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~Wellesley Commencement Features Novelist Toni Morrison and 579 Graduates Who Will Make a Difference in the World~

For immediate release:
May 27, 2004

Arlie Corday,

One Four-Generation Graduate to Wear Robe Embroidered with Six Family Names

WELLESLEY, Mass. -- Award-winning author Toni Morrison will address the 579 members of the Class of 2004 and their families and friends at Wellesley's 126th Commencement Exercises on Friday, May 28, at 10:30 a.m. on Severance Green on the Wellesley, Mass., campus. Morrison is the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Council of the Humanities at Princeton.

Her eight major novels, The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Beloved, Jazz, Paradise, and Love, have received extensive critical acclaim. Morrison's last visit to Wellesley was in 1998 when she delivered the prestigious Carolyn O. Wilson Lecture. Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993, Morrison was the first African-American winner and the first American woman to win since 1938. She also won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for Beloved, and the National Book Critics Award in 1977 for Song of Solomon. At Princeton, Morrison founded the Princeton Atelier, which brings to campus renowned artists to collaborate with students on original performances, productions and exhibitions.

Maggie O'Grady, a senior from Yonkers, N.Y., has been chosen as the 2004 student Commencement speaker, a position of honor since alumna and New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered the first such speech in 1969. Among other accomplishments, O'Grady organized a Shakespeare-reading marathon this year.

Another soon-to-be graduate, Natalie W. Jeffers of Portola Valley, Calif., will become the sixth family member to wear a Wellesley College Commencement gown embroidered with their names, beginning in 1916.

"The robe has five relatives' names in it," Jeffers said. "They are Katherine Chalmers (class of) '16, my great-grandmother; Rebecca Chalmers '26, my great-great aunt; my great-aunt Elizabeth Chalmers '45; Ansley Coe '48, my great-aunt who was here when my mother was born; and Dectora Coe '69, my mother. My name will go in this week."

That's just one side of her Wellesley family. "My paternal grandmother, Mary Bell Jeffers (class of '36) will be at my graduation, though she, of course didn't wear the robe," said Jeffers. "My great-grandmother (Katherine Chalmers) was the first to wear the robe and she was a philosophy major who played golf for the school."

Jeffers has double majored in English and art history at Wellesley. While noting her family history with the college, she admitted the all-women's college wasn't her automatic choice as a prospective student. "I don't know how to put this any better, but I didn't want to come here at first," she said. "My mother never pressured me nor did my grandmother. My mother simply requested that I apply. So I did."

Jeffers made up her own mind and decided to make her own way at Wellesley. "It's only until recently that I tell people voluntarily about my family history here," she said. " I like the feeling that my relatives have been a part of this school almost for the last 100 years."

Can she imagine passing that legacy onto the next generation? "If I have a daughter in the future, I want her to go wherever she wants," she said. "If she chooses to go here, then I'll have more advice to throw at her, and a robe in which she can test her embroidery skills."

Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal-arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate students from all 50 states and 68 countries. For more information, go to


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  • Date Modified: May 27, 2004
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