Post-Reunion Farewell Letter from Our Outgoing Class President


Dear Mount Holyoke College Class of 1974,

This was a truly spectacular 50th reunion event, beautifully designed and orchestrated by our Reunion Chair, Gail LaRocca and her dozens of committee members attending to every detail to make this a visually and emotionally engaging long weekend.

And it was a pinnacle, a once-in-a-lifetime weekend, a culmination of five years of literally one hundred plus classmates working together to bring about records of all sorts:

I.   Our Class of ’74 won FIVE awards at reunion, four of which are included in the linked photo gallery:  

Record contributions to the Mount Holyoke Fund from a record number of participants. Thanks to Jane Zimmy, Debby Hall, Leslie Bowen and LaVida Dowdell, as well as Pam Broadley, plus almost 50 Class agents, communicating regularly with our classmates and inspiring them to be generous with their alma mater. This resulted in the Sphinx Award for highest participation in giving this year and the Pegasus Award for the most dollars raised this year and The Lion Award for the highest total giving during the 5 years leading up to reunion.

The President’s Cup for the highest number of attendees (196…32 more classmates than the last record!) and the Reunion Cup for the highest percent of attendees were a result of the momentum of class members to get and stay connected during the most challenging five year period since our graduation, enhanced by several initiatives made by classmates: 

  1. Denise McLeod Thomas’ invitation/challenge to reach out and make a new friend…or renew an ‘old’ friendship, made at our 45th reunion
  2. Our monthly Zoomtails, pioneered by Jane Zimmy, Bonnie Panson and Maria Mandler and led by Jane and Maria for the first two years during the pandemic and then seamlessly picked up and led by Gail LaRocca and Nan Ward for the past two years. And the zoom minis that classmates initiated all over the country/globe during and after the pandemic
  3. Our regular updates on the Class of 1974 Facebook page and website, thanks to our Social Media Coordinator, Laurie Averill, and regular photos of Zoomtails and other events gathered by our Secretary, Doris O’Keefe and other classmates
  4. Our two major in-person mini-reunions and several mini-mini-reunions, designed and executed by classmates once the pandemic limitations lifted. Special thanks to Denise McLeod Thomas and Cynthia Polk-Allen for designing and co-hosting the Wilmington, NC mini-reunion last December and for all those who helped with my Maine mini-reunion last June
  5. Our communications with and support of our Connections Class which brought us to MHC via zoom and then in person, to celebrate milestones in the college careers of the Class of 2024, now new graduates (!) Many thanks to Laurie Averill for being my Co-Chair on this committee.
  6. The Memorial committee, led by Marylloyd Claytor, who, in addition to her Scribe duties, worked long and hard with her committee to research the important uniqueness of each of our lost classmates…and to honor them in a moving rose ceremony of remembrance at the beginning of the Class Meeting. Please see the slide show video available on our Facebook page.
  7. The Time Capsule committee, chaired by Beth Connor Gibson, who, in addition to her Nominating Committee duties, worked with the committee to gather 50 iconic items from our time at MHC to remind us of the nature of our education and experience there…and to share with others at reunion, including the Class of 2024.

II.     And five of our classmates were recognized as class leaders by the Alumnae Association: 

Loyalty Award: Gail LaBroad LaRocca and Denise McLeod Thomas
Achievement Award: Pamela Maffei McCarthy
Elizabeth Topham Kennan Award: Sharon Nelson-Barber and Nancy Napier
Please read the award certificates on our Class of 74 website to know all about how these classmates shine!    (And a list of past award recipients was included in our Time Capsule, and will be updated every 10 years when we re-open it)

III.   Other class highlights:
Welcome New Alums/Scarfing Event: This was our first time sharing a reunion with our Connections Class and many members of both classes were visibly moved when the 1974s gave the 2024s their blue scarves Thursday afternoon. And lots of connections were made at the outdoors reception afterwards, including the two sets of V8s. Our class Board gifted the Connections Class with $100 to open their graduate checking account, and this remarkable class inspired a dozen 1974 classmates to join together to financially gift their treasury $1200 to plump up that account…to make sure they get a good start on making strong connections…like ours. And we gave them an empty time capsule box for their future time capsule committee. See photos where the 2024s sent hearts to the 1974s.

The Thursday night author event with Katharine Beutner in conversation with writer and MHC Associate Professor Andrea Lawlor and the Chuck or Cherish workshop Friday morning were both well-attended and appreciated. 

Friday’s Belly Dancing workshop, given by LaVida Dowdell and Cynthia Polk-Allen was a wonderful chance to learn a bit about Egyptian belly-dancing, costumes and amazing moves, to get the synovial fluids flowing and to prepare for the historic Laurel Parade the next day…and that’s not even mentioning how gob-smacked the 2024s were who stood outside during the workshop and watched their 50-year-older Connections Class counterparts shimmying around the room!

The Friday afternoon State of the College presentation by Danielle R. Holley, Art Museum Class Reception, class dinner in Willits-Hallowell and evening President’s Reception honoring those classmates in the Mary Lyon Society and Cornerstone giving categories were all well attended and much enjoyed, and the Super Jeopardy event, designed by Margaret and Debbie Saunders was an engaging, competitive, humorous test of trivia memories related to the 1970s and MHC. Susan Moch led the pack, but underbid for Final Jeopardy and Nan Ward took the candy prize and auctioned it off for a donation to the Alum fund.

Saturday Alum Laurel Parade: this was the only time in MHC history that a class has belly danced to honor our new college President, Danielle R. Holley, and other leaders during our parade…and the only MHC President who had already studied belly dancing herself! See link to photo gallery. 

(And that same President felt moved to augment her prepared remarks at our social on Saturday evening to acknowledge the way in which the Class of 1974 ‘swept’ the awards and added such verve to the graduation weekend.)

Saturday Class Meeting: After the beautiful remembrance ceremony, Susan Moch reminded us, during our Class Meeting, that it’s a good time in life to organize ways to check in on and support each other…as we might be about to start aging. 😊 She invites us all to start structuring such a process.

A main goal at the class meeting was to report, so that we could all acknowledge, the ‘above and beyond’ achievements of our Board members and Team leaders throughout the last 5 years and beyond.  Many thanks to these current leaders who will wrap up their commitments by the end of this month and attend the training meeting with the Alumnae Association and the newly elected leaders later this summer, so that the transfer of leadership is seamless. 

In addition to those leaders named throughout this letter:
Added to 15 years of Secretary duties and photo-journaling, Doris O’Keefe also took on the duty of writing to the bereaved families of all of our lost classmates and put together the unforgettable slide show that played in Buckland and at the end of our class meeting. Thanks to all those who shared photos with Doris!

In addition to her Vice Chair Development duties, Leslie Bowen served as the Reunion Song Leader and led the V8s during the Alma Mater at the Scarfing ceremony and the Bread and Roses group song at the graveside Laurel Chain ceremony, in addition to being part of the Saturday night festivities. The V8s who participated with Leslie include Joyce Staat Wixson, Laurie Heller Gross, Diane Fiero Claffey, Susan Moch and me.

In addition to all the ways already mentioned, Cynthia Polk-Allen served on the Mini-Reunion committee, sent out the Happy 70th birthday ecards to all classmates during the year, and co-designed and co-presented the ‘7 Essentials of Self Care’ Zoomtails program, with Sue Ruotolo Dorsey and Barbara Hoff.

In addition to her Social Media Coordinator duties and her Co-Chairmanship of the Connections Committee, Laurie Averill volunteered so many times to help me achieve class outcomes, that she became my right hand, helped with class gift planning, Connections Committee gift planning, idea-generating on several topics, was a support to gather scribe notes and was a contributing member of the Memorial Committee and the Time Capsule committees! 

On our theme of connection and friendship, I shared a favorite poem with the reunion participants at the class meeting. 

Garden Meditations
~by Rev. Max Coots

Let us give thanks for a bounty of friends.
For generous friends…with hearts…and smiles as bright as their blossoms;
For feisty friends, as tart as apples;
For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us that we’ve had them;
For crotchety friends, sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;
For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn…and the others, as plain as potatoes and so good for you;
For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussels sprouts and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes;
And serious friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini and who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see you through the winter;
For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening time, and young friends coming on as fast as radishes;
For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights, wilts and withering;
And finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past…that leave us bountiful memories…

I had it printed into large, laminated bookmarks and gave this ‘thank-you’ memento to each Board member and team leader. If you’re a Board member/team leader who didn’t pick up your memento, please let me know and I’ll send it to you…and I have a few left for those who enjoy friendship, gardening or both…just let me know if you’re interested, while they last. See photos to see the memento.

We congratulated our five amazing classmates who earned awards from the Alumnae Association.

Jane Zimmy gave a Development/Giving update as she has done reliably for the past 40 or so years, along with her Co-Head Class Agent Debby Hall…and Mary Grantham reported on the state of the Treasury, as she has done reliably every month for the past five years. 

We acknowledged Gail LaRocca for a magnificent reunion, she acknowledged her committees and gave us on overview of what would happen next. Carole LaMond led the election and the proposed slate was accepted. Then we completed the class meeting and enjoyed the magnificent slide show compiled by Doris. 

Saturday dinner and entertainment was a gorgeously decorated event…one could hardly recognize Chapin in its party frock, thanks to more hard work by the reunion committees. And the entertainment included all sorts of talented 1974s, directed by our professional and talented co-producers Bonnie Panson and Cynthia Polk-Allen. 

In addition to those contributions mentioned here, Marylloyd Claytor and LaVida Dowdell performed very different and gracefully mesmerizing dance routines, Lyric Contempo and Bel Bont, during the Saturday evening A Joyful Noise performances.

Nell Whiting read 55 Years of MHC moments, a part of the project of gathering our stories to preserve them for our classmates, Denise McLeod Thomas and Nancy Carpenter performed very different poetry readings, ‘It’s Not Too Late’ and ‘Readings for Adults Only’. Margaret and Debbie Saunders performed two Senior Show sketches and the New Black Voices of Faith, organized by Joyce Bohannon Lott, completed the evening and got everyone singing and dancing. It was memorable! See photo link…and do check out all the videos on our Facebook page.

We had such a good time being together and celebrating this turning point…and the positive energy was inspirational to all those who came in contact with us. Each of us individually…and all of us together…truly made a difference to the Reunion I gathering at Mount Holyoke the weekend of May 16-19, 2024!

And here, thanks to Nominating Committee Chair, Carole LaMond and her committee, is the newly elected slate of officers who will take us into our next five years of getting and staying connected. Congratulations to each and all of you!

MHC Class of 1974   Elected Officer Slate 2024-2029

President     Gail LaBroad LaRocca
Vice President     Kathe Munz Shinham
Secretary     Robynn Bosler Eisley
Treasurer     Mary Grantham
Reunion Co-Chairs     Debbie Hinchey Vernon & Melissa Thornton
Scribe     Nan Ward
Social Media     Laurie Averill
Head Class Agents     Jane Zimmy & Debby Hall
Nominating Committee     Judy Johnson, Kate Murphy Pappas &
  Heather Barlow Sheldon

Well, it’s been a wild ride, with unexpected turns and twists, highs and lows, challenges and many, many joyful moments…all culminating in great connection, a class that has weathered turmoil by strengthening bonds and achieving amazing records…and a magical event to celebrate it all. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

I hope you join me in looking forward to what the incoming leaders will bring out in this most amazing class.

Warmest of thanks,
Melissa Thornton,
President of the MHC Class of 1974, 2019-2024

PS I’ve gathered many reunion photos from those shared on our Facebook page and placed them in a gallery, to remind all of us who were able to attend about the magic of the experience, to give those who weren’t able to join us a taste of the fun and especially include those who couldn’t join us and don’t use social media. Please see the link…and thanks to Debby Hall, Susan Moch and their partners, as well as Doris O’Keefe and others…HERE’S THE LINK:

PPS Thank you, MHC Class of 1974 for the gift certificate to Skillins Garden Center! I purchased and planted a beautiful old-fashioned bridal wreath spirea, so you will be remembered both for joining me here last June for our Maine mini-reunion and for this lovely garden addition. See photos.

PPPS The committee lists are attached as well. If I haven’t captured all the names, please let me know!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Awards Given to Members of the Class 1974 by the Alumnae Association in 2024

Congratulations to Nancy Napier, Gail LaBroad LaRoca, Sharon Nelson-Barber, Denise McLeod Thomas, and Pamela Maffei McCarthy!






Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Class President’s Winter Letter 2024

Dear Mount Holyoke College Class of 1974, 

Why come to our 50th Reunion?

Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a memorable experience. We predict that this will be the largest gathering of 1974 classmates everand a chance to catch up with them on a beautiful 4-day spring weekend, on a glorious campus surrounded by alums from all over the world, breathing excitement and energy into the very air.

And our class has this onceonly opportunity to compare and contrast our MHC experience…50 years later… with the entire graduating 2024 classto whom we are now connected for life.

We’ll revisit college traditions, enjoy engaging class and college-wide activities, laugh and perhaps cry together…and make new connections with people and places.

Please plan to return to campus on Thursday, May 16th. Here’s an overview of what’s in store for this fourday extravaganza, for your planning purposes.


Thursday noon, check-in begins, and we’ll meet in our main dorm (Abbey/Buckland) in the early afternoon and process over to Chapin for the ritual of ‘Scarfing’ the Class members of 2024, welcoming them into the MHC Alum group.The Class of 1974 presents the scarves to the Connections Class of 2024 and all alums are welcome at the ceremony.

Then, we’ll gather outside Chapin for a reception with our Connection Classmates (with regional tables to enhance geographical connections) andour Time Capsule ceremony, where we’ll get a glimpse into the actual capsule and its contents of 25-30 significant MHC Class of 1974 items.

Following dinner, there’s an Author Night at the Odyssey with a local author and then, of course, Libations and Cookies back at the main dorm.

FRIDAY, May 17

Start the day with your own idea of a wake-up ritual…walk the campus, join a yoga class, catch up with friends

Then enjoy the morning workshops which will (literally) shake things up.

1. Chuck or Cherish-Decisions in Downsizing. Jody Rosenbloom, MA, will offer a toolbox of logistics for de-cluttering our spaces and lives, addressingthe physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions of this journey.

2. And then belly dance aficionados Cynthia Polk-Allen and LaVida Dowdell will teach Egyptian Belly Dancing Basics for better health, vitality and fun!This provides a full body massage, while getting a cardio workout and it will prepare us to wear our parade costumes (red belly dance scarves) more authentically in the Saturday parade.

After lunch, check out the amazing Fimbel Maker and Innovation Lab which is attached to Prospect dorm…and wander at will.
The college offers Back to Class options to hear from MHC faculty and fellow alums about topics of interest.

The evening begins with a reception hosted by President Holley followed by a class dinner in Willits-Hallowell hosted by the Development Office and the Alumnae Association.  The evening will round out with a rousing game of “Super Jeopardy Bowl LXXIV” hosted by classmates Saunders & Saunders, for which you’ll need to dig deep into your memory banks, back to the early 70s at MHC.


This is our 12th reunion parade experience…always a pleasure. This reunion is special because the graduating class, our Connections Class, 2024, will be leading the way…and it’s followed by the Alumnae Association Annual Meeting in Chapin where the 1974 and 2024 class histories will comment on the evolution of MHC and the world over the last 50 years.

A community cookout follows the Annual meeting, then our Class Photoand our own Class meeting will complete the scheduled afternoon activities.At the class meeting, we’ll formally vote in the next team of Class Leaders(see the 2024-2029 Proposed Slate of Officers in my year-end letter, on our Class of 1974 website), and acknowledge those who have served so well through these tumultuous past five years. The meeting will wrap up with a moving ceremony in honor of our deceased classmates.

The remainder of the afternoon is designed for you to relax, wander, check out the greenhouse or art museum, adventure with friends or go wherever your imagination calls.
The college offers the Department-at-homes and Cultural Center open houses as well.

But don’t wander too far, as Saturday night, we are among the VIPs on campus. Our special events start with a cocktail hour on the Lab Theatre patio, then we’ll gather in Chapin Hall for a gala catered dinner. After dessert, there will be a series of performances by 1974 classmates on the Chapin stage. Wondering what they’ll be? No spoilers…might be song, dance, poetry or other readings…it’s all in the works.

SUNDAY, May 19

Take the morning to do whatever you didn’t get around to, or enjoy college-sponsored programs, take a last walk around campus, a short trip to Atkins Farms or other nearby sentimental spots, and bid goodbye to long-term and newly formed friendships.

That’s the WHO/WHAT/WHY part of the reunion schedule.

Gail LaRocca, our Reunion Chair, will take all your questions and comments and spell out the WHEN/WHERE/HOW details in her Reunion Letter next month and at our Tuesday, March 19th Zoomtails at 7pm EST. Don’t miss it!
In the meantime, please visit for details and updates.

Here are some of Gail’s planning specifics that you need to know NOW:

The Reunion registration form will arrive in your email inbox on Monday, March 18. There will be a link to view all the planned activities for the weekend.  Do not delay in securing your reservation. The reservation deadline, to avoid a late payment, is April 15th !

Not a fan of dorm single beds and communal bathrooms? If you are looking for off campus housing it may be difficult now.  Try a google search of “Hotels near Mount Holyoke College” and do a further search on, TripAdvisor, Expedia, Airbnb and VRBO. Be willing to travel more than 20 minutes to campus.

When the registration period begins, you will be able to see who is coming to reunion and perhaps organize your own rideshare, directly or through our Facebook page.

Don’t forget to pack white clothes for the parade!

Here are some of Gail’s planning specifics that you need to know NOW:

The Reunion registration form will arrive in your email inbox on Monday, March 18. There will be a link to view all the planned activities for the weekend.  Do not delay in securing your reservation. The reservation deadline, to avoid a late payment, is April 15th !
Not a fan of dorm single beds and communal bathrooms? If you are looking for off campus housing it may be difficult now.  Try a google search of “Hotels near Mount Holyoke College” and do a further search on, TripAdvisor, Expedia, Airbnb and VRBO. Be willing to travel more than 20 minutes to campus.
When the registration period begins, you will be able to see who is coming to reunion and perhaps organize your own rideshare, directly or through our Facebook page.
Don’t forget to pack white clothes for the parade!

And let’s not forget that this is also a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to support Mount Holyoke in a BIG way…in hopes that it “forever shall be”. We do that by getting in action during the March4MHC campaign, answering the call when your class agent reaches out to you.

This campaign will launch on Monday, March 4th and run through Friday, March 8th. In addition to making a gift for this fiscal year, you can also pledge forward for 5 years and pledges through June 2028 count toward our Reunion gift totals.

You recently received a postcard about the campaign and can refresh your memory here. Jane Zimmy, Debby Hall, Leslie Bowen, LaVida Dowdell and all of their Class Agent colleagues are working hard to create the momentum that will fulfill this goal. Please add your gift, of whatever size, to the momentum.

And my last request, of course, is to please join us at our 50th. Gail and all of her reunion sub-committees are well-organized and working diligently to pull together every last detail of a memorable event. Your participation will be the crowning touch.

Many thanks for joining me on this journey…it’s been an honor to work with the capable, energetic and productive committee members and project volunteers who give their time and energy to the remarkable Class of 1974!

With great anticipation to see many of you at our 5oth Reunion,
Melissa L. Thornton
President, MHC Class of 1974

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Class President’s Year-End Letter 2023

Dear Mount Holyoke College Class of 1974, 

Once again, it’s time for my year-end letter to you…the summary of what your class leaders have been doing to promote our class mission of getting and staying connected during 2023..and some sneak peeks into our next four months. Things are really cooking, so please read this longer missive to the end…and add the various dates to your personal calendar.

Communications will continue:
‘winter letter’ in mid-February, from our Reunion Chair, Gail L. and I…all about the exciting developments in Reunion planning.

late February and early March, you’ll hear from Jane Z. and Debby H. all about our March4MHC campaign to make a major difference in the future of Mount Holyoke.

April’s missives will be about our Connections Class and Reunion, answering the questions that arise at our March Zoomtails, which will include Reunion planning updates.

And then we’ll meet and talk in person at our glorious 50th!!!

Zoomtails Committee
Gail LaRocca and Nan Ward

While many of us have gone back to full schedules that take us away from our computers in the evening, the pre-covid zooms are still popular, alternating months between MHC staff and classmates with a specialty topic.  Since the fall Zoomtails resumed in October we have had:

  • October 2023– Cerise Jalelian-Keim (’81): Vespers: Tales from the Crypt and classmate Piete Avrahami–  Personal Reflections on the Terrorist Attacks in Israel  
  • November 2023 – Cynthia Polk-Allen, Barbara Hoff, and Sue Ruotolo Dorsey: Seven Essentials for Self-Care While Supporting Others in Need 
  • December 2023– Angie Gregory, MHC Sustainability Program Manager:Breaking Ground for Geothermal Project: Global Responsibility Signaled through Campus Action 
  • January 2024– Sarah Morrison and Classmates: Junior Show 1973: We’re Glad You’re Here!  What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing In a Place Like This?

Save another date:  Monday, February 26, 7:00p EST when Professor Andrea Lawlor will talk about the renowned Glascock Intercollegiate Poetry Competition which just celebrated its centennial. 

And March will be the Zoomtails meeting that orients us all to the Reunion opportunities and activities and answers all our questions, so don’t miss this event!

Development Committee
Jane Zimmy, Debby Hall, LaVida Dowdell and Leslie Bowen

Since July 1, 2019 and through December 31, 2023, the Class of 1974 has raised $1.566 million dollars toward our 50th Reunion. Nearly 70% of our classmates have made a gift or a pledge to the Mount Holyoke Fund (MHF).

Our goals are to raise $2 million dollars, and to reach 74% participation from the class. We can do it with your help!

This fiscal year we have raised $286,886 with 33% of our class making a gift so far, including 53 classmates contributing at the Cornerstone Level ($1,837+).

March4MHC, Mount Holyoke’s annual week of giving, will launch on Monday, March 4th and run through Friday, March 8th. In addition to making a gift for this fiscal year, you can also pledge forward for 5 years. Pledges through June 2028 count toward our Reunion gift totals.

This is the event where we can access many additional dollars to be added to our class gift by winning various awards. Be on the lookout for details about the March4MHC challenge, which will be another opportunity to show our strong class spirit.

The Mini-Reunion Committee
Denise McLeod Thomas, Melissa Thornton, Cynthia Polk-Allen, Mary Feeney

The big news in 2023 was that there were several mini-reunions where we met in person!

  1. One was held here at the Bold Colorful Life estate in Boothbay, Maine in early June of this year.  
  2. A small mini-reunion developed at the September inauguration of our illustrious new President, Danielle R. Holley, (whom we will join for a reception at our 5oth in May!)
  3. Another mini happened at our Volunteer weekend in October.  
  4. The Vespers mini-reunion also included a reception with Danielle Holley and major contributors.
  5. And the year end was celebrated at our last mini-reunion in Wilmington, N.C., designed by Denise McLeod Thomas and hosted by Denise and Cynthia Polk-Allen.

Our regional mini-mini reunions continued around the country.

Social Media
Laurie Averill

Our Social Media chair reminds us that she publicizes information about mini-reunions, 50th reunion preparation, Zoomtails and articles about MHC excellence.
The Facebook page gives classmates a place to share their experiences and connect with others. The Website provides messages from the board, publicizes events, and reports on Giving as well as listing current MHC events. 

Laurie is working on adding more details and photos of all mini-reunions and other class events to our Facebook page and our class website page

Check out our Mount Holyoke College Class of 74 Facebook page for the full stories, as well as our own Class of 1974, college-sponsored website. And do send your news and invitations for class-related events to Laurie at

Reunion    May 16-19, 2024
Gail LaRocca

During the summer months, planning for the 50th Reunion ramped up.  After two surveys, volunteers have been assigned to fulfill tasks to ensure that we all have a good time sharing past experiences and new challenges.  Your feedback has helped us finetune many aspects of a large celebration and we look forward to sharing more details later this winter. 

At our 50th Reunion, a new committee will set an adventure in motion with a 1974/2024 Time Capsule. And three of our committees will see their hard work come to fruition: Connections, Memorial and Nominating committees.

Time Capsule Committee
Beth Connor Gibson, Chair and Laurie Averill, Gail LaRocca, Melissa Thornton,
Karen Weston

The idea to create a Time Capsule first originated with our Connections Class, 2024, and was put into action recently. We will collect items from each class which epitomize the challenges and opportunities unique to our time and which leave a signature of our MHC legacy. The capsule will be sealed in the MHC Archives and we are in the process of deciding when the Time Capsule will be opened, when both classes are at MHC.

The list includes such items as a yearbook, freshman handbook, class directory, newspaper articles that capture the context of our college experience, Commencement program, Alumnae Quarterly from September 1974, tickets and programs from theatre and Chapin events at MHC, class ring or pins, reunion paraphernalia, a paper version of Bonnie Panson’s presentation about our times, Doris’s reunion photo collection, etc.

These are the ‘staples’ on the list and we have several, but would like your ideas and your offers of unusual or unique additional items. They must be relatively small (all items must fit into a 12x15x10 fireproof and waterproof box) and may not include food or anything organic or liquid, no clothing, dishware, batteries, etc.. The items will be inventoried, with name of the contributor, history, etc.

If you have an item that you’d like to contribute, please find it, dust it off, photograph it and send the photo and history of the item to Beth Connor Gibson at by January 31st.

The committee will choose the items to be included and if yours is chosen, Beth will send her home address and directions to mail the item, to reach her no later than March 10.Many thanks to Debbie Richards from the MHC Archive Department for sharing her experience and knowledge with us.

Connections Committee
Laurie Averill and Melissa Thornton

As you know, a time-honored tradition at Mount Holyoke is that our 50threunion class makes a special connection with the class that graduates when we gather for reunion, the class of 2024.
Last year, we had several members of the Class of 2024 join 1974 classmates at the March Zoomtails when Bonnie Panson presented her engaging slide show about MHC in the 70s, several of us were interviewed about the meaning of our class rings in a video that the ‘24s used to sell more rings and Debra Orgera and Doris O’Keefe attended the Rings and Roses event in April.

This year, several ‘74s and ‘24s met, talked and learned about each other and Mount Holyoke through different perspectives at both the September President Holley inauguration and the October Volunteer weekend.

Then, Laurie Averill, Kate Pappas and one other classmate (please let us know who you are) were warmly welcomed at the December Berries and Bubbly event, celebrating the December graduation of 90 members of the Class of 2024. Brightened by festive attire, happiness and a giant glass of champagne (that was hoisted in toast by President Holley), the new alums talked with the ‘74s about their aspirations, challenges and excitement as they leave campus.
There will be another Berries and Bubbly event for the rest of the Class of 2024 in April. I’ll share the date when it’s locked in and would love to know who else can attend.

We will salute the entire graduating class at the Scarfing Ceremony on Thursday afternoon of our 50Th Reunion, May 16 at 3:30. More details to follow.

Memorial Committee
Marylloyd Claytor, Chair, and Debra Orgera, Theresa Salerno, Sarah Morrison, and Laurie Averill share their update with you:

At Reunion we gather to celebrate our community and while we are looking forward to the fun of the weekend, we will be pausing to celebrate those who have passed and remain in our hearts. The Memorial Ceremony will be at the conclusion of the Class Meeting when most of the class will be assembled.

Our committee is continuing research and refining the presentation of each of our lost classmates. We are finalizing the logistics of the Memorial Ceremony where volunteers will place a flower in a vase and recite the name of the classmate. Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey and offered to be a volunteer for the Memorial Ceremony. If anyone else wants to volunteer to participate, please contact Marylloyd at

Nominating Committee
Carole LaMond, Chair and Nancy Marks Arcieri, Beth Connor Gibson, Susan Moch, Cynthia Polk-Allen, Melissa Thornton, ex officio

The Nominating Committee will present the following slate of officers for election by a vote of the class members at our 50th Reunion Class Meeting in May 2024.  

President                                          Gail LaBroad LaRocca 
Vice President                                 Kathe Munz Shinham 
Secretary                                          Robynn Bosler Eisley 
Treasurer                                          Mary Grantham 
Reunion Co-Chairs                         Debbie Hinchey Vernon
                                                            Melissa Thornton 
Scribe                                                Nan Ward 
Social Media                                    Laurie Averill 
Head Class Agents                          Jane Zimmy
                                                            Debbie Hall 
Nominating Committee                Judy Johnson
                                                           Kate Murphy Pappas 
                                                           Heather Barlow Sheldon

Many thanks to the Nominating committee for their insightful and collaborative work…and to those classmates willing to be nominated to run for office at our 50th.

 This is my last year-end letter to you and, in a quick word, it’s been an honor and a pleasure to be in touch with you all regularly over these past 4+ years…and it has also been an honor to work with the remarkable, energetic and productive committee members and project volunteers who give their time and energy to the magnificent Class of 1974!

With great excitement and anticipation to see many of you at our 5oth Reunion,  

Melissa L. Thornton
President, Class of 1974

P.S.   Photos, Photos, Photos.
Doris O’Keefe is creating the looping slide show in our dorm and she is looking for more images from 1970 through today. She is looking for pictures that are high quality originals scanned individually.  For more details about the photos needed, please see past letters or our class website page. Don’t forget to try to identify WHO is in the picture and WHEN and WHERE it was taken. 

Doris’ address:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mini-Reunion in Wilmington, North Carolina December 29, 2023-January 1, 2024

Dear Mount Holyoke College Class of 1974, 

Here’s more information about the upcoming Mini-Reunion in Wilmington, North Carolina December 29, 2023-January 1, 2024 in a letter from Denise McLeod Thomas:

The historic port city of Wilmington, NC, nestled between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean, is the site of ‘74’s next mini reunion scheduled for December 29, 2023, through January 1, 2024.  For those classmates who venture to this vibrant city to bring in the new year, you are in for a treat.  Wilmington’s legendary history dates back to the 1500’s and includes key moments in American history from the American Revolution to the Civil War to WWII to the Civil Rights era.  Your host, Denise McLeod Thomas, invites you to see the sights, hear the history and embark on an adventure unlike any we have experienced.

The main focus of this mini reunion is for us to connect and spend time together before we travel to South Hadley for our grand 50th reunion.  There are two planned activities that will be enlightening, enriching and enthralling.  On Saturday, December 30th, our plan is to take an interactive tour of Wilmington with a renowned, award-winning tour guide who is a native son.  We will need to work fast to secure both the bus and this tour guide.  At noon on Sunday, December 31st, we will attend an annual performance by the Gullah Geechee people at a local church.  For centuries, the Gullah Geechee people have occupied the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, a region beginning just north of Wilmington and runs all the way south to northern Florida.  This glorious, acclaimed performance will feature music, dancing, singing, and storytelling and has its genesis dating back to December 31, 1862, when the Gullah Geechee people gathered in praise houses and churches to await the new year that would mark the end of slavery as the Emancipation Proclamation took effect.  This historic date was remembered as Freedom’s Eve and is commemorated in many churches across the corridor at Watch Night Services, though now held at noon.  The pastor at Warner Temple AME Zion Church has agreed to reserve seats for us.  We need to let him know how many of us will be in attendance as soon as possible so we can be comfortably seated.  There will be time for other less structured events during our time together in Wilmington.

Wilmington has many attractions that may be of interest to you during your leisure time.  The city’s National Register District spans 230-plus blocks of churches, moss-draped live oaks, brick-lined streets and historic homes including colonial structures and Victorian era architectural delights.  In the downtown Historic District, you can stroll along the pedestrian-friendly Riverwalk lined with cafes, shops and galleries or hitch a ride on a horse-drawn carriage about town. Take advantage of the craft beer and epicurean tours  If weather permits, there arecruises along the Cape Fear waterfront as well as to the outlying Island Beaches where vintage boardwalks offer swings, souvenir shops, ocean view restaurants, and legendary glazed donuts.  Visit Airlie Gardens, the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science, the Cameron Art Museum, and the Museum of the Bizarre or the Wilmington Aquarium.  Journey into the depths of old Wilmington to its cryptic alleyways, haunted nooks, homes and burial grounds to get up close and personal with the spirits and hear eerie tales of ghostly occurrences and actual encounters if that suits you.  Take time to visit the Battleship North Carolina which is moored on the Cape Fear River or Fort Fisher where the largest land-sea battle of the Civil War occurred.  In short, Wilmington has something for everyone. Come and join us and witness a history like no other in a place like no other where legends and lore live on.

Please let Denise know if you will be in attendance at this wonderful mini reunion by sending a text to (678) 570-1878 or email to by September 5, 2023. We need to secure the tour bus and tour guide, set up reserve seating at the church and make suggestions for accommodations.

With great anticipation to hear back from many of you,



The MHC 1974 Mini-Reunion Committee: Denise McLeod Thomas, Cynthia Polk-Allen, Mary Feeney and Melissa Thornton

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Protected: Treasurer’s Report and Dues Received as of 4/30/2024, Thank You!

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Posted in Uncategorized | Enter your password to view comments.