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Alumni reunite and reminisce

Halie Johnson

For Sue Hoy, class of ’55, Mills College was cinnamon raisin sweet rolls from the Tea Shop. She vividly remembers smothering them with butter and how popular they were with students, faculty and staff. Classmate Francie Lloyd recalled how they inspired her dorm mother to discuss marriage. “She used to say ‘Ladies, you can’t get married until you make this cinnamon roll,” she said. “I’ve been married since and mine always turn out like bricks!”

Such lively conversation was commonplace as the Alumni Association of Mills College hosted its annual Reunion Week from Sept. 23 through Oct. 1. Over 200 alumni from the classes of 1930 through 2000 visited the campus. They reminisced and reunited while learning about the “Greening of Mills,” attending cocktail parties or engaging in friendly competition on the tennis court. The four-day event also featured dorm visits and a chance to re-don graduation regalia for the alumni procession during Convocation.

Members of the AAMC say this year’s reunion exceeded expectations due to the alumni’s large turnout and contributions. According to Valerie Moore, an administrative assistant at the AAMC, registration was extensive, particularly with the class of 1955. Suzanne Thompson, the reunion event planner, said several alumni donated money to the event while others gave their time serving as volunteers. “We’re nothing but thrilled and honored to have them on campus,” she said. “There’s lots of positive energy.”

One of the most popular events was attending classes. Molly Upton, ’65, loved meeting current students, whom she found “impressive.” Members of the student body expressed the same sentiment for the alumni. Molly Bower, a sophomore, appreciated having “people of all ages on campus because of their history and perspective.”

Jenny Torkildson, a senior and AAMC staff member, said she enjoyed hearing stories from the class of ’55. “One woman brought back her sweater from paint night,” she said. “She couldn’t fit into her old Levi’s or she said she would have brought them too!”

For many alumni, reunion was a chance to return home. Lisa Peoples, ’80, was eager to return after a 25-year absence. “I couldn’t wait to see the eucalyptus and get that aroma,” she said. “Tears of joy came to my face when I entered the campus.”

Suzy Hartsock, ’55, said the event refreshed the past. “You can come home again,” she said. “The memories are so clear and it’s a joy reuniting with friends.”

The Mills curriculum continues to resonate deeply for several alums. Many expressed attachment to certain courses and professors. Lloyd was married by George Hedley, an economics professor and ordained minister, who lectured “crouched on his desk, dripping ashes” as he smoked.

Upton, ’65, said her favorite class was American Art History and Music taught by Dr. Frankenstein. The semi-retired journalist said she doesn’t regret a single class even though she’s only applied her history major by “living it.” “Those were fun courses that stuck with us,” she said. “We’re just marveling at it [now].”

Upton left Mills during her sophomore year, yet returned because of it’s commitment to educating women. Attending secretarial school made her realize she couldn’t just be a secretary or a housewife. “I didn’t want to talk about hanging diapers on the line, which was the only subway conversation [between women],” she said.

Sheryl Bize-Boutte, ’73 and interim executive director of the AAMC, shared a similar experience. She credits the all-female environment with giving women both an “academic and life education.”

“Mills women don’t look at the male-dominated world as a problem [but] an exciting challenge,” she said. “I learned that failure is not an option.”

Barbara Cheaton, ’55, just found it a “relief to come back and not have to study.” She and other alums reminisced about dorm life, ski trips and boys.

Hoy and fellow classmate Marsha Stodgehall both said their most vivid memory was returning home after curfew. “Your education became awfully embarrassing when you had to go before Judicial Committee because you were late,” she said.

Alison Lazareck, a sophomore and student assistant for the AAMC, learned about “the best ways to sneak back into the buildings after lock-out” while taking two alums on a tour of Ethel Moore and Mary Morse.

Both alumni and AAMC staff alike believe the event was a success. Thompson is grateful for the positive attitude of the alumni and student volunteers. “Without their passionate involvement, this wouldn’t have been possible,” she said.

For Gina Salaces, ’85, the reason is much simpler. “Any day at Mills is a good day,” she said.