Give Back, Get Back: An Interview with Carol MacEwan Powers ’69 and Valle Patterson ’69

Left to right: Merri Andrews Gillian, Carmen Arsenault Perry, Valle Patterson, Susan Julien Foss, Nancy McCouch Davis, Jeanna Muir Hodgon, and Cindy Gale Harris. All graduated as part of the Class of 1969.

Left to right: Merri Andrews Gillian, Carmen Arsenault Perry, Valle Patterson, Susan Julien Foss, Nancy McCouch Davis, Jeanna Muir Hodgon, and Cindy Gale Harris. All graduated as part of the Class of 1969.

We were honored to award the 2019 Linda Clark McGoldrick Alumnae/i Award to two very deserving alumnae of St. Mary’s-in-the-Mountains who celebrated their 50th Reunion this year at The White Mountain School’s Alumnae/i Weekend. Valle Patterson and Carol MacEwan Powers, thank you for all you did to bring your class here for Reunion weekend and congratulations on receiving this award! Given to an alumna or alumnus who best represents the attributes of the “ultimate volunteer”, the Linda Clark McGoldrick Award is named in honor of Linda, Class of 1955, who served our School for countless devoted years.

This year is a special year, because there is not one, but two recipients of the Award. Valle and Carol worked with the school to ensure their class had a wonderful Reunion experience. They combed through photos, sent out hand-written notes, made calls, organized hotels and dinners. The 50th Reunion would not have been the same without them! We were sorry Carol was not with us, but Valle and friends from their class and other attendees enjoyed their time in the mountains as much as we did hosting them. Many had not been back to see the renovations and additions around campus. They marvelled at Lovejoy Chapel, McLane Building, and the Linda Clark McGoldrick Library and Research Center. But more meaningful than the physical changes was recapturing memories of their time at St. Mary’s. It was the perfect weekend to reconnect with classmates and an opportunity to meet with current students and their families who were also on campus for Family Weekend. They attended Saturday classes to observe first-hand White Mountain’s innovative curriculum based on Student-Driven Inquiry and place-based experiential education.

Valle Patterson and Carol MacEwan Powers.

Valle Patterson ’69 and Carol MacEwan Powers ’69.

Carol and Valle, long-time friends since 1965 when they came to St. Mary’s as Freshman, spent four years here as students. Valle was originally from Landers, Wyoming. An older cousin, Linda Lamb Ashbaugh ’62, had attended St. Mary’s. Valle heard about the skiing and other outdoor activities, in addition to the school’s music program, and wanted to attend. Valle lived in Hill House and Vaillant House. Carol, the daughter of the late Hamish and Gerry MacEwan lived on campus in faculty housing with her family. Her father, a talented artist, was head of the Art Department and taught fine arts from 1955-1971. The Hamish MacEwan Prize for Excellence in Art, named in his honor, is given annually to a student.

Carol and Valle each have many fond memories. Carol remarks that St. Mary’s was a great place to grow up. She remembers former head of school Miss Jenks (1944-1959) and Miss Willis, the business manager. When her family came to the St. Mary’s, Seven Springs, the original main house of the Beck estate, was still standing. It was unfortunately destroyed in the fire in 1964. Carol also has memories of the horses and the horse barn (yes, there used to be riding at St. Mary’s!) and ice skating on the pond. Carol, who lives in Palm Desert, California, had hoped to have a chance to sit down with the old yearbooks to refresh her memory on several things. Her education at St. Mary’s shaped her, teaching her to persevere when things seemed difficult. She values her late mother’s unwavering support and the rewards of working hard to achieve the goals she had set for herself. It was thanks to the patience and encouragement from her St. Mary’s music teacher, Ed LeBlance, that she was accepted to the Hartt School of Music school as an organ major.

She was taught from an early age that going to Saint Mary’s was a privilege and an opportunity that not everyone had. She is grateful for having had that privilege and supports the School because she wants other young people to be afforded those same opportunities. An added bonus to organizing the Reunion is how much fun Carol has had reconnecting with old friends! She encourages classmates and alumnae/i in all classes to reconnect and get involved with White Mountain today. You won’t be sorry!

Since graduation Valle, who has lived in Jacksonville, Florida since 1978, has traveled back to St. Marys at least six times. For Valle, her four years here were more than just being at a boarding school, it was her home, “my safe and comfortable place, with new friends and ‘family’.” Valle, a talented pianist and musician, also sang in the choir. Her studies in music , photography, art, and science, along with daily skiing and outdoor sports were her passions. Some of her memorable experiences include skiing at Cannon Mountain, camping and skiing on a field trip to Tuckerman’s Ravine (Mt. Washington); Freshman year in Valliant House dorm; swimming in the pond; and attending Ivie Memorial Church in Bethlehem every Sunday. Following a long tradition, she was honored to be chosen to carry the cross, as crucifer in church, her senior year. Valle notes that St. Mary’s turned out to be the best school for her at the time, and it continues to be a special place 50 years later. “My lifelong, forever friendships established there, remain today, as the most important and cherished parts of my life.”

Valle hopes others will return to their school and witness all that is taking place in the classrooms and surrounding mountains of this very special place. “Many thanks to all the faculty, staff, students, alumnae/i, families, and friends who have dedicated their time and efforts to the continued success of The White Mountain School, to be The Best, for over 130 years!” Valle, we couldn’t agree more.

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