Sidney Bachley Bennett ‘28
1983 Bell Ringer Award
As a graduating high-school senior in Battle Creek, you had your eyes trained on Williams, but a chance meeting with Wally Johnson ’15 in the winter of 1924 introduced you to Hamilton. The application you filed here later that spring was your only application, and in the fall you bought your freshman cap on the Hill. In 1939, 11 years after graduating, you returned again, at the recommendation of Wally Johnson, then Secretary of the College.
As President Cowley’s assistant, you joined an administrative staff that included only two others: the Librarian, and Johnson himself. At the time, Hamilton was unique among colleges and universities in having no full-time admission officer, the duties being handled instead by the Secretary, with whom you came to work very closely. By 1941, however, the need for such a position became evident, and you were named Secretary of Admission notably, only months before this country’s entry into World War II. That conflict soon took a heavy toll on the College as the number of enrolled and incoming students fell to just 37. The rest of the student body was accounted for by armed forces training programs, one of which- the Civilian Pilot Training program - was run under your guidance. With peace came the return of the veterans, and applications jumped from 180 of 1941 to 1800, all looking for places in a class that still numbered 125.
The era of competitive admissions had begun, and you entered it with no one to assist you but a part-time secretary, yet proceeded somehow to broaden Hamilton’s network of contacts, furthering its reputation among secondary schools and establishing, in the process, a lasting one for yourself. By the time you stepped down in 1971, you had expanded your office to include two additional full-time staff members and had reached out far beyond Hamilton’s traditional borders of New York and New Jersey in search of talented students. The College, too, had grown from a school of 450 in 1939 to one of 850. But the guidelines you had laid down over the course of 30 years held firm: quality first, numbers second. In return for those many years of service to your alma mater, we take pride and pleasure in presenting you with this token of our abiding esteem and affection.
June 4, 1983