A Tradition of Aid

Ann Hayden Hamilton ’67

A Tradition of Aid

Photo by Richard Howard

When Ann Hayden Hamilton ’67 heads out to Wellesley College in the morning, she’s never quite sure when she’ll get back home. It all depends on how many faculty, staff, and student friends she runs into on campus—and how many of them need her help.

Hamilton has worn a number of hats at Wellesley. After graduating with a degree in economics, she returned to work on staff as a computer programmer. She spent 12 years as a stay-at-home mom and busy volunteer, including service on the Wellesley College Alumnae Association board. Later, she rejoined the staff and served as College registrar, retiring in 2009. But she says her current volunteer role as president of the Wellesley Students’ Aid Society may be her most rewarding yet.

“I think I may be more involved than past presidents, for kind of selfish reasons, because I have such a close connection with the College,” Hamilton says. “For me, it’s a pleasure to have an excuse to come on campus and see so many people whom I really treasure.”

Students’ Aid is an independent nonprofit. Founded in 1878 by Pauline Durant to support those students who were “calico” rather than “velvet,” it was for decades the sole source of financial aid at Wellesley, until the College instituted its own program in the 1930s. Today, the society, which has a $31 million endowment, donates a substantial annual sum to the College for financial aid. For the 2016–17 academic year, it has committed $435,000 for grants and $600,000 for loans. Students’ Aid also provides annually more than $175,000 in the form of book vouchers, Amazon gift cards, and senior gifts to all students receiving financial aid.

Among its most welcome services is the disbursement of short-term, interest-free emergency loans and grants, for everything from bus tickets and phone bills to guide-dog training and root canals. “We welcome any student,” Hamilton says. “They talk to a staff member. And if the need is under $300, often the staff member will just handle it right there on the spot.” She adds, “I think one of the strengths the society has is that it’s personal. We make a very personal connection. And those connections last for years.”

‘I think one of the strengths the society has is that it’s personal. We make a very personal connection.’

Though the amounts of money involved have changed, today’s students would recognize the Students’ Aid Society of the 1940s, when the policy of granting money peripheral to tuition assistance was already well-established: “We are available for emergency gifts and loans which cover the extras which were not anticipated in the close budgeting of scholarship girls, but which are so important—books, doctors’ fees, new glasses, and a short loan, like one we were asked for last year, to pay for an X-ray to discover what had happened to the safety pin one student swallowed. … We loan caps and gowns each year with a saving to each girl of about $12.”

Students’ Aid still offers caps and gowns on loan. And it recently reopened the popular Clothes Closet, which provides stacks of gently used, donated clothing for free—especially useful in wintertime.

Students’ Aid loans meet a variety of needs, Hamilton says—for unexpected expenses, or for cash flow when a student has started a job but hasn’t been paid yet. “If a student is asked by an academic department to present at a conference, she’ll get reimbursed—but not until after she’s gone and come back. She has to pay her own fare up front. We can help with that,” says Hamilton.

At reunion in June, the society will gather to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its 1916 charter and the many gifts it has given Wellesley. Hamilton is looking forward to seeing alumnae who benefited from Students’ Aid when they were undergraduates.

“It’s hard to imagine that anyone has a better job than I do—to be able to make such a difference, with no strings attached,” says Hamilton. “After a day on campus, I go home just dancing.”

Click here to learn more about the Wellesley Students’ Aid Society.

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