The Chicago Wellesley Club Celebrates 125 Years of Spreading the Wellesley Effect, and Looks Forward to 125 More

April 5, 2016
Alumnae together at the 125th anniversary of the Chicago Wellesley Club on April 2, 2016
Keila Torre-Santiago '08

In honor of the 125th anniversary of the Chicago Wellesley Club, the city's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, officially declared Saturday, April 2 "Chicago Wellesley Club Day." Madeleine Albright '59 and Hillary Rodham Clinton '69 sent congratulatory notes to the club, which commemorated the milestone with a special celebration: "The Wellesley Effect—Chicago Style."

Patricia Mell '75, club president, welcomed more than 200 alumnae and guests to the sold-out event. The program included two panel discussions on the Wellesley Effect, featuring speakers who ranged from the Class of 1950 to the Class of 2010; a luncheon with Wellesley President H. Kim Bottomly and journalist Lynn Sherr '63; and a segment called "Vision for Wellesley's Future," during which Sherr interviewed President Bottomly about her hopes for the College in the coming decades.

Attendees also enjoyed a "speed meet"—akin to speed-dating—where they made new alumnae connections; a special performance of "America the Beautiful" by Susan Stetson '78, mezzo-soprano, and Deborah Moldover '09, piano; and a display of Wellesley memorabilia and photos through the decades, provided by the College Archives and Chicago-area alumnae.

Mell said she was delighted by the energy she felt as alumnae from the past 60 years reminisced about their shared values and recommitted to advancing the Wellesley Effect. "Times may change, but the need to have educated women dedicated to their pursuits never will," she said.

Helen Kriz Marshall '77, chair of the 125th anniversary celebration, agreed. "'The most powerful engine of social change is an educated young woman,' to borrow directly from the College's definition of the Wellesley Effect,” she said. "The more I see of life, the more I feel responsible for making the world a better place."

Attendees raved about the celebration and the months-long efforts of the planning and advisory committees. "Chicago is one of our most active clubs and executed a very special 125th anniversary celebration, which was big and exciting," said Susan Lohin, the College's director of alumnae connections, who flew in for the festivities. "The club's volunteers are truly dedicated and valued leaders who understand the importance of educating women."

As Mell and Marshall reflected on the success of the day, they thought about how short 125 years is in the life of an institution, and that there is much work to be done in the next 125 years.

"I would hope that the world of 2141 is one in which women in every part of our planet are valued as human beings of intelligence and strength, people who can rise as high as their talents will allow," said Mell. "Until that time, however, young women of intellect and drive will need to be nurtured, inspired intellectually, and strengthened spiritually to face the yet-unnamed challenges to come. In my opinion, Wellesley College will continue to be the best place for that to occur."

Their task, both women believe, is to help advance the Wellesley Effect by supporting the 800-some alumnae in the Chicago area. The club organizes a variety of activities, including supper clubs, spirited discussions after a Wellesley at the Movies event, packing potatoes as a group at the Chicago Food Bank, competing in a Wellesley Jeopardy! game at a local salon, or sharing a summer evening under the stars at an outdoor concert.

"Another alum once told me, 'There is something about a room full of Wellesley women.' It's true. We are more than the sum of our parts. I come away from a club event feeling lifted, and smarter. I usually get fed, too!" said Marshall.

The club also serves the College through admission programs. "Their volunteers assist with identifying the next generation of W women who will make a difference in our world. Currently we have 70 students from Chicago," said Lohin. "The club also serves as a direct pipeline to College leadership, and many of their volunteers are recruited to serve on the WCAA Board of Directors and/or the College Board of Trustees. Laura Daignault Gates '72, a former Chicago Club president, is currently chair of the Board of Trustees."

No matter what position a club member holds, they all agree that supporting Wellesley means supporting alumnae at every stage of their lives, said Marshall, who describes herself as being in her "second blooming." "The club’s motto is, 'Connecting Wellesley Women Since 1891.' I see the Wellesley Effect spreading with each connection we make with each other, and each time we connect with the world at large to make it a better place. Sed Ministrare," she said.