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January 5, 2009
Kevin Coburn, Director of Communications

Women at Green Mountain College: A 175-Year Legacy

POULTNEY--In an age when women took a back seat to men’s education and careers, female students at the Troy Conference Academy—a precursor to Green Mountain College—made history. The Academy’s first graduate was a woman named Marion Hooker, and in 1860, the Vermont legislature granted TCA the right to award baccalaureate degrees to women. Sarah Cutler Mason became the first woman to receive a B.A. degree from a Vermont college when she graduated in 1867.

Troy Conference Academy, founded in 1834, was unusual for its time in that it welcomed both male and female students and educated them together in the same classrooms, and advanced subjects were taught at the college level.

Women are still making history at Green Mountain College. To celebrate the woman’s era at GMC, the College is holding a one-day Women in Leadership seminar on January 29 as part of the ongoing 175th anniversary celebration. The program features writer Brunonia Barry ’70, whose novel The Lace Reader spent five weeks on the New York Times bestseller list in 2008. Barry’s keynote address “Creativity and a Sense of Place” will be held at 2 p.m. at Withey Hall, followed by a panel discussion with four distinguished alumnae including moderator Barbara Wellnitz ’61, Chair of the College’s Board of Trustees. Barry will sign copies of her book at the College’s bookstore in Withey at 4:30 p.m.

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Brunonia Barry studied literature and creative writing at Green Mountain College and later at the University of New Hampshire. Her love of theater took her to Chicago where she ran promotional campaigns for Second City, Ivanhoe, and Studebaker theaters. After a brief stint in Manhattan, she relocated to California where she worked on a variety of projects for several studios and studied screenwriting with Hollywood icon Robert McKee.

After nearly a decade in Hollywood, Barry returned to Massachusetts where she and her husband co-founded SmartGames, a company that creates word, visual and logic puzzles. Since its publication in July, The Lace Reader has been translated into twenty-five languages and was chosen by Borders Bookstores as one of six nominees in the fiction category for its 2008 Original Voices Award.

The Lace Reader was Barry’s first novel and it became a sizzling summer bestseller through the unconventional path of self-publishing. Barry and her husband paid expenses out of pocket to print the initial copies, and distributed the manuscript through book clubs, local booksellers, online book bloggers, and trade magazines. Through word of mouth and internet buzz, The Lace Reader received rave reviews leading to a multi-book $2 million contract with William Morrow Publishing.

Participants in the 3 p.m. panel discussion include New York State Treasurer Aida Brewer ‘74 of Mechanicsville, N.Y.; Pamela Chatterton-Purdy ‘61 of Harwichport, Mass.; Nancy L. Dickgiesser '70 of Woodbridge, Conn.; Anne R. Tansantisuk ’72 of Boston; and businesswoman Barbara Wellnitz ’61 of Foxboro, Mass.

Brewer became the first woman appointed New York State Treasurer in 2002. Prior to her appointment, she was the deputy treasurer responsible for administrative functions at the Office of the New York State Treasurer. Brewer has also worked as a banking officer for Key Bank. Pamela Chatterton-Purdy is a collage artist, writer, and teacher who received her M.F.A. from The University of Massachusetts in 1966. Her current show “Icons of the Civil Rights Movement” is on display at The United Methodist Center in Washington, D.C., in January 2009 and can be seen in conjunction with President Barack Obama’s inaugural activities. Nancy L. Dickgiesser '70, president and majority owner of the Charles J. Dickgiesser Company, has worked in the custom manufacturing field for over 11 years. Her products serve a variety of industries including construction, power generation, architectural and the newest endeavor, solar energy. Anne R. Tansantisuk ’72 is associate principal at Kallmann McKinnell & Wood, Architects in Boston and specializes in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) projects for businesses and institutions around the world. Barbara Wellnitz ’61, principal and partner in Ryan Wellnitz & Associates, has worked for 30 years developing communications programs for clients ranging from startups to multinationals.

All events are free and open to the public.


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