Oral Histories of Skidmore College

In 1981, Joanna Zangrando, a member of Skidmore’s American Studies Department from 1976 to 2007, began a student project to document the history of Skidmore College. Recorded interviews were conducted throughout the 1980s with a large cross-section of the college community participating, including alumnae from each of the previous decades, retired and current faculty, staff and administrators, as well as the former chair of the Board of Trustees. The resultant recordings explore of a variety of experiences and include subjects pertinent to each time period in the college’s history, from its early days as the Skidmore School of Arts through its transition to a co-educational institution in the early 1970s.

Some highlights: Gladys Munro Icke (class of 1919), speaks engagingly about student life at Skidmore, including the effects that both the First World War and the 1918 flu pandemic had on her experience; Mary Elizabeth Larsen, personal secretary to Lucy Scribner (1920-1931), shares memories of the college’s founder and of the college’s early days;  Ella Van Dyke Tuthill (class of 1932), who lived through the 1929 stock market crash and subsequent Depression during her time at Skidmore, has fond remembrances of the downtown campus and the college’s second president, Henry T. Moore (“Prexy”); David Marcell, American Studies professor and Vice President of Academic Affairs (1964-1991), recalls the student strike of 1970, and the prevailing mood on campus during the Vietnam era; Lynne Gelber, professor of French (1966-2002), speaks at length about the factors that led Skidmore to become a co-educational institution; Peter Sipperly, Associate Dean of Student Affairs (1972-1979), discusses in detail the Wilmarth fire of 1976, which claimed the life of one student, and the spirit of community that arose from the tragedy.

Housed in the Department of Special Collections in the Lucy Scribner Library and originally recorded on cassette tape, most of the interviews and transcripts are now available digitally via the library’s Digital Collections initiative, which is an ongoing effort to make the history of the college accessible to a wide audience. The digitized portion of the collection represents 26 individual interviews and includes more than 18 hours of audio, along with over 500 pages of transcripts.

Click here to browse the collection.

Credits: [Mary Elizabeth Larsen and Lucy Scribner on the Porch at Scribner House], Department of Special Collections, Lucy Scribner Library (top); Ella Van Dyke Tuthill, Eromdiks, 1932, p.90 (middle); “Skidmore News,” April 1, 1971, front page (bottom).