Across the ocean, across the decades, alumnae connect
By Johanna Lemon ’12Be it the eclectic yet collective memories of Tinker Days, the recollections regarding the food at Moody, or the titillating rush experienced when spotting a combined garland of green and gold, Hollins women share a connection. They also have an uncanny ability to find one another from anywhere in the world. I have experienced this magic firsthand since I have made it a point during my semester abroad to meet many of the Hollins alumnae currently living in London. I reached out with a chipper greeting and a pleading request for various tête-à-têtes and as it turns out I needn’t have bothered with the pleading, as every alumna I contacted was more than willing to take us young upstarts out for a coffee and a chat.
Allow me to introduce, via a pale, printed page, my new friend Theresa Parenteau ’76. Theresa majored in English and creative writing and is now a speechwriter for one of the most influential members of the Nokia Company. Her career has spanned a few decades and has touched on everything from technical writing to PR to global communications; she has traveled to six continents, has experienced all of life’s ups and down, has found love, and is now settled—for the moment at least—in the SoHo district in London. Theresa was more than happy to treat me to a night on the town, introduce me to her husband, tolerate my intellectual nitpicking, and—above all else—answer all of my questions with nothing short of absolute graciousness. She treated me as an equal and actually thanked me for my (often relentless) persistence in making these meetings happen.
Frankly, being able to see the fruits of a Hollins education in a setting as outstanding as London was an enticing comfort. In times as uncertain as ours it is easy to become bogged down in a constant flurry of impending doom and overarching gloom. For us seniors this mentality is frequently doubled—if not tripled or quadrupled. Oftentimes we become so focused on the immediate question of “What comes next?” that we forget to look ahead five, ten, or even twenty years. Meeting with Theresa and other alumnae has helped me bring perspective to the impending end of my college career. I began to realize that all Hollins women—past, present, and future—possess the tools they need to make their way in the world. If we stay true to ourselves, our principles, and those closest to us, then there is nothing we cannot achieve.
I believe Theresa said it best when we parted. She gave me a hug and said: “Live and love your life and be your own woman.” These are words to live by; I only hope I can do them justice.
This article originally appeared in the December 5, 2011, issue of the Hollins Columns and is reprinted with permission.