Tell us about your Dickinson experience.
I came to Dickinson in 1988, six months after losing my father to liver cancer. I wasn’t sure if I had it in me to thrive, and I certainly didn’t feel like my best self, but Dickinson provided a warm, secure world in which I could regain my footing. My freshman floor bonded immediately—I’m sure we pushed our ever-patient RA to the brink of his sanity—and joining Pi Beta Phi connected me to a whole new group of intelligent, inspiring women. Delving into dramatic characters, writing short stories, pulling apart key ideas and language in texts were passions fostered by Dickinson that are part of my daily life as a high school English teacher. My experiences at Dickinson helped me figure out who I wanted to be, and I will be forever thankful.
How has Dickinson’s useful liberal-arts education helped you?
I have a quotation by Annie Dillard painted on my classroom wall that reads: “All the things in this world are interesting, infinitely interesting, if you have attention to give them.” While I can’t profess to have given equal attention to all things in college, participating in a liberal-arts education certainly broadened my horizons and helped me appreciate unexpected topics. One of my favorite classes was on bioethics. I took it purely as my non-lab science distribution requirement. We explored issues around the Amazon rainforest, the AIDS epidemic and the brain, and I loved it so much that I can still picture the cover of the textbook we used. How lucky was I to have this opportunity!
College education is expensive, and I know that my students (who are all high school seniors) want guarantees that their educations will set them on a secure career path. A liberal-arts education may, to them, seem impractical, but when I look at the successful careers my Dickinson friends and classmates have had, I disagree. A liberal-arts education helps us engage more deeply with the world and builds skills that apply across many disciplines. I believe that is what college should be all about.
Giving a small amount each year was a habit I developed after helping out with Phonathons as a student. I remember how fun it was to get an alum to say, “yes, I’ll give,” and then we’d get to ring a bell to celebrate. I never could say no to a student after being on the other side! Donating has become even more important to me as a means to honor classmates we’ve lost over the years, specifically Melissa Harrington Hughes ’92 and Matthew S. Baker ’92. I hope contributions like mine will help students who may struggle with the cost of private college to be able to attend.
What’s your favorite memory from your time at Dickinson?
I had four years full of great memories, but a few stand out the most.
It was incredibly special to receive an award, with my fellow dramatic-arts majors, to put on our own play as a senior thesis. We had the main stage for rehearsals from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., so we were often punch-drunk and giddy with exhaustion, but we had an amazing experience.
My favorite memories are the small moments: walks in the rain with friends, dancing to 90s hip hop at a party, literary conversations with English professors that would linger after class was over, inside jokes, charity events, eating chicken salad on a bagel at the SNAR, running weekly sorority meetings—these are all amazing experiences. There was so much love and laughter over that four-year span.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I love being a teacher and being part of a school community, so much of my free time is spent helping out at school events. Right now I’m learning a dance that will be part of a talent show in two weeks. I am married to an F&M grad (whose older brother graduated from Dickinson in 1989) and we have three children—Marlena (19), Thomas (16), and Tanner (16)—with whom I spend as much time as possible. Typical for an English teacher, I read often and have to force myself to put my books down so that I get enough sleep. I love languages and am refamiliarizing myself with Spanish, although my first love is French, which I studied for 15 years. On weekends, I take my two dogs on destination walks; I love exploring trails through the woods. I wish I had done more of that in college!
What advice would you give to today’s students?
Be active and engaged in your community, and take time to reflect on key moments. You truly do get out of experiences what you put into them, so participate with enthusiasm and reflect with grace towards yourself and others.
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Published June 27, 2022