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Bill King looking out from a balcony over the city of Baltimore

Home Is …

A place of comfort, of creativity, of closeness with friends and family: Home is unique to each of us

... a symbol of urban renewal

Bill King ’13 | Baltimore

“10 Light Street is widely celebrated as one of the most beautiful Art Deco-style office buildings in the U.S.,” says King, a lawyer focused on urban planning and land use, “but it’s always faced great difficulty attracting tenants, especially as downtown Baltimore suffered severe population loss from the 1970s through 2000.”

Captivated by plans to reinvent the 34-story, circa-1929 building, King signed on as one of its first residents in 2015 and co-founded the City Center Residents Association, a grassroots group representing Baltimore’s fastest growing census tract—and one of its most diverse.

“My parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents all lived their lives in Baltimore,” says King. “As I now work in Baltimore, live in Baltimore, and walk the streets of Baltimore—often tracing the same paths they have walked—I am struck by the importance of taking care of this place that we have all shared.”





... open to those in need

Laura Snyder Brown ’95 | Charlottesville, Va.

“Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, said: ‘I wanted the abundant life. I wanted it for others, too,’” says Brown, who with husband Steve established Casa Alma, a Catholic Worker community that embraces homeless and low-income families. “Living at Casa Alma, I can explore what ‘the abundant life’ entails.”

For Brown, it means a modest life, lived in communion with people on the margins. Casa Alma comprises three homes—two houses of hospitality for formerly homeless residents, and a community house where the Browns live with their three children—on a shared urban homestead featuring gardens, a mini-orchard, chickens, dairy goats, and honeybees.

“The values that were meaningful to me at Swarthmore,” says Brown, “are the same ones we try to express at Casa Alma: a deep commitment to social responsibility, the thoughtful examination of problems and creative responses, celebrating nonconformity, and valuing each person’s perspective and lived experience.”



... a tiny, inspirational retreat

Phyllis “Bunny” Sedmont Bennett ’95 | Centerville, Tenn.

“After many years of touring with his band, my husband, Arvie, and I decided to move near Nashville to further his musical career,” says Bennett, a social worker, author, and songwriter. “We gave away nearly all of our possessions and chose a lifestyle of simplicity.”

Their 400-square-foot cabin—on a dirt road near a little lake in the woods—features a composting toilet, water from a community well, and no oven. (They rely on a grill and Crockpot instead.) The beautiful setting of pastures and hills sparks Bennett’s creativity and offers peace of mind.

“My lifestyle enables me to do what brings me joy,” she says, “without the burden of a mortgage.”



... completely off the grid

Molly Raney Shepherd ’64 | North Fork, Mont.

“I have always been drawn to wild places,” says Shepherd, a retired lawyer in northwestern Montana. “Within days of my move to Missoula in 1975, I visited friends on the North Fork of the Flathead River. The majesty of the mountains, the richness of the forests, and the abundance of wildlife enchanted me.”

A decade later, Shepherd purchased 80 acres in the river valley between Glacier National Park and the Whitefish Range, 50 miles from the nearest grocery store. A one-room cabin served as a seasonal getaway until 2003, when Shepherd built “Ararat,” her dream abode, in collaboration with an architect, a structural engineer, and an “off-the-grid guru.” The firewise structure features solar panels, a diesel generator, and propane- and wood-supplied heat.

“I love that my home is bold and unexpected,” says Shepherd, “but also warm, welcoming, and functional in what can be an unforgiving environment.”



... an ecological work of art

Massey Burke ’00 | El Sobrante, Calif.

“The relationship to making things is a funny one in our culture,” says Burke, an artist in the natural-building movement. “Being able to create the life and the world that’s around you is a deep human need, but because everything is so mechanized, that part of being human has been pushed into craft or specialties, where someone else will do it for you.”

Using clay, sand, plant fibers, and other natural materials collected at construction sites, Burke builds modern homesteads from the literal ground up. In an alternate use of the ecological technique, Burke retrofitted her small, funky 1940s bungalow in the East Bay, replacing deteriorating stucco and drywall with light straw-clay—a centuries-old process seen in old German storybook buildings.

“Building with clay is this universal language,” she says. “We don’t realize it here, but two-thirds of the world population still lives in earthen housing. This is a return to what our ancestors did, but it’s also a reinvention of it.” 

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