Class President’s Fall Letter 2023

Dear Mount Holyoke College Class of 1974,

Welcome to a plump Fall schedule!

I have a few committee updates that require your action: please make time to share your suggested nominations for our next leadership team…time to make reservations for our various mini-reunions…and time to note our first couple of Zoom dates and topics.


The Class of 1974 Nominating Committee is beginning the task of assembling a slate of officers to lead the class for five years from our 50th Reunion in May 2024 to our 55th Reunion in 2029. The slate consists of President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Reunion Chair, Scribe, Social Media Chair (tech management of class website, FaceBook, Instagram, etc.), Head Class Agent(s) and Nominating Committee (3 members on the slate, with an additional 2 members appointed by the class president before our 55th reunion).

Detailed job descriptions:

The slate of officers will be presented to our class for voting at the Class Meeting at Reunion in May 2024.

We welcome nominations from the class! Please submit your nominations to: Carole LaMond, Chair, at by September 22, 2023.

Nominating Committee:

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

MINI-REUNION COMMITTEE wants you to know about several upcoming mini-reunions. In order:

  1. Mini-Reunion at MHC for Danielle R. Holley’s Inauguration ceremony on September 21, 2023. A half dozen classmates are already signed up to gather for lunch at 1pm(on Skinner Green or nearby) after the processional at 10:30am and the investiture in Chapin auditorium which begins at 11am. Please reach out to Jane Zimmyor Melissa Thornton if interested.
  2. Mini-Reunion in Boston for Vespers on December 12023. A group of classmates have already purchased tickets and are in the midst of putting together plans to gather for this historic and delightful holiday event. We’ll have a point-person to contact soon.
  3. Mini-Reunion in Wilmington, North Carolina (note the state please)

December 29/23-January 1/24  The deadline to reserve a space at the Wilmington mini-reunion has been extended toSeptember 20. The invitation is to classmates and family members and our host, Denise has added a new twist to enhance the experience:

    In addition to the planned tour of this historic city and the Gullah Geechee performance, we ask that classmate participants come prepared to ring in the New Year with song, dance, poetry, a reading of works in progress, humor, or bits of wisdom.  A different experience and a good time is sure to be had by all.
More detail can be found on this link on our MHC Class of 1974 website.

Please fill out the attached form (thank you, Cindy Polk-Allen) and send it to Denise McLeod Thomas at Questions: (678) 570-1878



Monday, 10/23/23  Cerise Jalelian-Keim ’81 speaking on Vespers: Tales from the Crypt.

November Panel discussion on elder affairs and support, hosted by Cindy Polk-Allen.  More details to follow.

SOCIAL MEDIA COORDINATOR: Our Facebook page and Class of 1974 Website page are updated regularly. Do tune in to both these sites to keep up to date on opportunities!

Wishing you days filled with crisp breezes and scintillating Autumn colors,

Melissa L. Thornton
President, Class of 1974


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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

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Protected: Treasurer’s Report as of 8/31/2023 and Dues Received as of 7/31/2023, Thank You!

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Class President’s Letter, August 2023

Dear Mount Holyoke College Class of 1974, 

I hope you’ve noticed that I have kept my word about no more than 3 Presidential email blasts per year…thus far. 😊 But now, things are cooking within the MHC Class of 1974, as we reach our 9 month countdown to our grand 50th Reunion next May 16-19, 2024…and you’ll hear from me more often!!

REUNION PLANNING WORKSHOP: August 15th, Class Volunteer Leaders will be attending a virtual Reunion Planning Workshop from 7 to 8:30p. If you were thinking of volunteering for anything related to the Reunion, please join us! Reach out to me at and I’ll send you the registration link. Reach out to Gail LaRocca for further information after the workshop at and I are already in regular contact and all sorts of exciting things are being planned. More information along the way….

ACTIVE NOMINATING COMMITTEE: Our full Nominating Committee (Class elected representatives–Chair Carole LaMond, Nancy Marks Arcieri, Beth Connor Gibson…joined by new Presidential appointees Cynthia Polk-Allen and Susan Moch) will meet for the first time on August 21st to begin to put together a ballot for our leadership team for 2024-2029.

DEVELOPMENT TEAM: Our full Development Team (over 50 classmates) are invited to attend 1974’s 50th reunion Gift Committee Meeting in South Hadley at our beautiful Alma Mater…or virtually…on October 4-6. If you were thinking of joining the development team, please reach out to Jane Zimmy at  

This industrious team brought in awesome results this past fiscal year:
FY’23 Results: Participation: 56%  
Dollars Raised:  $314,129 (including $25,000 in challenge funds)
54 Cornerstone Donors (an increase from last year!)

88% of those who made gifts in fiscal ’22 also made a gift in ’23. Slightly below our goal of >90% repeating.

50th Reunion Results Total 5-Year Participation Rate as of 06/30/2023: 68.4%

Dollars raised for the Mount Holyoke Fund: $1,298,342 (including pledges through 6/28)

Comprehensive total (Mount Holyoke Fund + gifts to Endowments, Capital Projects and Documented Bequests): $3,324,003


ACTIVE MINI-REUNION COMMITTEE: The Mini-Reunion committee has been meeting to help bring Denise McLeod Thomas’s vision to reality.
The  Wilmington, North Carolina Mini-Reunion is happening!

REPLY NOW with this form if you are interested in attending by sending a text to our host, Denise McLeod Thomas (678) 570-1878 or email to Deadline: September 5

WHO is invited: all MHC 1974 classmates and loved ones

WHEN: December 29, 2023-January 1, 2024

WHERE: The historic port city of Wilmington, NC, nestled between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean

WHAT: the perfect way to end 2023 and welcome 2024 withbeloved classmates at your side

A.   Saturday, December 30th, an interactive bus tour of Wilmington with a renowned, award-winning tour guide who is a native son

B.    Sunday, December 31st, an annual noon performance of music, dancing, singing and storytelling, celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation, by the Gullah Geechee people at a local church

C.    New Year’s Eve dinner together is in the works, as well as contiguous lodging options for the long weekend

D.   Open time can include: Wilmington’s National Register Historic District; Riverwalk lined with cafes, shops and galleries; horse-drawn carriage rides; cruise along Cape Fear waterfront; visits to the Airlie gardens or many museums, etc.

More detail can be found on this link on our MHC Class of 1974 website:

ACTIVE MEMORIAM COMMITTEE: The Memoriam Committee has developed a template for slides for the presentation and booklet and gathered the information about each deceased classmate in a folder accessible to committee members.  The group is preparing the slides, the booklet, and soliciting estimates for materials for the rose ceremony during which classmates will be remembered at our reunion.

SOCIAL MEDIA COORDINATOR: Our Facebook page and Class of 1974 Website page would love to post events in which classmates are involved to encourage participation by other classmates and recognition of all the great things that we are doing.  Please send along notices to Many thanks to Laurie Averill for pursuing the techies who finally fixed the links to our class website! Do tune in to both these sites regularly, as things WILL emerge regularly.

Wishing you the luscious last moments and memories of summer,

Melissa L. Thornton
President, Class of 1974

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Class of 1974 President’s Year-End Letter

Dear Mount Holyoke College Class of 1974, 

2022 was the year that most of the Class of 1974 turned 70… a major achievement!! Please join me in thanking Cynthia  (Cindy) Polk-Allen who sent out birthday ecards to virtually every classmate. Thank you, Cindy, for representing the Class Leaders and sharing the joy and enthusiasm that we have all made it this far…in remarkable spirits…despite the challenges and upheaval of the last 3 years!

As COVID moved from pandemic to endemic status and the ‘new normal’ began to take shape, we began to stretch our wings and embrace our enhanced mobility. In concert with all these changes, the MHC Class of 1974 continued to strengthen its connections with one another.  
I am happy to share with you the progress made on various class projects during this year.

I.                   CONNECTING WITH OUR CLASS–


 Our regional mini-mini reunions continued around the country. Many, many thanks to our Social Media Coordinator, Laurie Averill, who shares every bit of class-related news across the Social Media within hours of the event.

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
Mary Feeney is planning a spring mini-mini at the New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill Park, Boylston, MA this year as well.

In-person/multi-day mini-reunion gatherings have not been possible since we last gathered at Mount Holyoke in May, 2019. So the big news is that there are two in-person/overnight mini-reunions in the works for 2023, both open to the entire class!

One is to be held in Boothbay, Maine, centering at Melissa Thornton’s Bold Colorful Life vacation rentals, from Friday, June 2-Monday, June 5. See this website for more information.

The other is being designed by Denise McLeod Thomas to be held in Wilmington, North Carolina, date and details TBD.
Health concerns will be addressed at both gatherings. Please reach out if you have an idea for an in-person gathering—mini-mini or including overnights.

ZOOM MINI-REUNIONS: Many of our classmates have already set up one-time or recurring regional or friend-based zoom mini-reunions and these continue to deepen friendships over the years. One group celebrated its 120th straight Friday afternoon Happy Hour Zoom Call!


We kicked off with a Class of ’74 Zoom Birthday Party and our talented Co-Chairs Nan Ward and Gail LaRocca have orchestrated fascinating presentations, with wonderfully engaging breakout discussions…sometimes about the presentations…sometimes allowing us to get to know our classmates better. Check out the past and future topics on our Mount Holyoke College Class of 74 Facebook page. And special thanks to Doris O’Keefe for talking photos to visually capture the events.

Plans for upcoming Zoomtails meetings include the arts—join us February 16th when Jane Pollak will speak about how Ukrainian eggs led her to entrepreneurship. Other topics include legacy writing and a summer reading list offered in June.


The date for our 50th Reunion has not yet been established, but we’ll let you know as soon as we do. (We’re guessing that it’s likely to be May 16-19, and remember, our 50Th reunion programming starts on Thursday, not Friday.)


Carole LaMond, Chair of the Nominating Committee, wants the class to know that the Nominating Committee will gear up in the spring with the goal of having a slate in place by December 2023. Members are Carole, Beth Connor Gibson, Nancy Arcieri and two additional members who will be appointed by me. Nominations are welcome. Please send to Carole at


Marylloyd Claytor and committee members Laurie Averill, Debra Orgera and Theresa Salerno share their update with you:

1.  We have written memoriams for deceased classmates after researching on-line and in-print, as well as reaching out when possible to families and MHC friends for more personalized information and pictures.  We are including images from their student years as well as more recent photos if available.  We continue to update our files using MHC alumnae information.

2.  We are developing ways to commemorate our classmates’ lives engagingly and meaningfully at our reunion–through a rose ceremony paired with a digital presentation of the memoriams, as well as on-line access.

If you have a short quote about a fellow classmate, or photos, please contact

CLASS NOTES: And, thanks to our Class Scribe, Marylloyd Claytor, we have lovely, plump Scribe’s Notes in the Fall, 2022 Alumnae Quarterly.Check them out and please remember to send your news to Marylloyd at The upcoming deadline is February 1 for the Spring Quarterly.



As you know, a time-honored tradition at Mount Holyoke is that our 50threunion class connects with the class that graduates when we gather for reunion, the class of  2024.
1.  We had several members of the Class of 2024 join 1974 classmates at the March 23rd Zoomtails when Bonnie Panson presented her engaging slide show about MHC in the 70s.

2. Debra Orgera and Doris O’Keefe attended the Rings and Roses event on campus with the Class of 2024 on April 13th.

3. Thanks to Laurie Averill, working with Janet Glick, we now have a 1974/2024 Affinity Group within The Gates which is designed to connect/match students and alumnae by interest. 1974 can offer mentoring, professional advice, life skills advice, etc. in this manner.

Please join this group so we may increase the number of our 1974 classmates who can offer these services.

4. Laurie and I are about to meet with the new Class of 2024 Board to discuss the two classes collaborating for their Junior Show, now called J-Show event.



 The Development Committee, comprised of Co-Chairs Jane Zimmy and Debby Hall, and Vice Chairs LaVida Dowdell and Leslie Bowen, is inspiring the Class Agent volunteers to go all-out as we move towards our 50threunion. Here’s their year-end update:

As of 12/31/22, we are pleased to report that our class has raised an impressive $1,173,227 toward our 50th Reunion Class gift. All gifts/pledges to the Mount Holyoke Fund from July 1, 2019 through our reunion in May 2024 count. A huge thank you to the 67% of our class who have made at least one gift.

Since 7/1/2022, 141 classmates (31% participation) have made gifts/pledges totaling $193,778. Our goals for this year are $274K and 60% participation. We are more than halfway there!
Our class has so many loyal donors, and 91% of this year’s donors are members of the Laurel Chain Society.

Be on the lookout for details about the March4MHC challenge, which will be an opportunity to further show our strong class spirit.
We continue to look for Volunteers to join our fundraising team. Please email LaVida Dowdell ( if you’re interested.

Many thanks to all the committee members and project volunteers who give their time and energy to the magnificent Class of 1974!  I look forward to seeing many classmates over the next year…and just beyond that…at our much anticipated 5oth reunion!

Warmest wishes for a truly uplifting Spring,
Melissa L. Thornton
President, Class of 1974

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