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Opening Day Convocation

When Hampshire College opened its doors in the fall of 1970, it was the hardest college in the country to get into. There were almost 10 applicants for every available place. The campus was brand new--it had one dorm (Merrill), the library, and Academic Building I (later named Franklin Patterson Hall). Other than Stiles House and a few barns, that was about it for buildings, though others were under construction. The faculty and staff were also new (at least to Hampshire), and many policies and procedures were still being developed.

On Oct. 3, 1970, the college community came together with its friends and supporters to celebrate its opening. On a perfect fall weekend guests and residents gathered for seminars, speeches and a "community kite fly". Among the speakers was poet, academic and statesman Archibald MacLeish, whose memorable address began, "There was a time, not longer ago than an assistant professor can remember, when the innovation of a college was a routine occurence..." and ended, "We may be present at a greater moment than we know." In the course of the talk MacLeish praised Hampshire's commitment to the development of self in society through liberal education, a commitment which continues to this day. Silvio Conte, long-time representative to Congress from this district, also spoke, and Franklin Patterson was inaugurated as the first president of Hampshire College. A booklet, Reflections of an Inaugural Convocation, was produced shortly afterwards with photographs, programs, and the texts of some of the speeches. Using newly developed video technology, the festive event was recorded and saved for the college archives. Years later, for the 25th anniversary of the college, we sent the old format videotapes to an archival restoration service, and they produced a VHS copy that we showed on the Magic Board in the library that anniversary weekend.

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