Name: Susan Lennon
YaleWomen title: Chair
Yale Affiliation: 1985 MPPM
Where you live: Hartford, CT
What you do: True to SOM’s distinctive mission – educating leaders for business and society – my career has traversed the public, private and non-profit/social sectors. I retired from higher education administration in 2013 as president of the Women’s College Coalition, an association of women’s colleges in the US and Canada that works to transform the world through the education and success of women and girls. Much of what I loved about the mission of that work continues in my work with YaleWomen.
Your family: Husband Nick Merritt. We share many of the same volunteer commitments in the greater Hartford area and joke that this is one way to spend quality time together.
Other Yale volunteer work: I credit my Yale volunteer work – beginning with SOM (Alumni Association Board, Delegate to AYA Assembly, and Alumni Fund Chair) to AYA (Board of Governors and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force), to YaleWomen and 50 Women at Yale 150 – with helping me to be my best self. I am often out of my comfort zone – in the best sense – engaging with and learning from people with different perspectives and experiences, sometimes in difficult and uncomfortable discussions, working together to put the privilege of our education to work to find common ground and transform the world. This is an experience I wish for every alum.
Something we might not know about you: I am a Navy brat and have lived in close proximity to the Pacific and Atlantic oceans my entire life, beginning with my birth in what was then the Territory of Hawaii. This probably influenced my first volunteer political engagement (1975): working with the Connecticut Cetacean Society to have the sperm whale named by the Connecticut General Assembly as the state animal. (Why? Whaling played a key role in Connecticut’s economy in the 1800s, especially for the valuable spermaceti oil. By the 1970s, sperm and other species of whales were close to extinction and this little action in Connecticut was part of a larger whole to save whales: in 1986, the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling. Japan, Norway and Iceland still whale.)
Favorite Yale memory: I don’t think of this as my “favorite” memory, but it is my strongest. It happened after my last exam at SOM. The two years were intense for me – I was an older student and had been out of the academic environment and away from serious quantitative work for quite a while. Some of us didn’t quite know what to do with our new “freedom.” We found ourselves sitting on the floor in the hallway outside of the classroom, letting the realization of we had achieved – both academically and in the community of support and friendships we had developed – unfold. Those friendships endure.
Which two Yale women would you ask to join you for lunch and why: I love Galanes’s piece and often noodle on possible tablemates – there are so many Yale women who are doing incredible things in the many different walks of their personal and professional lives. Today, in the reflective mood in which I write this, I would ask Sharon Kugler and Krista Tippet. Kugler is the Yale University Chaplain. She is the first woman, first Catholic, and first layperson to serve in this position. She offers prayers at many Yale events that are – in their beautiful simplicity – magnificent, powerful, and profound. Krista Tippett ‘94 MDiv, is the creator and host of On Being and The Civil Conversations Project. She practices her own advice: “Become wiser by learning to hold transformative conversations, ask generous questions. and listen with presence.”
Name: Jennifer Ebisemiju Madar
YaleWomen title: Vice Chair
Yale Affiliation: 1988 B.A.
Where you live: Boston, MA
What you do: My background is marketing communications, but in recent years I’ve devoted quite a bit of my time to other activities, including serving as a Yale alumni volunteer. I also spend far too much time training for various races because I’ve finally discovered my inner athlete.
Your family: I live with my husband Todd and maybe a few too many dogs and cats. I’m also fortunate to have my wonderful mother Petra just a few doors down from us on the same street.
Other Yale volunteer work: In addition to serving as a member of the YaleWomen Governing Council, I am also a member of the AYA Board of Governors. I also serve on the steering committee of YaleWomen Boston, and I have for many years been an interviewer for the Boston-area Alumni Schools Committee. Finally, I recently completed three years of service as president of the board of directors of YaleBoston, having previously served as vice president, secretary. I also served for many years as one of YaleBoston’s AYA delegates, both ex officio and elected.
Something we might not know about you: I can very briefly be seen, in the background and in profile, in one scene in A Beautiful Mind. The casting folks were looking for “Ivy League-types” (whatever the heck that means), and one of them (I think she was a Yalie) reached out to New York-area alums asking if we wanted to be extras. I had nothing better to do that day, so I said, why not. Once we got to Princeton, they decided that, as a woman and a person of color, they could use me to visually contrast the “old” Princeton and the “new” Princeton. And so I got to sit in a Princeton dining hall, eating chocolate cake, chatting with Ron Howard about chocolate cake, and pretending to be a professor while the “pen ceremony” scene was being filmed around and behind me. Thus started and ended my illustrious “acting” career. Blink and you’ll miss me!
Favorite Yale memory: Hmmm . . . I may need to plead the Fifth on this one . . . really and truly, though, too many to choose just one . . .
Which two Yale women would you ask to join you for lunch and why: There are too many noteworthy options, so I’m going to keep it simple and say Angela Bassett and Lupita Nyong’o, because we have so much in common, we can all talk about our illustrious careers as black actresses. Oh, alright, they can talk about their truly illustrious careers as black actresses, and I can say I was in an Academy-Award winning film for a split second!
Name: Susan Pepin
YaleWomen title: Secretary
Yale Affiliation: 1987 B.A.
Where you live: Phoenix, AZ
What you do: Physician, higher education executive.
Your family: Husband and 5 daughters, one dog!
Other Yale volunteer work: Conducting alumni interviews.
Something we might not know about you: I have unintentionally killed every lavender plant I have tried to grow. And there have been many.
Favorite Yale memory: YSO Halloween Concert with Vincent Price.
Which two Yale women would you ask to join you for lunch and why: Naomi Wolf to hear the evolution of her thinking since The Beauty Myth, and Sonia Sotomayor to hear what makes her tick and learn everything I could from her.
Name: Laura Grondin
YaleWomen title: Treasurer & Immediate Past Chair
Yale Affiliation: 1985 B.A.
What you do: Majority owner and CEO of manufacturing company providing access and security systems to underground utilities and component parts to a variety of industries, primarily automotive.
Your family: Married, 2 daughters (no Yalies….)
Other Yale volunteer work: Currently serving on the steering committee for the 50WomenatYale150 effort; otherwise, YW has been my primary work.
Something we might not know about you: I race sailboats (although this has been written about so it may not be so unknown); I play tennis regularly; I spent a year in Europe following college.
Favorite Yale memory: My favorite building at Yale is the Beinecke Rare Books Library; I studied architecture at Yale and wrote a paper entitled, “In Defense of Beinecke”, as there has been criticism over the years for its boxy shape and lack of cohesion with the buildings around it – I disagreed! Of course, another favorite was sharing cups at Mory’s with friends….
Which two Yale women would you ask to join you for lunch and why: Any two of my female friends from Yale: we had such a tremendous bond, that whenever we are together, it is always a great time with fantastic conversation and unwavering acceptance of who we are; I’d have a hard time narrowing it down to two…..