ALUMNI UPDATE: Ilse Jenkins Gay '46

After graduating from City and Country, I went up the street to Washington Irving HS, where I spent three years mixing it up with a few thousand girls from all over Manhattan. Instead of completing my senior year, however…

I dropped out and went to Europe. When I got back to New York, my mother had given up our apartment on Charles Street and moved to Santa Fe, NM, where I dutifully, if reluctantly, followed. That fall I started at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, but after two years, I once again dropped out—this time it was for love! We married, settled in Albuquerque, raised three boys and, I am grateful to say, our relationship and our bodies have survived for 67 years. I returned to UNM and completed the unfinished bachelor’s degree and two graduate degree programs, and started a 22-year career at UNM, including as Assistant Dean in the College of Fine Arts and creator and Director of the Employee Assistance Program for Faculty and Staff.

One activity which consumed a great deal of my energy a few years ago was the discovery of a box of letters written from my grandmother to my father while she was in prison in the late ’20s. This gift of letters opened up a host of doors, which allowed me to learn about my ancestry and roots in Canada, Boston, and New York. I now understand how the disease of alcoholism threads its way across borders, time, achievements, education, social standing, wealth, and poverty—and our intentions. I published her biography, titled
Love & Skisskes fr Mother, her sign-off in each of the 20 letters she wrote her son over a three-year period of incarceration. I consider this experience one of my life’s greatest. The other great gifts in my life include getting a scholarship to C&C when I was nine. My view of it all is that I stayed on the firing line of life—not an easy nor necessarily comfortable position, but one which has brought me a deep sense of gratitude and humility for all that has happened to me in my life—and all that hasn’t!
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