Building Community Fact #16: Ham Hall

February 16, 2015 at 9:00 AM

It took 346,00 bricks, 40,000 masonry blocks, 3,000 cubic yards of concrete, 10 tons of reinforcing steel, and $1,250,000 to build Ham Hall. Coined the “Tower of Babel” by Mount Holyoke president emeritus Roswell Gray Ham, the hall was hailed as a new foray into economical, multicultural living. Construction began in 1964 under the auspices of President Richard Glenn Gettell. The building was completed and dedicated in September 1965 in honor of president emeritus Ham.

Intended to function as a “language hall,” Ham was designed to provide an immersive language-learning experience. The hall was also popular with international students fluent in the languages spoken on each floor. With five floors of students studying German, Russian, French, Italian, and Spanish, Ham housed 121 students of varying class years in a truly unique setting. Many students chose to live in the dorm for all four years of their education at Mount Holyoke.

One reason for Ham’s popularity and a driving factor in its dedication as a dorm with an international focus was Mount Holyoke’s study abroad program, or absence thereof. When Ham Hall was constructed, Mount Holyoke lacked any formal program for students to study outside the country during their time in college, although 25–30 students a year did utilize intercollegiate access to study abroad programs.

Today, Ham Hall’s dining room hosts the popular foreign language discussion tables, and Mount Holyoke offers more than 150 study abroad programs in 50 countries. From Rome (Adrienne Picciotto and Jenny Daniels ’16, have a good year!), to Japan (Aurian Eghbalian ’13, we hope you enjoyed it!), to Costa Rica (Sarah Hayden ’15 had fun in the sun during the spring of 2014), Mount Holyoke students have the full support of their alma mater in their journeys across the world. From five floors of students dedicated to immersive language learning to 200 or more students a year broadening their horizons through study abroad—Mount Holyoke has made a shift as big as Ham Hall itself.

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.


MHC Development

Written by MHC Development