The 1990s — Change is Good

Change is Good, the theme of the 1998 Smith Day, is a good summary of Smith Day in the '90s. Everything was changing. The first change came in 1991, when the day of the week for Smith Day changed from Friday to Saturday. This meant the Super Sale, the day after Smith Day that was open to the public, moved to Sunday. The switch in days, long promoted by some members of the Executive Committee to better accommodate the schedules of alumnae working outside the home, went smoothly. The only significant unintended consequence came in staffing the Super Sale. Because the first Sunday after Labor Day is a kickoff for the year in many places of worship, it grew increasingly difficult to find volunteers to work the Sunday hours. But Smith Day itself was unaffected. In fact the change was an unexpected benefit to the volunteers organizing donations during setup week — especially those in the overflowing rooms of Adult Clothes — because Friday became an extra preparation day.

The next major change came in 1998. After years of rumors, the Minnetonka Center for the Arts notified Club leadership that after 1997 the Center would no longer be available for Smith Day. In the short term, the Center was closing in order to undergo its gorgeous renovation and addition. In the long term, the Center had found that it needed "our" week to prepare their rooms for classes.

A long and thorough search commenced, spearheaded by Club President Lisa Peilen. The Gale Mansion in Minneapolis, named for the family of the first Smith graduate from Minnesota and now owned by the American Association of University Women, was finally selected, and Smith Day was held there for two years. But limited space for the event, the need for valet parking, and accessibility issues kept the search team looking, this time led by Club President Cecily Hines. The team found a winning location in the Hopkins Center for the Arts, a gleaming, new, air-conditioned facility on Main Street in downtown Hopkins. With Smith Day rooms on two stories, an elevator was a great addition too.

But moving to Hopkins also had unintended consequences. The first year after the move, the Hopkins Center could not accommodate a public sale on Sunday. This news, plus the difficulty in recruiting Sunday volunteers, prompted the Executive Committee to end the separate Super Sale. At the same time, the larger space in Hopkins allowed Smith Day itself to become more open. The eternal "How many people can I invite to lunch?" question was answered by allowing alums to invite an unlimited number of guests. Lunch attendance rose to about 120, and parents of current students were added to the invitation list.

Increasing insurance costs and different location rules also meant the end of morning daiquiris — a tradition whose demise was greatly mourned by many Smith Day stalwarts (don't worry, no names!). But the beloved morning libations are revived now and then for special occasions, including the Diamond Jubilee in 2008.

Like resourceful Smithies everywhere, Smith Day chairs through the 1990s rolled with every wave of change and invented better and more profitable celebrations. The 1990 Smith Day at the Dacha was better organized than any five-year plan — with Politburo Chiefs Sarah Beck Garrett, Karen Cody-Hopkins, and Peggy Leppik, on the reviewing stand (and working alongside the proletariat too). It may have been this Smith Day that benefited from Karen's extra efforts; she took a stash of mink coats that had gone unsold at Smith Day over to the lobby of the Hamline University School of Law where they were snapped up!

The wordsmithing got more creative too. The year Paula Vesely and Robyn Dean chaired Birds of a Feather, they titled the Quiz by Laurie and Joel Kramer — notorious for its difficulty then and now — "Not for Dodo Birds." When Betsey Whitbeck and Paula Prahl chaired in 1995, their notice to Club members opened with: "SHOW US YOUR STUFF! You know you've got it and the Minnesota Smith Club needs it."

Women's Clothes mavens — savvy fashionistas like Mary Taylor, Margery Martin, Bobbie Brown, Robin Hartwell, Barbara Klaas, Marty (Heiberg) Swain, Peggy Smith, Peggy Leppik, Mary Earl, Helen Leslie, and honorary Smithie Pat West — enjoyed putting their heads together to outfit each other for special days. They remember helping dress Margery for a costume bike trip where a fun-loving group of women would wow the small towns they rode through. The costume featured a clear raincoat with huge felt flowers embedded in the plastic! They dressed Marty for an Academy Awards-type party in gold lamé slacks and beaded stiletto heels. And every year the department helps Jane Howard find a prim, proper, and professional navy blue skirt for work.

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