If you looked at Sunday’s New York Times, you might have noticed a full-page ad featuring Jennifer Garner ’94, the new face of Max Mara fashions, in the “Sunday Styles” section. What you might not have known, however, was that the page opposite her featured another Denison alumna: Susan Clapper Ritter ’65, who appeared in a photo for an article by Meg Wolitzer about the guest editor program at Mademoiselle (though Ritter didn’t know she’d made the Times until she received a call from her former Denison roommate, Susan Cobourn Schmidt ’65).
Inspired by advisor Paul Bennett, Ritter applied to the program in 1964 with an essay on the beat poets. She was invited to serve as Mademoiselle’s college and career guest editor the summer before her senior year at Denison—a rare opportunity, she notes, since “one of the ‘perks’ of being a guest editor was the offer of a job at Conde Nast Publications,” so the magazine nearly always chose recent graduates.
A round-trip plane ticket from Columbus to New York only cost $30 at the time, but Ritter admits that, having never flown before, she accidentally threw her return ticket away once she arrived in New York. Fortunately, she has many more positive memories of that summer.
“There were parties at night, showers of gifts from advertisers, a trip to England for a week, interviews with people like Adlai Stevenson, Carol Channing, Steve Lawrence, James Farmer, John Fairchild,” she recalls.
When the women went to see the Milliken Breakfast Show, Mademoiselle arranged for her to meet with performer John Davidson ’63 afterward, since the pair had known each other at Denison. She and the other guest editors stayed at the Barbizon Hotel for Women, where she remembers that fellow intern and future fashion designer Betsey Johnson would cut fabric for dresses on the floor of her room at night.
“Needless to say, the times and experiences were heady stuff for a gal from the Midwest who hadn’t even been on a plane until my trip from Columbus to New York,” Ritter says, although “New York City and Denison had at least one thing very much in common … walking!”
At the end of the summer, she returned to Denison to complete her education. After graduation, she moved back to New York and worked for Mademoiselle again. In fact, by 1969 she was college competitions editor, so she got to experience the guest editor selection process from the other side, reading applications and traveling to college campuses to interview promising candidates. “It definitely was a highlight of my life,” she says. “It still is.”