The Alumni

Kirkland’s legacy finds new voice, vitality among alumnae, students

By Nora Grenfell ’12

It all started with a girl on a bicycle. At least, that’s how Judy Silverstein Gray K’78 begins to describe her journey back to the Hill many years after she graduated with Kirkland College’s last class. Gray was one of the organizers of the first All-Kirkland reunion in 2007, which brought 231 other alumnae, their families and faculty members back to campus — some for the first time in more than 30 years. Many Kirkland alumnae had little desire to return to the Hill after the merger with Hamilton in 1978, and that sense of estrange-ment was not foreign to Gray.

It was an interaction with a student, however, that made Gray feel less like an outsider and inspired her to do more. Mallory Reed ’10, then a first-year student, biked up to a group of Kirkland alumnae and asked about the tradition of the green apple, in which graduates carry the apples with them into the commencement ceremony. Female graduates also receive green apple pins at an  all-women brunch of faculty and students during Senior Week.

“The green apple started as a protest. Students would put a green apple on the stage because they missed Kirkland,” Gray recalls. “It struck me that no one was passing on the traditions except the faculty that were on campus.” Gray began to wonder how many Kirkland alumnae had any interaction with current Hamilton students.

Hamilton College Archivist Katherine Collett (left) and Judy Silverstein Gray K'78 talk with students about the Kirkland Archives, Media and Publications project during Spring Volunteer Weekend in April.
Hamilton College Archivist Katherine Collett (left) and Judy Silverstein Gray K'78 talk with students about the Kirkland Archives, Media and Publications project during Spring Volunteer Weekend in April.

Thus began the Kirkland Archives, Media and Publications (AMP) project. Gray and other Kirkland alumnae have embarked upon this ambitious project to document the history of Kirkland — and to bring its legacy to life at Hamilton. AMP’s main goals are to unite Kirkland alumnae by expanding the archives of the College and to continue to publish the voices of Kirkland women. Katherine Collett, the College’s archivist, has been working with AMP to add to the Kirkland archives. AMP also hopes to augment the ongoing dialogue about Kirkland on the Hill.

“I think for some people it was like they lost something and never talked about it again. It seemed as if Kirkland was over — only having gone back, it doesn’t seem that way at all,” Gray says. “It seems as if the campuses are now linked to one another. Even though I took courses on both sides of the street,” she says, referring to cross-registration between the Hamilton and Kirkland campuses, “I didn’t feel the intermingling the way I
do now.”

The Kirkland archives are spotty, having endured a merger in addition to the usual casualties of time on pre-digital records. Many of the documents are incomplete, and the archivists face problems such as being unable to identify people in photographs. AMP and Collett find themselves doing a lot of primary research into Kirkland traditions — almost all of which were created from scratch in the 10-year academic run of the College. AMP aims to give Kirkland alumnae the chance to contribute to the archives any documents they still have, to record their oral histories at alumni events, and to work with Collett and AMP to identify names and faces from collections.

Jo Pitkin K’78, award-winning poet, freelance educational writer and founder of Hamilton’s literary magazine Red Weather, has assembled for publication a collection of creative prose and poetry by Kirkland graduates. She has titled the project Lost Orchard. For 150 years, an apple orchard sat across the street from the traditional Hamilton campus, on land that became Kirkland College. Kirkland borrowed the apple for its insignia in order to represent the “organic” nature of the College as a growing and changing institution. In Lost Orchard, the spirit of Kirkland continues to blossom.

Lost Orchard is also an extension of a project that began with the 2007 All-Kirkland Reunion. Pitkin orchestrated an event titled Kirkland Voices for the reunion, bringing Kirkland writers from Maine to California back to campus to read aloud poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction. “Some of these women had not been back to Clinton,” said Pitkin, who felt that a reading was a creative way to reach out to alumnae. “I think that something that specific and celebratory really brought people back.”

Pitkin was already in contact with several other writers who had graduated from Kirkland, but in order to draw writers from every Kirkland class, she reached out to Bill Rosenfeld, the former Marjorie and Robert W. McEwen Professor of English and a member of the faculties of Kirkland and Hamilton colleges from 1969 to 1995. Pitkin credits Rosenfeld not only with putting her in touch with other alumnae, but also with keeping the creative writing concentration flourishing at both colleges. Pitkin herself circulated petitions throughout her junior year to continue the creative writing program after the two colleges merged. “I was concerned that the more conser-vative Hamilton would just drop” the major, Pitkin recalls, and she is pleased that both creative writing and writing in all disciplines have remained central to Hamilton’s mission. “Writing is such an important part of your education,” she says.

Please Edit to add slideshow images

Please Edit to add slideshow images

AMP is about more than simply preserving the history of Kirkland. “Some of the hallmarks of Hamilton education today are Kirkland things,” explains Penny Watras Dana K’78, P’13. “We [alumnae] see that when we come here.” Dana has helped lead a Kirkland Endowment subcom­mittee. The original endowment of Kirkland College, supplemented by donations from alumnae when Kirkland was independent, still generates income and has been part of the Hamilton endowment since the merger. The Kirkland Endowment (along with the open curriculum, senior projects, independent study programs, creative writing, the social sciences and the arts) is one of the many legacies of Kirkland very much alive today and still enriching the College.

Francis Musselman, former Kirkland College trustee (in hat and bowtie), is joined by Kirkland alumnae and faculty during Spring Volunteer weekend at the unveiling of a historical marker at the original entrance to the site of the women’s college.

Current students recognize the relevance of Kirkland’s mission as well, even when the historical details are fuzzy. Independent of alumnae involvement, Chiquita Paschal ’10 discovered the importance of that mission to her own education and experience within the Hamilton community. In the fall semester of her first year (2007) a culture clash erupted between two groups with whom Paschal was friends: the Social Justice Initiative (SJI) and The Daily Bull, a campus publication focused on satire and critical commentary. The Bull printed a piece that several members of SJI found offensive. Seeing both sides of the argument, Paschal felt that the outcry from SJI was in large part due to the lack of an outlet for the “nontraditional student’s” voice on campus. In an act that was part activism, part prank, Paschal published a fake Daily Bull (called The Daily Teat) that responded to issues of socio-economic, class and racial divides on campus. The response to the Teat was so positive that Paschal decided to create a new publication that would both represent a nontraditional point of view on campus and reach out to the entire student body.

She found her model in The Green Apple, a magazine created by students in 1990 as an outlet on campus for discourse on social justice as well as creative pieces. The Green Apple was meant to represent and honor the tradition of free inquiry and intellectual curiosity on College Hill that had been so central to Kirkland. Publication ceased in 2002, but Paschal began to publish again, with a similar mission statement, in the spring of 2008. “I started Green Apple without much legitimate journalistic training. I realized it’s not enough to have great ideas; I had to learn how to run an organized newsroom,” Paschal explains. She met Cassandra Harris Lockwood K’74 at a Kirkland brunch and soon took an internship at a local multicultural monthly paper, The Utica Phoenix, in the summer of 2008. Lockwood served as a mentor and instructor to Paschal as she got the Apple off the ground.

But while The Green Apple pays tribute to the character of Kirkland, Paschal believes that the key to longevity for a campus publication is that it not “pigeonhole” itself into appealing to any group. The intended audience of the Green Apple is the entire student body, traditional and nontraditional, “light side” and “dark side.”

That the Hamilton of today owes much of its creative energy to Kirkland, and that the pro-gressive tradition that began with Kirkland’s creation remains crucial to the success of Hamilton as an institution, is something upon which most students and alumni can agree. How to keep the legacy of Kirkland alive at Hamilton, and how visible Kirkland and autonomous that legacy should be, are another matter.

The longstanding Kirkland Endowment Advisory Committee — comprising faculty, students and alumni — and the College’s Board of Trustees heard from Dana and others about the endowment, hoping to make it more visible and distinctive to the Hamilton community. The aim is to benefit students who best embody the Kirkland spirit: independent self-starters. “We want to do right by the institution,” Dana says. The endowment “deserved a more prominent place on campus.” Currently, the endowment is focused first on individual scholarships (50 percent), with 25 percent of the endowment funding fellowships and the remaining 25 percent funding on- and off-campus events.

But to what degree should the endowment remain autonomous? How much should it simply be integrated into Hamilton’s broader support for students? The dialogue ultimately seeks to strike a balance that will both honor the Kirkland legacy and support the needs of current Hamilton students. Engaged Kirkland alumnae see those students as the heirs to the Kirkland legacy. “We’re hoping the Kirkland College scholars fill our shoes,” Dana says. “Kirkland was about being bold. Access to a world-class education is the best gift you can give anybody.”

The revitalization of energy among Kirkland alumnae represents not only a commitment to honoring the past and making progressive strides into the future, but also a catharsis for the many alumnae who felt they were left without an institution.

“Saying goodbye is a very important thing. If Kirkland merged with Hamilton today there would probably be grief counselors for dealing with it,” Gray says. “Grief is a process, but you continue to honor the person. It’s very important to keep celebrating what you loved.” 

For more on the Kirkland alumnae network and its plans and activities, visit the Kirkland Alumnae website. You'll find information on the Kirkland Endowment, the Archives, Media and Publications project, mentoring, an interactive and more.

2010 Alumni Trustees Candidates

(three to be elected)

The Alumni Council has nominated three candidates to serve as members of Hamilton’s Board of Trustees. Each alumni trustee elected will serve a four-year term beginning on July 1, 2011.

Aron Ain ’79, P’09,’11

Aron majored in economics and government and was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon. After graduating from Hamilton, he became one of the first employees at Kronos, a start-up technology company located in the Boston suburbs. In 2005 he was named chief executive officer of the firm, which now employs more than 3,000 people around the globe. Active in local community groups and with philanthropic organizations in Israel, Aron serves Hamilton as vice chairman of the Annual Fund and as a member of the Parents Advisory Council. He is a past chair of the Parents Fund and will become chair of the Annual Fund in July. Aron and his wife Susan live in West Newton, Mass., with their daughters, Danielle ’09 and Hillary ’11.

Carol Travis Friscia K’77

A visual art major at Kirkland, Carol left the Hill for New York City where she worked at Sotheby’s and Doyle galleries. In 1988 she relocated with her husband to Boston where she joined the Bakker Gallery. Carol has maintained her ties to the Hill as a member of reunion gift committees, the Committee on Visual Arts and the Committee for Kirkland College. She also served as an Annual Fund free agent and a Career Center volunteer. Inspired by the 2007 all-Kirkland reunion, she is currently spearheading an effort to encourage Kirkland alumnae to support new studio arts facilities on campus. A member of the board of trustees of the Boston Ballet, Carol and her husband Tony live in Brookline, Mass., with their two daughters.

Lea Haber Kuck ’87

A government major at Hamilton, where she was editor-in-chief of The Spectator, Lea went earned a J.D. degree from New York University School of Law. Following a federal clerkship, she joined the firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom and was named partner in 1998. Lea has served as co-chair of her class reunion gift committee and is on the steering committee for the Elihu Root Society, a new networking organization for alumni interested in law and public service. A Career Center and admission volunteer, she regularly hosts luncheons for alumni interested in learning more about ways to help the College. Lea lives in New York City with her husband Tom Kuck ’88 (also a former Spectator editor) and their two children.

In accordance with Article 8 of the Constitution of the Alumni Association, alumni may submit additional nominations for alumni trustee by petition, each of which requires at least 25 signatures of association members. To be valid, a petition must be submitted by Jan. 2, 2011, and include the signature, class year, address and telephone number of each petitioner, along with a statement by the proposed candidate consenting to be nominated. Each petition may nominate only one candidate and should be directed to the Secretary, Hamilton College Alumni Association, 198 College Hill Road, Clinton, NY 13323. If no nominations by petition are received, a mail ballot election will not be necessary.

Help us provide an accessible education, offer innovative resources and programs, and foster intellectual exploration.

Site Search