A thousand alumnae and students of Wellesley College, Massachusetts, have an invite to its first annual gathering in London, which begins today and starts the run-up to its 125th anniversary in September 2000.
Wellesley's Paris forum in 1996 was the first that the women-only college had held outside the United States and its success encouraged the school to establish a tradition of periodical gatherings in foreign capitals.
An increasing proportion of Wellesley's enrolment, long acknowledged to be among the most carefully selected anywhere, is drawn from outside the US.
The college's London-based spokeswoman, New-England-born Jennifer Koller, described the importance Wellesley attaches to maintaining active contact with its alumnae. "The meeting in London helps the college access views on cross-cultural living from our people living and working abroad."
The goal is to ensure the school's continuity and the preservation of its aims, central to which is help to impoverished students. "It remains a priority," Ms Koller said, noting that some well-known campuses have abandoned similar programmes. "It assures us some of the best available students who ordinarily couldn't afford either to come or to stay the course."
Wellesley's talent for networking its legendary. "Homecoming" weekends on any United States campus display the loyalties that are each school's proclamation of a lifelong bonding process.
The objective is a dependable source of donations and bequests, often in perpetuity. In 1997-98, 49 per cent of Wellesley's alumnae donated just under $14.1 million, an impressive figure, bearing in mind that enrolment historically has been small, currently 2,300 from 70 different countries.
While no real challenge has yet appeared to disturb Wellesley as a women-only preserve, the theme for the gathering, "Crystal Ball Gazing: Scenarios for the Future", could foretell the end of other preciously held traditions. The forum includes lectures on topics such as genetic engineering in the 21st century, work in 2025, and the future of the family.