A Tradition of Involvement: Peggy Saslow ’44, the Original “Sally Simmons”
Simmons made me the person I am.
Peggy (Florence) Adelson Saslow has been giving back to Simmons since she graduated in 1944. She has been a dedicated volunteer since the 1940s, and has donated funds to Simmons for 49 consecutive years. Attending Simmons became a family tradition, with her daughters, Susan E. Saslow ’73 and Judy Saslow Bounan ’76, P’03, her late niece, Jane Saslow ’76, and her granddaughter, Shanna S. Engel ’03.
“A big portion of my life was at Simmons, and it was a very, very happy time,” says Saslow from her home in New Jersey, in the company of her daughter and great granddaughter. “It was so comfortable that it was like home, being at Simmons with friends.”
While at Simmons, Saslow was a commuter student majoring in Home Economics. She fondly recalls baking goodies in the lab for home economics club meetings, visiting friends on the residence campus, taking dance lessons at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio, and walking with her friends to Brigham’s [ice cream shop] for hot fudge sundaes. She loved playing tennis on the Simmons team, and played for years after graduation. “Simmons was a wonderful place to be a student,” she says. “I would love to live it all again.”
Living with her parents on Beacon Hill, she traveled to Simmons via streetcar, the above-ground portion of the MBTA, of which the Green Line E Train is the last segment still operating. “It’s amazing what you can do on the streetcar,” notes Saslow, perhaps echoing the thoughts of current commuter students. “I did a lot of studying and writing papers. I remember being in the subway station and seeing ads for something called television and thinking, that's ridiculous, we’re not going to have that stuff in the house!”
In spite of the fun she had, the early 1940s was a turbulent time, and WWII had a personal impact. “I remember being in the kitchen at Simmons,” she recalls. “My brother was overseas and I was very worried. I was kind of messing things up. Finally I said it was hard for me to concentrate, and I was excused from whatever I was doing.” Once the war ended, she also clearly recalls walking into her parent’s home and finding her brother in the living room. “I was thoroughly overcome to see him back home safe and sound; it was more than thrilling.” At the time, her other brother was still in New Guinea, but he later returned home. “It was pure joy, because you never know — it was phenomenal to see them back home.”
After getting advanced degrees in home economics from Columbia and New York University, Saslow spent her career teaching home economics and science at New Milford High School in New Jersey and serving on the New Milford board of education. In 2014 she was named New Jersey Board of Education Member of the Year, and has been a delegate to the New Jersey School Boards Association and the Bergen County School Boards Association and represented New Milford at the National School Boards Advocacy Institute in Washington, D.C.
While dedicated to her career, Saslow has also found time and energy to devote to Simmons. Volunteering as an alum has given her “a feeling of belonging and doing something for a school that I care about,” says Saslow. “I was a happy student and I enjoyed my time at Simmons very much. Here was a school I was anxious to do something for because of what it had given me. Simmons made me the person I am.”
Saslow has served as honorary secretary of the Alumni Association Executive Board (AAEB) and is co-director of the Northern New Jersey Simmons Club. She is a past member of the Kresge Regional Committee, class officer and has been an Admissions Representative. She received the Alumnae Service Award in 1988 and the Mary Logan Canavan Planned Giving Award in 2007.
She’s also a self-starter. “One summer I went to Minnesota to see my [newborn] granddaughter,” she recalls. “I had a lot of spare time, so I started a club [for Simmons alumni]. There were a lot of telephone calls, but it was fun to start the club. And I find that when people get involved, they tend to contribute.”
Her fellow board members can attest to Saslow’s dedication over the years.
“Peggy is the quintessential ‘Sally Simmons,’” says Diane M. Dougherty ’69, who joined the New Jersey Simmons Club in 1974 and has worked with Saslow as an officer for many years. “[She was a] dynamic leader of our club and so enthusiastic about Simmons.” Bobbi Thompson ’77, who served with Saslow on the Alumni Association Executive Board, recalls, “She was always very much a personality with strong opinions and the drive to continue her involvement with Simmons.”
Leslie Soderberg Deiss ’88, co-director of the New Jersey Simmons Club, adds, “I have always considered Peggy a ‘get it done girl.’ No matter how young or old Peggy is, she is focused and gets things done as quickly as possible.” Candice Robertson ’16MSN credits Saslow with encouraging her to take the co-director position of the New Jersey Simmons Club. “Peggy has such a wonderful spirit. She speaks her mind and can be brutally honest, and it all works. I appreciate her for pushing me and inspiring me and others.”
In June of 2023, Saslow’s family and friends held a party to celebrate her 100th birthday. Members of the New Jersey Simmons Club attended and presented a proclamation to her on behalf of the Alumnae/i Association Executive Board, honoring her with the position of Emerita.
“[At Simmons], the teachers expected you to lead,” says Saslow, reflecting on the value of studying with other women, especially in the 1940s. “When the men were around, they kind of took over. Men were the big deal back then. But when it was all women, you were expected to be a leader in one way or another.” And Saslow has lived that principle throughout her life, serving on the board of education, Tennis for Life, and many other organizations — and she frequently met Simmons alumnae/i along the way.
“I was always involved with education. I loved teaching and being involved with the board of education and planning for students in the future, planning courses for them to take, planning all kinds of things that would help them find their voices,” says Saslow. “I wasn’t afraid to speak up — I did a lot of speaking up. And I’m grateful to Simmons.”
Photos courtesy of Judy Bounan