shanelogoSMThis page is for celebrating the milestones in our personal lives that have special significance for our community: engagements, marriages, civil unions, commitment ceremonies, and domestic partnerships; transitions; births and adoptions; graduations and recognitions; and any other events you want to share.

We don’t see many announcements/photos of our special celebrations in the Alumnae Quarterly, so use the form on the Contact Us page to tell us about them so that we can celebrate with you on this page! Daily activities are what fill and shape our lives, so please share news you might deem “ordinary” because we want to know what you do, how you spend your time, and what is important to you. Let’s make this a space for all kinds of our news, not just big news we might send to the SAQ! We look forward to your news.

Marriages & Ceremonies

Send in your news too!

Jessica Chesnutt ’06 (right) and Natalie Sauro ’06

… were the first same-sex couple to exchange vows atop the Empire State Building! The New York Post had this story (below) about this groundbreaking event.


A lesbian couple will be on top of the world this Valentine’s Day. Jessica Chesnutt and Natalie Sauro of Brooklyn will become the first same=sex couple to exchange vows atop the Empire State Building….The Park Slope pair…were among more than 400 couples [and only 13 winners] who entered a contest to determine who gets to say “I do” at the building [which is only open for weddings on Valentine’s Day]. The contest is run by the Brides.com website. “The fact that the contest was open to same-sex couples is a good sign. We want the rights and responsibilities of married couples,” said Chesnutt, a book editor….Because New York doesn’t permit gay marriage, Sauro and Chesnutt will have a commitment ceremony.

…And let’s not forget those first Massachusetts marriages

Deborah Heller PhD ’61 (right) and Ann Sanders

Deborah, a management consultant in Boston who hosted our group’s planning meeting there early in our formation, writes this about her marriage:

We were married in Boston in November 2004, on our 18th anniversary. For us it was an act of love and a political act. As we enter our 24th year, we feel the same.

At the beginning of the ceremony, Rosario Salerno, the City Clerk and a good friend, read from the May 14, 2004, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Goodrich decision:

“Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society… Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity and family.

“Extending civil marriage to same-sex couples reinforces the importance of marriage to individuals and communities. That same-sex couples are willing to embrace marriage’s solemn obligations of exclusivity, mutual support, and commitment to one another is a testament to the enduring place of marriage in our laws and in the human spirit.

“Marriage is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.”

Jennie (Abbott) ’95 & Janis (Batesole) Abbingsole

Cutting cake in Massachusetts

Cutting cake in Massachusetts

In California, with Smithies in attendance

In California, with Smithies in attendance

Graduations & Recognition

Many of us have studied hard and earned recognition in academia and in our professional or avocational arenas — send in your news!

Pippa Shulman ’96

Pippa graduated from the New Hampshire Dartmouth Family Medicine Residency in June ’08 and since then has been a resident in preventive medicine at Dartmouth, working on improving care at the end of life. She will complete the last phase of her fellowship in summer ’09.


Pippa (right) with wife, Jodi Sperber

A Gay Celebration at the White House

Jennifer Chrisler ’92 (right) and spouse, Cheryl Jacques, with their twins, Tim and Tom, were The First Family of the 2009 White House Easter Egg Roll.


Jennifer, Executive Director of the Family Equality Council, organized the first group of LGBT families (110) to participate in the Easter event in 2006. As she says, “It is a very symbolic moment for LGBT-headed families.” (Jennifer was also featured in the 2008 Summer issue of the Smith Alumnae Quarterly. Be sure to take a look at it.)

Births & adoptions

Many of us have children, here is a sampling to start — send in your news too!


Born to Liza Barry Kessler on August 30, 2008

Born to Liza Barry Kessler on August 30, 2008


Born to Liza Barry Kessler on February 10, 2006

Born to Liza Barry Kessler on February 10, 2006

Other news

Send in updates that you’d like to share with the LBGTQ Smith alumnae community!

Family rights

Unfortunately, the start-up of our website in late fall 2008 came right on the heels of an event that we hoped would be the cause of great celebration. We thought Prop 8 would be defeated by Californians. But, together with the anti-marriage laws that passed in Florida and Arizona and the new law in Arkansas forbidding same sex couples from fostering or adopting children, we are instead lamenting the fact that our civil rights have had such a setback. We want to share two of the many reactions that our members have had to these defeats:

First, Vange Heiliger ’00, who lives in Los Angeles and is in the Women’s Studies PhD program at UCLA, was filmed for a PSA response to Prop 8. You can see it at www.youtube.com/watch?v=9f8YE3YtAUU. Vange is the one who “loves popping bubble wrap” and is the last person you see on the video.

And, second, from Roya Millard ’02, a special education teacher in Massachusetts. She posted this on our Yahoo board right after Election Day:

…Honestly, I’m trying not to think about it too much. ‘Cause it really makes me sad. That sadness will turn into other things, but at the moment it’s sadness. Because this comes on the heels of the news that ABC fired Dr. Hahn of Grey’s Anatomy. That seems like a minor thing, but she was one-half of the only lesbian couple on prime time network TV and she had just come out in the previous episode. Groundbreaking! She said she realized she was gay and was absolutely fine with it; no angst, no trauma. And then the actress was told the next episode would be her last; she would not even be written off the show. So there’s that: “Come out and you’ll disappear.”

That served as the prelude to the next night’s propositions in California and Florida and Arkansas and Arizona, the reminder that even when there’s a victory in visibility and acceptance and the illusion of normalcy, it can be snatched away by someone who for some reason has control over your life.

I’m happy that People magazine had Ellen and Portia on the cover and that Rachel Maddow is the most talked about news personality. Because a dozen years ago I was hiding a copy of Life magazine featuring an article about gay teenagers, along with Ellen’s “I’m Gay” Time magazine article, and all there was on TV was that season of Ellen’s sitcom on which she barely kissed her girlfriend once before it was cancelled. And now there’s a lot more out there showing me that I’m okay, that I don’t have to grow up to be the lunch lady with the mustache or the stereotypical gym teacher or the spinster librarian; I can be so many other things.

And then the rug gets yanked out from under you and you’re falling backwards again, and you’re hoping no one saw you stumble. It’s fine if you’re on the ground ’cause people aren’t surprised to see you there, that’s where all the people, the ones who get to stand without being shoved any more, seem to be comfortable having you.

You just don’t want them to realize that for a minute you really didn’t expect to fall. That for a moment you foolishly thought you, too, could stand steady with everyone else. It’s embarrassing to be caught, to have egg on your face, to have to chuckle and say, “no, I didn’t really think I could get married. That’s just silly, I was kidding. Should I tell you another joke now? Maybe dance for you again? I can be your asexual amusing friend again any time you want me to be.”

Every group responds to discrimination in its own distinct way. Jews were persecuted and turned it into caustic, ironic comedy the way that Jackie Gleason, Mel Brooks and Woody Allen did. Blacks were enslaved and segregated and they created music that expressed pain and beauty and soul. Gays were — and still are — killed and brutalized and mocked and they say, “the hell with you, let’s have a party”.

There is immense pride that I feel in being part of something that will be spit on and derided and simply turn its head and dance, not because every moment of that dance isn’t excruciatingly painful, but because denying someone the power to take away your joy can become more powerful than the words or actions they used to attempt to put you down.

So, the hell with you California and Florida and Arizona and Arkansas. We’re still gonna dance.