It was the kind of spring morning that happens in the movies--and at Mount Holyoke. Sunshine and a pale blue sky brushed with light clouds greeted the class of 2008 as it gathered on the lawn in front of Mary E. Woolley Hall. Since shortly before 8:30 a.m., the seniors had been arriving in pairs, trios, and quartets to be part of the laurel chain, one of Mount Holyoke's most beloved traditions.
Wearing white--gowns, shorts, saris, and sundresses--they lined up four abreast, chatting and posing for photos, while Alumnae Association staff members carefully draped the laurel chain over their shoulders. A contingent of Frances Perkins Scholars had been among the first to arrive. "We want to be at the front," said Leanne Steinberg, who was accompanied by Beatriz Fuentes, Jennifer Grant, and Taylor Pressler. As excited as they were to be graduating, Fuentes noted that all were sad to be leaving the FP community. Two other early arrivals, Sarah Wysocki and Kate Heaslip, said how quickly their four years at MHC had passed. "But I've been looking forward to being in this parade since I saw photos on the Website when applying to Mount Holyoke," added Wysocki.
Meanwhile, the classes of 1933, 1938, 1958, 1983, 1988, 1993, 1998, 2003, and 2006 gathered on the other side of the building. All around Abbey/Buckland Circle, clusters of alumnae accessorized their parade whites with class "flair"--red parasols, blue balloons, green shawls, yellow-rimmed sunglasses--while greeting old friends.
Members of the loyalty classes of 1933 and 1938 settled themselves in vintage cars. "After 70 years of being part of Mount Holyoke, we're pros at this," said Lois Krieger Mulliken '38, who sat next to Thelma Bills Kirk in the back seat of a 1927 Buick.
The first member of the 50th reunion class to arrive for the parade was Suzanne Steinberg Rosen, accompanied by her husband, Arthur. Along with reminiscing about her years living in both Abbey and Buckland halls, Rosen said that she'd met her husband on a blind date at Mount Holyoke. "Arthur drove up from Long Island with a friend who was going on a blind date with a friend of mine. So, we accompanied them," she said. "Now we've been married forty-nine years."
By 9 a.m., when the pipes and drums of the Springfield Kiltie Band began to play, the class of 1958 was assembled in full force and eager to cheer the 2008 graduates. Led by the parade's marshal, Jennifer Brown '98, all the reunion classes stepped off. Each class carried signs that proclaimed highlights of their MHC years, as well as subsequent class accomplishments: Uncommon in '58--Still Breaking New Ground; We Cheered Joe Brodsky's Nobel Prize; 68% of '98ers have graduate degrees; We miss having our intelligence taken for granted.
During the parade, President Joanne V. Creighton and Alumnae Association President Mary Graham Davis '65 stood at the reviewing stand on the steps of Skinner Hall. Accompanying them were the class officers for 2010. The graduating class stopped at the reviewing stand to present the Student Government Association gavel to the rising senior class officers. Then, cheered on by hundreds of sister alumnae, the class of 2008 processed to Mary Lyon's gravesite. In tribute to Mount Holyoke's founder, they wove the laurel chain around the gravesite and draped it on the fence.
In the still that followed, the seniors' voices came together singing "Bread and Roses." As parents and friends listened, many alumnae sang quietly along. One of them gestured to a sign that had been carried in the parade; "Who said you can't go home again?", it read.
Chain of Events: The History of the Laurel Parade (May 27, 2006)