Memories of Lisa Anderson from the 1965 Summer Term at Carleton
The Summer Term program was a special ten-week term for a select group of incoming freshmen. I do not know what the criteria were for inviting us, but I do know that most of our classmates knew nothing about it. In 1965, the group was a little more than forty students, with a few more men than women, but I don’t know that the male/female ratio was specifically controlled.
Summer Termers took two two-hour classes a day, five days a week. Over the course of ten weeks, each class covered two terms’ worth of subject matter, so each of us finished with a total of four course credits toward graduation. For example, my English class covered both freshman rhetoric and a survey course of early and medieval English literature.
The atmosphere was sort of an academic summer camp. I can’t speak for the others, but I felt newly hatched and unfledged, taking my first steps into “the college experience” and all that implied. I expect that was true for many of us.
I had the impression that the situation was a bigger change for Lisa than it was for most of us. She seemed unaccustomed to the casual interactions among students and somewhat put off by the informal atmosphere. My overall impression was that she was tense and nervous. (I heard from somebody that Lisa had been raised to observe very strict manners, but I have no idea if that’s true.)
The men lived in Musser, and the women lived in Myers, but we took all our meals together in the Goodhue dining hall. We sat at rectangular tables, four people on each side. Meals were served “family-style”, in serving dishes that were passed around the table, with each person taking a portion.
At one particular meal, I was sitting at the left end of one side of the table (I’m left-handed). Directly across from me was Marie Matsen, and to Marie’s left sat Lisa, who was thus across from me and one seat to the right from my perspective.
At some point, Lisa wanted a second helping of something, I don’t remember what. Let’s say it was green beans.
Lisa said, “Please pass the green beans.”
The serving dish of green beans was next to my plate, so I picked it up and extended my arm toward Lisa to give it to her.
Instead of taking the serving dish, Lisa just stared at me in silence with an expression of wide-eyed horror on her face.
I was caught completely off guard. I had no idea why she was staring at me like that. What was I doing wrong? (The Earth didn’t wobble on its axis, but it might as well have. I had lost my bearings.)
I glanced at Marie with a look that said, “What the hell is this about?!?” Marie calmly took the serving dish from me and handed it to Lisa, who accepted it with what I imagine was great relief.
I guess Lisa had been taught that dishes should never be passed obliquely across the table, but passed to one end of the table and then directly across to the other side. (I wasn’t raised in a barn, but the table manners I’d been taught never got that punctilious.)
I also remember thinking, as Marie calmly took the serving dish, “I wish I could be that calm and composed. How does she do that?” To this day, Marie remains for me the very embodiment of unflappability. How does she do that?
Near the end of the summer, the students had an informal party on the Evans terrace. We were playing records, and some of us were dancing. (Remember that the summer of ’65 was historic musically, with a whole slew of tunes that became classics, including “Mr. Tambourine Man” by the Byrds, “Wooly Bully” by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs, “Hang On, Sloopy” by the McCoys, and most importantly for this story, “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones.)
When “Satisfaction” came on, Lisa started dancing and suddenly became the focus of much male attention. No one would call her dancing wild, but she was clearly giving herself over fully to the music, and without a trace of self-consciousness. There was none of the tension and reserve she’d exhibited all summer long. I remember thinking, “There’s more to this person than I thought.”
And I don’t recall ever seeing that tense and reserved Lisa again during our four years at Carleton. She got comfortable, I guess.
After our graduation ceremony in 1969, Lisa came over to say goodbye, and I will never forget how full of joy and kindness she was. Pure sunshine. It’s my last memory of her, and I’m so grateful she left me with it.
Paul Smith ’69
Lisa Anderson was a remarkable person. She was strong and brave, loyal and loving, vibrant and kind and gentle. Deeply analytical, she used her thoughtful observations and her keen intelligence to make unusual connections in her coursework, and in conversations with friends, too. To say that she could think “outside the box” is an understatement. Lisa was a bit of a dreamer, whose ideas sometimes lacked practicality. But she had an unusual brilliance in her thinking, and her passion for life was deeper than many people’s, in my experience.
In freshman year, I remember Lisa talking about the difficulty she had learning to read. She had to memorize words rather than sound them out to read or to spell them. But she had also developed a hypothesis for the stress patterns in multisyllabic words, especially the many native-American-language names of towns and cities in Washington – thus demonstrating an awareness for language that clearly served her well in adulthood. As an English major at Carleton, all her reading assignments took her longer than for many people. I didn’t know about dyslexia then, but I do now, and I have to wonder whether she had what some people now call “orthographic dyslexia.” I mention this because, in hindsight, it seems to be just one example of a pattern of hers: to take on a challenge of something difficult and to master it – in this case, reading and spelling.
Her parents had wanted her to study engineering at MIT, as they had, but she knew she wanted to study ideas at a liberal arts college. Reading was hard for her, but she chose to major in English Literature, with all those books to read and papers to write. And she accomplished that goal superbly.
Lisa was a gifted athlete. I observed her strength and grace one March when she invited me to visit her home in Tacoma, and where she took me to her favorite mountain for skiing. She made skiing look easy! I know it isn’t! Do you remember her go-go dancing at dances in Sayles-Hill? Coordinated and beautiful in those white boots, she seemed to embody joyful abandon. In senior year, she had knee surgery. But a few years after graduating, she participated in a dance workshop at Tanglewood, after not studying dance at Carleton. Another example of her willingness to work hard to overcome an obstacle (the knee surgery) to accomplish her goal.
Always seeking, always ready for the next adventure, Lisa spent a year living in a Buddhist monastery in the Himalayas. She loved her mountains at home, and she loved the mountains in Tibet. She worked with the monks there, doing some translating for them. Like the monks, she too was seeking deeper meanings and deeper truths. I think she found them.
Language – what a gift she had for languages. She was fluent in French and Swiss-German from her high school days. While at Carleton, she studied in Japan and learned Japanese. She was fluent enough in Tibetan that when the high Lamas visited in California, she translated for them.
After graduating she decided to pursue the study of mathematics. She must have been gifted in math, because she hadn’t taken any math classes at Carleton, but she completed a Master’s degree in Math at the University of Washington. How hard she must have worked to keep up with her fellow students who had probably been undergraduate math majors. Another example of that pattern of facing and mastering a challenge! She also completed a Master’s degree in Architecture at UW. She met her husband, Terry, at UW. He recently told me that he proofread most of her grad school essays for her “atrocious” spelling, but he thought her ideas were expressed remarkably cogently.
Lisa and Terry married and settled in California. Lisa worked in architecture until their son was born. Their daughter was born a couple of years later. I know how much she loved him and their children. I can only imagine how hard it was for her to be diagnosed with brain cancer when they were so young. That was a challenge that seemed insurmountable. But she met it in her own way, with strength and grace, with passion and joy in each day, and with a sense of calm and love, even close to her death. That was a remarkable accomplishment.
These are some of my memories of Lisa. I am grateful to have known her.
Ann Mollison Waters ’69
I didn’t know Lisa very well at Carleton, but we must have had some conversations about India because in 1970, when I was living in Berkeley, she contacted me and said she’d like to go to India with me. As it happened, my parents were in New Delhi where my father worked for USAID, and I was planning to spend another year with them. So Lisa made arrangements for to come, thinking I’d be there in December of 1970. Unfortunately my charter flight was canceled, and I wasn’t able to get there until January, by which time Lisa had gotten well acquainted and comfortable with my parents, brother Jeff, and sister-in-law Kathy. She stayed with us for several months, and we traveled with a few other friends to the Himalayas, Rajasthan, and other areas. She left us to begin her study of Tibetan, an incredibly difficult language from what I could tell. Another challenge faced head on.
We reconnected in California some years later, and I got to know Terry, her husband, and her two young children. The news of her brain cancer was devastating, but she faced it with grace and acceptance. I think of her often and wish I were still in touch with her family.
Betty Olson-Jones ’69