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Family and Friends Weekend: Alumni Reflect on Hampshire's Influence

There is no typical Hampshire student.

Thuy T.D. Le
That, more than anything, was the message visitors to campus during Family and Friends weekend were left with, a message reinforced by four days of lectures, readings, workshops, and other events that showcased the work of both current students and alumni who have taken the innovative learning environment at Hampshire and translated it into exciting and challenging careers.

“How I live as a writer and a person was deeply shaped by my experience at Hampshire,” said Thuy T.D. Le 90F, a poet and novelist on the Alums in Writing, Editing and Publishing panel.  “Hampshire made me very optimistic. It’s pragmatic, it’s not about what you think or feel, but what are you going to do?”

The feeling was echoed numerous times over the weekend. Physician and Hampshire trustee Roberto Tuchman73F noted that, “Hampshire trained me not just to be a professional but to use many different skills…it prepares you for the world and the big picture.” Part of a panel discussion of five Hampshire graduates who have gone on to work in the medical profession, Tuchman and the other speakers insisted Hampshire is a perfect place for undergraduates interested in medical and scientific careers.

“There are tremendous resources here. For a student who wants to get into medical school, Hampshire should be high on the radar. It separates you out from the rest of the crowd. If you’re motivated to work, I think there’s no better place to be. There is total access to the professors and you learn to work independently, something that is used for the rest of your life,” said Dr. Tuchman.

The college also gives students the strength to blaze paths for themselves, said Celia Alvarez 72F.

“For me, I see Hampshire focused on a self-directed educational experience by the student. It can be guided by traditional disciplines but also by looking at the whole person related to the outer world,” said Alvarez in a discussion of the spiritual journey that led her through a career in education and to her current work with the Ananda Institute of Alternative Living.

Peter Cole
Poet and translator Peter Cole 77F, a 2007 MacArthur Fellow (the “genius grant”), said the lessons learned at Hampshire have stuck with him during the nearly three decades since he graduated.

“The Hampshire motto is ‘To Know is Not Enough’. It really has stayed with me, and in quiet, unconscious ways has informed what I have done. Hampshire very definitely prepared me for a sort of entrance into the unknown, including what to do with one’s fear and ignorance,” said Cole.

Laura Nasir 85F
was invited to give the Denice O’Neill lecture this year, the twentieth anniversary of O’Neill’s death in the 1988 bombing of PanAm flight 103 at age 21 on her return from Div III (senior project) research in Nigeria. Nasir recalled hearing from O’Neill’s friends how much potential she had, her many goals and plans, and said that the Denice O’Neill Scholarship Fund has helped preserve her memory by assisting students who are interested in science, medicine, anthropology, and child studies, the fields she loved.

“If anything, Denice’s memory reminds us of experience by doing, by inquiring what else might be done to improve the world,” said Nasir.

The scholarship and talents of numerous current students were also on display over the weekend, in everything from dramatic performances like the Wilson and Alva Show to discussions such as Hampshire Students Engage the World, where students working and studying around the world delivered presentations on their experiences. The latter program essentially summed up the Hampshire experience, with each student designing and implementing their own programs of study in places ranging from Cuba to the Middle East, but with one simple recurring theme, the initiative to take an idea, run with it, and make it work.

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