GPS Alumnae Weekend 2019 was filled with opportunities to reconnect with and acknowledge former grads.
This year the school celebrated the reunion classes ’4s and ’9s, beginning with Real Talk. Eleven alumnae volunteered to talk with current students. Real Talk was created four years ago out of desire to provide an intentional, thoughtful platform for alumnae to share their wisdom and experience with their younger GPS sisters.
Presenting this year were:
Emily You ’14 | Seniors | How to Open Doors of Opportunity
Heather Parman Miller ’09 | Juniors | Resilience
Lauren Lawrence Swanson ’09 | Sophomores | Unexpected Life Paths
Lela Miller Moore ’94 | Freshmen | Personal Branding
Marissa Shrum ’99 | Eighth-graders | Unexpected Life Paths
Tara Shanahan, Emily Cullum, Emma Berry, and Lucy Whitfield, Class of 2014 | Seventh-graders | How to Balance Personal Growth and Friendships
Taylor Pels ’14 | Sixth-graders | Balancing Responsibilities/Personal Time
Amy Edgar Sklansky ’89 | The student body | The Road to Publishing
Later that evening, the Class of 1969 gathered at Founders House for a reception and raised a toast to 50 years. Corinne Anderson Adams presented her classmates with a book—a compilation of snapshots from their yearbooks—and also a collection of bios and blurbs about their class titled “From There to Here” celebrating their shared GPS story.
On Saturday, at the Alumnae Weekend Awards Luncheon, instead of recognizing one notable alumna from their class, the school honored their request to recognize the entire Class of 1969 for resilience, compassion, and determination.
Following the 50th reunion reception, all alumnae were invited to gather at Founders House for a cocktail reception. GPS faculty also were invited to reunite with their former students and friends. After the reception, alums attended the Upper School spring musical, Fiddler on the Roof, in Frierson Theatre.
Saturday morning’s events began with the Faculty Emeriti Induction Ceremony. In 2015, Head of School Dr. Autumn Graves initiated the Faculty Emeriti program as a way to honor retired and retiring faculty for their outstanding contributions to the school and its students.
This year the school honored:
Rickie Phillips Pierce | Associate Head of School, Principal of Upper School, Historian
Starlet Light Speakman ’59 | Latin and English Teacher, Head of Middle School
Debbie Bohner Young ’79 | Teacher, Volleyball, and Track & Field Coach, Director of Admission
Then before lunch, a Town Hall was held in the Evans Center. Jenise Gordon, head of Upper School, moderated a Q&A with seven from the senior Class of 2019. The students shared with alumnae about their GPS experience, plans for college, and how GPS has prepared them for life beyond the campus.
Following the Town Hall, the Alumnae Awards Luncheon provided a platform to share with former students what’s currently happening at GPS. After a welcoming message from Chair of the Board of Trustees, Holly Lynch Harwell ’84, and a prayer by Debbie Bohner Young ’79, Dr. Graves presented a slideshow of current students’ accomplishments as well as graphs to show how recent graduates shine compared to their peers across the country. Noteworthy statistics include:
90 percent of GPS students from Classes of 2011-2014 graduated from college within six years or fewer; the national average for women is 60 percent.
79 percent of GPS graduates from Classes of 2011-2014 completed college from original institution (did not transfer); the national average for women is 48 percent.
80 percent of GPS graduates from the Classes of 2011-2014 graduated in four years or fewer; the national average is 19 percent (for men and women).
38 percent of GPS graduates from Classes of 2011-2014, who graduated college, obtained degrees in STEM fields, which is more than five times higher than the national average of 7 percent of women.
Then Athletic Director, Jay Watts, introduced the five newest members of the GPS Sports Hall of Fame:
Jasmine Brown ’09 | volleyball and track & field
Christine Anderson Cooper ’09 | swimming
Heather Parman Miller ‘09 | volleyball and track & field
Josie Rix ‘09 | soccer
Coach John Woods | swimming
Notable Alumnae from each reunion class were also recognized, (45th through 15th and one from those celebrating 55th, 60th, or 65th reunion), Rising Notables, (5th and 10th), and the entire Class of 1969 celebrating their 50th reunion.
Helen Burns Sharp, Class of 1964
Community Advocate, Former Urban Planner and Developer
The Class of 1969
Special 50th Reunion Recognition—for resilience, compassion, determination
Dr. Mary Katherine Lawrence, Class of 1974
Board-Certified Internist, Medical Clinic Founder and Director, Philanthropist
Dr. Laurel Carney, Class of 1979
Auditory Neuroscience Physician, Professor, Award-Winning Researcher
Dr. Janet West Batanghari, Class of 1984
Scientist, Teacher, Editor, Champion of Underserved Women and Children
Amy Edgar Sklansky, Class of 1989
Children’s Book Author
Lela Moore, Class of 1994
National Writer and Reporter
Marissa Shrum, Class of 1999
Creative Marketer, Brand and Community Strategy Leader
Taylor Warren, Class of 2004
Field Epidemiologist, Health Volunteer, Consultant
Chelsey Smith, Class of 2009
Bioengineering Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate Research Program Fellow
Anna Carroll, Class of 2014
Product Engineer, Philanthropist
Now in its third year, the Notable Alumnae Awards platform also acknowledges a Distinguished Alumna and the Lupton Award of Excellence from the list of Notables.
This year’s Margaret Rawlings Lupton Award of Excellence was presented by Becca Stimson ’73 to Taylor Warren from the Class of 2004. Ms. Warren joined the World Health Organization this February as a technical officer in Geneva, Switzerland. In this new role she supports operational readiness, getting countries prepared for emergency response. After earning her master’s degree in public health in forced migration from Columbia University, Ms. Warren spent a year with Catholic Charities, working in infection prevention and control and supporting Ebola response in Guinea and Liberia. She is fluent in French and knows Kinyarwanda (the official language of Rwanda).
The Distinguished Alumna Award was then presented to Dr. Laurel Hawthorne Carney ‘79. Dr. Carney is a full professor and researcher in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Rochester. She and her team explore the intricacies of the human auditory system in an effort to help those with hearing loss, particularly in noisy backgrounds. Dr. Carney received her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from MIT and her master’s and doctoral degrees, also in electrical engineering, from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She lives with her husband, David Cameron in Geneva, N.Y.
At the close of the luncheon, the alumnae sang the Alma Mater together before departing. Later in the day and evening reunion classes enjoyed their own class parties at various venues around town.