Though weighing only three and a half pounds at birth and never reaching five feet in height, when Pris arrived on our Rivoli campus in September of 1964, she became Wesleyan’s petite Goliath. After serving as class president her junior year, Pris was elected president of the YWCA her senior year and was instrumental in bringing Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique, to Wesleyan.
After that coup in advocacy for women and graduating cum laude, Pris quickly took on the world, beginning with a M.S. degree in 1969 from Purdue University followed by a J.D. degree from American University in Washington, DC, in 1984. Partnering her skill as a lawyer with her compassion for the less fortunate in society, Pris for many years offered pro bono legal advice to United Community Ministries in Northern Virginia, an organization that provides aid for indigent men, women, children, and immigrants.
Time after time, Pris has spoken for those individuals in society whose muted voices she champions. Ever on the frontline of women’s rights, Pris became an early leader in La Leche League International as she fought to make breast-feeding in public an acceptable act of mothering.
Pris’s thirty-year career in law complemented her work at St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia. Serving as the go-to attorney for any parish business that arose, Pris helped with property issues and led classes for the congregation on end-of-life issues and estate planning.
Pris’s generosity is legendary. In her unflagging devotion to Wesleyan, she has sponsored Wesleyan student interns in her home and served as a career mentor. She has been an important contact for Wesleyan in the Washington, DC, area representing the College at college fairs, serving as a hostess for alumnae gatherings in her home, and contacting classmates and other alumnae about supporting Wesleyan’s development goals. Pris played a key role in planning, fundraising for, and coordinating the first Alumnae Leadership Day in 2016. In addition, Pris has served her alma mater as alumnae club leader for the DC Metro Area for thirty-plus years, class of ’68 liaison, member of the Society for the 21st Century, vice-chair of the Major Gift Committee in the Forever First campaign, alumna trustee on the WCAA’s Board of Managers, and in 2017 she was elected to the Wesleyan College Board of Trustees.
While Pris’s greatest passions focus on student life and academic affairs, in recent years she has become increasingly engaged with Wesleyan’s efforts to capture and archive the College’s storied history. Reflecting on their many years of working together, Wesleyan College President Emerita Ruth Knox ’75 describes Pris as “smart, witty, energetic, creative, and dedicated,” a true Renaissance woman indeed.
For her untiring devotion to all things Wesleyan, her continued efforts to recruit students, nurture alumnae, and raise financial support for the College, and for her selfless commitment to her community and church, the Wesleyan College Alumnae Association presents the Alumnae Award for Distinguished Service to Wesleyan to Priscilla Gautier Bornmann, Class of 1968.