Alumnae Authors Put Life Experience into Words
Evelyn Dickenson Swensson ’45
Evelyn graduated from Hollins University in 1949. After her four children were in school, she continued her education by earning a Master of Arts at West Chester University. Evelyn has written and published 15 family theater productions. In 2008, she was named into the Hall of Fame of Delaware Women. During her induction, she was described as Delaware’s preeminent conductor, composer, lyricist, pianist, singer, playwright, and musical lecturer. At the 2014 Governor’s Awards for the Arts of Delaware, Evelyn was honored for her lifetime achievement in the arts. She is also the 2014 Ward Belmont/Harpeth Hall Distinguished Alumna. Her first novel is “Notes: My Life with Music.” She recently published her second book with StoryWorth: “Our Family: Stories Worth Keeping.”
Lucia Howard ’69
Lucia graduated from Wellesley College in 1973. She continued her education by receiving her master’s in architecture from University of California at Berkeley in 1977. For over a decade, Lucia taught design in the architecture department at U.C. Berkeley.
Both of her books, “Shingle Style: Living in San Francisco’s Brown Shingles” and “Ranch Houses: Living the California Dream,” focus on California architectural history. She founded Ace Architects with her partner, David Weingarten, over 30 years ago in Oakland, California. Ace Architects was included twice in the AD100 — Architectural Digest’s list of the world’s foremost architects. Lucia and her partner have assembled the leading collection of architectural souvenirs of the Grand Tour, including architectural ruins, paintings, drawings, and etchings. Lucia and David have written extensively about this little-known period in art history in which architecture was the subject not only of decorative arts and sculpture, but also of paintings and drawings. Lucia was honored as the Ward-Belmont/Harpeth Hall Distinguished Alumna in 2013.
Mary Palmer Kelley Dargan ’72
Mary Palmer graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1976. She continued her education by receiving her master’s in landscape architecture from Louisiana State University in 1982, then a certificate in business from Harvard University in 1989. Now CEO at Dargan Landscape Architects, she lives in Cashiers, North Carolina, and is the author of several books listed here, including “The Early English Kitchen Garden,” “Timeless Landscape Design: The Four Part Master Plan,” co-written with Hugh Dargan, and her newest work “Lifelong Landscape Design.”
She and her husband, Hugh, have received numerous awards and honors, including the 2017 Garden Club of America Zone Conservation Award, the 2005 American Horticultural Society Environmental Award, the Garden Club of America Accredited Horticulture Judge, and Cashiers Historical Society’s Village Heritage Award. Dargan Landscape Architects have also been featured in many professional publications such as “Garden & Gun” and “Sports Illustrated (Extreme Gardens),” as well as television networks such as HGTV and CNN. While a professor of landscape architecture at Clemson University, Mary Palmer created a garden design course for homeowners. Twenty-five years later, this digital garden design course is now known as “The Placemakers Academy of Garden Design,” with students enrolled from coast to coast.
Anne Byrn Whitaker ’74
Anne Byrn graduated from the University of Georgia in 1978, and her first job was as food editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper. She studied cooking and pastry at La Varenne École de Cuisine in Paris. Her book, “The Cake Mix Doctor,” was the best-selling cookbook of 2000 and began as a newspaper story detailing her mother’s 1970s creative touch of giving cake-mix cakes a “cakelift.’’
She went on to produce 14 more cookbooks, including “American Cake,” which dives into the history of our country’s favorite cakes, and “A New Take on Cake,” a revised “Cake Mix Doctor” taking into account new dietary preferences like gluten-free and vegan, which were not as prominent 20 years ago. When asked about the changes, Anne said, “I am not the same person I was 20 years ago. That’s the thing about time. It doesn’t change recipes. It changes the people who make them.” Anne currently writes a newsletter called “Between the Layers” on Substack, which allows her to dive into conversations about life through cooking and baking. Her next book is the story of Southern baking, with 225 recipes and untold stories, to be published by HarperCollins in spring 2024.
Susan Gregg Gilmore ’79
Susan graduated from the University of Virginia in 1983, where she started her writing career as a reporter for the school’s award-winning newspaper, The Cavalier Daily.
She continued her education at the University of Texas at Austin where she received her Master of Arts in American Studies.Susan wrote for newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and the Chattanooga News-Free Press. While at the Free Press, she wrote a weekly column about parenting in the South.She now works as a freelance journalist in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Susan has written three novels, “Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen,” “The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove,” and “The Funeral Dress.” This most recent work was called “a revelatory novel that offers an evocative account of the lives of Appalachian working women” by Kirkus Reviews and was selected for TARGET’s Emerging Author Program as well as named a TARGET Recommended Read.
Jeannie Cochran DuBose ’79
Jeannie graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1983. Upon graduation, Jeannie was awarded the Wattles Fellowship to work in England as a broker at Lloyds of London. The following year she moved to a remote village in the western province of Kenya where she taught high school English.
She continued her education back in the United States at Georgia State University, where she received her master’s in counseling psychology in 1988 and a certificate in spiritual formation from Columbia Theological Seminary. She practiced as a family and marriage therapist for six years and served as the president to the board of The Odyssey Family Counseling Center in Atlanta. Along the way she wrote and illustrated the award-winning “Tending the Fire: The Story of a Marriage” and “The Mother Daughter Dance.” She currently works as a retreat leader, speaker, and facilitator with 20 years experience with a variety of clients: health and spirituality spas, faith communities, non-profits, and private groups. Her volunteer work in Asheville includes serving on the board of NPR, as well as facilitating groups at Craggy’s mens prison.
Elizabeth "Beth" McPherson ’84
Beth graduated from The Juilliard School in 1990. She continued her dance education at City College of New York for her master’s in dance, followed by her Doctor of Philosophy in Dance Education at New York University in 2006.
She is the director of dance and a professor of theatre and dance at Montclair State University in New Jersey. She has published articles in “The Journal of Dance Education,” “The Journal of Movement Arts Literacy,” “Ballet Review,” “Dance Teacher,” and “Attitude: The Dancers’ Magazine,” to name a few. Beth wrote “Contributions of Martha Hill to American Dance and Dance Education” and served as the editor and compiler for “The Bennington School of the Dance: A History in Writings and Interviews,” and most recently “Milestones in Dance in the USA.” She also serves as the executive editor of the journal “Dance Education and Practice.”