Summer 2023 / Departments

Last Word: Pay It Forward

An interview with Barbara L. Tenney ’67, MD

After serving on the Board of Trustees of Wilson College for 21 years in total (1996-2008 and 2014-2023), including two stints as Chair (1999-2002 and 2014-2023), Barbara Tenney ’67, MD, is retiring. She shared some highlights of her days at Wilson and her service to the College in an interview with magazine editor Darrach Dolan. The following is an abridged version of that interview with some of the words changed or reordered for flow and continuity.

Tenney’s Wilson yearbook portrait

DD: Why did you choose to attend Wilson?

BT: My mother was president of the Alumnae Association, and I would go to Wilson with her as a child. She paid the deposit for my application when I was about six. She told me that because I was the first person in my class registered, I’d get my choice of rooms if I went. [Tenney laughs.]

I knew that I wanted a woman’s college and applied to Wilson, Wheaton College, and Connecticut College. I also knew I wanted to go to medical school, so I asked Wheaton and Connecticut how many of their graduates go to medical school. They said, “Oh, there was one a few years ago.” When I talked to the people at Wilson, they said, “Oh well, X went in ’61, and Y went in ’64.” They regularly had people going to medical school! My mother thought that I was going to go to Wheaton. When I decided I was going to go to Wilson College instead, she said, “I told all my friends you were going to Wheaton! Well, that’s the way it goes.” [Tenney laughs again.]

Tenney (far right) serving on Judicial Board at Wilson.

DD: What event or memory of Wilson sticks out for you?

BT: So many of my friends from Wilson are still close friends. They were in my wedding, I was in their weddings, and we get together whenever we can. I would say the friendships were very important.

One of my most rewarding experiences was being on Judicial Board. I was chief justice my senior year. The way the honor principle worked was that if a student broke a rule, they were supposed to report themselves to the Judicial Board. If you knew a student who broke a rule and they didn’t report themselves, you were to tell them to report themselves. If they refused, you were to report them. And if you didn’t, you’d have to report yourself.

It was a very strong honor principle. In my senior year, we established the Judicial Council, which consisted of students, faculty, and administration. This was to hear cases previously only handled by the administration, like drugs on campus. Before this, those people just disappeared and never went to the Judicial Board. But when we created the Judicial Council, cases like these got reviewed by the council.

One of my classmates was one of the first cases, and although it was for drugs, she did not get sent home. She was “campused” for the rest of her senior year, which was several months, but she was really glad that she got to graduate.

Dr. Tenney honors her dear friend Dr. Yeou-Chang Ma of The Children’s Society of New York in 2019 at Wilson’s Sesquicentennial Gala.

DD: Did Wilson prepare you for your medical career?

BT: Yes, definitely. I always wanted to be a pediatrician, and Wilson certainly prepared me educationally.

I went to Jefferson, which was the last medical school in the country to take women. So I went from a woman’s college to a man’s college. It was interesting. One of the things I learned at Wilson was to stand up for myself and trust myself. Some of my classmates at Jefferson said, “Well, Barb, it’s nothing personal, but we don’t think women should be in medicine because you’re going to get married and have kids and drop out.” My response to them was, “That’s okay. I can drop out for a couple of years and come back because I’m going to outlive you. I’ll still practice longer.” At that time, the life expectancy for male physicians was 49. I knew I was going to live longer than they were. A lot of times, the guys would go, “Oh, you’re right.”

Dr. Tenney helps celebrate the inauguration of Wes Fugate as the 20th president of Wilson College.

DD: You’ve served on the Board for 21 years in total; how and why did you first become a Trustee?

BT: Basically, I like to be in charge of things. [Tenney jokes.] So, I asked how you got on the Board of Trustees. They said, “Well, you can get on as an Alumnae Trustee.” I said, “Ok I’ll do that.” They said, “You’ve got to be on the alumnae board first.” So I got on the alumnae board, then I was named an alumnae trustee. That was under Gwen Jensen. I went to her in my second year and said, “I’d really like to stay on the Board of Trustees.” She said, “Well, no, we don’t want the alumnae to think this is an automatic way to get on the Board.” I said, “Ok.” The next year she decided to retire, and they wanted an alum to chair the Board for the retirement. They came to me and said, “Would you stay on as chair?” I said, “Sure.” [Tenney laughs.]

I left after 12 years and was made a Trustee Emeritus. Then in 2014, I got a call asking if I would come back on the Board as chair. I said, “I’m an emeritus, I won’t be able to vote.”They said, “Oh, you can resign that.”I said. “Ok.” And I’ve been chair now for nine years.

DD: Apart from liking to be in charge, why did you want to be a Trustee?

BT: Wilson has been absolutely key to my life and being able to do the things I wanted to do. And because I had seen Wilson positively affect so many other people, I really wanted to be a part of that and help make it bigger and better and meet the changing needs of education. Things are changing so rapidly and so dramatically; we need to be constantly open to new ideas, new thoughts, and new ways of doing things.

Wilson had given me not only the education but the confidence and the techniques to be a leader, and I really do think the most important thing was the Honor Principle, which has been the absolute center of my life. It’s like if a question comes up – a moral question or even a functional question -in business, I have to say what is the honest thing to do here. My honor is in all of this.

DD: What does Wilson College today give her students?

BT: She gives a lot. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know some of the students and interacting with them and seeing them blossom the same way that I blossomed when I did at Wilson. They grow, they expand their horizons, and they really do come to believe that they can do whatever it is they want to do.

When I went to Wilson, women were definitely suppressed or not as encouraged as much as they should have been. What we’re seeing now is that it’s the women who are going to college and graduate school; it’s the men who aren’t. I think the men that I have met there now, our students, I think they’re terrific, and I see them growing in the same way that the women are, and that’s what we want.

DD: You have been part of a Board that has overseen many additions to the College; what are you most proud of ?

BT: Obviously, I think that the Brooks Science Center is terrific. I was so glad that we could fix the library after the pipes burst. And I’m really proud of the new athletics offerings and the master’s degrees. Wilson College Online is going to be a terrific addition. We’re looking to serve a wider and wider population.

I think we are moving in the right direction. I think we were slow in moving on some of the things, but we’re getting there.

DD: What else would you like to share with the readers?

BT: I’d like to mention contributing to the College financially through philanthropy. My mother told me way back when that I should give to the annual fund every year and I should start right away. I started when
I was putting myself through medical school. I used to give $10 a year, which was a heck of a lot harder than what I give now. But I really do feel that we need to pay it forward. We need to help the current generation, especially when you look at the cost of education now. My class has started a scholarship fund, and I think that’s really important.

Also, I really think that if someone would like to serve on the Board of Trustees, it’s a terrific experience. Our Board is very active, very involved. It’s not just an honor that you don’t have to show up for. The Board is really conscientious, hard-working, and they really want to do the very best for the College.

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Summer 2023 News

Judging at the Highest Level

Wilson’s Director of Equestrian Teams represented the United States as a judge at an international equestrian competition.

Thousands attended the 15th annual National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) European Futurity, held in Cremona, Italy, from May 23 to May 27. This year’s event was held in conjunction with The World Youth Reining Cup, which showcases the skills of international youth riders on horses assigned at random, and the Salone Del Cavallo de Americano, a fair that celebrates “Western” lifestyles and horsemanship.

Our Director of Equestrian Teams, Cathy Woosley Luse, a worldwide NRHA-carded judge since 1995, represented the United States on a five-member panel of judges for the reining competitions. Reining is a sport in which horses are put through a series of orchestrated actions, including slides, stops, spins, and speed changes. Woosley Luse compares it to the sorts of choreographed and technical actions figure skaters go through. She judges and scores the horses on their willingness, the pattern’s correctness, and the difficulty level. At $250,000, the prize purse for this year’s competition was the largest in its history, and the competition was fierce.

“I am proud to represent Wilson College on this international platform, much like our Wilson College equestrian program founder, Colonel Kitts, who was also an international equine judge and exhibitor,” Woosley Luse said. With over 30 years of experience in horse training, showing, and coaching, Woosley Luse has coached numerous world champion riders and champion teams at the professional and collegiate levels in Texas and Kentucky. An accomplished rider herself, she was a world champion at the National Reining Horse Association Intermediate Open Division level.

This year was Wilson’s first with varsity equestrian teams. The hunt seat and Western teams achieved 25+ top three places and more than five first places over the year. Woosley Luse believes we are at the beginning of what will become a very successful competitive equestrian program. “I feel strongly that continuing to be deeply involved in the Equestrian Industry and sharing this experience and connections with our students helps set Wilson apart from other institutions,” she said.

Hacking the Metaverse

Wilson professor talks about the American opioid epidemic to an international audience.

Adam DelMarcelle, assistant professor of fine arts, recently spoke at the Assocation Typographique Internationale (ATypL), an international conference on typography and typeface design held at the Sorbonne University in Paris, France. DelMarcelle was invited to speak about “Mariah,” his augmented reality (AR) app that, in his words, “challenges societal power systems, including big tech and big pharma, by ‘hacking the metaverse’ as an act of protest.” AR is a technology that allows creators to make digital content appear as if it’s in the real world. One of the best-known examples of this technology is the game Pokémon Go. The game uses geolocation to make digital creatures appear in the real world when viewed through the screen of a smartphone or tablet. Players get points for “catching” these creatures.

Similarly, the “Mariah” app uses geolocation to make content appear in real settings. The first place the app “hacked” was the Egyptian wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met). When users point their phones or tablets at exhibits, information about the American opioid crisis ap pears on their screens. Named after Mariah Lotti, who lost her life to opioids at 19, the app tells her story and the stories of others affected by opioids It also explains how cultural institutions like the Met have benefited from the crisis by accepting money from the Sackler family. The Sacklers, owners of Perdue Pharma, profited from the sale of Oxycontin. Many blame the overprescription of Oxycontin for jumpstarting the current opioid crisis, which costs the life of one American every five minutes on average.

The app now targets other galleries and museums that received Sackler family donations, including the Louvre in Paris and the Tate Modern in London. While in Paris for the ATypL conference, DelMarcelle got to see the Louvre addition to the app in person. When he pointed his phone at the giant glass pyramid outside the entrance to the Louvre, the app projected a counter above the pyramid – a live record of the current opioid death toll in America. DelMarcelle and his collaborators created “Mariah” to memorialize the victims of the opioid epidemic as well as draw attention to how the Sacklers and cultural institutions profit from the opioid epidemic.

Wilson Has New Board of Trustees Chair

Jen Nickle Banzhof ’94 assumed the Chair of the Board of Trustees of Wilson College on July 1, replacing retiring Chair Barbara Tenney ’67, M.D. “Jen Banzhof is an alumna, the mother of an alumna, and has served on the Board of Trustees for nine years,” said Tenney, who has served on the Board for 21 years in total, including two stints as Chair. “She has come back on the Board as Chair, and I know she will do an outstanding job.”

“Wilson is such a huge part of who I am, and the Board’s vote of confidence in electing me as Chair seems a testament to the value of my Wilson education,” Banzhof said. “I’m truly honored and very excited to be returning to the Board.”

Banzhof is the co-owner of BHA Consulting LLC — an employee benefits consulting and actuarial firm. There she specializes in self-funded health benefits provided through collective bargaining. She plans to leverage decades of organizational and negotiating experience in service to the College. “We are facing a pivotal time in higher education, particularly for small private colleges, and I want to do my part to help Wilson rise to the challenge,” Banzhof said.

For Banzhof, attending Wilson College was life-changing. She entered a shy and quiet woman who wanted to be a veterinarian. By the time she graduated, she had discovered a love of statistics and developed the interpersonal and public speaking skills and confidence to be a leader. Her daughter Delaney also attended Wilson and graduated in 2022. Delaney’s success at the College inspired Banzhof to make a large gift to help other students attend Wilson. “There are so many students out there that would thrive in Wilson’s supportive, close-knit community that would (otherwise) struggle or just get by in other environments,” Banzhof explained.

“I am excited to collaborate with Jen to help Wilson achieve our mission and reach for new heights,” said President Wes Fugate. “Uniquely, she shares the perspective of not only being an alumna of Wilson but a parent of a recent graduate. She has a keen intellect and valuable life experience that will be instrumental to the Board and the College as we seek to offer a transformative education to our students.”

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Quick Bytes: Summer 2023

Nursing Grad Heads to Mayo Clinic
Efelomo Vanessa George ’23, who graduated this year from our nursing program, has accepted a position
at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Congratulations, Vanessa!

Alumna SCOTUS Win!
Terrie Harman ’75 won her case before the US Supreme Court. She was one of four arguing counsels who argued on behalf of a man who continued to be harassed by a lender despite having declared bankruptcy. “It’s every lawyer’s dream to go to the US Supreme Court,” Harman said.

Faculty Promotions
Congratulations to the following faculty who have been promoted.
Melanie Gregg — Professor of Humanities
John Elia — Professor of Philosophy
Kathryn Sarachan — Associate Professor of Chemistry

Honorary Degree

Gretchen Van Ness ’80 was recently presented with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by President Wes Fugate. Van Ness gave the commencement speech in 2009 and, because she was a Trustee of the College, was not eligible to receive the honorary degree at the time. Van Ness was a student representative to the 1979 Save Wilson Committee. She received a bachelor’s in English and history from Wilson and a law degree from Boston College. Her list of accomplishments is long and distinguished, having focused much of her time and leadership on issues impacting the rights of women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. She currently serves as Executive Director of LGBTQ Senior Housing, Inc., in Hyde Park, Mass.

President Emerita

Dr. Barbara K. Mistick, Wilson’s 19th president, was bestowed the honor of President Emerita at this year’s undergraduate commencement ceremony in May. During her tenure, Mistick oversaw a rapid increase in enrollment and the number of courses and degrees offered. She also helped to lead many transformative projects around campus. Highlights include the reimagined and renovated John Stewart Memorial Library, improvements to residence halls and recreation facilities, and a new main entrance to campus off of Philadelphia Avenue. Dr. Mistick continues to be an advocate for access and affordability of higher education today, serving as president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Washington, D.C.

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