H is for Hampshire College, Amherst, MA. In 1987, I transferred from community college, mostly prompted by hearing a woman in an airport in Michigan, on my way home from the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, telling someone that Hampshire was the only school she could imagine attending. I went to the library, and read about Hampshire in the Peterson’s Guide(print of course), and learned I could design my own major, and there were narrative evaluations rather than letter grades.
I loved the creative concept, the interdisciplinary mash-up. The reality was harder to love. I was lonely. I was a work study student in the college post office(and still remember the box numbers), and was baffled by the student who carried his books in a paper bag, but drove a Mercedes, or the students whose parents could pay the tuition in full. I graduated with student loan debt, and a degree that looked like a mandala. There is a niche market in framing them with round mattes.
I lived in Greenwich Mod 13, which was named for one of the towns that disappeared under the the Quabbin Reservoir. My room was pie shaped. In honor of today being Orange Tuesday, I have included a photo of my chair, which came with the room.
Memorable aspects of Hampshire:
- The Hampshire College motto is Non Satis Scire: To Know is Not Enough.
- The only sports team I recall was Ultimate Frisbee
- Hampshire was created by leaders of the other five schools in the region and I took classes at all of them except Amherst, including a poetry workshop with taught by a classmate of Sylvia Plath at Smith College.
- The college had a working farm with sheep.
- The array of alumni who have gone on to do interesting things from film maker Ken Burns, songwriter Elliott Smith, director Liev Schrieber, and writers Leah Hager Cohen, Jon Krakauer, and comedian Eugene Mirman.