The 2013 Goucher Vagabonds team just wrapped up their two-week trek along the east coast between Northern Virginia and Maine. Along the way they met with incoming first-year students at send-off parties, interviewed alumnae/i about life post-Goucher, and made stops at several alumnae/i regional events. Read posts from this year’s journey right here and check out more photos and video on the Vagabonds facebook page at www.facebook.com/gouchervagabonds.
A person, always a Goucher student, who wanders from place to place for two weeks each summer to bring the current Goucher experience to members of our school’s off-campus community while collecting stories of the post-grad experience and tales of Goucher’s history.
A Goucher Vagabond is never ‘settled.’ While on the road, he or she is constantly searching, learning, exploring; having an adventure of excitement and inquiry.
Currently, we are sitting in the San Francisco airport awaiting our 12-hour trip back to BWI (two layovers add some time). This trip has been incredible and below you will find some video footage of some Vagabonds moments, as we drove through a number of scenic points along the trip and some moments from the freshman sendoffs!
Yesterday, we were fortunate enough to start off our day at the beautiful Muir woods looking at the GIANT Redwoods. Our tour guide, Danny Toft ’10 gave us an extensive tour of the national monument. Muir woods held the first ever United Nations meeting and holds some of the oldest and largest tree’s in the nation.
After this exciting morning, we met with two incredible alumnae/i. First, we met with author Shelley Buck ’67. Shelley Buck is a fascinating woman who has accomplished a variety of things since graduating Goucher. She and her husband worked on innovative electric car technology for many years, and she owned one of the first electric sports car. However, once the production and research funds were cut, they were forced to find work elsewhere.
This lifestyle change led to a long commute from the San Ramon Valley to the city of Silicon Valley. This taxing drive always seemed to be bumper to bumper with traffic, lasting an hour and a half each way on a good day. To escape this insanity, Shelley and her family decided to sell their house and live in a boat that could be parked offshore and avoid the traffic altogether. Their creative solution led to the premise of her recently published book, Floating Point: Endlessly Rocking Off the Silicon Valley. The book sounds extremely interesting, and I highly recommend getting a copy from Amazon or any other online site (it is available as an E-book as well).
After our meeting with Shelley and learning of her accomplishments, we had dinner plans with an alumnus. Geoff Clapp is an technological whiz, inventor, and CEO of a number of start-up companies. Geoff was kind enough to take us to an amazing Vietnamese restaurant called The Tamarine. The food was incredible but learning of Geoff’s accomplishments proved to be far more fascinating than the array of beautifully prepared dishes.
At Goucher, Geoff was a soccer player, majored in Computer Science and Cognitive Psychology, worked a full-time job and still managed to graduate in only three years. While still a student he was offered his dream job with Apple, and after graduation he drove cross-country to settle into the Silicon Valley. Huge employment cuts were made just a few months after Geoff started at Apple, and he was let go. Devastated at first, Geoff soon found that the layoff was one of the best opportunities he was offered.
While still in his early twenties Geoff founded his first start-up company. He looked at the health care system, and saw a space for him to help combat many of the industry’s flaws. He and a team of other talented individuals created a system that would help monitor the chronically ill, easing hospital overcrowding and giving patients more autonomy. Just last year he sold his brainchild and now is working on another start-up this time in the realm of education.
Geoff is a highly dedicated individual who has clearly turned his dreams into reality. He currently gives guest lectures at a number of colleges and universities such as Stanford, and works tirelessly on his new start-up. A huge thank you goes out to Geoff for the lovely evening we spent with him.
I’m writing this blog from the Goucher House across the street from campus, and I still can’t believe we’re back. We still have one send-off and one alumnae/i gathering left, but we are on the final leg of the journey that seemingly started yesterday.
Despite nearly being done, today was one of our busiest days yet. We woke up this morning in Valley Forge at Linda Himmelberger’s ’74 home, and went with her to breakfast (not at Dunkin’ Donuts). After we said our goodbyes to Linda and thanked her for being a wonderful host, we headed to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania to meet and interview one of Linda’s former classmates, Suzanne Shepherd ’74. Suzanne gave us a tour of the Emergency Department of the hospital. She also graciously sat down with us while we grilled her about her time at Goucher and her life post-Goucher. Suzanne eventually needed to get back to work, and we had another event on our schedule. We walked a few blocks to the White Dog Cafe, where we met with four Goucher alums, one from almost every decade since the 1960′s. This allowed for interesting conversations in which we all compared our varied experiences at Goucher. We discussed posture pictures, auctions to raise money for GIG, Goucherdales, date parlors, and other various things that no longer exist at the school. It would take a thousand more blogs to explain each of these items, so I’ll give you a piece of advice: the next time you encounter a Goucher alum from the 1960′s or before, ask them about posture pictures. Those are most interesting (and shocking) stories I have heard on this trip, and my story telling abilities would not do them justice.
We had similar conversations at our final event of the night. Once we left Philadelphia, we headed to Delaware to Sandy Ranck King’s ’79 home so that we could meet with even more alums. Sandy’s grandmother was an alum of Goucher also, having graduated in 1910. Sandy found her grandmother’s diploma and brought it out for all of us to marvel at. The conversations at this event were similar to those at lunch, and everyone shared stories of their favorite, and least favorite, memories from their time at Goucher. As always, it’s great to hear how Goucher has changed, and it’s always nice to share with them our experiences at Goucher. It’s truly incredible to discover the ways in which Goucher has stayed the same over time.
After our “debriefing” on campus tomorrow, we’ll unpack the Goucher van, which is currently littered with cardboard boxes of Goucher hats, empty coffee cups, and random papers and prepare for our final days as East Coast Vagabonds.
East Coast Vagabonds with SaraKay Sherman Smullens '62 and Stan Smullens
Today we attended our 7th send-off of the trip. At this point, we have the events on routine: welcome guests, invite everyone to eat the food the host provides, gather everyone together and introduce ourselves and explain what the Goucher Vagabonds are. Then we ask the students to go around and introduce themselves. However, this afternoon, the Philadelphia send-off went in a bit of a different direction. Before opening up the floor for questions, SaraKay Sherman Smullens ’62, the host of the event, asked the parents to go around and introduce themselves and talk about why they liked Goucher. This created a whole new perspective on the send-off and was a great addition to the program. The parents were able to connect with each other and meet others who were going through the same hopes and fears about sending their student to College.
The afternoon as a whole was great. SaraKay welcomed us with open arms. Her sincere and personable attitude was contagious and her love for Goucher was inspiring. All I wanted to do was sit down with her and listen to her talk about her life and her experience at Goucher; however, when the guests arrived, she went strait into host-mode. SaraKay jumped from room to room talking to students and parents about how amazing Goucher is and how excited she was to have them in her home. After the guests left, we had the chance to sit down with her and her husband and talk about her time at Goucher. She told us about her involvement in integrating Towson and her participation with Students for Democracy. She also discussed her decision to transfer into Goucher after spending a year at Skidmore College. Everything SaraKay said reflected her love for Goucher and her appreciation of the education she received from the college.
Shortly after the send-off we joined Linda Himmelberger ’74 for dinner. We then toured the historic Valley Forge National Park. We also stopped for local ice cream before wrapping up the night back at Linda’s home where we were staying.
East Coast Vagabonds with Linda Himmelberger '74 at Valley Forge National Park
Before our alumnae/i gathering in San Francisco, we spent much of the day touring around the city. This included the Golden Gate Park, Dolores Park, the Castro neighborhood, the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the windy Lombard Street. To say the least, it was a busy few hours!
After our day full of sight seeing, we made our way to the 21st Amendment Brewery for a gathering with alumnae/i. We were greeted at the door by the friendly face of Rosie Goucher ’00 and her brother David. Rosie was our host for the evening and is a descendant of college founder, Dr. John Goucher himself. She now works for a legal firm and is working towards her bar exam. As we sat and reminisced of her time at Goucher College, a number of young alumnae/i made their way into the restaurant. Familiar faces filled the table and comical stories were shared as we sampled the local brews (including a delicious and refreshing watermelon beer!)
Then today we were off to Sonoma County—wine country! In Healdsburg, we visited with Gabriel Froymovich ’05 and his wife Gianna. After traveling the world for a year following graduation from Goucher, Gabriel settled in California. His decision to stay in this area was his first introduction to the wine industry. He is currently working at a winery, studying for his MBA, and co-founding his own wine label with fellow Goucher grad Emmett Reed ‘04. Gabriel plans to expand his wine endeavors internationally, and begin building a family.
We spent the day visiting the winery he works at, sampling their batches from recent years. The view from the hilltop winery was like a picture on a postcard, and we enjoyed the scenic strolls through the grapevines. Afterwards, Gabriel took us to his favorite spot on the Russian River where we had a picnic lunch, sipped on wine, floated in the water, and talked about life. The evening concluded with more wine samplings over a home-cooked dinner at Gabriel’s new home within walking distance from the main streets of Healdsburg. Gabriel’s philosophy on life is to seize all opportunities that come your way, and he really does walk that walk.
Today was a car day. We spent all day weaving between the 1 and 101, the two highways that border California’s coastline. The consensus is that this route is the most scenic highway in all of America, and that every person should experience driving it at least once in his or her life. We can certainly agree with the first part and can at least say we fulfilled our duty with the second– and that’s probably enough! The tight winding turns and dramatic cliff drops had us on the edge of our seats the whole way.
Along the way, we were also fortunate enough to stop and tour the Hearst Castle. The Hearst Castle was the home of media mogul William Randolph Hearst. Its the second largest private home in the United States, with the construction starting in 1919 and lasting 28 years. We learned that Hearst was known to change his mind quite often. They say a picture is worth one thousand words, so we have decided to let the photos do the talking…
Our day got off to an early start as we made our way to downtown LA to meet with Steve Zimmer ’92. Steve is an elected official on the board of ed for the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest district in the country. We had seen him speak when he came to Goucher last semester to talk about the state of public education in LA, so we were excited to get the chance to see him in his home environment. The LAUSD headquarters are a towering skyscraper, and we shot up the elevator to the 24th floor where we met him in his gorgeous office, overlooking the city.
After introducing ourselves and telling him a bit about our time in the city thus far, Steve took it upon himself to make sure we were exposed to the parts of LA we haven’t yet seen. This was much appreciated as we wanted to see as much of Los Angeles as possible, and while we’ve managed to come across new areas from being led in maze of side streets by the GPS and arguing about directions, it was nice to have a more intentional and informed tour.
The tour focused mainly on East Los Angeles, the largely Latino populated area of the city we hadn’t yet stepped foot in. He took us first down to Elysian Valley, a sunny riverside residential neighborhood stricken by poverty ever since the highway system cut off and isolated the area from economic opportunities. We found it interesting that unlike many slums in Baltimore or other cities we are familiar with, Elysian Valley, or Frogtown as it is called for its influx of amphibians during flooding, was not immediately noticeable as an economically troubled area. To our East Coast eyes the neighborhood looked just the same as any of the many middle-class suburbs we have passed through during our trip. However, Steve pointed out the signs of gang activity in the area and told us more about the threats this neighborhood faces as development companies look to take over and gentrify the area, kicking the poorer residents our of their community.
Steve knows Frogtown well, as he taught in it’s school district for the first 17 years of his career, when he moved to LA as a Teach for America assignment straight out of Goucher. He took us to the community center he helped renovate from the sweatshop it had been previously. We glanced in on a summer school session taking place there before taking a roundabout route through the city to see other schools in Steve’s jurisdiction.
Steve is responsible for district 4, which includes some of the most economically diverse areas from the pockets of wealth in parts of Hollywood to the extreme poverty of South LA. We were amazed by the sheer number of students in the public school system; it is not unusual for a high school here to have well over 4,000 students. Steve seemed most proud of the building work that has happened during his time on the LAUSD—112 new schools have been built in the city in the past seven years!
He then took us to one of the newest buildings, the absolutely breathtaking Robert F. Kennedy School, located in inner city Los Angeles on the hollowed grounds of the Ambassador Hotel, where RFK was assassinated. Construction was just completed last year and the result is one of the most impressive schools in America. We took a quick tour of the facilities and were amazed by the Cocoanut Grove Theatre, made with original pieces of the Ambassador auditorium by the same name, and the beautiful high-tech library.
Steve was clearly passionate about the work he does and it was a great experience to get a glimpse of what this entails. We left with more questions than we came in with, which is always a good thing!
Time has gone by so quickly that we hardly remember what day it is anymore. Between waking up early in the morning and driving to our next destination, we lose track of dates, only remembering which # day of the trip it is. But today, we had a chance to slow down a bit and look forward to the days ahead.
We woke up this morning at Hugh Geller’s ’14 house and headed out to Maine to get breakfast at a Cajun place Andrew insisted on having us attend early in the morning. After eating breakfast, we went over to a fellow Goucher student’s house who lives near Portland. We then went to Andrew’s home in Cornish. Andrew’s house is surrounded by woods and nature; we feel like we are in secluded cottage. Honestly, it is the best place to unwind after a long week.
But before we could totally relax, we headed back to Portland to attend our 6th send-off at a great restaurant called Flatbreads. Students began shuffling in with their parents and various family members. Without any prompting on our part, the students began to gravitate together while the parents separated themselves and sat at the table nearby. Like every other send-off the students were enthusiastic and excited about Goucher; however, this time, a lot of the students started asking each other questions and prompting topics of conversations as well. Briana, the brave soul that she is, sat down with parents at another table and answer their questions.
The most interesting part of our night was when a Goucher alumna, Diane Schimmer DeVito approached us saying she graduated Goucher in ’78. We got a chance to take a picture with her and talk quickly about how crazy a coincidence it was for us to run into her! Diane, who currently lives in New York, happened to be visiting a fellow Goucher graduate outside of Portland for the week. She said she had lost touch with the school but was glad to learn what type of things we were doing as Goucher Vagabonds. This just shows that a Goucher alumnae/i are everywhere.
Tomorrow we will return with updates on our adventures during our day off and some interesting facts about our driving playlists and routines.
Nearly everyone we’ve talked to since arriving in LA has suggested we pay a visit to Venice Beach, so today we decided to take them up on it. We headed to the iconic board walk/beachfront and, surprisingly, didn’t get caught in (too much) of the infamous LA traffic. Along the way we stopped to eat at Akasha again because the small taste we had of the restaurant at the alumnae/i event earlier this week left us craving more. It turned out to be a good choice,…
Vanessa noticed a familiar face sitting at the table next to us with big sunglasses and a Dodgers cap on. Behind what you could call a disguise was Ryan Reynolds, the star of The Change Up that we had seen a couple nights before. Again we were shocked to be sitting so close to a celebrity and ended up sneaking glances at him for most of the meal.
Slightly star struck, we clomped back into the white minivan and continued the ride to Venice Beach. We immediately noticed that Venice was far different from the other Santa Monica beaches that we had seen. The boardwalk was packed with people selling anything from Bob Marley and Marilyn Monroe interpretive paintings to Lakers jerseys to an array of questionable paraphernalia. Anything a tourist could possibly want could be found on this boardwalk. We decided to walk a couple blocks where we stumbled upon “Muscle Beach”, the outdoor gym where former movie star and disgraced governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was discovered. After walking a few blocks further we decided to stray from the crowded boardwalk and relax on the somewhat secluded beach. Interestingly enough, not many people seem to actually go on the beach. We took in the sun and watched some skateboarding at the Venice skate park before heading back for our dinner with Sherry Jeffe ’64.
Sherry is a political analyst, college professor, and makes regular appearances on a number of news programs. She and her husband Doug hosted us at their beautiful suburban home. We were greeted by their energetic 8 year old, a Dalmatian-Mastiff mix named Casey who was sporting a blue and gold kerchief in honor of our arrival.
As we sat and chatted poolside, we found out that Sherry Jeffe is quite an incredible woman. She is a cancer survivor and has had an impressive career in politics, with which she is still involved. She has worked on a number of campaigns both in California and nationally and has obtained a reputation for her expertise. Sherry studied political science and gave a lot of credit to her professors at Goucher for broadening her interest and placing her in internships. During her time at Goucher internships were required every Wednesday for all political science majors in the nation’s capital.
Our conversation led to more Goucher memories, and Sherry entertained us with stories of Goucher as a women’s school in the 1960s– where nightly curfews were enforced and male visitors were only allowed on Sunday afternoons. Sherry showed off her amazing political button collection she started after graduating Goucher, and then we flipped through her 1964 yearbook as she updated us on the lives of her former classmates and professors. We had a great time, and even took a dip in her heated pool to end the evening.
We had a long night last night at Fenway and we needed to rest, so our day began around 12 pm. We had made lunch plans with Adam Badik ’99, so we checked out of our hotel, plugged his address into our GPS, and drove into Boston. Even with the GPS we got a little lost, but we eventually made it to Adam’s house in Somerville. He took us to a Thai restuarant and we grilled him for tips on life after Goucher. Since Andrew and I are political science majors, it’s likely that we will be attending law school some time after we graduate. Adam, despite the fact that he majored in computer science, attended law school at Boston University. He explained to us the ways in which computer science and law are related. He also gave us tips on which classes to take before we graduate so that we can be prepared for law school. As Jackie mentioned in her last blog, Adam knows a little bit about everything, and he continued to share his knowledge about the surrounding areas as we walked back to our Goucher van. After he told us interesting facts about the neighborhoods that surround Boston, we bid adieu to Adam and began our journey to the next send off.
After a short drive, we arrived at the home of Isabel Geller ’82 where tonight’s send-off was held. Isabel is a third generation Goucher graduate, and her son, Hugh ’14, will continue that tradition. We arrived two hours early to the Gellar home, so we took advantage of that rare time to relax. Our downtime didn’t last long however, and first-years and their families quickly began arriving. While we were waiting for everyone to arrive we mingled with the attendees. We eventually moved the crowd to the Gellar’s backyard and officially introduced ourselves to everyone. Like the other send-offs, everyone had questions about our trip and what to expect when they arrive at Goucher. We answered the questions and offered advice and then we continue to mingle with the students and parents. The parents we talked to tonight, like most parents, asked questions that will help them make the process of leaving their student at school slightly easier. After about two hours of talking with students and parents, the crowd started to dwindle and we soon realized that only one first year remained. Since she was a childhood friend of Hugh’s, she stayed and talked with the four of us (Jackie, Andrew, Hugh, and myself) as we reminisced about various events that took place during our first year at Goucher.
Tomorrow we head to the northern-most send off in Portland, ME. Since Andrew is from the area, he’ll be showing us some of his favorite spots.