200 Days in the Life of the College

Wednesday, May 4

60 years on the Hill, speaking her mind —
and we’re always listening

By Nick Stagliano ’11

When Ellie Wertimer arrived on campus in 1952 with her husband, newly appointed economics professor Sidney Wertimer, they lived in the Root Farmhouse above Channing and Comfort Richardson, professor of international relations and assistant professor of physical education, respectively. Next door lived Walter Pilkington, the College librarian, and his wife, Betty. “The six of us added six Democrats to the generally very conservative Hamilton faculty,” she recalls.

In those all-male years, faculty wives were not encouraged to talk or to be seen, she says — except, perhaps, to grade freshman placement exams. Ellie Wertimer would change all that. “It wasn’t easy for Sidney to have a wife like me, who talked all the time and said what I thought, she says. “But he never tried to keep me quiet.”

Hamilton was then “a very simple kind of place,” Ellie recalls. “The only piece of equipment was a copy machine that broke down all the time.”

“No big deal was made about whether you were an assistant professor or an associate professor — if you were smart and fun and funny, you were accepted. It was a great place for him, and for us — and it still is,” she adds.

Sidney Wertimer, the Robert W. McEwen Professor of Economics, who at various times served as associate dean and provost of the College and became emblematic of the best of what small-college teaching should be, died in 2005. Ellie has kept the Wertimer name front and center at Hamilton, however. She audits courses regularly, attends concerts and sporting events, and in a tradition she and Sid kept for decades, plays host at her home to College trustees when they are back on the Hill.

As revered as Sid Wertimer remains at Hamilton, Ellie has distinguished herself in her own right, as an attorney, justice for the town of Kirkland, executive director of Family Services of Greater Utica and a member of numerous local boards. In 2001, the College recognized her exceptional service with its annual Bell Ringer Award.

Recognizing the essential inseparability of Sid and Ellie Wertimer, there are both prize scholarships in economics and a residence hall, aptly named for them both.