considered themselves to be the equivalent of the Seven Sisters in terms of their rigor and academic focus. So I was delighted to be accepted at Trinity and made my way through as what we used to call a 'day hop'."

For more information about Jane Dammen McAuliffe and the search process, please visit

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Elizabeth G. Vermey '58 International scholarship to honor Betty Vermey '58

To honor Director Emeritus of Admissions Elizabeth G. Vermey '58 at the time of her 50th reunion, the College is raising funds to endow a scholarship for international students. Launched by a generous pledge from Helen Lho-Ryu '83, the effort is being joined by many of Betty's friends and fellow alumnae.

For more information or to make a gift, please contact Sally Harrison '71 in the Resources Office by email or 610.526.6530.

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College Obituary

Peter Bachrach, professor of political science

Peter Bachrach
Political theorist Peter Bachrach, 89, an eloquent defender of participatory democracy who taught at Bryn Mawr from 1946 until 1968, died of an apparent stroke on December 14, 2007, at his home in Southwest Harbor, ME.
"One of the most popular and effective teachers at Bryn Mawr," according to the College News, Bachrach was the author of more than 10 books and numerous articles, including The Theory of Democratic Elitism: A Critique (Little, Brown, Boston, 1967).

In a 1956 article for the College News, Bachrach argued that a sound student-teacher relationship must be based on mutual respect and emphasize the process of analyzing and evaluating data and ideas. "The unquestioning, note-taking attitude of many Bryn Mawr students is, I believe, partially a product of the social mores that view women as intellectually passive but pleasant," he wrote. In his influential essay, "Two Faces of Power," Bachrach coined the term "non-decision." He argued that the lack of controversy over an issue might indicate that prevailing institutions and procedures have prevented those left out of the political process from formulating and articulating their concerns.

Assisted by Bryn Mawr students, Bachrach and Morton S. Baratz, chair of economics, tested their theory of political power and its application in the war on poverty in Baltimore, co-authoring Power and Poverty: Theory and Practice (Oxford, 1970).

Bachrach left Bryn Mawr in 1968 to join the faculty at Temple University, for the experience, he said, of teaching at a large urban university, where "the student body is much more heterogeneous in class and in outlook and presents a challenge that highbrow students don't."

A native of Winnetka, Illinois, he earned a B.A. from Reed College and a Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University. He retired from Temple in 1988. In addition to his wife, Adrienne, he is survived by daughters Lori, Kate, Sarah, Molly and Ruth; a son, David; stepchildren Alice, Malcolm, Robin and Bill; a sister; and 22 grandchildren. Memorial donations may be made to the American Civil Liberties Union, 25 Broad St., 18th Floor, New York, NY 10004.

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Black History Month

History through performance: a space without boundaries

Bernice Johnson Reagon
Bernice Johnson Reagon talks with students in the London Room after her performance.
Bernice Johnson Reagon, a leading figure in the performance, study and renewal of the African American traditions of music and activism, delivered the keynote address for Bryn Mawr's celebration of Black History Month on February 13, "Notes from the Cultural Autobiography of a Freedom Singer."

Alternating song and speech, Reagon drew on a personal history of activism and education through musical performance and composition. She became active in the Civil Rights Movement while a college student at Albany State College in Albany, GA, from which she was expelled after participating in a demonstration for which she and others were jailed. After walking around city hall, the students had taken refuge from the police in a church on the way back to campus. Bernice was asked by the organizer to sing a song, and she thought of "Overhead, I see trouble coming in…" but then changed the word "trouble" to "freedom." "I never in my life had taken a sacred song and changed the words," she said. "Because I had stepped out of line, I had entered a new zone. In a lot of Black songs, people talk about what it's like when they step out of where they are into a space that has no boundaries. You get permission to draw from the place inside you that my mother had told me never dies. I realized that I didn't want never to have looked at the world I was born into and said, 'What do I want to do to change where I am?' "

Reagon was a member of the original Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee's Freedom Singers formed in 1962 by SNCC field secretary Cordell H. Reagon and has been a major force in the preservation and expansion of a cappella music ever since.

In 1973 while a graduate student of history at Howard University and vocal director of the D.C. Black Repertory Theater, Reagon formed the internationally-renowned African American women's a cappela ensemble Sweet Honey In The Rock. She led the group until retiring in early 2004.

Professor emerita of history at American University and curator emerita at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, Reagon's deep knowledge of the African American musical tradition has made her the music consultant, composer, and performer of choice for film and video producers. Her credits include Eyes on the Prize, We Shall Overcome, and Beloved.

Also in honor of Black History Month, the Bi-College Muslim Students Association, with support from other campus organizations, hosted a screening and discussion of A Prince Among Slaves, an award-winning documentary about Abdul Rahman Ibrahima Sori, an African Muslim prince who was captured in 1788 and spent 40 years in slavery in Mississippi before finally regaining his freedom. Speaker Sulayman Nyang, professor of Africana Studies at Howard University, told students "Many Americans—White or Black, Asians or Hispanics— were influenced by that drama [of his story]. … This is part of your story… Slavery is part of the American experience. We are still suffering from that crisis."

Arielle Smoncelli
Arielle Simoncelli '11 performs "At Last" by Etta James during History through Performance presented by the Sisterhood.
Photo by Paola Nogueras '84
History Through Performance, a show presented by the Sisterhood on February 28, honored past and present Black icons of the entertainment world. After an opening performance of spiritual hymns by Swarthmore's Gospel Choir, the audience sang The Black National Anthem and watched a tribute to writer Jessie Faucet, considered the first Black female graduate of Cornell University in 1877. A native Philadelphian, Faucet was discouraged from applying to Bryn Mawr College by M. Carey Thomas, the then-president of Bryn Mawr, and directed to Cornell instead.

Individual students and the Night Owls rendered performances by Etta James, Nina Simone, Ray Charles, the Temptations, The Supremes, and Aretha Franklin, and performed two skits written by Frankie Dillard '10.

3X A Lady Crew, a feminist rap collective founded by Shayna Israel '08, Menda Franchise Francois '09 and Nikki López '10, addressed the evolution of hip hop. Their lyrics confront racism, misogyny, and homophobia.

Ise Lyre, one of the nation's premiere spoken word artists and MCs from the Bay Area, closed with "Spoken Word as a Catalyst for Change."

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Time capsule: artifacts of a user's personal computer history

Barbara L. Kevles
Barbara L. Kevles '62 with items from her collection given to Stanford.
Photo by Natalie Caudill,
The Dallas Morning News.
Journalist and author Barbara L. Kevles '62 bought her first computer in 1993 with a miniscule 170 megabyte hard drive and used it through 2006. Out of necessity, she kept her Windows 3.1 operating system and CompuDyne 486 PC manuals and Hewlett-Packard printer guides to operate her computer and fix periodic malfunctions as the radically changing computer world eliminated support services. She saved her system drivers and related materials like installation software for the 4.2 Microsoft Office Suite and Quicken 4 plus Norton's first anti-virus quarterly updates in case of a hard drive crash. She detailed her user problems in 12 hand-written notebooks.

Throughout those 14 years, this material sat in a brown archive box under Kevles' desk until she rearranged her workspace around a new computer last year. Then, instead of discarding its contents, she indexed the archive and offered it to Stanford University. Says Kevles, "With computers evolving so fast, it's important we understand the origins of the computers we take for granted today." This full history of one computer user's experiences measuring 2.5 linear feet now resides at Stanford's Department of Special Collections as The Barbara L. Kevles Collection of Computer Technology of the 1990s.

Stanford's curator for history of science and technology collections, Henry Lowood, Ph.D., who since 1983 has built reputedly one of the country's premier history of technology collections with interviews and papers from cutting edge inventors of such essential devices as the mouse, the semiconductor, and the Macintosh, says, "What we don't have very much of are records of computer users who are not working on the leading edge of things."

Lowood continued, "Barbara was using rather ordinary software. Something wasn't working. She wrote letters and called technical support. She took extensive notes. It's something that most of us have experienced, but is very poorly documented. This collection achieves that."

Collections of Kevles' audio taped interviews, research, manuscripts, and correspondence also reside at the John F. Kennedy Library, operated by the National Archives, Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Museum of Modern Art (NYC), Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin, and Bryn Mawr College for the benefit of scholars, historians, authors, and students.

Lowood sees a particular value in the Kevles collection because it traces the day-by-day reactions of a professional writer as she transitioned from typewriter to word processor. "This collection is a time capsule," says Lowood. "In terms of this technology, it feels like ancient history. In the mid-'90s, personal computers were going from DOS to Windows and becoming easier to use. A lot of people were getting their first computers. As they cleared spaces in homes and offices for these machines, they began to think and work differently. Using personal computers has affected our capabilities—the way we use our memory to the way we write."

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Alumnae in the news

Alice Mitchell Rivlin '52

Judith Resnik
Judith Resnik '72 receiving the Outstanding Scholar Award at the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation's Annual Award Banquet at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles on February 9. Eric & Alex Brooks Photography.
Yale Law School Professor Judith Resnik '72 is the 2008 recipient of The Fellows of the American Bar Foundation Outstanding Scholar Award, presented annually to an individual "who has engaged in outstanding scholarship in the law or in government."

Resnik joins a distinguished group of scholars who have received the award since it was established in 1957, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Richard Posner, and Louis Henkin. She is the seventh recipient from Yale Law School and the fifth woman so honored.

Resnik is the Arthur Liman Professor of Law at Yale Law School, where she teaches about federalism, procedure, constitutional relationships among branches of the U.S. government, large-scale litigation, feminism, and local and global interventions to diminish inequalities and subordination. She is also an occasional litigator and has testified many times before Congressional and Judicial committees.

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Alice Mitchell Rivlin
Alice Mitchell Rivlin '52, senior economist at The Brookings Institution and former director of the Office of Management and Budget, will co-chair the Commission to Build A Healthier America along with Dr. Mark McClellan, director of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at Brookings and former FDA Commissioner and Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Launched by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the national, independent and nonpartisan commission will investigate how factors, such as education, environment, income and housing, shape and affect personal behavioral choices. "The health of our people affects the overall health of our economy and our nation. While we must make health care delivery more efficient and broaden access to care, the medical system addresses only some of the factors influencing health," said Rivlin.

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BMC publications cross boundaries

Two new publications represent widespread collaboration across departments and divisions within the College, and make explicit attempts to reach outside academic boundaries. They rise to the challenge of writing across fields to address a broad audience.

For the December 2007 volume of the Journal of Research Practice, Professor of Physics Elizabeth McCormack and Senior Lecturer in English Anne Dalke co-edited a special issue, On Beyond Interdisciplinarity. The collection includes essays by nine Bryn Mawr faculty members (Associate Professor of Economics David Ross, Senior Lecturer in Education Jody Cohen, Senior Lecturer in Education Alice Lesnick, Staff Education Coordinator Darla Himeles '06, Associate Professor of Education Alison Cook-Sather, Professor of History Elliott Shore, McCormack, Dalke, and Professor of Biology Paul Grobstein), two former faculty members (Carol Bernstein, Mary E. Garrett Alumnae Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature, and Paula Viterbo, a former postdoctoral Mellon Fellow), as well as six colleagues at other institutions. Fields represented include economics, education, physics, biology, English, history, history of science, geography, anthropology and public health. The journal can be accessed at index.php/jrp/issue/current.

The January 2008 volume of Soundings was a special issue on emergence theory by members of Bryn Mawr's Emergence Working Group sponsored by the Center for Science in Society.

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To be Asian American and a Mawrter

asian american panel
Standing behind the table, from left, Rinku Shah '98, bank examiner for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; Zunera Mirza '05, who works in public health preparedness planning at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health; Nidhi Koli '96, director, North America Advertising, Tiffany & Co., NYC; and June Chu '85, director, Pan-Asian American Community House at the University of Pennsylvania.
Alumnae discussed their professional paths and offered infor­mation about trends in their fields at the first Asian American alumnae career panel on February 27. Associate Director of Admissions and Operations Peaches (Theresa) Vicencio Valdes '99, M.S.S./M.L.S.P. '03, moderated the discussion. Asian Student Association President Soleil Saquibal '09 worked with the Career Development Office, the Bryn Mawr Intercultural Affairs Office, and the Alumnae Association to organize the event.

June Chu '85, who is director of the Pan-Asian American Community House at the University of Pennsylvania and who teaches a course on Asian American psychology, gave interview advice. "Make eye contact, give a firm handshake, and know table etiquette," said Chu.

Panelists urged students to seek internships and externships and know a language other than English. "Key languages are Chinese, obviously French and Spanish, and Japanese never hurt anyone," said Rinku Shah '98, bank examiner for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

"Because the hours are usually long, being a woman and having a family can inhibit you in the financial field," Shah warned. "It doesn't have to, but plan ahead and prepare yourself."

Shah also advised: "You'll never get what you want unless you ask for it. If you feel like your voice isn't being heard, speak louder."

Finally, panelists encouraged students to use the career network and contact alumnae who have agreed to participate. "It's a circle; it goes around," said Shah. "You guys have to keep it going, or it stops."

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