Founder’s day promotes independence and change

An old tradition gets a new twist

The Founder’s Day celebration held annually on Oct. 31 is one of many Simmons traditions. A new tradition began last year in the form of an essay contest on how to create a student-centered community at Simmons.
“Be a part of John Simmons’ experiment with women’s empowerment,” said President Helen Drinan, describing this year’s essay contest.
First place winner, Mary Katherine Quigley, wrote her essay on her hope to create a mentoring program at Simmons to include both recent alumnae and current students.
“[Students] need another shark to swim with through the sometimes rough waters,” Quigley said.
Second place winner, Molly Maidman, wrote her essay on her plan to create a study and hangout center in Alumnae Hall. Her hope to create a student-centered community was based on her idea that “the greatest resource Simmons students have is each other.”
Quigley’s mentoring program is a goal to be implemented in the near future. President Helen Drinan confirmed that the plan of the 2011 contest winner is scheduled to be implemented in the spring semester.
Another aspect of the afternoon was a brief history of John Simmons and his contribution to the College and its students.
Those attending were reminded what living in John Simmons’s time was like. Professor Theresa Nelson gave a description of a time when wealthy women wore large bustles and whalebone corsets and when horse-drawn carriages filled the streets. Boston was humming with progress and change and leaving a shipping-centered economy to embrace the manufacturing boom.
Women’s rights during the time were a lack of rights over money and children. Very few women were able to be independent and instead relied on marriage. Inspired by his own two daughters, John Simmons died hoping there could be a place for women to better themselves and survive independently.
Simmons’s archivist, Jason Wood, presented a contextual history and short biography of John Simmons, focused on celebrating the life and generosity of the Simmons College founder.
He read the following passage from John Simmons’s will:
“It is my will to found and endow an institution to be called Simmons Female College, for the purpose of teaching medicine, music, drawing, designing, telegraphy, and other branches of art, science, and industry best calculated to enable the scholars to acquire an independent livelihood.”
To welcome the Class of 2016, seniors handed out class pins to first years. The Class of 2016 flag was set to be unfurled after the opening remarks. However, the flag did not initially unfurl during the ceremony, but it was fixed by the cake and sparkling cider reception.
Shannon Curran, Senior Class President, and Stormy Walker, SGA President, gave the opening address, speaking of how John Simmons’s gift has affected the women who have attended the College.
“We are inspiring younger generations to be independent,” Walker said.
“The importance of independent women is seen every day,” added Curran.
President Drinan informed those attending that the plan to hold a ceremony at John Simmons’s gravesite in the Mt. Auburn Cemetery the day before was thwarted by Hurricane Sandy. She announced the ceremony will be held there next year “hurricane or no hurricane.”
This adamant statement correlates with the theme of the ceremony: determination.
“After all, sharks can’t swim backwards,” Maidman said.