Sharon I Purdie ’74
From the day I joined a Wesleyan campus tour as a senior in high school, I was hooked! My initial experiences following my passions, earning a college degree, and meeting lots of interesting and creative people have broadened to include continuing to meet amazing students and alumni as well as working with and getting to know additional faculty and staff.
Professors truly did know my name and my work. Forty-three years later, Professor David Winter emailed me to thank me for supporting his bid for tenure. He didn’t know I had met with President Colin Campbell about it until he listened to my “storytelling” vignette recorded in 2013. As we corresponded back and forth, he even remembered an experiment I completed for his intro psychology class. Karl Scheibe, my thesis advisor, not only supported my work, but also volunteered his son to be part of the experiment, and loaned his car to me to drive to Smith College to present my thesis at an undergraduate conference. After my junior and senior years, I worked in the Admission and Alumni Relations offices, respectively, providing another connection to Wes. From Colin Campbell’s listening to my support for David Winter to Class Dean, Steve Buttner’s, offering his kitchen for my roommate to make a birthday cake for me, to summer employment, the administration provided individualized support.
My decision to pursue my PhD in psychology was strongly influenced by Karl and David as well as other faculty in the psychology department. After graduate school, when I ventured outside of academia and entered the corporate world, it was the problem solving skills I honed at Wesleyan that enabled me to secure my first job and to succeed throughout my career. When I was challenged with three different job assignments within a year, it was my Wes experiences that taught me how to think that helped me meet the challenge. My experiences at Wesleyan as a member of the first class of freshmen women since the early 1900’s prepared me for assignments when I was often the only woman working on a project. My liberal arts perspective was often refreshing when working with a bunch of engineers!
Since I chose to leave the corporate world to focus on my family and my passions of sailing, alpine skiing, and bicycling, Wesleyan has also played a part. While working and raising a family, I supported Wesleyan financially and interviewed prospective students but had little time for other support. When I decided one of my passions is Wesleyan, I was welcomed again into the Wesleyan family – this time by Wesleyan staff members – another part of the Wesleyan community. As I have increased my scope of volunteering and became Class Secretary, Reunion chair and co-chair several times, co-chair of the WESeminar Committee, and participated on alumni panels, Wesleyan has become increasingly important to me. When I go back to campus, I still feel like I belong as I meet with members of the Wesleyan community – 40 years after I graduated. Not only do I talk with my former professors but also professors whom I never knew when I was a student. Likewise, I renew friendships with fellow classmates and make new ones with classmates I never knew and meet alums from many different eras, and we all share that Wesleyan experience. As I give more to Wesleyan, it continues to give back to me.
This is Why.