Valerie J. Armento ’73

Valerie was born on Staten Island, NY and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area when she was 12. She enrolled in UCSD in 1969 and in1971, seeking East Coast adventure, attended Dartmouth as an exchange student. In 1972, she became one of the first women to matriculate at Dartmouth and among the first women to graduate from Dartmouth in 1973. She went on to get a joint degree in Regional Planning and Law from Cornell. She is semi-retired now, after a career as a city attorney in the SF area and is currently general counsel for a habitat agency dealing with endangered species preservation. It is an understatement to say she loves Dartmouth through and through.


first off, what’s for breakfast?

Cheerios, juice, fruit. Not a coffee drinker.

on joining the Centennial Circle

I think it’s important for Dartmouth women to assert themselves. I guess you could say that as a member of the first class with women, I felt a responsibility to step up. The whole thing just made sense to me.

on my nightstand

I used to be a voracious reader of mysteries. Then I got into books that were influenced by my travels. I went to Antarctica in the early ‘90’s and read works by or about various explorers, such as Endurance about Ernest Shackleton by Alfred Lansing, and the expedition journals of Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen.  Before my 2013 Greenland trip, I read This Cold Heaven by Gretel Ehrlich, in which she quotes freely from the works of Knud Rasmussen, a famous Greenlandic ethnologist, whose former home is now a museum I visited in Ilulissat. And every year on my birthday I read favorite poems aloud from A Pocket Book of Modern Verse.

my uniform

Slacks and a top. When I was working full-time as a city attorney, I wore a suit with a skirt or jacket and dress every day, plus nylons and low heels. At my first job someone said to me, “Gee, I never met a woman who was interested in ordinances before.” There were so few women doing what I did, I felt I had to look professional. Now I’m really hard pressed to dress like that.

every day I make sure I…

Swim. Mostly in the local high school pool, but May to September in open water: lakes, the San Francisco Bay, ocean in Santa Cruz

. . . I try to swim 365 miles a year; in 2014 I swam 450. There was not a swim team at UCSD, and at Dartmouth in 72-73 the coach said I could work out with the men’s team, but that I could not compete. So instead, I played on the first women’s basketball team (I earned a letter sweater). The 1984 Olympics inspired me to start swimming again. I’ve been keeping track of my mileage since then and reached my 8000th mile in November.

women I admire

My mother’s parents came over from Italy in the early 1900’s. My grandmother was a couture seamstress. She raised her two daughters after her husband died when my mother was 8 and continued doing her trade until she was in her 70’s. My mother went to college and became a school teacher. She was a translator at the 1939 World’s Fair. She raised 4 girls (I’m the eldest). Almost 19 years ago, she had a massive stroke while she was preparing my birthday dinner. She was 74. She is now 93. I admire these two women immensely, in particular their resiliency.

biggest global national or local concern

Sufficient clean water worldwide. The drought in California pales in comparison to the absence of decent potable water in many places. Water is fundamental to life and critical to agriculture.

OK, plug your favorite charities

Dartmouth College
Girl Scouts of Northern California

my Dartmouth spot

Some people may be appalled, but when I was a student, the senior fence was a double fence located near the flagpoles, and my friends and I used to walk on it like it was a balance beam. I have a photo of two of us walking on it in cap and gown. I’ve walked on it like a balance beam at every reunion. At my 35th there was a police officer who told me I shouldn’t be doing that, but I walked the Main Street length again at my 40th.

advice for the women of 2018

Be a sponge. Try to keep an open mind. Keep your options open, be flexible in terms of what you are interested in, and pursue opportunities as they come along even if not part of the original game plan.