Anassa katas for Betty Vermey '58 at Reunion 1999

For most alumnae, the best part of Reunion is seeing old friends and getting acquainted with less familiar classmates. This year, a special tribute to Elizabeth G. Vermey ’58; a panel discussion by the classes of 1943, 1944 and 1945 on Bryn Mawr during World War II; and an auction of furniture from the College’s Collection brought a longer range of our shared history into focus.

The War Years panel discussion was an eye-opener for younger alumnae. “I found the experiences of older alums to be fascinating,” wrote Miriam Cope ’94. “Understanding the state of the College during that time really deepened my appreciation of our unique legacy. Women joined the Navy, rallied, etc. yet classes and demands on scholarly life did not suffer. Typical! Most importantly, the panel provided a bridge between generations: Our history is their experience.”

Allison Weiner ’01, who worked as a class helper during Reunion for 1943, 1944 and 1945, wrote: “I had the good fortune to talk with the most amazing, brilliant women, all of whom have fulfilled their ‘Bryn Mawr potential’ to the highest and have led incredibly successful lives that have, in the process of unfolding, reached many others. ... Meeting these women completely reinforced the main reason I chose to attend Bryn Mawr College three years ago—the opportunity to belong to a community committed to educating the most promising young women of our age and thus to join the ranks of the many inspiring and fascinating women Bryn Mawr has ultimately shaped.”

Betty Vermey, who brought many of those ranks to Bryn Mawr, received The Helen Taft Manning Award from the College and the Alumnae Association at the Annual Meeting on May 30. Betty retires this summer as Director of the Office for International Initiatives; she was Bryn Mawr’s Director of Admissions from 1965-1995. Her former colleagues, President Emeritus Mary Patterson McPherson, Ph.D. ’69, and Undergraduate Dean Karen Tidmarsh ’71 toasted and roasted her “incredibly infectious enthusiasm and bright energy.”

A chorus from the Class of 1970, the first that Betty Vermey admitted to the College, sings lines in her honor, written by Marian Scheuer Sofaer and Faith Greenfield Lewis, which ended: "...Your mission, Betty, shaped our lives, your 30 years of mentorship. We sing anassa kata to you. We're ever in your fellowship." Representatives from the Class of 1979 also recited lines ending: "...Thanks for seeing each one as a person. Thanks for being really Bryn Mawr!"

Pat McPherson described Betty as “a woman who for more than 30 years has done more than anyone else to shape the character, quality, intellectual and moral energy of Bryn Mawr College. ... As you can imagine, she has no intention of taking to her hammock, and for the next several years, you will be able to find her in Lebanon, working with a great new team rebuilding The American University in Beirut,” McPherson said.

“As Bryn Mawr’s Director of Admissions, Betty brought three decades of entering classes to Bryn Mawr—more than 70 percent of the living undergraduate alumnae. Of the students admitted, 7,746 received an A.B. degree and 247 of them also earned other Bryn Mawr degrees, including 166 M.A.’s, 34 M.S.S.’s and 41 Ph.D.’s.

“It was Betty who helped shape and then carry out the College’s commitment to become a much more diverse and inclusive institution. She and her splendid predecessor, Annie Leigh Hobson Broughton ’30, M.A. ’36, have literally built this institution, student by student, and both of them have also made the effort to know and follow these students, alumna by alumna.

“In 1995, Betty shifted her energies to an area of special interest to her and of particular importance to the College—raising Bryn Mawr’s visibility abroad and engaging more fully in the life of the College its alumnae/i, parents, faculty and students living and/or studying abroad. Betty has organized five international conferences for the College, in Cairo, Manila, Tokyo, Istanbul, and this August, in Nairobi.”

A taste of scholarship
Faculty lectures during Reunion give alumnae a taste of current scholarship and teaching in various fields.

Assistant professor of art history Lisa R. Saltzman discussed how artists of the ’80s and ’90s evoke the notions of memory, commemoration and the past in their paintings, photographs and installations. In this sense, artwork that addresses issues of national identity or grand historical events, as, for example, the memorializing projects of Maya Lin or the historically imbued paintings of Anselm Kiefer, are not so different from artwork that addresses the personal past of the artist or issues of personal identity. Sometimes the notion of place plays a big role in constructing memory in artwork. Take Shimon Attie, for example, who projected archival images of ’20s and ’30s Jewish residents of Berlin onto current storefronts and apartment facades and then photographed the site. Other artists employ a more generic approach concerning place, such as Rachel Whiteread, whose castings of rooms and buildings are less insistent on attaching meaning to place.

Professor of French Catherine Lafarge lectured on the Revenge of I.M. Pei. Pei, the American architect who designed the pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre, was responsible, in 1989, for bringing G.L. Bernini’s long-exiled equestrian statue of Louis XIV back into the limelight in the Louvre courtyard. Louis XIV banished statue to the most remote gardens of Versailles in 1685, horrified by its exuberant Baroque style. He even commissioned its face to be changed to that of Marcus Aurelius. Pei, wanting to bridge the distance between past and present, remembered the statue and ordered it to be placed in the Cour, its original destination. Pei also designed the East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and Hancock Place in Boston, whose glass windows reflect the Trinity church in the same way the glass pyramid reflects the Louvre.

Rhys Carpenter Professor Emerita of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology, Brunilde S. Ridgway expounded the Greek and Roman conceptions of the hero Herakles. The Greeks characterized Herakles—known to the Romans and in the popular Warner Brothers television show as Hercules—as having flashing eyes, a neat beard and curly hair. Both Greek and Roman artists as early as 600 B.C. depicted him carrying a club and wearing a lion’s skin, representing the first of his 12 labors: slaying an invulnerable lion. But a statue of a seated Herakles, long thought to be the work of the famous Greek sculptor Lysippos, may actually be the work of a Roman sculptor in the Greek style. Greeks conceived the hero as a great eater, not as a drunkard, while the Romans made him both more humorously human and more divine.

Among the many other lectures and presentations were an interfaith service; a campus tour by Horticulturalist and Director of Grounds, Robert E. Burton; a behind-the-scenes view of the Rhoads renovation and the exterior restoration of Goodhart with Christopher Gluesing, Assistant Director of Facilities Services Project Planning and Design; a presentation on the exciting Gateway Project by Glenn Smith, Director of Facilities Services; and a lecture on strategies for financial happiness by Cheryl R. Holland ’80, a Trustee of the College, certified financial planner and president of Abacus Planning Group, Inc.

View a Reunion 1999 photo album!

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