Fundraising at Mount Holyoke: a longstanding tradition

February 12, 2020 at 5:04 PM


Fundraising is an integral part of Mount Holyoke, allowing the College to provide excellent education from generation to generation. The offices responsible for this important task have changed and shifted throughout Mount Holyoke’s long history, but the goal remains the same: to ensure that Mount Holyoke forever shall be.

Mount Holyoke was founded thanks to the stalwart fundraising efforts of Mary Lyon, who collected donations ranging from six cents to $1,000 in support of a new institution of higher learning for women to rival the all-male Ivy Leagues. After the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary opened in 1837, the responsibility to expand the school’s resources and facilities through fundraising lay primarily with the President, the Board of Trustees and loyal alumnae. In the College’s first 75 years, the Trustees led several successful large-scale campaigns to fund everything from teacher salaries and building improvements to campus expansion and the establishment of an Endowment Fund. 

In the spring of 1919, the College began to organize a campaign for $500,000, which was increased to $3 million in the fall. At this time, Ruth French Adams, class of 1913, was hired as Executive Secretary to the Endowment Committee to work with the Board to oversee the Endowment Fund Office and organize this national campaign.

In June 1923, following the successful Three Million Campaign, the Trustees approved a plan to create an office of "Living Endowment."  This office would be directly responsible to the Board and would be charged with building a future, stable income for the College. The office opened on September 1, 1923 with Gertrude V. Bruyn '14 as Field Secretary.  In October 1923, it was reported that the Office of the Field Secretary had two charges: first, as an official representative of the College to aid individual alumnae or Alumnae Associations in advertising the College and second, to cooperate with the Alumnae Secretary in a plan to develop the Alumnae Fund as the alumnae portion of the Living Endowment. 

In 1946, a post-war "Development Program" was presented to the Trustees for preliminary approval to raise money for eight professorial chairs and secure the final funds necessary to build new physical education and chemistry buildings. In the Report of the President for 1945-46, President Ham wrote that the College "has enthusiastically undertaken a well-integrated development program" for the Campaign. In April 1950, Gertrude V. Bruyn, who had served as Field Secretary since 1923, was named Director of the Development Program. She retired in 1958 and was succeeded by Catherine "Kitty" Bellows Longyear, class of 1927, who had been the Assistant Director since October of 1950.

For a short time beginning in 1966, full responsibility for alumnae fundraising was assumed by the Alumnae Association. The College began managing institutional fundraising again in 1970, following a study by a committee on Association Structure.

Today, the College’s development program falls under the purview of the Division of Advancement, which leads the philanthropic efforts of the College. What was once the Alumnae Fund is now known as The Mount Holyoke Fund (the College’s annual fund),  providing immediate support to emerging needs and challenges on campus. With eight distinct departments that oversee areas from Gift Planning to Foundation Relations and Sponsored Research to Donor Relations and Stewardship, the Division of Advancement continues the important work that Mary Lyon began nearly two centuries ago: to ensure that both current and future students receive a transformative Mount Holyoke education.


Advancement is a strategic, integrated method of managing relationships to increase understanding and support among an educational institution’s key constituents, including alumnae/i and friends, government policy makers, the media, members of the community, and philanthropic entities of all types.

Talk with people to promote understanding, awareness and engagement among alumnae, parents and friends of the College and secure resources to advance our mission.

Help align donors’ passions and philanthropy with Mount Holyoke’s future success.

Pictured above:
Gertrude V. Bruyn (inset), class of 1914, Mount Holyoke's first Field Secretary, pictured with an excerpt from her article, "The ABCs of Alumnae Giving," from the February 1938 issue of the Mount Holyoke Alumnae Quarterly. Images courtesy of the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections.

Rachel Nix ’20

Written by Rachel Nix ’20

Rachel, a politics major and sociology minor, is a marketing assistant in the Office of Advancement and a contributor to the MHC Forever blog. Hailing from West Virginia, she serves on MHC’s Admissions and Financial Aid Advisory Committee, is deeply involved with social justice initiatives and loves spending her free time with friends, reading on the green or trying to pet Jorge, the goose.