Naming the College

Would you like to attend Hitchcock College? Or perhaps Hadley College? These were two of several names in the running for Hampshire College when it was being founded. In 1965, when Harold F. Johnson had just made his $6 million gift to start this new institution of higher education, the first trustees were faced with the necessity of choosing a name. Johnson had vetoed the idea of naming it after himself early on. "New College" (after The New College Plan, one of our founding documents), was already taken by an institution in Florida. When the first employee of the college, Charles R. Longsworth (our first vice-president and second president), set out to purchase land in South Amherst and Hadley, he set up an organization called the Trustees of Tinker Hill to acquire the land. Tinker Hill didn't seem an altogether suitable name for a college, so the trustees met to debate a number of suggestions in the spring of 1965.

Hitchcock College would have honored Edward Hitchcock, President of Amherst College in the mid-1800s, a founding trustee of Mount Holyoke College, and the first Massachusetts State Geologist. Mount Hitchcock in the Holyoke Range is named after him, as is glacial Lake Hitchcock, which at the end of the last Ice Age occupied the area where the college now stands. Hadley College would have been named after one of the towns where Hampshire owns land (Amherst being already taken!), and Hampden and Hampshire come from the Massachusetts county names in this part of the state. After much debate and serious thought, the college became officially known as Hampshire College in May 1965. Only one question still puzzles this archivist: why did all the names under consideration begin with H?