Alumnae Respond

by Leslie Martes '02

On September 18, President Nancy Y. Bekavac sent an e-mail to alumnae. Here are excerpts:

“We began this week with very different hopes and expectations than we began last week. We face a new set of challenges as well.

“As we turn to family, friends and colleagues for support and comfort, our thoughts go out to you, the graduates of our college who now make your homes all over the country and beyond its borders. We want to reassure you that current students, faculty, staff, and trustees appear to have experienced no loss of life or major injuries to themselves or any immediate family members due to last week’s events.

“We hope that, in this time of confusion and sorrow, you will find strength in the words of Ellen Browning Scripps, describing the mission of your alma mater: ‘The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.’ Here, we continue to focus on that goal and on our mission to educate women ‘so that as graduates they may contribute to society through public and private lives of leadership, service, integrity and creativity.’

“We also cling to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr: ‘Darkness cannot overcome darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot overcome hate; only love can do that.'”

Linda O’Toole ’67:

I was pleased to receive the e-mail with its inspiring thoughts and proud to see the thoughtful reflection on the response/ reaction to the events of September 11. Thank you for reaching out to the alumnae community. We are all suffering and trying to make sense of these events. It helps to have a fine mentoring community to offer some perspective.

Elizabeth Santillanez Robson ’80:

Thank you for your wonderful message sent to Scripps alumnae. It is at times like these that I am so grateful for having attended Scripps College. I knew as a young woman that I was attracted to the philosophy of the College, however as a young woman it is sometimes hard to put things into perspective the same way that you can later in life. Now I truly feel the benefits of having a broad scope of knowledge that my Scripps education provided, and I really cherish the memory of the founder who was such an inspirational woman in so many ways. Thank you for reminding all of us about her wise words, which are the motto for the college, and about the wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King. These thoughts can help to strengthen and sustain us during these difficult times.

Maria Tham ’91:

My sister Lily forwarded me your e-mail and your regards. Thank you so much. September 11 was indeed such a horrible day, and being in the West Coast (I now live in Santa Clara, CA, with my husband and son), I felt so helpless.

Having worked in the WTC before, having walked that area countless times, when I heard buildings were collapsing, I could just see everything in front of my eyes. I am so happy my brother escaped just before WTC2 collapsed but feel so sad for [those] who were not so lucky. I pray for all the families and everybody affected by this tragedy…

Catherine Myman ’00:

I just wanted to say thank you for the e-mail updating me on how the Scripps community was doing in the wake of such a horrific tragedy. It is wonderful to know how strong and courageous we all can be when we stand together.

A member of the Class of ’83:

Courage, Confidence, and Hope. Yes, could we ever know how difficult those words could be to shoulder and how important?

Albert Einstein’s words of 1947:

“People are unable to view this situation in its true light, for their eyes are blinded by passion. General fear and anxiety create hatred and aggressiveness. The adaptation to warlike aims and activities has corrupted the mentality of man; as a result, intelligent, objective, and humane thinking has hardly any effect and is even suspected and persecuted as unpatriotic….”

It will be difficult to maintain an atmosphere for rational discussion in the coming years, let alone in this moment. Yet, education and factual debate has never been so important. If there is anything I can help or contribute in your endeavors, please, it would be an honor.

Sarah Riggio ’97:

I currently live in Claremont and continue to be at Scripps working with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. I am thrilled to be working with Scripps women because I loved my experience at Scripps, and I think Scripps women are amazing.

I have been on campus to meet with students and hear their thoughts and perspectives regarding the national events. I came to the event planned on the 11th and I have tried to attend different lectures and gatherings on campus and through the Chaplains’ office. I have been pleased that there is discussion happening and forums for students to speak out and engage with the world at large. These meetings have been helpful I’m sure for the few students who attend.

I am concerned about students who express to me new levels of fear in their lives and confusion about witnessing such an act of hatred and evil. I hear many students discussing racism and hate crimes and overall destructive behavior, and asking questions that are reaching beyond mere intellectual curiosity to personal concern for the reality of the world they live in and are affected by on a heart level. The emotions that are surfacing for these women (and there are quite a few who are expressing this when they allow themselves to deal with their reactions) are deep and significant. I have feelings about the spiritual nature of issues such as fear and confusion, racism, and evil, but I also understand that this is often not talked about in a broad way on the campus.

My hope is that there can be adequate avenues to address the nation’s situation not merely from a political or psychological or international relations standpoint, but also from a spiritual one. (I am also greatly concerned about an overall ignorance on campus concerning Islam-religion is playing an extremely important role in all of this.)

Thanks for “hearing” this out. I also wanted to let you know that I am praying for you and for Scripps College, especially the students, on a regular basis. If there is ever anything that I can do to be of assistance, please let me know. I love Scripps, and I want the women there to experience life to the fullest.

Julia Gafford Wolf ’71:

I have not been the most active alumna of Scripps but have certainly maintained my very deep ties to my Scripps years through lifelong friendships with my Browning Hall friends. I was greatly moved by my experience attending the reunion last spring as it reminded me of the outstanding education I received there and recalled specific memories of places and moments that were hidden in the recesses of my mind. All this is to preface how much I appreciated the e-mail you sent after the tragedy of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington. It made me realize that we are such a family in a way that larger institutions cannot be, and again made me appreciate the personal caring and concern for each of us that I experienced during my years at Scripps and after.

I am a therapist and direct a therapy program for sexually abused children at one of the largest child advocacy centers in the nation. This national trauma was a horrible layer of trauma duped on top of the other layers of trauma that our small clients must cope with every day. Your e-mail was an inspiration to me that day to go to work and to try to pass on to all of the children, and the incredible team of therapists who work with them, the very personal feeling of caring that you passed on to each of us through your sincere and heartfelt comments. Support comes in surprising ways sometimes and I just wanted to write and let you know that your e-mail was an unexpected but very appreciated source of support to me that I was able to pass on.

Thank you for your love of Scripps and your dedication to us all.