On Friday, William Smith seniors gathered in the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts to celebrate the traditions of the College, to reflect on their shared experiences and to be welcomed into the network of alumnae by nine decades of graduates.
“As I look back, it was here that I learned pride in being a woman who wanted to achieve her goals, to create an equal future for whoever I came across and to make an impact,” said Mehrnaz Vahid-Ahdieh ’85, P’17, managing director at Citibank and mother of Marjorye Santos ’17. Making an impact, she noted, is an incremental, daily process of persistence and commitment. “It is in every job that you get, in every person that you come across, in how you raise your sons and daughters—it is in how you give back to those who have given to you and have been there for you.”
The Alumnae Welcome featured remarks from other alumnae, President Mark D. Gearan, Chaplain Maurice Charles, and Senior Class President Elizabeth “Biz” Chirco ’17. The ceremony also included the presentation of awards and the gift to the Class of 2017: a charm bracelet with a pine tree.
Assistant Vice President for Advancement Kathy Killius Regan ’82, P’13 presented the gifts to the Class of 2017 and a framed set of charms to President Gearan and Mary Herlihy Gearan, who were named honorary members of the William Smith Class of 2017.
The gift is not only “a membership card to an exclusive group, the Alumnae Association of William Smith,” as Regan said, but is symbolic of two cherished William Smith traditions. Each year seniors plant a class tree to commemorate their bond as a class, and marks the revival of the “good luck tree” tradition, which dates back nearly to the College’s founding.
Alta Boyer ’36, who returned to campus at age 102 to attend the Welcome, recalled that when she was a William Smith student, she and her fellow classmates patted a little tree growing on the Hill for good luck as they walked across campus.
“Now that little tree is a magnificent tree,” she said, reflecting expanded expectations and opportunities for graduates today. “The sky is the limit for you all. I wish you good health, love, enough money to get along—a happy jingle in your pocket—and time to enjoy them.”
Trustee Aloysee Heredia Jarmoszuk ’98, chief of staff at the New York City Department of Education’s Division of Operations, recognized students on behalf of the Alumnae Association. Brett Danziger ’17 was named the Class Correspondent; Samantha Shaffner ’17 was given the Judith Haslam Cross ’52 Award for her leadership and service to students and alumnae; and Marni Wilcoff ’17 was given the Elizabeth Herendeen Odell Book Award in appreciation of her contributions to the Alumnae Association and William Smith.
The ceremony culminated in a procession to the William Smith Hill, with students touching the “good luck tree” and planting a tree of their own.
In her toast to the Class of 2017, William Smith Dean Catherine Gallouët encouraged the graduating class to think of the tree as a symbol for their experiences at the Colleges. “Your time here started with a seed,” she said. “You are now big enough, strong enough and beautiful enough to be planted. When you return to campus in the future, you will see how that tree has grown.”