High on the Hill

Dixon, Linda J.
1979

COHEN, THE OVAL AND ALUMNAE HALL

COHEN, THE OVAL AND ALUMNAE HALL

 

The Henry Clay Jackson Gymnasium is one of three connected buildings. Completed in 1948, it was a gift from the estate of a conductor on

the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. The large brick building on the other end is the Cohen Arts Center, opened in 1955, a gift of Boston industrialist Edward E. Cohen, H52. They are joined by the one-story building with the impressive bay window, Alumnae Hall. Great occasions at Tufts often involve all of these buildings.

 

Such notables as Dame Judith Anderson have appeared at Cohen in performances of Macbeth and Oedipus Rex. The Fletcher School has brought international statesmen such as Dean Acheson, Paul-Henri Spaak, Senator J. W. Fulbright, Lord Caradon, and others. For ten years, Tufts hosted the Assembly on Massachusetts Government here where leaders in the public and private sectors deliberated on ways to modernize state government. Football games frequently have gatherings before and afterwards at Alumnae Hall.

The Ellis Oval, located just behind Cohen, is neither as awe-inspiring as Yale Bowl nor as labyrinthian as Harvard Stadium, but it often bulges with football crowds who are just as enthusiastic and uproarious. Professor Frederick Melvin Ellis, A29, G49, for whom the Oval is named, was known affectionately to generations of Tufts people as "Fish" Ellis. He was Tufts' greatest all-around athlete, winning 11 varsity letters in four major sports and All-New England honors. He joined the Tufts faculty in 1946 as a coach, and in 1954 he became full professor and chairman of the Department of Physical Education. Believing that every able-bodied student should benefit from athletic competition, he developed an extremely popular intramural program. His wife, Dorothea Loughlin Ellis, J31, was until 1978 a member of the staff of the Office of Publications. The two Ellis daughters are both Tufts alumnae, and their husbands are alumni.

When referring to the center building, always call it Alumnae (ee) Hall — never Alumni Hall — or you will incur the righteous indignation of several thousand women graduates of Tufts. Jackson graduates in 1928 established the Alumnae Hall Fund, and after years of devoted effort, raised the funds which were used to construct this singularly handsome building in 1954.

Inside the hall is the Ruth Capen Farmer, W02, Lounge, named for the first president of the Association of Tufts Alumnae. Below this room is the Bella Porter Ransom, W07, Room, named for the guiding light of the Alumnae Hall Fund.

The murals in Alumnae Hall are fascinating commentaries on the history of Tufts. They were painted in the ancient and durable medium known as egg tempera. The mural covering the east wall by Nathaniel J. Jacobson depicts Tufts College at the time of its founding. Pictured are the founders of the college - Charles and Hannah Tufts, Hosea Ballou 2d, Silvanus Packard, P. T. Barnum and others. Old Medford, famous for its shipbuilding industry, is in the background. Medford was also famous for the manufacture of Old Medford Rum, although that activity is not shown here.

The mural on the opposite wall, by Matthew W. Boyhan, is a reflection of Tufts a century later when Tufts was celebrating its centennial. Alumnae Hall had been completed and Tufts College was renamed Tufts University. The people depicted were the leaders of the university and prominent members of the faculty, alumni/ae and student body. (A listing of everyone portrayed in these murals is included in Appendix A — Guide to Alumnae Hall Murals.)

The building on Talbot Avenue across from Alumnae Hall is Stratton Hall, a dormitory for women constructed in 1927. It was financed by a bequest from Martha Stratton Ensign. The yellow house on the other side of the Stratton driveway is the home of Dean Richard A. Kelley, A37, G38, and his wife, Mary Donning Kelley, J36. The driveway leads to Stratton Path, a narrow but much-used lane to Professors Row. To the left at the top of Stratton Path is Richardson House, a dormitory, half of which once stood on top of the Hill. To the right is the house first occupied by President Hosea Ballou 2d, which was moved here from its original site. Dean Theodore L. Eliot, Jr. of The Fletcher School and Mrs. Eliot now reside there.

The dormitories further down the Row are Anthony House, named for the first dean of the College of Engineering, Gardner C. Anthony, Arts Class of 1860, G60, and Capen House, built by the third president of Tufts College, Elmer Hewitt Capen, whose 30-year term as president is at least double that of any other Tufts president.