Regaining a community

By Lynne Litterine ’96

Bryn Mawr College doesn’t leap to mind as a site for vocational rehabilitation, but that is what it was for Myra Reichel ’95. This McBride scholar had been a full-time weaver, but the repeated physical stress of her work had left her with torn rotator cuffs and hip problems. She came to the college looking for a new career and for a renewed sense of community, something she had lost as her weaving was commissioned as corporate art. With financial help from the state Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, she found both.

"By the early ’90s, the corporate tax credit for art had been removed, after that flap over Robert Mapplethorpe’s photos. The market dropped at the same time I was developing physical problems," she says.

Weaving for corporations, instead of individuals, was less satisfying, too. "Earlier, I had been weaving quality things that people in the community could use, such as clothes and cloth. But corporate commissions were for tapestries. My work had become just decorative, not useful. The tapestries were big, so I produced less, and consequently they were more expensive than what I’d been weaving before. The work just didn’t carry the same meaning for me after a while."

Reichel first approached Swarthmore College, which was closer to her Media home, and they suggested the Katharine E. McBride Scholars Program at Bryn Mawr. Although on an earlier visit with a friend’s daughter, Bryn Mawr had not appealed to her, arriving through Canwyll House and the McBride office was different.

"It was more down-to-earth," she says.

In 1991, when Reichel arrived, McBrides did not matriculate until they had taken a variety of courses and demonstrated their ability to meet the College’s requirements. Unlike traditional undergraduates, they were permitted to take fewer than four courses a semester, a must for women who were working full time or raising children or caring for elderly parents while they went to school.

"That gradual stepping in appealed to me," Reichel says. "The program also had a support system and was understanding about child-care issues." Her son was 8 when she started degree work.

In addition, she received a handicapped parking tag for her car and was able to park near most of her classes.

"But I really fell in love with the place when I started taking gym classes with the traditional students," she says. "Hearing them talk, I felt my connection to them. They were women, not girls, and we had common thoughts and interests. Then, Mary Green ’94, also a McBride Scholar, took me to stepsings, and I fell in love with the traditional activities."

Reichel served as McBride traditions mistress for two years as an undergraduate. She also was on the plenary and curriculum committees and sang in the gospel choir.

Bryn Mawr networking opportunities were a big help.

"I really benefited from the externship experiences with Bryn Mawr and Haverford alums," she said. "I did them at non-profits and in government, and they helped me make the transition from the art world to the work I do now."

Reichel graduated with a major in the Growth and Structure of Cities: Urban Public Policy. Until last year, she worked for Habitat for Humanity of Delaware County. Her sense of community and her enjoyment of traditional students remained constants for her after graduation. Students from Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Swarthmore sometimes performed their community service at the construction sites she supervised for Habitat.

Myra Reichel is listed in Who’s Who in American Art. She was one of the top 500 American Craft Council crafts persons on the East Coast for at least five years and has exhibited in solo and group exhibits in galleries and museums. Reichel still takes weaving commissions.


Risks on the path
By Jeanne-Rachel Salomon ’00
Soul afloat
By Minna Canton Duchovnay ’98, M.A. ’99
The exam room
By Andréa Miller
Regaining a community: Myra Reichel ’95
By Lynn Litterine ’96
'The process never stops'
By Grace Fonda ’98


The process never stops

By Grace Fonda ’98

Six months before being accepted as a McBride Scholar at Bryn Mawr College, I was a high school dropout.

Although I had made the best of my skills and work experience, I was convinced that it was time to move on from being a secretary. At the age of 25, I passed my G.E.D. and applied to several colleges. My boss told me about Bryn Mawr, and although it seemed to be a long shot, I applied anyway. Of the schools to which I applied, only Bryn Mawr was willing to take a chance on me. Gratefully, I seized this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My life would change forever.

Not only did I learn about Greece and Rome, calculus and statistics, philosophy and biology; I learned to think, reason, research, and write.

Perhaps most importantly, I learned to persevere, to struggle, to never quit. I learned the value of courage, honor and character. In addition to the intellectual struggles and triumphs, for which I must sincerely thank all my professors, I gained a sense of belonging. Whatever life may bring, I, and every other Bryn Mawrter, will always be a part of the unique Bryn Mawr sisterhood and community. Today in our fast-paced, constantly-changing world, this sense of timeless heritage is particularly important and comforting.

Perhaps most of all I learned that life is an ever-transient process. Graduation was not the end, but the beginning. Even the post-graduation "let down" and the withdrawal symptoms—especially severe in McBrides—taught me valuable lessons in life: The learning, growing, and changing never stop. You simply must have the courage and more—the audacity to attempt the "impossible."

A Bryn Mawr degree does not guarantee success. But it is certainly a foundation upon which to build. More accurately, the lessons learned in the pursuit of the degree form the foundation for success.

After graduating, my husband and I made a long anticipated move to Atlanta, Georgia. I am currently completing training and certification as a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE). We lead a busy life of learning and challenging ourselves. Without a doubt, Bryn Mawr forged in me the self-discipline and inner confidence required to visualize specific goals, and then to tenaciously struggle through to their completion.

Before Bryn Mawr, I was content to go to work and exist through my comfortable daily routine. Now, life is an endless search for new challenges. Since graduating last year, I have: embarked on a radically new career, taken up a martial art, and become increasingly active in my church. Initially, it seemed that the intense and constant intellectual stimulation that I so loved about Bryn Mawr would abruptly cease. However, my husband and I find ways to continue our studies through reading in the car, at the breakfast table, before bed and any other spare moment. What a wonderful way to share the topics we love!

Life after Bryn Mawr may in many ways seem the same as before. However, it is the Bryn Mawr alumna herself that is fundamentally different. The changes are internal, but profound. She will never be the same as before—and the process never stops!


Risks on the path
By Jeanne-Rachel Salomon ’00
Soul afloat
By Minna Canton Duchovnay ’98, M.A. ’99
The exam room
By Andréa Miller
Regaining a community: Myra Reichel ’95
By Lynn Litterine ’96
'The process never stops'
By Grace Fonda ’98


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