Generations of Spence women from across the country and world came together for a joyous virtual Reunion, the first ever of its kind, celebrating in particular class years ending in “0,” “1,” “5” and “6.”
Pivoting to a virtual celebration opened up new possibilities and ways to reimagine the event, Head of School Bodie Brizendine emphasized in her opening remarks. “One of the big silver linings is the way we can reach out to everybody...bring all of you from all corners here.”
Indeed, over 200 Spence alumnae Zoomed into the virtual programming from wherever they were––their kitchens, living rooms and even their cars––spending the course of three days rekindling old memories of Spence and making new ones. From near and far, they attended class gatherings, student and faculty panels, and classes led by current Spence faculty, where they were able to experience the rigorous Spence curriculum firsthand.
Even as this year’s celebration ushered in many firsts, the most important Reunion traditions were maintained in a new virtual setting. The time-honored tradition of a rose ceremony welcoming the senior class to the Alumnae Association continued with a twist: each senior was gifted a beautiful box of candy roses as they listened to speeches in their honor.
During this unique year, “the senior class [has] been unflagging in their support, and they never forget their spirit or their love of School,” Brizendine underscored. “I thank them deeply and welcome them here today.”
Brizendine further commended the entire Spence community for its grace and resilience as they met the challenges of continuing School during a pandemic. “We’re living, not for school but for life we learn,” said Brizendine, invoking the Spence motto. “And I think we’ve never lost sight of the words ‘passion,’ ‘purpose’ and ‘perspective’ in our mission statement...and an even bigger silver lining for all of us, when we return back to normal, is we’ll remember marshaling all of our strength together...to keep School.”
In her speech, Senior Class President Alexa J. ’21 reflected on her pride in the Class of 2021 as they have navigated a senior year unlike any other. “I think it’s fair to say that the majority of us spent much of high school waiting in anticipation for our senior year,” said Alexa, recalling the many senior year traditions she and her classmates looked forward to making their own, such as joyously welcoming students to the 91st Street building on the first day of school and walking kindergarteners down the aisle at the first All-School Assembly of the year.
“As we know, our senior year was a little different,” Alexa shared. “Despite this, I wouldn’t say that we broke tradition. Our passion for what we do each day and excitement for our futures is no different from former Spence students...I am extremely proud of my class as we reach the end of our time at Spence.”
Alexa also emphasized the important role Spence alumnae have played in guiding the Class of 2021 over the years. “From annual lectures to Career Day, Spence alumnae have inspired us and encouraged us to pursue our passions, challenge ourselves and give excitement for the future. Today we are proud to be celebrating Spence and the community of alumnae who have led us here.”
Another important tradition, the presentation of the Distinguished Alumnae Awards, continued virtually this year, as the 2020 and 2021 award recipients, Allyson Mitchell Waterman ’85 and Judith Joseph Jenkins ’91, were recognized for their professional accomplishments and devotion to Spence. In their speeches accepting the award, Waterman and Jenkins shared inspirational messages of congratulations with the senior class.
“You embody all that is wonderful about Spence,” said Waterman. “And while you may leave the building, you never leave the Red Doors behind...I can’t wait to see you back here for your fifth Reunion and hear about your incredible adventures.”
Jenkins spoke about the “lifelong relationships and depth of connection” between Spence graduates. “As I celebrate my 30th anniversary of my graduation, I’m really appreciative of that connection and I truly cherish it. My message to our graduating seniors is: your life at Spence does not end at graduation….Your input and your energy are needed and the influence you can have will extend far beyond what you might have thought it could be.”
Of course, no Spence Reunion is complete without coming together to sing the Spence School Song. The refrain, “beloved school, beloved school…” rang out from hundreds of computers and phones as Sawyer N. ’21 led alumnae in a stunning rendition of the song. And, the traditional Triple Trio performance was taken this year to the virtual stage with a wonderful acapella cover of “Set Fire to the Rain” by Adele.
For the first time, this year’s Reunion attendees also had the opportunity to hear from a panel of current students and faculty from all three divisions about their love of School, as well as the challenges and opportunities of learning during COVID-19. Moderated by Brizendine, the panel included one student representative from each division––Lily P. from Grade 4, Kelsey J. from Grade 8, and Elizabeth K. from the senior class––as well as Head of Lower School Elizabeth Causey, Head of Middle School Karen Sullivan and Head of Upper School Rachael Flores.
Other Reunion highlights included Brizendine’s talk, “The View from the Seventh Floor”––in which she reflected on how teaching and learning has been reimagined to meet the demands of the past year, and what life is like for students at Spence today––as well as opportunities to learn about Spence’s current diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work at a Coffee Hour with Director of Institutional Equity Rebecca Hong and a discussion with alumnae practitioners of DEI.
Many thanks to all who made this year’s very special event possible, including Alumnae Association President, Lauren Kleinberg Levy ’93, the entire Reunion Committee, and Reunion Co-Chairs Meg Hester Giroux ’75, Alexa Lambert ’81, Catherine Yatrakis Economakis ’90, Denise Burrell-Stinson ’91, Kristin Ogdon ’96, Sarah L. Kushner ’05, Olivia Merns Berger ’06 and Katherine Aitkenhead ’15.