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Afternoon tea begins anew at Moravian College

America’s sixth oldest college resumes tradition after 40 years

Afternoon Tea(Bethlehem, Pennsylvania) — After a nearly 40-year hiatus, Moravian College has resumed a long-held tradition of hosting an afternoon tea each semester. The tea provides an occasion for female students, faculty, administrators, and alumnae to gather for an afternoon of interaction and conversation, designed to stimulate mentoring opportunities for students.

The afternoon tea was hosted by Pamela Rokke, the first lady of Moravian College, on April 11 in the President’s Reception Room in Main Hall, a women’s dorm on the Hurd Campus of the College, in the historic district of Bethlehem. More than 90 women representing three generations of the College, enjoyed tea, crumpets, and petite sandwiches in Main Hall’s Victorian parlors, furnished with rare antiques and normally closed to the public and to the college. Surrounding Main Hall are buildings dating back to 1748, in which the women’s college was formerly housed.

Prior to 1954, when the men’s and women’s colleges merged into Moravian College, afternoon tea was a regular. The Young Women’s Christian Association of Moravian College for Women held weekly teas to “brighten up the darker days” of winter; the “Y” also sponsored two formal teas a year, one at the beginning and one near the close of the school year. In those days, the dean of the women’s college held the position of honor at the event, pouring tea for the young ladies in attendance. Although most attendees were female alumnae, students, or faculty at the college, one famous tea in December 1940 was graced by the presence of Archduke Otto of Hapsburg.

The Moravian Academic Women (MAW), who sponsored the event, agreed that now was a good time to revive the tradition. “This generation of college students is acutely aware of the importance of community and of creating and maintaining traditions. College life, indeed, often revolves around traditions. Why shouldn’t we restart afternoon tea now?” says Carol Traupman-Carr, ’86, and associate dean for academic affairs at Moravian. “Afternoon tea gives MAW the chance to engage the students out of the classroom, and to create more possibilities between female students and women on the faculty and in the administration. Our tea also helps us prepare our graduates to engage in the kinds of social functions, like gallery openings, receptions, and formal dinners, that graduates from prestigious institutions like Moravian College will undoubtedly attend in their professional lives.”

“It was delightful to see Moravian women in a setting so very different from the others in which we usually interact,” said Beverly Kochard, ’73, vice president for student affairs. “Conversations seemed more personal—sincere questions producing answers of substance about each others' lives. The location was a perfect choice. How many other venues have a history dating back 200-plus years, chock-full of stories about students from past eras and reputed ghost sightings? Here and there around the room, I heard women talking of looking into possible research opportunities and internships having to do with the building and the Hurd Campus in general. Oh, if the walls could talk!”

Jaime Marks, ’04, and a student member of the College’s board of trustees, offered this thought, “This may sound strange, but for some reason being in a room with so many intelligent and engaging women was empowering. Despite the fact that we are moving toward an equal society in terms of education and careers, there is a need to further strengthen female contribution to academics and the workplace. There is still such merit to recognizing the talented group of women that characterize Moravian and this tea was a great opportunity for that. It was nice to hear such excitement in the room as everyone shared their interests and involvement on campus.”

“The tea was a great opportunity for me to see not only my fellow women classmates, but also the professors I never get a chance to socialize with outside of class,” said Robin Kraft, a senior English major. “It was one of the best afternoons I've had at Moravian.”

The next tea is planned for November, and the hope is to continue the tradition once a semester. From the sound of it, that should not be a problem.

Moravian College is a private, coeducational, selective liberal arts college located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Tracing its founding to 1742, it is recognized as America's sixth-oldest college. For more information, visit the web site at www.moravian.edu.