Wellesley Renews Old Tradition, Convenes Presidents, and Recalls the Inspirational Spirit of a Remarkable Alumna

April 24, 2014
Wellesley Blue crew team forms a W with their oars in commemoration of beloved alumna Kathryn Wasserman Davis '28.

“My favorite day is… tomorrow!”

Kathryn Wasserman Davis ’28 was fond of saying this, a quote which exemplifies her ever-optimistic spirit. On April 23, the anniversary of her death at the age of 106, Wellesley took a moment to look back at the many ways that Kathryn touched those around her, and to restore a tradition that she enjoyed during her days at Wellesley.

In a small private ceremony outside Houghton Chapel, a carved wooden swing was hung in Kathryn’s honor. A similar swing was a long-standing fixture on campus, and it is not hard to imagine that Kathryn would have taken advantage of the chance it offered to fly through the air. Recapturing that simple joy seems a fitting homage to a woman and friend who welcomed the variety of experiences that life had to offer.

The swing was, until now, the only item on Wellesley’s list of 50 Things to Do Before You Graduate that could not be completed by current students. In the years since the original swing became unavailable, students have been challenged to replace that line item with a graduation requirement of their own. The list is now complete—and the full challenge restored.

Following the swing’s dedication yesterday, students, alumnae, and other special guests gathered to share reflections on Kathryn's life and many contributions to Wellesley. Highlights included a President’s Panel with H. Kim Bottomly, Diana Chapman Walsh ’66, and Nannerl O. Keohane ’61, moderated by Lulu Chow Wang ’66, as well as words from United World College Davis Scholars.

Projects for Peace Award recipients also spoke at the reception of their gratitude for the Davis Peace Project, which was formed to reflect Kathryn’s commitment to peace, justice, and art. The hummingbird, a symbol from a favorite story of Kathryn’s about the transformative power of small steps, is one of the program’s icons. Visitors to campus during the Boston Marathon earlier in the week would have noted origami hummingbirds swaying in the trees along the route. These lovely ornaments were completed by dozens of volunteers who worked together at the Davis Museum before the marathon to prepare them as reminders to celebrate the power of peace and to pass it on.

Following the reception, students enjoyed cupcakes at the swing before proceeding with guests to Lake Waban, where the crew team formed a “W” on the water in Kathryn’s honor.

Wellesley will continue to remember Kathryn in the myriad ways that her presence remains on campus—through the Davis Museum, the Davis parking facility, professorships, financial aid, and educational initiatives. Her life continues to inspire us to make change in the world.

Photo Credit: Michael Lutch of Michael Lutch Photography.