Founder's Day event kicks off 21-month celebration.
“100 years is a venerable age,” said Debra DeMeis, dean of William Smith College, at the Founder's Day dinner on Saturday. “It bespeaks wisdom, fortitude, courage and certainty of purpose.”
The dinner event, held in the Great Hall of Saga, marked the beginning of William Smith’s Centennial celebrations. The institution was chartered in 1906 at the behest of Geneva nurseryman and philanthropist William Smith; the first class entered in 1908.
Smith's contributions to higher education were recalled by many of the speakers at the festivities, including Mara O'Laughlin '66, assistant vice president for the William Smith Centennial. His vision for a women's college “was a fairly radical idea for the time,” said O'Laughlin. “William Smith's dream was that women should be able to study and practice in any field. Thanks to 100 years of dedicated faculty and staff support, his dream has been realized.”
Colleges President Mark D. Gearan welcomed back the many alumnae in attendance, including Lib White '33, and reflected on the significance of the milestone. “Centennials are like birthdays,” he said. “They afford us the chance to think about our past, to learn more about it, and, importantly, to contemplate the future.” Gearan went on to praise William Smith for his vision, and quoted the founder as saying “it is not what one is, but what one is and does that counts.”
At the event, generations of alumnae came to life through students who were wearing period costumes. A series of alumnae, representing five decades of students, also offered a moving vision of their times at William Smith College.
“I felt William Smith was perfect for me from the moment I visited,” said Becca Splain '04, a sentiment that was felt by many of the students and alumnae who spoke at the event. It was a “remarkable community of women,” said Laura Sweeney Brophy '86, “Powerful were the role models that my William Smith sisters and mothers provided as I navigated a changing world and watched others negotiate that world, challenge old assumptions, and empower generations of women and men to redefine family, work and community…”
Maureen Collins Zupan '72, vice chair of the Board of Trustees, reflected on the turbulent Vietnam era. “We were noisy, we were difficult, we made a difference.”
Music throughout the event was provided by student groups including Colleges Cantori, Harmony'z with Soul and Three Miles Lost. At the conclusion of the celebration, Kate Feller '06 led a special rendition of the William Smith alma mater.
For more information about the Centennial, or to make a gift, please visit the official Web site.