For generations, William Smith and Hobart Colleges have hosted separate academic award ceremonies: The Benjamin Hale Dinner for Hobart College and Moving Up Day for William Smith College. After conversation with alums, faculty, students and staff, the deans envisioned this shared event to celebrate the life of the mind as a central value of our heritage and future. We named the event after Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman in America to receive the Doctor of Medicine degree and Benjamin Hale, the first college dean of a liberal arts college in the United States, because their intellectual accomplishments reshaped HWS, just as our honored students continue to do.
The Rev. Benjamin Hale
Benjamin Hale served the College for a total of 22 years. Under Hale the faculty and library grew significantly, a variety of capital improvements took place, and the financial situation of the young institution improved dramatically. At a time in American higher education when a great many institutions were forced to close their doors for extended periods, Benjamin Hale managed to keep the College running. In the words of Warren Hunting Smith, a widely regarded historian of the Colleges, “next to Bishop Hobart himself, no other man did so much for the College.”
Known worldwide as the first woman to receive her degree as a Doctor of Medicine, Elizabeth Blackwell represents a historic moment in modern medicine and women's liberation. Several years after her family immigrated to the United States, Dr. Blackwell studied privately with independent physicians, an education which culminated at Geneva Medical College in Upstate New York. Upon graduation, Dr. Blackwell founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children. Later, she helped found the National Health Society, was the first woman to be placed on the British Medical Register, and taught at England’s first college of medicine for women. She pioneered in preventive medicine and in the promotion of antisepsis and hygiene.