Mills Quarterly, Summer 2015

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2 5 y e a r s a f t e r t h e s t r i k e : w o m e n ’ s e d u c at i o n t o d ay      c h i m e s c r e at e c o m m u n i t y

Mills Quarterly Summmer 2015

As a student, Mills was my home for years: it was a place of growth, challenge, change, and community. I know that funding my education would not have been possible without the generosity of alumnae who came before me. I give to the annual fund to help future generations of students, all of whom will make Mills better.

Aisha Gonzalez ’13

behind every gift there is a story

Each gift to the College has a story—about a life-path discovered at Mills and followed into the world, about life long friendships and inspiring mentors, about a voice found or strengthened. These are the stories you make possible for future generations when you give to Mills. Each gift really does count: college assessors, including U.S. News & World

Report, consider graduates’ giving an important measure of a learning community’s excellence. Your gifts to Mills are a vote of confidence in the College’s future.

Give to the Mills College Annual Fund by calling 510.430.2366, visiting, or returning the enclosed envelope.




Mills Quarterly

contents Summer 2015 2

A time for all things

President Alecia DeCoudreaux responds to questions regarding her decision to conclude her term as head of the College and addresses the challenges that remain ahead.


Evolve or die by Dawn Cunningham ’85

Difficult economic realities, emerging technology, and changing student needs are radically altering the face of higher education. These challenges are even greater for women’s liberal arts colleges. Can they adapt and survive?


In her image by Jessica Langlois, MFA ’10

Mills alumnae explore standard notions of beauty and show what happens when women produce, examine, and reclaim images of themselves.


Sound and the city by Linda Schmidt

Experimental music and urban design join forces to create a lively public art installation.


Bent Twigs

Continuing a longstanding College tradition, we recognize members of this year’s graduating class whose family tree includes another Mills alumna.

Departments 4

Mills Matters


Class Notes


In Memoriam

On the cover: A panel from the mural Her Resilience, a project directed by Hazel Streete ’11, MBA ’13, to honor women who have experienced violence. Read more beginning on page 15, and visit the website Artwork by Nicole Gervacio, photo by Dana Davis.

A Message from the President of Mills College

A time for all things By Alecia A. DeCoudreaux On April 30, the Mills College Board of Trustees announced that Alecia DeCoudreaux will conclude her presidency in 2016 after five years at the helm of the College. See the President’s answers to common questions about the transition below.

and have been creatively responding to them. These challenges include meeting enrollment goals as well as the need for many students to secure financial aid, a substantial portion of which comes

Q: You announced that you will step down from the Mills presidency when your contract expires in June 2016. Why did you decide now was the right time to make this decision?

was highlighted for me in early May,

from college operating budgets. We are

when I made a prescheduled visit to

all trying to sort out how best to deal

meet with the executive director of the

with the high costs of technology, the

Fletcher Jones Foundation in Pasadena.

changing dynamics in the delivery of

After talking a bit about my decision not

education, and the desire by students

A: Given that my contract expires in

to renew my contract, we launched into

and other adult learners to have access

a year, I wanted to give the Board of

a robust discussion of the renovation of

to various forms of study anytime and

Trustees as much time as possible to

Lisser Hall. Soon thereafter, the College

anywhere, well beyond the traditional

initiate a search and identify the next

was invited to submit a funding proposal

daytime classroom setting. Another criti-

president of the College. Part of my

to them. I will continue to contact other

cal issue we are trying to address is the

decision not to renew my contract lies in

funders who have generously supported

fact that the world of work is changing

the strength of our Board leadership, the

Mills College throughout the years in

so rapidly that we must be innovative in

underlying commitment to our strategic

order to move the Lisser project forward,

preparing students for jobs of the future

plan, and the progress we have made

as well as to support other programs.

that we currently may not even be able

and will continue to make on strategic

Although my tenure will conclude, the

to visualize.

initiatives throughout my next and final

College must maintain its momentum in

year at Mills—all of which make this

building for the future.

an appropriate time for the College to

It has been a pleasure to talk with

But our endowment is strong and our strategic plan, which was designed to address these challenges, is moving

transition and continue to move forward.

those who so passionately understand

forward. These two things, together with

Personally, I look forward to returning

the quality and value of the education

a committed community of trustees,

to the East to spend more time with my

Mills provides to its students. I leave

alumnae/i, faculty, and staff, position us

husband and my mother.

these conversations grateful for the

well to regain a strong financial outlook.

Since your announcement, have you had the opportunity to communicate with alumnae/i, other donors, funders, and friends? Can you share some of their reactions?

continued commitment that these foundations and individuals are demonstrating to the College. I offer my thanks to everyone for all they have done for Mills.

There’s been a lot of press recently about the difficulty women’s colleges are having in staying afloat, such as the closure of Sweet Briar. Do you believe Mills will be able to remain viable?

and voices of appreciation for the work

We continue to hear that the College is experiencing financial deficits and that Moody’s has recently downgraded the College’s credit rating. Was your decision driven by any of those financial factors?

that we have been able to accomplish

No. My decision was driven by the

connection. This is not the case. Sweet

thus far in my presidency. Moreover, I

expiration of my contract next June.

Briar and Mills are very different. I’m

have heard a lot of statements of love for

However, we do continue to have hard

very optimistic about the future of Mills.

Mills, respect for our mission, and desire

work ahead in order to address our

Now, as much as ever, Mills and other

to see the work begun these past four

deficit. Many colleges throughout the

women’s colleges play a vital role in

years completed.

country, especially small liberal arts

educating the next generation of women

colleges, are facing similar challenges,

leaders, thinkers, artists, and innovators.

Yes, I have been able to reach many people in different regions of the country. It has been heartwarming to hear expressions of sadness that I am leaving

The respect for Mills and our students 2

M i l l s Q u a r t e r ly

Given how closely the announcement of my decision not to renew my contract came after the news of the Sweet Briar closure, people are assuming there is a

Our endowment is strong and signifi-

decline in overall enrollment, but antici-

cant in comparison to similarly sized col-

pate that we will meet our budgeted

leges. As outlined in our strategic plan, we

target. The retention rate of our first-

have implemented financial best practices

year students appears to be particularly

and faculty groups have made progress

high, which was an area of focus for us

in reexamining our curriculum to ensure

this year. The incoming first-year class

its impact in a changing world. We are

will be smaller than anticipated, but I

seeking revenue diversification beyond

am happy to report that these students

tuition by leveraging unused and under-

have very impressive academic creden-

used space on campus that can bring new

tials and are well qualified for success at

services and partnerships to the campus

Mills. Our admissions team will con-

and local community and provide new

tinue to work with candidates over the

streams of income to support the College’s

summer to ensure we’re in the strongest

long term financial health.

possible position come fall.

Can you be more specific about the College’s strategic imperatives? What are they?

How do you respond to concerns from the faculty about your leadership?

Yes, the six strategic imperatives which

concern for the future of the College. I

are detailed in the Mills Strategic Plan

have tried to be collaborative with the

2013–2018 are:

faculty, and will continue to do so. But,

• Developing curriculum with a purpose

together with the Board of Trustees, I

I understand, and appreciate, their deep

have had to make a number of diffi-

as the board and campus community

cult decisions about hiring, wages, and

grapple with the tough questions being

budgets. These decisions, while unpopu-

addressed by all of higher education,

lar, were driven by the need to face the

always taking into account how the

to inclusion, social justice, and

financial challenge of a long-standing

answers will shape Mills in the future.


in a changing world • Creating more flexible ways to obtain a Mills education • Strengthening our commitment

structural operating deficit, incorpo-

The challenge we face is how to support

• Internationalizing Mills

rating expense reductions, revenue

increased access to an affordable liberal

• Providing a vibrant and inclusive

increases, and strategic investments in

arts college education that will provide

the College’s future.

our students with the best possible

campus life • Developing and sustaining partnerships

How is next year’s enrollment?

What do you expect to be able to accomplish in the next year?

At this point we are projecting a slight

I will continue to lead strategic efforts

preparation for life in the 21st century. We cannot afford to lose any time in our pursuit of these ideals.

How can those closest to Mills help their beloved institution at this time?

Presidential Search Committee established In order to find an outstanding leader to become the 14th president of Mills College, the Board of Trustees will establish a Presidential Search Committee (PSC), which will include trustees, faculty, staff, alumnae, and students. Trustee Katie Sanborn ’83 has agreed to lead the PSC. She will immediately begin the process of selecting members of the committee, identify and retain the executive search firm to represent the College and support the search, and solicit input from the Mills community to develop a summary of the attributes and critical competencies that the College will seek in the next president. Renée Jadushlever, chief of staff and vice president for communications and external relations, will serve as staff liaison to the PSC. “The task of selecting the president is one of the most important responsibilities of the board, and we approach this process with great deliberation and humility,” says Board Chair Kathleen Burke. “There will be ample opportunity for input from every segment of the College as we work to select our next leader. Your input and participation in this process is greatly valued and will be a significant factor in our potential to achieve success.”

This is an important question. There are many ways to help, such as being an ambassador for Mills, volunteering to talk with incoming students, sharing the accomplishments of our alumnae/i and faculty, or getting involved with a local alumnae/i group. And, of course, the most urgent need is to make the most generous possible gift to Mills. I and other staff members will be talking and meeting with many of our closest benefactors throughout the next year. And, if everyone who has or will benefit from Mills makes a gift or pledge of support, no matter the amount, it will go a long way to leveraging and inspiring others to support the College. SUMMER 2015


Mills Matters Commencement 2015 Cloudy skies did nothing to dampen the energy of this year’s graduating class. At Commencement on May 16, 296 undergraduate women and 321 graduate women and men, including students receiving certificates and credentials in a variety of fields, crossed the stage to receive their diplomas. President Alecia DeCoudreaux acknowledged those who took part in the Mills Strike 25 years ago, taking a bold stand for the value of women’s education that continues to resonate. “To this day, Mills remains the only women’s college to reverse a coeducational decision,” she said before asking the attending alumnae, faculty, and staff who participated in those momentous protests to rise and accept a round of applause. The senior class presented a gift of $7,628 to the College to provide a student scholarship for the coming academic year. Thirty-seven percent of the class contributed to the cause, triggering an additional donation of $2,015 from President DeCoudreaux, supplementing donations from Board Chair Kathleen Burke, alumnae, faculty, and staff. See this year’s Bent Twigs on page 32.

“Being a Mills woman means being aware enough, socially conscious enough, that you see the world a certain way—and you don’t stand for some foolishness anymore.” —Graduate speaker Jasmine Evans

“I want to thank the rest of you who showed up just to see if the rumor of huddled radical feminist intellectuals who are planning to take over the world is true. I’m here to assure you, that it is!” —Undergraduate speaker Sonj Basha

“Eventually, what gets you ahead in life is not ambition or drive, but curiosity and kindness. Curiosity and kindness lead to authentic relationships that are essential for change.” —Keynote speaker Libby Schaaf, mayor of Oakland


M i l l s Q u a r t e r ly

photos by S te v e Babul jak

Valued faculty members retire While hundreds of students leave campus at the close of each academic year, several faculty members also chose this time to move on to other pursuits. Five professors retired in May. Nancy Thornborrow, professor of economics, made a lasting impression on hundreds of students and on the campus itself as director of the newly established MBA program from 2001 until 2005; she then served as founding dean of the Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business through 2010. Thornborrow has been a Mills faculty member since 1980 and has served as head of the Department of Economics since 1992. She has taught courses from Introduction to Economics to the Senior Seminar, with a particular interest in labor economics, macroeconomics, statistics, and econometrics. Sandra Greer, professor of chemistry,

Elizabeth Potter, professor of wom-

Clockwise from top left: Sandra Greer, Deborah Berman Santana, Nancy Thornborrow, Carol Chetkovich

came to Mills in 2008 after more than

en’s, gender, and sexuality studies, has

20 years as a faculty member in chem-

been at Mills since 1992. She holds a

istry and biomolecular engineering at

PhD from Rice University; her research

the University of Maryland College Park.

has focused on gender and science, the

taking formal retirement next May.

She served Mills as provost and dean of

intersections of feminism and episte-

In that time, she says, “I plan to

the faculty for five years before return-

mology, and the philosophy of science.

enjoy writing, reading, thinking, and having good conversations with

ing full time to the classroom. Widely

Professor of Ethnic Studies Deborah

recognized as an outstanding teacher

Berman Santana brought a deep com-

smart people. I’ll also be looking for

and an expert in polymer chemistry,

mitment to community activism and

opportunities to engage in practical

Greer has published more than

environmental justice to the classroom;

projects with friends in the policy

75 articles in refereed journals and

she also taught courses in environ-

world.” She is co-author of the book

has offered extensive service and leader-

mental studies. She has been deeply

From the Ground Up: Grassroots

ship in advancing women in science

involved with the life of the campus as

Organizations Making Social

and promoting race and gender inclu-

an advisor for Mujeres Unidas, an orga-

Change (Cornell University Press,

sion in academia and the science

nizer of Latina Heritage Month events,

2006) and, since coming to Mills in

professions. In retirement, she plans

and in her work to improve recruit-

2005, has promoted efforts to bring

to write books on ethics in science and

ment and retention of Chicana/Latina

more women into the political field.

the chemistry of cooking. “I will treasure

students. She has been at Mills for 17

“My most meaningful experiences at

the memories of the many fine staff and

years and will continue her scholarship

Mills have come from seeing the pas-

faculty with whom I worked at Mills,”

and activism on behalf of her beloved

sionate, dedicated students develop

she says. “And I am proud of my 2012

Puerto Rico.

the knowledge and confidence to do

Convocation address and of the spirit of

Carol Chetkovich, professor and

great things when they leave,” she

cooperation and trust that we attained

director of the Public Policy Program,

says. “What could be more satisfying

and maintained.”

will take a year of sabbatical before

than that?” SUMMER 2015


Mills helps train water advocates Twenty-five delegates representing 22 countries attended the Women in Public Service Project Institute on “Women, Water, and the World: How Women Can Solve the Earth’s Water Crisis,” held at Mills in April. These emerging women leaders are working to increasing access to clean water in their regions and promote sustainable economic livelihoods. They

improving their ability to build national,

of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in

attended the opening ceremony, above,

regional, and international networks.

partnership with the US State Department

The College partnered with Stanford

in the traditional costumes of their home

and a network of women’s colleges, to

countries before embarking on an inten-

University Law School’s Levin Center,

build a generation of women leaders who

sive 10-day program during which schol-

the San Francisco Commission on the

will change the way global solutions are

ars, policymakers, and government and

Status of Women, the Global Women’s

forged. The project’s goal is to have 50

nongovernment representatives trained

Water Initiative, and the Global Women’s

percent of public service leadership posi-

them in expanding their leadership and

Leadership Initiative on the project.

tions around the world held by women

The Women in Public Service Project

communication skills, developing effective use of traditional and social media, and

by the year 2050.

was founded in 2011 by former Secretary

Fulbright scholars in the arts Volume CIII Number 4    Summer 2015 President: Alecia A. DeCoudreaux Chief of Staff and Vice President for Communications and External Relations: Renée Jadushlever Editor: Linda Schmidt Design and Art Direction: Nancy Siller Wilson Contributing Writers: Dawn Cunningham ’85 Jessica Langlois, MFA ’10 Editorial Assistance: Russell Schoch The Mills Quarterly (USPS 349-900) is published quarterly by Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, CA 94613. Periodicals postage paid at Oakland, California, and at additional mailing office(s). Postmaster: Send address changes to the Office of Institutional Advancement, Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, CA 94613. Copyright © 2015, Mills College Address correspondence to Mills Quarterly, Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, CA 94613. Email:    Phone: 510.430.3312 Printed on recycled paper containing 10 percent post-consumer waste.

(Please use outline)


M i l l s Q u a r t e r ly

Two alumnae have been selected to travel abroad for the upcoming academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential. Carmen Roman, MFA ’13, will travel to Peru to conduct field research on Afro-Peruvian dance by observing and participating in dance rehearsals and performances and interviewing people in the Afro-Peruvian community. She will study with teachers whose families have been practicing Afro-Peruvian music and dance for generations. Katherine Harrell, MA ’13, studied music composition at Mills and will travel to Indonesia to undertake an immersive study in classical Balinese vocal technique and the vocal practice of tembang. She will study with Desak Suarti Laksmi, an experienced singer in Balinese and Western traditions, and will record, transcribe, and analyze tembang to create a comprehensive resource for global scholars of Balinese musical performance.

Campus kudos A selection of recent achievements by faculty, staff, and students David Bernstein, professor of music,

(Teaching and Teacher

was appointed editor of Music Theory

Education) of the

Spectrum, the flagship journal of the

American Educational

Society of Music Theory. He also

Research Association.

chaired a session on John Cage at the

Division K has about

41st annual conference of the Society

5,000 members and

for American Music and edited and

is the largest division

authored the introduction for Cage (Re)

of AERA.

Considered, a special double issue of Contemporary Music Review. Professor of Music Maggi Payne was

Maggie Hunter, associate professor of

From left: Maggi Payne, Maggie Hunter, Jenn Smith, Kathleen Walkup

sociology, appeared in the documentary film Light Girls, which debuted on the J. Chinyere Oparah, professor of

commissioned by the Kronos Quartet

Oprah Winfrey Network in January. The

to compose a miniature string quartet

film explores colorism in the African

ethnic studies, co-edited and contributed

for the celebration of Terry Riley’s 80th

American community. She was also

two chapters to the book Birthing Justice:

birthday in June.

elected to the leadership council of the

Black Women, Pregnancy, and Childbirth

American Sociological Association.

(Paradigm Publishers, 2015).

Kathleen Walkup, professor of book art, held a Stephen Botein Fellowship

Assistant Professor of Biology Jenn

Hector Mario Cavallari, professor of

at the American Antiquarian Society in

Smith presented two posters co-

Spanish and Spanish American studies,

Worcester, Massachusetts, in March. She

authored by seven Mills undergraduates

has been invited to a second three-year

conducted research on the history of

at the annual meeting of the Wildlife

term as member of the editorial board

Colonial and early republican American

Society’s Western Section. She has also

of Pacific Coast Philology, the prestigious

women printers.

had a paper accepted for publication

journal of the Pacific Ancient and Modern

in the journal Animal Behavior and has

Language Association. In the past six

Spertus was a member of the advi-

been invited to research seminars on

months, he has presented papers at the

sory committee for the newly released

“The Ecology of Fear” at the University

Centro Cultural Borges in Buenos Aires;

AAUW report Solving the Equation:

of San Francisco; “Cooperation and

the University of California, Merced; and

The Variables for Women’s Success in

Leadership in Female-Dominated

California State University at Domínguez

Engineering and Computing.

Mammalian Societies” at California State

Hills. In April, he was awarded a diploma

University Stanislaus; and “Evolution

de honor for research and scholarly activ-

dean of the School of Education, was

of Social Complexity in Mammalian

ity by the Instituto Literario y Cultural

elected vice president of Division K

Carnivores,” at Arizona State University.

Hispánico in Carson, California.

Professor of Computer Science Ellen

Kathy Schultz, professor and

New vice president appointed


Maria Cammarata joined Mills on June 8 as vice president for finance and

administration/treasurer. Cammarata served for 20 years as VPFA at the College of Saint Elizabeth, a women’s college in New Jersey. Cammarata has extensive experience overseeing financial and administrative departments, including

finance, payroll, accounts payable and receivable, auxiliaries, human resources,

information technology, public safety, facilities and capital projects, among others. She has experience with strategic planning and believes in a highly participatory and transparent budget process that involves the President’s Cabinet, the budget advisory committee, and constituent representation.



Mills College, 1990

Evolve or die 25 years after the Mills Strike, are women’s colleges doomed to extinction, or can they rise to the challenge of today’s tumultuous educational environment? By Dawn Cunningham ’85 8

M i l l s Q u a r t e r ly

Sweet Briar College, 2015

When the president first announced the news, students were stunned. On campus, some women cried in rage, others hugged each other in solidarity. Alumnae from around the country stepped forward to express their support, strategize, and fundraise. “Help save our school,” they implored. “I think a significant question exists as to whether the board acted as conscientiously as it should have.” “This is a fight for single-sex colleges and for the future of higher education.” Mills alumnae know this story well. For many who were students in the early 1990s, it represents a transformative moment in their own life history. But these are not the words of Mills students or alumnae during the Strike against coeducation in May 1990.They were spoken by alumnae of Sweet Briar College in March 2015.

What has changed for women’s colleges in the 25 years since

leges: Chatham University and Wilson College in Pennsylvania,

the Mills Strike? Is the announcement that Sweet Briar will close

Georgian Court University in New Jersey, and William Peace

in August just one more indication that all women’s colleges are

University in North Carolina all turned to coeducation in order

fated to choose, sooner or later, between being dead or coed?

to stay in business. In May, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in

Fifty years ago, there were more than 200 women’s colleges

Indiana announced that it will become coed this fall. Sweet Briar

in the United States and Canada; at the time of the 1990 Strike,

may soon join the list of casualties, but as of this writing its

there were 94; today there are 45. How much longer can these

114-year history is not yet destined to end: alumnae have raised

remaining colleges survive?

more than $13 million in pledged gifts and are coordinating with

In the last three years, the United States lost four women’s colphoto by norm shafer

faculty, staff, and students on legal proceedings to prevent the SUMMER 2015


college’s closure. Such actions echo the events that followed

over the last four years while, at the same time, continuing to

Mills’ decision to go coed in 1990, when alumnae made similar

invest in the quality of its academic program.

promises of financial support to keep Mills a women’s college.

Meanwhile, many women’s colleges that have transitioned to

But maintaining a high level of support over time is a challenge.

coeducation in the last 25 years have achieved more sustain-

While Mills alumnae fulfilled the pledge to raise $10 million for

able enrollments. In the 2006 book Challenged by Coeducation:

the College’s endowment within three years after the Strike, we

Women’s Colleges since the 1960s, Wells College sociology profes-

have never met the promise that 50 percent of those of us asked

sor Leslie Miller-Bernal wrote, “As a result of making the transi-

would make annual gifts.

tion to coeducation, enrollment applications (mostly of women)

Leaders at Sweet Briar College cited “the declining number of

greatly increase, the college can become more selective, and as a

students choosing to attend small, rural, private liberal arts col-

result, finances improve.” Goucher, Wheaton, and Wells are three

leges and even fewer young women willing to consider a single-

such colleges. Most recently, enrollment at Wilson College in

sex education” to explain their decision to shutter the school.

Pennsylvania increased 14 percent this past fall, when it began to

Declining or stagnant enrollment was also a factor in the four

admit men to its undergraduate program as residential students.

other colleges’ decisions to become coeducational. This recent wave of losses has rekindled a national debate about the relevance and viability of single-sex education. Two points against women’s colleges have frequently been raised in the New York Times and other media: First, women are flourishing at coeducational institutions; women are enrolled in college at higher rates

The endangered liberal arts model

Coeducation, however, is no guarantee that a college can enroll enough students to stay in business. “Only 500 or so of the 4,000plus colleges and universities in the United States seem to have stable enough finances

than men and achieve better grades so women’s colleges are no

to be truly safe,” reported the New York

longer needed. Second, too few young women—just 2 to 3 percent—

Times in 2013. Researchers at Vanderbilt University found that,

are willing to consider attending a women’s college, so enrollments

on average, five private colleges have closed in each of the last

at many of these colleges are too small to be financially sustainable.

10 years. Most of these have been coed colleges.

Sweet Briar enrolled fewer than 800 students this year.

“The problems that are faced by women’s colleges are faced by all liberal arts colleges right

“Women’s colleges have traditionally reached out to populations that were excluded from other colleges.... Today, it’s often first-generation and underserved students who are being drawn to, and welcomed by, women’s colleges.” –Linda Cohen Turner ’68, The College Choice

now,” says Marilyn Schuster ’65, a professor and former provost at Smith College. “Excellent liberal arts education is very labor intensive, and the facilities we need are very expensive.” Liberal arts colleges must compete in an educational marketplace where there is a strong demand for technologically sophisticated classrooms and science labs, attractive residence halls and fitness centers, and a wide range of curricular choices that

Mills, too, is feeling the enrollment pinch. President Alecia DeCoudreaux, a Wellesley alumna and an ardent proponent of

prepare students for specific careers. The costs of such features are particularly challenging for small colleges to bear.

women’s education, admits, “Many students come here in spite

Mills College Trustee Linda Cohen Turner ’68 has counseled

of the fact that we’re a women’s college. They learn the benefits

students on their college selection process through her company,

after they’ve been here, but it’s not what attracts them. What

The College Choice, for 12 years. “Fewer students are interested

attracts our students is the quality of our academic program, so

in liberal arts colleges in general,” she says. “There is a perception

we need to make sure our program continues to be as high in

that students who choose liberal arts colleges will have a more

quality as possible.”

difficult time finding jobs.” Turner points out that this perception

Although its student body has grown from 1,041 in 1990 to

differs from the facts. An overwhelming majority of employers

1,548 today—a far healthier number than Sweet Briar’s—Mills has

(80 percent) surveyed in 2013 by the Association of American

not met the higher enrollment targets that would ensure finan-

Colleges and Universities said that every college student should

cial stability. While Mills’ endowment of $190 million is more

acquire broad knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences.

than double the size of Sweet Briar’s, the College remains highly

Whatever type of college they are interested in, says Turner,

dependent on tuition revenues: more than half of its annual

“students are focusing on what they’re going to get for their

budget derives from student tuition and fees. As a result, the

college investment, especially since the economic downturn of

College has had to implement a series of significant budget cuts

2008.” Turner’s observation is corroborated by Mills’ 2013 sur-


M i l l s Q u a r t e r ly

vey of prospective undergraduate students, which found that

percent of the student body. Trinity Washington University has

perceptions of a college’s educational quality were most influ-

followed a similar course, offering an array of coed professional

enced by the career outcomes of graduates. This factor was

and part-time programs alongside its traditional undergraduate

considered even more important than faculty-student ratio or

program for women.

selectivity in admissions.

Graduate programs can complement an undergraduate lib-

“People are questioning the value of a liberal arts education,”

eral arts education by providing a clearer pathway to careers

DeCoudreaux says. “Although Mills will always seek to provide a

after college. “One of the competitive advantages we have at

liberal arts education, we know that the majority of our students

Mills is our accelerated bachelor’s to master’s programs,” says

are concerned about their careers. We must find ways to have

DeCoudreaux. “A student can get a liberal arts degree and then,

our students benefit from a liberal arts curriculum in the way

in another year, earn an MBA or a master’s in public policy.”

that will best prepare them for the world of work.”

Urban campuses are in a good position to attract students interested in career preparation. “Students are looking for places

Adapting for survival

To thrive, women’s colleges have had to

where they can have a more vibrant life close to an urban cen-

address the challenges of liberal arts educa-

ter and also opportunities for internships and jobs and summer

tion as well as single-sex education. They

work,” says Turner, “This puts Mills at an advantage compared to

have evolved substantially in the last 25

a rural college like Sweet Briar.”

years—an evolution that can be seen in the

But it is possible for colleges in less metropolitan settings to

curriculum and in the shape of the student

develop successful programs that provide undergraduate women

body. This is not your mother’s Mills, or Smith, or Wellesley.

with career-focused learning experiences. For example, at Smith,

One of the most successful strategies that women’s colleges

in the small city of Northampton, Massachusetts, 80 miles from

have employed is to develop programs that attract new kinds

Boston, Schuster was involved in developing a program that links

of students and respond to students’ increased concern about

coursework in an interdisciplinary concentration with intern-

career preparation. Graduate programs can do both.

ships and service learning projects. A program at Mount Holyoke

“We have done many things well in the last 25 years,” says Melissa Stevenson Diaz ’91, who helped lead the Strike in 1990

College, located in the same region as Smith, ensures that each student has a paid internship prior to graduation.

as incoming president of the Associated Students of Mills College

Another successful strategy for some women’s colleges is to

and is now an alumna trustee on the College’s board. “Because

form partnerships with other nearby institutions. Smith and

we remain challenged to attract as many undergraduate women

Mount Holyoke participate in the Five Colleges consortium in

as we could serve, the strategic growth of our graduate programs

Massachusetts, Scripps is one of the Claremont Colleges east of

has been particularly important.”

Los Angeles, and Barnard College is affiliated with (though inde-

Mills has offered graduate programs since the 1920s, but

pendent from) Columbia University. Such partnerships enable

enrollment in these programs really took off after the Strike. In

these colleges to offer students a wider range of courses through

1990, graduate enrollment totaled 264 students and made up

cross-registration, to share resources like faculty and facilities,

just 25 percent of the student body. In the last academic year

and to provide special programs that are expensive for a single

it reached 626 students, the largest ever in the College’s his-

college to sustain.

tory, and made up 40 percent of the student body. This increase reflects growth in graduate programs that have long had a strong reputation at Mills—including education, fine arts, and English— as well as the launch of new programs, such as business and public policy. Although they are coeducational, as all graduate programs in the United States must be according to federal law, these programs remain focused on educating women: around 80 percent of Mills’ graduate students are women, just as in 1990. Some women’s colleges have relied even more heavily than Mills on graduate and other career-focused programs to main-

An epoch of shifting demographics

While new programs and partnerships have played a key role in the evolution of many women’s colleges, the last 25 years have also seen profound changes in the undergraduate student bodies at all women’s colleges.





dramatic differences are in the socioeconomic backgrounds of our students, their family circumstances and financial needs, and their emotional needs.”

tain a financially sustainable enrollment. At Simmons College

DeCoudreaux is a director of the Women’s College Coalition,

in Boston, graduate students make up 70 percent of the student

whose members include 42 colleges in the United States and

body today, up from 50 percent in 1990. In the same period,

Canada. Among other activities, the coalition generates research

Notre Dame of Maryland University (formerly the College of

on women’s education, including enrollment trends. Last fall, the

Notre Dame) quadrupled graduate enrollment, which now

coalition published Who Attends a Women’s College? Identifying

makes up half of the university’s total enrollment. Notre Dame

Unique Characteristics and Patterns of Change, 1971–2011, a

also added coed evening and weekend undergraduate programs

report by Linda Sax, professor of education at UCLA and trustee

for working adults. Its 120-year-old women’s college remains

at Mount Saint Mary’s University.

at the core of the university’s identity, but enrolls less than 20

Sax analyzed data collected through a standard survey of SUMMER 2015


“Because of the history of the Strike, we are committed to remaining a women’s college. But we’re changing what that means.” –Associate Professor Priya Kandaswamy

more than 10 million first-year students at some 1,600 colleges

Today we’re seeing that it’s often first-generation and under-

and universities over four decades. She found that, in compari-

served students who are excluded, and these students are being

son to students at women’s colleges in the late 20th century and

drawn to and welcomed by women’s colleges.”

in comparison to women at comparable coed institutions today,

“Historically, women’s colleges like Mills have created a col-

students at women’s colleges now are:

lege culture that challenges restrictive norms for women,” says

• far more racially and ethnically diverse;

Schuster. “Women continue to be disadvantaged even though

• from households with significantly lower parental income

a minority of exceptional women enjoy exceptional privileges.

and lower parental educational attainment;

When a woman’s identity intersects with racial categories, class

• more likely to have parents who are divorced or separated;

status, and sexualities that are also disadvantaged, the burdens

• more likely to need to work full time while at college; and

they bear are multiplied.”

• more likely to seek counseling services. All these trends are evident in the student body at Mills. For instance, women of color constituted 20 percent of the undergraduate student body in 1990; they constitute 54 percent today. The number of undergraduates eligible for Pell Grants— the federal aid program for low-income students—has risen from

For women, again: revisited

As the student profile at women’s colleges becomes more complex, so does the very notion of womanhood. Priya Kandaswamy, associate






Department of Women’s, Gender, and

less than 30 percent to nearly 50 percent in the same period.

Sexuality Studies, says, “At Mills, we are

In addition, Mills continues to have high percentages of under-

expanding the ways in which we think about the category of

graduates who are resumers (students aged 23 or older) and who

‘woman.’ When you walk around campus today, you don’t see a

are the first in their families to attend college—16 percent and 30

stereotypical kind of femininity.”

percent, respectively.

Instead, you see students living out a definition of “woman”

At some other women’s colleges, the change has been even

that allows for a range of career goals, social and family roles,

more pronounced. In 1990, more than 85 percent of Trinity

reproductive and sexual choices, and styles of self-presentation.

Washington University’s students were white and their family

“It’s understood that the category ‘woman’ is determined by social

incomes averaged more than $50,000; today, more than 90 per-

context; it’s not a biological category,” says Kandaswamy. “One

cent are African American or Latina and their family incomes

can be a woman even if one was not assigned to the female sex

average $25,000.

at birth.” In other words, gender is socially constructed. In recent

Students’ financial and family circumstances have repercus-

years, this awareness has given rise to a sometimes contentious

sions for their educational experience. Sax says, “At women’s col-

discussion at women’s colleges over who qualifies to be admitted

leges, more students may need to spend time working at jobs,

as a woman. Do transgender students qualify?

which has an impact on their academic success and social inte-

In the absence of a written policy, Mills had been admitting

gration. Many women attend colleges close to home, and must

transgender students on a case-by-case basis for several years.

also balance school work with family responsibilities.”

Of the nearly 1,000 undergraduates enrolled each year, three to

DeCoudreaux says, “Partly because they and their families are

five students have identified as transgender—including, in the

often struggling, students today tend to need more emotional

past academic year, the president of the Associated Students

support. This means we need to provide more student services

of Mills College. In May 2014, the College’s board of trustees

as well as more financial aid.” In this respect, women’s colleges

approved a new admission policy that incorporated input from

face a greater challenge than their coed, liberal arts peers. Yet

faculty, staff, and students on accepting transgender students.

many college leaders see these demographic changes not as

According to the new policy, at the undergraduate level “Mills

a threat, but as an affirmation of the continuing relevance of

admits self-identified women and people assigned female at

women’s colleges.

birth who do not fit into the gender binary.” This includes self-

“Women’s colleges have traditionally reached out to popu-

identified women who were not assigned to the female sex at

lations that were excluded from other colleges,” says Turner.

birth as well as students who are legally assigned to the female

“Initially they catered primarily to well-off young women who

sex but identify as transgender. However, someone born female

were excluded from the institutions that only men could attend.

who has already become legally male is not eligible for admis-


M i l l s Q u a r t e r ly

sion. Once admitted, any student who completes the College’s

approaches to the admission and support of transgender stu-

graduation requirements will be awarded a degree, even if their

dents at women’s colleges. The history, geographical location,

gender changes.

culture, and character of each college will lead to a variety of

The adoption of this policy made Mills the first women’s col-

approaches and policies. I see this as a strength.”

lege to go on record as welcoming applications from transgender

Yet some commentators on the issue of transgender inclusion

students. It placed the College at the forefront of the discussion

have advocated for doing away with women’s colleges. “The

at women’s colleges across the country and galvanized the cam-

practice of segregating male and female students leans on fray-

pus community around the shared value of challenging gender

ing and outdated assumptions about gender,” wrote Slate corre-


spondent Katy Waldman last June. “It’s time to open up feminist

“There’s a lot of support for the policy here,” says Kandaswamy.

spaces to everyone, and to integrate feminism more fully into

“Because of the history of the Strike, we are committed to remain-

the co-ed spaces we have. The dinosaur of single-sex education

ing a women’s college. But we’re changing what that means.

is faltering. Let it die.”

Women’s colleges have always been about empowering and giving access to education for people who are marginalized for their gender. We believe transgender people are included in that mission.” “When we put our new admission policy in place, we reaffirmed

Dinosaur or phoenix?

When the trustees of Mills College voted in May 1990 to admit men, Mary Metz, who had been president of Mills since 1981,

our commitment to being a women’s college,” says DeCoudreaux.

became an object of ire for many striking

“At the same time, we began a conversation about the use of gen-

students and alumnae; she resigned soon

der pronouns. To be inclusive, I rarely talk about ‘Mills women’

after the Strike and the reversal of the board’s

now; I talk about ‘Mills students.’ At Mills and at every women’s

vote. Yet Metz has continued to support Mills as a donor and

college, we need to have a robust conversation about what it

remains, as she was during her presidency, a vocal advocate for

means to be a women’s college today because gender is fluid.”

women’s education.

So far, Mount Holyoke, Simmons, Scripps, Bryn Mawr, Wellesley,

“Women’s colleges today are as valuable as they have always

Smith, and Barnard have followed Mills’ lead in documenting their

been—perhaps even more valuable,” she says. “Biases against

stance. But the details of the admission policies—as well as the cam-

women are more subtle now, but you see the results of those

pus cultures around gender inclusiveness—differ at each school.

biases when women are underrepresented in professions, on

Bryn Mawr’s policy is similar to that of Mills. Mount Holyoke

boards, in the halls of Congress—in positions where power is

adopted a broader policy: it will admit anyone born female, even

vested. How do we equip women to discern bias and to have





men, as well as students born male who identify as women or “other.” Students at Mount Holyoke have been so concerned about gender inclusiveness that, earlier this year, they cancelled a production of The



because “the show offers an extremely narrow per-

“Biases against women are more subtle now, but you see the results of those biases when women are underrepresented... in positions where power is vested. How do we equip women to discern bias and to have enough self-confidence that they won’t put up with it? Women’s colleges do this superbly.”

spective on what it means to be a woman.” Wellesley,

–Former Mills College President Mary Metz

Barnard, and Smith, on the other hand, announced a narrower policy: they will admit just those students who live and identify as women, and will

enough self-confidence that they won’t put up with it? Women’s

continue to use female pronouns and other gendered language.

colleges do this superbly.”

Yet Smith’s new policy, announced in May, is seen as a significant

Kandaswamy agrees. “We see lots of images of women in power

step towards welcoming transgender students. The college’s previ-

today. We have this idea that women are equal to men. That

ous policy, to admit only students whose documents reflect con-

can make it difficult to talk about the way women experience

sistent identity as a woman (self-identification was not enough),

inequality,” she says. “I understand the position that we could

caused an uproar when Smith denied admission two years ago

create a feminist learning environment that is not a women’s

to Calliope Wong, a male-to-female transgender student.

college, but in practice that’s difficult to achieve. The structure

Schuster says, “We have already seen a variety of creative

of gender oppression has not changed that much. Before coming SUMMER 2015


Further reading on women’s colleges Questions about the viability, effectiveness, and culture of women’s colleges are addressed in several significant books and articles. To dive deeper, start with one of these.

Challenged By Coeducation: Women’s Colleges Since the 1960s By Leslie Miller-Bernal and Susan L. Poulson, eds. (Vanderbilt University Press, 2006) Examines the responses of women’s colleges to the wave of coeducation in the mid-to-late 20th century. Includes an article by Marianne Sheldon, professor of history at Mills, on factors precipitating the vote for coeducation by Mills trustees, on the Strike itself, and on changes at the College after 1990.

men for research opportunities, where there is an expectation that you will succeed. We will continue to need colleges like Mills in my lifetime, and I think long after.”

For generations still

But what if women were to attain true equality in society? At that point, would we still need women’s colleges? The Mills women interviewed for this article responded to this question with a resounding “Yes.” And the reason comes

back to diversity. Metz sums it up: “One of the great strengths of higher education in the United States is the fact that we have

Women’s Colleges & Universities in a Global Context

so much diversity in our learning environments—liberal arts and

By Kristen A. Renn (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014)

specialized, small and large, religious and non-sectarian insti-

Provides a comparative analysis of the significance of women’s colleges worldwide, with a focus on examples outside the United States. Includes profiles of women’s colleges in nations where such colleges are a principal means through which women access higher education.

tutions. In an ideal world, all students would be enabled to go

Who Attends a Women’s College? Identifying Unique Characteristics and Patterns of Change, 1971–2011 By Linda J. Sax (Women’s College Coalition, 2014) Available through the coalition website,, along with studies that demonstrate the effectiveness and the performance of women’s colleges relative to coed colleges.

to the college or university of their choice. Some women will always want the choice of studying in a women’s college.” Ensuring the survival of women’s colleges is “going to be a difficult road,” Metz adds. “Being a women’s college is not the only headwind: these are small liberal arts colleges at a time when expensive facilities are in demand, especially for programs in the sciences, technology, and engineering. They have relatively small endowments compared to large universities. Some are in small towns.” “There will not be any one solution,” she says. “Be sure your curriculum is as forward-looking and challenging as it can be. Take advantage of partnerships with other organizations. Reach beyond the college’s borders, and bring the outside world in. Students don’t always need to do their learning in the classroom.”

to Mills five years ago, I taught primarily at coed institutions. My

Metz says that Mills is already doing this through partnerships

experience has shown me that there’s a lot of truth in the idea

like the theater major offered in conjunction with American

that women’s colleges promote women’s empowerment in a dif-

Conservatory Theater. DeCoudreaux notes that developing part-

ferent way than coed environments do.”

nerships and revising the curriculum are two key imperatives

Over the past decade, the Women’s College Coalition, Indiana University’s Center for Postsecondary Research, and other

that the College is pursuing in order to strengthen Mills’ longterm sustainability as a women’s liberal arts college.

research groups have compared data on two very large groups:

Schuster says, “Women’s colleges need to be clear about our

undergraduates and alumnae of women’s colleges, on the one

core values and must embrace change if we are to survive. All of

hand, and undergraduate women and alumnae of coed colleges,

us who have a stake in women’s education need to consider how

on the other. Their findings back the claims of women’s educa-

best to realize our mission today, in conditions that differ mark-

tion proponents. At women’s colleges:

edly from those of 25 years ago, much less more than a century

• Students experience more academic challenge, active

ago when the colleges were founded.”

engagement in learning, interaction with faculty and with

Diaz and Turner both point to the key role of alumnae in

people of different backgrounds, opportunities to hold lead-

colleges’ survival. “Our memories of college are important, but

ership roles on campus, self-confidence, and development of

those of us who graduated a generation or more ago need to

political and social awareness.

understand that the current student population is different than

• Students are more likely to complete their degrees in four years or less.

when we were in college,” says Turner. “We need to embrace the beauty of this and make a commitment to support these stu-

• Alumnae are more likely to earn a graduate degree after college.

dents. If we want our colleges to endure, we need to accept the

• More alumnae feel their undergraduate education was

responsibility of contributing more seriously.”

effective in preparing them for their first jobs and for career

Diaz adds, “When we talk with prospective students and par-


ents—or with anyone who will listen—we need to be vocal about

DeCoudreaux says, “Women thrive in an environment where

our experiences of being educated in an environment dedicated

there is an assumption that you are intelligent, where you are

to women and about the transformative effect that women’s col-

always going to be called on, where you are not competing with

leges continue to have.” ◆


M i l l s Q u a r t e r ly

in her


By Jessica Langlois, MFA ’10

What happens when women produce, examine, and reclaim images of themselves? Several imaginative projects by Mills alumnae have shown that such actions are steps towards self-determination, empowerment, and equality. Before & After, a project designed by Esther Honig ’12, examines beauty standards across cultures. It went viral last summer, picked up by CNN, Elle, Time, The Atlantic, and Good Morning America. Jennifer Bermon ’93 has been showing women’s strength and vulnerability in her photo series Her | Self, which pairs black-and-white photographs of women with their own handwritten response to the image. She started the project at Mills the year she graduated, and continues to seek out women and their stories today. And this past March, Hazel Streete ’11, MBA ’13, unveiled the mural Her Resilience in Oakland’s Park Community Garden, featuring images of women who have suffered urban or domestic violence. Each of these Mills graduates and their thought-provoking projects aims to return the power of representation, and self-representation, to women.


Esther Honig’s original Before & After photo, top, and results from Germany, Morocco, Bangladesh, and Bulgaria.


Honig said in a phone interview from her

about perceptions of women and the

Kansas City home. Being able to immerse

power of the media to subvert norms

herself in a culture “where the people who

as soon as she arrived at Mills. She read

are considered attractive don’t look like

excerpts of Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth

supermodels or actresses back home,” she

and Suzanne Bordo’s Unbearable Weight

says, triggered her interest in experiment-

in her English 1 class. In a public radio

ing with concepts of beauty ingrained in

reporting course, she learned about tell-

women by entertainment media and

ing the stories that the public most needs.


sther Honig


Since graduating, Honig’s work as a radio

To test those concepts, she sent her

journalist has taken her to several differ-

image to photo editors in 28 different

ent Latin American countries, which is

countries, giving only one directive:

where the idea for Before & After began

“Make me beautiful.” If the editor wanted

to percolate.

more guidance, she asked them to make

“I’ve had the privilege of traveling

her look like what they see in their coun-

abroad as both a student and a journalist,”

try’s fashion magazines. The project was SUMMER 2015


by no means standardized or scientific, and the skills varied widely among the 50 artists she commissioned, but Honig’s intent was simply to curate a sampling of various individuals’ understandings of beauty. About 60 percent of those individuals were men. Interestingly, women artists were just as likely to change her appearance drastically. Some editors changed her skin tone or eye color, others smoothed out visible lines on her face and body, some applied heavy makeup, and others changed the shape of her eyes, nose, or mouth. What was most arresting, however, was how each one came up with such a different interpretation of the same prompt. “We live in a society with a homogenous concept of beauty; we are surrounded by manufactured images,” Honig said. “These results popped that ‘beauty bubble.’” Most responses to Honig’s experiment

Priscilla Yuki Wilson’s unretouched photo, top left, and the “after” images from Vietnam, Mexico, and Macedonia. At right, Jennifer Bermon’s portrait of Brisen Vannice.

have been positive. When she was featured as the keynote speaker at Boston College’s Women’s Summit this past

seeing it suffuse social media, is that her

that some of her photo editors may have

March, Honig says, “people were eager to



been consciously aware of the impossible

share their own experiences, especially

Western beauty standards. Also, she is

standards their Photoshop efforts were

those who are biracial.” One student, who

white. Although she was curious to know

meant to produce. “The experiment

grew up in both the United States and

how a subject of a different race or eth-

offered a lot more editors in favor of ‘pre-

Japan, said she felt caught between two

nicity would fare in a similar project, she

serving natural beauty’ than I would

concepts of beauty, but that the Before &

felt it was not ethically sound for her to


After project made her feel some relief

send out images of others.

extremely positive about its results.”








from the pressure of living up to either

Priscilla Yuki Wilson ’13 saw the oppor-

Wilson feels the project transformed a

standard. Many young girls who saw

tunity to explore that question and pur-

difficult topic into something simple that

Honig’s project emailed her to share their

sued her own offshoot Before & After

people could easily understand. She

struggles to reconcile their own appear-

project. Wilson, who is half black and half

wanted viewers to notice which images

ance with the images they see around

Japanese, came up with her own collection,

made them uncomfortable and which

them every day.



ones they found pleasing. “I didn’t want




Not all responses have been affirming.

September 2014. Wilson’s racially ambigu-

people to just shove those feelings into a

One image, created by a Moroccan photo

ous features posed a different challenge to

dark corner, but to ask themselves why

editor who added light makeup and a

the photo editors. “As a biracial woman,

they had those responses. Are these their

turquoise-and-lavender hijab, is one of

there is no standard of beauty or mold that

own thoughts, or do they come from

Honig’s favorites for the way it explores

can easily fit my face,” Wilson writes on her

someone else?”

the connection between beauty and reli-

website. Many women contacted Wilson,

gion. But, she says, a woman from

saying they identified with, and appreci-

Morocco wrote to her objecting that the

ated, the fact that she didn’t look like most

image does not represent the majority of

other faces presented in the media.

Moroccan women but, rather, upholds a

Fashion writer Marie Southard Ospina


ennifer Bermon ’93 has been asking that same question for 20 years. While the Before & After proj-

ects reflect external standards of beauty

conducted a third Before & After experi-

imposed on women, Bermon is more

Honig welcomes discussion on the out-

ment, this time with a “plus-size twist.”

concerned with the internal perceptions

comes and limitations of her project. She

She presented her results on,

women hold of themselves.

acknowledges that part of the reason she

where she writes that she was pleased

She first noticed this as a problem while

felt comfortable sending an un-made-up

that only three of 21 editors significantly

sitting in Founders Commons one day in

image of herself around the world, and

slimmed her down; she also indicates

1993, hearing her friends discussing what

troubling stereotype.


M i l l s Q u a r t e r ly

they didn’t like about themselves and what

concerned with how this kind of thinking

York City firefighter and the first woman

they would change. In Bermon’s eyes, her

affects women in their lives and in their

to pass the same physical test as male fire-

friends looked perfect, but she realized

relationships,” says Bermon. “Does it limit

fighters, states, “This is the face and pos-

that these were daily conversations women

them? I want them to be happy and feel

ture of someone who is comfortable and

had about how they looked. She started to

good about themselves, not struggle.”

satisfied with her position in life.” A selec-

wonder if these women were even aware

Bermon returned to the project and, for

tion of Bermon’s photos were exhibited

of their constant negative self talk. “Do we,

the past decade, has photographed more

this spring at Santa Monica’s DNJ Gallery;

as women, hear what we say to ourselves?”

women, incorporating many different

Bermon has also taken the exhibition to

Bermon asked.

ages, races, ethnicities, and socio-economic

local high schools and youth groups.

She began to photograph her friends,

classes. “I’ve gone up to strangers,”

Creating a forum for young women to

pairing the image with each woman’s

Bermon says. “I’ll see something in her, I

find strength from one another was the

hand-written reaction to the photo. She

know she has a story.”

reason Amy Pellman, a Los Angeles

sought out friends who were struggling

The stories are as diverse as the women

Superior Court judge specializing in child

with self-esteem issues, but also those

themselves. While some write about body

welfare cases, chose to participate in the

she knew who had self-awareness and

image, others focus on career success,

project. “These young women in juvenile

confidence. Responses in early photos,

motherhood, race representations, histo-

court don’t have support of their families,

mostly from 1993, focus heavily on body

ries of abuse, and aging. Rosaly Lopes, a

and some start to hate themselves,”

image. One student, Brisen Vannice ’93,


Pellman says.

picks apart her image—“my eyes look

describes how far she’s come in her career,

Rufiena Jones-Soro ’03, whom Bermon

uneven, my nose looks wide, my hair is

and how rare that is for women in her

shot in 2014, wrote on her image: “I know

messy”—but then reflects on the futility of

home country, Brazil. Susan Blake, a New

this woman, but I almost never take the




pointing out all those negative details. This moment—the transition from practiced negative self talk to reflection on that negativity—is what Bermon was hoping to capture with her Her | Self photo series, which seeks to return the power of self-representation to individual women. “There’s something about a photograph that freezes things and gives us time to really see something,” Bermon says. “Having women write their words gives them a voice of their own. I started this hoping to open up a discussion about how hard we are on ourselves, to make people aware and get them talking about it. That is the first step.” This project, too, has received widespread media attention, appearing in the Huffington Post and Ms. magazine. About 10 years after Bermon started the project at Mills, she was working as a television journalist in Los Angeles and realized that very little has changed about the way women perceive themselves. One of her concerns is the preponderance of eating disorders: A 2014 Glamour study of 1,000 women ages 18 to 24 found that 54 percent of women with a healthy body weight are unhappy with their bodies—13 percent more than in 1984. This statistic is just one symptom of the impossible standards many women feel they must aspire to. “I am SUMMER 2015


time to just look at her, let alone appreciate

images themselves. “People at the gallery

that Kimberly Robertson, a 23-year-old

her.” Jones-Soro aimed for complete hon-

went from photo to photo, reading each

mother who had recently moved to

esty in her response to the photo, she

one,” Bermon says. “That means these girls

Oakland, had been raped and murdered

says. “I started out happy, then got

and women are being heard—and they rep-

in the Park Boulevard neighborhood.

detached, then sad, then critical. So that’s

resent so many other women out there.”


what I wrote.” “I really admire Rufiena for being so self-aware and brave,” Bermon says. That bravery is not going unnoticed. Bermon has been inspired by the amount of posi-







Robertson’s violent death, but by the lack

epresenting those



of media and community response to it.



Just days later, the only thing left to

examples of strength was also the

memorialize Robertson was a bunch of


motivation behind Her Resilience, a mural

withering flowers at the murder site.

tive press the exhibition received. While

in Oakland’s Park Community Garden

A 2000 study by the US Department of

media can contribute to women’s self-

organized by Hazel Streete ’11, MBA

Justice found that while 1.9 million

consciousness, it can also promote confi-

’13. The mural features images of local

women are physically assaulted annually

dence. Bermon believes her project can be

women who have experienced urban or

in the United States compared to 3.2 mil-

a tool for that change because viewers are

domestic violence.

lion men, women are significantly more

drawn to the commentary beneath the

It all began with a story that is all too

likely than men to be injured during an

images as much as they are drawn to the

familiar: In April 2014, Streete learned

assault, and women of color face higher rates of violence than their white counterparts. Women face assault from family members, partners, strangers, and police, yet the vast scope of the problem remains widely unacknowledged. “Kimberly Robertson was murdered in April, and by June I was organizing,” says Streete, who works at a nonprofit that supports young women running for local political office. Streete envisioned a vibrant work of art honoring Robertson and other women who have experienced violence. She pulled together a team of Mills alumnae, women artists, and organizers to create a 12-panel mural, which was unveiled in an International Women’s Day celebration on March 21. The team agreed right away that the mural would not dwell on a sense of victimization, but that it would celebrate the beauty and power of women—their resilience. In addition, Streete says, “I was really focused on being engaged with the local community at all levels and on creating a team of women organizers who would support each other’s professional goals.” She called on Elizabeth Welsh ’12 to take the lead on grant writing and press relations. Gabrielle Rae Travis coordinated community outreach efforts and secured permissions from the families of women they hoped to portray. Nicole Gervacio, a graduate of the California College of Art whose work aims to oppose the objectification of the female body, was lead artist and coordinated the 12 other muralists.


M i l l s Q u a r t e r ly

The Her Resilience mural, top; project director Hazel Streete, below. See program information and artist biographies at Opposite, Jennifer Bermon’s portrait of Rufiena Jones-Soro.

For Streete, the objectification women

By the time Streete and her team were

“Women are the ones who are standing

encounter is directly tied to violence

underway with their project last fall,

up for black men. Women are the ones

against them. “When something’s an

Oakland, like many other cities, was

who are usually purchasing and printing

object, you can throw it around and do

roiled by protests against the deaths of

out the T-shirts,” Streete says. “In creating

whatever you want to it,” she says, add-

Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric

Her Resilience, we are women doing it for

ing: “I chose art as my venue of resistance

Garner in Staten Island. While this anger

ourselves. Instead of printing out a thou-

because it disrupts our daily lives. My

dovetailed with the anger fueling the

sand more Oscar Grant T-shirts, let’s do

goal is to interrupt that objectification.”

mural project, it also pointed out the

this for one woman.”

Streete, who grew up in Richmond,

specific need to honor women affected

Streete’s long-term plan, in collabora-

California, is no stranger to using art as a

by violence. Streete notes that women

tion with Mamacitas Cafe, is to create an

medium for making a social statement.

often champion causes supporting men

ongoing project that takes women from

“I was used to seeing RIP T-shirts and

who have been unfairly victimized—the

victim to survivor to leader. The current

taggers doing things for people they’ve

Black Lives Matter movement, for exam-

mural portrays and remembers victims;

lost or who are in prison,” she says. “It’s

ple, was started by three black women

next, the organizers will lead workshops

part of the culture. Sometimes, when the

activists after Trayvon Martin was killed

with high school girls, teaching them to

established systems are ignoring you,

by George Zimmerman in 2013—but

create portraits of themselves and women

you’ve got to take action yourself to make

says she rarely sees women doing that

they admire—women who are survivors;

yourself right.”

for themselves.

finally, a congregation of women, led by the high school girls, will take all the portraits to Oakland City Hall and make an appeal for action—a necessary step to ensure that these women become effective leaders. “Change can happen when women admire each other, when women tell each other ‘Good job,’ or ‘I’m so glad you survived,’ or ‘I see your strength,’” Streete says. “I can’t control the economic imbalance, the societal imbalance, the power structure, so women probably will still go on and be abused,” she adds. “But when you give someone the power to represent themselves, I know they’ll be able to survive. I know they’ll be able to carry on.” ◆

photos this page by dana dav is



Sound and the


By Linda Schmidt

If music can soothe the savage beast perhaps it can also bring a bit of serenity to the stressed-out city dweller. 20

M i l l s Q u a r t e r ly

With that hope in mind, experimental musician Dan Gottwald, MFA ’15, teamed up with urban designer Scott Watkins, MBA/MPP ’16, to invent ChimeSF, a unique musical public art installation. They unveiled their creation at the Market Street Prototyping Festival, which featured 50 projects intended to make San Francisco’s bustling thoroughfare more inviting, vibrant, and engaging. Gottwald and Watkins stayed on site with the instrument, situated not far from the Ferry Building and bell tower at the foot of Market Street, for most of the three-day festival in April. “People would walk up, intrigued by the aesthetics, and then they’d try to figure out how to play with it,” says Watkins. Passersby would quickly move from perplexity to discovery as they figured out the connections between chimes and hammers and levers. A wide crosssection of the city’s population was drawn to the experience—business people,

shoppers, students, and tourists. “I loved

like a laboratory to bring that knowledge

seeing people figure it out,” he says.

directly into a project,” add Watkins, who

“There was a whole awakening process,

recruited a cross-departmental team of

a piercing of their personal bubble. The

graduate students in business, computer

distinguishing characteristic of all these

science, music, and public policy to man-

people was that they were smiling—if they

age media, marketing, and other aspects

weren’t smiling when they came in, they

of the project. This network of support,

were smiling when they left.”

Gottwald says, enabled him to focus on

The development of ChimeSF

his strength: instrument building. “We started hanging out and experi-

was the culmination of chance meetings

menting,” Gottwald says. “One night we

and unified ideals. Gottwald and Watkins

just started hitting things to figure out:

met as roommates in Mills student hous-

‘What sound do we want? What action do

ing and found common ground in their

we need?’ We just picked up all the junk

concern for improving people’s daily lives.

lying around the workshop—wires and

Gottwald, who studied sculpture and

pipes and whatnot—and, very quickly,

visual arts as an undergraduate at the

very surprisingly, it all just fell into place.”

University of New Mexico, says, “The

The final design placed a set of chimes

prime goal of my work is to enable the

inside a carapace of curved wooden lever

creativity of others, to help them realize

keys. This eliminated the problem of hav-

Watkins notes that there are mul-

that they have something to offer, too. I

ing separate parts that could go missing

tiple ways for people to relate through

like the idea of accessibility and creating

or be used improperly, and gave Gottwald

ChimeSF. Playing together with someone

an inclusive experience.”

the opportunity to tune the chimes to a

on one side and playing with people on

pleasing C major scale.

the opposite side created different experi-

Watkins’ main interest is to foster social

ChimeSF—and its players—in action. Photos courtesy Dan Gottwald and Scott Watkins.

“We could have made it very dissonant,

ences, and there was a strong dynamic of


very noisy and clangy,” he says, “but we

performance and entertainment between

public space can revitalize entire neigh-

wanted players to get a reward for inter-

players and bystanders. “We had a whole

borhoods, Watkins says, citing an exam-

action and a sense of accomplishment. I

Girl Scout troop play it, there were at least

ple from Pennsylvania where merchants

didn’t want it to be an alienating musical

14 of them, and they were like a baseball

oriented their businesses toward an old

experience. Why not make something to

team calling people in off the bench. I

railroad track that was repurposed as a

bring people together?”

think all those different ways of creat-

and economic vitality through humanoriented




ing relationships is important for public

the path more, they also frequented the

interface was another guiding principle

art,” he says. “Chime can be an amazing

businesses. He also points to the concept

for the team. The instrument had to be

element of a really cool public place. You

of “healing spaces”—places that increase

functional for people of any age, height,

drop something like this into a space, and

both physical and emotional well-being.

fitness level, or musical ability. “What we

suddenly the space is activated.”

“Giving people destinations, especially

learn at Mills about social equity really

ChimeSF generated a lot of interest

ones that don’t cost money, is a way to

resonated with us in this project,” says

among the public and from organiza-

do that. So often these days everyone just

Watkins. “We thought about that as we

tions—both the Exploratorium and an

wants to get their hand in your pocket—

went; we wanted this to be able to be

architecture museum in Santa Cruz

public art offsets that,” says Watkins.

played by anybody.”

suggested the possibility of hosting the

recreational path. As people started using




The two began talking about how to

It was built to be visually and tactilely

instrument—but Gottwald feels his next

merge their interests, and when Watkins

appealing, and Gottwald’s training in the

step is clear. “I want to make another pub-

saw the call for entries for the Prototyping

fine arts was apparent in the satin-fin-

lic art installation for this kind of thing.

Festival, he thought it could be a perfect

ished wood. It also had to be approach-

It’s been proven to me how valuable this

venue for their combined skills.

able from many sides, and to allow a

is. Communities need these kinds of

dozen or more players at once.

places to draw people together.

“The policy guy is looking at things in terms of urban design on a city scale,

And, it had to be fun. Gottwald, whose

“ChimeSF is for everybody—it’s for mov-

while I’m looking at things on a micro

daughter is entering Mills as an under-

ing our community forward,” Gottwald

scale within that larger system. Having

graduate in the fall, was inspired by how

says. “It’s for using these little moments

those two perspectives operating together

playgrounds bring people together. “I’ve

to recognize that we are here together.

gave us a nice focus and cool equilib-

built relationships at playgrounds with

We don’t have to just zip by and ignore

rium,” says Gottwald.

neighbors, my kids’ friends, and parents,”

each other. We can stop and congregate

he says. “They’re focal points where the

and have some fun, and recognize the

community comes together.”

relationships that are happening.” ◆

“We’re gaining all this high-level knowledge in the classroom, and ChimeSF was



Class Notes do not appear in the online edition of Mills Quarterly. Alumnae are invited to share their news with classmates in the Mills College alumnae community. To submit notes for publication in the next available Quarterly, send your update to classnotes@mills. edu.

Class Notes do not appear in the online edition of the Mills Quarterly. Alumnae are invited to share their news with classmates in the Mills College Alumnae Community, To submit notes for publication in the next available Quarterly, send your update to

In Memoriam Notices of death received before April 1, 2015 To submit listings, please contact or 510.430.2123

Alumnae Ruth Madland Drew ’39, December 26, 2014, in Emmett, Idaho. A long-time resident of Williams, California, she took delight in enriching the lives of her family with music, art, faith, and good nutrition. She is survived by five children and 11 grandchildren. Jean Richardson Quinlan ’39, February 27, in Salinas, California. She was involved in various charities and enjoyed playing golf and bridge. Survivors include four children and nine grandchildren. Helen Tyson Kaufman ’39, March 21, in East Greenville, Pennsylvania. She maintained the garden at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s former headquarters and tended her planting beds past her 97th birthday. She is survived by three children and seven grandchildren. Martha Patterson Morse ’40, February 18, in Winchester, Virginia. She lived in Denver for over half a century and was an early member of the Colorado Potters Guild. A hiker, world traveler, and photographer, her profound connection to the natural world inspired much of her art. She is survived by a son and two grandchildren. Margaret Hunter O’Meara ’41, February 19, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She is survived by four children and nine grandchildren. Mary-Lee Lipscomb Reade ’41, March 1, in Tampa, Florida. She was a member of the Junior League of Tampa, Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club, the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club, and Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church. She is survived by her husband, Edwin; three children; and four grandchildren. Jacklyn Davidson Burchill ’44, January 16, in Napa, California. She was a world traveler with a second home in New Zealand, a seasoned investor, and generous patron of educational and charitable organizations. For nearly 40 years, she hosted fundraising galas and concerts at Silvertop, her mid-century landmark home overlooking Los Angeles that was also the venue for numerous movie and music video shoots. She is survived by four children and five grandchildren. Rachel Jukes MacKenzie ’44, January 21, in New York City. She lived in England, India, and Canada as a girl and shared her enthusiasm for learning as an encyclopedia saleswoman. She had a passion for the sea and was a founding member of the Friends of the Garden at UBC Botanical Gardens. She leaves her husband of 63 years, Giles; three children; and seven grandchildren. Cecily Boman Blake ’45, July 16, 2014, in Ojai, California. She was involved in many local cultural, social, and church activities. She is survived by two children and three grandchildren. Marilyn Hall Robison ’45, May 24, 2014, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She supported Trinity Episcopal Church and enjoyed the arts, ballet, movies, antiquing, reading, and playing bridge. Survivors include three sons, three grandchildren, and four step-grandchildren. Jean Solberg Simmonds ’46, December 12, 2014, in Port Ludlow, Washington. An advocate of natural childbirth, breastfeeding, and sex education, she pursued her PhD in medical genetics and conducted pioneering research on Down Syndrome and leukemia. She concluded her career as a genetics counselor for women with compromised pregnancies and was a board member of the Hemlock Society (later Compassion and Choices of Washington). She is survived by three children and a grandson. Margaret Crowley Phelan ’47, February 18, in Burlingame, California. She worked as an occupational therapist at UCSF and as a primary grade teacher at Buena Vista School in San Mateo. She is survived by a stepson and three step-grandsons.

Esther Rosenblatt Landa ’33, MA ’37, December 28, in Rancho Mirage, California. A longtime resident of Salt Lake City, Utah, she was an early proponent of women’s rights and an influential figure in civic and Jewish activities. She helped establish the women’s studies program at the University of Utah, served as vice chair of the Utah Board of Education, and was instrumental in launching the state Head Start program. She participated in several White House conferences and, in 1980, was part of the President’s Advisory Committee for Women. As president of the National Council for Jewish Women, she was elected to the Board of Governors of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Landa was granted an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Mills and was named AAUW’s Utah Woman of the Year. Survivors include a daughter and five grandchildren.

Dorothy Ohannesian Renzi ’48, February 14, 2014, in Fresno, California. A gifted lyric soprano, she landed a recording contract with MGM Records before returning to her hometown, Fresno, in 1963. There, she performed with the Fresno Opera Association and several theater companies, and became a beloved vocal teacher, professor at Fresno State College, and arts activist. Her survivors include a daughter. Merla Phelps Carroll ’49, October 12, 2014, in Healdsburg, California. She was a volunteer while her children grew up and then, at age 49, took her first paying job with the Council on Aging’s Senior Nutrition Program, where she worked for 22 years. She is survived by four children and seven grandchildren. Sarah “Sally” Cornew Durrum ’49, January 29, in Walnut Creek, California. She served with naval intelligence immediately after graduation and worked as a teacher and translator. Anne Claflin Allen ’51, February 20, in Belmont, Massachusetts. A member of the Belmont Women’s Club, Belmont Historical Society, League of Women Voters, Friends of the McLean Hospital, and Habitat for Humanity, she is survived by many extended family members. Marilyn McAllister Anderson ’51, March 16, in Bend, Oregon. A great lover of the outdoors, she was a member of the women’s flying club, the Ninety-Nines. She volunteered as a fire spotter for the US Forest Service, was a librarian at the Sisters Library, and co-founded the Support Our Sister cancer support group. She leaves her husband of 61 years, John; a son; and five grandchildren. Shirley Freeman Kriet ’51, January 9, in Coronado, California. Nancy Trumbull Seibert ’51, August 14, 2014, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. She was a hospital volunteer, avid reader and swimmer, and clandestine Red Wings hockey fan. She is survived by a son and a grandson. Vivian “Nicky” Mohr Anderson ’52, December 3, 2014, in Cedar Hills, Utah. A long-time resident of Ocean Shores, Washington, she was active in her community and spent much of her adult life in Thailand and Laos. She is survived by two sons, two daughters, and seven grandchildren. Ann Willrich Funk ’52, February 2, in Santa Barbara, California. She was deeply involved in community arts and historical organizations in Santa Monica, California, and Genoa, Nevada. Her historical novel, Lifeblood, was published in 2012. She leaves her husband of 61 years, Ron; four children; and seven grandchildren. SUMMER 2015


Caroline “Carita” Martin Larsen ’52, February 21, in San Francisco. She volunteered Grace Cathedral and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and was a member of the Francisca Club. In later life she oversaw the running of Larsen Vineyards and worked to preserve rural Sonoma County. She is survived by three children and four grandchildren. Margaret Ogden Welch ’52, March 28, in Blanco, Texas. She earned her PhD from Rice University in 1978, was a leader in the Episcopalian church, and was active in many civic organizations. She is survived by her husband, Dick; six children; and 10 grandchildren. Cynthia Purcell Fleig ’53, February 19, in Larkspur, California. She was a supporter of Guide Dogs for the Blind. Therese Spencer Mersereau ’54, February 1, in Portland, Oregon. A talented jazz vocalist, pianist, and composer, she performed with Dave Brubeck at the Green Lake Jazz Festival and was a fixture in the Northwest jazz scene. She is survived by four children, three stepchildren, and 19 grandchildren. Eleanor Baker Merz ’54, February 17, in Kihei, Hawaii. She lived most of her life in the greater Seattle area and was an active community volunteer and gardener. She is survived by her husband of 59 years, James; five children, and 10 grandchildren. Mary McKinnon Bonar ’55, March 25, 2014, in Sandpoint, Idaho. A dedicated fan of the University of Washington Huskies and college basketball, she most enjoyed spending summers at her cabin. She is survived by three sons and two grandchildren. Mary Jane Burruss Oman ’56, February 17, in San Francisco. She earned a degree in library science from the University of Denver and worked at the Bridwell Library at Southern Methodist University. She later helped manage a print and antique gallery in Dallas. She is survived by two children and two grandchildren. Ezra Sims, MA ’56, January 30, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was a pioneer of microtonal music, using a 72-note division of the standard 12-note scale. A cofounder of the new music ensemble Dinosaur Annex, he was recognized with a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a citation from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a distinguished achievement award from the American Music Research Center. Marcia Hancock Carlson ’57, January 6, in Walnut Creek, California. She worked in Mexico City and the Philippines before settling in southern California, where she raised her family, worked for TRW and Hughes Aircraft, and became a real estate agent. She is survived by two children and four grandchildren. Kathryn Pepper Carpenter ’58, December 21, 2014, in Mills, Wyoming. An avid outdoorswoman, she and her husband owned and managed a wine and spirits business, a mobile home park, and the IOU Horse Farm; she competed in riding events and trained racehorses for many years. She is survived by two children and two granddaughters. Frances Monahan, MA ’58, January 11, in Clinton, New York. She taught in the Hyde Park Central School System and at Dutchess County Community College. In retirement, she served two terms as supervisor of the Town of Clinton. She is survived by her extended family. Robert Ceely, MA ’61, January 28, in Brookline, Massachusetts. He was a noted composer of music for “tape alone” and “tape with instruments” and established the Electronic Music Studio at the New England Conservatory, where he taught composition for over 30 years. Survivors include his wife, Jonatha. Melinda Singleton Robinson ’62, January 1, in Kent, England. She was a naturalized British citizen who served as national treasurer of the Society for the Blind and was active in the village of Kemsing Historical Society. She is survived by a son and two granddaughters. June Snider Stoddart, MA ’64, March 15, in Oakland, California. She was a dancer, sculptor, and poet who performed in numerous plays and musicals throughout the Bay Area. She is survived by her husband, Hugh; two daughters; and a grandson. 30

M i l l s Q u a r t e r ly

Joan Roussel Sargent, former Aurelia Henry Reinhardt Professor English, died February 23, in Oakland, California. A native of England, Sargent worked with the Women’s Volunteer Service to help children displaced by the London blitz in 1940 and ran a canteen in Britain and in the Hague, Netherlands. After the war, she studied English literature at the University College, University of London, specializing in the plays of the 17th-century dramatist Thomas Middleton. In 1958, at the International Summer School at Stratford-on Avon, Roussel met Jane Rule ’52, who introduced her to Elizabeth Pope, chair of the Mills English Department. Sargent was hired to fill an interim position in 17th-century drama. The position became permanent, and Sargent taught at Mills for 27 years. In that time, she was appointed as Aurelia Henry Reinhardt Professor of English and, eventually, as dean of the faculty. Sargent held her students to the highest standards, but remained ever accessible, encouraging, funny, and compassionate. In retirement, she became an accomplished and prolific creative writer, helped edit the local MacArthur Metro newspaper, traveled widely, and was deeply involved with St. Cuthbert’s Episcopal Church in Oakland. She was predeceased by her partner, Evelyn “Peg” Deane, and is survived by scores of students and friends.

Gifts in Memory of Received December 1, 2014 – February 28, 2015 Anne Claflin Allen ’51 by Georgian Simmonds Bahlke ’51, P ’80 Joan Dreyer Allen ’62 by Catherine Henley-Erickson ’62 Marilyn Frye Bettendorf by her daughter, Marilyn Barrett ’75 Linda Nelson Branson ’77, by her husband, James Branson Jacklyn Davidson Burchill ’44 by Helen Drake Muirhead ’58, P ’89, P ’93 Barbara Fankhauser Butzbach ’50, MA ’93, by Frances Mixter Lloyd ’55 Marian Van Tuyl Campbell by Rebecca Fuller, MA ’54 Earl “Budd” Cheit by Peggy Weber ’65, P ’02 Wyland and Marnelle Filippini Cripe ’43, P ’74, by June Holden Schneider ’43 Charlotte Leahy D’Amico ’50 by Loadel Harter Piner ’50, P ’75 Diane David-Healy ’73 by Cynthia McLaughlin ’74 Evelyn “Peg” Deane ’41, by her sister, Margaret Deane Doris Dennison by Pamela Tokioka Carlson ’74, Rebecca Fuller, MA ’54 Phyllis Rawlins Drayton ’58 by Cynthia Foster and by Phyllis’ sister, Ann Rawlins Gallagher Anna Leong Duncan ’43, P ’73, by Mary Gundelach Perry Edson, husband of Melissa Dames Edson ’62, by Seiko Kawasaki Tamura ’62, P ’90 Elisa Esparza, P ’99, mother of Monica Esparza ’99, by Julia Almanzan ’92 Jaye Evans, MFA ’68, by her partner, William Barham Marjorie Duffy Fairlee ’47 by her husband, Bryan Fairlee Joy Waltke Fisher ’55 by Diane Smith Janusch ’55 Jennifer Fuller by Michelle Balovich ’03, Kimberly McCormick Kay Fraser Gilliland ’50 by Julianne Ryan

Margaret Wright Southworth ’67, July 7, 2013, in Punta Gorda, Florida. She was an independent financial advisor with her own practice since 1978. She is survived by her husband, Brad; two daughters; two grandchildren; and her cousins Joyce Duffey Starrs ’52 and Kathryn Southworth Ross ’59.

Mark Garrabrant, MA ’82, February 18, in Ventura, California. He began his career in experimental music under the name Mark Trayle and was a member of the composition faculty at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. Survivors include his wife, Kim, and a son.

Ann Marie Colegrove Fendell ’68, November 12, 2014, in Palmetto Bay, Florida. She made her home in Costa Rica for many years. She leaves her husband, James; two daughters, and five grandchildren.

Spouses and Family

Leda Soffran Silver ’68, January 4, in San Francisco. She earned her JD from the University of New Mexico Law School and was an awardwinning author of several books, a contributor to national publications, and a newspaper columnist. She leaves her husband, Richard; four children; and five grandsons.

Richard Bryant, husband of Barbara McCall Bryant ’50, March 8, in Los Angeles.

Dana Davies Coffin ’76, August 22, 2014, in Castro Valley, California. She taught in the Castro Valley, Hayward, and San Lorenzo School Districts. Joan Jones-Bateman Gascoyne, MA ’76, January 28, in San Francisco. A nurse in London and India during World War II, she completed her Mills degree at age 56. She continued part-time nursing work and, in retirement, was a hospice volunteer. She is survived by three sons and five grandchildren. Jane Holm ’76, March 4, in Gardnerville, Nevada. She was a sixth-grade teacher with a particular interest in STEM education for more than 20 years. She also had a deep love of art, music, and the outdoors. She is survived by two sons. Sallie Cuta MacNeill Karan ’80, December 7, in Oakland, California. She worked as a chiropractor and enjoyed reading, gardening, walking, snorkeling, making delicious food, and spending time with friends and family. Survivors include her husband, Daniel, and a stepson.

Denison Glass ’83 by Lisa Gleaton ’85 Eleanor Armstrong Gray ’54, P ’80, P ’83 by Aletha Waite Silcox ’54 Denyse Gross ’72 by her husband, Kenneth Morrison Elizabeth Agee Hancock ’40, P ’67, P ’71 by Julia Almanzan ’92 George Hedley by Jill Nathanson Rohde ’64 James Howlett by Pamela Hunt ’68 Donna Hunt by Cheryl Smith Blankenship ’72 Rudolph Hurwich by his wife, Janet Pethen Hurwich ’84 Dorothy Jansizian by Susan Bury ’85 Katherine Jefferson by Elizabeth Burwell Marylin Jones ’49 by Patricia Campbell Butler ’49 Marion Tonkon Kaufman ’51 by Bette Dreyfous Goldsmith ’51 Jane Quilter Kennedy ’60 by Hope Mason Pracht ’59 C. Rodgers Kines, husband of Barbara Newman Kines ’55, by Diane Smith Janusch ’55 Mary Ann Childers Kinkead ’63 by Kenneth Coates, Rebecca Fuller, MA ’54, Martha Siegel, Rachel Siegel, Linda Barker Spear ’63 Eleanor Lauer, MA ’40, by Rebecca Fuller, MA ’54 Sarah Elliott Leake ’48 by Nancy Butts Whittemore ’48 Gretchen Bosse Leffler ’59 by Carla Mahne Rosenblum ’59, P ’88 Eloise Randleman McCain ’57, by her husband, Leonard McCain Boitumelo “Tumi” McCallum ’08 by Dennis Coll Diane McEntyre by Elizabeth Kelley Quigg, MA ’89 Carl Michels, by his wife, Heidi Aarts Michels ’81 Sari Herzig Millard ’88 by her daughter, Jana Rogers Pastena ’07 Steven Miller, MFA ’89, by Angelique Di Schino Felgentreff ’90

Anthony Bianco, husband of Mary Lynn Bianco, MA ’15, and father of Claire Marx Solot ’88, December 28, 2014, in Paso Robles, California. Perry Edson, husband of Melissa Dames Edson ’62, March 10, 2014, in Los Angeles. James Howlett, husband of Dianne Sanders Howlett ’67, June 7, 2014, in Oakland, California. Carl Michels, husband of Heidi Aarts Michels ’81, November 23, 2014, in Windsor, California.

Friends Alba Witkin, December 26, 2014, in Berkeley, California. A civic activist, humanitarian, and philanthropist who gave to schools, legal programs, and children’s organizations, she was appointed to the California Advisory Committee of the US Commission on Civil Right in 1964 and held offices with many community organizations. In 1982, she and her husband, Bernard, an eminent legal scholar and author, established the Bernard E. & Alba Witkin Charitable Foundation to advance social justice and improve society. In recent years, health, education, and enrichment needs of young children and foster children became special concerns, and the foundation supported the Mills College Early Childhood Education Department generously and consistently. Survivors include a son and three grandchildren.

Louise Shumway Muhler ’41 by Erica Weber Brevet ’51, P ’76, Erin Hughes, Jane Cudlip King ’42, P ’80, Gail Leong, Donna Samson, Su Lee Tom Meredith Morrill Neill ’51 by Joanna Shelton vonBehringer ’51 Robbyn Panitch ’79 by Betsey Shack Goodwin ’76 Leanne Haney Rhodes ’62, P ’93, by Donna Squires Swinney ’62 Bernice Rosenkranz by her daughter, Clare Rosenkranz Sig ’68 Mary Seber Ryan by her son, Dan Ryan Eleanor Marshall Schaefer ’29 by Nicole Bartow Anne Sherrill by Barbara Booth Brauer ’63, Pauline Johannsen ’67 Leda Soffran Silver ’68 by Nancy Dreyer Blaugrund ’68, Corinne Brandt Gallagher ’68, Gayle Rothrock ’68, Linda Cohen Turner ’68 Ellen Spector Silverglat ’64, by her husband, Michael Silverglat Donald Spagel, P ’79, husband of Bette Krause Spagel ’63, P ’79, by Margaret Miskelly Thomas, MA ’67, P ’88, P ’93 Vivian Stephenson by Joan Lewis Danforth ’53, Janet Holmgren, Peggy Weber ’65, P ’02 Holly Vickers ’79 by Robina Royer ’80 Franklin Walker by Jill Nathanson Rohde ’64 Robert and Nancy Warner by their daughter, Nangee Warner Morrison ’63 Allan Wendt by Douglas Kintzinger, Jewel Kintzinger Day, Margaret Miskelly Thomas, MA ’67, P ’88, P ’93 Margariete Montague Wheeler ’60 by Kathryn Mallett Chadwick ’60 Ruth Woo by Bette Chinn Dare ’62

p=parent; For information about making a tribute gift, contact 510.430.2097 or SUMMER 2015


‘Tis education forms the common mind: Just as the twig is bent, the tree’s inclined. —Alexander Pope, 1734

Bent Twigs 2015 A Bent Twig is a Mills student or alumna whose family tree includes another Mills alumna. 1 Marla Fisher with her cousin, Darcy Totten ’03



2 Greta Lopez and her sister, Amelia Lopez ’11, MPP ’12 1 3 Amanda Wysinger and her mother, Sharon Kay Smith ’78 4 Roena Harten-Walker and her twin sister, Rozena Harten ’08 5 Victoria Kerenaite Kupu with her sister, Kalisi Kupu ’12 2

6 Katharine Haughton with her godmother, Kathleen Taylor ’88 7 Stephanie Stott with her cousin-inlaw, Sophia DeWitt ’96 8

8 Robyn Fisher ’90, MA ’15, and her mother, Cathy Francois Osborn ’76 9 Aiden Thomas ’10, MA ’15, and her sister, Christine Thomas Sanchez ’11 p h o t o s b y a l l i n o va k





M i l l s Q u a r t e r ly



Alumnae tr avel 2016 Legends of the Nile January 12–23

Royal mummies in Cairo’s renowned Egyptian Museum, the Sphinx and Great Pyramids of Giza, and the Luxor and Karnak temple complexes are just a few of the ancient treasures that await on this fascinating trip, which includes a four-night Nile cruise.

Wings over Tanzania February 11–22

Witness one of Earth’s greatest natural spectacles: the annual Great Migration of vast herds of wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, and Cape buffalo. Visit four of Tanzania’s finest game parks, Olduvai Gorge, and the UNESCO World Heritage sites of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.

Trans-Pacific Voyage May 5–19

Experience the wonders of Japan’s Northern Islands; the rugged beauty of the Kamchatka Peninsula and Aleutian Islands, and the native heritage of Alaska as you journey from Tokyo to Anchorage in luxury small-ship accommodations. A Kyoto, Japan, pre-program option is also offered.

Cruise the Face of Europe May 26–June 10 Wind past storybook villages and fairy-tale castles along the Rhine, Main, and Danube waterways. From Amsterdam’s scenic canals to Germany’s historic cities to the cultural centers of Vienna and Budapest, this program includes your choice of excursions in most ports of call.

Discover Southeast Alaska June 24–July 1

Oxford, England August 5–13

Cuba November 7–14

A meeting with Lord Charles SpencerChurchill at Blenheim Palace and a tour of Highclere Castle, also known as “Downton Abbey,” highlight this well-paced package through England’s pastoral villages and picturesque countryside. Pre- and post-trip options in Cambridge and London are available.

This people-to-people exploration provides opportunities to learn about contemporary and historic Cuba through insightful discussions with local experts. Meet artists, musicians, religious leaders, and teachers and venture to a model socialist community in the Sierra del Rosario mountains, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Treasures of Southern Africa October 12–26

Walk in the late Nelson Mandela’s footsteps on Robben Island, visit the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, and thrill to sightings of magnificent wildlife and spectacular landscapes, including thundering Victoria Falls, one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World.

Machu Picchu October 31–November 5 Travel to this remote mountain citadel and explore the famous city of Cusco and in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Ride the train through the Urubamba valley, visit a traditional Andean rural community, and a modern artists’ colony.

Tuscany June 1–9 With President Alecia DeCoudreaux Join President DeCoudreaux to experience the charm and romance of Tuscany. Discover the architectural treasures of Florence, Siena, and Chianti; take part in tastings at a local farm and winery; and enjoy special educational programs that illuminate this region’s rich history and famed cuisine.


The awesome forces of nature and an abundant world of wildlife are on full display in Alaska. See it all up close and in comfort aboard an exclusive 66-passenger ship. Optional program extension to Denali National Park.

North Sea Circle Cruise July 8–23

Travel the path of the Vikings! Journey from the bustling canal town of Amsterdam to the majestic fjords of Norway, past the pastoral beauty of Scotland’s Shetland Islands to the dramatic splendor of Iceland and on to cosmopolitan London.

See the AAMC travel website at for full itineraries of these and other upcoming trips. For reservations or additional information, call the Alumnae Association of Mills College at 510.430.2110 or email

Mills Quarterly Mills College 5000 MacArthur Blvd. Oakland, CA 94613-1301 510.430.3312 Address service requested Periodicals postage paid at Oakland, CA, and at additional mailing office(s)



Thursday, September 24, through Sunday, September 27 Honoring the Golden Alumnae of 1965 and alumnae from class years ending in 0 or 5 All alumnae are invited!

visit for the full scheule and periodic updates

Highlights include: • Convocation on September 25 • Updates from President DeCoudreaux and members of her cabinet • Class luncheon and AAMC awards ceremony • Activities to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Strike • Class of 1965 art show • MBA entrepreneur showcase • Campus tours, open houses, and presentations • Class dinners and photos • And much, much more!

Darius Milhaud Concert Internationally renowned conductor Nicole Paiement will direct the composer’s opera Médée in the Jeannik Méquet Littlefield Concert Hall on Friday at 8:00 p.m.

Join the Reunion book group Immigrant Voices: 21st Century Stories is a collection of short works from acclaimed immigrant authors including Junot Díaz, Edwidge Danticat, and Yiyun Li. We invite you to read the book—which all incoming students have been assigned— and join co-editors Achy Obejas, award-winning journalist and Mills distinguished visiting writer, and Megan Bayles for a lively discussion on Friday afternoon.

for more information Reunion hotline: 510.430.2123 Email:

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