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Mills Quarterly Spring 2017

Scholar and artist

Ajuan Mance celebrates the  multiplicity of black lives, past and present 


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6 Mills Quarterly

CONTENTS 6

Spring 2017 Singing stones and bundled bees by Linda Schmidt Two alumnae artists interpret the natural world through music and visual art— and investigate the complex relationships between humans and the world we live in.

12 Audaciously black by Dawn Cunningham ’85 Through her literary scholarship and artistic pursuits, Professor Ajuan Mance reveals a vibrant history of black intellectuals in America, explores the complex roles of gender and race, and confronts the challenge of expressing individuality in the face of stereotypes.

18 Alumna trustee election Vote for your representative on the Mills College Board of Trustees and the AAMC Board of Governors. See the ballot on the inside back cover.

Departments 2

Letters to the Editor

3

On the Oval

4

Mills Matters

20 Class Notes 26 In Memoriam

On the cover: Self-portrait by Professor of English Ajuan Mance

18


Letters to the Editor I loved the winter 2017 issue. I don’t always

get

a

chance

to

read

the

Quarterly, but when I do I know it’s because my spirit needs to hear what was written. I graduated in 2012 and, at the time, Mills had just turned a corner in its understanding of its identity. Mills has been trying to best describe its identity in a way that resonates most with its students and alumnae. I think you’ve Volume CV Number 3 (USPS 349-900) Spring 2017

finally nailed it!

President Elizabeth L. Hillman

inauguration speech sent home the mes-

Chief of Staff and Vice President for Communications and External Relations Renée Jadushlever

and empowers its students. To quote satisfied with who they are and what

was beautiful and stirring. Another

Editor Linda Schmidt

they know.” Mills offers the space for

introduced me to Orff Schulwerk, which

those students to find out. Mills is the

became my teaching practice after grad-

Design and Art Direction Nancy Siller Wilson

place where we stride forward with

uation, along with teaching and playing

“hope rather than fear.” I am so proud to

gamelan throughout the San Francisco

Contributing Writers

hear that Mills has found its voice and

Bay Area.

Dawn Cunningham ’85

that President Hillman hears that voice,

Thank you Mills College for all you do

Editorial Assistance Russell Schoch

sees that identity, and will forge forward

for all women who want to fly beyond

with that strength in mind and in heart.

the limits that our gender supposedly

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.

Both the “Missing measures” article and the adaptation of President Hillman’s sage that Mills is a school that values Hillman, “Mills is not a place for those

—Kelsey Mercado ’12 Santa Rosa, California

dictates.

—Joan Bell Dakin, MA ’85 Green Valley, Arizona

I love getting the Mills Quarterly, and the winter 2017 issue is one of the best.

To me, the most impressive statistic in

I am so proud of Mills, and grateful that

your list on page 6 of the winter 2017

I was a student there in the early ’80s. It

Quarterly is the fact that over a third

is satisfying to read that Mills is at the

of the student body at Mills constitutes

Copyright © 2017, Mills College

forefront of embracing women of color

first-generation college attenders. Of

Address correspondence to Mills Quarterly, Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, CA 94613. Email: quarterly@mills.edu Phone: 510.430.3312

and being a LGBTQ-friendly campus.

course, resumers at 14% and students

Bravo!

of color at 54% are also commendable.

Printed on recycled paper containing 10 percent post-consumer waste.

(Please use outline)

I was a student of Lou Harrison and

To think that in the ‘60s (if I recall cor-

Bill Colvig; where else but Mills could

rectly) the College had debated escaping

a woman learn how to build, play, and

the urban environment; instead it has

write for gamelan instruments? Where

met educational challenges head on.

else could she learn about music outside

Also wonderful was to read the sto-

of Western classical or popular music?

ries of current and past students such as

Learn about the musical structures

Melissa Berkay and Judith James. I love

of Iran, China, Southeast Asia, along

that Judith had received encouragement

with experimenting freely through the

from her “zipper” on campus, Micheline

Center for Contemporary Music?

Beam ’72—especially since on the same

And not just the teachers inspired and encouraged—one of my fellow students was a composer from Korea; her music

2 

page you quote Trustee Linda Cohen Turner ’68, who was my zipper!

—Jean Bayne Collinsworth ’70 Claremont, California

Have an opinion or comment? Send it to Mills Quarterly, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, CA 94613 or quarterly@mills.edu. Letters may be edited for clarity or length. M I L L S Q U A R T E R LY


A Message from the President of Mills College

What Mills has taught me By Beth Hillman

When I moved into the President’s House

The challenge Mills sets out for our

last July, I knew there were changes

students forces them outside of their

ahead for Mills, which—like other col-

comfort zones, encouraging growth that

leges and universities—is always adapt-

includes conflict and reconciliation. Our

ing to meet the demands of new students

Division of Student Life embraces this

and to keep up with economic and tech-

growth by focusing on the whole stu-

nological change. What I didn’t realize

dent, collaborating with our academic

was how quickly I’d be convinced that

leaders, and providing learning expe-

the world needs Mills now more than

riences grounded in social justice to

ever, and that it’s essential that we find a

prepare students to be engaged, global

path forward that sustains Mills for cur-

citizens. For Mills to grow and prosper,

rent and future generations of students.

we must step beyond our comfort zone

Now that I’m halfway through my first

too, and welcome the friction that so

year on campus, I have taken some time

often occurs when we encounter change

to reflect on what Mills has taught me.

and acknowledge difference.

I understand in new ways the impact of

Mills’ commitment to gender and

Mills’ commitment to gender and racial

racial justice has been challenged, and

justice, the discomfort that commitment

our

sometimes creates, and how our loca-

interrupted, by last fall’s contentious

tion in the San Francisco Bay Area has

presidential campaign and by rising

shaped our past and present. I can see

intolerance and anti-intellectualism. We

that Mills is bigger than any one of us,

are working to support all of our stu-

and that our location, space, and values

dents, especially those whose countries

will loom large in shaping our future.

of origin, faiths, and ethnicities make

inclusive

campus

environment

I’ve had a chance to see firsthand how

them targets for federal policies hostile

much Mills’ commitment to gender and

to undocumented and Muslim students.

of our home state. The economy that

racial justice increases our students’

We are proud to be in Oakland, a sanctu-

most of our students will graduate into is

opportunities to lead and to learn. Before

ary city.

California’s, larger than those of all but

I arrived at Mills, I could articulate a long

Since I’ve arrived on campus, I’ve

five countries in the world (the United

list of reasons to preserve and promote

also realized that Mills is not simply

States, China, Japan, Germany, and the

women-centered education. Since I’ve

in California, we are of California. Our

United Kingdom) and a powerful engine

been on campus, that list of reasons has

racial demographics reflect those of our

of opportunity. California and Mills

been transformed into a deep conviction.

state, and the political environment on

have changed together, and our futures

Witnessing classes, events, and meetings

campus reflects that of state and local

will remain linked.

at Mills reveals the unmistakable value

government rather than Washington, DC.

I’ll close by noting that the passion

of an educational space where male priv-

We are now a Hispanic-serving institu-

and generosity of those who support

ilege is not the norm. More students step

tion, with more than half students of

Mills has made clear the transformative

forward, speak up, and stand out here

color, and more than a third of our fac-

impact Mills has had on so many in the

because of our gender demographics and

ulty are persons of color to inspire our

past. I can’t overstate how much of a dif-

culture. Mills students find their voices

students. Our concerns about environ-

ference that support makes to our stu-

in an inclusive, supportive learning envi-

mental sustainability and the damage

dents today, and—with your help—I look

ronment that challenges them to see

caused by both the drought and this

forward to finding new ways to serve the

themselves and the world in new ways.

winter’s epic storms echo the concerns

students of tomorrow.

PHOTO BY ROY M ANZ ANARES

SPRING 2017

3


Mills Matters Faculty, students, and campus facilities benefit from donor support Scholarship for Lesbians. Kehoe was a Mills

Mills College gratefully acknowledges

The San Francisco Foundation made

the following gifts, grants and pledges

a donation to Mills’ Greatest Need. Gifts

of $50,000 or more received from

to Mills’ Greatest Need support a wide

The Joseph and Vera Long Foundation

August 1 through December 31.

variety of campus priorities, including

funded a new computer literacy program

professional development for our out-

at Mills. The training program will ensure

standing faculty.

that all incoming students attain a stan-

The long-awaited renovation of Lisser Hall is set to begin in May, thanks to numerous donors who made generous

Barbara Ahmajan Wolfe ’65 made a

English instructor from 1937 to 1940.

dard level of computer proficiency and

contributions over the last three years.

generous donation to enhancement of

that they have the skills to excel in an

Mills received recent gifts for Lisser

the Mills College website. Wolfe joins the

increasingly digitized higher education

Hall from the estate of Marilyn M.

Trustees’ Circle of the Cyrus and Susan

environment.

Holland ’45; Wendy Hull Brody ’68 and

Mills Society for 2016–2017.

her husband, William Brody; Joan Lewis

Nancy Cook ’68 funded the Nancy

The Walter and Elise Haas Fund made a generous gift to the Mills

Danforth ’53; Richard Barrett, P ’93, and

Cook Endowed Professorship of

Teachers Scholars Program in the School

his wife, Elaine; and the William and

Photography. She too joins the Trustees’

of Education. The Teachers Scholars

Flora Hewlett Foundation. A ground-

Circle of the Cyrus and Susan Mills

Program helps urban Bay Area teachers

breaking celebration is scheduled in

Society.

understand the complex nature of learn-

early May to kick off the one-year construction project.

The estate of Monika Kehoe made a generous gift to the Monika Kehoe

ing through systematic, ongoing collaborative study of their students’ work.

Mills College Art Museum Senior Thesis Exhibition   April 2–17 MFA Thesis Exhibition  April 30–May 28 Art + Process + Ideas  June 28–August 27 Featuring new work created by this year’s artists in residence: • Sofía Córdova works in a variety of media to examine that which plagues othered bodies. • Sanaz Mazinani explores the construction of images and how the perception of images affect a viewer’s understanding of the world—particularly in terms of politics, conflict, and war.

Walking the walk: More than 100 Mills College students, alumnae, faculty, and staff joined 100,000 citizens at the Women’s March in Oakland on January 21 to speak up for human rights, civil liberties, and social justice. “It’s great to be out here with so many people who share Mills’ values of inclusiveness, independence and empowerment,” said President Beth Hillman. Across the bay, Professor Emerita of Studio Art Hung Liu delivered a keynote speech at the march in San Francisco.

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M I L L S Q U A R T E R LY

• Genevieve Quick creates objects and images that draw upon engineering, science, and science fiction to explore optics and lens-based media. The museum is open 11:00 am–4:00 pm Tuesday through Sunday, 11:00 am–7:30 pm Wednesday, and is closed Monday. Admission is free. See mcam.mills.edu or contact 510.430.2164 or museum@mills.edu.


Campus kudos A selection of recent achievements by faculty, staff, and students Meredith May, assistant adjunct profes-

teaching and learning. She is respon-

reduced transphobia and discomfort

sor of English, wrote I, Who Did Not

sible for the first 21 chapters (out of 56).

among observers. Flores and five col-

Die, a book that tells the true story of

Urry is also lead author of Campbell

laborators conducted the research

a 13-year-old Iranian child soldier who

Biology in Focus, the second edition of

on subjects from a diverse range of

secretly nursed an enemy fighter back

a new, shorter textbook for college biol-

political viewpoints and geographic and

to life during the brutal Iran-Iraq War.

ogy majors.

demographic backgrounds; transgender

Professor of Government Fred

was broadly defined as people who are

onment, 20 years later they met by

Lawson edited two books: Armies

transitioning to the sex of their gender

chance again, at a Canadian help center

and Insurgencies in the Arab Spring

identity as well as those who cross dress

for torture survivors. The book was

(University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016)

or simply reject the idea of binary gen-

published by Regan Arts in March 2017.

and the four-volume International

der. This is one of seven peer-reviewed

Relations of the Middle East (London:

papers Flores has published within the

contributed to four film soundtracks

Sage, 2015). He has also published

last year.

in the past year, including Journey in

eight scholarly articles on Syria’s civil

After suffering terrible loss and impris-

Professor of Music Fred Frith has

In a scholarly paper published in the

Sensuality: Anna Halprin and Rodin,

war and other topics in Middle Eastern

journal Physics Education, Professor

and Leaning into the Wind: Andy

politics, and has spoken to the World

of Physics David Keeports explains

Goldsworthy, a sequel to the award-win-

Affairs Council of Northern California,

that rock music guitar riffs sound

ning 2001 film Rivers and Tides. He has

the Middle East Discussion Group of

better through old-school vacuum

made over a dozen concert and festival

the Commonwealth Club, the BBC

tube amplifiers because they produce

appearances in Europe, Asia, South

World Service, and KQED radio’s Forum

stronger, more even harmonics than

America, and the US.

program.

their transistor-run counterparts. “The

Lisa Urry, professor of biology, is lead

Research published by Assistant

even harmonics of a tube amp provide

author of the 11th edition of Campbell

Professor of Government Andrew

a complex, warm, rich sound that so

Biology, a widely used college intro-

Flores in the journal Political

many guitarists desire,” Keeports said.

ductory biology textbook known for

Psychology found that simply seeing

The findings in his paper were also fea-

its accuracy, currency, and passion for

facial photos of transgender people

tured in the publication techradar.

Flower power Assistant Professor of Biology Sarah Swope and her students are working to save one tiny piece of the world: the critically endangered Tiburon jewelflower. The flower exists nowhere else and has been decimated by local development, but Swope and her students planted a new patch using seeds from a seed bank and from currently living plants. The Marin County Board of Supervisors has allotted $40,000 to determine whether that newly introduced population can reduce the plant’s risk of extinction. The research has important implications not only for the survival of the jewelflower, but also for understanding how plant populations persist in a highly variable and increasingly droughtprone world. “The fate of all species is extinction, but human activity has greatly increased extinction rates worldwide,” says Swope. “We have an obligation to minimize that negative impact. It’s very gratifying to know that our work can be turned into a more effective conservation effort.” –Doug Oakley SPRING 2017

5


&

Singing stones bundled bees

6 

M I L L S Q U A R T E R LY


Two Mills artists explore the interrelationships between nature, beauty, and humanity By Linda Schmidt

A pile of stones. A twisted tree branch. A scattered handful of seed pods. An empty shell on the beach. In the right hands, these natural objects provide both inspi-

“My work’s abstractness creates space for inquiry and

ration and material for creative art. In the hands of Esther

discussion,” says Traugot. “I hope to elicit curiosity about

Traugot, MFA ’09, they become precious sculptural jewels.

the forms and appreciation for my handiwork, as well as

For Cheryl Leonard, MA ’96, they reveal a secret symphony.

to spark a bigger conversation about the human relation-

Both Leonard and Traugot aim to evoke an appreciation

ship with nature—even a consideration about the spiritual

for a somewhat idealized sense of nature. Although nei-

dimension of that relationship.”

ther set out to deliver a specific environmental message,

Leonard sees the power of nature—and art—to draw

it’s nearly impossible to experience their works without

people together. “We’ve got all this media, we’re on our

considering the human relationship with nature and the

iPhones and in our own separate worlds and often miss

changes we impose on the world we live in. The profound

connecting with other people. There’s a real hunger for

notions of climate change, the extinction of life forms, and

community,” she says. “I like to connect people to the nat-

the protection and exploitation of nature resonate in the

ural world, to show some of the wonder of what’s out there,

natural art of Leonard and Traugot, and their creations

and perhaps inspire them to appreciate and take better

provide both aesthetic pleasure and the opportunity to

care of it.”

ponder far-reaching questions. SPRING 2017

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C

HERYL LEONARD started music early. “I

Since that moment, Leonard has coaxed music from rocks,

liked to write my own songs even when I

icicles, driftwood, feathers, and bones, often creating beauti-

was a kid–although I was very shy and

fully sculptural instruments from these materials as well.

would only play them when nobody else

“Pinecones were a pretty fun discovery,” she says. “You can

was home.” Piano lessons in second grade

get different pitches from bowing each of the individual little

led to learning flute, guitar, and viola. She

petals, and it’s different depending on if you bow vertically or

earned her BA from Hampshire College and eventually found

horizontally. It’s a whole orchestra in your hand.”

her way to Mills. “After working for a while I decided to pursue

Her compositions integrate these sounds with traditional

what I’m really passionate about, and Mills was clearly the best

instruments and field recordings gathered in locations as

option for me,” she says. At Mills she found both an openness to

near her San Francisco home as Golden Gate Park and as

experimentalism and an encouragement of individualism that

far away as Antarctica. “I really like cold places,” she says.

suited her well. “I loved working with Alvin Curran. We shared

“There’s something about the starkness, the limited palette

the sensibility that any sound has the potential to be musical.”

that you get in cold places. If I went to the tropics, I’d be

The wider Bay Area further nurtured her growth as an art-

overwhelmed by so many animals, so many sounds. I like

ist. Leonard studied free improvisation and began playing in

the austereness of an environment where your options are

experimental sound groups and noise bands, where people

limited and you’re inspired to listen more deeply to each

frequently incorporated found objects—mostly industrial-type

thing.”

items like car parts and scrap metal.

In 2009, with a National Science Foundation artist’s grant,

Her most transformative moment, however, happened not in

she was able to travel to Palmer Station in Antarctica, where

the classroom or studio, but in the woods. “One day, a friend

she spent five weeks recording, observing, and collecting—

and I were up in the Berkeley hills playing an improvised

and learning how to pilot a Zodiac boat. The water, land,

string duet in the forest,” she says. “We’re playing and play-

and animals provided a kaleidoscope of material. “I was sur-

ing, and we spontaneously

rounded by a lot of small islands, and things would change

started trying to bow things

every day depending on the weather and what was happening

in the forest. All of a sudden,

with the glacier, or if a big iceberg washed in, or whales came

we wondered: ‘What happens

into the area,” she says. While there, she gathered material

if we bow the lichen? What if

that resulted in a xylophone of limpet shells and arrays of

we bow a leaf?’ You can bow a

mounted penguin bones, as well as an audio library of howl-

lot of things, actually. Some of

ing winds, bellowing seals, and creaking glaciers. “I usually

them are quiet, others are hor-

try to find some essence of the thing I’m recording or play-

ribly screechy.... It was a magi-

ing,” she says. “I develop my compositions to highlight details

cal moment.”

that I find fascinating about any particular sound.” One of the most startling moments during her sojourn occurred as she returned to Punta Arenas, Chile. “Even before you got to land you could smell the plants growing; it was mindblowing how green things were in contrast with Antarctica,” she says. Leonard’s compositions for natural-object instruments have been performed worldwide and featured on several television programs as well as in the video documentary Noisy People. She has been awarded numerous grants and residencies as well as commissions from such groups as the Kronos Quartet.

Cheryl Leonard creating rock music (above); her sculptural instrument of driftwood and penguin vertebrae (left). On location in Antarctica (previous page). 8 

M I L L S Q U A R T E R LY


Detail from Huddle, an installation of honeybees; Esther Traugot.

E

STHER TR AUGOT spent her childhood

“Much of modernism wants to focus on concepts and ideas

years living with her family in an inten-

and social implications—which are all good conversations—

tional community in rural Tennessee.

while rejecting standards of beauty and aesthetics,” says

With as many as 1,500 members, the group

Traugot. “I found a kinship at Mills, where the appreciation for

was fairly self-sufficient, running its own

aesthetic value and the quality of making things are both still

school and vegetable farm. “We didn’t have

alive. The question is not does beauty have value, but what is

much contact with town because most of our needs were taken

it, how do we each see beauty?”

care of right there,” says Traugot. “We were guided by the idea

A serendipitous class assignment brought Traugot back to

of simplifying life, living close to the land, not making money

some of her early interests: she tried an experimental project

a priority.”

crocheting a formfitting skin of yarn around lengths ofbranches

It was an idyllic environment and, with little distraction from

and became fascinated with how the wrappings seemed to illu-

television and other appurtenances of typical American life,

minate the objects and with the prospect of utilizing a craft

Traugot found plenty of entertainment of her own. “I walked to

technique to produce a work of fine art..

school through the fields and woods. I worked in the garden.

“On campus, of course, eucalyptus pods were some of the

I was keenly aware of the seasons, and I became very inter-

first things I worked with,” she says. “Then I found a dead bee

ested in the plants around me. I loved collecting seeds,” she

on the windowsill of my studio and I thought ‘Wow, what if

says. Her habit of inquisitive observation paralleled a natural

I can wrap that?’ It became a real challenge and an exciting

artistic bent and, she says, she enjoyed creating with anything

investigation for me.”

she could get her hands on. At the same time, she learned to

Soon Traugot was encasing seeds, shells, stumps, and eggs

crochet and knit practical items like a scarf or a hat. A high

in a layer of rich, hand-dyed ochre thread. The color, she says,

school art teacher suggested that crochet could be used to cre-

is fairly natural, but brings brilliance and vibrancy to objects.

ate sculptural objects; but at the time the idea didn’t take root

“It’s like sunshine or gold leafing. It adorns these objects and

for her.

makes them more special,” she says. “And the time involved in

She went on to pursue studio art, primarily as a painter and

stitching around them becomes an act of veneration.”

photographer, at UC Berkeley. There, through a contemporary

Traugot invests considerable care in producing each piece,

art theory class, she learned of Hung Liu, now professor emer-

and the result highlights the delicacy and vulnerability of each

ita of studio art at Mills. “I was drawn by the desire to study

object. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries

with Professor Liu,” says Traugot. “Her work resonated with me

from the Bay Area to New York and Paris, and she has received

more than that of other modernist painters—she has an art-

commissions from Neiman Marcus department stores. “I’m just

ist’s touch, mixing figuration with landscape and history and

fascinated with covering objects and how this transforms com-

memory.

mon items into tactile, sensual objects.” SPRING 2017

9


T

HE CREATIVE PROCESS OF BOTH

Traugot’s creations typically rely on her intrinsic response

these artists balances a focused awareness

to an object and her ingrained sense of caring for the environ-

with an openness to chance. For some proj-

ment. “The objects themselves usually provide the inspiration;

ects, Leonard may undertake significant

I get my materials from odd places,” says Traugot, who lives

amounts of research and experimentation.

and works in Sebastopol. “Walking around town, I might sud-

For a composition based on the sound of

denly be drawn to a bunch of acorns on the ground. Or I could

melting ice, she developed a process to manufacture icicles in

be out at a restaurant having mussels and see the shells and

her freezer. “The cool thing about that piece is that the drip

think ‘Ah, that’s pretty interesting!’ Rather than taking left-

rate is completely dependent on the climate of the room. When

overs, I’ll take the empty shells home to work with them.”

I rehearse with them in my cold, uninsulated San Francisco

One of her largest projects was prompted when she found

apartment, they drip much more slowly than in a venue full of

a clearing filled with dozens of manzanita stumps. The color,

people, where accumulated body heat makes the ice melt more

texture, and relationship of the fragments fascinated her,

quickly and speeds up the tempo of the piece. It’s actually a

and she was moved to share their story. “I made 52 pieces,

perfect analogy for the real effects of climate change.”

all crocheted up the sides, three to 11 inches high. They were

In 2016, she worked with scientists from Scripps Institute of Oceanography to learn about sea level rise, storm patterns, and

installed spread out on the floor in a natural pattern, like a little clearcut,” she says.

predictions for the future as the basis for an interactive instal-

She takes an intuitive approach to the technical difficulty of

lation in a La Jolla gallery. Her piece illustrates the factors that

the wrapping process, subtly adding and subtracting crochet

come together to produce extreme high sea-level events: a high

stitches as needed to matching irregular organic shapes. “The

tide, a storm, and long-term oceanic cycles, such as El Niño.

core of it is working directly on the object and responding to

“I really enjoy diving into something new and learning

it as I go,” she says.

about it in depth,” she says. “When you can make something beautiful and engaging, even about a challenging issue, it can draw people in and provide an educational component.” On the other hand, some pieces begin as happy accidents. “I could just kick a rock and notice that it sounds great! I like that it happens both ways; what you thought might be interesting could be a complete dud. You never know when inspiration might strike you; it’s important to remain open to other possibilities.”

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M I L L S Q U A R T E R LY

T

HESE TWO MILLS-TRAINED ARTISTS are motivated to share the respect and responsibility they feel for the natural environment while also recognizing that many people live lives far removed from such a world. “I like to invite people to open

their ears and listen to the world in new ways,” Leonard says.


“Sometimes I’m simply excited about the sound itself or the instrument I built, and the visceral appreciation of the unique

ability of gecko toes. “The modern relationship to nature is complex and somewhat contradictory.”

characteristics of that thing,” she adds. “But over time my pieces have become more environmentally focused. You can’t make music using materials from the natural world without noticing what’s going on in that world. Especially the issue of climate change: in the polar regions, you may look at a map and see a peninsula, but when you go there you see that it’s an island because the glacier has retreated. You cannot ignore that.”

L

OOKING TO HER FUTURE PROJECTS, Traugot plans to extend the concept of protecting nature to more actively healing that which is damaged, based in part on the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, which finds beauty in the imperfect or in creating

Says Traugot: “My work is a very personal expression of how I

a whole from broken parts. “I’m thinking about ‘patching’ bro-

see the world—and that includes loving nature and considering

ken eggs. I also have some tiny rodent bones and deer bones,

how we can best live in harmony with nature. I also see that

and I want to try to put together a skeleton,” she says.

people might have different ideas and viewpoints. Is nature

For now, Leonard is staying a little closer to home than

something to be cared for and protected? Or is it something to

the Antarctic, using skills in field recording and mountain-

conquer? Is it a commodity or a resource to utilize for human-

eering to pursue a project about California glaciers, which

ity’s purposes?

are affected both by rising temperatures and by the state’s

“We manipulate things for our own needs, from genetically modified food all the way up to global weather patterns,” she

drought. “They’re melting away, so I want to visit and record them before they’re gone.”

says. “At the same time, scientists are always discovering that

“Living in our urban world where we’re constantly flooded

nature has already developed the most ingenious solutions.”

with inputs and obligations, it’s very easy to lose touch with

Velcro, for example, was inspired by burdock burrs clinging to

the power of nature and a sense of where we fit in the grand

an engineer’s clothing (and dog) after a hike, and new adhesive

scheme of things,” says Leonard. “There’s something beautiful

technology is being developed based on the amazing gripping

about going out into the world and focusing on what is essen-

Traugot’s pods of brachychiton rupestris (opposite); Leonard’s instrument of limpet shells (above).

tial—that you have something to eat, some shelter. It’s both empowering and humbling.” ◆

SPRING 2017

11


Audaciously

BLACK

Ajuan Mance celebrates the “wonderful complexity of African American lives,” past and present, through literature and art By Dawn Cunningham ’85

PILES OF BOOKS AND OVERFLOWING FILES—the functional clutter that often signals a creative mind—surround Professor of English Ajuan Mance in her office on the third floor of Mills Hall. She is dressed conservatively, in a navy blue wool sweater, crisp white button-down shirt, and jeans. Along one wall, bookcases hold the tools of her trade, from the Riverside Chaucer to the Oxford Companion to African American Literature. One of the weightiest volumes on the shelf is the 700-page book Mance published last year, Before Harlem: An Anthology of African American Literature from the Long Nineteenth Century (University of Tennessee Press, 2016). She affectionately calls the tome “my own custom door stop.”

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M I L L S Q U A R T E R LY


Others describe it more favorably. Kerry Larson, an English

ings, both reflect a singular passion. “I have this thing about

professor at the University of Michigan, says, “Before Harlem

making visible how regular black folks live their lives as

is an invaluable work of archival recovery, bringing to light

opposed to how black lives are represented in the popular

authors whose works have been either neglected or shunned

imagination,” Mance explains. “There are so many different

by past traditions. Anyone interested in the history and worth

ways of being black, but we only hear about a very small per-

of the African American literary imagination owes Professor

centage of them.”

Mance a lasting debt.”

Mance has made visible, for example, the existence of “Afro-

Vying for attention, several vividly colored portraits of black

geeks and nerds with soul” (in 1001 Black Men), the experience

men enliven Mance’s office space. Strong graphic lines outline

of straightening one’s hair (in her comic zine Requiem for a Hot

bold blocks of vermillion and emerald green. A flame-red paint-

Comb), the literary strategies used by northern black writers

ing depicts a man whose outsized Afro flows over the canvas,

of the 19th century to undermine the myth of white south-

engulfing tiny pop-culture artifacts—plastic peace signs, toy

ern gentility (in Before Harlem), and the ways black women

army men, flowers, a cassette tape. These portraits are also the

poets in the 1960s responded to the androcentrism of the Black

work of Ajuan Mance, whose art has been featured in galleries

Arts Movement (in her book Inventing Black Women: African

across California as well as on BET.com and Buzzfeed. Curator

American Women Poets and Self-Representation, 1877–2000 ).

Dierdre Visser ’94, who organized an exhibition of Mance’s

“I love everything about being a black person in the US,” she

series of drawings entitled 1001 Black Men at the California

says. “I just can’t get enough of it—our history, the way we walk

Institute of Integral Studies, said, “It’s been galvanizing to dis-

in the world. I’m amazed and humbled by all that black folks

cover how deeply resonant this work is for our audience, across

do. My work comes out of my love of black people.”

ethnicity, gender, age, and sexual orientation.” Despite the radical contrast in form between her ground-

MANCE'S WORK ALSO COMES OUT OF A LIFE shaped by

breaking literary scholarship and her comics-inspired draw-

numerous talents, from writing to programming, but above all

PHOTO BY ALLISUN NOVAK

SPRING 2017

13


by her desire to make art—particularly as a way to reflect on

education and academic career. “But I really loved writing

African American experiences. “The only thing I’ve been longer

creatively, so I majored in English with the intent of getting

than I’ve been an artist is a black person,” she says.

an MFA degree.” After she graduated from Brown, she made

Mance grew up in Freeport, a multi-ethnic community on

another switch. “My advisor encouraged me to apply to PhD

Long Island, New York, where her father worked as a chemis-

programs in literature. She said, ‘I think you’d enjoy this. You’d

try teacher (he later became the first African American direc-

be good at it.’ Teachers matter a lot to students, so when she

tor of the Tennessee Education Association). “I always gravitated

told me where I should apply, I did what she asked.”

towards art—my mother has kept drawings that I did when I was

Mance was admitted to the University of Michigan, and her

three or four years old. My parents would take me to stores where

advisor turned out to be right. “For my dissertation, I read a

art students bought supplies and to museums in Manhattan,

lot of 19th-century women’s magazines. Michigan had a great

where I’d walk around with a notebook writing down the paint-

library, and I was able to hold these old volumes in my hands.

ings that I liked best. I was very serious,” she says.

I fell in love with archival work and 19th-century literature—

She took art classes throughout high school, but once she started college at Brown University, never again pursued formal

American literature in particular. I was interested in what the people of the time thought was important, what they valued.”

art training: “Like a lot of black people, or people who don’t

Her dissertation later evolved into her first book, Inventing

come from privilege, art as profession felt inaccessible to me,

Black Women: African American Women Poets and Self-

like something that only rich people would do.” Nevertheless,

Representation, 1877–2000 (University of Tennessee Press,

she kept sketching and drawing on the side, and even worked

2007). The book, which was named an Outstanding Academic

as an illustrator for a semester.

Title by the American Library Association, begins with an

Initially, Mance planned to study computer science—an

exploration of the popular understanding of the role of women

interest that has stayed with her throughout her university

in the 1800s. Mance writes, “True Women were distinguished by their sweet acquiescence, pious humility, and moral virtue,” as well as by their confinement to the home. “African American and poor white (mostly immigrant) women’s labor outside the home… was cast in the popular imagination as evidence of their innate inability to conduct themselves appropriately, as True Women.” Ideal womanhood came to be associated with the figure of the middle-class white female, she argues, and this notion persists in American society even today. On the other hand, beginning in the late 19th century, the African American struggle for racial justice aimed, above all, “to make a place for black manhood within a social order that sought to limit the exercise of male power—especially male power within the public sphere—to those men who were white,” writes Mance. Blackness came to be associated with the figure of the African American male, even in African American literature. Black women, meanwhile, were rendered essentially invisible in the popular imagination. Inventing Black Women explores how African American women poets resisted conventional notions of gender and race that limited their visibility. Mance traces the changes in the literary Each subject in Ajuan Mance’s series, 1001 Black Men, is a real person: a relative, friend, or someone she spotted in a café or at the BART station or on the street. In January, Mance completed the series with drawing #1001: this portrait of her father, whom she describes as “the most inspiring and influential man in my life.” The series is posted on her website, 8-rock.com.

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M I L L S Q U A R T E R LY


strategies used by these poets, from the late 19th century to the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s to the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. It ends with the late 20th century, when African American women poets successfully situated the black woman “at the center of her own socio-political and aesthetic landscape,” transgressing traditional notions of race and gender.

AFTER  COMPLETING  H ER  PHD, Mance taught English at the University of Oregon for four years. While there, she says, “I had this overwhelming feeling that I needed to take art seriously. I wanted to pursue a line of artistic inquiry into how black people inhabit their identities, how the culture and power of the African American community is written on our bodies. I was also interested in how you could represent someone as clearly of African American descent in as few lines as possible.” She continued this line of inquiry after she came to Mills in 1999. In 2010, she began the artwork for which she is best known, the 1001 Black Men series of portraits. “I’ve always found African American manhood and masculinity interesting,” says Mance, who describes herself as a “gender-nonconforming woman who feels more connected to male clothing and stereotypically male stuff.” She began the series, she says, because “black men are highly objectified by the media, including black media. Their images—their bodies, in particular—are used to sell products, to sell ideas, and sometimes to sell fear. There’s a stereotype that black men are more masculine, that they are stronger—and that makes them scar-

are so fascinating to me: how do you move through the world

ier. I’m interested in counterbalancing that stereotype because

when the world is obsessed with you? What does that feel like?

it shapes how black lives are lived and lost. That stereotype is

How do you manage to still be yourself?

deadly.”

“Working on 1001 Black Men has made me conscious of my

A year and a half after Mance began the series, the shoot-

own possible complicity in perpetuating stereotypes, of how

ing of an African American teenager, Trayvon Martin, and the

narrow my own perceptions of black manhood have been,”

acquittal of his killer led to the birth of the Black Lives Matter

she says. “Far too many of the people in my first 500 drawings

movement. Black Lives Matter brought global attention to a

had suits and briefcases or V-neck sweaters. They looked like

reality that African Americans have long known: a pervasive,

people I grew up with, like my friends from college and grad

irrational fear of black men places their lives in danger every

school, like my dad…. Halfway through the series, I realized I

day. A few of Mance’s portraits reference this directly; #931, for

didn’t have any drawings of black men who were gender non-

example, depicts a young man in a hoodie. “I saw this man and

conforming, and very few of young, working-class black men.

his friend walk past,” she recalls, “and I had the same thoughts

It made me aware of how my gaze as an artist is determined by

I have every time I see an African American man or boy with

my own power, privilege, and comfort level.”

the hood on his sweatshirt pulled up on his head: I wondered

Mance made a point of seeking a more diverse range of sub-

how anyone could think this man was dangerous, and I hoped

jects in the later half of the series, and despite her continuing

he got home safely, that night and every night. After all, an

misgivings about the effect of her own biases on her choices,

awful lot of people are afraid of black men, and scared people

1001 Black Men has been well received. “Black men, in par-

with guns have ended an awful lot of black lives.”

ticular, have embraced the work,” she says. “They’ve told me,

Mance observes, “Some black men are hyper-cognizant

‘Wow, you see us!’ or, ‘Oh, I know this guy. This looks like the

that they are being gazed upon. They know that meanings

guy who lives down the corner.’ It looks true to them, and I

are being projected onto them. That’s part of the reason they

love that.” SPRING 2017

15


WHILE MANCE DEEPENED HER artistic practice, she also

and Ohio, and in San Francisco; they were “safe havens for

continued to pursue her love of archival research and literary

black artistic expression and intellectual inquiry.”

scholarship. Before Harlem: An Anthology of African American

"One of the big things I learned while doing this research

Literature from the Long Nineteenth Century represents 10 years

was that there was a community of black people who were

of work. “I gained access to a database of 19th-century newspa-

nerds and writers, like me, beginning almost 200 years ago.

pers, including a wonderful collection of black newspapers, so

Some of the literature they produced was really audacious.

I decided to focus on this literature by black writers and fore-

When they were writing for other black people, they were irrev-

ground the free urban experience of northern black people.”

erent about black people, irreverent about race. And the black

Unlike canonical anthologies on the topic, which typically

gaze on whiteness was fascinating.”

comprise texts by black writers that have achieved main-

In a magazine called The Colored American, for example,

stream recognition—texts that were written with white read-

Mance discovered a serialized novella about a white couple

ers in mind or that subsequently became popular with white

that attends a fancy ball wearing blackface created by their

readers—Before Harlem features poems, short stories, sermons,

black maid. “On their way home, they can’t get the blackface

newspaper articles, and other works that reveal the concerns

off, and so they get on the train. The blackface is so good that

and interests of black authors writing for black readers of the

nobody believes they’re white, and they experience what it is

time. Before the Civil War, Mance points out, almost 90 percent

to live under Jim Crow.”

of black people in the United States were enslaved, but a black

Mance was surprised to find that black writers of the time

literary culture flourished “in those cities and towns in which

could play so boldly with ideas and the written word. “I think

African Americans had stable and defined neighborhoods,

it’s empowering that these people refused to let the horrible

well-established churches, access to education, and employ-

institutions that were pervasive then keep them from being

ment opportunities providing greater than subsistence-level

fabulous.”

incomes.” These communities were mostly located in north-

One of the mid-19th-century “nerds and writers” that Mance

eastern and mid-Atlantic cities, a few towns in Pennsylvania

is particularly fascinated with is William J. Wilson (pen name

16 

M I L L S Q U A R T E R LY


“Ethiop”), the Brooklyn correspondent for Frederick Douglass’

fact, she says, “I hope my work can be as good as theirs. They’ve

Paper. With wit and erudition, Wilson’s articles examined

pushed me to grow out of my comfort zone. I’ve never been in

racial injustice and other issues facing black people in New

a place with livelier, more engaged students.” Mance also says

York and beyond. In a series of essays entitled “The Afric-

she’s never taught a more diverse student body. “I’ve had to

American Picture Gallery,” published in another black pub-

develop my awareness of students’ differences and think about

lication, he envisioned a gallery filled with art representing

how the words I use will be heard by those with very compli-

African American experiences and history. He described each

cated identities.”

imagined artwork using an experimental blend of reporting,

Mance’s teaching, scholarship, and art convey a lesson

alternate histories, and social critique to convey the horror of

that is especially relevant to the challenges her students

slavery, the hubris of his white contemporaries, and the achieve-

face in the United States of 2017—a nation that has become

ments of black writers and political figures. Two of Wilson’s essays are

included

Harlem,

but

in

Before

Mance

is

planning to do much more with him: she is building a website that will use his writings “to give people an experience of immersion in the black New York of the 1850s. We always look at black urbanness as a new

thing—but

Wilson

shows that it isn’t. The website will pose a series of questions: What would you do if you were a black New Yorker? Where would you go? Who would you know? How would others

"People at the margins... need to take charge of our own history and images and tell all those stories about who we are that are glossed over in the master narrative."

see you? What landscapes would you see? What would you read? In answering these ques-

distinctly less welcoming to people of color, LGBTIQ people,

tions, I’ll provide links to other influential authors and texts.”

immigrants, and others who make up a significant part of the Mills community.

THE WILLIAM WILSON WEBSITE IS JUST ONE of many that

“I’ve told my students that what’s important now has always

Mance has built as a way to explore her interests and share

been important,” says Mance. “People at the margins need to

her work—and it provides further evidence of her abilities as

take charge of how they’re depicted in our culture. For a lot

a polymath. Mance dabbles in computer programming, and

of groups who have a long historical experience of marginal-

recently completed a bootcamp in programming for the web.

ization and invisibility—especially people of African descent—

These skills have enabled her to integrate digital techniques

nothing’s really going to change in what we need to do, but we

with more traditional classroom teaching. For instance, for her

need to step up the intensity of it.

course on Race, Class, Wizardry this semester, she has set up

“We need to take charge of our own history and images and

a website that will allow her students to collaboratively create

tell all those stories about who we are that are glossed over

and publish an online guide to the Harry Potter fan culture of

in the master narrative. Art and scholarship and digital media

queer and trans people of color and other marginalized groups.

present the means to do that. All of these ways of creating new

“Our students are doing creative, critical analysis with digi-

knowledge and images—and especially disseminating them—

tal tools. They’re engaging in meaningful ways with all the

are critically important.”

information that’s available on the web,” Mance says. She’s par-

As Mance writes on her 8-rock.com website, her own work

ticularly impressed by her students’ ingenuity in using videos,

seeks to accomplish this by reflecting “the wonderful complex-

game software, Tumblr, and other platforms to tell interactive

ity of African American lives—our history so deeply embedded

stories and draw connections between ideas.

in our present, our celebrations so often tempered by grief and,

Mance sets a high bar for her students’ academic work, but she takes no credit for their creativity in the digital realm. In

yes, the pleasure and danger we find in so many of the people, places, and activities that give us joy.” ◆ SPRING 2017

17


Elect your

alumna trustee one of the two women described on these pages will be your next alumna trustee. Help determine who it will be by taking part in this important election to ensure that alumnae continue to provide a strong voice in the leadership of the College.

Vote!

Find your ballot on the inside back cover

Serving for three years (July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2020) as a full member of both the Mills College Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors of the Alumnae Association of Mills College (AAMC), this Alumna Trustee will help ensure that alumnae are well represented in the leadership of the College by conveying the views of the AAMC board to the College board. She will join continuing alumna trustees Susan Ardisson ’77 and Yvonne Payne Daniel, MA ’75. We offer our thanks to Judith James ’74, who is concluding her 2014–17 term. Note: You may vote either by paper ballot or online at the Mills College online Alumnae Community (a simple registration is required if you are not already a member of the online Alumnae Community). See detailed instructions on how to cast your vote on the inside back cover of this magazine! Whether you vote online or by paper ballot, only one vote per alumna will be accepted. Any alumna casting multiple votes will invalidate all of their votes. All voting must be completed and received at Reinhardt Alumnae House by 5:00 pm (PST) on Friday, May 5.

Help shape the future of the Alumnae Association The AAMC is seeking qualified candidates to fill several seats on its Board of Governors. Applicants with skills in leadership, communication, writing, and administrative operations are particularly encouraged. In addition, the Board is looking for candidates who will bring energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to the AAMC and College. Participation on AAMC committees is mandatory; please consider your availability and time commitment before submitting an application for the AAMC Board of Governors. For BOG responsibilities and AAMC by-laws, please visit alumnae.mills.edu/aamcLeadership. All interested alumnae are encouraged to apply to aamc@mills. edu or by mail to AAMC Nominating Committee, Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., MB #86, Oakland, CA 94613. Applications are due Sunday, April 9, 2017.

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M I L L S Q U A R T E R LY


Ammie Felder-Williams ’76

Tara Singh ’05, MBA’07

New Rochelle, New York

Tiburon, California

Education

Education

BA, anthropology/sociology, Mills College, 1976; MS, journalism, Columbia University, 1983; MBA coursework, Columbia University, 1979–1983

BA, Political, Legal, and Economic Analysis, 2005; MBA, Mills College, 2007; professional certification, Environmental Policy, Bard College, 2011

Employment

Employment

Business professional with 25+ years of community leadership; experienced in civic affairs, fundraising, education, family services, and event planning.

Founding Chair, Nexus India & South Asia, Nexus Global, an international youth organization, hosted annually at the United Nations and White House; Founder-owner of the boutique, natural skin-care brand Terra Tara Organics, Inc.

Volunteer experience Board member, Lois Bronz Children’s Center, 2016–present; Young Achievers, 2014–present; Mayoral appointee, Historical Landmarks and Review Board; District Council member, election campaigns; President, Big Brothers, Big Sisters Advisory Board.

AAMC/College involvement ’76 Class Secretary, 2010–present; Mills College Club of New York, Scholarship Benefit Fundraising; Admissions Area Representative; Class Reunions 2011, 2016; Sisters of the Seventies, founder, organizer, 2011.

How has Mills affected your life? Mills is in my DNA. I transferred from the University of Washington and discovered an empowering environment where I could thrive. The women’s movement and my time at Mills influences how I view the world. My daughters and I participated in the Women’s March on Washington, DC. It was amazing and reaffirmed my support of reproductive rights, the LBGTQ community, religious rights, and institutions like Mills College. President Hillman’s leadership with respect to social justice puts Mills College in the spotlight.

How do you view the AAMC and its relationship with the College? The AAMC should be active ambassadors for the College. I know I am. Whenever I hear of young women thinking of college I tell them to consider Mills. A dear friend’s daughter from New York has been accepted to Mills for 2017! The AAMC can help increase our global reach. Last month, I visited an alumna in the Peace Corps in Rwanda, Africa. Another alumna in London was recently honored for creating an app for refugees leaving the Middle East. We must share stories and market them as a way to increase enrollment and retention.

What are your hopes and expectations for the future of Mills College? I believe Mills thrives when we maintain an open system with changing Oakland communities, look for creative partnerships, support academic instruction, and enhance student achievement. Mutually, Mills and her alumnae can realize the ideals articulated in the Campus Compact. Our most valuable resource is the Mills Woman—the ones who came before and the ones coming after us. Let’s shine a light on them!

Volunteer experience Appointed member, United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development’s Working Group on Youth and Gender Equality; board president, Operation Dignity, a veteran-run, service-enriched non-profit serving homeless veterans and their families and the homeless population of Alameda County, California; board member, Ik Onkar Peace Foundation, a non-profit with the goal to promote peaceful conflict resolution and encourage economic and social justice while preserving human dignity, planetary beauty, and resources.

How has Mills affected your life? Mills instilled within me a sense of curiosity and passion for knowledge and the courage to question the status quo while standing up to protect the rights of those without voice. Mills helped me find my identity as an agent of change and gifted me with the strength to follow my inner moral and intellectual compass.

How do you view the future of the AAMC and its relationship with the College? May the global Mills community connect, provide feedback and guidance so the educational experience at Mills continues to be relevant in today’s world and prepares its graduates to excel in a rapidly changing society while building on its rich legacy.

What are your hopes and expectations for the future of Mills College? Mills has a long history of embracing new ideas and providing strong leadership. The balance between tradition and innovation, along with diversity and inclusion, are crucial to the future success of Mills. I hope Mills continues to be the type of world-class institution that garners respect by developing strong, powerful, intelligent, and creative graduates who are prepared and inspired to make their distinctive mark on the world. I aim to create avenues of connectivity between academia, business, and the social sectors, where students and alumnae can find relevance of their education to the issues, challenges, and injustices within our society, while at the same time putting Mills on a strong footing for generations to come.

SPRING 2017

19


In Memoriam Notices of death received before January 6, 2017 To submit listings, please contact alumnae-relations@mills.edu or 510.430.2123

Alumnae Ellen Evans Webster ’39, March 17, 2016, in La Habra Heights, California. She taught in the Lowell Joint School District for 15 years. She is survived by three children and 10 grandchildren. Helen “Jean” Swenson Breck ’39, July 18, 2016, in Lake Oswego, Oregon. She spent many years teaching and developing recreation programs at Penn State University, UCLA, and Portland Community College. She also worked to accredit camps for the American Camping Association and chaired a task force for Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation. She is survived by a daughter. Georgiana “Bee” Crawford Yant ’39, October 25, in Oceanside, California. She worked as a commercial artist, drawing women’s fashion advertisements. She was active in several garden clubs and social organizations and was a member of Eastern Star. Survivors include two sons and six grandchildren. Esther Scharlack Vexler ’40, November 1, in San Antonio, Texas. A leader with the Texas League of Women Voters, the Texas Mental Health Association, the Family Violence Center, and the National Council of Jewish Women, she also established job training services for teens and a program to arrange home repair loans for low-income homeowners. She was a dedicated yoga practitioner and teacher, leading classes until age 98; the Esther Vexler School of Yoga was established in 2014. She is survived by three children and five grandchildren. Helen Adolph Cope ’42, December 13, 2015, in Richmond, Indiana. She worked in the science labs at Earlham College, taught science classes for 14 years at Centerville High School, and, with her husband, established the Cope Environmental Center with an emphasis on sustainability and alternative energy. She is survived by five children and 11 grandchildren.

welfare, including the Texas Social Welfare Association, the El Paso Mental Health Association, and the El Paso Child Guidance Center. She was also involved with the El Paso Museum of Art Association and the El Paso County Historical Society. In 2009, the Texas Senate noted her exceptional achievements. She is survived by numerous cousins in El Paso and California. Mary Murphy ’45, July 28, 2015, in Santa Barbara, California. She taught kindergarten in Oakland and later became a school principal. A member of San Roque Catholic Church, she is survived by her sister, Pat Murphy Abercrombie ’51, and seven nieces and nephews. Joy Tenenbaum Dunkelman ’46, December 20, 2015, in St. Louis, Missouri. She helped found the St. Louis Senior Olympics and national Senior Olympics, and was a member of Jewish Hospital and BarnesJewish Hospital boards. In 1989 she was named a St. Louis Woman of Achievement. She is survived by two children and five grandchildren. Mary Keene Hoffman ’46, August 7, 2016, in Xenia, Ohio. She enlisted in the Navy during World War II and later had a career as a medical librarian. She is survived by her three sons and four grandchildren. Patricia Mcbride King ’47, October 3, 2015, in Cotati, California. She worked as a nurse and nursing supervisor. She is survived by three children and five grandchildren. Margaret Kerr Littell ’47, September 21, 2015, in South Lake Tahoe, California. An active outdoorswoman, she worked as a lifeguard in Yosemite Valley and as an elementary school teacher. Mary Rolfe Will ’47, July 30, 2016, in Seattle. She was a teacher, a drug and alcohol counselor, a Master Gardener, a certified scuba diver, and licensed pilot. Also an accomplished singer and pianist, she sang in the Seattle Chorale, the Everett Chorale, and many church choirs. She is survived by her husband, Bob; five children; and nine grandchildren. Emily Cornett Hughes ’48, April 8, 2016, in Fairfield, California. Survivors include a daughter.

Alice Gonnerman-Mueller ’42, June 29, 2016, in Walnut Creek, California. Survivors include her husband, Joseph, and a stepson.

Phyllis Carreiro Baekgaard ’50, April 24, 2014, in Sonora, California. She started the Winnetka Food Bank while living in Illinois and became a peer counselor for seniors at age 83. She is survived by four children and two grandchildren.

Gertrude “Sugar” Goodman ’45, January 16, 2016, in El Paso, Texas. She devoted her energy to numerous organizations promoting social

Robert Neuman, MFA ’50, June 20, 2015, in Boston. A well-known abstract expressionist painter, his work has appeared at the

Gifts in Memory of

Katie Dudley Chase ’61 by her husband, William Chase

Received September 1–November 30, 2016 Silvy Alcalay, husband of Carol Rugeti Alcalay 53, P ’81, by the Los Angeles Mills College Alumnae Theodora Anderson ’14 by her cousin Judith Faust, Henry Siegel Antonia Cozzone Astor ’56 by Janet Hope Morton ’56 Jeanne Aurel-Schneider ’51, P ’74, by Nancy Kenealy Soper ’51 Timanna Bennett ’02 by Marcia Randall ’02 Anne Irons Bergen ’56 by Janet Hope Morton ’56

Nancy May de L’Arbre ’46 by Anne Nicholson Turchi ’47 Grace Dote ’63 by Judith Horwedel Clark ’63, Kathryn Lyon ’63, Marion Ross ’44 Leone La Duke Evans, MA ’45, by Michelle Balovich ’03 Richard Fagerstrom by his wife, Linda Loomis Fagerstrom ’62 Joy Waltke Fisher ’55 by Diane Smith Janusch ’55 Barbara Coleman Frey ’68 by Alta Ronchetto Mowbray ’67 Carol Shiells George ’60 by Betty Nix Down ’60

Sara Matthews Buchanan ’64 by Carolyn King Terry ’64

Constance Gilbert ’61 by Ann Gordon Bigler ’61, Alecia DeCoudreaux, Mary Manning Graham ’61, Mary Doerfler Luhring v61, Lila McCarthy ’61, Donna Riback ’61

Anne Petersen Burk ’61 by Mary Manning Graham ’61

Rodman Hooker by his wife, Juliet Burkett Hooker ’65

Hector Cavallari by Sharon Page-Medrich ’05

Emily Cornett Hughes ’48 by her daughter, Melissa Kelly

KerryLynn Blau-Williams ’65 by Peggy Weber ’65, P ’02

Barbara Jamison ’80, MFA ’88, by Katherine Aldentaler Vandenberg ’76 26 

M I L L S Q U A R T E R LY


Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University. He was a faculty member at Brown University and at Harvard before becoming chair of the art department at Keene State College, where he spent two decades building the program. He is survived by his wife, Sunne Savage; three daughters; and four grandchildren. Erica “Rita” Weber Brevet ’51, December 5, in Oakland, California. She served the Alumnae Association of Mills College as a member of the Board of Governors and the Reunion Planning Committee; she also volunteered for the Oakland Museum. Survivors include her husband, Frits, and daughter Erica Brevet-Stott ’76. Jennifer McCone Dibblee ’51, June 20, 2016, in Merced, California. She was an accomplished tennis player, had a nearly 30-year career as a travel agent, and was involved with the Mercy Hospital Assistance League and several social groups. Survivors include her son and a grandson. Sally Seley Flynn ’51, May 19, 2016, in Portland, Oregon. She worked for Standard Oil and loved her garden, animals, and the beach. She is survived by three children and two grandchildren. Theodosia “Missy” Van Fossen McConnell ’51, October 6, in Tucson, Arizona. An artist and writer who published children’s books, magazine articles, and poetry, she lived in Minnesota and wintered in Arizona. An avid gardener, tennis player, and watercolor painter, she is survived by four children. Barbara Smith Brown Smull ’52, March 26, 2016, in Portland, Oregon. She worked as ombudsman in the Washington State House of Representatives before earning her law degree in 1986 and becoming an attorney for the House’s Republican Caucus. She is survived by her husband, Don; two children; and two grandsons. Lexie Spafford Robbins ’52, July 20, 2016, in Seattle. She is survived by three children and five grandchildren. Barbro Carlson Ulbrickson ’52, January 4, in Seattle. She had a career at the Museum of History and Industry and was active with Camp Fire, the Nordic Heritage Museum, Seattle Symphony, and Seattle Repertory. She is survived by two children and three grandchildren.

Pauline Oliveros A true pioneer in the world of experimental music, Oliveros was an original member of the San Francisco Tape Music Center (now known as the Center for Contemporary Music) and became the center’s first director when it relocated to Mills College in 1966. Since then, she frequently taught at Mills, even while holding positions at UC San Diego and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, or establishing her Deep Listening Institute. Oliveros was one of the first to explore tape and sampling and was skilled on multiple instruments, but is best known for her work on the accordion. She was a composer, performer, and philosopher whose goal was to expand consciousness and heal the soul through sound, silence, and listening. Her avant-garde musical sensibility was mirrored by a radical social stance: she was an outspoken feminist and defied convention by coming out as a lesbian in 1971. Pauline Oliveros died November 24 at her home in Troy, New York. She is survived by her spouse, Carole Ione Lewis; three stepchildren; and eight grandchildren.

she served the elderly through the Peninsula Volunteers for more than 50 years. She is survived by three children and five grandchildren. Anne Kouwenhoven McSpadden Oruk ’56, May 17, 2015, in Paradise, California. Born in the Netherlands, she tutored students in English for many years and loved board and word games. She is survived by three children and nine grandchildren. Patricia Bennett, MEd ’57, April 23, 2016, in Saratoga, California. She had a successful 27-year career with West Valley Community College.

Mary Ehrlich Heller ’55, May 21, 2016, in Atherton, California. A dedicated gardener, traveler, and collector of squirrel-related objects,

Janice Robison Liascos ’57, September 23, in Paris. Survivors include her husband, Basil.

Barbara Newman Kines ’55 by Jane Hasfurther Harvey ’55, Diane Smith Janusch ’55

Deena Ross ’88 by her parents, Martin and Lorraine Ross

Jane Cudlip King ’42, P ’80, by Michelle Balovich ’03

Nancy Trumbull Seibert ’51 by Nancy Kenealy Soper ’51

James Long by his daughter, Courtney Long ’01

Anne Sherrill by Barbara Booth Brauer ’63

Luella Wong Mak ’86 by her daughters Linda Mak, Marsha Mak, Rachel Mak-McCully

Leda Soffran Silver ’68 by Carol Press Pristoop ’69

Theodosia Van Fossen McConnell ’51 by Joan Thompson Armstrong ’51, P ’95, Jeanne Thomas ’51, Peggy Weber ’65, P ’02 Diane McEntyre by Tamitha Carpenter ’89 Gina Nakka, mother of Viji Nakka-Cammauf, MA ’82, by Michelle Balovich ’03 Marjorie Nicholson, MA ’96, by Kennedy Golden, Peggy Weber ’65, P ’02 Robbyn Panitch ’79 by Betsey Shack Goodwin ’76 Nancy Parker ’52 by Nancy Kenealy Soper ’51 Leanne Haney Rhodes ’62 by her daughter, Alisha Rhodes ’93 Frances Barrington Riegel ’51 by Nancy Kenealy Soper ’51

Mary Van Beuren Seavey ’70 by Susan Schumacher Morris ’70

Cristina Simoni ’70 by Amy Ilvesta Harding ’70 Margaret Post Smith ’43 by her daughter and son-in-law, Martha and Richard Hector Danza Squire ’85 by Marion Ross ’44 Mary Lois Hudson Sweatt ’60, MA ’62, by Caren Harvey Prothro ’63, P ’91 Louise Mertz Tompkins ’34 by her daughter, Pamela Tompkins Dixon ’63 Orrin Wilson Webb by his daughter, Janice Webb Akin ’51 P=parent. For information about making a tribute gift, contact 510.430.2097 or donors@mills.edu. SPRING 2017

27


Rosemary Ginn McVey ’59, October 27, in Charlotte, Virginia. She was the proud owner of the Hooked on Books bookstore in Walnut Creek, California, where she spent many an hour showing others the joy of reading. She is survived by three children, including Kim McVey Jeffreys ’99, and six grandchildren. Sara “Sally” Bain Reither ’59, in Fairfield, California. She owned a travel agency in Sacramento for many years. Survivors include her husband, John, and cousin Gay Bolman Stern ’52. Carol Shiells George ’60, in August 2016, in Pasadena, California. She was a loving mother and wife, a fifth-grade teacher, and a tireless volunteer for the Huntington Collection and the Episcopal Church of the Ascension. Rose Chan ’61, September 21, 2015, in San Ramon, California. She worked as a medical records administrator for many years. Constance “Connie” Gilbert ’61, September 4, in Key West, Florida. She was active in the Keys chapter of the National Organization for Women, was appointed to Key West’s Art in Public Places board, and participated in the Key West Writers Bloc, a group for authors. She was also honored by Equality Florida for her work on LGBT issues. Survivors include two sons. Jill Nathanson Rohde ’64, November 29, in Chicago. She began her career as a teacher, then was a restaurant critic for Chicago magazine for 35 years. She was involved in many union and progressive political causes. Survivors include her husband, Ron, and many family members. KerryLynn Blau-Williams ’65, November 18, in Hayward, California. A fourth-generation Bent Twig, she worked for Delta Airlines for 30 years and traveled to more than 50 countries. She was an enthusiastic skier, jazz aficionado, theatergoer, and museum visitor. Lynda Knapp Prange ’71, September 14, in Winthrop, Massachusetts. A longtime resident of Sonoma County, she built a successful career as a dancer and choreographer before becoming a registered nurse. She is survived by two children and a granddaughter. Elizabeth Clark ’80, August 30, 2015, in San Francisco. Karen Marie Geer ’83, October 8, in Richmond, California. She was a graphic artist and web designer at McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Emerson. She used her graphic skills to support several political campaigns, was a cast member of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire and

the Dickens Christmas Faire, and was a board member of the Art Deco Society of California. She is survived by her mother and many friends. Deena Ross ’88, December 13, 2015, in Los Angeles. She earned her medical degree at Rosalind Franklin University (Chicago Medical School) and conducted family practice in urban communities for many years. Survivors include her parents and siblings. Gwendolyn Boger ’91, August 13, 2016, in Warren, Pennsylvania. She was an accomplished pianist and a children’s music teacher in Davenport, California. She is survived by two children, her mother, and siblings. Teryl Saunders McGriff ’92, July 21, 2016, in San Leandro, California. She worked as a music teacher and producer. Survivors include her husband, Maurice. Marjorie “Marge” Nicholson, MA ’96, November 21, in Walnut Creek, California. She was a founder of Park Day School in Oakland and worked at Bay Area Community Services before spending two decades in the human resources department at Mills, which culminated in her being named director. She was also a docent at the Oakland Museum and board member of Montclair Presbyterian Church. She is survived by her husband, Bud Sisson, and son. Shelley Young-Falkenberg ’05, December 8, in Willits, California. She was an artist, writer, gardener, crafter, and musician. She is survived by her partner, Devin Howard; two children; and many family members. Duciana Thomas ’12, November 1, in San Francisco. She was an activist for black queer feminist causes and was devoted to combating class and gender bias and police brutality. Patricia Wright, Cred ’12, November 11, in Oakland, California. She was a teacher in the Berkeley Unified School District for nine years, most recently working at Esperanza Elementary School in Oakland. She is survived by two children. Charlotte Reed ’14, November 11, in Oakland, California. She was an Air Force veteran and owned a hair salon in San Jose. She is survived by two children.

Spouses and family Silvy Alcalay, husband of Carol Rugeti Alcalay ’53, October 8, 2016, in Los Angeles. Richard Fagerstrom, husband of Linda Loomis Fagerstrom ’62, January 30, 2016 in Concord, California.

Jennifer Kiyomi Tanouye ’07 Tanouye, a biology major with a minor in intermedia art and film studies at Mills, had a passion for music. She worked as a music manager at Shazam, the music identification app, and was affiliated with the Mission Creek Oakland Music and Art Festival, founded to fill a void in festivals for independent artists. She also worked for Wiretap Music, Rasputin, and Noise Pop and was the assistant manager at Issues, an independent magazine store on Piedmont Avenue. An avid runner, animal lover, strong feminist, and defender of the LGBT community, she was a nail art aficionado and frequently set up her “underground nail bar” at parties throughout the Bay Area. She died December 2, in the fire at an Oakland warehouse known as the Ghost Ship. Mills College has established a scholarship fund in her memory. Donors can designate a gift for the Jennifer Kiyomi Tanouye Memorial Scholarship Fund at alumnae.mills.edu/give. 28 

M I L L S Q U A R T E R LY

Daniel Holmes, husband of Joan Rice Holmes ’60, January 5, 2016, in Pepper Pike, Ohio. Rodman Hooker, husband of Juliet Burkett Hooker ’65, July 29, 2016, in Indian Wells, California. Allen Larson, husband of Julia Jordan Larson ’46 , September 9, in Merced, California. Harold Thorne, husband of Muffy McKinstry Thorne ’48, November 25, in Oakland, California.

Faculty and staff Héctor Mario Cavallari, Professor of Hispanic Studies at Mills College since 1986, passed away October 27, 2016. A prolific researcher and writer, his publications included four books, nine book essays, and more than 40 journal essays and articles. At Mills, he taught courses in Latin American literature and cinema as well as on Hispanic American culture, and served as department head and on several academic committees. 


Alumna Trustee Ballot Nominee statements for the 2017–20 alumna trustee are printed on page 18.

To vote on paper:

We now offer two ways to vote—online and by paper ballot!

  Ammie Felder-Williams ’76

To vote online: • Go to the Mills College Alumnae Community, http://alumnae.mills.edu/alumna-trustee-ballot • Alumnae must be registered with the online community in order to cast their vote online. • Registration is free and easy! Visit http://alumnae.mills.edu/ alumna-trustee-ballot to register and to vote. Your alumna ID is required to register and can be found at the top of your Quarterly mailing label. • Online voting will end at 5:00 pm (PDT) on Friday, May 5.

• Use this printed ballot and indicate your choice below:

Vote online or on paper by May 5

  Tara Singh ’05, MBA ’07

• Please mail ballot in a private envelope to: Chair, AAMC Nominating Committee, Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Blvd, MB #86, Oakland, CA 94613 • Paper ballots must include the mailing label on the reverse side. To maintain confidentiality, voter names will be inked out before ballots are passed on to the Nominating Committee chair. • No faxed ballots or call-ins will be accepted. • Ballots must be received at Reinhardt Alumnae House by 5:00 pm (PDT) on Friday, May 5.

NOTE: Whether you vote online or by paper ballot, only one vote per alumna will be accepted. Any alumna casting multiple votes will invalidate all of her votes. Upon request, the Alumnae Association of Mills College will send a spring Quarterly to replace the one from which you have removed this ballot. Call 510.430.2110 or email aamc@mills.edu.

ALUMNAE TR AVEL 2017 Pearls of Southeast Asia  October 17–29 This nine-night cruise features the scenic beauty, rich culture, and varied history of Vietnam, including three UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Historic Harbors of Canada and New England  October 3–13 Cruise through 400 years of national and maritime history in Boston, Portland, Bar Harbor, Halifax, Sydney, and Quebec City—all in time for glorious fall colors.

Cultural Cuba  November 19–27 Experience Cuban culture, history, and people in four destinations. Meet with artists, dancers, and musicians to learn about their craft and their lives.

See the AAMC travel website at aamc.mills.edu 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 aamc@mills.edu.

Vietnam


Mills Quarterly Mills College 5000 MacArthur Blvd. Oakland, CA 94613-1301 510.430.3312 quarterly@mills.edu www.mills.edu

Celebrate a life of innovation and influence with an evening of music and video honoring Harrison’s 100th birthday, including a new composition for pipa and Javanese gamelan by Stephen Parris.

Lou Harrison Centenary Concert April 15, 8:00 pm Littlefield Concert Hall

Lou Harrison (1917–2003) Renowned for his groundbreaking works incorporating traditional Western instruments with instruments from around the world and those of his own construction, Harrison collaborated closely with choreographers and artists in many fields. He composed in a wide variety of musical styles, but a common factor was his melodic gift—an expression of the profound humanism at the core of his aesthetic and social philosophy. Harrison’s long association with Mills College dates to the 1930s, when he taught summer session courses in composition for dance. He held the Darius Milhaud Chair in Composition in 1980 and the Mary Woods Bennet Chair in 1981–83; in 1990, he was Mills’ first Jean MacDuff Vaux composer in residence. With the help of percussionist William Winant and Bill Colvig, he built the gamelan Si Darius and Si Madeleine in honor of French composer Darius Milhaud and his wife, Madeleine, both of whom served on the Mills faculty. Harrison received an honorary doctorate from the College in 1988.

Admission: $15 general, $10 to alumnae, seniors, and non-Mills students. For further details, see musicnow.mills.edu or contact Steed Cowart at 510.430.2334 or steed@mills.edu. Dave Brubeck

Mills Quarterly, Spring 2017  

Mills College alumnae magazine

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