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Alumna From First Graduating Class Recalls The Early Years
"In the September of 1928, the gateway of the Berkshires unlatched to let slip out a smiling girl with golden hair. She made her way along a winding path and took residence in Chicopee. And Great Barrington's temporary loss was our gain."
So reads the Elmata yearbook profile of Getrude (Morrison) Clark '32, a member of the charter class at College of Our Lady of the Elms. Then a women's college, Elms welcomed 23 other young females along with Gertrude.
It was not easy or common for women to earn college degrees in 1932. Gertrude was fortunate to find an institution that had an unwavering faith that an education was a valuable tool for one's life and worked hard to make sure it was attainable for everyone.
Eighty-five years ago, Gertrude graduated and received an artium baccalaureatus–known now as a Bachelor of Arts. Today, she is 102 years old and still lives in Great Barrington.
"I always wanted to go to college," Gertrude said. "My parents felt education was important and supported my decision. My sister attended Westfield Normal School [now known as Westfield State University] and also became a teacher."
Gertrude met her late husband before leaving for college. He attended College of the Holy Cross in Worcester-considered the "brother college" of Elms as it was an all-male Catholic school (until 1972), while Elms was all-female (until 1997).
In the early 20th century, women were often barred from teaching once they were married, but all that changed when the men and single female teachers left the classroom to serve during WWII and the Korean War. Although she and John married in 1943, Gertrude returned to the classroom to teach English, French, and arithmetic during wartime.
When she learned that the college began admitting male students in 1997, Getrude exclaimed, "Oh! Things are looking up!"
Although she is one of only two living members from the Elms College Class of 1932, Gertrude remains in good spirits and thinks often of her alma mater. She no longer has the school blazer she received as a student, but was pleased to know that the college's athletics teams are now called the Blazers.
During her college years, Gertrude was well-known on campus for her athletic abilities. She served as athletic editor and first president of the student athletic association, holding the position all four years of her academic career.
We look forward to sharing the memories of Mildred (Clarke) Marr '32, Gertrude's classmate, in the March issue of ElmsMail.