Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Education: Choosing Wellesley

BOND: You talked a moment ago about a guidance counselor who suggested Wellesley, which you had not heard of. But you quickly learned it was all women and it was Northern and it was likely to be overwhelmingly white. What went into the decision to go there?

PINN: Well, I’d applied — I remember applying to five schools that Paulie Weedon recommended I look into. And my mother had some brothers in Boston so we’d gone up. I’d seen the campus. I remember saying that I wanted to go to school where there was snow, so I applied to Northern schools. Don’t ask me why, but that was the immaturity in me at that time because I certainly got to see lots of snow. But when I went for my school interviews — and I don’t think it really struck me it was going to be all girls or going to be mixed the way I’ve seen young people today, they really debate the concept of whether they want to be in a single-sex school or be in a mixed environment.

I just knew I wanted to be a doctor, and I wanted to get into a college that was going to help me get to medical school. And I remember as I went on my interviews each place that I went, when people asked where I had applied, they just all seemed to be impressed with Wellesley when I— they'd say, "Oh, you applied to Wellesley." So, I thought, "Well, gee, if everybody’s impressed maybe that’s where I need to go," and that was the last acceptance I got.

Sometimes being naïve helps because I wasn’t as nervous about whether or not I’d get into Wellesley. I decided I wanted to get there. Got acceptance in other schools. That was the last one that I got and I decided that’s where I wanted to go. I think I really didn’t know the competition I was facing. I really didn’t know the environment that I was going to be going into. I knew I’d be going up North, be going where it was cold, there’d be snow. I knew it was a good school and I knew it seemed to be well respected by those who were at other institutions, and maybe it was better that I wasn’t as concerned and worried as I might have been had I known how competitive it was going to be, how few of us there were going to be there.

I had had a few experiences going off to like, summer — not camps but education experiences. I remember that I was selected to be one of a couple of people from Lynchburg to come up to Hood College outside of Washington in Maryland, and there were maybe just one or two black women there and it was mostly a conference or workshop or something, but it was an experience that I have never forgotten because I met and had an opportunity to be in this sort of educational summer experience where there were not many blacks but where the white girls were very receptive. So I didn’t really have a negative experience there, so I guess sometimes, being naïve, I hadn’t really worried about the things that maybe I should’ve worried about but it’s maybe better that I didn’t because then I got there, lived the experiences, saw the differences, differences in the education environment but also differences in the community environment because Boston started going through a lot of turmoil during those years of ’58 to ’62 when I was in college and really beginning to witness what was happening in terms of what others were experiencing.