Dear DaisyChain:
This week, I reflected on the word “Homecoming.” I am a 1992 graduate of Newcomb College, and I hope you will share these thoughts with your readers.
Merriam-Webster defines ”Homecoming” as “a return home” and “the return of a group of people usually on a special occasion to a place formerly frequented or regarded as home, especially an annual celebration for alumni at a college or university.”
For me, Homecoming was very special during college and afterwards when I returned to my alma mater. But now, as I reflect on the meaning of “homecoming,” it saddens me that our home, H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College, no longer exists as it once did or as anything like the place which Mrs. Josephine Louise Newcomb intended.
It is disappointing that Newcomb College, which was “home” for four years to those of us privileged to be part of the Newcomb family, is gone. Yes, we can visit the bricks and mortar of buildings which Mrs. Newcomb’s generous donations built, but the true academic, cultural & social environment that nurtured us and helped us grow was needlessly dissolved. There is no H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College to come home to at Homecoming…not now!
This reality struck me deeply at the recent “re-hearing” of the appeal in the Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeal on September 21, 2010. Yes, I had followed Tulane’s dissolution of Newcomb in 2006 following Katrina and the subsequent unprecedented court case, but I had observed from afar. The recent hearing compelled me to fly from Atlanta to be present in the courtroom to observe and support in person the saving of Newcomb College. It was not until I physically walked under the oaks on campus the morning of the hearing and later sat in the courtroom surrounded by other dedicated alumnae that I realized what else had been wrecked and lost during this ordeal, in addition to the horrible devastation caused by Katrina.
The Newcomb tradition, its heritage and customs, which prevailed since our Newcomb College opened its doors in 1887, are merely history now. Every year for almost 120 years, that heritage and tradition shaped and influenced women to aspire to greatness and strive for leadership positions…just as Mrs. Newcomb wanted to see happen. I am dearly sorry for the devastation that Katrina caused New Orleans, more than words can ever fully express. However, in my opinion, Katrina did not necessitate Tulane’s dissolution of Newcomb. Dissolving Newcomb did not help Tulane. In fact, Tulane diminished and diluted itself. Women attending Tulane today are deprived of the richer experiences they might have had if Newcomb had not been dissolved.
“Consistency” was not achieved by dissolving Newcomb. Instead, Tulane divorced itself from that which contributed to its strength and reputation for over a century. It is tragic to see Tulane fighting in court against the very entity/ person/legacy which was so good to Tulane for so many years. It was Newcomb College that was instrumental in attracting to Tulane so many bright women and developing so many strong female leaders and talents. At the hearing, I almost felt like a child having to sit at her parents’ divorce proceedings, not able to understand or fathom why Tulane would dissolve the “marriage” and strong relationship it enjoyed with Newcomb College all these years.
That afternoon, as I listened to Tulane’s lawyer presenting his arguments, which made no sense to me, I could not help but wonder if those very people who have supported the closing of Newcomb College and are trying to keep it closed have thought about how they would feel if they were Mrs. Josephine Louise Newcomb! What if someone or something a century later came between them and their parting desire to leave a lasting legacy? How would they feel knowing, while still alive, that all of their efforts would be in vain after they passed? How would their children and later generations feel if this were happening to them…especially if their last will and testament established a lasting memorial to a child of theirs who died way too young?
Unfortunately, this is not the first time Tulane has “dissolved” something very dear to me. Tulane suspended the Men’s & Women’s Swim Team at Tulane in 1989 when I was finishing my freshman year. So first my swim team in 1989, and now Newcomb College in 2006 have been taken away from me through Tulane’s decisions.
When I received a 3- page letter dated May 16, 1989, well after my freshman year ended, informing me that the “swimming program at Tulane will not be offered during the 1989-90 academic year,” I was devastated. From an early age, I spent most of my life in the water starting at 5 a.m. swim practices and then back again training in the evenings. I chose Tulane so I could swim competitively and receive a top rate education. I wanted to be at Tulane so much that I “walked on” my freshman year, after injuries and set backs in high school. Then, I finished my first collegiate swim season as one of the highest placing females on the team in several events at our Metro Conference meet. So, for me, when I got news that Tulane had dissolved the swim team, not only was my life-long passion hung out to dry, but any hopes for a swimming scholarship at Tulane were washed away, too.
Yes, I could have transferred to another school. But for various reasons, some of which I can explain and others I just consider fate, I stayed at Tulane (thanks to my parent’s incredible willingness and sacrifices to pay all four years of the costly tuition!). With great anxiety and trepidation, I returned for my sophomore year. Instantly, Newcomb College, along with Chi Omega Fraternity, welcomed me back to school and involved me in many ways. I was so determined to fill the void that I immersed myself in campus activities and academics to prove that although Tulane took away my sport and passion, they hadn’t seen the last of me!
Through Newcomb, I had a support network of friends, mentors, and professors supporting me and encouraging me to take the swim team setback to explore new opportunities. Newcomb helped me gain the confidence to get involved in other activities on Tulane’s campus, as well, that I probably never would have even tried before. Words can’t fully describe the inspiration that Newcomb College and Mrs. Newcomb’s vision provided for me, but I believe it’s just what Mrs. Newcomb had in mind when she created the first degree-granting coordinate college for women in the United States as a memorial to her daughter. I knew I was “at home” at Newcomb College, and I could pursue my new dreams there. Thus, I proudly graduated with a degree in Communications from H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College…and that degree meant something very special!
I couldn’t save the swim program at Tulane in 1989, as the decision was final before I received a letter informing me of the fate of my swim program. But now, I don’t want to look back two decades from now and realize that I could have done more to help save Newcomb College during this appeal process. This is why I have taken the time to share my story. Unless we come together as a family and help financially support these legal efforts still before us, there will never be the opportunity for others to enjoy the combined experience of Newcomb College AND Tulane University — which was unparalleled in my opinion.
I know these are difficult economic times; they are for me, too! But I am wearing my “Save Newcomb College” button in Atlanta, and I am making another donation to Newcomb today! I hope all readers of the DaisyChain will join me in doing both! Wear your buttons proudly and know that any donation is so greatly valued, small or large!
Also, my own will once included a bequest “…for the benefit of Newcomb College…toward a scholarship…” and provided for the “Dean of Newcomb College” to have input into the distribution to accomplish my wishes and purpose. But in April of 2008, I removed this from my will because Tulane had taken away my school and its Dean, and the whole issue of honoring a donor’s intent was being challenged by Tulane in court. When Newcomb College returns, I will revise my will again to include Newcomb College once more, and I hope all who loved Newcomb will consider doing the same.
I want to challenge supporters to make a donation of at least $100 before the end of this month. I will match the first five $100 donations that are received between now and October 28, 2010 (my 40th birthday!) We can’t just wish for someone else to come along with a large donation…we need to come together NOW, every one of us, and show what our Newcomb home meant to us! Then, I hope we can have a huge HOMECOMING celebration and all come home to the H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College together again and for as long as Tulane University is in existence. If you once considered Newcomb College your home, please help us re-open the doors and roll out the welcome mat once again as Mrs. Newcomb wanted and as it should be!
Yours truly,
DeAnn Blanton Golden
Newcomb Class of 1992
Note: Some accomplishments of DeAnn while in college include the following: (Separate the items in a complex list with semi-colons following a colon.) Newcomb Senior Role Model, 1992; Tulane Homecoming Queen, 1991; Mortar Board Vice President (Women’s honor society chartered in 1958 at Newcomb College); Chi Omega President & Rush Chair; Newcomb’s Dean’s List; Daisy Chain Member; ODK Honor Society; Iota Kappa Order of Omega Honor Society; and Tulane’s Women’s Varsity Swim Team, 1988-1989. DeAnn later earned an MBA at the University of Georgia and works in real estate in Atlanta, GA as a broker and trainer. She is also thrilled that swimming is BACK at Tulane, as it should be!