Alumnae lead the way in Boston suburb
You might say that Cohasset, Massachusetts, has it all: stunning ocean views, gracious old homes, a small-town vibe, and a location just 22 miles from Boston. It also lays claim to another remarkable asset: a dozen Wheaton graduates who live or work there, making vital contributions to the community.
In a town of just over 7,500 residents, a small group of people can make a difference, and these Wheaton graduates are doing just that. They include Barbara Bikofsky Cataldo ’79, superintendent of schools; Diane Quinn Kennedy ’86, a town selectman; and a host of others engaged in education, the arts and local business.
Some of these Wheaton dynamos knew each other in college, but most did not; their class years range from 1976 to 1991. In Cohasset, they form a loose but loyal network.
“I never imagined I would be working in a town with so many Wheaties,” says Peg Browne Jordan ’84, who teaches Spanish and heads the foreign languages department at Cohasset High School. Jordan has taught three children of fellow alums, and she says she is proud to have a fellow Wheaton graduate as superintendent.
Gone and back
The year 1988 was an interesting time to be a woman and a Wheaton alumna. As a proud graduate of the Class of 1974, I cherished my diploma from a highly selective and prestigious women’s college. My class was the largest of a generation.
Turning the corner into the 1980s, Wheaton Sesquicentennial was an integral part of the college calendar, commemorating the importance of women’s education, and celebrating an impressive 150 years of history. And then the other shoe dropped. Men were coming to Wheaton, permanently, and not just as 12 college exchange students.
I spent a few years following that fateful announcement simmering and stewing, alternately angry and sad. I missed being part of the Wheaton community. Then, in 1992, my good friend and former executive director of alumnae/i relations and annual giving Sharon Howard ’87 called me. Sharon asked me to re-establish my relationship with my alma mater.
All it took was that one personal phone call. And I never looked back. From 1993 forward, I held a variety of volunteer posts, which ranged from director at large on the Alumnae/i Board of Directors, LGBTA chair, and national Reunion chair. About the time I took on my Reunion volunteer role, my stepson, Andrew Malone ’11, was college hunting. I had an event to attend on campus, and I invited Andrew to join me. No pressure. If he liked Wheaton, great; if he didn’t, that was fine, too.
Andrew loved Wheaton. In 2006, he applied on the early-decision plan and was accepted. I spent his four years viewing Wheaton through a male student’s eyes. And it was really no different than my view. We both loved sports, the a cappella groups, and Wheaton’s many traditions. We still do, but now as fellow alums.
During Andrew’s first Reunion in 2013, I was thrilled to walk with the trustees in the academic procession at Commencement, and I saw and heard Andrew cheering for me in the crowd.
As president of the Alumnae/i Association, I have a constituency of over 15,000 alumnae and alumni. The college that gave me my degree is the same, only stronger, more vibrant, more diverse. Its traditions remain, but its eyes are firmly focused on a very bright and exciting future. And I am proud to be part of it.
—Jane Martin ’74
Building upon traditions
I grew up in Maine just a few miles from Bowdoin College, where I had often been on the campus for a variety of different events and classes. It would have been a convenient choice for me. However, when I first saw Wheaton, instantly I knew this was the place I wanted to be.
As I walked around Peacock Pond, explored the library and sat in Cole Memorial Chapel, that voice in my head got louder and louder, encouraging me to apply.
I was impressed with the beauty of the campus, the faculty, staff, traditions and location. I had met so many great people as I researched the school—including admission staff members, professors and alums—that I was determined to be in the Class of 1992 and was thrilled when I was accepted. The fact that I would be in the first coed class wasn’t even a factor in my decision-making.
In my first year at Wheaton, I met many students and alums who were, rightfully, hurt by the college’s decision to go coed. Although I couldn’t share in their unhappiness, I completely understood and sympathized with it.
Making this change just months after celebrating 150 years as a women’s-only college struck deep into the hearts of so many. It especially hit those who were seniors and juniors when I started in September 1988. They had applied to the school because it was a single-sex college. That can’t ever be ignored.
However, one of the great things about Wheaton is the strength of tradition, even when some of it changes. I can remember when I had that first tour of the college; I wasn’t allowed to walk through the front doors of the chapel—that’s only for seniors, as is sitting on the steps of the library. And the midnight candle service, Vespers and the Honor Code are all great traditions.
None of that changed with the change to coeducation. We, instead, got a chance to build upon existing traditions, like the Whims and Wheatones, and start new ones, like the Gentlemen Callers.
I loved the sense of community I had at Wheaton, and the ease in having access to faculty in the classroom and beyond. I loved working as a student in the Loft, the Admission Office, Mary Lyon and WCCS, the student radio station. I loved the friendships I developed with classmates and alums alike.
Wheaton continues to be the special place that evokes in each of us our individual special memories, and has connected each of us to special friends and faculty. I truly feel blessed to have spent four years there growing and shaping my future.
—Jason Petty ’92
Ronald A. Crutcher reflects on 10-year presidency
“Mentoring is important to me and to Betty,” the president says, leaning forward over the table in his Park Hall office.
“It’s important to me because I wouldn’t be the person that I am today were it not for Elizabeth Potteiger, my cello teacher, who was one of the first persons outside of my parents to be a mentor to me,” he says. “As a result of getting to know her and studying the cello with her, I made a pledge to myself that I wanted to do for others what she had done for me.”
The president has told the story before in explaining his motivation for organizing a mentoring group each year, scheduling individual meetings and regular group sessions with as many as 40 students. His wife, Betty Neal Crutcher, who earned her Ph.D. studying models for cross-cultural mentoring, also has led her own mentoring group.
“For me, it’s a great opportunity,” he says. “It’s my way of staying connected to students and their concerns.”
The mentoring group reflects an essential belief that has been evident throughout his tenure at Wheaton as well as throughout his career: a liberal arts education that is personal and rigorous transforms lives.
His conviction about the worth of the liberal arts drove President Crutcher to lead a campus-wide strategic planning process that developed a holistic vision for building on the college’s distinctive Connections curriculum. The plan, Wheaton 2014: Transforming Lives to Change the World, has served as a blueprint for his presidency. It included major projects, such as Go Beyond: Campaign for Wheaton, the fundraising effort now in its final year, and construction of the Mars Center for Science and Technology, the largest building project in Wheaton history.