Campus & Community

Reunion 2024 for Jubilee Classes

A group photo of many of the alumni who atteneded the 2024 Jubilee Reunion
Photos by Steven Lipofsky Photography.

From Friday, May 31-Sunday, June 2, 2024, Simmons hosted the Reunion 2024 for Jubilee Classes, a celebration for all Classes celebrating 50 years or more since graduation. 

The weekend started with tours of the Simmons Academic Campus — including visits to the newly designed Library and Science Center — and of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Alumnae/i were welcomed back to the Residence Quad and were invited to partake in Reunion tradition by attending a Red Sox game on Friday night. Throughout the weekend, private events were held for the Class of ’74, ’71, ’64, ’63, and a combined program for the Classes of the ’50s. Once again, Simmons alumnae/i delighted in a performance by the Boston Pops on Saturday evening, this year in celebration of Pride Month with Keith Lockhart and drag performer guest Thorgy Thor.  

What Was Simmons Like When You Were Here?

Senior Major Gifts Officer Shawn Goodspeed was joined by Nursing student Katelyn Fox '25, welcoming alumnae/i — attending in person and virtually — to share their favorite Simmons memories on Saturday, in a program titled, "Timeless Ties: A Journey from Then to Beyond the Now." Alumnae/i from a range of Jubilee Class years reminisced about Friday Tea, and the Strawberry Breakfast for May Day. A member of the Class of ’71 noted that, in the midst of political upheaval, her Class chose to end many traditions that no longer seemed relevant, such as having to wear white gloves at tea and the Olde English Breakfast.

Members of the 2024 Jubilee Class enjoying their reunion. Photo by Steven Lipofsky Photography.

A commuter from the Class of ’64 recalled being required to wear skirts everyday; pants were only allowed if the temperature dipped below zero. By the late ’60s, denim was ubiquitous and had become the new “uniform” of college life. While styles changed rapidly, technology moved at a slower pace: manual typewriters and a shared telephone in the dorms were the norm. Recalled one alum: “There was one phone line on each floor for twelve women, all of them hoping to get a call on Thursday night to make a date for Saturday night.” 

While Simmons had no official athletic teams until Title IX was established in the ’60s, there was a gym requirement for incoming students, who could choose classes in tennis, fencing, golf, or archery. Simmons now has nine Division III teams, and the softball team recently defended their Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Championship.

State of the University

After a morning stroll through the Fens, Saturday’s brunch in the Linda K. Paresky Conference Center, introduced Judith Phair King ’68 and Simmons University President Lynn Perry Wooten for her State of the University presentation. Wooten shared a recording of the Undergraduate Student Commencement Speaker, Azeemah Solomon ’24, as a depiction of “the why” behind her work at Simmons. 

President Wooten and alums celebrating the 2024 Jubilee Reunion. Photo by Steven Lipofsky Photography.

“At Simmons, we are preparing students for their life’s work, bridging liberal arts with the professions, and sharing the richness of our Boston location.” Wooten cited developments in the Dix Scholars program and the creation of the Institute for Inclusive Leadership as evidence of Simmons progress toward our goals, in spite of the competitive and challenging academic arena. “How will we reinvent ourselves, post-pandemic? We will focus on our strengths, and innovate from there,” said Wooten, who encouraged alumnae/i to support the institution in building our future by sharing what she calls the “5 Ts”: Treasures, Time, Talents, Testimony, and Ties.

“Everywhere I go, I tell the Simmons story,” she said, encouraging alumnae/i, “Tell people your Simmons story, your testimony.”

Reinventing Ourselves Through Academic Redesign 

Following President Wooten, Leanne Doherty, Associate Provost of Academic and Faculty Affairs, expounded on the challenges facing Simmons at this juncture.

“Academia is struggling with questions of identity, return on investment, and cost,” noted Doherty. The market has changed drastically in the last five years. Employers are looking for candidates with graduate degrees, communication, and leadership skills. In addition, Simmons’ online programs are now competing with the proliferation of online programs that were created during the pandemic. “[Online graduate programs] have been our resource engine in the past, but it is now a more competitive market,” said Doherty.

To best face these challenges, Simmons underwent an Academic Redesign, a two year process that included 250 meetings with faculty, students, and staff, to devise the best plan for moving forward. The results were also data driven, leading Simmons to identify the strongest programs while “sunsetting” or reimagining programs with low enrollment. “Simmons balances the theory of liberal arts with practical experience,” said Doherty, noting that employers are eager to see graduates proficient in the so-called “soft” skills, though Doherty refuses to use that term. “We’re creating a Department of Humanities to focus on communication skills, how to work within diverse groups. Humanities minors will pair well with any other major at Simmons.” In addition to responding to the market by creating new Master’s degrees in Management, Data Science, and Strategic Communication, Simmons is promoting accelerated programs that allow students to complete a bachelor’s and master’s degree in an abbreviated span of time. 

As an institution with a modest endowment and a commitment to offering generous financial aid packages, Simmons has survived while a number of other institutions — especially those focused on a women-centered education — have not. “It’s imperative that we keep Simmons open and thriving, because there are students who need this type of education,” said Doherty. 

Simmons is also making efforts to re-engage alumnae/i in this process. Currently, 6.2% of Simmons undergraduate alumnae/i give back to the institution. The goal is to raise that percentage to 25%.

How Alumnae/i Can Get Involved — and Why They Should

During Afternoon Tea, alumnae/i heard presentations from the Office of Advancement, who thanked many alumnae/i who have shared their Time and Treasures. 

Lauren Sterling '83, Associate Director of Alumnae/i and Volunteer Engagement, recognized the more than 60 volunteers who made this Reunion weekend possible. Kathryn Benjamin, Associate Director Gift Planning and Jubilee Reunions, recognized the Classes of ’70, ’64 and ’65 as having the highest percent participation in giving this year. She also shared the huge impact of bequests to Simmons with a recent example from the Class of ’46. She reviewed new scholarships that were endowed this year and will be awarded to students for the first time in the fall, and highlighted in-progress scholarship funds for the Classes of ’74, ’64 and ’65. 

Benjamin also read from a thank you note, written by a Class of 2024 Computer Science Major to the donor of the scholarship the student received: “It takes a special person to make the dreams of others come true, and you are truly exceptional. Thank you for being so generous and hopeful, your spirit is contagious. Words cannot express how grateful I am to have been given this opportunity and to know that, because of it I have the chance to inspire, mentor, and invest in the dreams of others.”

Matoaka Kipp ’16MSW Director of the REEF Support Center, shared the vital work of the Center, which has offered 600 individual touchpoints in support of students in the 2023-2024 academic year, 54% of which were in-person meetings.

The Value of a Women’s-Centered Education

Kelly Hager, Associate Provost of Curriculum, Assessment, and Accreditation, presented “Alice's Wonderland — a looking glass of Victorian-Era Girls' Education,” in so doing exposing the differences between the Simmons education of today and that which was given to Victorian students, emphasizing recitation and little understanding. 

Members of the 2024 Jubilee Class enjoying their reunion weekend.

The value of a women’s-focused education was felt then, as it is now. Meredythe J. Schober ’55 found that teachers at her private high school frequently called on men in the classroom, neglecting the female students. “I wanted something different for college,” said Schober, and she found it at Simmons. Though Schober began her studies in the Class of ’54, she took some time after getting married during spring break of her junior year. She returned to complete her studies and graduate the following year, with her infant daughter in tow. She brought photographs of daisy chains, past Reunions, and Petunia, the Class of ’54 mascot. “We decided on the animal, and the colors,” she recalled, citing yet another Simmons tradition.  

And the tradition of giving space for women to find their voices continues, today. “Faculty leave space for conversations,” noted Nursing student Katelyn Fox. “Simmons students speak their mind, but also listen to each other.”

This Reunion 2024 concluded on Sunday morning with an uplifting and engaging presentation entitled, “Age Well and Thrive: Healthy Aging,” where three Simmons faculty members shared their expertise in the roles of exercise and nutrition in gracefully aging and maintaining an active and joyful lifestyle. Jacqueline Beatty, Assistant Professor of NutritionJoanne Rivard, from the Department of Physical Therapy, and Tim Hanway, Assistant Professor of the Exercise Science Program, offered valuable insight and practical tips for nutrition essentials and fitness suggestions, providing a sensible approach to aging fitfully. It was just the lift that these Simmons women needed to send them home with energy, the fondest memories of their weekend at their alma mater, and their commitment to return for the next alumnae/i celebration!   

What’s Next?

Save the date for two more upcoming reunion events. Further information will be sent and posted to the Simmons website.

If you would like to learn more about giving of your time through volunteer opportunities, please contact [email protected].

If you would like to give a gift of your treasure in honor of this year’s reunion, please make a donation by June 30, 2024.

Publish Date


Alisa M. Libby