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Hooray for the Hard Hats!

May 28, 2022

For many of us, Kirkland was the right place at the right time in our lives. Our unique college education gave us the tools to become leaders, creators, builders, and makers. But the Charter Class, of course, paved the way for the rest of Kirkland’s alumnae—they literally watched the campus come into being. That’s why each of these intrepid pioneers was presented with a personalized green hard hat on which Natalie Babbitt had written her first initial and last name. (I confess I get choked up whenever I hear bagpipes or see a green hard hat like the one in a display case in McEwen’s lobby.)

The display case in McEwen Hall.

To welcome all Kirkland classes back to campus in Hamilton’s bicentennial year, everyone was gifted with a plastic version of the hardhat – so those of us who had lost theirs along the way could envy our sisters with originals! The alumni parade that year featured a sea of green.

On the occasion of their 50th reunion, let’s celebrate and thank the Charter Class.

Here is Donna Kerner’s recollection of her hard hat:

My hard hat hung in my home office next to my laminated Kirkland Diploma “First Lot Inspected and Passed” for many years while I was in graduate school, during two years of fieldwork in Africa, and later during my period as an itinerant adjunct faculty member at a number of different institutions in the greater New York area. When I relocated to New England (first New Hampshire to teach at U of New Hampshire and then Boston (Tufts) I was on a full time, but contingent contract. My hard hat and diploma remained in storage (along with most of my belongings) until I landed the tenure track job at Wheaton College (MA). While I moved my belongings from New York to my new home in Providence, Rhode Island (a short commute from work), my hard hat and diplomas did not emerge from storage and find pride of place in my office until I received tenure six years later. Similarly I did not purchase my academic gown or PhD hood until that time. I think I didn’t want to jinx my chances of finding a permanent academic home. When I finally unpacked them they adorned my office for the next 27 years. 

Donna’s chair, with hat!

However, the Kirkland chair lived a very different life. Awarded to me by the Hamilton Alumni Council for service following the end of my time as the first woman VP, it was in great demand by friends during my days as an academic itinerant, serving as a side and desk chair in a number of different homes. Now that I have retired it is reunited with its beloved hard hat in my sunny dining room, though it sometimes enjoys a stint on my porch in the good weather.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jan Sidebotham permalink
    June 6, 2022 11:21 am

    What a great post. Thank you. Jan Sidebotham ’79

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