Sharing Williston Northampton and Local History

The Angelus

“There is so much to be done at school that we often forget to think, to pray, or just enjoy the taste of life. This Student Council is presenting an Angelus bell to the school to remind us all of the need of quiet thought. Traditionally the Angelus is rung as a call to prayer. Our Angelus will be what we make it. There is much to think about in that brief moment of our own. There is world peace to pray for, boys in Korea to be remembered, people at home to be loved, and our own thoughts to be thought. The Angelus will be rung daily to provide a moment of peace in the whirl of activities. It is a small beginning but if eighty girls pause in the middle of rush and confusion to pray and to think, it is a beginning.”  – Maria Burgee ‘52 [Maria Burgee Dwight LeVesconte], at the dedication of the Angelus, 1952.

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Northampton School for Girls — and After

Presented at an all-school assembly, October 11, 2011
by Richard Teller ’70, Archivist

(Note: Annually, and occasionally more often, Williston Northampton students hear a presentation about our shared history.  Campus tradition has named this event “The Button Speech,” even though the subject matter rarely concerns Emily and Samuel Williston and the buttons.  Here is the 2011 Button Speech, presented with the caveat that it was intended to be read aloud to a captive audience of teenagers at an early hour.)

(Another note, June 24, 2017: A while ago it became necessary to take this post down for some minor editing.  This left the blog without a summary history of Northampton School for Girls.  Thus, the text has now been restored to the blog with only minor changes from 2011.)

A captive audience, at an early hour

Good morning. We are at a milestone in school history this fall. The Williston Northampton School is 40 years old.

“Wait a minute,” you say. “This year I actually paid attention at Convocation, and Mr. Hill definitely said it was our 171st year. And what’s all that 1841 stuff about?” And you are absolutely right. Except that was a school with a different name: Williston Seminary. Although it’s the same school. Kind of.

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Prom Night!

The 1914 Senior Promenade, at the Easthampton Town Hall (1914 Log)

It’s prom night — another senior class milestone.  At Williston Northampton, informal tradition has our students dressed and milling around the quad an hour or more before they need to leave for the event.  Being seen is essential.  I know one parent who is driving considerable distance just to view her son in a tux.  Some of us middle aged types are content simply to marvel at how well our kids clean up.

 

 

The 1939 Northampton School prom. Photo by Erik Stahlberg.

The date of the first Williston Seminary senior promenade is unknown, but the tradition goes back at least to 1902.  No decorated gymnasium or road trip to the Log Cabin in those days — the Easthampton Town Hall, right across the street from the Old Campus, had a ballroom.  Northampton School for Girls held their first prom at the Hotel Northampton in 1939.

 

Another view of the prom. Attributed to Caroline Gavin Arnold ’47; donated by Kathryn Wood Lamb ’47.

A colleague recently wondered whether, for all that it is a rite of passage for thousands of high school students, most people have happy memories of their senior proms.  I have no opinion.  In my senior year, 1970, the Williston Academy prom was canceled because of a student strike.  (That’s a topic for another post.)  The 1947 cartoon at left suggests that memories may be mixed.  But I recall a Reunion Weekend conversation a few years ago.  I’d identified a returning alumnus with his date in a prom photograph and showed it to him.  “Wow,” he said.  For a moment, there was a distant look in his eyes.  “I wish I could remember her name.”

Your comments and questions are encouraged!  Please use the space below.

Recent Gifts: White Blazer

Andrea Madsen Gilmore ’70 has presented the Archives with her White Blazer.  It is a gift of special significance, not only because it fills a gap in our collection, but because Ms. Gilmore carefully cherished and preserved it for the 42 years since her graduation.  More formally known as the Sarah B. Whitaker Award, the White Blazer honors the co-founder and co-principal (served 1924-1962) of Northampton School for Girls.  It is one of the two most prestigious prizes awarded to Seniors at Commencement.

The citation for the White Blazer specifies that it “is given to the young woman who has distinguished herself with the greatest contribution to the academic, athletic, and community life of the school while exhibiting exemplary leadership and integrity.”  The origins of the prize go back to the 1920s, when the outstanding Northampton School senior was awarded a White Sweater.  Then, as today, it was awarded by vote of the faculty.  In the ‘thirties the sweater was replaced by a blazer because, as Miss Whitaker noted in her memoir, “styles change.”  The prize was renamed in her honor following her retirement.  (Also shown is 2011 Whitaker Award winner Sarah Fay, receiving her White Blazer from Head of School Robert Hill III at last year’s Commencement.)

Your comments and questions are encouraged!  Please use the space below.

Sharing Williston Northampton and Local History