During the annual Founder’s Day events this month, the William Smith community came together to celebrate the history of the College and the legacy of strength and leadership alumnae share.
The Founder’s Day discussion panel — moderated by Maureen Collins Zupan ’72, P’09, chair of the HWS Board of Trustees — featured alumnae who, as Dean of William Smith College Catherine Gallouët put it, exemplify “what it means today to live in accordance to the values that matter most:” Kendall Walton Farrell ’92, executive director of Bottomless Closet, and Dr. Fay M. Butler ’84, senior director of enrollment management at LaGuardia Community College and a social media strategist, author and pastor.
“You may not realize the impact this place has on you until you’re gone, but there were a number of different communities that impacted me when I was here,” Butler said. “I played sports, so I had that community, I was an African American student so I had that community, and I was fortunate enough to connect with people in the Geneva community. And what I didn’t realize at the time was the impact that seeing strong women in leadership roles all the time, every day, had on me.”
Acknowledging the uncertainties life has in store, Farrell urged William Smith students to “be true to themselves…. If you have something you really want, go for it, but your life will most likely take a different path of how you get to where you want it to be,” she explained. “You have to be true to yourself and you’ll find your way, and eventually where you need to be.”
During the discussion, Butler, Farrell and Zupan each drew on their own experiences — in the workplace and in their personal lives — to empower the youngest generation of William Smith women to become the nation’s next great leaders. As Zupan said simply, William Smith students and graduates “change the world.”
President of William Smith Congress Kim Gutierrez ’17 offered an historical angle on the celebration and insight into how the history of the College impacts the current community of William Smith women. “William Smith has changed a great deal since 1908, just as women in the past 11 decades have changed society’s expectations of them,” she said. “But William Smith’s fundamental hopes for his college and for the women he worked for to be educated here are realized over and over in the countless ways that women here learn and grow every day.”
President Mark D. Gearan, who provided an opening address, also reflected on the College’s founder and the College’s present: “The past informs the present, and my reflection is that we are current stewards of a proud heritage of someone who thought in innovate ways of activism, bringing his perspective into reality with founding this college.”
Earlier that afternoon, Butler, Farrell and Zupan also attended a ribbon cutting ceremony for the launch of the Colleges’ new Campus Closet, a supply of professional attire available to HWS students in need of appropriate clothing for job or internship interviews. The closet was inspired by Farrell’s work with Bottomless Closet, a New York City based organization that works to reduce the barriers many women face in the search for employment as well as provide on-going support and education so women gain the tools to succeed in their professional lives.
“The closet is inspired by Kendall’s work, and it will provide such a great resource to all students,” says Director of the Salisbury Center for Career Services Brandi Ferrara, who helped spearhead the effort along with William Smith Congress and the Office of Student Activities. “Students have already expressed their excitement and interest in the closet, and I know it will only continue to grow from here as it helps Hobart and William Smith students for years to come.”
Throughout the week leading up to Founder’s Day, William Smith Congress held a number of events for HWS students to celebrate the establishment of the College and pay tribute to its founder, nurseryman and philanthropist William Smith.
As Gutierrez says, the Founder’s Day events commemorate “women moving women up.” Listening to the panel, hearing about their work and “their giving back to campus and being here to give advice, you really feel that there’s a sisterhood of William Smith women,” she continued. “It’s preserved not just through current students but also through the histories of the women who have attended here, and that’s inspiring to be a part of.”