Swinging through generations

New swing celebrates life of Kathryn Wasserman Davis ’28

By Borim Yoon ’17 

Contributing Writer

Students and alumnae gathered at Houghton Chapel last Wednesday, April 23, to celebrate the life of Kathryn Wasserman Davis ’28 and witness the installment of a swing in honor of the alumna’s contributions to the Wellesley community. College President H. Kim Bottomly was joined by past presidents Diana Chapman Walsh ’66 and Nan Keohane ’61 for a conversation moderated by Lulu Chow Wang ’61 about their personal memories of the alumna.

The day of dedication marked the one year anniversary of Davis’ passing She was a legendary alumna known for her dedication and generosity to the College.

Keohane explained that Davis worked to make change both on big and small scales. She had an uncanny awareness of other people’s needs and did her best to help them.

Her innate optimism was an inspiration for many, including current Wellesley students.

“It was really interesting to actually get a better idea of her contributions to the College and how she shaped the academic success of so many women here,” Paulina Sterpe ’15 said.

Along with her many great contributions to Wellesley, Davis and her legacy will live on through the swing that was reinstalled in her honor. Davis had been a strong advocate for the reinstallation during her lifetime.

“There was a swing on the Chapel lawn through the ’80s and ’90s. It was taken down at some point when the branch could no longer safely hold it.  Whenever Kathryn came to campus, she always asked if the swing had been restored and if she could go swing on it. Sadly, the swing was never restored during her lifetime,” said Marianne Cooley, the clerk of the Board of Trustees and assistant to the president.

Cooley revealed that while it is unlikely that a swing existed while Davis was a student at Wellesley, Davis did enjoy swinging on the swing during her time as a trustee of the College from 1984 to 2002.

“In thinking about what kind of tribute the campus could pay that would be in keeping with her love of life, the topic of the swing came up.  We concluded that it would be fitting to restore the swing,” Cooley said.

The original swing hung on a tree near Houghton Chapel during Nan Keohane’s tenure as Wellesley College president but eventually came down during Diana Chapman Walsh’s term because the branch could no longer hold the swing safely. In deciding where to place a new swing, the committee decided to keep with tradition and install it near the chapel.

“We worked with Facilities to identify a new tree on the chapel lawn that could host the swing, and carpenter Richie Vabulas carved the Wellesley ‘W’ and oak leaves into the swing seat,” Cooley said.

Students stopped by to have a go on the new swing later that afternoon. Before hopping on, students and visiting alumnae tied pieces of ribbon of their class colors onto the chains and picked up blue buttons with a quote from Davis saying, “My favorite day is … tomorrow!”

Presidents Walsh and Keohane, after exiting the ceremony, were spotted pushing a few students on the swing before returning home.

Free cupcakes from the Kickass Cupcakes truck made the event all the more merrier, attracting even more students to the event. With a group consisting of visiting alumnae, presidents and current students, the corner of the chapel was transformed into an exciting gathering of generations of Wellesley women.

Swinging next to chapel is one of the “50 Things to Do Before You Graduate.” Thanks to Davis, the class of 2014 will be the first in many years, but not the last, of graduating classes to be able to finish all the whimsical activities on the list.

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