Rhona Free ’78

Rhona Free ’78Rhona Free ’78 is President of the University of Saint Joseph, which became fully coeducational in fall 2018.

Why did you choose Sarah Lawrence?
When I was in high school I wasn’t even sure that I would go to college. What I really wanted to do was to keep riding and showing horses— hunters and jumpers. I chose Sarah Lawrence because it was close to the barn where I rode. I could keep riding and showing while I was in school. It turned out to be a perfect school for me and that decision process has worked for me for most of my life. I make a decision for one reason and it turns out to be the best one I could possibly have made, but for a whole bunch of other reasons!

Did you have a favorite class?
I loved literature classes but always gave answers to questions that made not just other students, but the professors, roll their eyes. When I started taking classes in economics I found my niche. Any student who ever had an economics class with Frank Roosevelt was lucky. He was the professor who posed questions that made me reconsider my whole view of the world. I would talk to my family and friends after his classes in a very sanctimonious way thinking I now understood the world and economics in a way that was far beyond their comprehension. Frank sure gave me confidence and enthusiasm! He helped me to get to the right PhD program and that led me to a very satisfying career.

What was your favorite spot on campus?
There was (maybe there still is) a beanbag room in the library where I would go to read and then immediately fall asleep. Some of my best naps ever were in that room. I also loved walking up and down the hill.

How did your time at Sarah Lawrence shape your life?
When I was at Sarah Lawrence I realized that I was not good enough to have a career with horses. That would have been devastating except that at the same time, my classes were making me think about economic power, social justice, and fairness in society. With the right guidance, I got into the perfect PhD program. Apart from that, I think Sarah Lawrence helped me to think independently with the confidence that I could shape my career the way I wanted. I always chose jobs that allowed me to keep riding and to balance my family with work. That came at least partly from being at a college that encourages student to do things their own way, not the way that works for the institution or for others. From the time I left Sarah Lawrence I have always had horses, children (and grandchildren now), the same husband, and a job that fit what I wanted at the time. Sarah Lawrence gave me the expectation that of course, I could make things work out the way I wanted.

What are you most looking forward to at Reunion 2018?
I am always curious about other people’s stories. What I look forward to is hearing about my classmates’ lives since they left Sarah Lawrence.