For our tenth Mini Reunion, Classmate Carole Bernstein Shmurak shared her story of how she, a magna cum laude graduate in chemistry, became a published author of a mystery series.
Her interest in this genre began in the 1960’s when she discovered Dorothy L. Sayers. Though Carole had published non-fiction, and co-authored Young Adult novels, it was not until she became Professor Emerita of Education at Central Connecticut State University in 2001, that she had time to write her own mystery novels.
Getting started, she needed to create a strong female detective character. Enter Susan Lombardi, a happily married 40-ish professor, modeled on herself but “smarter, younger, and thinner.” This character was the perfect part-time sleuth so Carole was now ready to be a mystery writer, which she proceeded to do.
In 2004, she published Deadmistress, which was named a Notable Book that year by Writers Notes Magazine. Death by Committee followed (2006) then Death at Hilliard High (2009), and Most Likely to Murder (2012).
Carole admits she got some ideas while attending two different high school reunions of her own. However, she had to do a lot of research in order to write Most Likely to Murder, for example, because Susan Lombardi had graduated from high school in the ‘80’s in New Jersey. Carole was unfamiliar with the ‘80s culture and the state, as she has never lived there. She had to invent both a town and a high school, which she did.
She also spoke about some of the difficulties she encountered in getting her books published. She knew from past experience that getting an agent was a long and difficult process, and after a major publisher turned Deadmistress down, Carole went to the book, Literary Marketplace, to get a list of small independent publishers, eventually finding one in Pittsburgh. They published the first three of her mysteries, but then the company began to fail. So she got back her copyrights and went to “Create Space” (Amazon and Kindle) to republish them in 2012. At that point, she published Most Likely to Murderherself as well. She later chose an actress to be the narrator for all 4 audiobooks. In the end, she got her mysteries published exactly as she wished!
Carole happily gives talks on mysteries to multiple libraries and though she has a fifth mystery in draft, she suspects she suffers from “Jessica Fletcher Syndrome.” Which is to say, how does Susan Lombardi keep finding the bodies? Stay tuned……
Submitted by Sunny Eaton Steadman
SATURDAY MARCH 4, 2023
In serving previously as dean (1998-2002) and acting president (2002), as well as being on the faculty (1989-2002), Dr. Tatum acquired a deep understanding and institutional knowledge of Mount Holyoke. This was on full display as she easily and gracefully navigated the tough questions classmates submitted, as they were posed by Mary Davis Graham and Martha Dolkart Bernstein.
Here is a brief summary:
Question: What is your overall impression of our college?
(1) MHC is operating on a balanced budget and is in good shape with early decision, enrollment,
endowment, and the number of young tenured professors all on the rise. The college is also in the top ten of recruiting black students, and well-known as a Fulbright producer. (2) What is concerning is that 10% of faculty has resigned at least in part because salaries are not competitive. Therefore, the college must raise tuition and grow its endowment in order to catch up (to Smith and Amherst.)
Question: What are some examples of other changes in the landscape?
(1) “Data Science” is now recognized as a new major while German and Russian Studies majors are gone. Curriculum priorities are shifting.
(2) All five colleges in the Pioneer Valley will have new presidents this year, and all will need to meet the challenges of navigating this new uncharted landscape.
Question: What is happening specifically with women’s colleges?
They are in decline. Dr. Tatum also commented that because Mount Holyoke has hidden its light under a basket for too long, it must find a path to “authentic boldness.” Women’s colleges are important globally and this may be the right time for our alma mater to lead the way.
Question: What can we ’65-ers do to help?
Perhaps be part of a mentoring program, or get involved with SOLA (Schools of Leadership Afghanistan), and continue our financial support!
Meanwhile, our gracious and capable interim president is ready to take well-deserved time for reflection, writing and traveling. We are very grateful to her for spending part of her Saturday afternoon with us, and to all the backroom wizards who made this “Mini” possible.
Margaret Fearey: Like many others, I joined the Peace Corps right after college intending to be of some service to others, but also, to be honest, to travel and experience a very different view of life. I also wanted to go to Turkey specifically, both because of a family connection of sorts (my great aunt had worked with Greek and Armenian orphans in Turkey and Greece just after WWI) and because I had written a senior paper on a 10th c. Turkish church on Achtamar, an island in Lake Van.
The United States Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program
A Mini Reunion presented by Sara Prozeller Hartman
Sara and Peter started taking in foster children when their own were six and eight years old. Thus with more than forty years’ experience and NYS certification, when in 2014, U.S. Homeland Security asked them to foster an unaccompanied minor from Central America, they were ready!
Six years ago the Hartmans took a boy who had left his home in Guatemala… Wilson! More recently they “adopted” Jimmy, a boy from Honduras.
Wilson arrived on March 12, 2017. He spoke no English. Nonetheless, he was required to enroll at Fairfield High School, and due to his determination and creativity he made friends and began to have fun in his new environment. Playing soccer helped him to integrate with other students, and being an excellent contender in professional dance competitions (in Central America) he decided to offer dancing lessons to his classmates (and some teachers as well!). “Salsa with Wilson,” imagine!
Today he not only has his high school diploma and his Green Card, but is clearly fluent in English. Wilson’s story of his escape from a dysfunctional household and a father who was a “narco” or drug dealer—was riveting.
His mother struggled financially, so though only 11 years old, Wilson went to work in a shoe factory for three years before earning enough money to come to the US. It was a difficult decision to leave his family behind, but armed with a fake Mexican birth certificate and 5,000 pesos (about $250), and guided by a “coyote” (someone who specializes in human smuggling, bringing people across the United States border from Mexico) he got on a bus. Before reaching the border, it was stopped several times by policemen or even narcos who took his money and beat up and violated some of the other passengers—and he arrived in the U.S. feeling “empty” inside and out.
But Wilson was determined, and some of the other migrants gave him some money, so after two days in California he went to Illinois and thence to the Bronx for six months before entering the URM program, and, finally being placed in the Hartman household.
The US Department of Health and Human Services funds 100% of room and board, clothing, activities, health care and anything school related. However, the nurturing is provided 100% by the foster parents, who so obviously in this case, helped Wilson become a part of their family and of the community that today he calls them his “Grandma” and “Grandpa”.
What a wonderful story! Gracias!
Review submitted by Sallie Wright Abbas and Sunny Eaton Steadman
Forty-two of our classmates Zoomed in to watch this mini, for which Caroline Fuller Sloat, drew on her deep experience working at Old Sturbridge Village to talk about the role of women in nineteenth century New England.
As it was offered just prior to Thanksgiving, Caroline began her presentation by reminding us that turkeys were in plenty in fall, thus it was a time of feasting. Lydia Maria Child’s Over the River and Through the Wood and Mrs. E.A. Howland’s The New England Economical Housekeeper were guides to preparing food for such celebrations.
Caroline, herself, edited The Old Sturbridge Village Cookbook. Authentic Early American Recipes, a collection of recipes from our American past, which she published in 1980 with a second edition in 1992, and is still available online.
Of course, these books were about more than cooking. They were teaching guides for women who took on the role of household managers, while men were responsible for farming, town government, and the professions, which included keeping the country stores. Mrs. Child also authored The American Frugal Housewife, dedicated to those who are not ashamed of economy. She was effectively redesigning women’s role, as not only responsible for the family’s wellbeing, including food preparation and caring for gardens, poultry, and the dairy, all important sources of food and potentially household income.
Caroline also spoke in some detail about the challenge of bringing an 1830 country store in Vermont, to Sturbridge Village. How that was done, drawer by drawer was a wonder!
Child, Howland, and Sarah Joseph Hale advocated an end of slavery. They were also leaders in advancing historic preservation for which they raised money and founded charitable societies. These women did not have the vote, but they certainly wielded substantial influence in improving female education.
For example, Emma Willard published Geography for Beginners in 1830, and we have our own Mary Lyon who founded Mount Holyoke College in 1837.
Caroline’s talk was beautifully illustrated with Sturbridge Village scenes, both of the landscape and inside homes and the country store. She had pictures and illustrations of tin ovens, hearth fires, and other tools for preparing food:
(Review submitted by Sunny Eaton.)
Here’s a favorite recipe used in colonial Thanksgiving celebrations:
Ingredients for filling:
Single pie crust (preferably puff pastry)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Line a deep 8” pie plate with crust
Melt butter and set aside to cool. Combine lemon juice and peel, apples, sherry (if using), cream and sugar and mix well. Blend melted butter into mixture. Beat eggs and add; Stir in nutmeg.
Pour mixture into the prepared pie plate.
Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted at the center comes out clean. Cool. Serve.
*Note from Caroline:While I didn't put sherry into the version in the old OSV cookbook, it seems to have crept into the recipe currently being given out. I suggest using 1 cup of apples instead!
Did you ever wonder what it was like to be a passenger on the Mayflower? What the Pilgrims ate? What they wore? How they got to know their Native American neighbors?
In a spectacular presentation Saturday, August 14th, Noelle Parsons Granger answered all these questions and more. She grew up in Plymouth, virtually across the street from what was originally called “Plimoth Plantation” and was one of the first guides hired when it opened. Thus her interest in the Pilgrims and the Pokanoket (Wampanoag) is deep seeded, long lasting, and ongoing.
Her decision on how to write The Last Pilgrim, a work of historical fiction focused on 4-year old Mary Allerton Cushman, turned on what voice to use for the narrative. Finally, after two years of debating this issue, she decided to have Isaac, Mary’s father, speak for her until she became an adult. That worked!
Noelle illustrated her talk with beautiful slides and even added a video of herself sweltering in the winter garb and latchets—shoes—the Pilgrim women wore.
The women who arrived on the “Mayflower,” having endured an unimaginably miserable 66 days at sea, were then required to stay on board while the men went ashore. Conditions were so wretched, that only five women survived the first winter.
Besides the subject of her book, Noelle talked about two other women who played significant roles in the colony. First, Bridget Fuller, a midwife. When other ships arrived after the ‘Mayflower’(The Fortune, Anne, Little James), their passengers included many women. Thus Bridget had a very important job, essentially ensuring the survival of the colony by assisting in the birth of many children.
Another female colonist of note was Elizabeth Warren, who came on the Anne in 1623. Five years after she arrived, her husband, Richard, died and as she did not remarry. She eventually played a role equivalent to that of a man, in that she owned property and paid taxes. Her farm extended from Plymouth to Sandwich, and she earned a place in the Records of Plymouth Colony: “Mistress Elizabeth Warren, an aged widow, aged above 90 years, deceased on the second of October, 1673. Who, having lived a godly life, came to her grave as a shock of corn fully ripe.”
Focusing on Separatist culture, the Plimoth colony, and events of the time, Noelle shared background material from many other topics she researched that were not included in this book. For instance, she talked about a peace treaty between Massasoit and the Pilgrims (Governor John Carver, Captain Myles Standish and Elder William Brewster). They mutually agreed upon nonaggression and mutual defense. I daresay most of us didn’t realize this treaty endured for forty years!
As we learn more about Plymouth Colony, and inasmuch as “Plimoth Plantation” has been renamed the “Plimoth Patuxet Museums,” we can hope for a better understanding of the Wampanoag , ”The People of the Light.”
Thank you, Noelle!
Sunny Eaton Steadman
Frances Perkins is well-known to most of us not only because she was a student at Mount Holyoke (Class of 1902) but because she was the first woman in a Presidential Cabinet.
For our Zoom Mini Reunion held May 8th, Meg Conkey and Judy Burger-Gossart presented a fresh look at Frances’ life and path to the White House. While she was at Mount Holyoke, she witnessed the egregious working conditions in a paper mill which made such an impression on her that she felt “summoned” to do something to help. And so she did.
When Frances entered New York politics and became the Industrial Commissioner, FDR noticed her. In 1933, when he asked her to be Labor Secretary, she presented him with a list of nine demands to which, in fact, he agreed! In the resulting New Deal, only health insurance failed to be included, which is interesting to note because it’s still in contention.
Meg presented first. She has been teaching a full semester course at Berkeley on Frances Perkins and managed to give us ,while screen-sharing slides, a “mini” summation of her course. Judy followed and drew on several photographs to illustrate how Frances’ matronly, dowdy style, charmed the men in the cabinet and helped achieve her goal.
Though many of the 41 classmates who attended had read The Woman Behind the New Deal, we were treated to new insights into Frances’ brilliance as a politician. And, of course, we had a lively question and answer exchange, followed by two breakout sessions where the dialogue about this amazing Mount Holyoke woman continued.
Footnote: Frances Perkins spoke at Mount Holyoke’s Centenary in 1937. Whom shall we choose to speak at our Bicentenary?
Submitted by Sunny Eaton Steadman
Selected Resources to find out more or more details:
The Woman Behind the New Deal, by Kirstin Downey, 2009
The Courage to Meddle: The Belief of Frances Perkins, by Tom Levitt, 2020
A Woman Unafraid: The Achievements of Frances Perkins, by Penny Colman,1993
Frances Perkins: First Woman Cabinet Member, by Emily Keller, 2006
Frances Perkins, First Lady of the Cabinet, by Don Lawson, 1966
Madam Secretary Frances Perkins: by George Martin, 1976
Frances Perkins Center (Damariscotta, ME):www.francesperkinscenter.org
The Living New Deal ( Berkeley, CA );www.livingnewdeal.org
Highlights from the Life and Legacy of Frances Perkins, Frances Perkins Center, 2019
You May Call Her Madam Secretary, Vineyard Video,1987 (available on YouTube)
Image: Laughing Together Across the World
LAUGHTER YOGA on February 13, led by Meg Harlor, was our first “Zoom Mini”. Afterwards we asked the 65 participants what they liked best and least about it: Was the 90-minute time frame adequate? How well did the social breakout sessions function? Ideas for future minis?
In general, our 35 respondents liked Meg’s session andthe opportunity to see each other. After laughing together, our merry mood carried right through to the breakout rooms. We wanted more!
Accordingly, the wizards behind the curtain—Bev Braman Harrison & Margaret “Monnie” Bell facilitated a “Spring Social” on Sunday, March 21st, with brilliant results. From across the US and Europe, 44 of us gathered again on Zoom to continue our conversations.
The next mini reunion will be held on Saturday, May 8th. Meg Conkey and Judy Burger-Gossart will host a program titled, “The Only Woman in the Room.”
READ MORE in COMING EVENTS
Flights and rental cars had already been booked, green baseball caps had been ordered and the reunion book was in the mail to classmates. Then came word that our on-campus gathering couldn’t happen due to Covid-19.
“No way” responded our intrepid Reunion Planning Committee! Zoom was still new to most of us, but we determined to gather virtually on our planned reunion date.
Come Saturday, May 23, 110 class members met for our first “Rezoomion”.
We listened to presentations and joined in small group discussions. Sessions began at noon EST to accommodate participants in Europe and on the West Coast.
More than 90 classmates regrouped Sunday for two hours of socializing in Zoom “breakout rooms”. Read More
A discussion of our “Class Read”, Women Rowing North by Mary Pipher, launched the Saturday program. Never mind that most of us hadn’t read the book. Its subtitle, “Navigating Life's Currents and Flourishing As We Age”, was enough to trigger lively personal responses in the breakout rooms. These groupings were small enough for everyone to get a chance to speak, and we did.
A panel discussion on “Changes, Choices, Challenges” followed.
Caroline Fuller Sloat and Cathy Russell Hammond spoke about adjusting to the loss of their life’s partners. Augusta Gross and Bonnie Penney Ulrich expressed their deep satisfaction in developing entirely new musical skills. Marina Fairbank Muldowney and Alice Bushong described dramatic changes to their living styles and places, and Sallie Wright Abbas spoke about her experience in setting up a non-profit foundation.
Our Class Meeting followed, conducted by Judy Burger-Grossart. In quick order new officers were elected along with new Class Honoraries, MHC President Sonya Stephens and Sociology Professor Eleanor Townsley. Bev Harrison submitted the treasurer’s report and made the motion that class dues remain at $25.
After an hour-long break – during which the screen was filled with a revolving ring of our senior class photos - we reconvened for a Time of Remembrance with a beautiful prelude and postlude by the Slapin-Soloman Viola Duo. Joanne Griffith Domingue and Lynn Hastings Wadhams read out the 66 names of deceased classmates.
On Sunday more than 80 classmates (a different mix than the previous day) met virtually for a 4-6 pm “Happy Hour”. We were randomly sorted into breakout rooms and reshuffled into new ones every 20 minutes. MHC President Sonia Stephens also paid an unexpected visit and took questions.
“People didn’t want to leave,” recalls Margaret (Monnie) Bell, who was monitoring all of the screens. “Everyone was waving. It was really moving.”
“It was like speed dating” Class Communications Coordinator Dianne Middleton Lee remembers. It worked, judging from emails that Dianne received from classmates who met for the first time in these sessions and are still in touch.
Jacqueline (Jackie) Berkowitz observes, “When something proceeds smoothly, it means that it was well planned. Jackie herself went an extra mile, attending the Class of 64’s 55threunion in May,2019 and coming away with two suggestions that proved key: (1) Women were eager to hear from and about classmates, not other speakers. (2) Baseball caps with the class year in Roman numerals are very cool.
Kudos especially to our outstandingly energetic and inventive Reunion Chairs Roberta Aber and Dianne Middleton Lee , and to everyone on their 23- member Reunion Committee. (See Image which follows). There were regular conference calls over 18 months as well as an on-campus planning session.
Special thanks to Dianne for revving-up pre-Reunion enthusiasm through her energetic pursuit of contributions as well as editing and producing the 55th Reunion book, also to Monnie for phoning every classmate for whom we did not have an email. Thanks too for the parade signs, based on the class survey and prepared by Mary Wendnagel Johnson, Alice Bushong and Cathy Russell Hammond.
The actual switch to virtual mode was orchestrated by Roberta and Dianne and coordinated by MHC junior Hanalei Steinhart and Monnie. Originally two MHC students were retained for the job, but the second was side-lined by her visa status as a foreign student. Luckily, Monnie stepped in to initiate classmates to the mysteries of Zoom, coining the term “Rezoomion” in the process.
The Takeaway: Nothing can replicate the campus experience of hugging and catching up with old friends. But our Rezoomion did have its advantages, attracting some class members who hadn’t been back to campus in 55 years and demonstrating a viable way of keeping in touch between campus reunions. MHC ’65 now has a Zoom-Pro account of our own. Quarterly virtual mini-reunions are planned, beginning in February, 2021. Stay tuned. Check your email and this website for details.
Scenes from our fabulous mini MHC reunion of classmates from our 50th reunion planning committee at Rose Hill farm in Oconomowoc, WI, home of Helen and Bert Forster
at the local MHC Peninsula Decades Lunch. Michael's Restaurant in Mountain View, CA, March 20, 2017. Betsy Dippel Archambeault, Amy Laden, Bev Braman Harrison, and Lassie Barela.
A beautiful setting for a luncheon and lively conversation.
Back Row: Chris Tree, Yarrow (Anne) Cleaves, Judi Coburn Harris, Kristin Stueber, Laura Nixdorf Bernstein, Dotsy Derick, Beth Tietze Lowd, Marty Martin Nestor (our hostess), Cynthia Gallup Phelps. Front Row: Caroline Fuller Sloat, Barbara Holtz, Erika Saunders, Debbie Klein Walker.
Ten members of the Class of 1965 started preparing for our 55th reunion at the Volunteer Conference in September 2016. Seated l to r: Kristen Stueber, Caroline Fuller Sloat, Roberta Aber, Bev Braman Harrison, Beth Tietze Lowd. Standing l to r: Judy Smith Partlow. Judy Burger-Gossart, Jackie Berkowitz, Susie Beers Betzer, Karen Kelly Becker.