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VALEDICTORIANS UWW grads exemplify


a venerable program BY HELEN S. EDELMAN ’74


Patricia West McKay ’85“couldn’t imagine” how she was going to integrate pas- sions for history and poetry into a career that would support her. Besides yearning for “meaning, rootedness, and connection,” she also needed a job. She was dabbling in art and poet- ry, “drifting,” she says, when a turn- ing-point conversation on campus convinced her that a Skidmore educa- tion might light the path to her goal. The first person in her family to attend college, McKay felt she had been “touched by a magic wand” on an academic and experiential journey that strengthened her inner resources with “courage, wisdom, and self- discipline” and shaped her as an independent thinker and scholar. As a final UWW project, McKay advocated for interpreting domestic servants as well as “the great men” at historic houses, an idea that evolved into an article that precipitated “a kind of revolution in the historic site world.” Intellectually ignited, McKay went on for an MA and a PhD. Now a curator and public historian for the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site in Kinderhook, N.Y., she is a strong proponent of the liberal arts even in an era that demands vocational skills and is particularly pleased that her daughter, Chloe Barker-Benfield ’14, has chosen Skidmore as well. “What the world needs more than anything, going into a tenuous future, is wis- dom,” McKay remarks. “A liberal arts education sows that seed.”


24 SCOPE SPRING 2011


GARY GOLD


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