Four William Smith alumnae took the stage in the Vandervort Room on Thursday night to discuss “A Tradition of Innovation” as part of the annual Founder’s Day celebration. The event honors the signing of the deed of gift that established the college in 1906. William Smith College was founded in 1908.
William Smith Dean Lisa Kaenzig P’22 welcomed the crowd of students, faculty, staff and guests to “reflect on the history and traditions of the college,” and noted that this year’s celebration “pays special tribute to the long history and current successes of William Smith alumnae who are creators, innovators and trailblazers.” Kaenzig’s full address is available.
In discussing the evening’s theme of innovation, President Joyce P. Jacobsen recalled the risk William Smith took in starting the college. “The very existence of us all sitting here tonight is a real statement about how you don’t get anywhere if you don’t take some risks,” she said.
Director of Alumni and Alumnae Relations Chevanne Graham DeVaney ’95, P’21, P’23 introduced the panel of alumnae guests, Phylicia Dove ’09, Rachel Hadley ’13, Drury MacKenzie ’03 and Katherine Marino ’12. The panel was moderated by Maya Weber ’20.
Panelists shared stories and offered guidance on a range of topics, from acclimating to the culture of the college to learning how to say no. In discussing challenges that made them stronger and the lessons they learned, Hadley — associate winemaker for Glenora Wine Cellars and Knapp Winery — shared a story of moving to New Zealand to further her career in the wine industry and finding there was much she didn’t know. “Asking for help is really important, especially when you get into your field,” she said.
In fielding a question about learning how and when to say no, performance artist and dancer Marino discussed that creators are often asked to share their work for the exposure, which can translate to being asked to work for free. She advised students to weigh what they’re getting and what they’re giving up. “It’s never just a no,” she said, because it means “you’re saying yes to something else.”
Dove, a self-described “fashion activist,” owner of Black Monarchy, wife and mother, discussed how she maintains a work-life balance while building a business and a family at the same time. “It built a sense of tenacity in me,” she said. “I knew it was up to me to create this world that I wanted for myself, for my children, for my legacy.” She encouraged students to care of themselves, learn to say no, and to enjoy themselves and this moment.
When it came to final words of advice, MacKenzie — who serves as a visiting instructor of entrepreneurial studies at HWS — encouraged students to embrace failure. “The more you fail, the more you learn, and the more you learn, the more success you’ll have in the future.”