It runs in the family

I graduated from grad school yesterday, and was officially granted all the rights and privileges, as they say, of the degree of the Master of Business Administration.  It was a glorious day, all bright blue sky and golden sparkling water on the Boston waterfront.

A few days ago, when I was rummaging around for my old Mount Holyoke class ring so I could wear it to graduation, I came across a stash of Minnie and Eva’s old photos and books, and found these ladies staring right back at me:

Class of 1905

The caption on the back of the photo reads:

Tri-Deltas of the senior class B.U. 1905
Left to Right
Bess Brackett
Marion Haines
Ethelaryn (sp?) Thorne
Minnie Perry
Helen Stedman

Yep, that’s the same Minnie — my great grandmother — that you saw in this stunning portrait, taken at about the same time, when she graduated from college in 1905:

Minnie Baker

How much do I love these two photos? Words cannot express. Oh, Minnie.

Minnie went from BU to a faculty post at Athens College in Athens, Alabama, where she taught Greek and Latin. I have her Roll Book from those years:

Minnie's Roll Book

Athens College Latin and Greek

I didn’t know she taught college until last year, when I came across these things in my mother’s house. I was a little outraged that nobody ever bothered to tell me about this, not even when I mysteriously fell passionately in love with ancient Greek in college and ended up minoring in it. Not even when I decided I wanted to teach college (a goal that I am still secretly cherishing, despite my wandering and circuitous path through the fields of academia).

Not a word about Minnie, who had done all these things.

I guess they just forgot, because of what happened next.

A small class of Greek and Latin Scholars

Good Grades


Minnie taught at Athens College for just a couple of years. She was taking the train back home to Cape Cod at the end of term one year, heading home to West Dennis for the summer as always (God forbid a New England girl should be asked to withstand the heat of Alabama in the summertime). She was in the train station in St. Louis when she ran into Bill Baker — what an amazing coincidence!

Bill was part of the West Dennis gang. They had practically grown up together, had even stepped out with each other in their teens. They shared a compartment all the way back from St. Louis to the Cape. Very soon after that, they were engaged.

Minnie gave up her teaching post and moved back to West Dennis, to the house which my family has always called The Old House, on Perry Lane, way up at the top of the sledding hill, facing the main street with its battered Greek Revival facade. Almost 85 years later, I stood in her kitchen, brushing out her long, white hair with a silver brush and comb. I was maybe 5 years old.

Later, Eva Perry (whose house I grew up in after her death) used the same roll book when she taught fifth grade in a suburb of Boston.

Eva's Course List

Eva's 5th Grade Book List

By the time the book got to me, it was a recipe book.

Meat Loaf Recipe

What will I do to celebrate getting my MBA?

Well, I’m going to do some traveling, for one thing.

I’m going to Quilt Market with my best friend Melissa Averinos, whose book just came out:


Her first book, I should say. And yes, you should totally click on the photo to order the book. Dude. Seriously.

At Quilt Market, I hear there is going to be a Cake Party!  Perhaps I will bring Minnie’s Dark Chocolate Cake recipe along.

Dark Chocolate Cake

Dark Chocolate Cake Pt. II

Some people might find the different parts of my life a little… incongruous, shall we say.  I’m an antiquities fanatic who works in technology as a marketing and software consultant. A knitter of historical patterns with an MBA.

It’s just who I am.

Do I think it’s a little sad that Minnie gave up being a college professor to come back to Cape Cod and raise a family? A little bit, sure. But then none of this would have ever happened.

So I still regret not going right after that PhD in the classics, like I wanted to when I was an undergrad? A little bit, sure.  But then I would not be living this amazing life I have right now.

I’m going to Quilt Market to celebrate all the different pieces of my life that make up the whole piece of work. There’s an overworked metaphor in there, and I’m not going after it.

And then, I’m going on another trip, to really do something a little crazy and improbable, to celebrate my amazing, unbelievable, completely improbable life.

Here’s what I’m reading to get ready:

And I’m taking Melissa with me. You heard me.

Who knows what might happen?

SImmons SOM Class of 2010

4 Thoughts.

  1. Congratulations Beth! My grandmother graduated from Simmons in 1925 and I have her class ring (which barely fits on my pinkie finger). Have a wonderful day – it is so beautiful outside, isn’t it? – and tell your bestest friend in the whole wide world that I ordered her book just now.

  2. What a beautiful post and great pictures, Beth. Congratulations for your MBA!

    I love the idea of your (=american) graduations clothes and ceremonies. It’s so much hard work that is seems only right to celebrate officially when it’s done. It’s sliiiiightly different in France… All I ever had here was a piece of paper pinned on the wall, giving the results. Not the same kind of closure, to be sure :).

  3. SO excited for you… CONGRATULATIONS on all that you’ve accomplished, and I love this post looking back on the treasures you have from your family. You’re working on your own amazing legacy!

  4. Dear Ms. Dunn,

    A belated “congratulations” on attaining you master degree! I hope the two ensuing years have permitted you to further explore academia, linguistics, business, and your unstated, but evident, appreciation of history and family.

    Your great grandmother must have taught in my ancestors’ hometown when the college was known as Athens Female College. I would like to think my grandmother, great grandmother, or great aunts might have had the privilege of knowing Miss Perry or studying under her. I suspect they certainly crossed paths, as the French family of Athens were Methodists and the school was still affiliated with that denomination in those years.

    Your interests, sensibilities, and education are a testament to her legacy within your family, and I have no doubt that she also must have left an indelible mark on the young ladies and academic community of this small Southern town so far from Cape Cod and West Dennis, both geographically and culturally. Perhaps, you’ll visit one day – maybe during the fiddler’s convention! You’d be so welcome, I’m sure, as a reverent grandchild who knew and loved a turn of the 19th c. educator who remains a part of the history of Alabama’s oldest institution of higher education that is now Athens State University.

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