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‘Like Family:’ Reunion 2015

Spence welcome back more than 250 alumnae for Reunion, in particular celebrating classes ending in “0” and “5.” 

View a full gallery of Reunion 2015 photos here!
Rebecca Chaplan ’75 and Kristina Austlid ’75 were proud to remember that their class was among the first to use computer terminals. Unlike typewriters, they had “a magic backspace button,” and they dialed up to a mainframe at Dartmouth that allowed girls to “talk” with students at Riverdale. Forty years later, Rebecca and Kristina were seeing each other for the first time since graduation at the Reunion and 1892 Society Tea at the home of Head of School Bodie Brizendine. Rebecca is a psychiatrist and Kristina is a systems engineer at Lockheed Martin.

Across the room, Rebecca Schiffman ’00 was also reconnecting with a classmate, trading notes on career choices. She is a singer-songwriter recording her third album, and also a jewelry designer, while Stephanie Stratigos ’00 is a resident in psychiatry. Ms. Brizendine, who shared anecdotes of why she has “the best job in town,” welcomed her guests from classes ending in “0” and “5.” She also gave special recognition to the 23 new 1892 Society members who have provided for Spence in their estate planning.

This year’s Reunion drew over 250 alumnae, a record for the participating classes. On Friday, April 17, former Spence students admired recent renovations and additions to the campus during school tours. Visiting the Lower School, Laura Doyle Hammam ’96, P’23, P’25, showed a group of alumnae the STEAM Lab (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math), where they were impressed with snowflakes students had designed using 3D printing technology.

Even Spence’s youngest alumnae were seeing facility developments for the first time. Sonam Choedon ’10 was excited about the new Fitness Center, with its cutting-edge exercise equipment. Though she has been out of college only a year, Sonam has already taken several steps in her career, first becoming an AmeriCorps volunteer, and through that position getting hired by the Railroad Street Youth Project, a youth mentoring nonprofit in the Berkshires.

At Friday’s Luncheon, two alumnae were recognized for their distinguished service to Spence: Hilary Singleton-Green Corman ’85 and Janine Lederman Flammang ’80. Dr. Marisa Reddy Randazzo ’85 was also recognized for her professional achievement, as a managing partner of SIGMA Threat Management Associates and an international expert on violence prevention. In Ms. Brizendine’s remarks, she explored the idea that responsibility is “the ability to respond.” And illustrating that concept, senior class president Lizzie Speyer ’15 spoke about special memories of her class, such as canoeing in the rain and breaking out into song together.

Alumnae from all classes shared luncheon tables with beloved faculty members, including the soon-to-retire Mary Frosch (English), Louise Hartwell (Lower School Visual Arts) and James Coleman (Drama). The Class of 2015 was welcomed into the Alumnae Association with roses. Afterward, seniors reported noticing some Middle Schoolers passing by who had seemed especially interested in the event, perhaps because they were looking forward to their own enrollment in the Alumnae Association or possibly because they were pleased to see that Gwyneth Paltrow ’90 had joined the celebration.

Additional attendees of note included Jessica Mayberry ’95, who traveled with her two young sons from their home in Goa, India, where she leads a human rights organization that empowers Indian women to produce local language video news content. Alison Fay ’95 arrived in good spirits, having just delivered a baby boy eight days previously. Another Class of 1995 alum, photographer Tara Todras-Whitehill, couldn’t attend, but she sent a video greeting from Sierra Leone, where she was on assignment as a photographer.

In her Friday afternoon talk, “The View from the Seventh Floor,” Ms. Brizendine gave an overview of current and upcoming school initiatives. These included a new $3 million gift for design and engineering programs, and the new field house on 90th Street that will allow for regulation-size courts, additional room for spectators and community partnerships. She also spoke about her belief that “diversity is essential to future leadership,” and the importance of valuing inquiry, engagement and discernment in all of the School’s activities. Tamara White Marz ’75 was so inspired by the talk that she declared, “I am ready to sign up and come back to school as a kindergartener.”

Guests continued to arrive throughout the Cocktail Reception and Class Gatherings that followed on Friday evening, and many were back at Spence on Saturday morning for a sunny brunch on the 10th-floor terrace. Mothers from the Class of 1995 attempted to gather all the attending children into one picture, and were somewhat successful.

Sonja Klein Sugerman ’95 even brought her 10-month-old son Theo to the class offerings later that day. He proved to be an excellent listener throughout the Literature of the Civil Rights Movement session. The class, led by Ms. Frosch and Head of Upper School Michèle Krauthamer, touched on Starbucks’ recent attempts to start conversations about race, and on an article in The Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates titled “The Case for Reparations.” Meanwhile, in Ms. Brizendine’s class on Hamlet, participants analyzed the famous “To be or not to be” speech and practiced crafting metaphors.

Kit Smyth Basquin ’59, who participates in two singing groups, was thoroughly impressed by the last official offering of the day: Triple Trio’s performance. “They’re the best they’ve been in years,” she exclaimed.

While alums remarked throughout the weekend on how much Spence has changed, conversations also turned to the constants. “Everybody not only looks the same but acts the same as when we were 18,” asserted Monica Lange ’70. Her classmate, Mary Van Vort-Marino ’70, agreed, adding: “It’s like family.”

View a full gallery of Reunion 2015 photos here.