As part of the Senior Week festivities, the William Smith Alumnae Association hosted its traditional brunch to welcome graduating William Smith seniors on Tuesday afternoon. Speaking at the event were President of the Alumnae Association Chrissy Bennett-West ’94, William Smith Class President Hannah Sorgi ’14 and William Smith Dean and Professor of History Susanne McNally HON’14. A number of alumnae also attended the lunch to join in welcoming the soon-to-be graduates and Sarah Wethey Heieck ’97 addressed students on their behalf.
Director of Alumnae Relations Kathy Regan ’82, P’13 noted the alums in attendance represented seven decades, from the 1930s to 2013. Among them was Alta Boyer, who earned her B.A. from William Smith in 1936 and will celebrate her 100th birthday in October. She took a moment to share some thoughts about what it was like to attend William Smith in the ’30s. After she concluded with a blessing for the Class of 2014, the women surprised Boyer by singing “Happy Birthday.”
Bennett-West welcomed the students “Into the sisterhood of William Smith alumnae” and congratulated them on already having achieved a 70 percent participation in the senior gift project – just 64 donations shy of obtaining the 80 percent record for class participation.
She then presented awards to two of the tri-chairs of the Stewardson Society. The Judith Haslam Cross ’52 Award was given to Perry Ostheimer ’14 in recognition of her leadership and service to students and alumnae. The Elizabeth Herendeen Odell Book Award was presented to Kelsey Landers’14 in appreciation of her contribution to the Alumnae Association as an undergraduate and in anticipation of her continuing close ties with William Smith as an alumna.
Heieck shared her personal story as a Geneva resident who initially chose to go to college “away from home” but who returned when her mother died during her first year, just two years after Heieck lost her father.
“With my love for Geneva and the fact that I had always looked at Hobart and William Smith as the ‘gold standard,’ I quickly applied to William Smith and was accepted as a transfer student,” she said, noting the Colleges provided her the additional financial support the school she had been attending would not.
She told students she was sharing her story with them so they would understand, “I would not be standing here today, speaking to all of you, without the generosity of HWS and its alumni and alumnae. I wake up each and every morning with a very deep understanding of how lucky I am.”
Speaking as the class representative, Sorgi urged her classmates to “give back to a community that has given us so much. We all can remember a time when we struggled, or overcame adversity, but we did it here,” she said. “Give back to this place, if not for any other reason than to help a future William Smith student gain the experiences and friendships that we will hold dear for years to come.”
The Class also announced its honorary members, Assistant Professor of Dance Kelly Johnson HON’14 and McNally. In making the announcement, Sorgi said Johnson was an “inspiring mentor” and someone who “personifies what it is to be special at HWS.” McNally, she said, was “part of the fabric of this place,” and someone who personifies a woman who helps move women up in society.
As its newest member, McNally then sang Maura O’Connell’s, “Feet of a Dancer,” to the class. The song concluded, “Always remember that we’re here,” and McNally made the point that the people and places on campus the students now hold dear will remain long after they are gone, but “What we have here that is most precious has already been passed on to you. You cannot lose these things.”
Students and alums concluded the event with the signing of the alma mater and planting of a pine tree on William Smith Hill.
“I truly believe that to plant a tree under whose shade you will not sit or whose fruit you will not eat is a sign for a good life,” said McNally.