Continuing the Wellesley Spirit through Leadership of the Washington State Wellesley Club
Going to any one of the wonderful Washington State Wellesley Club events, one can plainly see it takes hard work and dedication of a strong leadership team to keep our club thriving and strong. In this 125th Anniversary featurette, we share the story of several of our local Wellesley alumnae who have provided over the years strong leadership to the club and to one another.
Reliance Kinne Ricketts, class of ’57 and her family had lived in Bellevue almost a decade before she got involved in the local alumnae club. Her volunteerism grew out of a connection with Mary Ann Townsend Wiley, class of ’53. Mary Ann was serving as Club President when she invited Reliance to become her Vice President and Program Chair. Together, they organized many alumnae travel opportunities, a job made easier as Mary Ann was a travel agent. The most memorable was a cruise to Alaska to view the Wellesley Glacier. This resulted in a Wellesley magazine cover photo and an article “The Glacier Named for Wellesley” written by Reliance Ricketts, for the Winter 1986 issue of Wellesley magazine. Mary Ann’s alumnae organizing work also became a cover story of the Fall 1982 Wellesley magazine “Around the World in Thirty Days”.
Ever pragmatic and creative, Reliance also organized workshops on women and financial planning in the early 1980’s for our Alumnae Club. Mary Ann and her husband Bob Wiley were fond of socializing at spring potlucks dinners, summer family picnics, and many more gatherings. After Mary Ann’s passing, Bob wrote “I guess we will always be tied to Wellesley. My mother was class of 1921 and sister 1949 – I was lucky to get a graduate of 1953”. When Reliance’s husband died in 1986, her children they raised together in Bellevue, her great circle of friends, and her community volunteer work sustained her. She joined the Board of Directors of the YWCA and for six years chaired the YWCA Eastside Advisory Committee. Partnering with the staff development director, she worked with the YWCA of Seattle/King County helping to make the dream of the Eastside Family Village project a reality of transitional housing coupled with human services. Reliance also served for more than 20 years as a table captain for the YWCA annual fundraising luncheons that set the standard in our region for benefit luncheons. More recently, Reliance joined the Board of Eastside Folks which designed and developed Kids Quest Children’s Museum, first located in Factoria and now located in downtown Bellevue.
When Meredith Easton Brown, class of ’88, was working for Wellesley’s office for resources in 1991, Reliance Ricketts passed along this spirit of welcoming younger alumnae. Reliance met with Meredith on campus and encouraged her dream of moving to Seattle after her June 1991 wedding in the college chapel. Reliance welcomed Meredith and her husband Matthew Brown into her home and family holiday traditions, the basis of a strong bond of friendship between this “Northwest Mom” and “Bonus Daughter”. As Reliance remarked to Meredith in July 2017 “people need connection”.
Throughout her 30-year professional career in the nonprofit sector in fundraising, communications, and philanthropy leadership, Meredith has made volunteering for her alma mater a priority, serving as planned giving chair for the class of 1988. From her first Washington State Wellesley Club Board role of young alumnae liaison in 1992, Meredith’s alumnae club volunteer leadership has included serving as the club’s centennial history project chair in 1992, vice president twice – in the 1990s and 2015-2016, northwest regional chair, and now as co-chair of the 125th anniversary history project. A highlight for Meredith was the August 2001 backpacking trip to attempt to summit Wellesley Peak on the Olympic Peninsula, resulting in dear, ongoing friendships with Jennifer L. Brown, class of ’94, Deena C. McCloskey, class of ’86, and Alexandra Brouwer Wright, class of ’76.
Stay tuned for the next 125th Anniversary featurette!!