(Editor's Note: See the print version of Northwestern magazine for the main story on the Chapin Hall reunion which originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune on December 14, 1999.)
FRIENDS & MENTORS
These days it's called role-modeling or mentoring. In the past it was the good old-fashioned friendship of an older woman with a student, but the general premise for the scholarship recipients of the Woman's Educational Aid Association remains the same. It helps to have someone who's been there and done that to offer aid and advice.
As an undergraduate, former WEAA scholar Catherine Chow (S95) was interested in clothing design. Current WEAA president Helen Gagel Squires (J68) knew a few people in the fashion world, and she helped put Chow in touch with them. "It was really great having an older female role model," the younger woman says. "I got to know a few of the other members of the WEAA board as well."
Now a fashion designer who makes one-of-a-kind wearable art pieces out of found objects like rubber, nickel-plated brass rings, plastic and cork, Chow still keeps in touch with the WEAA board to let them know how she's doing. Recently, her artwork was on display in a special exhibit, Material Evidence: Chicago Architecture at 2000, at the city's Museum of Contemporary Art.
Although Chapin Hall is no longer a residence exclusively for WEAA scholars, the organization still awards scholarships each year to four or five incoming women students who are eligible for financial aid.
Every scholarship recipient is assigned a sponsor who is one of the 16 members of the WEAA board. During winter quarter, the groups from each class year meet for a lunch or dinner with their sponsors.
This winter, the senior class dinner was held at the Stained Glass restaurant in Evanston. "It's a purely social meeting," says board member Jackie Bryant (S85), who was a WEAA scholar herself. "Our goal is just to be a resource to the scholars. We try to be mentors and provide another source for them to turn to."
For senior Mary Sievers, knowing members of the WEAA board led to an opportunity of a different kind. "During my freshman year, one of the alumnae, Marian Wolf [WCAS50 and a former Chapin Hall resident], asked me to speak to her church's youth group about my family's experiences with foster care and the adoption of my four youngest siblings," says Sievers. "It was something I had not done before, but it was a great experience."
To be sure, the baby-sitting chart full of "kidding jobs" and other "work" memories of old Chapin are long gone. Instead, today's scholarship recipients rush about to work-study jobs on campus at places like the music library or residential mailrooms or at various off-campus sites.
But that doesn't mean "kidding jobs" don't still come about through WEAA contacts. Chow spent a few of her summers at Northwestern as a baby sitter for the children of board member Nancy Stewart (S82, GS83).
As for the scholarship funding, no one would deny its importance to this
era's recipients, but even today's frenetic, often impersonal lifestyle
can't put a dent in the positive relationship between these older and
younger women. "I have had a great experience with the WEAA," says Sievers.
"Their kindness and generosity have been a huge blessing. I have loved
listening to their stories of their years at Northwestern."