I graduated a year early from high-school and attended Wellesley in the class of 1990. No women in my family had a college degree. Missing college was the single most tragic loss for my Mother. She wanted to be a doctor. So, with all the pressure of generations of corked ambition and no idea how college, privilege and leadership worked: I arrived.

My first room and roommate, my first college job, course selection and first year experience. I hollowed myself into a shell that was tuned only to observe what the normal girls did. It was impenetrable. I was a mute kitten flying down the rapids.

Then the First-year dean saved me, she plucked me out of the roiling white water. I waited for my mandatory appointment, which I did not want. I was very busy! While waiting, I played with the dean’s new black lab puppy. She talked with me kindly, made college seem very straight forward, and invited me to be her dog walker for my college job. In retrospect, I think it was to keep an eye on me.

That was fortunate because my mother died during my junior year. I hid her illness from friends and school, but finally landed three days after the funeral with no way to complete my mid-year work. I talked to my academic adviser, who immediately called the dean and the Wellesley machine moved to catch me. I cried for the first time in the dean’s office. All my exams and papers were moved out 6 weeks. My house mother made me dinner, checked in daily and the president wrote me a sympathy note. The campus minister met with me.

Although I am now a board member for the Wellesley in Washington Club. My connection to the college came late. I really did not fit in when I was at Wellesley, I was too poor, too anxious, and the death of my mother alienated me from typical college experience. Had I attended any other college I likely would not have graduated. Wellesley has the capacity for kindness and the 125 + year experience educating young women. I felt the arms of the college steering me and protecting me.