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America’s sixth oldest college revives tradition after 40 year hiatus
(Bethlehem, Pennsylvania)—After a 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.
Moravian College, recognized as America’s sixth-oldest, will hold an afternoon tea on Friday, November 21, from 3:30-5:00 in the Atrium of the Priscilla Payne Hurd Academic Complex. The College has officially reinstated the tea as a once-a-semester event.
Last spring, a trial afternoon tea was held to assess the level of interest in reviving the long dormant tradition. The tea was hosted by Pamela Rokke, the first lady of Moravian College, 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. It was a success, with more than 90 women representing three generations of the College. They enjoyed tea, crumpets, and petite sandwiches in Main Hall’s Victorian parlors, furnished with rare antiques that are 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 occurrence. 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 sponsors the teas, agreed that now is 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 mentoring 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 a formal dinner, 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.
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.”
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.