Ellis Alumnae Celebrate Reunion Weekend 2019

Ellis alumnae were welcomed back to campus on October 11–13 for Reunion Weekend 2019. A record number of alumnae joined the festivities, with classes ending in 4’s and 9’s celebrating their milestone years. From a thought-provoking Alumnae Career Panel that had current students pounding the back of the auditorium pews in delight to a fine arts workshop that taught alumnae how to silk screen scarves, a dynamic schedule of events Friday through Sunday kept Ellisians busy throughout the weekend.
Festivities kicked off on Friday with a welcome breakfast, campus tours, and the Alumnae Career Panel. Middle and Upper school students, faculty, and visiting alumnae gathered in the auditorium to hear six graduates speak about their careers, life experiences, and time at Ellis. Abigail BAYLES Wiebenson '59, Captain Anne MAGNUSSEN Lockhart '79, Kitty COOK '89, Brooke GENERETT '99, Indea HERNDON '04, and Hallie BENNETT '09 shared stories about their biggest influencers and mentors, how they’ve overcome obstacles in their personal and professional lives, and what it means to them to work on a team in their respective fields. 

Following the career panel, Ellisians met for a luncheon in Alumnae Hall to celebrate fellow alumna Sally RIAL Phelps ’58 and her steadfast commitment to all-girls education, philanthropy, and service with the 2019 Sara Frazer Ellis Award. Given annually to an alumna whose achievements represent the Ellis experience, Sally was joined by her friends, family, and classmates to accept the honor. In her speech, Sally recalled how her time at Ellis set her up for success for the rest of her life and how the friendships she made have lasted her a lifetime.

After lunch, the Class of 1969, the 50th reunion class, met their grade 4 pen pals—students they had been corresponding with for the past year ahead of Reunion, but had never met in person. Worlds collided in the best way as Ellis girls of the past and present met for the first time. Students and alumnae huddled around tables in the grade 4 homeroom and asked each other questions like “what kind of rules did you have when you were here?” and “what was different about Ellis 50 years ago?” to see how Ellis has changed and stayed the same. Uniforms, sisterhood, and a focus on academics were common themes that both groups agreed upon, while new-age classroom tools like podcasting and robotics illustrated the evolution both teaching and learning have made since 1969.

Saturday kicked off with a discussion about Ellis’ new Strategic Plan and a fine arts workshop led by Middle School art teacher Linda Tonetti Dugan. With the help of grade 6 and grade 7 students, alumnae created colorful silk scarves by using paint, dye, and wax. Following the workshop, everyone gathered in the gym for a tailgate lunch and to cheer on the Varsity Field Hockey Team as they took home a win against Peters Township. 

Before the reception on Saturday evening, the Class of 1979 gathered in the Fred C. Babcock Library to pay tribute to Cecil and David Rosenthal who were the brothers of Diana ROSENTHAL ’79 and Michele ROSENTHAL ’83. Cecil and David, known affectionately as “The Boys”, lost their lives in the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in October 2018. To celebrate their memories, the Class of 1979 created  an endowed fund at Ellis that perpetuates the spirit of generosity and inclusiveness exemplified by “The Boys.”After many discussions among classmates, with the School, and led by a core group of Pittsburgh-based 1979 alumnae, funds were raised to create The Love Like the Boys for the Girls Fund. Joined by the Rosenthals, the class raised a toast to Cecil and David and unveiled a new sitting area just outside of the library that students can use to meet for group projects, complete homework, or simply relax during lunch or free period.

The Saturday evening reception was filled with reminiscing about the good times spent at Ellis and getting to know alumnae from other class years. Athletic Director Shayla Scott formally inducted Jordan ZAPPALA ’99 and Rebekah HUGHEY ’94 into the Athletic Hall of Fame, noting both were chosen due to their outstanding athletic accomplishments and contributions during their time at Ellis. 

From the Class of 1979 rallying around their classmates’ family to the Class of 1969 learning about the grade 4 podcast, alumnae embodied what it means to be an Ellis girl throughout the weekend. As old friendships were rekindled and new ones were made, the transformative power of an Ellis education was apparent and celebrated during Reunion Weekend 2019.