The Four Pillars: Thoughts from Class Members of 1973

chapel group 1973

Hope, Obligation, Opportunity and Democracy: these are the four pillars of Hood College. But what do they mean to you? The Class of 1973 committee organized a beautiful chapel service to commemorate their 50th reunion, and four members of that class presented thoughts and perspectives on what the four pillars of Hood personally mean to them.

Reflections on the Four Pillars of Hood

Graduation Year


Hope: Sally Parkhurst Van Why '73 

The four of us have been asked to speak on Hood’s four pillars. Mine is Hope. Psalm 7:14 says “As for me, I will always have Hope and I will praise God more and more.Hope is to believe that everyone can have a positive impact on the world. Education is instrumental in creating and sustaining hope. 

I realize that I have spent my whole life believing and acting on this philosophy: I became an educator as soon as I had younger cousins to read to. In high school, I held a Saturday morning playschool, taught Sunday school, and helped with a Brownie troop. Then I came to Hood, where I learned how to do this teaching stuff for real! I spent the next 30 years of my life teaching elementary school children, while also a Brownie and Cub Scout leader and Sunday school teacher. I have seen many of my former students go on to become great people making positive impacts in the world. I still go into classrooms for special days such as Read Across America Day and Operation Christmas Child Shoebox packing project. All of this because I believe in my heart that education provides the building blocks to construct a meaningful life, and that is Hope, fulfilled. 

I am now on a new path to fulfill Hope through education. I have become an advocate through the Alzheimer’s Association to help the medical community become better educated about recognizing and caring for those who suffer with Alzheimer’s disease. I had a principal who said to us as the faculty, “Teach them well. They are the ones who are going to be taking care of us.” I have been doing that my whole life and continue to do that in a different area now but with the same goal. Hope for the future.  

Hope is believing that we all can have a positive impact on the world. One way to do this is through education. We can’t move forward if we don’t know what we don’t know. 

As I stand here, my dearly departed college roommate of four years, Kathy Nixdorff Wilson is with me and all of us in spirit. Kathy and I sat on our beds in Shriner 50 years ago, having just returned from the awards dinner. There was no award for education majors, and we were both early childhood education majors. It wasn’t that we thought we would get it, but there should be at least an education award (there was even a table girl award!). That very night we decided to establish an education award and named itThe Park-Dorff Award*. It has been given for the last 49 years. Kathy’s memory lives on in that award, and it is a perfect example of Hope for the future through education.

In the end, education enables Hope to become reality. 

*The Park-Dorff Award is presented to that student in the senior class who appears most promising as a teacher in the field of early childhood education. Classmates Sara Bell Parkhurst Van Why '73 and Katherine Nixdorff Wilson '73, both early childhood education majors, established this prize in 1974 to honor an outstanding student majoring in this field. No other prize existed at that time for early childhood education majors. To learn more about this award, please contact the Office of Institutional Advancement at 301-696-3700. 

OpportunityAnntoinette “Toni” Lucia ’73 

On September 18, 1969, my classmates and I arrived on the Hood campus as freshmen. On the doors of our rooms were colorful collages made by our Big Sisters with headlines that read, “What will I be in ’73?”  As a small-town girl from Pennsylvania, I can honestly say I had no clue. Who knew? But somehow, I knew that Hood was the place for me.It was all about opportunity:to learn, to build community, and to grow personally in ways I could not imagine. 

Learning came in many forms--new subjects in 8 a.m. classes and, of course, choosing a major. Some of us knew what we wanted immediately, and others took until second semester sophomore year (me, psychology) to figure it out. Which meant that those who had figured it out early spent second semester senior year up on the roof on the tar beach getting a tan, while I spent second semester senior year in the psychology rat lab with my lab partner conducting experiments to learn about operant conditioning. But honestly, I loved my major and it has served me well. 

Community building presented itself in many ways. The structure was here when we arrived with the faculty, staff, Big Sisters, and other traditions to embrace us. And new people to meet--dormmates, roommates, and the peers in our majors, many of whom became lifelong friends and still share inside jokes that our loved ones will never quite get. 

Personal growth came as our horizons were expanded and curiosities piqued. We had extracurricular activities such as singing in the choir with the Naval Academy choir; exposure to remarkable speakers on campus; and, for some, starting or perhaps ending their acting careers in Soph Review.But especially and most importantly we developed a mind set to look beyond ourselves.  

These opportunities were the foundation for me, as I’m sure they were for many of you, for achievements in my personal life as a daughter, wife, mom, aunt, sister and friend, and in my professional life as an entrepreneur, consultant, industry resource and author. All this was beyond anything I could have pictured on September 18, 1969.That was over 50 years ago, but what does it mean for us today? What can we do together to create opportunities for others? To make the lives and experiences of others better and carry our gifts of learning, building community and personal growth forward? 

It might be as simple as volunteering to read to kids in schools in underserved neighborhoods or mentoring young professionals who can benefit from our experience. Or working in a soup kitchen to serve food-insecure individuals who feel the comfort of community and belonging when they are handed a hot meal. Or it could be supporting efforts to help veterans and their families make a smooth transition as they return to civilian life.

To help others grow we need to continue to look beyond ourselves. We must invest in our communities, our schools, and our planet for future generations of our families, friends, and, of course, Hood students, with the resources we have, with our time, or a check, or just an Adirondack chair. 

So, here we are on June 11, 2023.After this weekend I am as grateful as ever to be part of this community and I am inspired to continue to look beyondmyself. I’m still happilyon my search for what I might be.And I am as certain as ever that Hood was and will always be the place of opportunity for me.  

Obligation: Charlotte Miller Ponticelli ’73 

It was once said that the best way to understand or to discern our calling in lifeis to look at the intersection of our deepest desires and the world's greatest needs. At the very center of that intersection is the whole notion of service, and the obligationto serve others, whether it be in our families, our communities, or the world at large. Just recently I came across this quote: "Obligation has been called the wellspring of strength and meaning. Over time what starts out as obligation becomes less about something we have to do and more about what we want to dosomething that we can't imagine living without." 

During our time at Hood, we were blessed with professors who inspired us to realize that our talents, our skills, and the knowledge that we gained here were not ours to hoard or to keep to ourselves, but rather to share through service to others. We left here knowing that THAT was our duty, as well as our deepest desire. So, the Spanish-language proficiency that I gained as a Spanish Literature major here at Hood was not only instrumental to my career in international relations and foreign policy, butalso it is still being put to good use in my prison ministry with Hispanic inmates at the federal prison in downtown Baltimore. It's the most fulfilling work I've ever done! Every week when I enter the prison, I like to think that I'm bringing a bit of light all the way from Hood -- such as the light of the candles here in the chapel today -- to shine in one of the darkest places one could ever imagine...

Mother Teresa of Calcutta put it best when she said, "We cannot all do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.May God continue to bless Hood College and all the friendships we first forged here at Hood. And may He continue to guide us all in our efforts to remain true to our calling—our obligation—to do the greatest work we can, wherever we can, and with the greatest amount of love! 

Democracy:  Marcia Coyle DiBiagio ’73, H’08

To embrace diversity, foster freedom of thought and expression, and to promote engaged citizenship both in self and others. 

President Biden recently announced his re-election bid by repeating a slogan from his first campaign. He said, “We’re still in a battle for the soul of America.” Many people might think he was talking about big D democracy, our form of government, especially with images of the Jan. 6 assault on the nation's Capital still fresh in our minds. And there are battles for big D democracy going on not only here at home but in other nations as well. But perhaps Biden was really talking more about "small d" democracy, the seeds or elements of the American soul that comprise, nourish and sustain our form of government and our Constitution. 

Hood defines democracy as embracing diversity—perhaps the toughest and most divisive challenge in an America grappling with immigration, race, LGBTQ+ discrimination, book banning and more. In his 2015 same-sex marriage decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that each generation defines its own concept of liberty—a value inherent in our Constitution’s 14th Amendment. Liberty, he wrote, is not static. It expands when we decide to put fear aside to learn about, work with and play with those who are strange or different from us.

Hood’s Democracy pillar speaks of fostering freedom of thought and expression—again the essence of the American soul. The very first amendment to our Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly. Those guarantees were essential to the success of the civil rights battles of the '60s and the Vietnam protests that my classmates witnessed or participated in on college campuses and elsewhere in the '60s and '70s. We can remember the anxiety that many of us had waiting to hear the draft numbers of brothers and boyfriends.  

The Founders who wrote and adopted the First Amendment had serious differences. But they listened to each other; they argued strenuously; they compromised, and by their example, they fostered freedom of thought and expression—their legacy to us. We too can learn to disagree without violence or hate. 

The democracy pillar speaks to promoting engaged citizenship in ourselves and others. The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once described the right to vote as “THEE precious right.” Without this right, big D democracy fails. But it involves so much more than casting a ballot. It means learning about issues and problems in our communities, states and nation and finding ways to solve them and make lives better. It means active participation. 

Hood’s four core values can stand independent of each other, but they are interrelated. Without education, there will be no understanding and no embrace of diversity. Without freedom of thought and expression, there can be no creation of opportunities, and without an engaged citizenry, there will be no hope for the betterment of others and this world. Plato and Socrates were no fans of big D democracy, what they called an irrational, unstable, unbalanced form of government. But the key to the success of big D democracy is small d democracy, Hood’s core value, the essence of the soul of America, and certainly something worth striving for.