Attack weighs on Scripps

Ryan Carter, Staff Writer
Created: 01/09/2011 08:43:39 PM PST

CLAREMONT – The Arizona massacre that ended with six people dead and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords fighting for her life Sunday echoed through a stunned campus community at Scripps College this weekend.

Giffords graduated in 1993 from Scripps before eventually moving back to her native Arizona and representing the Tucson area in Congress.

But as Giffords’ day began Saturday fulfilling that congressional duty, police say Jared Loughner opened fire on Giffords, shooting her in the head, and killing six others outside a supermarket in Tucson, where Giffords was holding a morning open house.

On Sunday, Scripps, a women’s college of more than 900 students, was still trying to cope with the tragedy as the college community
waited to hear more on Giffords’ condition, which doctors said was still critical.

“It’s devastating,” Scripps President Lori Bettison-Varga said on Sunday. “To have this come home to such an intimate community, the repercussions of this will be felt for some time.”

With all the violence, Scripps’ campus was a quiet place this weekend. Although classes don’t begin until later this month, many from the Scripps community were rallying online and in person all over the country for a woman many feel embodied the college’s mission.

Many alumnae have been communicating through Facebook, on their own sites and on the Scripps Alumnae Association page.

“They are supportive, loving, sending prayers, asking for prayers, and just looking to share their pain and disbelief and anger with those that understand where they are coming from,” said Emily M. Rankin, Scripps’ director of alumnae relations. “We are a proud group, and our pride in Gabby and her life and political accomplishments is second to none.”

On Saturday night, a group of alumnae in Washington gathered in support of Giffords and to send thoughts and prayers to Giffords’ family and to the families of others touched by the tragedy, Rankin said. Rankin also noted that Scripps’ Tucson alumnae group is very strong and has been keeping others in the campus community informed.

In coming together, they reflected on a woman who graduated from Scripps in 1993 ultimately to embody the mission of the institution – to develop in young women lives of courage, confidence and hope, Bettison-Varga said.

“The young alumni felt so connected to her – they found her inspiring,” Bettison-Varga said.

Many younger graduates connected quickly with Giffords in May 2009, when she gave the school’s commencement address.

Integrity. Dignity – even when it’s unpopular. Those were key themes.

“The safety of the world depends on your saying `no’ to inhumane ideas,” Giffords, a Democrat, said to the graduating class. “Standing up for one’s own integrity makes you no friends. It is costly. Yet defiance of the mob, in the service of that which is right, is one of the highest expressions of courage I know.”

Passages like that are now being often quoted in online forums about Giffords.

Giffords studied Latin American history and sociology at Scripps, according to the school’s website.

After she graduated, she spent a year in Chihuahua, Mexico, as a Fulbright scholar.

From there, she attended Cornell University, to earn a master’s degree in regional planning, and an executive program at Harvard University.

Scripps history professor Julia E. Liss, who taught Giffords in a humanities course in the early 1990s, paused to reflect on the tragedy and on Giffords’ interest in justice.

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