Wellesley’s Professor Rebecca Summerhays passed away on April 28th, 2022. Prof. Summerhays was an adored writing professor, having taught WRIT 145: From Penelope’s Loom to the Pussy Hat: Women, Art, Craft, and Protest, among other Writing Program courses, since before the pandemic. She specialized in nineteenth-century portrayals and descriptions of the human body, Victorian female authors in their representation of human feeling, and generally what makes us “uniquely human.” Before arriving at Wellesley, Prof. Summerhays taught at Harvard University, following her Ph.D. studies at Brown University and undergraduate time at the University of Utah.
My brief time as Prof. Summerhays’ student feels blurred, despite it being merely a year ago. Perhaps it’s because of this sudden and tragic news, or pandemic fatigue. Regardless, despite my now fuzzy recollection, what remained crystal clear was Prof. Summerhays’ bright spirit. We only saw her over Zoom, but the computer’s pixels weren’t enough to deter her enthusiasm during our three weeks together. And it was just three weeks. But, within that time, our class grew to know, love and share with each other. It was with Prof. Summerhays’ warmth, trust and transparency that I looked forward to breakout rooms where she would always pop in and rattle on about a banana bread recipe she had just tried, the newest season of “The Crown” or her newest favorite hiking trail. As a first-year, after having endured an obscure and unprecedented Wellesley semester, simply being taught by someone who happened to be labeled a professor but felt more like a friend, was truly an experience I may never have again.
She encouraged us to craft during class. She called them “crafternoons.” If our hands weren’t busy with beads, or embroidery, or yarn, or paint, we weren’t paying attention. I learned not to take school so seriously all the time – that it was something I could quite literally craft and an experience I myself could curate.
When she left us after those first three weeks, the light dimmed a little. But we trusted that she’d come back and we’d be able to see her in the Fall to update her on our own banana bread recipes, “The Crown” hot takes and tricky hiking trails. And she did come back this Spring. Prof. Summerhays was able to spread her light to new first years, those in need of the same healing we needed last year. Even though her time was cut short, her light and warmth was still felt and appreciated by everyone who was lucky enough to be her student.
I will miss Professor Rebecca Summerhays, and I hope you will too.