Alumnae Class of 1949 Returns

At 84 years of age, the class of 1949 became “students” again when they recently spent the day sm-IMG_4249attending classes at Dana Hall. On October 6, the class reunited with their alma mater in honor of their 65th reunion. Out of a class of 116, 13 returned to grace the halls with their familiar presence. “This reunion was a testament to the connection and relationships that Dana Hall creates,” said Rob Mather, Assistant Head of School.

The alumnae arrived on a crisp autumn afternoon and were greeted by the Admissions committee and members of the Student Alumnae Relations Club, who led the alumnae on a campus tour. Of course, many things have changed since then; Bardwell is the only building that still remains from when they graduated in 1949. The alumnae marveled at the new buildings they had never seen before and “were fascinated by the use of iPads and the 21st Century Classrooms,” stated Caroline Erisman, Head of School.

Students from the Making History class — Callie Secor ’15, Gabby Lorthe ’15, and Sally Dent ’15 — interviewed seven of the alumnae, who shared stories about life at Dana Hall in 1949. Debbie Phillips ’49 remembers starting school and being quite homesick. “Phoning home wasn’t the thing to do … so we were more isolated, but because of that, we became very close as a class. We had a wonderful class.” Phillips noted that many of her classmates gravitated towards sports, saying, “we loved athletics … and it become a very big part of our lives besides the academics.” Ginger Broadbent ’49 agreed that athletics were a very important part of her experience at Dana, and she selected a college based on whether or not they had women’s athletics programs, a rarer phenomenon in the mid-twentieth century than now.

As Broadbent flipped through the yearbook, she noticed the faculty pictures and said, “they all look old to me, as they did then. … You’ve got young, vibrant faculty here, which is fabulous. … We really didn’t interact with our faculty.” The alumnae were impressed with the student-teacher communication and support that faculty and students share at Dana. Broadbent stated, “the opportunities are just wonderful, and what they will bring to you after you graduate. … We loved [the school] as we knew it.”

The alumnae all agreed that the academic life at Dana was very demanding, but it helped in preparing for college. Phillips said, “I remember going to bed at night feeling a lot of pressure. But we learned very well, which made college much easier.”

The alumnae also commented on the strict rules at Dana in their years here. Betsy Gluck ’49 said, “discipline was so very different; we were very contained at this school.” Phillips stated, “we never stepped out of our rooms after eight each night. … You gave up a social life.” An exciting day meant walking down to “Zylers,” the town ice cream shop.

The alumnae said that they had a dance one or twice, but that was it. Gluck stated, “at our senior prom, Mrs. Johnson [Principal Alnah Johnston] had a measuring stick to make sure our date was the proper distance from us.” Broadbent agreed, “someone had to call ahead to visit you and if they weren’t on the list, then they weren’t allowed in. There wasn’t much socializing with males.” Barbara Clymer ’49 remembers inviting her boyfriend to a movie at Dana Hall. It was her first date with the man she would later marry.

Although Dana Hall is located in the small suburbs of Wellesley, the students of 1949 were not immune to global affairs. World War II, having just ended as they entered their freshman year, had an impact on their experience at Dana. Gluck stated, “there was still residue from the war. Gas was rationed. … My father never saw Dana Hall until I graduated … [because] they couldn’t afford the gas,” and “food was still sometimes scarce.” Gluck vividly remembered that one Sunday supper, they were served creamed apricots on toast as their main course. They thought there was going to be more food, but nothing ever came.

Despite some of the circumstances, the alumnae agreed that their experiences at Dana Hall helped them bond to one another. Clymer stated, “our friendships were very lasting. … We have to come back for reunions, [because] it’s a very special place.” Gluck said, “it’s very good what you’re being taught here today.”

Ms. Erisman states, “whenever I meet with alumnae and I ask them what they like best about Dana Hall, the answer is consistent: their teachers, their friends, and the traditions. The Class of 1949 is no exception. However, they have another quality that impressed me. They are passionate about learning, even now when they are in their 80s. … While they learned differently when they were students at Dana in 1949, they were excited about exploring the new technology. They are truly life-long learners. The members of the Class of 1949 are wonderful role models for all of us.”

Towards the end of the interview, the alumnae remembered their class song and started to sing in unison.

Photos taken by Harriet Groppe.

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