How Do You Defy?

Denise Lee Hurley '82, P'17, is trustee and chair of Defy Expectations: the Campaign for Bryn Mawr.

First impression of Bryn Mawr?

The first time I visited Bryn Mawr as a prospective student, I wandered into Taylor Hall. I don’t know how else to describe it except that it smelled smart. It smelled like a library or old books. It smelled exactly the way that I imagined a college would smell.

Favorite tradition?

Lantern Night. It still sends chills up my spine when I’ve had the chance to see it as an alumna. It’s a powerful coming-together of classes, and you know that you have become part of a long line of women that came before you.

What life lesson did you learn at Bryn Mawr?

I was shy before Bryn Mawr. I was never a person who would walk into a room and put my hand out. Bryn Mawr helped me become more confident because it was a community of people who wanted to support you. I learned to be more confident in myself and in my ability to navigate the world.

What did it mean to you to have your daughter attend Bryn Mawr?

The night she decided on Bryn Mawr, she called me into the kitchen, and she had dressed up in Bryn Mawr swag. She said, “I really want to go to Bryn Mawr,” and I started to cry. I said to her, “Now you’ll know what it’s like to be in a community of women who have your back. That’s going to be the most important gift that you ever give to yourself.”

Why do you remain devoted to Bryn Mawr?

I became devoted to Bryn Mawr because I would have never been able to afford to go to college without the financial aid I received here. I wanted to pay it forward so that someone else would have the opportunity that I had. But I remain devoted to Bryn Mawr today because of the human relationships. Because of Bryn Mawr, I have the most amazing friends. When I’ve had a sticky problem or I need a really good friend, it’s always the people I know from Bryn Mawr.

What about Deft Expectation makes you most proud?

The campaign total is the most successful in the College’s history, but more importantly, I’m proud of what that total has enabled the College to do. There’s a new health and wellness center under construction. We have a Career and Civic Engagement Center that other colleges are now emulating. Park Science now looks and operates the way it should for a school that has always educated women in the sciences to such a high level. We have more scholarship money available so that we can welcome the best and brightest students, regardless of their ability to pay.

Favorite memory from the campaign?

Ruth Kaiser Nelson ’58, the chair of the previous campaign, came to every event during the first year to cheer me on and show me support. Also, I’ll never forget dancing at the Campaign launch, seeing women from all generations having a great time together. It was my privilege and honor to chair this campaign, and it’s my deepest wish that I’ll be able to say thank you to everyone in person.

How has Bryn Mawr defied expectation?

Bryn Mawr is a tiny little place that has had a much bigger impact in the world than its size would indicate. Our alumnae/i, like the College, have figured out how to amplify their impact in the world. Mawrters are not afraid to be everywhere and do anything.