Wellesley Reunion, June 2016
Margaret Rose ‘76
Remembering the Saints of the Class of 1976
Deborah Blackmore Abrams, Deborah Powell Boyd, Chinwe Maureen Dike
Forty-four years ago, in the Fall of 1972---there was a presidential election that year too, and the first when many of us could vote!---some 500 of us gathered to begin our years at Wellesley! Coming back here during these June days, for reunion, even if we live nearby or return often, takes us back, or at least me, to the memory of those years.
When Evan and Ellen asked me to offer a memorial moment today, I searched for my yearbook with the photos. I found it there on the shelf with old Record books. As I reached in, out fell mementos: A Christmas dinner menu (Fruit cup with sorbet, Cornish game hen, Peppermint Ice Cream Pie) a Wellesley Widows program, a Junior Show announcement, And THIS: A program brochure for the New England Women’s Symposium. It included speakers and workshops on feminist poetry, theology, gender studies, sexuality. There were the authors of Our Bodies Ourselves, writer Robin Morgan and radical theologian Mary Daly. Also our President, Barbara Newell, all offering workshops, suggesting a radical woman inclusive future was possible.
It was a transformative and transforming time. That workshop was THE moment for me and shaped many of the decisions I made from then on. I am sure you have your own memories of a particular event or time or relationship which set the path.
This weekend is about remembering those transforming moments, and claiming them, perhaps. These few days, walking the same paths, even with construction and new buildings, there is familiarity and green beauty. And the dorms, hmm, they seem pretty much the same, too, even the voices in the quad echoing ‘til the wee hours of the morning!
What is not the same, though, is that the 500 eager students are no longer 18 years old, but in our 60s. And some 25 of us have died. This few minutes is about remembering them, in a sense, remembering them. That is, bringing them into this circle, into this weekend in heart and spirit if not in person. Since our last reunion in 2011, we have lost three class members:
Deborah Blackmore Abrams, July 2011; Deborah Powell Boyd in March 2014; and Chinwe Maureen Dike in May of the next year.
Leafing through the pages of the yearbook, I found each one, recalling their 20 year old faces. This week I have prayed with their names, giving thanks for their lives, even grieving their too soon loss. I prayed as I walked, the way one might do in a labyrinth walk, naming each one. I did it in the morning Spin Class---naming as the legs went round and round. Deborah Powell Boyd, Deborah Blackmore Abrams, Chinwe Maureen Dike.
Many of you no doubt knew them well. Deborah Abrams: Black Studies and Philosophy, lived in Shafer, at least her senior year. She lived in Dedham, was a fundraising consultant to nonprofits and schools, won awards for her abilities in this arena. She volunteered for Wellesley and her memorial was at the Wellesley chapel just a month after our 2011 reunion.
Deborah Blackmore Abrams—Presente
Deborah Powell Boyd: Sociology and Urban Studies. I can see her smiling face even now. Many Wellesley classmates wrote about her in the still open condolence book. Her wisdom about life and work, love and loss shone through the record book entries of the last two reunions. In her reflection on the 25th reunion she wrote, “During the quiet times I find myself thinking about the son who would now be 18 had he not died before his 6th birthday. I think the about the children everyone assured me would follow but never did. I think of a mother whose voice I haven’t heard in more than 5 years, yet to whom I still speak when the interactions between siblings demonstrate we have not yet made peace with her passing. I think what a blessing a solid marriage of almost a quarter century has been and how I would not want to be writing this as a widow, so I hope my husband outlives me.” He did. There is more wisdom there as well, in her honesty and self-acceptance. And in the midst of loss her conviction that family means so much. In fact in the 20th reunion book, she replaced the line for “email” with FAMILY and added her husband’s name. She was in Pittsburgh, beloved by co-workers in the human service field where she worked. Welleslely classmate Amy Douglas wrote of Deborah, and to all of us, I think: “To live in our hearts is not to die.” Yes.
Deborah Powell Boyd—Presente
For Chinwe Maureen Dike, family was everything as well. And I think perhaps the whole of Nigeria and Nigerians living in the US were her family. Many wrote at her passing just a year ago. She had been ill and faced that illness over the years with courage, not allowing her condition to define her—but rather was known for her caring work on behalf of many in the world around her. She worked at the United Nations and for UN organizations for many years, traveling around the world, and working for the well-being of her people. She majored in Anthropology and Political Science. Those who really knew her knew her as “Chips”, just one reminder of her hope-filled and cheerful spirit.
Chinwe Maureen Dike—Presente
These three join the others in that realm of the heart’s presence: In my tradition, we call them saints---and the only requirement for Sainthood is the desire to live fully as a human being. So let us recall Saints of the Class of 1976 whom we name and bring into the circle of this 2016 reunion:
|Linda Weiss Manson||July 17, 1986|
|Joan Powers||September 24, 1987|
|Linda Ozolins||February 20, 1989|
|Mary Marx Sacks||June 19, 1989|
|Laurie Jennings Hunt||October 8, 1990|
|Linda May||March 18, 1992|
|Leslie Rippel||August 27, 1992|
|Alexandra Tuttle||September 22, 1993|
|Jean Hampton||April 2, 1996|
|Lois Betz Gamble||July 4, 1996|
|Barbara Sheridan Brown||February 18, 1997|
|Ellen Gabriel||June 19, 1999|
|Virginia Tishman Alexander||December 7, 1999|
|Vida Parent Fauver||August 27, 2003|
|Cynthia Dillon||August 23, 2005|
|Jean Donovan||February 2, 2007|
|Ann Bamford Adams||May 3, 2007|
|Annella Brown||April 13, 2008|
|Lenore Ivers||May 30, 2008|
|Elizabeth Quirk||November 25, 2008|
|Delia Saldana||December 22, 2008|
|Teresa Gipson||November 27, 2010|
|Deborah Blackmore Abrams||July 15, 2011|
|Deborah Powell Boyd||March 4, 2014|
|Chinwe Dike||May 20, 2015|
I recently received a book by Irish writer, John O’Donohue called To Bless the Space Between Us. As we move to our next five years, as the spaces widen, be it the distance of geography, or time, or even realms of the cosmos, may the spaces between us blessed as we hold fast to both memory and future.
As we live that further journey into our 60s I share the wisdom of Marge Piercy, part of a poem called As the way narrows from Colors Passing Through Us:
What did we expect of the years?
An easy path? Comfort handed
us like our morning café au lait
with a newspaper we did not bother
o translate and a perfect crossant?
Virtue rewarded with a nice pension?
I can remember hope, remember
ease, but as we age, the way
grows steeper. Yet we have
taken each other and hold hard.
In that unforgiving night we walk
now hand in hand alert as foxes
with our senses peeled raw
our steps still sure and bold.
Marge Piercy, As the way narrows
Note: At the Class of 1976 reunion class meeting on June 4, 2016, the class voted to donate $300 to the Wellesley College unrestricted fund and $300 dollars to the Wellesley Student Aid Society in memory of Deborah Blackmore Abrams, Deborah Powell Boyd, and Chinwe Dike.
Classmate, Date of Death
Linda Weiss Manson, July 17, 1986
Joan Powers, September 24, 1987
Linda Ozolins, February 20, 1989
Mary Marx Sacks, June 19, 1989
Laurie Jennings Hunt, October 8, 1990
Linda May, March 18, 1992
Leslie Rippel, August 27, 1992
Alexandra Tuttle, September 22, 1993
Jean Hampton, April 2, 1996
Lois Betz Gamble, July 4, 1996
Barbara Sheridan Brown, February 18, 1997
Ellen Gabriel, June 19, 1999
Virginia Tishman Alexander, December 7, 1999
Vida Parent Fauver, August 27, 2003
Cynthia Dillon, August 23, 2005
Jean Donovan, February 2, 2007
Ann Bamford Adams, May 3, 2007
Annella Brown, April 13, 2008
Lenore Ivers, May 30, 2008
Elizabeth Quirk, November 25, 2008
Delia Saldana, December 22, 2008
Teresa Gipson, November 27, 2010
Deborah Blackmore Abrams, July 15, 2011
Deborah Powell Boyd, March 4, 2014
Chinwe Dike, May 20, 2015