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Mary Cattan ’60: A Mission to Write

Mary Turner Cattan ’60, a psychotherapist and spiritual director, published her first book, Pilgrimage of Awakening: The Extraordinary Lives of Murray and Mary Rogers, in June. The biography follows the lives of two missionaries and their transformation into proponents of interfaith dialogue. We asked Mary a few questions about her own journey . . .

How did you choose your career path?

Graduating from college in 1964, I was blissfully unliberated, too busy tending to my firstborn to delve into Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique (1963) or to consider I might have a career path beyond matrimony. Yet that first calling—raising four children—was challenging and deeply satisfying. By age 40, I had learned that human relationships are much more complicated (and fascinating!) than I had ever imagined. Experiences of loss and failure propelled me to wake up and to learn as much as I could about the intersection of human psychology and spirituality. It led to my second calling—chosen much more consciously—as a spiritual director and psychotherapist. Awareness and life-giving human connection—with oneself, with intimate others, and with the loving, life-giving energy of the universe (that some might call God) became my passion. It was that passion, driven by curiosity, that led to my writing Pilgrimage of Awakening.

Did you have any teachers at Walnut Hill who influenced your passion for writing?

Actually, my passion was for the story that cried out to be told. Writing, which I find incredibly hard work, was the necessary vehicle. Of all my teachers at Walnut Hill, Miss Clark challenged me the most to develop writing skills. She was a very quirky, old-fashioned teacher. She had us reading James Joyce, and her writing assignments were tough. As was her grading! No messing around in Miss Clark’s class!

What advice would you give to someone tackling a major project or writing a book?

What I needed most for my project was structure. For me, the saving grace was a doctoral program that required me to meet deadlines. Through Andover Newton Theological School, I was provided with a loving but strict advisor who said, “Just Velcro your bottom to that chair and WRITE!”

What is your favorite memory from your time at Walnut Hill?

My favorite memories involve relationships with friends. Fifty-six years later, Christie Coon, my roommate for three years at Walnut Hill, is still among my closest friends! Back then, we would gather, with three or four others, in someone’s room, door closed. Some of us were knitters, and we would talk, talk, talk about our lives and gossip. Exploits with boyfriends—actual or wished for—were of great interest. Friday evenings were special for me. At most meals in the Eliot dining room, our every move was scrutinized by a faculty member at the head of the table. But Fridays we were allowed to sit for supper without faculty supervision! There was always ice cream for dessert and no rush to go to evening study halls. Just time to connect. Very occasionally a weekend dinner would be spiced up by some guests—a busload of “boys” from a neighboring prep school. A joint glee club concert and perhaps a dance in the gym would follow. We were to “mix”—just not too much! Spotlights were turned up for the walk between Eliot and the gym to be sure the strict rule of not stepping off the sidewalk into the shadows was enforced. Since the blueberry pie we’d all enjoyed for dessert left our teeth and tongues stained purple, the temptation for stolen kisses was kept in check!

Pilgrimage of Awakening: The Extraordinary Lives of Murray and Mary Rogers is available on Amazon.

Catching Up with Mengting Yu '07


By Evangeline Delgado '11, Alumni Association Chair & Director of Summer Student Life

September at Walnut Hill brings in the new academic year, new students, and new opportunities to look forward. For one alumna, though, this September was a time to look back. Mengting Yu returned to Walnut Hill last month to connect with our current visual art students and share some of her experiences in art education and the professional world since her training in the Visual Art Department.

After graduating from Walnut Hill, Mengting earned her B.F.A. from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, where she majored in drawing and fine arts. Her education has continued to keep her within the arts field as both an artist and a teacher.

This year, Mengting received her Ph.D. in art and art history from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore after presenting her dissertation, "A Talented and Decorative Group: A Re-examination of London's Women Artists, c. 1900–1914." In this study, she re-examines the role, output, and contribution of London's women artists between 1900 and 1914, and challenges the widely held view that female artists were less significant than their male contemporaries. Mengting argues that women artists inhabited and contributed to London's vibrant art scene. They were influential, high-profile, and widely critiqued in the opening decades of the twentieth century. Mengting's next project will be to turn her thesis into a manuscript for publication.

Her career has been marked with success and support, including twice receiving research grants from the Yale University–Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art as well as a dissertation fellowship from the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. But not far from her heart and mind are the connections she made while she was a student at Walnut Hill. In particular, she has a deep gratitude to Director of Visual Art Jim Woodside, whose interest and consistent encouragement helped make a difficult senior year worthwhile. Visual Art Department faculty member Ken Tighe made a lasting impact on her life as well, always giving generously of his creativity, profound knowledge in painting, and passion for teaching.  "I have met some great people with marvelous minds and great hearts here at Walnut Hill," Mengting says.

For those fellow alums who live in the Boston area, please consider lending your own support to Mengting, whose artwork is currently on view in a group exhibition entitled "Violence Transformed: Stay Together" at Tufts University's Slater Concourse Gallery. The exhibition will be up until November 4.