Margaret Jewett Greer ’51, who died on March 19, was the quintessential champion for sustaining Wellesley’s jewel of a campus. Her College roots ran deep, dating from the late 19th century when her grandmother enrolled, then her mother, Mary Cooper Jewett Gaiser ’23, and numerous other family members across several generations. In 1958, the Jewett Arts Center, designed by Paul Rudolph, opened thanks to the generosity of her parents with the explicit intention of advancing all elements of creativity under one roof. Margaret’s own determination to protect and preserve Wellesley’s distinctive campus helped to advance the preparation of the 1998 Campus Master Plan, the first since 1921, followed in 1999 by the Landscape Restoration Plan.
President Emerita Diana Chapman Walsh ’66 recalls the respect and devotion numerous College staff members had for Margaret’s knowledge and leadership in advancing “the ethos and sensibilities” of Frederick Law Olmsted’s 1902 advice for how the Wellesley landscape should be developed and maintained. Some staff “loved nothing better than spending a day with Margaret, in rubber boots, walking the campus … identifying areas in need of repair.” Others had enormous respect for her with “a touch of fear in the face of the low-key but never-ending ferocity with which she guarded the campus.”
Margaret always found time for Wellesley, including the 18 years she served as a College trustee—during which she spent hours educating her trustee colleagues on landscape matters. But her first priority—her family—was always crystal clear. Entries in reunion record books recall family summer trips to Woods Hole, Mass., with her loving husband and daughters, Mary, Sara, Margaret, and Lucie, trips to England, and the joy of volunteering at her daughters’ schools. It is no wonder Margaret’s notes included “rushing to catch up” and “working on the elusive job of getting organized.” When visiting her home, more than a few alums were treated to Bill’s teasing Margaret about Wellesley files taking over the house. (They were.) He must have rejoiced when Margaret delivered numerous files to me, most with copious “must do” annotations to help aid the impossible task of filling her shoes in some committee work.
Always taking time to reflect, dig deep, and ask the hard questions, but never one to take credit, Margaret forged progress and energized enthusiasm. Wellesley’s founder, Henry Fowle Durant, hoped that every student would have an acre to “whistle on.” Almost a century and a half later and with Margaret’s help to preserve those acres, that dream holds.