Brooke Weinmann, W&M Class of 1979
Brooke Weinmann arrived at William & Mary in 1975. During her time at William & Mary, she participated in Kappa Kappa Gamma, the Honor Council, the Washington Program, and Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society. Additionally, she served as a President’s Aide, a Resident Advisor, an Orientation Aide, and an Admission Tour Guide. She was also named to “Who’s Who: College.”
After graduating in 1979 with a Bachelor of Arts in History, Weinmann pursued a Master of Business Administration from Harvard University, earning the degree in 1984. She worked for IBM as a Sales Representative before founding the Atlanta Girls’ School, for which she still works. Additionally, she is the current Director of Engagement and Development for Connoisseurs Tours. Weinmann remains connected to William & Mary through her service on the William & Mary Foundation Board.
In her interview, Weinmann speaks about the myriad reasons that she chose to attend William & Mary, including the fact that it was coeducational, its close proximity to her family, and the cost. Memories that stick out in her memory include the impact of Sam Sadler and trips to George’s diner on Prince George Street. When reflecting on the value of her liberal arts education, Weinmann states: “You know, a liberal arts education teaches you to think analytically and critically. It teaches you to speak articulately, hopefully, and it teaches you to write effectively.”
William & Mary
Interviewee: Brooke Weinmann
Interviewer: Carmen Bolt
Date: October 20, 2017 Duration: 01:37:02
Carmen: My name is Carmen Bolt. I’m the oral historian at William & Mary. It’s currently around 2:00 p.m. on October 20, 2017. I’m sitting in the Alumni House with Brooke Weinmann. Can you start by telling me the date and place of your birth?
Brooke: I was born on May the 2nd, 1957 in Richmond, Virginia.
Carmen: Okay, great. And what years did you attend William & Mary?
Brooke: Attended William & Mary from ’75 to ’79.
Carmen: And before we jump into that, I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about where and how you were raised and some about your family.
Brooke: I’d love to. I was raised on a family farm in Tidewater, Virginia. It came into our family in the 1600s and still belongs to the Trible family. My brother now owns it outright.
00:00:57 And I was raised in the family home place where many, many generations had been before me, and on the farm. And my father was a farmer. He did attend William & Mary. I think he started in 1927, but the story I always heard, and I have no reason to doubt, is that because of the Depression in 1929 he was shipped back home, called back home. And I’m real interested to figure out some of that story, which I haven’t yet. But at any rate, he and my mother were married in 1955, and she was 12 years his junior, so they decided they better have children really fast. She was 34. And I was born and then my brother born.
00:01:50 And my mother was headed back for her Ph.D. in psychology when she decided to stop at the master’s, and as she told her Ph.D. advisor, raise two little Ph.D.’s instead. And she was very worried, though she knew that the upbringing on the farm was as wholesome as it can come, that we weren’t being exposed to museums, or to children’s birthday parties every day, or to a city and all that that offers.
But she said when she took me to first grade that I never looked back, that she really wasn’t worried about the social piece of it from then on. So it was a wonderful upbringing that I probably did not appreciate as much as I should have when I was growing up, but now I absolutely appreciate every minute of it. And yeah, so. Before William & Mary I attended St. Margaret’s School, which is an Episcopal girls school. My mother was academic dean there. And that was, gosh, eighth grade through 12th grade.
00:02:57 And the thought was Mary Baldwin maybe, Davidson maybe, William & Mary maybe. All three accepted me and I thought, you know, I don’t want to go to a women’s college. I’d been to a girls school all this length of time. And Davidson, it was shortly after women had been accepted at Davidson. And I really do like to think of myself as being on the cutting edge, but the bleeding edge is not interesting to me at all, and even though they’re both fine schools, I’m really happy I ended up at William & Mary.
Carmen: That’s great. That’s what I was going to ask you, how you found yourself at William & Mary, and how it even got on the radar. But I guess your father having attended here, and growing up in some proximity to it.
Brooke: Yeah, an hour and a half away. And my parents would come to an occasional football game, I think, homecoming weekend. And he had a strong affinity for the school despite the fact that he didn’t finish.
00:03:57 Interestingly, my brother tells me that he was pre-med when he was here and had thought he might be a doctor like his grandfather was. But again, life throws twists and curve balls all the time, and he raised a son who’s a doctor. So the farming life and being a steward for this family property was what he ended up doing.
But yeah, I had heard about William & Mary. It did not hurt at all that it was an in state school. And I know from a financial standpoint that that was a huge benefit to my parents and to me. And it was only an hour and a half away, so it was as far away as I wanted it to be when I wanted it to be far away, but it was close enough that if I really needed to get home or really wanted a home cooked meal, or needed to wash my clothes, then I could easily scoot home for the weekend.
Carmen: The best of both worlds.
Brooke: Best of all worlds.
Carmen: Well, great. So I’m wondering if you have a very first memory of William & Mary. When you first got here the way it looked, the way it smelled, anything like that.
Brooke: Mmm… Well, I remember being totally overwhelmed. Williamsburg was a huge city to me, okay, coming from the farm. And I think the reason I don’t—well, I do remember my orientation aide, who was incredible. She was from Chatham, Virginia and ended up sending, I think, copy—well, starting a correspondence with Alan Alda and ended up on credits on “Mash” and his show. And I have not stayed in touch with her, shame on me, but she was a great initial influence. The second thing I remember was being on a hall. We were in DuPont, and so there were suites.
00:05:57 And so I had a roommate who went to a girls school in Texas, and then two other, you know, we shared the bathroom. And I remember thinking wow, these girls are really different from the girls that I know. And the one who shared the suite played Joni Mitchell songs on her guitar. And, I mean, this was a new world.
And I remember my freshman resident advisor, Lisa Bolonovich. She was my hero. She will always be my hero. She was who I wanted to be when I grew up, and two years older than I, and just, oh my gosh, she was amazing and I know still is. I remember those things. But the reason I don’t remember more granular, I think, is because of the story that I tell. At the end of the first couple of days—okay, it was before cell phones. You know, you couldn’t just pick up the phone and call home, you know. Those were very intentional calls.
00:07:00 But at the end of the first week or at some point I did call home, and my mom answered, and I said, Mom, I should not be here. I was an admissions mistake. My roommate is an introvert. Now, she wasn’t an introvert, but she was quiet, okay? And I really wasn’t all that quiet, I guess. And I shouldn’t be here. And my mother said to me, Anne Brooke, I love you, I know you can handle this, good-bye, click. And she hung up.
And of course I just completely lost it. And she told me later that she completely lost it. But it was the best thing that she could ever have said and done because she sent me the message loudly and clearly that I could do this, and she knew that I could do it, and I could do it with the help of people here, and I had, you know, hopefully what it took to get the help that I needed here, and that I was going to be fine, and she had faith in me.
00:08:13 So that’s the story that kind of trumps the whole first week of school. And so that’s kind of what I remember.
Carmen: Yeah. That makes sense. I think a lot of students have that similar experience of after that first week being thrown into something so different.
Brooke: Oh, my gosh.
Carmen: Do you remember what turned it around for you after those first few weeks? Was it just getting more comfortable?
Brooke: I’m sure it was getting more comfortable. I am not sure when I reached out to get help, but I did. I reached out to Harriet Reid, who was a family friend. She was actually a friend of my parents professionally. My mother knew her. She was then the head of career counseling or career planning and beloved.
00:09:01 Not married, but a dear, just a dear person. And Harriet, I think, kind of took me under her wing. And I grew to feel so comfortable with her that when things got really more than I could handle, then I felt comfortable seeing her. And she employed me at some point to do filing in the career counseling office.
And, you know, I guess that I must have, you know, the comfort level must have at some point kicked in. We didn’t do sorority rush first semester, so that wasn’t it. But I know that the resident advisor, I know Lisa Bolonovich’s steadiness and calmness and being there as a resource was enormous for me, and I’m sure that being on the hall with those girls and her leadership helped me acclimate quickly.
Carmen: Oh, yeah, definitely. I have no doubt. So in addition your RA or your orientation aide or Harriet, were there other figures during your time here that were just pivotal?
Brooke: Absolutely. There were a number. But one that stands out prominently is Sam Sadler, who is also beloved. I have no idea how this happened, but when I was a freshman, I decided that I would stay during the year after freshman year here in Williamsburg to work and to take classes. And I’m not sure how Sam knew this. This is a little foggy. At any rate, he asked me if I would be the student chair of parents weekend. And I immediately said yes because Sam Sadler had asked me to do that, and then I thought, oh my god, I have no idea what I’m supposed to do.
00:11:03 So I worked with Sam that summer with the ideas that I had and I kind of got to know him. And then I guess our friendship blossomed. I mean, it was, you know, it was a…it was not an unusual friendship because he was an amazing resource to every student in the school, but I think that when I was elected to the Honor Council and became Honor Council chair, he was the dean in charge, and so the interaction with him there was really a, you know, it was sometimes intense because we were working with students’ lives. And so I know that I respect him to this day and I made a bee line to him yesterday when I saw him to catch up.
00:11:57 He is actually the one who called me when Harriet Reid passed away, found me on a ski trip, actually. So Sam, for sure. The head of the history department was an influence, Dr. [Shepherd]. I think he probably knew that I was not going to be a Ph.D. in history, probably by my grades in history, but I loved it, and I took many, many history courses.
And he actually put me in touch with his wife, who worked for Colonial Williamsburg in the publications department, and so she hired me part-time senior year to work proofreading and helping put together a calendar for Colonial Williamsburg, and I got paid. And so, you know, I know without having that kind of relationship with the head of the department, who probably was my advisor, too, now that I think about it, that would never have happened.
00:13:05 And then, though I did not know him well, the president, President Graves at the time, was obviously an influence, and as a president’s aide for a couple years I got to meet in the president’s house with a group of student leaders, I don’t know, it was probably once a month. And, you know, what you take away from an experience like that informs your life about a leader’s willingness to listen. And I felt heard. I felt we were heard. And to offer students that kind of opportunity was pretty gratifying.
00:13:53 And both from President Graves, as well as Sam, as well as Harriet, and really all my teachers I think I learned early some of the best practices in leadership and aspire to those to this day.
Carmen: Wonderful. That’s great. So you were in history.
Carmen: Why did you choose to study history, and what did you envision doing with that degree?
Brooke: Good question. One that I was asked many times back then. And in fact was asked it at the scholarship luncheon this week. I loved history. When I was at St. Margaret’s I had a history teacher who was phenomenal, Mrs. Sanborn, and she used to threaten pop quizzes all the time. And only occasionally would she follow through, but I realized it really didn’t matter because that kept us on our toes the entire time. And I learned a lot. And I thought okay, why not?
00:14:59 So I got here, in the heart of history of our country, and realized that at a liberal arts institution it really doesn’t matter what you study. At least I believed that then, and to a degree still believe that, to a great degree, because I think liberal arts, a top liberal arts school like William & Mary teaches through whichever discipline, whatever courses, the skills for life that will apply to whatever career is chosen. And so I can’t remember who tutored me on this early on, but it’s become my mantra since then. You know, a liberal arts education teaches you to think analytically and critically. It teaches you to speak articulately, hopefully, and it teaches you to write effectively.
00:16:01 And without those three—or with those three skills I think, you know, the world is our oyster. And obviously it takes a lot more than that to be successful in specific careers. But to be able to take lots of different courses in different disciplines, be exposed to them during this formative stage of life, these four years, is a gift, and it’s one that I wish everyone had, and it’s one that I’m happy my children have had, because it certainly has made for a happy life and one that I wouldn’t trade. So long-winded answer, but I loved it, and I figured it was from William & Mary, and it was going to be fun no matter what. So I really had no idea what I was going to do when I graduated. [Laughs.]
Carmen: Were there certain moments throughout your time here that maybe you felt like you were getting pushed in a certain direction or led in a certain direction that helped you figure out what you wanted to do?
Brooke: Well, you know, it’s interesting. A number of people who did the Honor Council, had that opportunity, were thinking about law school, and that did cross my mind. And then the more I looked into it, the more I thought there is no way I want to be a lawyer. I just, I don’t think that’s me at all. I know that there were times when I felt completely overwhelmed at William & Mary. And perhaps it was my mother’s subtle message that sometimes you need to reach outside of yourself to get that help.
00:17:56 I remember going to, I think it was called, Psychological Service, Psych Services, you know, for an appointment because I just felt completely overwhelmed with whatever it was at the moment. And really I think I needed somebody to talk to, and I did, and I left with the action plan and everything was okay.
I think that as opposed to someone pushing me in a certain direction, it was more a feeling of there are so many different directions to go in I’m not sure which one I should think about and pursue. Because my time here was spent, I think, broadly as opposed to…broadly and deeply, but as opposed to narrowly and deeply. And that offers opportunities as well as challenges.
00:18:53 But yeah, I think I realized that I could ease my semester course load if I took classes in the summertime, so I was here the summer after freshman year, the summer after sophomore year, working both and take classes. And the summer after junior year was really special because I won a scholarship to study at Oxford and had coursework there that counted.
And so really wanted to taste as much of college as I could. And I feel like I got a pretty good… The only thing I didn’t get, okay, and I’ll admit this, my mother once said you really are not a liberal arts graduate because you have not had science courses. And I really, I got out of one in high school that I should have taken. I got out of chemistry and only took biology. And I don’t know.
00:19:58 Got here and did not touch a science course. Took a math course because it was required, and did the worst in the math course freshman year of any courses here because it was a huge lecture course in a huge hall, and the exam was multiple choice. And I thought a monkey could do better at this than I because I have a slight idea of what’s going on and these questions are written so that that’s pretty close to what it is. But no. [Laughs.] Anyway, yeah.
So I didn’t have science at all. But I think I’ve made up for it because I’m involved now in a group called ARCS, Achievement Rewards for College Scientists. Started in California. These enterprising women said what can we do to—it was right after Sputnik—what can we do to help Americans.
00:20:56 The bottom line is there are chapters all over the country of women raising money to give graduate students in the basic sciences, so I feel pretty good about that.
Carmen: Oh, yeah, you more than paid your dues to the sciences, I think.
Brooke: Y I have great respect for the sciences. I just…I don’t have the gene. [Laughs.] It wasn’t…yeah. My brother got that gene. He’s the doctor. Whatever.
Carmen: Well, it sounds from what you’ve told me about just the education of a liberal arts school, it sounds like you got so much out of it. And I think a whole generation of history majors, whoever listens to this, will be super inspired and thankful to hear that they will be able to use those skills in all sorts of fields.
Brooke: You’re sweet to say that. Thank you.
Carmen: Oh, I know it’s true.
Brooke: Thank you.
Carmen: You mentioned your time at Oxford, and I would love to hear all about that.
Brooke: I’d love to tell you. It was amazing. Okay, so junior year I was a resident advisor, an RA, trying to follow in the footsteps of my dear friend Lisa. But my hall was probably half her size because I was doing a bunch of other things—not that she wasn’t.
00:22:02 So I don’t know how I lucked out on this, but I was in the basement of Yates, now called Yatesment, I think, which has become famous because of Jon Stewart living there after I was there. At any rate, I had a wonderful group of girls, and I remember—and a roommate who probably deserved the pay for the RA work because she was right there for these girls, my sorority sister, Pattie Brockwell, and she was wonderful. At any rate, I remember that year thinking I want to do something special this summer. So reading through the “Flat Hat” I saw a little notice about applying to your department for consideration for a scholarship through the English-Speaking Union, and the first step was apply to your department.
00:22:55 So I applied through the history department. They selected me. Then I think the next step was the school. And I don’t know that anybody else actually put their name in the hat, but I was selected from the school. And then I got sent to interview in Richmond with the panel from the English-Speaking Union. Happened to be Charter Day, which was something back in the day only the student leaders were invited to, so I had to miss Charter Day for that. But it all turned out okay because I got the scholarship.
And the scholarship included transportation as well as room, board, tuition. So through a friend who was a PiKA, and I was a little sister of that fraternity, he put me in touch with a friend of his who was at Duke. They were all from Roanoke.
00:23:54 And Sanford McFarlane’s brothers had been to Europe the year before and they had taken the QE2. And she said this is what we need to do. So it was before Google. I had no idea how I found out what the deal was. But the deal was that if you were under 21, you were put in the bowels of the ship for next to nothing. And they approved that means of transportation.
So she and I took the train to New York, and had never met before, had only talked on the phone, and hit it off, you know, firm friends. And we were in the bowels of the ship. But it didn’t really matter because you’re only asleep in the bowels of the ship. Otherwise you’re out and about. So two funny—well, one funny thing that happened and one, you know, life altering thing that happened. The funny thing was that there was a Stonehenge expert on the ship, and I recognized his name.
00:24:59 And I went up to him afterwards and said are you related to Andy whatever his last name was. And he stood up and he said, whom shall I tell Andy is asking? And I had known his son at Phillips Exeter Academy when I was at a summer during high school, and so that was one of those oh my gosh, this is a very small world.
But the life altering real news from that trip was I met my husband. He was with his family. There were four children on that trip from his family, and Sandy and I and probably four other people under the age of 45, which was ancient. And so we all kind of bonded together. And he insists that it took him five years to get my attention, and I insist right time, right place, right person. It might have been the right person, but it wasn’t the right time or right place.
00:25:59 So we absolutely met and then ended up in Harvard Business School together a year apart. I was a year ahead of him. And that’s where the romance began.
Carmen: My goodness. That’s just wild. How serendipitous.
Brooke: Yeah, it really is. And on top of that—I mean, this is why I believe there is providence—must have been my senior year with Cam Walker, history professor, women’s history. I did original research. It was either junior or senior years, but it’s inconsequential. Did original research on Frances Bland Randolph Tucker, the bride of St. George Tucker. So I was down in Swem Library, and they were pulling out the big boxes, and it was before gloves, so we were like—whoo—blowing dust off the… [Laughs.]
00:26:57 You know, and there were her papers, and her handwritten letters. And so I did, my work was on her and her life. And I remember distinctly thinking this is heady stuff. This is really, really heady. And wrote the paper, learned a lot, enjoyed it, experienced all those wonderful feelings.
Well, come to find out that Winston, my husband, is directly descended from Frances Bland Randolph Tucker and St. George Tucker, so our children are, I think, eight generations down. And didn’t know that until after we had started dating, after we put all that together. So you can’t tell me there is not a God. That just kind of takes your breath away, doesn’t it?
Carmen: All if it, yes. But the meeting on the ship, because that’s how you decided to travel. Oh, all of it.
Brooke: I know.
Carmen: And then the connection to William & Mary. Yeah, that’s blowing my mind.
Brooke: Yeah, it’s…yeah.
Carmen: Wow. Oh, my goodness.
Carmen: So the trip alone was impactful for your entire life. How about the time spent at Oxford?
Brooke: Yes. It was fun because it wasn’t William & Mary at Oxford, or Duke at Oxford, or another school at Oxford, so we had the dons from Oxford. And it was an international summer school, so there were kids from countries around the world, mainly English speakers, and different ages, as I recall. It wasn’t just college. There were some people who were older. So that was a real broadening experience for me.
00:28:56 I became close to a young woman who, gosh, where did she go to school? South Carolina, Duke, too? I can’t remember. But anyway, Beth [Wannamaker]. And we had a couple, there were a couple guys from University of Kentucky that we palled around with and did trips to Wales and to the Cotswolds, and went on beer crawls, pub crawls, and just had a high old wonderful time.
I remember being a little bit—well, I was intimidated. I mean, this was a whole different… We had huge lectures and then we had intense tutorials with our dons in small groups. And I remember thinking, whew, this is a different way to do your classes, so I’m going to do the best I can do. And I did. And I remember working hard, but I must not have…I drank a fair amount of tea and scones, and I’m sure I gained weight because of that—[laughs]—over there.
00:30:01 So I got a lot out of that experience. And I remember coming home and saying to my parents, much as they had said to me, education is the priority. You know, we don’t need new furniture, we don’t need new this or that because this is the priority. I remember coming back and saying you know what, travel is going to be a priority for me because I think that it’s so incredibly enriching and it feeds me in a way that nothing else does. So I’ve been lucky to continue with that throughout my life, actually. So it started some good things. The other thing that happened there was the…well, now our Swem Library head is a dean.
00:31:00 But I’m not sure that that was the case when I was in school here. At any rate, a librarian from the Bodleian Library at Oxford had been hired to be the new head librarian at Swem. And so when I was at Oxford he invited me to tea. And I remember having a great conference with him and telling him a little bit about what William & Mary was like. Where else would that happen but William & Mary?
Carmen: No, that’s… That whole trip.
Brooke: Yeah, that whole trip was kind of off the charts incredible.
Carmen: Oh, my goodness, yeah.
Brooke: It really was. It was. [Laughs.]
Carmen: What was it like to be gone from William & Mary for a particular period of time and then to come back?
Brooke: Well, it was the summer, so it was before 60% of students take off to do various global experiences. And I really, given how involved I was here, I didn’t want to take a semester off. But it was, you know, it was a great summer. And a couple of credits from a program like that didn’t hurt. And again, it really eased the pressure during the school year so that I could do the extracurriculars and do the classes and not feel like I was sinking.
Brooke: That I had a little control over the situation.
Carmen: Definitely. And you were, indeed, involved in extracurriculars. I was looking at the list. You were a president’s aide, and then orientation aide, a resident advisor, part of Phi Alpha Theta, the history honor society, a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma, a member of the Honor Council. You’re listed as part of Who’s Who College and you participated in, of course, your program in Europe. So what motivated you to be so engaged?
Brooke: Boy, that’s a good question. You know, I think maybe part of it was just having all the opportunities right here at my fingertips. It might have been a perfect storm, because of growing up on the farm and not having, you know, having other opportunities, but not those kinds of structured opportunities when I was growing up, and then going to a tiny school where, I mean, my senior class in high school was, I think, 29, if that. So it was very small. And, you know, I did a few things in high school, too, but scale was tiny. So when I got here, I think I was, honestly, I know I was emboldened by those roles models I’ve mentioned, by my resident advisor, by Lisa Bolonovich, by my orientation aide.
00:34:06 I was thinking about this the other day. By a cousin who was here who explained to me the way to manage the fraternity scene, which of course I had no experience with going to a girls school, was to walk confidently through a frat party and do a figure eight as you walk because it looks like you’re heading on to the next thing and being very intentional. And that gave me an amazing amount of confidence in frat parties. I pass that little piece of wisdom on all the time. But honestly, joining the sorority the beginning of the second semester of freshman year was also another enormous motivator because Kappa was made up of leaders.
00:34:54 And the difference they made and the impact that just the lore of Kappas through the years had on me I think was significant. You know, I thought okay, I’m doing this for me. I’m doing this because I believe in what I’m doing. But others have gone before and they’ve contributed, and I think I can do that, too. So I think that they really gave, you know, all of those people—and they were people who encouraged me and pushed me along in subtle ways. Betsy Page Sigman was the head of the Honor Council the year before I was Honor Council chair and I got together with her Saturday night at homecoming, and we’re lifelong friends. And she’s still doing incredible things.
00:35:57 And, you know, seeing real people do things, recognizing it’s not going to be easy, but that persistence, and determination, and a pretty healthy dose of life balance and time management can really propel you to do things that you really don’t necessarily think you can do. And so I think the encouragement from a lot of great people really was the major motivator.
Carmen: Yeah. They sound like great lessons learned, for sure, that you’ve kept with you. So I’m wondering if you have any favorite memories. You can tell me as many of them as you want.
Brooke: Oh, gosh.
Carmen: Your favorite memories from your time at William & Mary.
Brooke: Oh, gosh. Yeah, I do have a few. Okay, let me think. All right, I can think of one that is way out of character that you would probably never guess that really is one of my favorites because—because of that, okay?
00:36:59 So my brother went to Hampden-Sydney. He’s a year younger than I. So all men’s school. And, you know, I got an earful from him when I was in college about his road trips to the women’s colleges that were nearby, and I thought, well, this is not fair.
And so I organized for the Kappas a road trip to Hampden-Sydney on a school night, no less. So we got a bus and we piled on that bus, and we went to Farmville, and we went to his fraternity. And we partied at his fraternity, and we got back to the bus and came back home. [Laughs.] And I don’t think we got back until about 4:00 in the morning. And okay, this is going in the oral history because I am not the only one who remembers this particular part of it.
00:37:53 But, you know, we did have a few beers, and a designated driver because there was a paid bus driver, so okay, we were all of age then. You know, everything was good. But it’s a long drive from Farmville back to Williamsburg, and we had to make a pit stop. But there’s nothing but fields between here and there. So I remember, it must have been in the fall, a full moon, but it was pretty dark, and all these girls silhouetted just kind of right there… [Laughs.] It was very funny. But I have a feeling we’re going to laugh about that this weekend with the Kappas. So that’s one of the fun memories I have.
I remember gatoring at fraternity parties. Yes, my just graduate daughter had no idea what that was. Well, it’s not a pretty picture, okay, but you get down on the floor—I’m not going to demonstrate it—but you sort of writhe on the floor like that.
00:38:53 I mean, you know, where this originated I have no idea, and I hope it’s not still happening because it is a little bizarre, but it was something you did in your long prom sweetheart type, guys and gals did it okay, so gatoring. All right.
A few tamer memories was George’s. George’s was kind of a diner over near where Aromas is now, and you could get some really delicious rice pudding, it seems to me, for dessert, and it really wasn’t very expensive. And people remember better than I George and his wife. I think they met with a sad fate. I don’t really know. But George’s is no longer there.
We would go to Toano, and there was a little hole in the wall restaurant there. That was a big outing. Occasionally we’d go to sample beer at Busch Gardens. There were a lot of stories about classes going there on Friday afternoons, and somehow I never got in one of those classes that I can think of. Maybe it was the sciences. Maybe that’s what I… That’s probably what it was.
00:40:02 Okay, other memories. Gosh, you know, it seems to me that the traditions… I always thought that we didn’t have quite as many traditions as exist now at the college. And I think that part of the reason probably was that we were in the shadow of the ‘60s and early ‘70s, and everything was antiestablishment. William & Mary was probably a little more establishment, but still there was a mood of, you know, the old house mothers were no more, and 24/7 dorms with card keys, etc. were allowed. So I do remember the—oh, I just lost the name of it—Yule log ceremony being a real highlight.
00:40:58 And I remember as a history major just reveling in the fact that we were in Williamsburg and our IDs would take us to any of the buildings and inside anywhere. And I always coveted people who got to work in Colonial Williamsburg, and those who sang and whatnot in the restaurants.
I remember when we first got here Colonial Williamsburg threw a huge party for freshmen. They had a bonfire and it was at the lodge, back behind the lodge, and it was dark and a lot of fun. It was part of orientation week. I remember we, in the summertime there was a whole different feeling on campus than during the semesters. There was a real feeling of independence and much more relaxed. Hot, humid, but much more relaxed.
00:41:59 And I, as a child, and still to this day, adore ice cream, and so I decided—I think it was the summer between freshman and sophomore years—that I would celebrate a self-declared International Ice Cream Day. And so I was working at [Parlette Plaques] that summer. It was a little gift shop, again over near where Aromas is. And I had purchased ice cream from [High’s] for breakfast—peach because it was a fruit.
And then I walked to one of the ice cream stores and had an ice cream cone for a snack, and then I think I had a butterscotch milkshake for lunch, and then I had some sort of ice cream for dessert, and then dinner, the pièce de résistance, I went over to the Lodge, and though it wasn’t ice cream, it kind of came as part of the package, I had a piece of their pound cake, a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce on top. And all I wanted was meat and vegetables at the end of that day. It was just all I could do to finish it off.
00:43:04 So my children have since decided that that would be a great parenting technique. Say to them go ahead, 24 hours, sure, eat ice cream.
Carmen: One day of it.
Brooke: One day. One day is enough. All right, there are a lot more memories I know. I remember, oh, gosh, sorority meetings on Monday nights. I remember going to the caf, because that’s what we called the cafeteria. I don’t know if they do it now.
I remember that—I have no idea how this happened, either—but somehow I got nominated for homecoming queen or the court or something, and I just thought that was the most hilarious thing. And as part of that process they put up either your picture or your name on the milk machines in the cafeteria. I thought, okay, you have arrived now. I knew I wasn’t going to get it. It didn’t. That wasn’t a big deal. But I thought that was pretty fun. That was definitely an interesting experience to have.
00:44:09 Friends that are still lifelong friends. The PiKA experience as a little sister was a huge amount of fun because again, I had a brother, but didn’t grow up with a lot of guy friends, so to have guy friends was great, and still is. Yeah. I remember going to the pub on Wednesday nights. Again, this drinking thing was legal at 18, and so, you know, we would relax on an occasional Wednesday night. I had a car here at some point, whenever you could legally do it. I don’t know if it was after freshman year or sophomore year.
00:44:59 But the car was a Mercury Cyclone, used. Big old white monster. And it had these sort of automated blinders over the lights so that when you turned on the lights it’d go mmmrrrr, like that, and we used to call the car Cyclops because of that. And we would take it to Virginia Beach in the summer, go for a day at the beach and get burned. Yeah. So those are some of the memories. I’m sure there are many others that will pop up as soon as I stop.
Carmen: Well, feel free to bring any of them up as you think of them.
Carmen: But yeah, that sounds like a lot of fun. It sounds like you all were able to find so many ways to just make your time here a great time.
Brooke: Well, and you know the other thing was Kappa was really kind of a… It was a wonderful home away from home.
00:46:00 And I think I probably felt especially comfortable coming from an all girls school. And so to have a big sister who kind of watched out for me, and to have a little sister that I could kind of watch out for, and have all these friends who were all so different, yet all so the same in really good ways. And on top of that my mother was a Kappa. And she had said to me do not feel the least bit that that is where you need to go. You just look at everything. Because chapters are different everywhere, and times change. And so when I called her to say I’m a Kappa, she was really excited.
Carmen: Oh, that’s so special.
Brooke: It was a better phone call than the hang up had been. [Laughs.]
Carmen: I should say so.
Brooke: Yeah. So, you know, you kind of wish you could go back and do it again just so you would, with hindsight being 20-20, you could really fully appreciate in the moment all of the joy and the happiness, and the hard times, and the challenges that meet one during those four years.
Carmen: Yeah. And I want to talk a little bit about maybe the hard times and the challenges. But I had noted, I was going through “Flat Hats” as well just in preparation of this—
Carmen: —and I noted some different things that happened when you were here.
Carmen: That might have been fun. So Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen and Joni Mitchell all performed at William & Mary during the period of time you were there. Did you—
Brooke: Okay, no, I’m not sure that I did. However, I can tell you that the Grateful Dead came when I was here, and I, again, I guess there was enough of the farm girl in me that I really probably didn’t take advantage of some of those kinds of things that I should have directly myself.
00:48:03 But I do remember a field of deadheads who followed the Grateful Dead right in front of Yates. I mean, that whole parking lot and where the new fraternities are, and people camping out there overnight. And goodness knows what else they were doing there, but I think it was all going on. And that made a very big impression on me.
Carmen: Yeah, I bet.
Brooke: Very big. And then it’s funny how life comes around. Phil Lesh, who is one of the Grateful Dead members, his son was in my daughter’s college class. And okay, so I think I need to tell this story. So Jenny was going to visit him in California. They were friends. She just needed a place to stay. And I said, well, you know, are you going to stay at the Lesh’s house, and she said yes.
00:48:55 And I said, well, I really think that we need to call and make sure that’s okay. And she goes no, Mom, you really don’t. And I said yeah, I think we really need to do that. So I made my husband call. And apparently Phil Lesh answered the phone and said, and who is this, and why are you calling? And yeah, fine if she spends the night here, it’s no problem. But that was our Southern upbringing. You know, you really just didn’t want to arrive on the doorstep. So that story has gone down in the lore of my family as one of Mom’s things. Yeah.
Carmen: Wow. And yeah, connections from the kids to the Grateful Dead performing at William & Mary.
Brooke: I know.
Brooke: Isn’t that cool?
Carmen: Yeah, it is cool, actually, that all of these different groups were brought here.
Brooke: Yeah. Yeah, it really is. A performance of sorts that happened my senior year that I feel compelled to admit is that back in the day of my naïve youth I really did not understand—I’m not sure anyone had ever explained it to me, and even if they had I probably would have rejected it—the relationship between football, sports, and the academic program, and funding, and etc., etc.
00:50:19 So several student leaders and I boycotted Charter Day the second time I could have gone to Charter Day as a student because they were planning to expand the football stadium and we were very opposed to money being spent on football and not on academics, in kind of a self-righteous way, I guess, but whatever. We knew that that was not a good thing, so we boycotted Charter Day.
Carmen: Wow. What did that look like?
Brooke: Oh, gosh. You know, I feel like we probably had signs and we just didn’t go. And we may have marched, but we didn’t go into the building or anything like that. No, we were just making a statement by student leaders not attending.
Brooke: I don’t think it made a [bar bee] of difference, but that was my real civil disobedience, you know, out there kind of thing.
Carmen: Standing up for what you believe in.
Brooke: Absolutely. That’s right.
Carmen: Do you remember whether you participated or not in any other periods or controversies that had similar sort of civil disobedience here?
Brooke: Yeah, no. I really don’t. I was kind of a…kind of a vanilla, you know, kind of kid. Stayed on the right side of things, Honor Council and all that. Tried to… Yeah, no, I really don’t remember anything. I’m sure there were. But that’s the one that stands out in my mind.
Carmen: Yeah. So I want to return to difficult experiences. Any difficult experiences you had and how those affected you.
Brooke: Yeah. Well, you know, there are always the breakups, and they’re really hard. And I remember one. I dated a guy who actually transferred, and that relationship petered out. And I was young enough to not have had that many, so that was a… You know, what I learned from that was that every relationship is important because it helps you figure out who you are and what you’re looking for, and it’s a learning steppingstone from the standpoint of that type of relationship. So that was hard.
I do remember, as I mentioned several times, just sort of reaching a “oh my god, I feel like I’m going to fall off a cliff” kind of point and then reaching out for help to other people.
00:53:04 Not only the professional that I saw, but, you know, friends played a huge role there. You know, listening skills I think I learned from my parents and grandparents, but also from my really good friends who to this day are extraordinary listeners and confidantes, and advisors. So they helped pull me through a lot.
I wasn’t too pleased about that low grade freshman year with the math class. But here was a big one, okay. I got really sick freshman year. Before Thanksgiving a gastro issue. I was in the infirmary for a number of days. They called my parents—it was before Thanksgiving—and said we’re overflowing in the infirmary, can you come bring her home.
00:54:05 So my parents picked me up and took me directly to the hospital in Richmond because I was dehydrated. And they diagnosed gastroenteritis which is, you know, whatever, a gastro issue, and I got better. But I missed a lot of classes. And I don’t know whether I came back right after Thanksgiving or a few days later.
At any rate, the damage had been done, and I was feeling incredibly behind, and very worried about the first set of final exams, which were to take place before Christmas. And I remember needing to go see all of my professors to explain the situation and ask if they would put off my exams.
00:54:59 And they did, you know, without hesitation. And I’ve often looked back on that challenging experience. I mean, for, I would imagine for mostly any freshman being in those shoes would have been tough. But I remember it being hugely intimidating to go talk to the professors and feeling like I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to do because I had gotten sick, and I wasn’t able to take the exam when I was going to, and I had Christmas to worry about it all.
But then I did extremely well freshman year. And I think the combination of having to exercise that independence and having to kind of advocate for myself, and then getting through it was a great confidence boost.
00:55:55 And so I think I was fortunate to have an experience like that early on and have it come out so well. It kind of said to me okay, you know what, this is going to happen again, not in the same form, not in the same fashion, but hurdles are going to come along and you’ll be able to take it one step at a time and figure out what to do to get through it.
Carmen: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I think, at least what I gather, is that’s a pretty common thread of the William & Mary experience, is very heavy academic pressure, understandably, but also that that takes a certain toll on the mental, emotional and physical state of a student. I know that they’re building the wellness center now and really trying to address the intersection of those things, which is just great.
Brooke: I could not be more pleased about that. I am really ecstatic. And just the location, the symbolic location of the health and wellness center in the center of campus just sends all kinds of good messages about balance and life.
00:57:08 And I think I learned a lot through the school of hard knocks, and I think that genetically and environmentally that I probably had a leg up because of how I had been raised outside of the mainstream a little bit. And it’s only now that I’m really thinking about that.
But it wasn’t easy for anyone at different times here. And for everyone to recognize that help exists, and you don’t have to go through it by yourself, and you will get through it, and it’s a very normal part of growing up, learning how to balance and find the happy mediums that work for you is really a great life skill. And I could not be more pleased that William & Mary has devoted resource and attention to that, so yay Tribe.
Carmen: Yay Tribe. So just thinking about the time you went here, it was a really interesting time, I think, in the broader United States as well. When you started, I think the very year you started the Vietnam War was coming to a close.
Carmen: So I wondered if you had seen that in particular play out on—
Brooke: On campus.
Carmen: —campus in any way.
Brooke: You know, I’ve thought about that a little bit, and I really, call me naïve or not aware of what was going on. I really think that I need to watch the Ken Burns series of Vietnam straight through from beginning to end because what I saw at that age was the occasional Walter Cronkite report during the nighttime news, and that was pretty steady and pretty gruesome.
00:59:05 But honestly, it didn’t touch me personally and maybe in significant ways that I can point to. In part maybe because my parents were older. I can’t really explain why it didn’t, but it didn’t. And it’s not necessarily a good thing at all that it didn’t because I feel like there were probably some things I should have been more aware of during the time. But yeah, no.
Carmen: And it’s possible entirely, I think, that because it was ending there was a little less of the demonstration stuff that we know occurred here during—
Brooke: Yeah. I think we were a little bit past that, to a degree, yeah.
Carmen: Yeah, and, I mean, there were some other things that happened at the time, and I’ll just list them off, just to see if anything strikes a memory.
Carmen: But the assassination of Harvey Milk happened during the time you were here. The Three Mile Island accident happened during that time. I don’t know if there was ever any fear surrounding that, or reaction to that on campus.
Brooke: Yeah, yeah. Boy, there probably was and I might have been out of it. So yeah, I don’t have any… I do remember when that happened, and it’s hard to believe it was that long ago because it feels so recent. I wonder when the Riggs tennis—was that during that time? It was in the ‘70s, I think.
Carmen: Let me look up the exact date of that.
Brooke: But I think women’s lib was a real…there was definitely heightened awareness about women’s equality, and I was all for that.
01:00:59 I wasn’t an advocate of the bra burning variety, but having had a mother and grandmother who were very strong women, and had both attended college, and others in my life, I, you know, that made an impact on me, I think.
Carmen: Yeah. No, definitely, and, I mean, it’s a little wild to think about, but really just a few years before you came to the school the dress regulations were in place, right?
Carmen: I mean, so yeah, we have the women’s lib movement happening, and you’re no longer required to wear certain attire here, or to follow maybe the strict rules on curfew and all back here.
Brooke: Right, right.
Carmen: Was there any talk about that? Or was the fact that it was said and done…?
Brooke: Yeah. You know, again I think there was a pent up antiestablishment sort of feeling among everyone, and there was less love of tradition. It was more let’s throw it out and start something new. And I think probably there’s enough of a traditionalist in me and a lover of history that I didn’t want the baby to be thrown out with the bath water.
But the idea of 24/7 and guys in and out of the girls dorm, I mean, it was before we had floors that were mixed or, you know. That was a fairly big change, I’m sure, for a lot of guys and girls. But I think we just kind of took it at face value and ran with it, and that’s what I recall.
Carmen: Thanks for reflecting on that for a moment.
Brooke: Of course.
Carmen: There was one other thing that happened in pretty close proximity to your time here, and I think it’s worth bringing up because we are currently celebrating 50 years of African Americans in residence before we celebrate 100 years of coeducation next year. And African Americans only started living in residence, I mean, it would have just been over a decade by the time you graduated. But we do know that in terms of numbers that didn’t really increase until the late ‘70s, if not the late ‘70s, the early ‘80s. So I’m wondering if you recall anything in terms of race relations on campus during your time here.
Brooke: Nothing. Zero. I feel as though that, you know, for all intents and purposes, as sad as it is, it was really, from where I was, more of a segregated kind of situation.
01:03:56 And the same…and in fact I can only think of a handful, and not well, of African Americans that I knew then in school. And I think it was in large degree just the historical times.
That being said, I’m happy to say that is history, and I just thoroughly enjoyed—that’s not the right word—I was so touched to be able to be a part of the celebration of the brick unveiling for the three precious women who first lived here in the dorm, and I got to meet them all weekend, and this weekend, and look forward to getting to know them better. Yeah. Same thing for me at my Episcopal girls school. I mean, there were one or two young women who were African American.
01:05:01 And I really hope that before I die that I will have a chance to really get to know them, too, in a way that I just didn’t then. But thank goodness times are changing. And one of the things I’m most proud of is that the school I’m involved with in Atlanta is incredibly inclusive, and has been organically from the beginning.
Carmen: Yes. And I want to hear more about that. In fact, we might, yeah, this might be a great time, in fact, to transition to your time post William & Mary, if that works for you.
Brooke: Okay. Sure.
Carmen: You had mentioned it a little bit earlier, but your trajectory is fascinating to me because you were a history major, but as you’ve noted, you got all of these skills here and then your work since then has been, I mean, you established a search firm. It was called Pace—
Carmen: Pacesetters. And that specialized in female and minority candidates for jobs, for professional positions.
Carmen: You attended Harvard Business School. You worked for IBM for a period of time. You cofounded the Atlanta Girls School that I want to hear much more about. And you’re currently working as the rector of engagement and development of Connoisseurs Tours.
Brooke: That is true.
Carmen: So you’ve had hands in kind of everything. And those are just the jobs, you know, central jobs, not to say what you’ve had your hands in just volunteering and serving on boards. So I’m just wondering in what ways, beyond what you’ve already told me, did your time at William & Mary prepare you and shape you for that trajectory.
Brooke: Well, I neglected to list my very first job out of William & Mary that came as a direct result of William & Mary and my acquaintance with Sue Manix’s husband, Glen Gunderson, also a William & Mary graduate, who had done a governor’s intern program in the state.
01:07:07 And it was a selected kind of group, and you got to work with, six of us got to work with heads of agencies in state government. And the idea was that we would be working at such a level and get such great skills that there would be some career path in state government after this jumpstart year, which is all fine and good except that there was no path that was laid out nor suggested. And at some point it dawned on me that 1980 in state government in Virginia was really not the place for a woman who was on the go, or who wanted to be on the go. So I think that, you know, again, back to the ability to develop relationships and really learn from other people.
01:08:02 The person who had been my supervisor in the intern program was the person with whom I started the business. So she had been in state government in a training job, training and development. And we decided that we should specialize in recruitment of women and minority candidates for professional positions with our headhunting, was what it was called then.
So I’m confident that my sensitivity towards women and minority candidates and the need for inclusion, whether I saw it directly, indirectly or felt it during my four years of college must have had something to do with that. I mean, it was so absent that it was something that I knew felt viscerally going forward needed to change.
01:09:03 So that was that. And IBM was…yeah. IBM happened after I went to Harvard Business School. The small company that I started and ran, Pacesetters, I thought this is all fine and good, but I am not making any money to speak of, and I was a history major, which I love, but I think I need some business education. And you can get it from rolling up your sleeves and doing it, but two years of intense education I thought would be great. And it was.
So then I worked for IBM. I had not, in my previous either William & Mary or locations where I’d lived or anything, I had not experienced working for a large company. And I also hadn’t had sales experience. And IBM gave me both of those from the standpoint of a portfolio of skills, if you will.
01:10:04 So I took that history major and, you know, I think it absolutely did prepare me for—and honestly, I think it helped me get into business school, because despite the fact that I was behind the eight ball on accounting, which I had to take the summer beforehand—you know, I was accepted provisionally, doing well on those accounting classes, which I did fine with—you know, I think having a background that’s different from a typical MBA’s background is valuable to that school and that program and the case method. At least I like to think that.
Carmen: Yeah. So how about Harvard Business School at that time? Because they’re not known for having had a large number of female graduates in that program, and then just generally in other programs at that time, so what was that like?
Brooke: Oh, yeah. We were in the distinct minority. I mean, it was about 23% of our class that was women. And I remember…yeah, it was really hard. Once again I knew I was an admissions mistake. [Laughs.] And in fact went with Harriet Reid, who went with me—my parents couldn’t go—after I was accepted to talk with them. Interviews were not required. I had already been accepted. But I kind of wanted to feel my way and see if it was the school I wanted to go to.
And they tried to talk me out of going to HBS. I think they kind of thought that the big city and the Harvard Business School might have been more than I could handle. At any rate, I got that distinct impression, and went to Harvard Business School because that might as well have been, you know, that was a challenge. That was the gauntlet laid down for me, and I was going to prove I could do it.
01:12:01 So I went through a few ups and downs of maybe I made the wrong decision. But met amazing people, and by second year had gotten second year honors and knew that it was the right place for me at the right time. But the women stuck together. You know, the women student organization was strong, and it’s gotten even stronger.
And it’s coming out now, you know, just in the last five years, that there’s still many institutionalized structures and habits and ways of interacting with the class that were, quite frankly, biased against women and toward men. So we’re all still learning. But it was a degree, like William & Mary’s, that, once you’ve achieved it, no one can take it away from you. And it’s a nice credential to have.
01:13:02 It made me, you know, it probably is not worth as much as people think that it is, but it was a good experience for me, and I’m glad that it all worked out.
Carmen: I’m glad you accepted the challenge because—
Brooke: Yeah, yeah. It was a challenge.
Carmen: My blood boils to hear it…
Brooke: Well, doesn’t it, though? And I went back at the end of those two years knowing that—I can’t remember his name, but I want to say it was something Cabot Lodge, who I had spoken with and who I felt was discouraging. And I said don’t know if you remember me, Brooke Trible, but I got second year honors. I ended up coming. And, you know, it didn’t make any impact on him at all. He was probably like, well, that’s nice. But it sure made me feel better to close that loop. [Laughs.]
Carmen: I love that. I love that.
Brooke: Thank you. Me too. And my daughters do, to, so… [Laughs.]
Carmen: That’s a great story, absolutely. Fantastic. So I’m thinking, and you mentioned as well, that a lot of this work that you’ve done has focused on women or, you know, assisting women or minorities and being an advocate for them. And I think you can see that as well in the Atlanta Girls School. Would you mind talking a little bit about how you got that started?
Brooke: No, not at all. As a graduate of a girls school I sort of knew instinctively that it had been a benefit in my life. And my mother had been academic dean, as I said, and my grandmother opened the doors at Mary Washington College, along with my aunt on my father’s side. They were in the first graduating class. And my mother was a Radcliffe graduate. And so I had heard and felt the benefits of single sex education. And Atlanta simply didn’t have an all girls school. It hadn’t in about 30 years.
01:14:58 And I was at the right place at the right time. Mary Brown Bullock, who was the head of Agnes Scott, had spoken at a church luncheon, all women. This was back in 1998, January. And the person who had planned that luncheon came over to me afterwards because I had asked a question about single sex education under the college level in Atlanta, like why are there no schools.
And the coordinator of that luncheon said Brooke, I know somebody who wants to start a girls school. And I said, well, listen, I’ve been on the board of my girls school. I went to it. I’m a believer. Put me in touch with her. So we met and I realized that the idea of this school was calling my name. And I didn’t say yes immediately because at that point it was just her and her friend who had coordinated that luncheon, and then me.
01:16:01 But I did go home and say to my husband, you know, I think I need to do this. But we do have four children, and one is two years old, and what do you think? And he said no, I absolutely think you need to do that. You need to follow this pursuit.
And so we did. And opened doors in 2000 with probably more girls than we should have. We opened grades six through nine with close to 100 girls. And we, the other cofounder and I—the third person, though her heart stayed with the school, she moved herself from kind of the day-to-day and the governmental piece of it, so it was really the two of us who carried it through and built the team, and knew that, you know, we knew that we had a great idea, but we didn’t have any money.
01:17:00 We didn’t have any followers. We were not educators. So we found the very best. We subbed out and found the very best advice that we could get and we talked to a lot of people. And we hired a head of school who was…she was obviously a bit non-risk averse because she had no idea where her first paycheck was coming from, so she truly was an entrepreneurial head who helped found it and hired the faculty and staff. And we stayed on the governance side to ensure that we were helping to raise the money, and overseeing the head of school, and helping her as we could.
01:17:55 So it’s pretty exciting now, 18 years later, to be a six through 12th grade school with about 250 girls. About 30% of our girls are on some form of financial aid. Thirty to 40% are girls of color. We were intent upon inclusion of socioeconomic diversity as well as religious, cultural, ethnic from the very beginning, and I think that the school has been very successful with that. Because what people say is that our diversity has been really organic and authentic as opposed to having to have been enforced, if you will. So it’s been really a gratifying gift to me to have been involved in something like that.
Carmen: That’s entirely inspiring. And Atlanta in particular, being as not just racially and ethnically diverse as it is, but also socioeconomically diverse, it sounds like that was definitely a need there. Am I right in nothing that one of your daughters attended?
Brooke: Both did.
Carmen: They both attended?
Brooke: They both did.
Carmen: I cannot even imagine. They must be so proud.
Brooke: Well, you know, we made it through. Fortunately, I was not—like my mother was academic dean where I went to school, so she was right there all the time. Now that was a little dicey. But this, I was a little removed, which was good. And now I’m trustee emerita and cofounder, so it’s a godmother type situation, which is the best of all worlds. You don’t have to go to every meeting. You can pitch ideas and they can take them or leave them. It’s really a lot of fun. So I would love for you to come visit.
Carmen: Oh, I would love to after reading up on it and now hearing you describe it. I would absolutely love to. So let’s get that planned.
Brooke: Let’s get that planned.
Brooke: Open invite.
Carmen: So apart from your entirely busy life career-wise and as a mother and everything else, you also have remained incredibly active at William & Mary, as if you didn’t have enough on your plate. I’m noticing a trend from all of those student organizations you were involved in.
Brooke: Yes, that’s right.
Carmen: But you have been—I know you served on the campaign steering board, the William & Mary Foundation board, the Parent & Family Council. And those are just to name a few ways you’ve stayed involved. So why have you been so motivated to stay involved in the ways you have?
Brooke: I am an enormous believer in William & Mary. I’m bullish on the school. I am more bullish now than I was when I was a student, and I was very establishment bullish then. The leadership that we have now is extraordinary and will continue to be.
01:21:00 We are…I mean, to be led by a whole cadre of professionals who are bright, and experienced, and get it, and to be able to showcase who we are boldly, without having to be overly humble or apologetic, or any of those self-deprecating things that I think probably William & Mary has been guilty of, to a degree, for good reasons. I mean, the president is quick to look back at our history and really see who we were and what happened during the last years of the 1800s and early 1900s.
01:22:00 And so like the phoenix, you know, rising again, I really believe that we’ve got all of the ingredients. Plus I really think there’s pent up demand for the forum and the permission to brag about who we are and why we are, and the changes that our graduates are making in the world.
And it’s kind of a relief, actually, to be out in the hinterlands where I am in Atlanta and bring up William & Mary and hear the commendation and the praise and all the good things that people have heard in recent years about William & Mary. So I’m a believer, and that’s why I’m here. I want to be part of it and contribute as I can, and be an ambassador for something that’s really good and only getting better.
Carmen: Wow. That’s a great way to put it. And you have been. I mean, you graduated in ’79, and you have been back, and you’ve been able to see the changes that have occurred. And I would love to hear if there are any particular that stand out changes from the time you were here.
Brooke: Oh, gosh. Well, there, I mean, just to have the largest homecoming ever this last weekend, thousands of people. And recognition of the diversity of our alumni is huge because we’re not all teachers and public sector employees. Thank goodness there are those, but there are many other professions represented.
01:23:56 And people whose careers have taken off and who credit William & Mary, you know, right there in their Linked In, there’s William & Mary. And so that’s incredibly gratifying. Oh, yeah, there are lots of changes. And I got to kind of relive it through my daughter who just graduated in May.
But back to the link between the school now and the alumni. To have affinity groups reaching out to me as an alum saying come back to the Honor Council gathering on homecoming weekend or, you know, come back to the undergraduate tailgate because you worked at William & Mary. I mean, I think it was because I had had jobs here at the college. And that makes me know that this institution knows me, and if it knows me, it’s definitely learning and knowing about a lot of us.
01:25:00 And that personalizes it and that builds the relationship, which enhances the engagement and makes for a much more solid, continuous thread of support for this institution.
Carmen: Yeah, absolutely.
Brooke: So all that’s good stuff.
Carmen: That is. And I’m wondering if there are any changes you’re hoping to see in the coming years.
Brooke: Ooh, now that’s a good one. Well, I do have a little soapbox that I have talked to Marilyn about, the head of the alumni association. And in fact she has okayed it. So the idea that our travel program—because I love travel, and I’m now in the travel business—but the idea that professors go on trips for alumni and that we do things that are open only to us because we are alumni of the college around the world, in this country and around the world.
01:26:08 In other words, leverage our strengths, which are in large degree our professors and their knowledge and continue that type of education, if you will, for graduates. And she’s definitely heard me and we’re actually doing a trip like that in the Hudson River Valley in June with Professor Putzi from here. And yeah, so I’d love to see that. That’s a little, you know, it’s aligned with not only what I’m doing, but what I believe will benefit William & Mary.
01:26:53 You know, honestly, I think we need to just keep doing what we’re doing, because we’re doing it really well. The new COLL curriculum is phenomenal. I sat with three students at the scholarship luncheon and all of a sudden it dawned on me that it basically is a structure that ensures a liberal arts education, and a true liberal arts education from a requirement standpoint, but not just for the sake of a requirement, for the appropriate connections and builders for where a person is headed, or wants to head, or can head, or discovers that they, you know, direction that they’ll go in.
I think we keep on doing what we’re doing. And we pull more, definitely our minority alums need, you know, every single person at this institution needs to hold out their arms and wrap them solidly around every other person who has been a part of this institution since we’ve known it.
01:28:10 And that includes women, it includes minorities. It is vitally important to have everyone’s voice at the table, and I think to have everyone’s stories heard from them. And that’s the kind of environment that I think is…that we are…the college is encouraging and needs to be continued, and will be with our new leadership, I’m confident.
Carmen: Well, kind of on that topic, I have a couple more questions for you before opening it up to you. These questions are very reflective. So we’re in the midst of the yearlong celebration for the 50th anniversary of African Americans in residence at William & Mary.
Carmen: And we’re about to kick off the celebration for 100 years of coeducation. So two questions in relation to that. The first is if you could tell me what you believe to be the value of diversity and inclusion in an institution like this, and the second being if you could tell me what you believe to be the value and contribution of women at an institution like this.
Brooke: Okay. Well, the value of inclusion and diversity I would argue in any institution, but especially in a 300 and what, 24-, 25-year-old institution is that we would not be who we are without that diversity.
01:29:51 With the inclusion of anyone who is a part, you know, the full and whole inclusion of anyone who is a part of it makes this institution richer, and stronger, and more resilient, and able to handle the tides of hurdles and downturns. And, you know, it’s…it is something that really needs to be valued and nurtured, and treasured. And the idea that…if celebrating 50 years or 100 years, you know, has us stop and think about just that question, then I think that probably is the biggest value a celebration can bring.
01:31:06 It’s what are the strengths of the past and where do we want to be in the future, and where have we not done as well in the past, and where do we want to improve in the future, and how can we do that, and what do we need to do that’s intentional to do that. It’s not necessarily just going to happen. But when the light is shined and the focus is there, and the reasons are clearly articulated, understood and appreciated, then the odds are it’s going to happen in a way that’s right for this institution. I don’t know, I’m rambling a little bit.
Carmen: No, that’s great.
Brooke: Does this make sense?
Brooke: Yeah. You know, studies have shown that around board tables the outcomes of decisions are much better if there are different voices from different constituencies representing different backgrounds, and races, and religions. Because none of us is an island. And we’re all better off knowing and appreciating other people’s stories, and learning from others. So that’s kind of how I feel about that. Now what was the second question, women?
Carmen: Well, yeah, the second question.
Brooke: It’s kind of the same deal. You know, we’ve been here in much greater numbers than, for instance, African Americans, I’m sure, through the years. But that does not necessarily mean, if you look over the, you know, from five years back through history that women’s stories have been heard.
01:33:02 And celebrating 100 years of women gives us a chance to tout our university for being at the right time and the right place and having the wits or the need to accept women 100 years ago. You know, we can claim it, even though it might not have been the best thing that the powers who were thought could ever happen. We can claim it. But it can also give everybody who has graduated from this school a reason to be proud, and a reason to feel like we are all of the William & Mary, part of the William & Mary quilt, and it wouldn’t be what it is without each of us.
01:33:56 So yeah, I think it’s…I’m really proud to be around at the time where we’re making this, commemorating these two red letter dates, if you will.
Carmen: Yeah. And we definitely appreciate your participation. I know I’ve had you talking for—I don’t even know how long I’ve had you talking. You’ve answered my questions, but what I want to do at this point is open it up to you to add anything or talk about anything that you thought I would ask you, or I didn’t ask you that you’d like to include at this point.
Brooke: You’ve asked me a lot. I feel as though I’ve covered a lot of territory. Gosh. Yeah, since I’ve got a soapbox.
Carmen: You do.
Brooke: Forty percent participation in an annual fund of undergraduate students is absolutely doable. Absolutely doable. And I, you know, would just like to put out there—I know that I’m singing to the choir, anybody who happens to be watching this—but as the president says, it’s like a democracy. It’s like your vote. If you believe in what we’re doing, then make a contribution, small, large or in between. The size does not matter. We can do this.
It’s hard to believe that there’s still alumni out there who may not really understand the critical importance of just that statement of endorsement for our university and haven’t been giving a little something every year to pay it forward.
01:35:50 But if by chance there are, please, please do that because it’s an easy way to give back, and it’s a really important way to give back. So I’m really…I know we can do this. But I’d like to do it not just with the most recent ten classes, but I’m just old school enough to think that maybe there in the hundred thousand that we can collect many more who just are out of the habit of giving to alma mater. So yeah, I think that’s one thing.
And the other is go Tribe. Wear your colors, paint your nails, you know, be patriotic about our university. And yeah, thank you so much for giving me this opportunity.
Carmen: Thank you for answering all that. I know it’s kind of a marathon in and of itself just answering all the questions, but we definitely appreciate it.
Brooke: It’s been really fun. Thanks.
Carmen: All right, great. Thanks.
01:37:01 [End of recording.]
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