Forever Scripps

by Amy DerBedrosian, Illustrations by David Robinson

forever-scripps-bodyA day at Disneyland. A commitment to diversity. A “camp” on campus. Friendships formed in a shared suite. Parenthood. A common class year. Many different things bring Scripps alumnae together. But there is also a common thread: These women feel an affinity for each other that transcends generations and geography.

“There’s something about Scripps that gets into your soul. There’s a sense of connection and trust,” says Emily Rankin ’97, who spent seven years as the director of Alumnae Relations for Scripps. Alumnae Leadership Council President Kendra Armer ’93 reinforces this idea, noting, “I can have a conversation with a Scripps graduate of any era and find something to talk about.”

For some alumnae, the conversation takes place over a good book. Long after graduation, Scripps women remain ardent readers. In Tucson, a mix of fiction and nonfiction brings alumnae together each month for a meal and discussion. The gatherings that Loralyn Ledwell-Cropper ’84 has attended in Connecticut also involve dinner, though there’s no set theme to the reading, while the Pasadena group emphasizes alumnae authors and titles with local ties, according to book club member and Scripps Alumna Trustee Barbara Bruner ’76.

“There’s a connection that’s immediate because of our common humanities background. We have great respect for the intellectual experience,” says Katherine Cerino ’70, who launched the Tucson book club soon after moving to the city in 2005.

Friendships form even among alumnae who don’t meet face to face. Former preschool teacher Catherine Myman-Kaplan ’00 has found warmth, support, and a place to share her expertise in a virtual community for Scripps alumnae who are mothers. Incipit Vita Mamas, which started in 2012, now has more than 400 active members, from those newly pregnant to women with children soon off to college. “I’ve made really good friends. In this community of moms, people are real. They talk about the times they’ve struggled and let you know it’s okay if you’re not perfect,” says Myman-Kaplan. “It’s been nice to have Scripps move with me through marriage and parenthood.”

Other connections begin online but also engage alumnae in person. Diana Ho ’71 has been her class scribe since graduation, but six years ago the organizational consultant created an online portal for her classmates’ exclusive use. Accessed via an email link, it provides a place for correspondence, storytelling, and announcements. “By the time we get to reunion, we’re all caught up. We can take the conversations to a different level when we’re together,” says Ho, who estimates that 70 to 80 of her classmates use the portal.

Scrippsies at Disneyland, a group of alumnae connected by interest rather than class year, also got its start online, on Facebook. Emily Rankin coordinates the day at the theme park, which has drawn graduates from the mid-1970s to the 2000s and from as far as Colorado and Seattle. “It’s about tapping into your inner kid with people who won’t judge you about it. Part of it is sisterhood. We like Disneyland, but we also like being together,” says Rankin, noting that the Scrippsies at Disneyland Facebook group now has 73 members.

But excursions with other Scrippsies are far from new—alumnae have gone places together for years. Lawyer, poet, and Scripps College Board of Trustees member Lynne Thompson ’72 has traveled with four former classmates for the past decade, most recently to Ireland. With each woman residing in a different location—one in London for much of the time—coordination is challenging but vital.

“This group has given me a critical support system and a sense of joy,” says Thompson, who lived with the others throughout her time at Scripps. “All that we learned about one another and shared with one another helped us build a foundational friendship that’s lasted more than 40 years.”

Theirs isn’t the only longstanding friendship among Scripps women. While Thompson and her friends started annual trips only after establishing their careers and families, a group from the Class of 1977 has gathered each year without fail since graduation. The seven women who collectively call themselves “The Gulls”—a variation of “girls” that dates to their student days—point to their shared Scripps experience and humor as the reasons.

“I think Scripps provided the context— the learning environment to grow our friendship,” says Nancy Torrey ’77, who went on to be an artist, international consultant, and expert on health issues for youth in the U.S. criminal justice system. Amy Wind ’77, a former trial attorney who now heads mediation programs for the federal courts in Washington, D.C., adds, “We grew up together and had all kinds of adventures together.”

They and the other Gulls from ’77—Mary Beth White, Dana Frye Serleth, Kari Karlsgodt, Ann Laurenson, and Mary Jean Neault—were determined that the friendship would endure. Neault, who leads the marketing and community outreach efforts for a large nonprofit life-care senior community in Pomona, California, says, “It’s taken a lot of effort, but it’s just a life-giving relationship, each one individually and even more with the whole.”

They’ve celebrated marriages and birthdays, guided each other through divorces and career transitions, and reunited in California, Mexico, and Montana. Karlsgodt, a retired high school teacher, says, “We talk about politics and the College and all the things we’ve bottled up since the last time. It’s mostly cerebral, intellectual conversation— intertwined with ice cream for lunch.”

But most of all, says White, who worked in marketing and customer service in the health field, “It’s been a continuous flow of fabulous friendship, and that has meant so much to me.” Fabulous friendships also come to mind for Ann Westaway ’69 when she talks about Camp Scripps, which Rankin describes as the “quintessential alumnae experience.” Westaway has attended all but two of the alumnae retreats since they were first held on the Scripps campus in 1994 and is a longtime member of its organizing committee, known as the Creative Caucus. For four days each year, she and Scripps women of all ages come together for workshops and other activities designed for and by alumnae.

“The workshops aren’t just about intellectual pursuits—the topic can be anything. We have had workshops on paper making, tater tots, burlesque, and yoga, and each year we have a costume party. It’s amazing what skills and interests 100 women from different generations have,” says Westaway, who is the unofficial camp historian.

But her favorite part of Camp Scripps is the time she spends with other alumnae. Westaway says, “Scripps women are so smart and funny. I had no idea the connection was so strong until we started Camp Scripps. I look forward to seeing everybody, and I’ve made friends at camp that I also see during the year.”

For LeeAnn Allen Hammett ’12, joining Camp Scripps was initially a means to relieve homesickness. She first attended a year after graduating, while working in Memphis as a geometry teacher. She says, “I felt welcomed and valued as a young alumna. Seeing all the passion of Scripps women in an informal, fun way inspires me to be more creative.”

Now Allen Hammett, too, is a member of the Creative Caucus. Still among the few recent graduates going to Camp Scripps, she plans to lead a workshop on salsa dancing this summer. She says, “It’s inspiring to see the women who come back to camp, to have these friends. Being around all these strong women helps me tap into the strength in myself.”

While Camp Scripps is reaching out to newer alumnae like Allen Hammett, Fabiola Ceballos-Durham ’02 is engaged with an even younger group of Scripps women: current students. As chair of the Alumnae/Student Diversity Committee, she works with a wide variety of campus clubs and organizations—those whose members include Asian, Latina, LGBTQ, and other underrepresented groups, such as students with disabilities—to provide mentoring, networking, activities, and support.

Ceballos-Durham’s involvement began when, as a Scripps senior, she had concerns about diversity and inclusion on campus. Her experience on the then-new committee, and the friendships she developed with the alumnae she met, led her to remain active after graduation. “We want to create a community that’s positive and supportive so students feel they have someone they can go to. There’s definitely interest in both directions to foster a relationship and form a network,” Ceballos-Durham says.

She is like many alumnae in using the word “community” in conversations about Scripps. Time after time, the concept of community is also evident in the actions of Scripps women. It is apparent as Diana Ho talks about rallying her Northern California classmates via the online portal to welcome a Scripps alumna new to Sonoma. And it is reinforced in the memories LeeAnn Allen Hammett has of having to miss Camp Scripps last summer because of marriage and a move. Calling it one of her most cherished moments from camp, Allen Hammett says, “Even though I didn’t attend, campers made and signed a card to congratulate me on my wedding and mailed it to my new apartment. I felt so loved and honored that they were thinking of me during camp. Talk about community!”

 

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