Cynthia Zujkowski on the Legacy of Mothers

Ever since the carving was installed, I’ve wished that we could smooth over my name and replace it with the name of my mother, Nancy McLaughlin Zujkowski. It was she who insisted that I apply to Yale that first year women were being admitted. I told her there was not the remotest chance of my being accepted. But her dream was bigger than mine. And it came true.

I’d also want to find room for the name of my grandmother, Nellie Doherty McLaughlin. Nana was born in a rough stone cottage in the West of Ireland. She came to the United States to work doing laundry in the home of a wealthy family. Her mother Margaret Gilroy Doherty raised eight children in that stone cottage and sent six of them to America in hopes of finding a better life. My great- great- grandmother, Bridgid Corcoran, survived the terrible potato famine of the 1840’s. When things get rough and it’s hard to press on, I think of them and draw strength from their example.


It would mean the world to me if I could gather these women in front of the carving, along with my Dad’s mother Mary Boguszewski. My grandmothers could never ever have imagined that such a future would be possible for one of their own. It consoles me to know that, through the miracle of DNA, I carry traces of them in every cell of my body. They have in fact been with me through every heartbeat of my time at Yale.


What’s true for me may be true for you. Many of us have loved ones whose dreams and sacrifices opened the door to unimaginable opportunity. I hope that you will take a minute to honor them. If they are yet living, speak with them. If not, then call their faces to mind, whisper their names and thank them – just thank them.