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Hockaday by Decade

1950s

The Closing of the Junior College

This was a bittersweet time in the history of Hockaday, as the decision was made to close the Junior College. For two decades, the Junior College served women who had graduated high school and wanted to continue their education. While some of these women were Hockaday graduates, many others only attended the Junior College. 

The original purpose of the Junior College was to provide an alternate educational avenue for women who wanted to continue their education but could not afford to travel to the Northeast to attend college. By the early 1950’s, the Board of Trustees decided that Hockaday needed to focus its attention on expanding the Upper and Lower Schools in the coming years.


Visit of Eleanor Roosevelt

Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt served as the commencement speaker in 1952, the same year that her granddaughter, Chandler Roosevelt Lindsley graduated from Hockaday. In her remarks, she gave this advice:

"Many of you are at a point where you either will continue your formal education in college, or where you may consider that you have completed your education. May I say to you that you have not completed your education, for education is a process that goes on all through your life. You have acquired some of the tools for gaining an education, but you will continue, too, to acquire new tools."

"Not many of your will hold public office. Women are often too busy to do so because their duties at home as wives and mothers take so much of their time...We women have an obligation to use our talents and our education in the community."

"I would like to wish for you who are beginning a new phase of your lives that you have integrity of mind, courage to have convictions, and that you never undervalue the things of the spirit. You have much to be thankful to God for. Even that you were born into this country. Do not forget, I beg of you, something to make you humble and grateful. Make your lives, lives that will count in your communities that will make your communities' influence spread out and be felt in your country and the world."

Alumnae Giving Back to the School

Many new traditions are begun with each class. The Class of 1953 set a new tradition of creating a scholarship program to give back to future Hockadaisies. They accepted the challenge to pledge that every class member would give the School $100 per year over a 10-year period.

School Honors
To celebrate student accomplishments over the years, pins, and jewelry have been specifically designed for the most prestigious accomplishments. From the 1954 yearbook

Cum laude – Membership in the Cum laude society, the highest scholastic honor awarded to students at Hockaday, is conferred on those girls in the Form IV who rank in the upper fifth of the class. Each Hockaday girl is proud of her classmates who reach this exalted scholastic status, and many students consider Cum laude as a goal toward which they strive throughout their years at Hockaday.

The Athletic Shield – The Athletic Shield which many girls wear on their jackets is highly prized. In order to be eligible for this shield, girls must have been on all the form team and on two out of four of the Green and White Teams.

Lower School Growth

In the 1940s, the Lower School began to see a steady increase of enrollment which spurred the reinstatement of the 1st through 3rd grades. By 1955, the enrollment grew to 180 students total in Lower School. This increase included the addition of more classes for the 4th grade, 7th grade, and 8th grade. At this time, the grades we know today as Middle School were considered to be a part of the Lower School.

Death of Ela Hockaday (March 26, 1956)

Before the dream of moving to a new campus had become a reality, the school suffered the loss of founder, Ela Hockaday in March 1956. Though the loss was deeply felt, her legacy continued through the efforts of the faculty, staff, and trustees who continued on with her vision. She lived a full life, seeing her biggest dream of starting a girls school come to fruition and blossom over years of effort, ambition, and above all love.  She loved the students and facutly deeply and made her school into more than just an academic institution, but a familiy. 

Miss Bess Trent Retires

Just one year after the loss of Miss Hockaday, another long-time staff member, Miss Bess Trent retires. Miss Trent was a primary Lower School teacher at Hockaday and a member of the residence department staff for twenty-eight years. She had been encouraged to join the staff by her cousin Sarah Trent who helped found the school with Miss Hockaday in 1913. As a member of the residence department, Bess Trent was a woman of many talents and was a "Jill of all trades" known for helping the girls with banking, mail, and storage, as well as serving as a travel agent of sorts and working as a switchboard operator.

Fire at Hockaday

On January 8, 1958, a fire damaged a portion of the Main Building. The March 1958 Alumnae Magazine said of the fire:

"Just after lights out on the peaceful Wednesday night of January 8, the dining room windows of Main Building were lit with an eerie glow. The dining and drawing rooms had burst into flames. A sleepy resident student in Trent House saw the horrifying sight across the pool and dashed to the telephone. Accustomed to placing most of her telephone calls throughout long distance operator, the frightened student dropped her dime into the telephone and dialed '110.' Realizing her mistake too late, she said to the operator, 'Oh, you'll have to help me. The Hockaday School is burning and I only have one dime.' so the alarm was turned into the fire department by long distance."

"The first of the four alarms on the blaze was sounded at 10:42 p.m. Three other alarms came in rapid succession. Some 18 pieces of firefighting equipment screamed to the scene as firemen discovered that the fire actually was at the school...Miss Elizabeth Milton, Director of Residence had just gone to bed herself, but arrived on the scene immediately after hastily donning a pair of dungarees over her nightgown, a pair of squaw shoes and a fur coat...The fire was extinguished at 11:19 p.m. with the only casualty a fireman who fell from a ladder while fighting the blaze."

"The boarding students were farmed out that night to sleep in houses across the street from the school along with staying at many of the Board of Trustees homes. The entire school came together and made the necessary adjustments in order to continue with business as usual while damages were repaired."

The damage included "Twenty-two pieces of the drawing room and accessories were salvaged in that room. Ten pieces were totally lost as well as the draperies, rugs and pewter sconces that had melted into little puddles on the floor. Two portraits were completely burned out of their frames, the portrait of Miss Hockaday by Alexander Clayton… and a portrait of Miss Sarah Trent by Martha Simkins. The bust of Miss Miriam M.M. Morgan by Allie Tennant has been sent to New York to be re-bronzed."

Planning and Preparing for the New Campus

Karl Hoblitzelle was the General Chairman of the building campaign and was the generous donor of the land upon which the current campus now sits. His one stipulation in donating the land was that the School had to raise enough funds for construction and relocation. During this time, the campaign had raised enough to begin planning and consulting with the architects.

As with any big change there was concern voiced from parents about the travel time to school for day students. The new campus was much farther north, and at the time the neighborhood was just being developed. J. Erik Jonsson, the Chairman of the Board in 1958, reassured parents by stating, “A recent survey showed that today's students will spend about the same amount of time in traveling to the new location as they now require to reach the present campus."
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