Audrey Heyman Rooney ‘60

Audrey Heyman Rooney ‘60

Audrey Heyman Rooney ‘60

Major: B.A. Philosophy; Employment: Writer/Author

Graduation Year



  • Philosophy & Religious Studies

Tell us why you chose to attend Hood? Was there a particular moment when you knew Hood was where you wanted to pursue your bachelor’s degree?

An enticing question, as I sit here on the floor sorting Hood textbooks. Those dearest to me will make the trip to a retirement community closer to my family: yet another beautiful mountain setting, from Maryland’s Catoctin range to Virginia’s Shenandoah's. Why did I choose Hood?  Atmosphere, surroundings, history, beauty, welcoming in no particular order. 

In May of 1955 two pairs of intergenerational women took to the road in my mom’s Chevy convertible.  We headed east from Cleveland into Pennsylvania, then dipped south into Virginia and Maryland, America’s historic, colonial heartland.  My mom’s friend Helen was finishing a book about George Washington’s beloved Sally Fairfax and Hood College was on our itinerary.

We were a fine foursome, my mother Vivian and Helen, boarding school roommate Martha, and me.  We laughed aplenty and sampled much of what every landscape had to offer, including a sad-sack clapboard tourist home in Alexandria full of bedbugs, and our next overnight, an orchard with a cottage and lake to ourselves, green apples bobbing around us as we swam. 

Nearer to Frederick, we paused in Annapolis to watch midshipmen on parade, an eye-catching sight for all four of us, but especially two teenagers. At last we reached the clustered spires of Frederick, drove up the front entrance from Rosemont (Avenue) and parked at Ad (Alumnae Hall) Building.  Campus harmonies, white columns, red brick, old trees, wisteria drifting on the Pergola greeted us - Hood’s human scale was nearly irresistible. 

It was then we heard my mom’s backstory.  In 1938, pregnant with me, she and my dad had come east for what sounded like a summer lark running a popcorn stand, common vacation employment during the Depression. One sweltering afternoon they visited Hood to pay a call on Dean Ruth Perry, who was distantly related to my dad.  Ever-gracious, Dean Perry immediately summoned another fan, a tray of cool drinks, and drew the shade across a sunny window behind my mother’s chair.  As they walked down the stone steps after thanks and good-byes, my mom remarked “if this baby is a little girl, maybe she’ll come to Hood.”  This never became a refrain, nor did I ever feel pressure to choose a college based on my mother’s memory.But a later visit to Hood removed the “nearly” before irresistible. Financial aid was negotiated, too, as well as a typing job.

What prompted you to pursue a degree in Philosophy? Did you have a specific related career or job in mind when you chose this major?

As for a major in philosophy, little did I know what to do with it or why I chose to pursue it.  Home from my girls’ boarding school for summer vacations, I hung around with a group of bright men and women in a Methodist youth group, all of whom (when they weren’t singing folksongs) were talking philosophy.  This was my first experience of trying to get my head around the big questions with a group of peers.

As a former teacher at Washington College’s LifeLong Learning program, did you find yourself emulating a favorite professor or teaching style from your days as an undergraduate at Hood?

At Hood I got very lucky very quickly.  Victor Hayes (former assistant professor ofreligion and philosophy), a droll Australian with a lisp and a Bronx accent, taught the freshman survey course. Next to a surprising A on one of my papers he had written “whatever you do, write about it.”  Another plus: after thumbing through a certain new philosophy paperback, he gently tossed it on a desk with the comment, “this is an awful book.  Don’t bother with it.”  That really woke us up.  We wanted to know why.

The summer between your junior and senior years, you attended “British Summer School” in Edinburgh, Scotland – how did this experience influence you as a writer?

My first experience abroad followed a nine-day crossing on the MS Britannic from New York to Liverpool, with intriguing shipmates and a new currency to learn.  Once in Scotland, new customs, vocabulary, tutorials, Highland dance lessons, studies, motorbike sightseeing in London, ferry to the Isle of Skye, requiring our tutor to read Thomas Paine atop Arthur’s Seat on the Fourth of July — all competed with studies.  As my term topic I selected Spinoza and cannot remember exactly what tiny glimpse into this giant’s brain.

I managed to get onto paper.  My Hermes portable came along on the Britannic so I loaned it out or typed papers for fellow students. I wrote home regularly and my mom assembled my impressions into a good-sized manuscript.  As a writer, I’ve drawn from it many times.

The Hood campus experience of 2021 is markedly different from when you were a student. If you could bring back one tradition to share with current students, what would that be and why?

If I could bring back one tradition from the Hood I knew in the mid-fifties it would be singing.  “Sing a song to your college,” serenading the classes, President Truxal, grace at dinner, college hymn, or goofy skits.  For some reason it was important  to me then to personify one’s College as Alma Mater, always feminine, which I found interesting as well as humanizing.  Music often accompanies my Hood reveries. One experiences love so readily in singing!

You shared that you were inspired to write “Afterimage”, which appears in your poetry collection “Available Light”, after experiencing Achill Island on a Hood alumni trip to Ireland in 2016. What other memorable experiences have influenced your poetry?

 Ah, inspirations.  The accompanying photograph of a vibrant woman in morning sunshine on the Errill River in County Laois was snapped before we stopped later that day at the empty village of Keel on Achill Island.  Here cottagers lived until they starved.  One of several Famine Sites, Keel is a place of brokenness, healing, and countless shades of green.  We walked silenced and shaken among remains of small whitewashed dwellings and dozing lambs.  Back home in my study, shades of green still filled my vision and many weeks passed before I began “Afterimage” and many more before I finished it.

More recently, the death of our grandson Colin, at 24, numbed all poetry for more than a year, until at last small bits took shape and sound - and shed light. 

I do a lot of jotting in small green notebooks, trying to work in the hours before noon when I’m sharpest.  Then I shape the sketches: men I’ve loved, Jim, paintings, nature, forms: spirals, junctures, horizons; the cosmos, myth.  Poems about other poems, songs, and an ongoing struggle with the periodic chart of the elements.  Maybe someday.

One last question! What does “Hood is Home” mean to you?

Hood is home.  My mother was a career woman and yet a master creator of Home wherever we lived.  After boarding school, which I mostly loved, Hood was my second such abode, and like all previous homes, keeps shaping my current dwelling and my home-to-be at summer’s end.   

 A look back:  In the spring of 1960 on Brodbeck’s stage, Dr. Beverly Canning (former assistant professor of English) directing, I tried being Elizabeth, living at Longbourn with my Bennet sisters.  Of course I fell in love with Mr. Darcy, played by James Rooney, a veterinary pathologist at Ft. Detrick. In October we married - two Hood alumnae and two Detrick men attending us - and made our first home in Lexington, Kentucky.  It does seem that Hood has had a hand in almost everything! 

As for the perennial question a major in philosophy evokes, usually meant kindly: “What in the world are you going to do with that!?”  I’ve learned to say to myself, “Just aboutanything in the world.”