However, anyone who knows Anderson will tell you that, despite what she tells you (or doesn’t tell you) about herself, she’s a person of diverse talents and interests or, as her friend Matt Langione ’05 put it, “a standout in so many ways.”
Having a ball
Anderson seems to be the archetypal Amherst student: a scholar-athlete, in that order, who also “is very committed about activism and social justice” according to her thesis advisor, Assistant Professor of History and Black Studies Hilary Moss. Though it seems almost a given that a person like Anderson would feel pulled toward Amherst, as a high schooler, “I originally didn’t like Amherst,” she said. Turned off by the College’s size and location, Anderson didn’t change her mind until she realized she could play sports at Amherst. In the end, though athletics “has been a huge part [of her life at Amherst],” it hasn’t been because of the on-field or on-court glories but rather because “that’s where I made a lot of my best friends. … It’s been more rewarding off the field.”
Anderson walked on to the softball and volleyball teams as a first-year. “She didn’t play much in volleyball, yet was a four year member of the program and an integral part of each of the four teams she was a member,” said Sue Everden, the head coach of both the volleyball and softball teams.
As a member of the softball team, Anderson made the same off-field contributions, but she played a much more integral role on the field. A fixture in the outfield for her freshman, sophomore and senior years, as a junior, Anderson shouldered the catching duties because the team was in need despite extremely limited experience at the position. “She became the starting left fielder and finished her softball career as a very well-respected defensive player and also was acknowledged by her teammates as a leader on and off the field as they voted her a co-captain for her senior campaign,” said Everden.
“I think that Greta became one of the greatest ambassadors of Amherst College athletics that the women’s softball and volleyball programs has ever had,” added Everden. “I think that is how she left her mark on the programs and how she will be remembered.”
Anderson’s favorite memory comes from the volleyball court rather than the softball field. In her final home game, “I rotated into the front row and had my first kill ever for the last point, the winning point,” she said.
Teaching for America
In addition to athletics, the A Better Chance (ABC) tutoring program has been another important extracurricular activity to Anderson over the past four years. ABC is a program whose main goal, according to the program’s Web site, is “to substantially increase the number of well-educated minority youth capable of assuming positions of responsibility and leadership in American Society.” In order to do so, ABC “recruit[s] talented students of color to place them in outstanding independent and public schools,” according to the site. Amherst Regional High School hosts eight or nine young men every year who attend Amherst Regional for four years while living in a house in Amherst.
The ABC tutoring program at the College sends Amherst students to the ABC house in the afternoons and evenings to help the boys with their homework, but the Amherst students also end up talking to them about life in general.
Anderson began tutoring as a sophomore and took over the program in the fall of 2004. “Erin Dittus [’03, a softball and volleyball teammate,] asked me if I wanted to start tutoring, and when she graduated she asked me if I’d take over for her,” said Anderson. She’s spent two hours of every week for the past three years at the ABC house and while tutoring “I’ve watched them [the boys] grow up as I’ve grown up,” she said.
While ABC has been Anderson’s main outlet for her devotion to social justice, Teach for America will take its place beginning with an orientation in Houston this summer. In the fall, Anderson will move to New Orleans, where she will spend the next two years. “I want to work in social justice in the long term,” said Anderson, though she is unsure of exactly what she wants to do. “The best thing I can do at this point is go into a really destitute community and work.”
The community Anderson will be working in is a difficult one; according to Teach for America’s Web site, Louisiana is “ranked last in the nation in terms of the overall well-being of children.” Anderson feels up to the challenge, however, mainly because of the Teach for America support system. “Teach for America has really impressed me. It’s incredibly well-run,” she said. “I feel comfortable that I’ll get all the support I need from them.” Though she hasn’t taken a math class since the fall of 2001, Anderson will helm a junior high or high school math class.
Those who know Anderson feel similarly confident about her teaching career. “I think that Greta will take her fortitude and thoughtfulness into the classroom and become a very successful and highly respected teacher,” said Everden.
A thesis close to home
Anderson entered her senior thesis work with the same personal investment and confidence. She chose to write her thesis on the role of the Philadelphia Quakers in the abolition movement because “I wanted to have the flexibility to write about Philadelphia,” her hometown. While not a Quaker herself, Anderson “grew up on a Quaker boarding school campus” and shares the Quaker value of social justice. “She had a personal connection to her work that enabled it to go beyond the intellectual experience,” said Moss.
Anderson’s personal investment showed in her discussion of her work. “The Quakers were the first organized group to require abolition of its membership,” she explained. However, after being “at the forefront of the anti-slavery movement,” they dropped out as it rose in popularity in the 18th century because it clashed with their passivism. “She comes out on the side of them picking religion over morality,” said Moss.
Anderson was Moss’ first thesis student, so it was a learning experience for both of them. “She was a great person to go through this process with,” said Moss. “I could not have imagined having a better thesis student. She was great.”
Anderson shared Moss’ enthusiasm. “I really enjoyed working with Professor Moss. I got a lot out of the entire experience.” Anderson claimed, “I’m not a great writer. [The thesis] was a challenge for myself.” Her thesis, nonetheless, earned her not only personal satisfaction but also cum laude honors.
A history major, Anderson also took six courses in the Spanish department, though she chose not to double major. She counts among her favorite courses The Sixties in America with Professor of English and American Studies Allen Guttmann, Economics of Education with Professor of Economics Steven Rivkin and Latino Fiction with Professor of Spanish Ilan Stavans in addition to a course at Smith College on medical ethics.
Though Anderson enjoyed her athletic, academic and other extracurricular activities, her best memories of the past four years center on the friendships she has made. Her friends feel much the same-that their friendships with Anderson have been integral to their lives at Amherst.
Langione and Anderson met as freshmen. “We lived on the same hall in Valentine [Hall]. She wasn’t of that pathetic order of freshman who goes from room to room shaking everyone’s hand, but she was not afraid to strike up a conversation when the time was right. We were instant friends,” he recalled. “Greta’s always honest,” Langione added. “Never in a kind of invidious way, but in a way that bespeaks true friendship and a genuine desire to help the people she loves.” Anderson called living in Valentine her freshman year one of her favorite Amherst memories.
Anderson’s friends have trouble choosing just one of her greatest traits. “Some of Greta’s (many) best qualities are her sense of humor and great perspective on everything,” said Carolina Dallal ’05. “I’ve met few people who are as grounded, level-headed and capable. Her sense of humor finds comedy right when you need it, and her good sensibility finds sensitive, practical solutions to most dilemmas, big or small.” Added Langione, “I hate to reduce a person like Greta to simple adjectives that will always fail to do her justice.”
Indeed, it was a difficult task to do Anderson justice in print. She is a person defined not just by her accomplishments but more importantly by her personality. It is rare to find someone as warm, generous, kind and talented as Anderson; Amherst truly is losing one of its best.