Archive Materials



Founding Years




Gracious Living

Broader Diversity

Forward Looking





Student Life

Historical Contexts

Wider World


Trials & Tribulations
President Roswell Ham & South Hadley's Address To The Community

Mount Holyoke College--Growth Within the Community:Throughout the years, the college’s presence within the community—as a business, educational facility and employer grew exponentially—as did their acquisition of property. The community of South Hadley was also developing—becoming a bedroom community to the larger cities surrounding it. It would not be surprising then, that the relationship between the college and town would seem strained at times. Many issues would develop throughout the years between the college and the community. The affiliation, seemingly a mutually beneficial relationship did in fact spur some local controversy throughout the years. We can explore the happenings of the college—their purchases of property, the growth of the college and facilities, and the impact that it has had on the development of the town to try to address some of these questions.

19th Century Relationship: The relationship between the residents of South Hadley and the students at Mount Holyoke early on in the College's history seemed to be more interactive. (Click here for an interesting story about community involvement.) In fact, the students originally attended the local church for services before a chapel was built on campus. As the college grew, adding more buildings and increasing the number of students, social activity and groups formed within the campus environment. Consequently, the interaction between the townspeople and the students decreased significantly.

1949--Issues Addressed: By 1949, it appeared that there was a real need to inform the residents of South Hadley exactly what role Mount Holyoke played within the community. To address some of the issues felt by the townspeople, a pamphlet was produced jointly by the town of South Hadley and the College to contend with their questions and concerns. President Roswell G. Ham of Mount Holyoke stated in the pamphlet that “This leaflet tells of the participation of the College in the costs of local government and in what other ways it contributes to the economic well-being of the Town of South Hadley.”

Taxes: One of the issues that seemed of particular importance in the town was the College’s tax-exempt status. Because at that time the college owned a number of parcels that were being used for both educational and income-generating purposes, it is no wonder that the townspeople may have felt as if they may have been contributing more than their share of taxes to the town. The pamphlet produced by President Ham addresses this issue and indicates that in fact the College does pay property taxes on any and all of the properties not being used for “educational” purposes. In addition to the college being the largest tax paying entity in the town at that time, it was also responsible for providing the services needed for the maintenance and operations of the campus. Police protection, roads (construction, maintenance and snow removal), sewers, and electrical services located within the boundaries of the educational facility were all paid for in full by the College—not by the townspeople.

Benefits to South Hadley Residents: The matter of the town benefiting from the College’s presence needed to be explained in greater detail to assure the townspeople that in fact, the college was concerned about the town and the residents therein. At the time the college offered free tuition scholarships for up to 25 local residents who met the requirements for entrance without condition. In addition, the students and faculty of the college supported local businesses through their purchases in the shops and establishments. There was also income generated to local businesses by the visitors to the college. Merchants operating groceries, accommodations, services (building, fuel, banking, etc.), also reaped the benefits of their proximity to the college.

Why Address the issues at all? By addressing the aforementioned issues addressed by President Ham, one might feel as if Mount Holyoke was defending its’ position within the community. In fact, the range of issues addressed appears to be an indication of this. If in fact this was the case, it would appear that the relationship between the college and the town was indeed strained to a degree that an explanation was not only needed, but truly warranted. The release of such information to the townspeople indicates that the college is not trying to avoid their responsibilities to the town—as they are a significant and willing contributor to the community as a whole.

Resolution and Acceptance: Although this is just one example of the trials, tribulations, and efforts made to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship between the College and the Town of South Hadley throughout the years, it is clear that neither would be what they are today without the other. They developed and grew alongside each other, experiencing the ups and downs of any significant relationship.

Present Day: College Street is lined with local businesses and homes of the townspeople who interact throughout the year with Mount Holyoke College students, faculty, visitors and employees. The once small farming village has blossomed into a lively community of culture, education, gainful employment, and home to both faculty and townspeople alike. The significance of the town’s initial bid to induce Mary Lyon to locate her seminary here has provided them the opportunity to reap the benefits of the Colleges’ presence, finances, and culture. Consequently, the importance and reputation of Mount Holyoke as an institution of higher learning within the community of South Hadley contributed significantly to the integrity and growth of the town and its economy throughout the years.



This page was created by Anjanette Kelso-Watson '04 in History 283, Fall Semester 2003 -