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The Parade of Classes - Reunion 2024

The 4s and 9s returned to Mount Ida in force last weekend for Reunion 2024! Laughter and hugs filled the hallways as over 200 Emma alums reconnected, rediscovered their favorite spots on campus, celebrated one another’s accomplishments, and shared the wonder of Emma Willard School with their families.

From identifying long-lost faces in photographs in the Emma Willard School Archives to re-discovering the decades of designs in the Revels costume room, fond memories abound during Reunion weekend. Behind-the-scenes tours provide insight into what’s new and different, and what’s the same as ever. The Back 40 is the perfect spot to reconnect with the beauty of nature on Mount Ida. 

While reminiscing is a favorite pastime, Reunion-goers also get a glimpse into the current curriculum through Emma Academy sessions. English Instructor Kathleen McNamara led a packed classroom to consider how minor characters in well-loved stories can be reimagined. Focusing on Circe from Homer’s Odyssey, the group reflected on the goddess as portrayed in art, as portrayed in various translations of Homer’s work, and as featured in 10th grade required reading Circe by Madeline Miller. 

Mathematics Instructor Laszlo Bardos engaged the mathematical and creative mind by leading alums through a lesson on friezes, considering the symmetries of a variety of different designs and making their own. Experiential Learning Department Chair Jon Calos introduced Emma’s STEAM, Practicum, and Signature programs. Ave N. ’26 and Ava V. ’26 shared their STEAM 10 studies and Grace Moses ’24 presented her Signature project focused on how “The Troubles” of Northern Ireland were portrayed in television.

Teaching during Reunion is not limited to faculty. Emma alums Emelia J. Benjamin, MD ’74, Umbereen Nehal, MD ’94, and Griffan Randall, DO ’04 shared their expertise and wisdom at the Women and Wellness panel discussion. Dr. Nehal began with a presentation about her work through HER Heard, bringing AI technology to bear in the effort to help women raise their voices to get proper medical care. Dr. Randall highlighted the fact that mental health issues can happen to anyone and noted the proven importance of gratitude in improving one’s wellbeing. Dr. Benjamin shared the wisdom she has gained from overcoming recent professional and personal challenges, centering on the work of Brené Brown on how best to practice vulnerability. Much of the question-and-answer time centered on how people of privilege can be a part of supporting the wellness of others who don’t have the same access to healthcare.

The festive Parade of Classes provides the hype leading up to Head of School Jenny Rao’s State of the School address and the Alumnae Association’s awards presentation. Hundreds of alumnae followed a mobile brass band around Slocum Hall and along the Triangle, cheered by onlooking Emma Willard faculty, family, and friends. The Class of 1974, celebrating their 50th Reunion, brought up the tail of the entry into Kiggins singing Israel Kamakawiwo'ole’s arrangement of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” complete with Hawaiian shirts and ukuleles. 

In her remarks, Ms. Rao reminded us of our shared commitment to “a deep love of learning that drives us to understand each other and our differences; an intellectual curiosity and a dedication to building habits of mind that strengthen us and all those around us.” Her words described the power of the Emma Willard community to meet challenges and exceed expectations. Describing the past year, she said, “We leaned into our vulnerabilities and led with purpose. We made change where it was needed, we interrogated our status quo, and we courageously moved forward; and, there is still much work to be done.” She went on to highlight progress on the aspirations of our strategic plan, Leading with Purpose, and the inspirational giving to Infinite Horizon: The Campaign for Emma Willard School.

Following the head of school address, the Alumnae Recognition Awards were presented, honoring alumnae who embody the spirit of Emma Willard School, have made significant career achievements, have shown themselves to be great humanitarians, and have served the school in significant ways. This year’s honorees were: 

  • Distinguished Alumna Award: Elizabeth Matthews Brunt, MD, ’69

  • Distinguished Young Alumna Award: Talya Elitzer ’04

  • Humanitarian and Global Service Award: Carol Ann Newell ’74

  • Humanitarian and Global Service Award: Nandita Sugandhi, MD, ’94

  • Career Achievement Award: Elizabeth “Busy” Burr ’79

  • Career Achievement Award: Zoeann Murphy ’99

  • Service to Emma Willard Award: Marcia Brooks ’74, P’09

We invite you to read the full citations for each of our award recipients on our website

Beyond the schedule of activities and presentations, Reunion weekend is filled with toasts, artistic endeavors, dinners, trivia challenges, and dancing! It is in these moments of playfulness and connection that we witness the everlasting bonds of the Emma Willard School community. 

In the final hour of Reunion, that community came together to remember those in their classes who had passed on and enjoy a blessing from the Alumnae Choir, the poem “I am from…Emma Willard School” written for the occasion by Antonella Dominguez ’14, and remarks from Rev. Dr. Nancy S. Taylor ’74. Dr. Taylor invited those gathered to participate in “sensory history”—using the senses to recall their common Emma experience and call to mind the impact of the generations of women who came before them. “Daily we spoke and heard the names of these women—women remembered and embodied in grand edifices and in an even grander undertaking—women who had defied norms, broken ground, shattered glass ceilings, dared to think and act audaciously; women who took risks and who made change,” Dr. Taylor recalled, encouraging alumnae to continue the legacy of “Ms. Rule—witty, irreverent, lock-picking, persistent, and full of sass.”

Thank you to all who returned to Mount Ida to make the 2024 Reunion an amazing weekend!  Mark your calendars now for Reunion 2025! We’ll celebrate the 0s and 5s on June 6–8, 2025.

See our SmugMug for photos from Reunion, and check back soon for the professional photography of Liz Lajeunesse ’91.


Find more interesting stories about Emma Willard School on our Newsroom page.