Day of Triumph

Gabby Giffords event

Scripps College declared a day of triumph on campus on November 15, as the continued recovery of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords ’93 was affirmed by her appearance on ABC’s 20/20 and the national release of Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope.

A celebration — with mariachi music and joyous remembrances — took place 10 months after a very different campus and community gathering; a Candlelight Circle of Hope followed the assassination attempt on Giffords, which left six dead and seriously injured her.

To a crowd of students, faculty, staff, and members of the Claremont community in Holden Court, Scripps College President Lori Bettison-Varga read a personal letter from Giffords’ husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, who wrote the book with Giffords. In the letter he said, “Gabby attributes her keen sense of curiosity and her ability to lead to those formative years at Scripps College.”

Bettison-Varga was joined at the podium by Kelly Hewitt ’08, director of the Scripps College Academy, who spoke about Giffords as an important role model for young women; Claire Bridge ’82, who relayed the impact of Giffords’ 2009 Scripps College Commencement address on her and her daughter, Meghan Bridge ’09; and Janel Henriksen Hastings ’91, who shared personal recollections of Giffords during her college years.

“Gabby is a role model, not just for our students, but for all women and for all Americans,” said Bettison-Varga. “She did not shy away from her calling to be a leader. With grace and determination, she has become an outstanding and courageous public servant. Gabrielle Giffords’ career shows that she is fiercely independent — framing her positions on issues thoughtfully and humanely, and, in the words of our founder, Ellen Browning Scripps, ‘with confidence, courage and hope.'”

The celebration also included an opportunity for guests to write notes to Giffords and a drawing for five copies of Gabby.

Giffords is the College’s first graduate elected to a national office; in 2006, she won the seat for Arizona’s 8th district in the U.S. House of Representatives and became the first woman to represent Arizona in Congress in more than a decade. As a Fulbright scholar after Scripps, Giffords spent a year in Chihuahua, Mexico, researching Old Colony Mennonites.

On January 21, Gifford announced that she was stepping down from her elected position because she could not continue her recovery and still serve as a member of Congress.