2011 Distinguished Alumna: Harriet Holan Wolfe ’61
While most Hathaway Brown alumnae embrace the motto “We learn not for school, but for life,” Harriet Holan Wolfe ’61 is a living embodiment of that ideal.
Harriet grew up in
Although it was difficult to be away from home, Harriet took great joy in the process of learning. HB teachers helped her to see the world – and her place in it – in new and interesting ways. She was especially grateful for the mentoring by Miss Bruce and Miss Jensen, and she was a proud recipient of many yellow “smiley notes” from Miss Coburn. Those little paper affirmations and her admiration for Miss Coburn figured heavily into Harriet’s choice to attend
Harriet excelled in the classroom, and she thoroughly enjoyed immersing herself in the traditional subjects during the school day. But she was equally influenced by her extracurricular activities. She credits playing fullback on the varsity field hockey team with laying the foundation for her devotion to physical fitness. She also sang in the chorus, took piano lessons, served on Student Council, and organized and participated in a host of volunteer efforts. HB’s
At Smith, Harriet started with pre-med but switched to German as a language still useful in science as well as a vehicle to see the world. During her junior year, she joined the first Smith Junior Year Abroad Program in
The following year, she moved to the West Coast and into a Ph.D. program at the
Harriet decided to find a way to fulfill her original life plan of becoming a physician. In a time when there were not that many female doctors, Harriet had the good fortune as a child to be a patient of Dr. Mildred Bowen, a family practitioner who treated a number of her relatives, including her parents and grandparents. “For me, Dr. Bowen was a model of a woman who was very well educated and also very compassionate. She was able to treat and relate to all of us as individuals and as members of a family,” Harriet says. “I realized I was eager to work directly with people just as she had with us.”
Harriet left the graduate program in German to become a post-baccalaureate pre-med student at
Her next stop was
As she balanced career and motherhood, Harriet continued her education, specializing in psychoanalysis. She graduated from analytic training at the
It took about 15 years, coursework at six different colleges and universities, relocating between two countries and five U.S. states, but it all seemed, in the end, preparation for Harriet to arrive at the place she had wanted to be since she was a young girl: in private medical practice – with the added satisfaction of teaching and supervising a wide range of mental health professionals. As a clinician, she practices mainly psychoanalysis and couples therapy. She works with adolescents and adults, providing “long-term, in-depth psychological treatment aimed at alleviating depression, anxiety, and severe problems in work and love.” Harriet is committed to being an active presence in her patients’ and her students’ lives. Recently, she’s also returned to HB as a member of the Head’s Council, advising school administrators on ways to maximize the effectiveness of classroom and extracurricular programs.
Harriet says she’s grateful that her parents chose to send her to HB, even though they didn’t live nearby. She credits her high school alma mater and its emphasis on gaining knowledge through life experience with giving her the confidence to pursue her ambitions. “I would say that, because of the amazing teachers I had and the wonderful friendships I formed, HB sparked and insured my love of learning and my desire to become an engaged, contributing member of society.”