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Pangynaskeia ceremony, in 1980. Students, alumnae, staff, and faculty are processing into Gettel Amphitheater to mark the opening of the festival weekend. courtesy MHC Archive
Pangynaskeia ceremony, in 1982. An unidentified speaker addresses the crowd of students, alumnae, staff, and faculty. courtesy MHC Archive

Pangynaskeia, a word loosely defined as “cultivating the total world of women – physical, intellectual, and moral,” was one of the names that Mary Lyon was considering for her new seminary before the name "Mount Holyoke" won out. Pangynaskeia as a tradition, though, is rather modern. Pangynaskeia became a festival celebrating this “total world of women,” debuting as a Mount Holyoke College tradition in 1979.

Conception - Pangynaskeia was “…conceived of by a group of students who wanted to recreate the spirit and enthusiasm on campus that was felt by everyone at the inauguration of President Elizabeth Topham Kennan.” As Kennan was inaugurated into the post of President in 1978, these founding students set about immediately planning for a celebration set for 1979. At its start, Pangynaskeia consisted of an April weekend full of songs, athletics, panel discussions, and a campus-wide picnic.

Established as a Tradition - By 1982, Pangynaskeia was recognized as one of the college’s most important student events. Referred to upon occasion as “Pangy”, still occupying a full April weekend, it had grown to now consisting steadfastly of an official welcome and talk by President Kennan, multiple panel discussions involving staff, alumnae, faculty, and students, musical performances, and athletic games. It also featured a parade of students, faculty, and staff which concluded in a ceremony in the amphitheater. In 1982, an award for an outstanding alumna was included in the celebrations: the Ella T. Grasso Pangynaskeia Award. The all-campus picnic was still a cornerstone of the event.

Degeneration, Death, and Revival - Sadly, though begun so idealistically, by 1987 students were quoted as admitting that Pangynaskeia had “degenerated into a beer-fest.” It struggled on until its unfortunate death in 1989. In the fall of 1994, though, it was revived. A committee of both students and staff formed to return Pangynaskeia to life. This revival resulted in another weekend of celebration, opening with a picnic on Skinner Green. A folk/rock concert followed the picnic, with a talent show that evening. A float parade and the Pangynaskeia awards ceremony occurred the following day. President Kennan concluded the celebration with a speech.

Faltering and Fading - This revival was extremely short-lived. From 1996 to 1998, Pangynaskeia consisted of the campus-wide picnic and assorted other events which altered every year, such as 1996’s christening of the new shell, the “Joanne V. Creighton” (after the new President of the College) or 1997’s poetry readings held on Blanchard’s steps. However, from 1999 to 2001, only the picnic remained. Little was made of the origins. While the name remained attached to the picnic on the academic calendars, no elaboration of its theme remained. Soon, as those who’d been present for Pangynaskeia’s original glory or second chance at life had graduated or moved on, the name was all that remained, noted only by students or faculty who read the calendars and menus. And of those who did read the attached name, only a few remembered it. Having become so quiet in current memory, it is hard to say whether this once noble and jubilant tradition is even now dying or, regrettably, has already died.


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This page was created by Jennifer Loomer '04 and Katherine Underwood '05 in History 283, Fall Semester 2003 and