On the occasion of Mount Holyoke’s 75th anniversary, the Skinner family of Holyoke and South Hadley promised to construct a classroom building for non-laboratory academics, but only if the College succeeded in raising a sufficient total with its Half Million Dollar Fund.
For Mary E. Woolley, Mount Holyoke president and fundraiser extraordinaire, half a million dollars was no problem at all, and through her energetic leadership, the money was raised. Their promise redeemed, the Skinner family undertook construction of the “simple, beautiful building of tapestry brick with stone trimmings” which eventually housed the English, history, mathematics, Latin, and other departments. After its completion, students remarked on its “nice rooms” and a facade that “doesn’t look so forbidding.”
The east stairs of Skinner were long home to a beloved campus tradition. Designated the “Senior Steps,” the stairs were reserved strictly for senior students. On Sunday evenings, members of the senior class would sit on the steps with students from other classes surrounding them, and the group would sing Mount Holyoke school songs and hymns together into the evening.
The Senior Steps are no more—any senior found loudly singing hymns on the stairs of Skinner Hall would be cause for curiosity rather than school spirit—but Skinner is still home to many members of the Mount Holyoke community. Housing humanities classrooms, as well as College business, human resources, and financial aid offices, Skinner is one of the buildings regarded by students with faint awe and respect—a fitting tribute to the Skinner family, whose legacy helped make Mount Holyoke the wonderful place it is today.
The FebruMary campaign is a great opportunity to learn more about the people who make this community possible, engage with Mount Holyoke history, and inspire alumnae to continue the tradition of giving. We encourage you to comment, discuss, and interact with fellow students and alumnae here, where Mary Lyon’s vision for Mount Holyoke is stronger than ever.