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Ruth Hammen, the "Mother of the College"

Secretary to the first President of Hampshire College, Ruth was the most senior employee Hampshire College had ever had when she retired in 1994. When she started work in 1966, Hampshire College existed only on paper and in dreams; she remembered, "What I refer to as the first building of Hampshire College was up on the hill. The architects wanted a vantage point to get the lay of the land when they were doing their plans. It was four telephone poles and a platform and a ladder. And I'd go out there at lunchtime with my brown bag and climb up the ladder and sit there and look....It was an absolutely beautiful place to eat your lunch. To me, that was the first building of Hampshire College. The first thing actually put up because we were there."

More prosaically, Ruth typed (this was before word processors were invented, remember) the drafts of The Making of a College, the blueprint for Hampshire's academic program, as it was being written by Franklin Patterson and Chuck Longsworth, the first and second Presidents of the College.

When Franklin Patterson left the college, Ruth became the administrative assistant in the School of Language and Communication (which later became the School of CCS, then CS). ASH Auditorium is named in her honor. In 1992, when she was 75, she fulfilled a lifelong dream and went skydiving (in tandem with an instructor).

The announcement for her retirement party in 1994 referred to her as, "...mother and grandmother to us all, storehouse of Hampshire lore (much of it unrepeatable)..." Ruth had many stories about the early days. One day she brought to the Archives a small phonorecord that the College had sent out in 1969 to prospective students, "If this were an ordinary college, we'd have made an ordinary bulletin." read the cover. I had seen it before, and wondered what was so special about the one she brought me, until she pointed out a phrase from the text inside which referred to "...the intercourse among the 20,000 students [of the Five Colleges]..." The print run of this version had been destroyed, and the phrase changed to "...the interchange among the 20,000 students..." in the version I had seen! The story was that Pat had been scandalized when he saw it, despite the insistence of Frank Smith, first Dean of H&A, that "intercourse" was a perfectly good English word.

Ruth died in 1997. When Greg Prince spoke at a memorial service for her, he said that Patterson and Longsworth "...credited Ruth's work with far greater significance than Ruth would ever have claimed. As editor and manuscript preparer of The Making of a College, Ruth did far more than edit....She was not just present at the creation, she was one of Hampshire's creators."

 

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