A perfect fit—and a storied tradition

The marriage that united the families, 1910: Mary Adelaide Caskey, class of 1893, who married her roommate’s brother, Edward Fairbank. With their children, Adelaide, class of 1915 and Hannah’s great-grandmother, and Robert.

By Sasha Nyary

When it came time for Hannah Peach to apply to college, it was hard for her to ignore the possibility of Mount Holyoke College. She was excited by the classes and the equestrian program, and she had visited the campus with her mother, Louise Wright Beaumont Peach ’86.

Her mother is not the only alumna in the family. Hannah Peach is the 54th woman in her family to attend Mount Holyoke. The legacy began in 1848 when the College was in its 11th year and still a seminary. While alumnae family trees can be hard to pin down, it’s likely that Peach’s family constitutes the largest at the College, said Karen Corday, director of alumnae information services in the Alumnae Association.

“I have some pride in knowing how much history my family has had here,” Peach said. “One of my great-aunts has a room named after her in Pratt. It’s interesting walking around knowing that so many of my family members have walked the same routes.”

Peach never felt pressured to go to Mount Holyoke, however, and she and her mother never took her application for granted.

“It was always in my mind that a lot of my family went here,” Peach said. “But I chose it largely because of the unique variety of classes, the accepting atmosphere of the school, and the options it gives me for both academics and extracurricular activities. My mom encouraged me to look, but it was totally my decision.”

More important than anything else, she wanted her daughter to be in a place where she was challenged, learning, and happy, said Louise Peach.

“Her ultimate success relies on that,” she said. “But when she applied, I crossed my fingers and said, ‘please, God.’ And she’s so happy! Mount Holyoke is by far the place for her, absolutely perfect for her. And the fact that it’s Mount Holyoke makes it even better.”

She didn’t want Hannah to consider the College only on the family connection, and when the application asked for relatives who had also attended, Louise Peach was reluctant to provide the entire list because it seemed so extravagant.

The family history is so extensive in part because two families with long histories of graduates merged at the end of the 19th century, she said. The Caskey family produced the earliest alumna on the Peach side of the family, Mary Jane Guild, who graduated in 1848; her grade school teacher had been Mary Lyon. The first alumna in the Ballantine–Fairbank family was Mary Ballantine Fairbank, who graduated in 1855.

The families continued to send their daughters to the College for decades. Then, fatefully, two students from the class of 1893, Mary Caskey and Elizabeth Fairbank, roomed together. Caskey married her roommate’s brother, Edward, becoming Mary Caskey Fairbank and uniting the two lines. These are Hannah Peach’s great-great-grandparents.

Each family line continued to send their daughters to Mount Holyoke, as did the new Caskey–Fairbank family.

“The Caskeys and the Fairbanks always sent their girls to Mount Holyoke,” said Louise Peach. “The fact the two sides got married, it’s a double whammy!”

Hannah Peach is the first in her family to attend Mount Holyoke since a cousin in the early 1990s.

“There were a lot of congratulations,” she said. “I heard from a lot of extended family, maybe people I’ve met once or twice. They were excited and happy for me. I got stories telling me how great M&Cs are, and Mountain Day, and Pangy Day.”

A member of the class of 2019, Peach is considering majoring in anthropology, or maybe history. She boards her horse, Sam, at school, and she’s on the dressage equestrian team.

“I enjoy my classes so much and my grades are the best I’ve gotten in all my years at school,” she said. “Everyone’s really friendly here. I can talk about my thoughts and opinions and the community as a whole is so nice. This is where I want to be.”

What will your legacy be? Plan your visit.