Mary Ryan Reeves ’70

Mary Ryan Reeves ’70

Mary Ryan Reeves ’70

Major: B.A. Art Education; Employment: Independent Artist/Illustrator, Art Teacher (retired)

Graduation Year


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?

Because my mother insisted I attend a women’s liberal art college, my high school guidance counselor suggested that I apply to Hood, Goucher, Wilson and Beaver Colleges.  I applied to Connecticut College because they had a strong art program and was accepted, but my mother said it “looked like a prison”-so no. I was rejected by Goucher, and I refused to apply to a school called Beaver. I was invited to a NYC Hood Club tea, there I met Lucille Norman H’74, Hood’s registrar. She was like Katharine Hepburn, I wanted to be her, she was elegant and gracious, she impressed me and since I wore my Quill and Scroll pin, which signified that I was a member of the Q&S journalism honor society, apparently I impressed her. I went to Hood sight unseen.

What prompted you to pursue a degree in art education? Did you have a specific career in mind when you chose this major? 

I always wanted to be an artist or fashion designer.  But, having exempted out of freshman bio, and then placed in Calculus, I was ineligible to take any Home Economics sewing or fashion merchandising classes. (It was a B.S./B.A. thing.) and like Claire McCardell, I thought about transferring to Parsons. I was accepted there in the illustration department, but that was not what I really wanted, plus I would have had to live at home and commute into the city.  After a summer of commuting on the Long Island railroad to work as a model in the garment district, I was not interested in that experience. Pinned, soon to be engaged, and pursuing a teaching degree seemed to be the way to go. The student teaching experience, and Dr. Charles Tressler changed my life for the best.

Prior to retiring from teaching, did you find yourself emulating a favorite professor or art education style from your days as a student at Hood?

 I greatly admired (emerita professor of art) Elaine Gates. She inspired one to be intellectually curious.

It’s no secret that you are an ardent admirer of Hood alumna Claire McCardell Harris ’27. How did her career and aesthetic influence you in your choices as an artist and designer?

 I regret that it’s only been recently that I became aware of Claire McCardell.  She is one of the least known, but most influential women in fashion.  Her influences on me are seen in my color choices for my Hermes-inspired Claire tribute scarf. All women can thank Claire for pockets and flats.

Congratulations on the success of your book “Claire: The Little Girl Who Climbed to the Top and Changed the Way Women Dress” and the companion coloring book, “Claire’s Closet!” How did you and author Debra Scala Giokas come to collaborate on this project?

Our collaboration developed after I became involved with The Frederick Art Club (TFAC).  After having so much fun designing a scarf for our 50th Hood reunion, I approached them about doing a fundraiser for “The Claire McCardell Project.” Their steering committee approved my design.  The Club then held a virtual “Inspired by Claire” art show, that was made into a video, and posted on TFAC website.  Meanwhile, Debra (Scala Giokas) had attended a show at Metropolitan Museum of Art, and was excited to discover Claire’s iconic “monastic dress”, so much so that she was inspired to write a children’s book. In her research she saw the video, contactedMarilyn Bagel, presidentof the Frederick Art Club, and asked about connecting with me to ask to be her illustrator. Debra sent me her manuscript, and I said “yes, let’s give it a try.” We have never met in real life, but have had many emails and phone conversations. Our creative connection has been a positive experience in our Covid-19 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?

The other evening, I met a lovely Hood gal hostessing at a restaurant. She had on a Hood facemask. I showed her my ring and she said she had just received hers; we had a mini celebratory Hood connection. I didn’t get to find out if there is still a ring dinner, but if not there should be. Also two years ago, on a tour of the campus I inquired about real blazers; the young man who was the guide thought that was neat.  I know culturally so much has changed, but as Claire said “casual doesn’t mean careless,” I like to see classic dress.

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

Perhaps never leaving Frederick makes “Hood is Home,” even more meaningful. Over the years serving on the Board of Associates, and as Alumnae President, and living close to the campus, Hood has always been a place that feels comfortable and welcoming.  I really related to the messaging of “Four Life-Changing Years,” because my Hood experience really did influence my career and life. I went there as a relatively shy -never talked in class in high school- individual to becoming a strong confident woman.