Connecting past, present and future generations
By Judy Myers Hoffhine ’69
On a warm, late-spring evening, fully sated and grateful, we relaxed under the big tent behind the library. Maybe 15 of us from the 50th Reunion Class of 1969 and half a dozen 2004 alums, plus two profs, clustered around tables to talk late into the evening. One of the profs asked us septuagenarians, “I wonder if you’d talk about what at Wilson was most impactful on your lives?” We were silent momentarily, as traffic on Philadelphia Avenue and mosquitoes moved around us.
For 50 years we have designed and constructed our lives. That’s about 18,262 days. What has Wilson to do with all of those minor and major decisions that form a life and maybe even a legacy that is uniquely ours? … A few more seconds of silence.
“Our professors, the faculty who nurtured and guided us from day one until we graduated,” drew unanimous agreement. We remembered and appreciated coffee with them in the Snackie, time for explanation, consultation, advice and inspiration, even a meal at their homes; their intelligence, creativity, knowledge and patience.
Wilson was a greenhouse of growth and nurture. Our confidence blossomed and we dared to be independent, to conduct original research or try a new brushstroke or experiment or theory. We pushed the boundaries and became leaders in change.
Of course, friendship was an essential element. We developed friendships that were foundational, even if we lost contact for a time. This time together after 50 years underscored the strong bonds that tied us together now as then. We “friendshipped,” as Mary Pipher puts it in her book Women Rowing North.
My first pastoral visit to a church member in the first church to which I was called in 1988 was to Myra Freet, a woman who had been director of nursing at the White Cross Hospital (now Ohio Health Riverside Methodist Hospital) in Columbus. Ironically she had received a radiation treatment for cancer long ago and because the X-ray machine was miscalibrated she had developed a permanent wound. She was bedridden. When I entered her room she said, “I hear you graduated from Wilson. So did I.” Myra was a class or two before my mother’s. I visited her often until her death. We talked deeply and with understanding. She gave me her white acrylic sweater that she could no longer wear. That was 31 years ago. I wore it at our reunion, remembering not only Myra but all Wilson students over the last 150 years. That’s what Wilson is.
We are a few of the blood cells moving through the arteries of 150 years of life that is this college. We have seen the evolution of our alma mater (Latin: nourishing mother) as she endured stress and pain as well as success and growth, and if we chose to, we absorbed and joined the boldness, resilience and dedication of those who love her.
I am so very proud of my college. Since the cultural chaos of the late 1960s, Wilson’s faculty, staff, alumni and students have dared to create a variety of innovative and holistic approaches to learning and life. Bachelor’s and master’s degree programs are relevant and high-quality, and still maintain the benefits of a liberal arts emphasis. Critical thinking, research, peer review and mentorship have a part in every aspect of Wilson. I will proudly recommend Wilson to young men and women who want to grow, evolve and learn—whether in the stable, the vet operating room, the music studio, on the ball field or in the lab.
You see, Wilson College is in our blood, just as we are in her blood; and the relevance and nurture, the relationships and opportunities are lifelong and essential in a world that desperately needs our skills, knowledge and confidence. As Shirley Franklin Taylor said in her toast to our class, “And now here we find ourselves in a world facing more brokenness than we could have imagined in 1969. We need to feel proud of all that we have accomplished and who we are, but we cannot stop—we are not done. We are a silver tsunami bringing experience and wisdom to the challenges that face us. And we will contribute in our own unique way.”
That is the voice of a Wilson Woman. It is the past, present and future voice of generations of Wilson Women and Men. last word Wilson was a greenhouse of growth and nurture. Our confidence blossomed and we dared to be independent, to conduct original research or try a new brushstroke or experiment or theory. We pushed the boundaries and became leaders in change. — Judy Myers Hoffhine ’69