A FEW remembered her as Barbie Pierce on the hockey field and in history class, but others at the Washington Smith Club reception recently at the Folger Library in honor of two of the college's most distinguished alumnae, Nancy Reagan ('43) and Barbara Bush ('47), wanted only to greet one of their own who made it big.
If some were disppointed that Nancy Reagan couldn't make it, it certainly didn't show in their push to greet the second lady. "I haven't learned to keep my cool like older Smith alumnae," said Betsy Blair, who graduated from Smith last year. "But I just wanted to tell her I knew her cousin Teensie Bush."
Membership in the local Smith Club swelled by more than 100 members for the members-only event, which to some of the name-tagged women seemed much like a freshman mixer, "except we don't have to wait for a busload of boys," said Abby Pirnie ('72).
A couple of Smith seniors had talked about putting a brass plaque on Talbot House at Smith College to say that Nancy Reagan had lived there in a single room on the second floor facing the library. Then they decided it might start a rash of plaques around the campus for all the famous Smithies. "And then," says Mary Louise Wagner, a Smith senior who lives in Talbot, "we decided to wait until one of us had our name on the door for being president, not first lady."
It's the kind of quiet clucking Smith graduates are doing these days about Smithies in high places. But admittedly there is a fair amount to cluck about. Besides Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush, Mabel "Muffy" Brandon, Mrs. Reagan's social secretary, is among their ranks.
Bush, however, never actually graduated from Smith. She left her dorm in the middle of her sophomore year saying, "I love Smith and I love George but I love George better."
And Brandon ('57) almost didn't receive her degree. "Can you imagine, I returned from my junior year in France and got married during my senior year. They told me that if I got pregnant before my graduation they wouldn't give me my degree. Even if I didn't show," says Brandon, still a little piqued at the idea.
Brandon got her degree and became the kind of Smith doer who prompted the official Smith College centennial T-shirt logo: "A Century of Women on Top. Smith College 1875-1975."
"Smith is used to having people in important positions," says Amanda Bryan Kane ('27), former chairman of the board of trustees of the college.
It's gotten so that you being to assume that many of those women out in front went to Smith. If the noticeable, much-talked-about women's college of the 1940s and '50s was the Vassar of Mary McCarthy's novel, "The Group," Smith is the "in" school fo the last couple of decades with graduates like Betty Friedan ('42), Gloria Steinem ('56), Anne Morrow Lindbergh ('28), Julie Nixon Eisenhower ('70), Sylvia Plath ('55),Shelley Hack ('70) and more.
Even Jean Harris ('45).
And if any alum missed the fact that Nancy Davis Reagan and Barbara Pierce Bush went to Smith, there were sizable pictures in the November alumnae magazine boasting the fact.
"Smith alumnae are so outstanding in terms of public service, it seemed only a matter of time till that kind of commitment would find a place in the highest area of public service," says Smith College president Jill Conway, who admits she "never expected a double header."
"All women's colleges have tended to produce women who achieved and women particularly who have achieved in atypical fields because they had role models at these schools," says Steinem, who will return for her 25th reunion at Smith this June. "In my day they were telling us that if we were ever to have educated children we needed educated mothers. And they bragged about having a more male than female faculty. In the 1950s, women had to get their identity from a man's achievement, like Mrs. Reagan and Jean Harris."
Smith was founded by Sophia Smith "to furnish my own sex means and facilities for education equal to those which are afforded in our colleges to young men," she wrote in her will. She thought they should provide an education "suited to the mental needs and wants of women," not to make women any less feminine "but to develop as fully as may be the powers of womanhood."
While other men's and women's colleges turned coed in the 1960s, Smith stuck by the oringinal intent of "a college of the highest caliber in which women are unquestionably first class citizens."
Now men can take courses for credit at Smith, but they can't earn a degree there. Other Smith traditions such as Float Night on Paradise Pond, senior hoop rolling, and Rally Day skits, totally removed or reshaped in the 1960s, have resurfaced in new forms. The Rally Day show with original skits has come back stronger than ever recently, with even the Ada Comstock scholars, women back on campus after their education was interrupted, doing their own show.
None of the skits presented this year for Rally Day even mentioned Nancy Reagan. "Once we finished teasing about how we should invite the seniors to the White House we kind of forgot about it," admits Wagner, who is from Arlinton, Va.
President Conway, who moderated a panel on career choices in Washington recently, isn't sure what the White House connection will mean for Smith. "I think students are interested in the fact that bout spouses are Smith women, but I think they are mainly interested in how they perform. They know lots of two-career marriages and they are most interested in knowing how people work things out. They are more interested in how the team does than the office."
It's not expected that the Reagan-Bush team will put much money in the coffers of their alma mater, which has a level of contributions that tops all but the Ivy League men's schools. Or even that it will raise more money in the local pecan sales, a pet fund-raiser for scholarships.
One Smith alum fears Smith blew its White House support when the school revealed to Washington Post reporter Maxine Cheshire that Nancy Reagan's age was 59, two years older than Mrs. Reagan had been saying.
Smith students who organized the mock convention on campus attempted to cash in on the Smith-Reagan connection to lure her to Northampton. The Republicans countered by offering Nancy Reagan only if Joan Mondale also came. Neither showed. And Smith, like many other campuses, came out for John Anderson.
Reagan and Bush represent two very different but familiar types of Smith alums. Nancy Reagan is a graduate who has had her own career and gave it up to support her husband's career full time. Barbara Bush left Smith to marry the handsome torpedo bomber, a hero and winner of the Navy Cross, a model many students and alumnae admire. "I don't fell that Nancy Reagan is a typical Smith graduate," says a local Smithie who doesn't want to b quoted. "She is too willing to let her husband's achievement be her own, rather than achieve on her own. And though she may bring Smith to the attention of the public, I'm not sure that it is going to be positive, given the attitude of young women today." On the contrary, she says, Bush typifies Smith better since she is "more