In Memory of Adrienne Wilder Reid
by: Nancy Herman Jarrett
February 1, 1974 was one of the luckiest days in my life. I had just arrived on the campus of Mount Holyoke College as a February Freshman (a very special breed, as Ad would say) and was finding my way to my dorm room in the basement of North Rockefeller Hall. As I walked down the hall, among the many boxes and suitcases strewn about, a petite, energetic young woman caught my eye. She had zeroed in on me and confidently introduced herself as Adrienne Wilder. I introduced myself, "Hi. Nancy Herman." "Oh!! You're my roommate!!" she exclaimed. I hesitated, taking a look at the letter with my roommate assignment since I didn't remember the name being Adrienne. "No, it says here that my roommate is Mary Ellen Gallico." "Oh no.......Herman? You're my roommate!!" We parried back and forth for some minutes, each of us being, ahem, rather strong-willed. Well.....turns out she was wrong about the roommate that year (her roommate was a lovely young woman named KATHY Herman) but that exchange opened the door to a 34 year friendship like none other that I have or will ever experience.
On the surface, we were very different:
She had been a cheerleader in HS.
I protested the war (Viet Nam, for you youngsters), picketing our local draft board wearing a black armband.
She was never without some jazzy color on her beautifully manicured (by herself, I might add) nails (even back in college).
I had no nails.
She had hot curlers (remember those?) that she used to give any little bit of curl to what I envied as her beautiful, long, glossy, perfectly straight hair.
I wore a bandana to tame my unruly mop.
She had some contraption called an eyelash curler with which she curled her very long, but stick straight (there's the straight thing again) lashes upwards.
I had just figured out how to apply mascara.
She excelled in the sciences. Her afternoons spent in the lab energized her.
I had to drop Intro to Astronomy before I failed it.
Much as we appeared dissimilar, anyone who dug deeper would have been able to tell you that we had so many character traits and values in common, that we forged an exceptionally deep bond rooted in those. Neither of us had sisters, and our friendship was, for us both, akin to sisterhood. I can't think of anything we would not have done for each other.
Adrienne had so many facets to her personality that you could never "peg" her in a stereotype.
She was very feminine yet tough as nails.
She was private and quietly proud.
Although classy and dignified, she absolutely loved to have fun, especially at my expense! I don't know how many times she let me sing, at the top of my lungs and in front of others, the wrong words to Baba O'Riley. I would belt out, with great gusto, "Teenage Waitress" when she knew darned well the real words were "Teenage Wasteland"! She finally clued me in, with great glee, last year!
She had a great sense of humor and loved to laugh. I know because she'd reliably crack up when I attempted, however feebly, to make a joke!
She gave easy affirmation to her friends. Her favorite phrase in college was, "You're the greatest!" and though I can't really remember what I ever did to elicit that praise, the spirit in which she gave it sustains me to this day.
Ad was a problem solver and the ultimate planner. She had to have been a Girl Scout because she was always completely prepared. And, if the plan went awry, she would improvise to perfection. In the spring of our sophomore year, we decided to plan a dorm party and called it "Spring Fling". That would prove to be an understatement. Adrienne contacted all of the young men she knew at as many schools as possible and sent flyers inviting them to our bash. We hired a live band, orchestrated the food and made sure we offered an interesting beverage. Imagine our surprise when a virtual convoy of coach buses started pulling up in front of the dorm and hundreds of young men filed out mobbing our dorm living room. It was a deluge! A flood of testosterone! Adrienne didn't miss a beat. She grabbed the nearest desk, situated it in front of the door, ordered the guys to line up and checked them in, school by school. She single handedly salvaged what could have been total chaos in a matter of minutes. The party was a huge success; the talk of the school (and many others, we subsequently learned).
Ad was a grinder and a gamer, always giving 150% in whatever she undertook. She had abundant admiration for those, like her, who had achieved through hard work and perseverance. And though her personal and professional achievements were many, on the questionnaire at our 20th Reunion, she listed her greatest accomplishment in life since graduation as: my daughter.
Strong and true, trustworthy and kind, courageous and optimistic, she was a friend who stood by me, encouraged me, stretched me and loved me like no other and I will miss her every day for the rest of my days. Yet how blessed I am that she "stalked" (as John says!) me in the basement of North Rocky that February day in 1974; that I had 34 years of, "Nance, you're the greatest!"
MHC Alums Attending Adrienne's Funeral. Pictured here: Nancy Herman Jarrett '77, Marianne DePatie Fouhey '78, Sally Spoerl Pantages '77, Merry Galassi Hampton '77, Alice Marbach Watson '77 and Liz Lewis Gershon '77. Helen Ross Martino '78 and Susan Lavin Jones '77 also attended the service.