Remembering Stephanie Probst Rasines ’71
By Elizabeth Hamilton
When Stephanie Probst Rasines ’71 passed away in January from complications of pancreatic cancer, she was remembered as a devoted wife and mother, an accomplished attorney, a passionate advocate for immigrants’ rights, and a dedicated Scripps classmate, alumna, and Board member. However, Stephanie’s story almost didn’t include Scripps. As a high-school senior in Riverside, California, she had been accepted at a handful of other colleges, but when she visited each of those campuses, none pleased her. A family friend suggested she look at Scripps. Stephanie would later say that from the moment she walked through Honnold Gate, she felt at home. But she knew that the deadline for new-student applications had passed. Undeterred, she made her way to the admission office and announced she wished to be admitted and would need a scholarship. She was accepted into the Class of 1971, and the College awarded her the scholarship that enabled her to attend.
Then, the year before she was to graduate, Stephanie left Scripps. A Latin American studies major, she had fallen in love with a student at Pomona College, an engineer from Venezuela named Miguel Rasines. They married and returned to Miguel’s job at a mining camp deep in the backcountry of Venezuela, where there was no television, no newspaper, and no supermarket, and Stephanie had very little contact with the world she had left behind. And yet, her connection to Scripps somehow persisted. A few years passed, and Scripps Professor of Spanish Ruth Lamb tracked Stephanie down, writing to say that she would be coming to South America and planned to “drop by.” (Dropping by was no easy feat— the mining camp was on the way to nowhere, 200 miles from the nearest city to the north and bounded on the south by the Amazon jungle.) But Professor Lamb did come. She convinced Stephanie to reenroll at Scripps and finish her education. Stephanie returned, wrote her senior honors thesis, and graduated in 1977.
Professor Lamb’s visit, and this decision to return to Scripps, altered the course of Stephanie’s life. She returned to Venezuela soon after graduating, but her marriage dissolved and she came back to the U.S. She enrolled in and graduated from law school at Columbia University, joined a prestigious Wall Street law firm, met and married attorney Richard Norton, and adopted a son and threw herself into motherhood. Looking back on Stephanie’s accomplishments, Richard sees her time at Scripps—and her relationship with Lamb in particular— as “transformational,” giving her the tools to take risks and move forward. “She benefited from the beauty and the safety of being at Scripps, at a women’s college, a place that she saw held a lot of promise,” he explains. “She had a sense that this place could be really good for her. And it was.”
Throughout her life, Stephanie generously gave back to the place she felt had nurtured her so deeply. She was an active alumna and donor, and in 2003 she initiated the Scripps College Ruth Lamb Memorial Scholarship for women needing assistance to do what she had done— return to college after a lapse of years. She was also an influential trustee. “That was one of Stephanie’s lifelong dreams—to be on the Scripps Board. She took it really seriously,” recalls Richard. Among her most significant achievements, she instituted a Board review of the College’s finances, which the trustees had never undertaken before. She also successfully opposed a proposal to build a new residence hall where Revelle House now stands because, according to Richard, “she thought Scripps had one of the most beautiful campuses anywhere and that it was worth preserving.” (That project, NEW Hall, was eventually moved to the northwest part of campus.) She was vehement about preserving Scripps as a women’s college and was never dissuaded from advocating for what she thought was right for her alma mater.
Stephanie’s profound connection to Scripps is even visible at her Pasadena home, where she designed a courtyard garden that evokes the many gardens on campus. She undertook the project during the last months of her life as something she had always wanted to do—the primary item on her “bucket list.” When it was finished, though she could no longer walk, she insisted on being moved into the room that afforded her the best garden view— her words upon settling in were, “Oh, how lovely!” Richard reflects, “While Stephanie got to see her garden fully planted, she never got to see it like it is today, or like it is going to be tomorrow.” But, he concedes, that’s not something she would have minded so much, as long as it continues to flourish.
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