School NewsNov 1, 2023
— updated Nov 20, 2023
A Former Trustee Looks Back
Alumnae Council President Mary Atwood ’83 sits down with former MHS Trustee B. Carter White
Alumnae Council President Mary Atwood ’83 and Director of Philanthropy Jennifer Kerwood P’21 visited with Carter White at his West Stockbridge home. Carter served as a Miss Hall’s Trustee from 1978 to 1998 and was eager to talk about the nine years MHS was co-ed and how the tough decisions made at that time paved the way for future success for the School.
• How did you come to be involved with Miss Hall’s?
My wife Carol and I had long been second homeowners in the Berkshires, while we maintained our primary residence in New York City. When I retired in 1976, we came to the Berkshires full-time. We became very good friends with Terry and Beverly Hallock, parents of Gail Hallock Cyr ’74 and Kimberly Hallock Crocker ’76. Terry did architectural work for Miss Hall’s, and in the fall of 1978, he introduced me to Board President Ben Groves. I was hired on the spot because they needed a Treasurer.
• Tell us about the decision to go Co-ed.
While the decision to admit boys was made before I arrived on the Board, my work as Treasurer was intimately involved. From my side of the numbers, MHS was close to going out, which was happening at so many other schools at that time. The $50,000 in revenue that came with the boys felt like life and death for Miss Hall’s at that moment, or pretty close to it. In my opinion, Head of School Don Oakes and Ben Groves had the courage in 1975 to say “Yes” to Cranwell and enroll 20 boys as day students, changing the name to The Hall School — a decision that was reversed some years later when the School was on a firmer foundation.
As a Trustee, you have to hold the mission in one hand, and “the how” in the other. Sometimes, “the how” overrides the mission, or there isn’t going to be any mission. The fact that they had the courage to do this, and then that decision enabled us to go back to being a girls’ school, is fascinating from a broader perspective.
• What were the discussions like, and at what point did the Board decide to return to single-sex?
At every Board meeting there would be a half-hour discussion, “Do we keep the boys or let ’em go?” As I recall, then Head of School Bob Bussey and Ben assembled a group to make a recommendation. They decided in 1980 to return to all-girls, and we would also stay true to the boys we already had, seeing our commitment to them through to graduation. (The last boys graduated from The Hall School in 1984.) The Board at the time was heavily populated with parents, and only a few alums. They continued to ask, “Are we conforming to the mission?” Ultimately, that was the driving force behind the return to all-girls. And, by then, the finances allowed the return.
• Honoring the co-ed years
In response to the article in the Spring 2023 Miss Hall’s Magazine, Miss Hall’s History is Women’s History, Carter would like to see more attention and gratitude paid to the time of co-education at the School.
“In 1975, the School changed dramatically. We survived — what did it leave us with? What were the challenges? What were the positive outcomes? What did it mean to girls, boys, faculty, and the community? An interesting tangent to those years is that the Shah of Iran was a Williams graduate, and many Iranian students came to Miss Hall’s during that time. How did that impact the School? This is separate, but not really. We have to make sure the history of the School is complete. We should be showing, “Here is the progress of women and girls over 125 years, and these nine years are an integral part of how we got there.”
“Mira’s concept, energy and boldness have survived. Time has proven their significance.”