Gabrielle Giffords Shares Alma Mater with Margaret Hance, Ann Symington

courtesy of Scripps College
Gabrielle Giffords in Mennonite garb, 1993.
An eclectic collection of politically involved Arizona women have graduated from Scripps College, Gabrielle Giffords' alma mater.

Margaret Hance, Phoenix mayor from 1976-83 went there. Class of '45. So did Ann Symington, '74, wife of former (disgraced) Arizona Governor J. Fife Symington. And Christa Severns, a former congresional staffer (and formerly married to Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon) graduated from Scripps in 1985.

(Full disclosure: I'm also a Scripps College graduate, class of '88.)

Scripps is a tiny womens' college tucked among four other undergraduate institutions that make up the Claremont Colleges in San Bernardino County. When I heard Southern California, I thought blue skies and beaches, but this is the not-so-nicely named Inland Empire -- home instead to smog and a climate only slightly more forgiving than Phoenix's.

Never mind. That gives the students more time to geek out. Each college has its own personality: Pomona's the academic powerhouse (not quite the Harvard of the West, despite T-shirts telling you so); Harvey Mudd's all about engineering; Pitzer's artsy and arguably the easiest to get into; and Scripps is either a strongly disciplined humanities-based women's college or a girls' finishing school, depending on whom you ask (and depending on the student -- one might put Hance in the former category and Symington in the latter).

The fifth in the list of colleges, Claremont McKenna, is known as the political/government school -- and in fact, several Arizona elected officials -- including Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman '84, Arizona legislator Ken Cheuvront '83 and former legislator Steve May '93 -- went there.

But when it comes to Arizona politicians, Scripps clearly trumps Claremont McKenna, in the form of Gabby Giffords.

Giffords gave the commencement address at Scripps in 2009, and referenced the warm, fuzzy feelings a lot of graduates have about the place.

It's also a place that raises tough women. With an emphasis, Christa Severns only half-jokes, on the ability to accessorize.


"The thing about Scripps is that it rubs off on you," says Severns, who now does marketing and public affairs for Fennemore Craig, a Phoenix law firm. "The mission of the college is to grow its students into confident and courageous women, and Gabby personifies that mission -- right down to the great accessories.

"When I met her, she was in the Arizona State House. She was outgoing, curious, and incredibly friendly. We talked about how she had gone to study the Mennonites in Mexico. She got totally into the subject and how she had been fascinated to learn about the `Mennonites that had gone bad.'

"Who even knew there were Mennonites in Mexico, let alone those that had gone bad?"

A Scrippsie.

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a scrippsie
a scrippsie

Though I don't know Anoush who posted, I'd like to say a big thank you! I'd also echo those exact thoughts.

To the author of this article, I don't know your personal experience as a student, but I would guess you are not a happy alum. You have done no service to any of the Claremont Colleges in this article which are top tier liberal arts colleges. As an alumnae of Scripps College, I am beyond grateful for my experiences both academic and personal.

And as a side note, Claremont is an adorable town with easy access to the culture and beaches of LA and Orange County. It has gorgeous mountain views and the campuses themselves are tranquil, beautiful havens for students. I'm sorry your experience was different.


I'm not sure who would answer "yes" these days if asked: Is Scripps College a girls' finishing school? Perhaps, back in the day, Scripps fulfilled that function for certain alumnae. Today, considering the caliber of its students and graduates, academic programs, and consistent ranking in the top tier nationally, I also would dub Scripps an academic powerhouse, right alongside its brethren at the other Claremont Colleges.


One more thing. As an honors graduate of the Scripps Politics and International Relations major, I would like to point out that CMC doesn't corner the market on government studies.


It's too bad you had to give positive press to the inaccurate stereotypes about both the college and the alumnae. The college and the students have worked very hard to dispel them. While your article seems to dispute them, you don't deny them either. As an alumna, I'm disappointed. Also, I would have expected better fact-checking from a Scripps Alumna: Claremont is in Los Angeles County.

Inset Name Here
Inset Name Here

The Claremont Colleges are in Los Angeles County, but on the very eastern edge, across the street from San Bernardino County.. (Well, with the exception of CMC's archery range and an office building, which are across Claremont Blvd. in San Bernardino County.)

And, FWIW, CMC has been rising in the rankings in the past few years, so we are ranked higher than Pomona on some rankings. I don't need a correction on CMC being an academic powerhouse too, though. :)


Too bad the Scripps grads aren't taught how to spell Bernardino.

Amy Silverman
Amy Silverman

thank you ross! i appreciate that you caught the typo. (and got to get in a "gotcha" too -- i know that's always fun....)

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