Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Stephens: A Look Back - 1956

It’s 1956 and Stephens College this year is graduating some pretty impressive women.

This is the year Jeannene Thompson graduated. Thompson went on to Parsons School of Design in New York City, became Jeannene Booher and worked with some of the best designers in the country. Booher was a partner and designer for Maggy London dress company and created her own line of dresses and two-piece outfits that were sold at Neiman Marcus, Barneys, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom’s.

Her eye for style also earned her the Appreciation of the Beautiful Ideal at Stephens.

Then there’s Freddie Weber who this year is senior class president and the Ideal of Service. Weber is a performer, singer, songwriter and author.

Paulette Vitrier—this year’s Best Private Citizen—would go on to be Paulette Blair, serving as a Republican committee woman for 10 years. President Richard Nixon appointed her to lead a White House Conference of Children and Youth. She was also a teacher, volunteer, philanthropist and socialite well known in her community.

Edith Royce is now Edith Roycee Schade, publisher of Goodale Hill Press. Also known as “Duffy,” she’s a photographer whose works can be seen at David James Gallery in Connecticut and Works of Hand in Winter Harbor, Maine. She is a member of Connecticut Women Artists, a volunteer and a conservationist. In 1956, she represents Self Discipline.

And, of course, Sara Jane Johnson, a Stephens trustee who has been an active alumna, volunteer, donor and dear friend to Stephens.

The Class of 1956 also started a tradition we continue at Stephens today. The Senior Class Council formed a gift committee and began the tradition of presenting a formal gift to the school on senior day. Today, that gift is presented at May Commencement—this year, the Class of 2014 presented President Dianne Lynch with a beautiful quilt for Dudley Hall with the signatures of every graduate on the back.

The Prince of Wales Club hosts a Christmas party for the horses at the stables—another tradition still recognized at Stephens today. This year, the club also hosts an equestrian-related fashion show, modeling correct and fashionable riding clothes.

And this is the year Firestone Baars Chapel is being built. Stephens women in the late 1930s requested a chapel on campus but the war stalled construction. Today, students still enjoy Vespers in the chapel, which is also a popular wedding venue.

President Thomas Spragens for the first time includes a message in the Stephensophia yearbook. He writes: “Underlying all your heightened awareness is the realization that life for you and around you will be what you make it. I know that each of you will assume with pride your lifetime role as a member of the great Stephens sorority now so numerously and widely spread throughout the country and abroad.”

Stephens women get the chance to study abroad again this year, taking group trips to Mexico, New York and Europe.

Guests to campus this year include French violinist Henri Aubert and singers Hugh Thompson and Marian Anderson—all part of the Burrall Concert Series. The Foreign Relations Club sponsors Gay Humphrey and Ted Curran, American students who gained notoriety when they were granted permission to travel to the Soviet Union; journalist James Reston; Senator William Fulbright and General Carlos Romulo, a Filipino diplomat.

The Playhouse hosts an opera workshop this year, producing, “The Secret,” an original operetta in one act by Val Patacchi of the voice department and William Ashbrook, formerly of the humanities department.  

The Stephensophia concludes with this blurb summarizing Stephens wonderfully: “Stephens is not just an organized body of teaching and serving. Stephens is fun; it’s laughing at parties; the thrill of formal dances; the beauty of white Sunday and the warmth of friendship.”

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