200 Days in the Life of the College

Saturday, April 2

Fragile yet powerful, stories enrich Hill history

By Alyssa White ’11

“Use whatever means you have to record your stories,” urges Judy Silverstein Gray K’78. “Write them, paint them, film them.”

The brief but rich history of Kirkland College is the impetus behind two workshops held during Volunteer Weekend. At the first session two nights ago, William Salzillo, professor of art and former Kirkland faculty member, invited the audience to look beneath the obvious. Today, during the second gathering, Salzillo’s words are echoed as faculty, friends, alumni, staff and students hear how narrative storytelling enriches one’s understanding of history as it fills in gaps in archival materials.

Associate Professor of Philosophy Katheryn Doran discusses how narratives can enrich a “just-the-facts” version of history. Gray adds that inclusion of diverse perspectives gives a more complete snapshot of a point in time. Discussion ensues about preserving stories and capturing the digital texts and emails that have all but replaced letter writing.

Alumnae have been working to capture the Kirkland decade (1968-78) while Maurice Isserman, the Publius Virgilius Rogers Professor of American History, has been poring over documents left by 200 years of Hamiltonians. He shares a sampling of letters exchanged between Kirkland students and their beloved president, Sam Babbitt, giving the audience a glimpse into life at the College that changed so many lives.

With Hamilton poised to celebrate its history, the audience is invited to share its Kirkland tales. During a lively exchange, participants prove the power of narrative by relating their own anecdotes, and they learn that the essence of the Hill is best gleaned from their own stories. In those remembrances, there’s a sense that today’s Hamilton owes a great deal to the legacy of Kirkland.