Walnut Hill School for the Arts

Catching Up with Libby Lummus Keenan '53

This month we had the opportunity to speak with Libby Lummus Keenan, Class of 1953. Libby has remained in touch and involved since she graduated nearly 70 years ago, having served at various points as a Class Correspondent, Annual Fund Leadership Chair, and member of the former Board of Visitors. She is currently a member of our Ellison Circle. Thank you, Libby, for taking the time to tell us about your Walnut Hill journey!


How did you first come to learn about Walnut Hill, and what was your experience like as a student here? Do you have a favorite memory from those years?

I heard about the School from my paternal grandmother, who seemed to know many things about many things. She and her chauffeur first took me to Abbot for a very scary interview, and I as an innocent and not very worldly 15-year-old knew nothing about boarding schools. So destination number two was Walnut Hill, where old Miss Davies and Miss Nevius were very welcoming. I was sold!

From day one I was happy there. I had two roommates and met many really great girls, and they welcomed me. There wasn’t exactly “freedom” there, what with stern house mothers and lots of rules, but I felt surprisingly free to be free and I realize, years later, that it is actually the first place I knew I had wings and could fly. I owned a horse 40 miles from Natick and had a mother who would come and pick me up for important horse shows on the North Shore.

I can’t think of a sad day there.  Maybe the day of graduation when we all had to say goodbye to one another.


Tell us about your post-graduation journey. Where did you go after Walnut Hill, and how did that lead to the life you have now?

I got into Smith College with the help of some of the staff at Walnut Hill, I am sure, and have to admit that I would have been happier elsewhere. I met a boy from Williams whom I dated all through college and we married after college, moved to Ann Arbor, then Chicago, and finally settled in Evanston, Illinois. I have four children who, luckily, have given us very little grief, and we now have nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild. I divorced after seven years and have been married to my current husband for 55 years! I have had odd jobs, such as teaching tennis, and started my own business 21 years ago, doing something I can do well for the rest of my life. None of my children wanted to go to private school, but they did graduate from good colleges and are doing well.


You have seen firsthand how the School has changed over the years. As an alumna, how did you feel about our new arts mission at the time the switch was made? What are your thoughts now?

I am very happy that Walnut Hill took the road it did in the ’70s, and therefore is surviving today and into the future. I have enjoyed my association with everyone involved with the running of the School, and feel honored every time I host or see someone there.

I thank my grandmother every day for making it possible to have such a good and smart push out into the world. I was so provincial that the first time I called home, I told my parents that I knew a girl from way out west in Syracuse!

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