2011 West Coast

Vanessa Keen ’11, Brendan McFadden ’13, and Mary Wahl ’11  followed the sun to the West Coast the summer of 2011. There, they concentrated on California, where many successful Goucher grads (and an increasing number of current Goucher students) live.  West Coast Team members “shadowed” some of our most successful alumnae/i, and of course, attended two of Goucher’s Send-Off gatherings in San Francisco and Los Angeles; events that are held each summer in various cities to welcome the college’s incoming students to the Goucher family—and to offer new students, parents, and alumnae/i a chance to get to know each other.

A complete archive of their trip is coming soon.

End of the Road

Well, we’re back! In fact, our time as Vagabonds is quickly coming to an end. After several layovers, delays, and thunderstorms we touched down safely in Baltimore’s BWI.  We didn’t get much time for relaxation though; the next morning started bright and early back at the Alumnae/i House—returning equipment and debriefing on the experiences we’ve had over the last two weeks.

Later that evening we headed downtown to Joe Squared, a pizzeria/bar owned and founded by Goucher alum Joe Edwardsen ’03, for a young alumnae/i happy hour.  The event was well attended, with appearances by some of the Alumnae/i Affairs staff, recent grads, a few current students, and even two former Vagabonds—Debra Lenik ’10 and Maura Roth-Gormley ’10— who completed the East Coast route last year. It was great to be welcomed back by so many familiar faces and get re-acclimated to Baltimore in such a fun place.

Today our alumnae/i gathering was on the other end of the age spectrum, over at Broadmead Retirement Community in Hunt Valley.  Both us and the East Coast Team piled into the Goucher van to drive over and meet with over thirty alumnae at what is fondly known as “Goucher North,” due to its high population of Goucher alumnae residents.  We enjoyed a sit-down lunch at one of Broadmead’s restaurants and chatted with the ladies about our respective trips and what Goucher is like today. It was a really nice way to end our Vagabonds experience and the Broadmead residents seemed happy get in touch with current students and a younger generation of alums.

Anyway, now I sit in an empty office at the Alumnae/i House writing this blog entry, and as soon as I post it my time as a Goucher Vagabond is officially over.  Like the end of all great things, it is rather bittersweet.  Ever since the Vagabonds initiative started up two years ago it is something I knew I had to do. Traveling across the country, seeing new places, meeting interesting alumnae/i, and talking to new students about college didn’t seem like “work,” but rather an amazing opportunity to take many of the things I’d learned at Goucher and share them with a wider community.

After completing the trip I can say the experience was all this and more. Not only did I learn about some fascinating people and see some amazing places, but I feel we reached a good segment of people who had drifted apart from their alma mater and reminded them that Goucher is a special place.

Of course this trip wouldn’t have been possible without the support and foresight of many, many people behind the scenes at Goucher.  A special thank you goes out to the Alumnae/i Affairs staff who have been an integral part of this project since its beginning— Margaret-Ann Radford Wedemeyer for spearheading everything, Amy Eddy for handling all the technology, Cori Tyner for keeping track of logistics, and Denise Raspa for filling in the gaps in-between.  Also thanks to the student interns Rachel Williams ’12 and Olivia Smith ’12, who spent their summer organizing and arranging things for us.

Now I get to start my own journey as a Goucher alum. I now know I follow in strong and well-trodden footsteps.

Signing off as a Vagabond,

Vanessa

Winding Down

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!

The End Is Near…

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.

Nothing to ‘Wine’ About

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!)

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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.

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Windy Roads and Jaw-dropping Views

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…

Summer School

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!

More LA Living

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.

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Lights, Camera, Action…Beach

After sleeping in and recovering from hitting the strip with the A-list celebrities the night before, we headed to Universal Studios to see what a day in the life of Hollace Davids ’69 is like. When we passed through the heavily secured gates and made it to her office, we were greeted by a number of friendly faces, all of whom worked under Hollace organizing special events. These events consist of movie premieres and memorials (films’ anniversaries) all over the country and the world. We were fortunate enough to be able to sit in on some conference calls to understand the hard work that she has to put into each event. In many cases Mrs. Davids works months in advance organizing and planning every last detail of an event, from security and locations to guest lists and after-parties. Overall, Hollace has an incredible work ethic that has kept her at the top of her career for nearly thirty years.

After interviewing Hollace and finding out more details of her life, she took us to an incredible meal at an executive lunchroom. While reminiscing of her time spent at Goucher, we began to notice that we were eating in the midst of some famous celebrities. In fact, Shaq was sitting right across the room from us.

Following lunch, Hollace gave us a personal tour of Universal and was kind enough to sneak us into the back entrance of the Universal Studios theme park. As we wandered the park, we found a ride that gave a tour of the studios and back lots. If you check the album you can see the pictures from this ride (LINK). The tour showed a number of sets that were used for famous movies and television shows such as Jaws, Psycho, Pirates of the Caribbean, Desperate Housewives, War of the Worlds, and many more. Overall, our time at Universal was incredible. We must send a HUGE thank you to Hollace Davids for the once in a lifetime opportunity that she gave us.

We then traveled to Santa Monica to the Jonathan Club for our second freshman send off hosted by Robert Hertzberg, the parent of a class of 2014 student. When we arrived at the club the valet parked our car and we were told to take the elevator up to the penthouse. As the elevator doors opened, we were greeted by Penny Breitstein who works in development at Goucher and taken out to the patio, which had an incredible view of the tennis courts, pool, and ocean and was being set up with a delicious array of food.

The incoming students and their families soon began trickling in and we circulated the group, getting to know the new Gophers. Once all the attendees had arrived, we gathered the group together to play a trivia game for Goucher gear. We were pleasantly surprised by how informed the incoming students were, as they recounted the names of the six dorm buildings on campus, the six dining facilities, the two a cappella groups, and much more. Following the game, with Sandy’s help, we answered questions from both parents and students, and then mingled late into the evening. The students were already making friends, departing with “see you soon!” Overall, the gathering was a success!

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Red Carpet Rendezvous

After spending the first part of the day exploring Santa Monica and its beach front, we made sure to return home in time to prepare for the big event that evening: The world premiere of the Universal Studio’s comedy, “The Change-Up,” which will be officially released this coming Friday.  Although we were not totally sure what to wear, we grabbed our best guess and hoped to fit the part!

Pulling up to the theater, we were greeted by throngs of awaiting fans (How did they find out the Goucher Vagabonds were coming!?). Paparazzi snapped photos of our white mini van, hoping to get a shot of the three of us. However, we cleverly dodged the pictures in hopes that they would not be able to write of a wardrobe malfunction or put us on “What Not to Wear.”

We parked down the street at the Hammer Museum (where the after-party would be held) and strolled down the block to the red carpet. Screaming fans surrounded us, hollering the names of A-list celebrities who attended the event—Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Vanessa Keen, Mary Wahl, and Brendan McFadden to name a few. After entering the building we quickly met up with a celebrity who you will all know, President Sandy Ungar.  I was fortunate enough to sit directly next to Sandy and a mere twenty seats away from Ryan Reynolds.

The movie was hilarious—sort of like Freaky Friday but with bawdy male-centric humor instead of mother/daughter reconciliation. It was one of the most enjoyable movie viewings we have ever had. The energy in the Westwood Theatre was infectious, from the cheers that erupted with the opening Universal Studios logo to the rolling of the credits at the end.  Sitting in the auditorium with the stars and creators of the film we were watching is sure to make any future movie outing feel rather stale. Although it is quite vulgar and had a number of nude scenes, I highly recommend watching it. Perhaps just not with your parents (or the president of your school for that matter) as it may make for some uncomfortable moments.

After shuffling out of the theatre with the rest of the premiere invitees, elbow-to-elbow with co-star Olivia Wilde, we made our way to the Hammer Museum for the exclusive after-party.  This was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime kind of event and although we were a little out of our element, we soaked up this rare glimpse of the Hollywood lifestyle, schmoozing the crowds and partaking in the fine food and drink. We also got a chance to meet our host, Hollace Davids ’69, who was the organizer of the evening’s festivities.  A big thank you to her for getting us in to such an elite and exciting event! Tomorrow we will be joining her at Universal Studios to get a more in-depth look into her life.

The Road to Los Angeles

As we began our 6 + hour trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles, we ventured into the lush farmland and beautiful mountains that fill the space between the two major cities. We passed a large number of vineyards and fruit stands on the way as well as some scenic reservoirs and lakes. Overall, the long car ride passed quickly thanks to the natural surroundings and Vanessa’s crooning of Kate Perry from the back seat. Once we arrived in LA, we were greeted by the (apparently minimal) bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 405.

View from the road!

After we got ourselves situated, we headed to downtown Culver City for our first Alumnae/I gathering at AKASHA. Akasha is a recently opened bar, restaurant and café that serves environmentally conscious and sustainable food.  Furthermore, the restaurants onion rings were featured on a list of, “The best foods I ever had,” by world-renowned chefs. The alumnae made their way in and joined us for food, drinks and friendly conversation. As the evening went on we heard a number of memorable stories about the alumnae’s time at Goucher. This included memories of the first Goucher men and the historic Julia Roger’s library. Everyone who came to the event was somehow involved with media, which was very neat to see.

Overall the event went extremely well, and it was wonderful to meet the kind and lively alumnae/I that call LA home. I hope that these social gatherings continue, as we were able to ignite friendship between some alumnae in the area who may have never met one another otherwise. A big thank you must be sent out to Lysa Stone for helping coordinate the event and picking the lovely place. That’s all for now as we are busy getting ready for world premiere of The Change Up (with Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds) tonight! Keep checking back for more on this exciting event!

A few of the alumnae guests at AKASHA

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