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Elisabeth Anselmi Reiss

Former First Lady

Beads To End Breast Cancer

When Elisabeth Reiss moved into the Hynson-Ringgold House in July 2010, she brought along a very long strand of beads—at 1,048 feet it’s long enough to traverse the length of three football fields. Every one of the 40,000 pink beads Elisabeth Reiss has strung together represents a life lost to breast cancer in a single year.

Reiss was living in Williamsburg, Virginia, when she set out to break a world record by single-handedly stringing the pink beads in a continuous strand. The feat was good enough to earn the recognition of the Guinness World Records organization. But Reiss has a greater objective in mind. She wants to raise at least $40,000 by selling sponsorships for every bead—figuratively dwindling the impact of breast cancer down to nothing. Reiss has created a Web site (www.buyabead.org) where donors can dedicate beads to a friend or family member affected by the disease.

Reiss hopes to team up with the College’s Zeta Tau Alpha sorority during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. Every year, the sorority directs its philanthropic efforts to support the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Supporting Local Schools

“If I could give just one gift to elementary school-aged children, I would make sure that every student is reading at the appropriate grade level,” says Elisabeth Reiss. To that end, she and her husband, former Washington College President Mitchell Reiss, will continue a longstanding family tradition of donating 100 new books to the local elementary school in their community each fall.

Mrs. Reiss, after visiting St. Martin’s Ministries in Ridgely, organized a sock and underwear drive to mark the opening of the local public schools. Dubbed “Toes & Tushies,” the initiative seeks to collect basic necessities for children in pre-school through high school.

“Parents trying to outfit their children for school sometimes have to scrimp on what’s underneath those shirts and pants and shoes,” she says. While Reiss’s Toes & Tushies drive will be an ongoing, year-round effort for St. Martin’s Ministries, Mrs. Reiss says Washington College students will be collecting donations for Kent County residents (toddler through teen) during the first week of September. Collection boxes will be set up in the dining hall.

Can You Hum A Few Bars?

Washington College’s alma mater had languished for decades, silenced by years of neglect. Current students had never heard of it, and few alumni could recall the words or the tune.

If Elisabeth Reiss has her way, that’s all about to change.

“It’s a beautiful song,” exclaims Mrs. Reiss, who treated the audience at her husband’s inauguration to a rousing rendition of “Old Washington.” The 1926 composition, arranged by Professor of Music Garry Clarke, is now performed at all major College functions. A recording of the alma mater fills the void when callers get placed on hold.

“And it’s great for school spirit,” she says, recounting an airport sighting of two strangers who burst into song when they realized they were both graduates of the same university. She promises that first-year students will be belting out the alma mater before the first day of classes—learning the song is part of this year’s new student orientation.

Old Washington

By the gleaming, blue Chester River
On the Maryland Eastern Shore
Stands a glorious Alma Mater
Whose name we will ever adore.
’Tis a name that shone high in glory
When our country, her freedom won.
And our College alone was the first one to own
To the fair name of Washington.

So Washington, Old Washington
Our Washington we do adore
We will fight for her honor
As her sons and daughters have before.
So Washington, Old Washington
Our Washington forever more,
She’s our dear Alma Mater,
On the old Eastern Shore.

Just as Washington was the foremost
Both in honor and peace and war,
So our College is foremost ever
To honor the name that he bore.
And where’er her children may wander,
She can trust ev’ry loyal one,
For we’ll bring her no shame, but be true to her name,
To the fair name of Washington.


— by C. L. Atwater, 1926, arr. Garry E. Clarke, 1995

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