Melissa Hirshson, the great niece of former HWS President Rev. Louis M. Hirshson, and her mother Roberta recently returned to campus for the first time in 20 years to donate a charcoal portrait of Rev. Hirshson to the Colleges’ Archives.
Having first visited when Melissa was a prospective student, the two took a walking tour of the campus to see the many changes, visited the archives, met with Visual Arts Curator Kathryn Vaughn in Houghton House, and eventually ended up on William Smith Hill to admire Hirshson House and Hirshson Ballroom.
After Roberta’s sister-in-law passed away recently, her children found the former president’s portrait and called Melissa and Roberta for advice as to what they should do with it.
“It’s just great to have a place to put this picture where people will appreciate it. It only makes sense Louis’ portrait would be back here, where he was president for so many years,” says Roberta.
In describing his image, depicting a reserved mouth yet smiling eyes, she notes, “He always had that expression, even when he was smiling. It was…formidable.”
The charcoal portrait of Rev. Hirshson is speculated to have been drawn by his wife Eda Hirshson L.H.D. ’66, and now resides in the archives of the Warren Hunting Smith Library for safe keeping.
Inaugurated on Oct. 12, 1956, Hirshson served HWS for the next 10 years, ending his term officially in 1966.
Responding to a reporter from the Geneva Times in 1956 about his future goals for HWS, Hirshson stated: “One of my central aims will be to discover how to make the relationship between Geneva and the Colleges a mutually happy and profitable one.”
During his tenure, Hirshson oversaw the construction of eight major buildings on campus, improving facilities of the Colleges as well as town and church relations to the campus. The Hirshson House was erected in 1962 in his honor and is home to the campus ballroom as well as the Trias Reading Series.
Before coming to HWS, Hirshson served as a pilot in World War I and held several administrative and trustee positions elsewhere. He was also a one-time coach of professional football team, the Maroons (of Sandusky, Ohio), as well as an arbitrator for the New York Stock Exchange. He also served as associate director of the National Labor Relations Board.
Just before taking over the presidency at HWS, Hirshson also served as the dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford, Conn. He received degrees from Kenyon, Pittsburg, Trinity, and divinity schools as well as an honorary degree from Harvard. Hirshson was also an honorary member of the Hobart Druid Society and Zeta Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. In 1960, Hirshson published a book called “A More Excellent Way,” which focuses on ethics and moralities and can be found in the Colleges’ library.
Eda Hirshson received an honorary degree from William Smith and was an accomplished painter of landscapes, buildings and portraits, some of which can be found in Coxe and the Warren Hunting Smith Library. Eda received an alumnae citation in 1964.
Rev. Hirshson passed away at the age of 86.