Class of 2010 Cheered at Laurel Parade

At 8 am, under a pale blue sky, the class of 2010 began gathering on the lawn of Mary Woolley Hall. Dressed in all variety of white--sundresses, pants, sarongs, shorts, and gowns--the 596 graduating seniors talked, texted, and posed for photos. While their ranks grew, Alumnae Association staff and student workers began the careful work of draping them with laurel. As is tradition, two laurel chains, each 275 yards long, linked the  seniors shoulder-to-shoulder for the parade that marks their transition from students to alumnae.

"I've been looking forward to being part of this since I started at Mount Holyoke," said B.J. Ramsey FP '10, who was among the first to arrive to line up for Saturday morning's Laurel Parade.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the building, alumnae were reuniting with old friends and accenting their parade whites with everything from boas to hairbows to balloons. The class of 1960--which included returning President Emeritus Elizabeth T. Kennan--on campus for its fiftieth reunion, sported sunhats with blue scarves and carried signs offering a snapshot of women's history. "The Ivies didn’t want us. Look what they missed!" read one.

As they waited, classmates discussed the many changes of the past 50 years. Margaret Sohns Eldredge '60 of Ventura, California, remembered seeing the class of 1910 celebrate its fiftieth reunion when she carried the laurel chain. "We hoped we'd look that good 50 years out. And here we are with one of the largest fiftieth reunion classes that Mount Holyoke ever has hosted, cheering on the class of 2010."

Nearby, the class of 1990 was congregating for its twentieth reunion. Mary Bozza Wise '90 was accompanied by her daughter, Abigail, age 5. "She's done this before,” said Wise proudly. "I carried Abigail at our 15th reunion when she was just five months old. Now she's excited to march on her own. She's had her white outfit picked out for weeks."

Likewise, Catherine Cullen Dahill '77 was marching in the parade with her daughter, Kathleen Dahill--but not side-by-side. Rather, Kathleen was carrying the laurel chain along with the other graduating seniors.

"My mother's class isn't having a reunion this year, but she's here marching with the contingent of alumnae relatives," said Kathleen. "When I was about 14, I came with her to a reunion. I saw all this and just fell in love with Mount Holyoke. From then on, it was the college I wanted to attend."

At 9 am sharp, the Springfield Kiltie Band began playing, and the parade stepped off.  Cynthia Krohn '00, president of the tenth reunion class, took the lead as parade marshal. Though she'd had no idea that becoming class president meant serving as marshal, Krohn was excited to play a role in such a beloved College tradition.

"Plus, I have never carried a scepter before," she laughed. "It just proves that the MHC firsts continue even after graduation."

Following Krohn was an alumnae contingent featuring seven intrepid members of the class of 1940. Anne Reynolds Purpura '40, who'd traveled from Texas to attend her seventieth reunion, regretted that a foot injury prevented her from walking the parade route with the others. Instead, Purpura rode in a 1950s convertible Ford Fairlane, part of a small fleet of vintage automobiles in the parade.

At the steps of Skinner Hall, each reunion class was greeted by Mount Holyoke president Joanne V. Creighton and Alumnae Association president Cynthia L. Reed '80, as well as the officers of the class of 2011. Throughout the parade route, family members and friends stood on curbs and lawns, applauding enthusiastically. The class of 2010 was the last contingent to step off and as they processed, the cheers echoed across campus. At the very end of the route, as they approached the gravesite of Mount Holyoke's founder, Mary Lyon, the seniors passed between two flanking columns of alumnae from the reunion classes.

During the brief ceremony that followed, the class of 2010 wove the laurel chain around Lyon's gravesite. Then, through the applause, came the sound of singing. Together, the seniors sang "Bread and Roses," the 1912 anthem of striking textile mill workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts, who demanded reasonable and humane working hours and pay. After they finished, the seniors turned to take in the scene around them. From that rise, they could see the vast crowd celebrating them--and the landmarks of a college proud to claim them as its own.

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