Connecting Via the Human Touch

From left, Katie Henderson ’05, Rachel Williams ’06, and Stephanie Shafer ’07 gathered in Dallas, Tex. (Photo by Dallas Hagewood Wilt '90)

It’s a given that Washington and Lee alumni love to get together long after graduation, whether they’re seeing classmates on campus during reunions, or meeting alumni of all generations in their communities at chapter events. A new twist on that tradition has a singular purpose: to connect the women of W&L through informal gatherings around the country.

Why hold such events? After all, it’s been 38 years since women began studying at the School of Law, and 25 years since undergraduate women filled the classrooms. Given the school’s predominantly male alumni base, however, “women account for less than 20 percent of our alumni population,” says Susan Cunningham, director of major gifts. These events, which are planned by local W&L alumnae, mothers, friends and trustees, take place in private homes. The first occurred in New York two years ago, followed by receptions in Atlanta, Washington and Charlotte, N.C. This past month, Texans took the stage, with parties in Dallas (hosted by Stacey Sim Walker ’90) and in Houston (hosted by Mary Stanton Smith ’91).

“Our purpose in hosting these gatherings is to engage women who graduated from W&L and to do so in a meaningful way,” Alston Parker Watt ’89 told The Bridge, a newsletter about W&L’s new capital campaign. “These events bring together doctors and lawyers, stay-at-home moms, philanthropists and business owners in a way that adds a human touch to networking that we as women crave.” Watt is a member of the W&L Board of Trustees.

Dallas Hagewood Wilt ’90, another trustee, notes that these events are not intended to supersede regular alumni chapter events but to reinforce connections. “Women give for different reasons than men, and we give differently,” she said in The Bridge. “As donors, we want a connection to our gift and continued involvement in its success. As an institution, we want to give something back to our donors, and these gatherings are one way of doing that.”



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