Commencement and Reunion are two traditions that work hand in hand to define a student's experience. As a graduating senior, you eagerly anticipate the moment when you and your classmates carry the chains of laurel towards Mary Lyon’s grave surrounded by the smiling faces and cheers of encouragement from alumnae spanning the generations. As an alumna returning for Reunion, you can’t wait to enthusiastically help welcome the newest class of alumnae into the fold. For many years, the Laurel Chain Ceremony served as this first point of connection, but in 2011, a new tradition was formed that has quickly become a cornerstone of the Commencement/Reunion event.
The “rising alumnae ceremony” (also referred to as the “welcome ceremony for new alumnae”) was designed to welcome new graduates into the worldwide community of MHC alumnae, while also building on the popularity of the Connections Program. Launched in 2007 with the classes of 2010/1960, the Connections Program offers opportunities for current students and alumnae in the 50th reunion cycle to connect on multiple occasions during their time at Mount Holyoke. Inspired by these close connections between seniors and their “grandmother” or “bridges” class, the “new alumnae welcome ceremony” is now held the Thursday evening of Commencement/Reunion I.
This ceremony is colloquially known as the “scarfing ceremony," as members of the 50th reunion class bestow upon the seniors a silk scarf in their class color, adorned with their class animals. The tradition was launched with the classes of 1961 and 2011, and Bonnie Barrett Stretch ’61 reflects, “I came to the ceremony as a skeptic, but now I think the scarves were a beautiful bridge to full maturity and alumnae status.”After the seniors receive their scarves, many decide to proudly wear it for other celebrations during the weekend including as an accent to their white ensembles for the Laurel Chain Ceremony. For many new alumnae, these scarves have become key accessories for years to come, and they are proudly worn at reunions, Mount Holyoke meet-ups, or whenever they want to feel a connection to the Mount Holyoke community.