Name: Stephanie Cascio
Year: Class of 1977
Parent of: Esther B. (’09), Zoe B. (’09) and Eliza B. (’13)
Current Town: Cranston, RI
It has taken several years of dogged and unrelenting persistence from my daughter Esther to finally get me to write a blog entry for the JHU Admissions website. The great motivator at this point in time is the enormous significance of the year 2009 in our family. All three daughters are graduating. Not only are the twins, Esther and Zoe, incredibly, unbelievably, close to completing four fantastic years at Hopkins, but their younger sister, Eliza, will be graduating from high school, and entering Hopkins with the Class of 2013 in September. We are still wrapping our minds around these multiple lines of connectivity for our entire family to Hopkins, and Eliza’s college choice continues to be a source of continual amazement and bemusement for us all. Full disclosure is necessary before this blog advances too far: the girls’ dad, Jonathan Bell, and I graduated from Hopkins with the Class of 1977. The first photo shows me at age 20 with my maternal grandmother on Commencement Day 1977, under the magnificent elms that still shaded the Upper Quad.
Over the past four years, visiting Baltimore several times per year has gradually moderated my initial response to being on the Homewood campus, although I am always aware of how happy I am to be there, indeed, how instinctively blissed out I am to be there. This may seem a strange reaction to “Charm City”, such a gritty and real place. But I understand it as the place where I first made my own life, acquired my seminar groupie habits at the Eisenhower Symposium, fell in love with organic chemistry and developmental biology, and appreciated the season of Spring, that Baltimore does so well, like never before. Is there anything as life affirming as Spring Fair (when the weather cooperates)? There is also an identification with Hopkins values, which I feel persist today, Hopkins students were serious students who care about ideas, learning, accomplishment much more than physical appearance or material possessions. The graduate student: undergraduate ratio tipped slightly more towards graduate in the mid 1970s, there was no School of Engineering and undergraduates numbered about 2500. In consequence, research was emphasized even more, and most undergraduates took several graduate level courses in their major subject. Male undergraduates outnumbered females four to one in 1973, and the mid 1970s was a time of fierce feminism on campus, as well as a remarkable feeling (at least in my experience) of being special, cherished, supported by the entire University, as the pioneer women undergraduates welcomed into Hopkins.
The approach to Hopkins from the North, driving south on North Charles Street, continues to have a ritual feeling of building joy for me. I am grateful that Esther and Zoe were undergraduates at Hopkins and allowed me to renew my connection to the University. Contemplating their graduation, I feel almost as sad as they do, although the final twin tuition payment was certainly something to celebrate! They both got so much out of Hopkins—from the stimulating and sophisticated courses that they took in their respective majors of International Relations (Esther) and Writing Seminars (Zoe), their involvement in drama and theater and their work in the Alumni (Z) and Admissions (E) Offices. They failed to develop into the serious lacrosse fan that I became, and they didn’t discover Chesapeake Bay oysters on the half shell, but they were able to treasure the quirky, historic and un-renovated Gilman Hall, the heart of Hopkins. The second photo shows Esther (left) and Zoe (right) with me behind Gilman Hall, April 2007, celebrating my 30th reunion at Homecoming. They were able to benefit from an elegantly expanded campus so harmoniously integrated with the older buildings in brick in white marble; new classroom buildings, new departmental buildings, the impressive Decker Quad including the elegant Mason Hall. And Charles Commons seemed like the ultimate, utopian dorm when the twins lived there the year it opened, during their sophomore year, especially after my own pretty basic dorm experiences in Baker and Wolman.
And now Eliza will be at Hopkins!! How will she build her Hopkins experience, what academic, social, extracurricular choices will she make? As much as I now realize that I never expected that she would choose Hopkins, just like I never expected Esther and Zoe to both attend, I also realize that I am so very happy with this outcome. Four more years with a direct connection to Hopkins in real time! Although Jon and I have graduate school connections to Columbia and Harvard, and the girls may ultimately attend various graduate schools, Hopkins will always be the intellectual source and center for both parents and daughters.