Unknown to many students, the current North and South Rockefeller Halls actually represent the second instance of a Rockefeller dormitory to exist on campus. On a chilly December morning in 1922, disaster struck Mount Holyoke when a fire broke out in Rockefeller Hall at 8:30 a.m. The blaze was out of control within an hour. Fires were not an uncommon occurrence on campus at the time — in 1896 the original Mount Holyoke Female Seminary Building was destroyed by fire and later, in 1917, Williston Hall was also consumed by flames.
Since its founding, Mount Holyoke has been a part of the tradition of strong women in the United States. This March, as we celebrate Women’s History Month, we look back at its origins and how it came to be.
The beginnings of Women’s History Month began with the first celebrated International Women’s Day on March 19, 1911. On this day, more than one million women and men attended rallies campaigning for women's rights to work, vote, be trained, hold public office and end discrimination.
"I come from a large family with big ambitions and tiny purses. My parents wanted the best for me and MHC gave me the opportunity to achieve those goals. To be a member of the LCS makes me feel proud and grateful. I’m proud to know that I can not only potentially help some young woman achieve her next step, but also grateful for a career that allows me to give back." —Katia deSouza (Evans) ’99
The Laurel Chain Society honors the generosity of all alumnae, family members and friends who support the College consistently each year. Their steadfast support of — and unwavering belief in — the College advances the mission of Mount Holyoke and empowers our students to change the world. Laurel Chain Society Member Katia deSouza (Evans) ’99 tells us why she supports Mount Holyoke:
Tell me a bit about your Mount Holyoke experience. What did you study? What was your favorite class? What was your favorite place on campus? What has been your path since leaving Mount Holyoke? I was biochemistry major, as I had planned to be since I was 10 years old. And I loved BIOCHEM 311. The independent research project and presentation were my favorite parts. That class really set the stage for where I thought my life/career was going to go and has gone. As planned, I pursued a doctorate degree in the sciences and graduated from Columbia University in 2005. I had always planned to be a professor and have a lab, but I left the academic world to pursue medical writing and medical communications, after a brief post doc. In November of 2013, I moved to Basel, Switzerland to pursue that work in-house at Novartis Pharma, AG.
Why did you choose MHC? I wish my story was more glamorous. My father suggested that I attend. I chose MHC sight unseen. I didn’t attend a campus visit program and only reviewed the PRINTED material that was sent to me. It was a leap of faith where I trusted my gut and said GO!
"My MHC education gave me confidence in my own abilities, reinforced my assertiveness in continuing to strive and instilled problem-solving skills, intellectual discipline and the value of hard work, which, like my mother and aunts, resulted in my success in graduate school and in my career." —Kathy Schofield ’70
The Laurel Chain Society honors the generosity of all alumnae, family members and friends who support the College consistently each year. Their steadfast support of — and unwavering belief in — the College advances the mission of Mount Holyoke and empowers our students to change the world. Laurel Chain Society Member Kathy Schofield ’70 tells us why she supports Mount Holyoke:
Tell me a bit about your Mount Holyoke experience. What did you study? What was your favorite class? What was your favorite place on campus? What has been your path since leaving Mount Holyoke? Fine Arts, specifically painting and printmaking, was my academic home (determined based on being able to earn a grade better than a “C” after experimenting with French and Chemistry). Sculpture with Professor Leonard A Delonga, Professor of Art 1964-1991 was my favorite class; the art studios in Dwight were my favorite places.
My working life path since leaving MHC is complex and varied: secretarial; MBA from Amos Tuck School at Dartmouth; 30 years as an advertising executive in Chicago, Greenville, South Carolina and Baltimore; association marketing executive in Washington D.C.; a return to school to earn a third degree in Computer Graphics; adjunct instructor in Computer Graphics at a community college; finally full circle back to administrative assistant. Retirement in March 2015.
My path in private life: marriage at 20; divorce at 30; single until 40; 25 years of very happy marriage ending at the premature passing of my beloved husband; beginning my fourth year as a widow. No children.
Why did you choose Mount Holyoke? MHC is in my genes; when I matriculated in 1966, The Quarterly reported my status as fifth generation with my great-great-grandmother Mary Ballantine Fairbank having been a student of Mary Lyon and my being the 50-something girl from the Fairbank and Caskey families to attend MHC. My playmates as a child were my nine girls cousins from three sisters, all MHC alums, each of whom built successful careers in their chosen fields. Although my mother Mary Adelaide Wright Rainey ’43 had communicated her unhappiness during her four years at MHC, I accepted an invitation from my aunt Alice Wright Conkey ’41 to accompany her and my cousin to an application interview. Upon my acceptance, MHC’s beautiful campus was the deciding factor in my decision to attend along with its high educational standards and single sex education.
"We were fortunate to be able to attend a women’s college that had great professors, wonderful traditions and provided a terrific education. I want other women to be able to experience the same." — Joan Winkel Ripley ’55
The Laurel Chain Society honors the generosity of all alumnae, family members and friends who support the College consistently each year. Their steadfast support of — and unwavering belief in — the College advances the mission of Mount Holyoke and empowers our students to change the world. Lifetime Laurel Chain Society Member Joan Winkel Ripley ’55 tells us why she supports Mount Holyoke:
Tell me a little about yourself. While at Mount Holyoke, what was your major? What are you doing now? I married in 1956 and had five children. I now have 17 grandchildren and one great grandson. I majored in Chemistry, and only worked one year as a chemist before my husband was transferred to Georgia where there were no chemistry jobs. I became a statistician for George Washington University which was doing a project for the army.In 1972, after five children, I opened a bookstore in Chappaqua, New York. I finally closed it 37 years later in 2009. During that time I became the first woman president of the American Booksellers Association and traveled all over the U.S. I am now retired.
Why did you choose Mount Holyoke? I chose Mount Holyoke because back in the 1950s, if you did well in high school you were expected to attend a Seven Sisters school. I had never seen a college before entering the gates freshman year at Mount Holyoke in 1951.
"As alumnae, we have all benefited in some way from the Mount Holyoke experience, whether it’s the academics, the community, or the opportunities MHC provided for us. It's up to us as alumnae to give back to ensure that future generations of students enjoy a MHC experience that’s just as incredible, if not better, than ours." — Omaima Afzaal ’17
The Laurel Chain Society honors the generosity of all alumnae, family members and friends who support the College consistently each year. Their steadfast support of — and unwavering belief in — the College advances the mission of Mount Holyoke and empowers our students to change the world. New Laurel Chain Society Member Omaima Afzaal ’17 tells us why she supports Mount Holyoke:
Tell me a bit about your Mount Holyoke experience. What did you study? What was your favorite class? What was your favorite place on campus? What has been your path since leaving Mount Holyoke? I was an economics and politics double major. There’s no way I could pick my favorite class, but one class that particularly left an impact on me was “Economic Development in the Age of Globalization” with Professor Eva Paus. There were about 14 of us from about nine different countries, which made for lively conversation regarding globalization. There was a huge emphasis on participating and debating in the class, and I left each class more confident about my speaking and arguing skills. I am currently working as a legal assistant at a corporate law firm in New York, combining my interests in finance and law.
Why did you choose MHC? I was originally on the fence about choosing Mount Holyoke. That changed when I sat in on several MHC classes during accepted students’ weekend. I loved how passionate Mount Holyoke students were about their coursework, and I was impressed by how engaging and interactive the professors were in the classroom. The classes were much more than just lectures — students brought their own genuine curiosities, frustrations, and critiques about the course materials, creating an open, collaborative space to learn in. I chose Mount Holyoke because I knew it would provide the rigorous, yet supportive, environment I needed to grow as a student.
I have been fundraising for Mount Holyoke for well over a decade, since the run-up to our 10th Reunion. Like many other students, I attended MHC with significant financial support, much of which was made possible by alumnae whom I never met. I am passionate about the process of ensuring that others will have the same or even better opportunities than I did those many years ago (The LYNK, anyone?).
On behalf of all our students, thank you for your gifts to The Mount Holyoke Fund! Your gifts will support every part of the MHC experience for our students, from once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to beloved MHC traditions, as well as our amazing faculty and this beautiful campus. With your gifts, you have shared many heartfelt comments on what inspired you to pay it forward. Here are just a few:
"Mount Holyoke was the type of school that I needed after graduating from a small public high school with only about 30 students who planned to go on to college. I had been told that as a girl, I needed to keep my mouth shut and not to excel in ways that would make boys uncomfortable! I needed outstanding professors, but most of all I needed to be allowed to ask questions, seek answers, work hard, and do my best. I loved my liberal arts education and the breadth of experiences that was very different from anything I had experienced before. I loved having classmates and fellow students who were also interested in a variety of issues and subjects." —Claire Offutt Leonard '67
You recently made a gift to MHC. Can you tell us what inspired you to give? I give to Mount Holyoke every year because my MHC education allowed me to become the person I am today. I gained self-confidence that I didn't know I lacked and was able to stand up for myself in the working world because I had already done it at Mount Holyoke.
Only a few more hours left! Mount Holyoke's fiscal year ends tonight at midnight. Each year, every year, MHC counts on the community for support so that students today—and for generations to come—will have the amazing MHC experience. With so many opportunities and so many reasons to give, here's what inspired Christine Ianni '15 to pay it forward:
You recently made a gift to MHC. Can you tell us what inspired you to give? I couldn't be more grateful for the opportunities Mount Holyoke provided me and I hope my gift will help guarantee the same for others.