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William Smith Leaders

Nancy Nowak Rutherford ’71
Retired Teacher

Major: English

Leadership and extracurricular activities: Although I'm a total clod, my roommate, a very good athlete, used to sign me up for teams ... which were more like clubs in those days. I was on the women's lacrosse team and the volleyball team. I was a house president and, therefore, a representative to the William Smith Congress. As house president, I had to stay up to lock Hirschon House at 11 p.m. and make the boys leave. Thinking back on it, it was pretty comical shooing them all away when they were in the midst of last minute clutches. It sure didn't make me very popular! By the end of that year, there were 24 hour parietals, and men were allowed into the women students' dorm rooms at any hour. Up until that point, the boys were only allowed into the living room areas of the dorms and had to be out by 11.

Also, there was a volunteer-mentor program that I participated in where I would spend time on Saturdays with a little girl who lived in Geneva at Chartres, the subsidized housing project. The children would get shuttled over to Houghton House and we'd do art projects, take hikes, or just hang around in the dorms. I remember during the summer, the little girl that I mentored caught the bus up to Rochester to visit me. Her mom called me to say she was on her way, and that she'd been up very early getting ready...by straightening her beautiful curly hair! She climbed off the bus in her Sunday best. Somewhere I have a picture of her sitting on the steps of the sunken garden at Houghton in the early fall. I had tapped her on the head with a milkweed pod and she had all the little milkweed silk stuck in her curls.

Favorite professor: Although I was an English major, my favorite professor was Dr. Blackburn, my chemistry professor. He brought chemistry down to an understandable level (for example, bringing in his guitar and playing when he explained wave theory). And when he couldn't make it accessible to me and I cried in his office, he was very patient and kind! Dr. Eugene Murphy, the French professor, was also a wonderful teacher ... kind, genteel and gentle besides.

First job after college: Teaching 8th grade English in the junior high school that I had gone to. 

On leadership
Even though it was such a small campus, there was so much going on, that there were always opportunities for leadership, like being dorm president or on the WSC. But in those years, the late 60's early '70s, there was so much social upheaval with social codes changing, sexual mores breaking down, the Vietnam war, I think I felt empowered as part of a group rather than as a leader.

On the coordinate system
In those days, at least in our first and part of our second year, we didn't eat with the Hobart guys. They ate at Gulick, we at Comstock. There were no co-ed dorms. So the sense of being two separate Colleges was much greater than now. But sharing the same academic experiences, especially the Western Civilization courses that we all had to take, and the same social upheaval of the Vietnam War and all the anti-war activity on campus, united us. I am still in contact with many of my Hobart friends as well as my William Smith friends.

Current events
I taught junior high and middle school English and study skills for 18 years. I married late, and after I had my third child, I quit teaching. I've been home for 14 years now. In that time, I've done lots of volunteer work for William Smith. I've helped with the reunions, been alumnae council president. For the last few years, I've also been a volunteer at Planned Parenthood. Hobart and William Smith Colleges have a perk for alumni and alumnae called the Graduate Attendee Program. Alumni over five years out of HWS can take courses for free. Since I only live an hour away, I have been taking Spanish classes the last couple of years. I forget it almost as fast as I learn it, but taking the classes and being on campus is so much fun, and the kids are great.

 
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