Wellesley College

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Wellesley College
File:Formal Seal of Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA, USA.svg
Latin: Collegium Wellesleianum
Former names
Wellesley Female Seminary
Motto Non Ministrari sed Ministrare (Latin)
Motto in English
Not to be ministered unto, but to minister
Established 1870 (chartered)
1875 (commenced classes)
Type Private liberal arts college
Women's college
Endowment $1.808 billion (2014)[1]
President H. Kim Bottomly
Academic staff
347 (FT & PT)
Undergraduates 2,474
Location Wellesley, Massachusetts, USA
Campus Suburban, 500 acres (200 ha)
Colors Blue     
Athletics NCAA Division IIINEWMAC
Sports 14 varsity teams
Nickname Blue
Mascot None
Website Wellesley.edu
Formal Logo of Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA, USA.svg

Wellesley College is a private women's liberal-arts college in the town of Wellesley, Massachusetts, United States, west of Boston. Founded in 1870, Wellesley is a member of the original Seven Sisters Colleges.

Wellesley is the highest ranking women's college in the U.S., and one of the top liberal arts colleges, ranking 4th by U.S. News & World Report.[3] The school is also the highest endowed women's college. For the 2014–15 year admissions cycle, Wellesley admitted 29% of its applicants.[4]

The college is known for allowing its students to cross-register at MIT, Babson, Brandeis, and Olin College.[5] It is also a member of a number of exchange programs with other small colleges, including opportunities for students to study a year at Amherst, Bowdoin, Connecticut College, Dartmouth, Mt. Holyoke, Smith, Trinity, Vassar, Wesleyan, and Wheaton.[5]

Notable alumni include Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Soong Mei-ling, Cokie Roberts, and Diane Sawyer.[6]


Campus of Wellesley College as it appeared circa 1880

Wellesley was founded by Pauline and Henry Fowle Durant, believers in educational opportunity for women. Wellesley was founded with the intention to prepare women for "...great conflicts, for vast reforms in social life."[7] Its charter was signed on March 17, 1870, by Massachusetts Governor William Claflin. The original name of the college was the Wellesley Female Seminary; its renaming to Wellesley College was approved by the Massachusetts legislature on March 7, 1873. Wellesley first opened its doors to students on September 8, 1875.

The first president of Wellesley was Ada Howard. There have been twelve more presidents in its history: Alice Elvira Freeman Palmer, Helen Almira Shafer, Julia Josephine Thomas Irvine, Caroline Hazard, Ellen Fitz Pendleton, Mildred H. McAfee (later Mildred McAfee Horton), Margaret Clapp, Ruth M. Adams, Barbara Warne Newell, Nannerl Overholser Keohane (later the president of Duke University from 1993–2004), Diana Chapman Walsh, and H. Kim Bottomly.

The original architecture of the college consisted of one very large building, College Hall, which was approximately 150 metres (490 ft) in length and five stories in height. The architect was Hammatt Billings. From its completion in 1875 until its destruction by fire in 1914, it was both an academic building and residential building. On March 17, 1914, College Hall was destroyed by fire, the precise cause of which was never officially established. The fire was first noticed by students who lived on the fourth floor near the zoology laboratory. It has been suggested that an electrical or chemical accident in this laboratory—specifically, an electrical incubator used in the breeding of beetles—triggered the fire.[citation needed]

A group of residence halls, known as the Tower Court complex, are located on top of the hill where the old College Hall once stood.

After the loss of the central College Hall in 1914, the college adopted a master plan in 1921 and expanded into several new buildings. The campus hosted a Naval Reserve Officer training program during the Second World War and began to significantly revise its curriculum after the war and through the late 1960s.


Tower Court

The 500-acre (200 ha) campus includes Lake Waban, evergreen and deciduous woodlands, and open meadows. Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., Boston's preeminent landscape architect at the beginning of the 20th century, described Wellesley's landscape as "not merely beautiful, but with a marked individual character not represented so far as I know on the ground of any other college in the country."[8] He also wrote: "I must admit that the exceedingly intricate and complex topography and the peculiarly scattered arrangement of most of the buildings somewhat baffled me".[9]

The original master plan for Wellesley's campus landscape was developed by Olmsted, Arthur Shurcliff, and Ralph Adams Cram in 1921. This landscape-based concept represented a break from the architecturally-defined courtyard and quadrangle campus arrangement that was typical of American campuses at the time. The 720-acre (2.9 km2) site's glaciated topography, a series of meadows, and native plant communities shaped the original layout of the campus, resulting in a campus architecture that is integrated into its landscape.

The most recent master plan for Wellesley College was completed in 1998 by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. According to the designers, this plan was intended to restore and recapture the original landscape character of the campus that had been partially lost as the campus evolved through the 20th century. In 2011, Wellesley was listed by Travel+Leisure as one of the most beautiful college campuses in the United States.[10]

Wellesley is home to Green Hall, the only building bearing the name of famed miser Hetty Green (funding of which was provided by her children);[11] Galen L. Stone Tower, in which a 32-bell carillon instrument is housed and which members of the Guild of Carillonneurs routinely play between classes, is part of the building.

The Davis Museum and Cultural Center, which opened in 1993, was the first building in North America designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rafael Moneo, whose notion of the museum as a “treasury” or “treasure chamber” informs its design. Adjacent to the academic quad and connected by an enclosed bridge to the Jewett Arts Center, designed by Paul Rudolph, the Davis is at the heart of the arts on the Wellesley campus.


Wellesley College library in the 1880s

The current president of Wellesley College is H. Kim Bottomly.[12] The previous president was Diana Chapman Walsh, class of 1966. As of 2014, Wellesley's endowment was approximately $1.81 billion.[citation needed] Wellesley's fund-raising campaign in 2005 set a record for liberal arts colleges with a total of $472.3 million, 18.1% more than the goal of $400 million.[citation needed] According to data compiled by The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wellesley's campaign total is the largest of any liberal arts college. In late 2015, the college launched another campaign, with a goal of $500 million. As of November 28, 2015, over $339 million has been raised.

Wellesley Centers for Women

The Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) is one of the largest gender-focused, social science research-and-action organizations in the United States, and a member of the National Council for Research on Women.[13] Located on and nearby the Wellesley College campus, the WCW was established when the Center for Research on Women (founded 1974) and the Stone Center for Development Services and Studies at Wellesley College (founded 1981) merged into a single organization in 1995.[14] It is home to several prominent American feminist scholars, including Jean Kilbourne and Peggy McIntosh. The current executive director of the Wellesley Centers for Women is Layli Maparyan. Since 1974, the Wellesley Centers for Women has produced over 200 scholarly articles and over 100 books.[15]

The WCW has seven key areas of research: Education, Child and Adolescent Development, Childcare, Work, Family and Society, Women's Human Rights, Gender Violence and Social-Emotional Well-Being.[citation needed]


Wellesley's average class size is between 17 and 20 students, with a student-faculty ratio of 7:1. Wellesley's libraries contain more than 1.5 million cataloged books, journals, media recordings, maps, and other items. Wellesley has a total of 56 departmental and interdepartmental majors as well as an option for an individual major designed by the student.[16]

Wellesley offers support to nontraditional aged students through the Elisabeth Kaiser Davis Degree Program, open to students over the age of 24.[17] The program allows women who, for various reasons, were unable to start or complete a bachelor's degree at a younger age to attend Wellesley.

Wellesley offers Dual Degree Programs with Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Olin College, enabling students to receive a Bachelor of Science at the school in addition to a Bachelor of Arts at Wellesley .[18][19]

Although its traditional affiliations have been with Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the college now also offers research collaborations and cross-registration programs with other Boston-area institutions, including Babson College, Olin College, and Brandeis University. Wellesley students participate in 14 varsity sports in the NCAA Division III's New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference.


Fall admission statistics
  2015[20] 2014[21] 2013[22] 2012[23]
Admit rate
SAT range
ACT range

Admission to Wellesley is "most selective", admitting 29% of the 4,623 applicants who applied for the class of 2019.[20] The average SAT scores for admitted students was 715 for Critical Reading, 703 for Math, and 718 for Writing; the average ACT score is 31.[20] 62% of students attend public school, 35% attend private/independent school, and 2% parochial school. Though most women did not submit rank, 32% were ranked in the top 10% of their graduating class.[20] 49% are women of color, and 11% are legacies.[20]


University rankings
Forbes[24] 16
Liberal arts colleges
U.S. News & World Report[25] 4
Washington Monthly[26] 14

According to the 2014 U.S. News & World Report rankings, Wellesley is ranked 4th for liberal arts college and 1st for women's colleges.[27] In addition, Forbes' 2013 "America's Top Colleges" ranked the institution 16th of all US colleges and universities.[28]

In 2013, Forbes Magazine ranked Wellesley as 8th in the United States in its list of "The 25 Colleges with the Smartest Students." [29]

Wellesley has the 8th highest SAT scores of all liberal arts college with an average SAT I score of 1410, tied with Claremont McKenna.[30]

Student life

Approximately 98% of students live on campus. Some cooperative housing is available, including a sustainable living co-op and a French language house located slightly off-campus. Wellesley offers housing for Davis Scholars as well, though not for their children or spouses, which is a point of frequent debate on campus.[31]

The college has five dining halls, one each in Pomeroy, Tower Court, Stone-Davis, and Bates Halls, and another in the Lulu Chow Wang Campus Center. Additional food options on campus include a convenience store/coffee shop in the Campus Center, a bakery in Claflin Hall, Collins Café outside the movie theater, El Table, a student-run sandwich shop located in Founders Hall (an academic building housing many of the humanities classes), and Café Hoop, a student-run cooperative cafe in the basement of the Campus Center that is known for its late hours and queer-friendly environment. Next to Café Hoop is the pub, Punch's Alley, which serves alcohol to those over 21.

For more than 30 years, Wellesley has offered a cross-registration program with MIT. In recent years, cross-registration opportunities have expanded to include nearby Babson College, Brandeis University, and Olin College of Engineering. To facilitate cross-registration, the Wellesley College Senate bus runs between Wellesley and the Harvard University and MIT campuses in Cambridge, Massachusetts; additionally the college also operates a shuttle to the Babson College and Olin College campuses.


The college has approximately 180 student organizations, ranging from cultural and political organizations to community service, publications, campus radio, and club sports.

Wellesley College does not have any fraternities or sororities; it does, however, have a number of societies, technically social and academic clubs that fulfill many of the same functions as sororities. The societies sponsor many lectures and events on campus, and contribute funding to events sponsored by other departments and organizations. They hold a process similar to "rushing" a sorority that is called "tea-ing," and organize on-campus parties; each society specializes in an academic interest.

Publications on campus include Counterpoint, the monthly journal of campus life; The Wellesley News, the campus newspaper; and The Wellesley Review, the literary magazine.


Wellesley fields 14 varsity sports teams – basketball, crew, cross country, fencing, field hockey, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, squash, swimming & diving, tennis, track & field, and volleyball. Wellesley does not have a mascot in the traditional sense – its sports teams are referred to both individually and collectively as the Blue. The school colors are royal blue and white.

Wellesley is a member of the NCAA Division III and the Eastern Conference Athletic Conference (ECAC) and competes primarily as a member of the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC). Additionally, the fencing team competes as a member of the Northeast Fencing Conference (NFC) and the golf team became an associate member of the Liberty League during the 2012–2013 school year.

Wellesley is also a member of the Seven Sisters consortium of women's colleges, and participates in competitions in cross-country, volleyball, crew, swimming & diving, squash, and tennis.

Wellesley Athletics is headquartered out of the Keohane Sports Center (the KSC), named for former college president Nan Keohane. Built in 1985, the KSC features a field house, a pool, squash and racquetball courts, a 200m track, a climbing wall, four indoor tennis courts, and various other exercising areas. It also houses the administrative offices. The campus also has four outdoor playing fields and an outdoor track, as well as eight outdoor tennis courts and a boathouse.

The Wellesley College Crew Team, affectionately known as "Blue Crew," was founded in 1970 and was the first women's intercollegiate rowing team in the country.

Wellesley also fields club team in archery, alpine & Nordic skiing, equestrian, ice hockey, rugby, sailing, ultimate Frisbee, and water polo.

Wellesley has had three national champions in its history. In 1991, Karyn Cooper was the NCAA Tennis Singles Champion. In 2011, Randelle Boots was the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Champion in the mile. In 2015, Maura Sticco-Ivins was the NCAA National Champion in the 3 meter diving competition and runner-up in the 1 meter diving competition.[32] Sticco-Ivins was named the 2015 NCAA Division III Diver of The Meet. Wellesley College Diving Coach Zach Lichter was voted the 2015 NCAA Division III Female Diving Coach of The Year.[33]


Wellesley College Library

As is the case with all of the Seven Sisters, Wellesley College has many traditions, many of them carried over from the late nineteenth-century.

Hoop rolling is a highly anticipated annual tradition at the college dating back to 1895.[34] Each upperclasswoman has a wooden hoop, often passed down to her from her "big sister". Before graduation, the seniors, wearing their graduation robes, run a short race while rolling their hoops. The winner of the race is said to be the first woman in her class to achieve success, however she defines it. (In the early 20th century, however, the winner was said to be the first in her class to marry; in the 1980s, the winner was said to become the class's first CEO.[35]). She is awarded flowers by the president of the College, and then tossed into Lake Waban by her classmates. The tossing of the winner into the lake began several decades ago when a Harvard University male, dressed as a Wellesley student, won the race. When, upon his victory, it was discovered that he wasn't a Wellesley student, he was thrown into the lake. The night before the race, many "little sisters" will camp out on the racecourse near the Library to save a good starting position for their "big sisters."

Some other traditions include step-singing, dorm and class crew races, "Lake Day," "Spring Week," and "Marathon Monday." Class trees are one of Wellesley's more visible traditions; each graduating class plants a tree during its sophomore year. Class trees, as they are called, can be found all over the campus, marked with each class year on a stone at the base of the tree. During sophomore year, students also design and purchase class sweatshirts.

The Alumnae Achievement Awards, begun in 1970, are another annual tradition; each year, three alumnae are recognized for outstanding achievements in their respective fields. Recipients have included Lynn Sherr, Diane Sawyer, Pamela Melroy, Judith Martin, Nora Ephron, Ophelia Dahl, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Madeleine Korbel Albright, among many others.

The Ruhlman and Tanner Conferences, supported by Wellesley alumnae, are held every year for students to share their learning experience within the college community. Classes are canceled on these days. The Tanner Conference is held in the fall to celebrate outside-the-classroom education, including internships and summer or winter session research projects. Ruhlman, in the spring, is a chance for students to present projects they've been working on in courses or independent research during the year. Both conferences encompass panels, readings, and multimedia projects.

Student body

Fifty-eight percent of all Wellesley students receive financial aid.[36] Not including outside scholarships, the average grant awarded is $39,000.[37] In February 2008, the college eliminated offering financial-aid loans to students from families with incomes under $60,000, including international students and Davis Scholars, and it lowered the total amount of student loans by one-third (to a maximum of $8,600 total over four years) to students from families with incomes between $60,000 and $100,000.[citation needed] The maximum loan level for other students on aid is $12,825 total for four years.[38]

Of Wellesley's student body less than half of students are Caucasian, with nearly a quarter of the student body identifying as Asian, and a significant number of Latina and African-American students. Students come from over 60 countries and all 50 states, with 90% of students hailing from outside of Massachusetts.

Notable alumnae and faculty

Notable alumnae

Wellesley's alumnae work in a variety of fields, ranging from government and public service to business to the arts. They include authors (such as Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, class of 1914, pen name Carolyn Keene,and Alexandra Curry class of 1979), astronomers (including Annie Jump Cannon, class of 1884, who developed the well-known Harvard Classification of stars based upon temperature), astronauts (Pamela Melroy class of 1983), screenwriters, (including Nora Ephron, class of 1962, famous for such films as When Harry Met Sally... and Sleepless in Seattle).

Secretaries of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, class of 1969, and Madeleine Albright, class of 1959, have spoken with enthusiasm about the formative impact their Wellesley experiences had on their later careers. Soong Mei-ling (also known as Madame Chiang Kai-shek or Madame Chiang), the former First Lady of China, attended Wellesley College studying English literature and philosophy; she graduated as one of the 33 Durant Scholars on June 19, 1917. On February 18, 1943, she became the first Chinese national and the second woman to address both houses of the US Congress. She played a prominent role in the US-China relationship during World War II.

Notable faculty

Notable Wellesley faculty include:

  • Vladimir Nabokov, a Russian-American novelist, who is best known for his novel Lolita. He taught Comparative Literature and Russian at Wellesley.[39]
  • Frank Bidart, a poet whose work has been nominated for the Pulitzer prize.
  • Karl Case, an economist who researches real estate and developed the Case-Shiller index with Robert Shiller from Yale and Allan Weiss.
  • Alan Schechter, former Chairman of the Fulbright and mentor to Hillary Rodham Clinton during her years at Wellesley.
  • Susan Reverby, a Women's and Gender Studies professor who uncovered the American 1946–48 syphilis experiments in Guatemala.
  • Mary Kate McGowan, the Luella LaMer Professor of Women’s Studies and Professor of Philosophy, notable for her work in the feminist philosophy of language
  • Peggy McIntosh, a women's studies scholar whose 1988 published works on the concept of privilege led to the identification of various privileges and laid the foundation for the current "check your privilege" movement.[40]

Popular culture

  • The 2003 film Mona Lisa Smile takes place in Wellesley College.[41]
  • Dr. Miranda Bailey of the ABC television series Grey's Anatomy is a Wellesley graduate.


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  33. [1] Archived June 26, 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  34. [2] Archived May 16, 2010 at the Wayback Machine
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External links