Shine Through

candle-139120_640Saturday morning, it was my privilege as the President of the Wesleyan College Alumnae Association to hear the beautiful sound of almost 1000 people sigh in unison.  I’ll never forget it as long as I live.  And it all started with me eavesdropping on a couple of little old ladies from a bathroom stall.

This was Alumnae Weekend, when classes return to campus to celebrate reunions; this year we welcomed the classes ending in 4 and 9.  We even celebrated two members of the class of 1939 who returned for their 75th reunion.  There’s a special luncheon on Friday for the “Golden Belles.”  That’s the class celebrating its 50th reunion–this year, the Class of 1964.

Before my duties began at the luncheon–the welcoming of dignitaries, the reading of the roll call, the recounting of their exploits five years before I was born–I ducked into the ladies room.  Three woman stood by the sinks, washing hands and fixing hairdos.  They didn’t notice me.

hands-195657_640They said how good it was to see each other.  And how sad it was that some faces were gone.  One said, “Time has passed so quickly!”  Another laughed, “How did we get so old?”  Then the third voice said, “But you know?  When I see my friends, even after all these years, their young faces shine through.”

That was the line that made the whole auditorium sigh when I told the story the next morning.  We Wesleyannes gather, every spring, for the highlight of our Annual Meeting–Candle Lighting.  Each senior chooses a Wesleyan alumna to light her candle, the symbolic act that marks her entry into the Alumnae Association.  It might be her big sister, her sister, her mother, a teacher, a mentor, a friend.  My candlelighter back in 1990, Mrs. Anne Strozier Threadgill, was in the audience Saturday with her sisters in the Class of 1949.  She was my English teacher in high school, and she taught my mother and father as well.

I lit the first candle.  Then, as the organ played, the light traveled, person to person, from the stage to the seats, from the front row to the back.  We stand in the twilight of the auditorium, all quiet and together, decade upon decade of proud Wesleyannes.  We join in a responsive reading of the Benson Charge, which was written by Catherine Brewer Benson, Class of 1840.


Part of the Charge reads:  “You of the Class of 2014 who are about to join the band of 9,000 whose privilege it has been to spend their years on the Wesleyan campus–remember that the privilege has been granted to comparatively few persons.  Remember that, as Emerson said, ‘large advantages bind you to larger generosity;’ and you owe it to the world to give to others the best that is in you.”

That’s what I treasure about Alumnae Weekend, getting back in touch with the privilege and responsibility of being a Wesleyanne.

In the glow of the candlelight, our young faces shine through.

This is the place where we will always be known.

This is the place where we will always find home.

14 thoughts on “Shine Through

  1. Dana K

    You did a fantastic job this weekend. Thank you so much for everything. Wesleyan will always be a place for me to recharge my soul & renew my spirit.

    GH ’99

  2. christymimi

    I’m quite envious of this connection you have with so many wonderful women at such a wonderful institution. Love reading these stories!

  3. Michelle Chance-Sangthong

    Such a treasure to be there this weekend to experience this love and friendship and sisterhood. Your words resonated deeply with me as I create the new light in my own path. It encouraged me to remember that sharing my light doesn’t diminish my own but gives me the power to light thousands of others. THANK YOU.

  4. Bria

    Such lovely words, Ashley! The Benson Charge moves me to tears every single time I hear it, or say it, or read it. It’s such a beautiful reminder of the history we are a part of and the legacy we leave for future Wesleyannes…like my little PK!

    PK 2002 🙂

    1. Baddest Mother Ever

      Hey, Bria! I’ll have a little PK too…but I can’t do the math to figure out what year!

      I love reading the Benson Charge. I get sad at the thought that I’ll only have one more chance to lead Candle Lighting. But what a privilege it’s been!

  5. Sandra Sallee

    I was one of those 1000 who sighed! I always enjoy Alumnae Weekend–although admittedly less for the formalities and more for the chance to spend unstructured time with my former classmates to catch up on where our lives have led us over the 40 years since we were the senior class. (How can it have been that long?) Your words struck a chord with me, and the candle lighting ceremony always touches my heart. Thank you for the hard work that all of you did to make this weekend so beautiful.

    1. Baddest Mother Ever

      Hi, Sandra! I’m glad you enjoyed the weekend. Next year will be strange for me–it’s my 25th reunion so I’ll have all the “official” formalities AND that overwhelming desire to hang out with my sisters. I love candle lighting, too!

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