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Bob Stiles: "Father of the College"

Have you ever wondered about the photo of the old Yankee farmer that is prominently displayed in the Hampshire post office, facing the service window? This is a portrait of Robert (Bob) Stiles, farmer, owner of part of the land on which Hampshire was built, and long-time employee of the post office. On the occasion of his 80th birthday, he was named, by resolution of the college senate, "Father of the College".

Bob was born in 1906, in the building that currently houses the Admissions Office. At the time, the campus was a dairy and vegetable farm, and a trolley ran along Rte. 116 from Holyoke to Amherst. Bob's family kept a herd of 40 Holsteins, as well as horses and chickens. He sold eggs and apples to Mount Holyoke College. His family valued education (his brother Wayne graduated from Amherst College), so when Chuck Longsworth (the first college employee and the second president of Hampshire) came looking to buy his land as the site of a new college, Bob was very receptive. When the deal was struck, Bob moved with his sister to the building which now houses the Human Resources Office, and Stiles House became the first tenanted building of the new college.

Bob worked first on preparing the land and existing buildings for Hampshire--among other things, rolling up miles of barbed wire from the former cow pastures.  After the campus was built, he worked for the post office, delivering mail to college offices. He was well known for his wry sense of humor, and his generosity to students, faculty and staff. At a college of mostly young people, he supplied a presence and a connection with the history of the land. At age 79, he still processed 75 quarts of tomato juice every summer from tomatoes grown in his garden, and his applesauce sundaes were legendary. On his 80th birthday, President Adele Simmons read a resolution of the college senate naming him "Father of the College". Bob worked for the college almost until the day he died, at age 80, in 1986.

 

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