Letter from the President

About 250 Wellesley alums live in the Pioneer Valley. Based on the 30-40 alums I’ve been delighted to get to know over the past seven years since I moved to the Valley, I like to imagine all 250 of us—from the class of ’47 to the class of ’19—alert, questioning, involved, contributing to our community. We don’t usually publicly identify as Wellesley alums because other identities are more salient: parent, neighbor, volunteer, professional, artist, activist. But it’s always sweet to discover that someone you know and respect in a different context is also a Wellesley alum.  This newsletter reports on club activities for the 2018-2019 program year. We offer it as a reminder of what we’ve enjoyed this past year and as a teaser for upcoming events.

Lee Sproull ’67, President


Are you on Facebook?

So is the Wellesley Club of the Pioneer Valley! Log on, search for Wellesley Club of the Pioneer Valley and click “Join” so you don’t miss any club updates! We post all club events and news along with photos. The group is a Closed Group (i.e., you can search for it, but only group members can view posts/pictures). If you are already a member and know local alums who are not, please add them! This is a great, easy way for us to keep in touch. If you have any questions, contact Lindsay Sabadosa (LSabadosa@gmail.com).

Faculty Lecture

The Alumnae Association generously supports faculty lectures each year, and since 2016 we have enjoyed visits from four faculty members. The club selects speakers from disciplines that represent the interests of its members—the arts, science and environmental studies, and social sciences.

On April 25, 2019, club members gathered at the Lathrop Community in Northampton to hear from Angela Carpenter, associate professor of cognitive and linguistic sciences. She graduated from Wellesley as a Davis Scholar and earned her master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She was delighted to return to the Pioneer Valley. Well-prepared with pencils and paper for all, she led us through the steps she uses in her popular seminar on inventing languages. She showed us how students build their own languages from the ground up, forming phonetic sounds, words and syntax. The talk was a smashing success as a group of about 30 played around with new sounds, alphabets and grammars, and crafted short sentences in our new languages.

This fall we will begin selecting next spring’s faculty lecturer. We encourage more alumnae to attend these lectures in order to engage with the learning that occurs at the college.

Gigi Barnhill ’66 Vice President

Three Sisters Initiative Event: STEM Power

Four years ago the presidents of the Wellesley, Smith and Mount Holyoke Pioneer Valley alumnae clubs joined forces to sponsor activities that no one club had the critical mass to sponsor on its own. Our goal was to focus on a discussion topic of particular interest to girls and women and to showcase one or more local organizations that serve girls and women. Our first event focused on strengthening women’s political voices; our second event focused on strengthening the next generation of leaders through mentoring programs. This year’s event focused on STEM power.

More than 60 alums of the three colleges and their guests participated in a STEM Power event at the Northampton Center for the Arts on May 5, 2019. The discussion panel was organized around a reverse life course perspective, beginning with comments by three highly successful academic scientists (all Wellesley undergrads): Martha Hanner ’63, Suzan Edwards ’73 and Darby Dyar ’80. Because they received their Ph.D.s in different decades, their experiences exemplified how the challenges of academic science for women have changed (or not changed) over the decades. The next speaker, Susan Voss, described the Picker Engineering Program at Smith—the first engineering program at a women’s college—and the challenges of building a fully accredited engineering program inside a strong liberal arts college. The final speaker, Meghan Bone, described the Eureka! Program, supported by Girls Inc. of the Valley. This is a five-year program for girls from eighth grade through high school graduation, designed to motivate them to pursue post-secondary education and careers in STEM fields. Meghan enthusiastically invited everyone in the audience to consider becoming a Eureka! volunteer.

After the panel discussion and an audience Q&A, we adjourned for wine and cheese and casual conversation. Tentative plans call for next year’s topic to focus on women’s health issues and local organizations that support health initiatives for women and girls.


Members offered three pop-ups this year. Marcia Burick ’62 hosted her classmate, Susan Dworkin, for a reading and discussion of her most recent book, The Garden Lady.  Alicia Lopez ’91 invited us to join her at the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley for a reading of the book she wrote with her mother, Teaching: A Life’s Work. Elaine Woo ’67, a member of the Boston Wellesley Club, invited us to join her for an evening of jazz at the 350 Grill Steakhouse in Springfield. Unfortunately, Elaine’s event was cancelled at the last minute because of a snowstorm, but she has rescheduled it for October 20 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Club 350 in Springfield.

At this year’s annual meeting we brainstormed about ideas for future pop-upsWatch your email for notice of some or all of the following:

  • Martha Hanner ’63 will discuss her personal version of the movie Hidden Figures as one of the very few Ph.D. women astronomers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Barbara Ford ’55 and Alison Curphey ’86 will organize and host a hands-on activity at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.
Alicia Lopez ’91 will host another reading at Amherst Books this fall.
Gigi Barnhill ’66 and Suzannah Fabing ’64 will host a dessert wine tasting.
Beth Notar ’85 will host a “photo view of somewhere” travel potluck. People will bring one or two favorite photos of a particular place or event they experienced (or want to experience) and a potluck dish.

Do you have an interest you’d like to share in an informal setting with a small group of alums? We’ll publicize it for you.

Social Events

Every one of the occasions described above is a social event since they all include informal conversation and refreshments. But two events are purely social: the summer picnic and the holiday cookie exchange. This year’s picnic will be at the home of Susan Fentin ’71 in Conway on July 28, 2019. The holiday cookie exchange will be at Lee Sproull’s house in Leeds on December 15, 2019.

Have You Missed Us? Have We Missed You?

This newsletter is one of two hard-copy newsletters mailed to your postal address each year. All of our event notifications are delivered to your email address by the college via e-blast, with the lovely banner of the Connecticut River at the top of the message. We send out about 20 e-blasts each year. Do you receive them in your email inbox? If not, it’s probably because the college does not have an up-to-date email address for you.

But what if you don’t want to give the college your postal or email address but you would like to know about club events in the Pioneer Valley? No problem!!! Just email Lee Sproull (lsproull@stern.nyu.edu) asking to be added to the club’s local email list. We will happily forward club e-blasts to you so that you can learn about events before they happen (rather than only reading about them after the fact in the annual newsletter).

And, in case you’re wondering, we will *not* share your contact information with the college.


Launch Activities

We run a series of activities/events focused on incoming and current students and new graduates. In August 2018 we hosted new and returning students at our annual Launch Lunch. Local first-years have the chance to connect with other first-years and returning students before they even arrive on campus. They also have a chance to ask wonderfully quirky questions that they’d never ask their high school guidance counselor or campus adviser. And, reciprocally, they give returning students the opportunity to answer those questions based on their own first-year experiences. In May 2019, we filled and mailed Launch Boxes to the four graduating seniors from the Pioneer Valley. The boxes contain a congratulatory letter from the club and items donated by club members such as office supplies, a steel measuring tape, gift cards, etc.

Our Alumnae Admissions Representative, Lindsay Sabadosa ’02, reports that there were more than 30 applicants to the college from the Pioneer Valley this year. Twelve students were admitted and as of May 31, seven had enrolled for fall 2019. They will be invited to the 2019 launch lunch to be held August 18.

Here are observations from two students who have just completed their first year on campus.


From Skylar Kolisko ’22, Hampden, Mass.:

Coming from a co-ed public school, I was taking a chance stepping into the mysterious environment of a private historically women’s college. I really did not know what to expect. I figured that in the worst case, it would be a massive sorority, and in the best case, it would be something familiar. Wellesley turned out to be neither of these, but something better than I could have anticipated. I found out that the “Wellesley Bubble” runs by a different set of rules than the rest of the world. The community I entered was one filled with respect. Everyone was so open-minded. To be around such a high level of interest and curiosity every day was inspiring. My classes were fantastic, but when I reflect upon how I grew in my first year, I know that my peers were the ones who taught me the most. The students at Wellesley are exceptional. They are not only amazing students, but also amazing people. I am thrilled to get to spend another three years in such a great community.

I am planning on double majoring in economics and geoscience. This summer I am doing groundwater research on campus with the Paulson Water Challenge.


From Maryam Muhammad ’22, Springfield, Mass.:

My first year at Wellesley was quite the eye-opening experience. Aside from beginning my first year of collegiate education, there were a lot of other stressors I had to face this past school year—from countless family emergencies to even more health crises— yet I was still able to get through the year. Starting college an hour and a half away from home comes with some difficulties in adjusting. Fortunately, being from Massachusetts allowed me the advantage of being used to the constant weather changes and the forest-like terrain that Wellesley offers. In my first semester at Wellesley I was getting used to the academic climate of the institution. The combination of classes that I took (50% humanities and 50% STEM) was balanced and allowed me to get through a large chunk of my distribution requirements. While the start of the semester was shaky, and I had a tough time making friends and connections at first, as it went along I started to get a feel for what works best for me. I got really involved in cultural organizations to connect with the other black and Caribbean students, as well as recreational orgs to tend to my love of dance. I also took a step back from athletics in order to give my body a much-needed break. One thing that I absorbed from orientation at Wellesley was that self-care is very important, and even though it took me awhile, I finally took the steps I needed to make my time on campus enjoyable and far easier than it would've been otherwise. This made my transition into the second semester seamless. Although my first year had a questionable start, I learned so much about myself both academically and socially, and that is the greatest thing I think a student can  take away from college.



Wellesley Club of the Pioneer Valley Mission Statement

The mission of the Pioneer Valley Wellesley Club is to foster connection, engagement and support among members of the Wellesley community living in Massachusetts’ Connecticut River Valley:

❊ Connection with other members who share interests, life circumstances and an undergraduate college. The club provides opportunities to welcome newcomers, socialize, maintain connections and develop meaningful relationships with interesting alums.

❊ Engagement through teaching and learning with those who share a passion for the arts, the environment, community service and social justice. The club seeks to promote lifetime learning through informative programs and hands-on activities.

❊ Support for one another, our Pioneer Valley community and the college. We help identify qualified high school students and cultivate their interest in Wellesley; support current students from the area; and serve as a liaison between the college and local alums. Our members bring a wealth of career experience and wisdom to alums facing decisions in their professional lives. Through the Day to Make a Difference and other initiatives in service of local needs, we strive to embody Wellesley’s motto, “Non Ministrari sed Ministrare.”