Sometimes the impact of something that seems small in the moment turns out to be substantial. The ripple effect. Here are some musings on my accidental role in recognizing and adopting a group of pioneering women into the Class of 1969.
As our Class Web-ster, I always struggle to find fresh content for our Class web site. One evening in the early spring of 2005 not long after after having rebuilt our site, I was looking at my Dartmouth-era photos and hoping for inspiration. I came across a picture of me with Binky Wood in the basement of Foley House:
I wondered where she and Jane Hastings were and how their lives had been since 1969. (They were the two I had known best as they had joined Foley House.) It occurred to me that this might be something of interest to others in the class. I called Alumni Relations and the two people I spoke to were unaware that there had been women participating as Dartmouth students our senior year. Next, I emailed Nelson Armstrong, then Director of Alumni Relations at Dartmouth:
"During our senior year, a group of I believe 9 women attended Dartmouth for a year as part of a transfer program. Many were active in the Dartmouth Players - where I got to know several of them. In many ways, they were one of the first small steps Dartmouth took on its path to co-education. It has seemed a shame to me that their role in the Dartmouth family has never been acknowledged.
Does the College know of their current status or whereabouts? If not, would the College be willing or able to give us their names and last contact information so that we might try to get in touch with them? Is there an official process for adopting someone into a class? Where would we go from here?"
"Please know that we are happy to help in whatever ways we can.
We unfortunately have no electronic records of the women who attended Dartmouth as exchange students during your senior year. A manual search of our student directory from the time shows nine names of "special students" who may well be those you seek. Unfortunately as well we have no record of what names they may have now (due to marriage or other changes) or their whereabouts."
In May of 2005 I emailed Arthur Fergenson in the hope that he would know more about the current whereabouts and activities of the "special students":
"I'd like to ask you to consider contributing....something. Perhaps some story or stories about the Players and life at the Hop (where I was a hanger on and much envious of those who could act). Perhaps something about particularly meaningful courses or people, events or adventures from those days. Perhaps something about the women who were such an important part of the Players. It's up to you."
Arthur went to work and by early March of 2006 he had made contact with 7 of the women (Binky, Nanalee, Alissa, Ginny, Carol, Geri, Kammy, and Lynn), as he notes in this email:
"I have spoken to 7 out of 8 of the women and have contact information for each of the 8. I spoke to Ginny Feingold (Clark), Lynn Lobban, Binky Wood (Rockwell), Alissa Bixon, Carol Dudley, Geri Silk, and Nanalee Raphael. I spoke with Kammy Brooks's sister, who visited her at Dartmouth 36 years ago. Kammy is in Europe for several months but I emailed her. Kammy headed an ashram for some years in Boone NC. Her sister says that Kammy may not be able to make a recognition event in Hanover, but her sister, who lives in Boston and has fond memories of her visit (and Geri in particular) would if Kammy cannot. Each of the women I spoke with was thrilled with the idea of finally receiving their due and of being made members of the Class of 1969. I am compiling a contact list; I have email addresses for all of them and telephone contacts for everyone except Kammy.
I also spoke with Margaret Spicer, who remains a full Professor in the Drama Department and was a seamstress and actress during our senior year (The Miser, with Eric, Jon, me, and Lynn). Margaret is a pioneer for women at Dartmouth in her own way, with a host of firsts in the faculty including chairing the Drama Department. Margaret was also thrilled and she suggested that I speak with the new Chairman of the Drama Department, Peter Hackett. When I mentioned that the plan would be to do honors in 2009, she said that she hoped that Rod Alexander's and Errol Hill's widows would still be with us.
I wonder whether, in light of the enthusiasm of the women and what it might mean to Marilyn Alexander and Grace Hill, whether the eight women could be given initial recognition with appropriate hoopla at the Hop, with college and Drama Department support, at a mini-reunion this Fall of the kind that we have had before? And then to introduce the women to the entire reunioning class in 2009. Also, as an added incentive, Alissa's son, Thomas Freeze, is at Dartmouth now, Class of '07.
I have added Jon and Eric to the list. Jon helped me to remember the names of the 8 when I first spoke to him about my idea several years ago. Also, Jon was President of the Players our senior year. Eric, of course, not only played a host of leading roles but has run his own theater program. And it is always nice to include another Foley."
By the end of March, Arthur had contact information for what we thought was 'all nine' of the special students: Alissa Bixon, Binky Wood, Carol Dudley, Geri Silk, Ginny Feingold Clark, Jane Hastings Bataille, Kammy Brooks, Lynn Lobban and Nanalee Raphael.
A small group who had known and worked with the nine felt we should adopt them as classmates, and they were all enthusiastic about this. By the end of April, we had a group of class sponsors and approval of the Executive Committee and an adoption proposal was sent to the Class on April 26, 2006. The Adoption was officially approved at the Class meeting in Hanover at Homecoming in October of 2006.