It was such a treat to gather with members of the Smith Club of Minnesota at our Annual Meeting at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Despite the rainy weather, we had a terrific time with an outstanding presentation by our own Diane Richard (’88), who is the brain trust behind the award-winning online MIA publication VERSO. If you haven’t seen it, I highly suggest downloading the application. It really is impressive. Our equally impressive Smith Drummers kicked off the morning. By the chatter in the room, I believe I can say we all had a great time.
I was happy to report to the membership that our club is strong. Having just returned from my 30th reunion, I also reported that I think the college is strong as well. The campus looks good, the students are engaged and wonderfully enthusiastic about Smith. And the new president, Kathleen McCartney, or K-Mac, as the students call her, is fantastic. Not one to let a challenge go to waste, President McCartney spent the weekend discussing the issues of freedom of expression, using the absence of Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund and planned commencement speaker, as an example. As many of you know, Madame Lagarde withdrew from the program the week prior, due to some protest by students and faculty. President McCartney told most of the groups with whom she met about how the college needs to have a robust dialogue about allowing full conversations about issues, not just the “politically correct” views. She also told humorous stories about negotiating with Lagarde’s people. As President McCartney said, “Her people told me that Madame Lagarde does not change her mind…and I said, ‘Yes she does, she said she would come!’” K-Mac will be a great leader for Smith.
Here are some reasons I believe our Club is strong:
♦ Our scholarship endowment is at a record $2.4 million dollars. This is critical to the college, as over 60% of students now receive financial aid. This past year we made a Smith education possible for two students from Minnesota.
♦ Our club has over 600 members. Of them, 400 are connected with us online. Roughly 120 participate in one or more events over the course of a year.
♦ Our club has had some fun programming over the year: We gathered to watch the inauguration of our new president. We toured an exhibit of medical technology in the time of Downton Abbey, curated by Emily Hagens ’10. We gathered for brunch and tea and for a reading of Polly Grose’s ’54 new play, and we were lucky to welcome Kathleen McCartney to Minnesota.
♦ Smith Day 2013 was a great success, and we look for our 2014 80th Smith Day to be just as successful. We were able to send $4,800 to support the Praxis internship program at the school and $13,000 to our scholarship fund.
Like any organization, we may have some challenges. My intention in the coming year is to focus on two:
♦ First, a full 1/3 of our members are not connected to us via e-mail. This severely limits our communications and completely leaves them out of the Twin Cities Alumni Network event schedule. I’m not certain what the solution is, but we’ll look for one.
♦ Second, I think it is time for a review of Smith Day and our fundraising capacity. I am not suggesting we do away with the event…not even close.
But we are facing a changing and competitive market for gently used clothing, with consignment and competing events growing. Our other challenge is that the timing is very challenging for some club members. Simply put, the first week of school is a difficult time to volunteer (or attend) for mothers as well as for teachers.
These challenges are not huge, and we’re lucky for that. Part of the way we’ll stay strong is to do the review and creative thinking that keep us fresh. I look forward to another great year!
I am so thankful for the officers who support the Smith Club of Minnesota: Justina Roberts has completed her VP term and is followed by Emily Hagens. Stephanie Frost completed a second term as Secretary and is followed by Kathryn Sutton (Stephanie will move onto the Nominating Committee). We continue to be supported by Kate Lehmann, Treasurer, and Marty Swain, Communications/Membership guru. Our AAC crew, Samantha Oestreicher, Anna Allen, and Maggie McCaffrey are joined by Hayden Howland and continue to do a great job of finding students and fostering their excitement about Smith. Their excellent report (see above) points to the strength of the college and this club. I also want to thank Barbara Klaas and Betsey Whitbeck for their work on the Nominating Committee. We have a great tradition and a great club. Congratuations!
Paula Prahl ’84