The Valley of Five Colleges

July 8, 2019, Amherst, MA-

I learned much from my growing-up years in Saugus-certainly a lot more than some people, who knew me when, ever suspected.  Some, especially in my family, still wonder how I’ve made it this far, ever managing to get out of my own way.  Truth be known, what I learned as a child and teen determined what I retained from my college and university days, and from many experiences thereafter.  I learned to survive in Saugus and how to thrive in Amherst.

Amherst both sheltered me from the real world and engaged the stretching of my comfort zone.  I came to this place of five institutions of higher learning, at a time when the women’s movement was coming into full flower (no pun intended) and when the residue of the anti- war movement was settling into an ennui of apathy.  Watergate rekindled a sense of outrage, for a time, but with Richard Nixon gone, by the Fall of 1974, many were back to focusing on I, Me and Mine.

I returned here today, for the first time since graduating in 1976, to see what, if anything, had really changed.  Amherst College is still the centerpiece of downtown. The University of Massachusetts is the town’s largest employer.  Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and Hampshire College lie in a semi-circle to the south of Amherst,  I took a stroll around Amherst College and downtown Amherst, before heading up to the University campus.

Here a few views of Amherst College.

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The Loeb Center is a job placement hub for Amherst graduates.

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Bassett is one of two planetariums in Amherst.  Orchard Hill, on the University of Massachusetts campus, is the other.

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Henry Ward Beecher was a pioneer in the abolitionist movement, but was later the focus of scandal, showing the two sides of even the most ardent of  social reformers.  Nonetheless, he is honoured by Amherst College as one of its most prominent alumni.

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Lawrence Observatory, to which Bassett Planetarium is attached, is one of the first astronomical observatories in the United States, having been built in 1847.

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My walk around Amherst town began with lunch.  Fresh Side is a lovely Asian fusion cafe.

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St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church is one of the most prominent non-college edifices in town.

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Amherst Town Hall, though, is the signature Town Center building, across from the Town Green.

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Fast forward a bit and I found myself gazing at the High Rise Dormitory, completed just before I attended the University.

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Here is the Sciences Complex.

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This scene appealed to me, as  a fusion of two starkly different architectural styles.

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I headed south, after a brief visit to the University Commons, and gazed towards Mt. Holyoke, from a highway rest stop.  The Five Colleges were a solid unit in the 1970’s and are even more vital an educational force now.  The concept of a unified and diverse educational consortium has only gained traction, in the decades since.

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NEXT:  Danbury, The Second Clarion of the American Revolution

 

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