Insider’s View: Gettell Amphitheater

Gettell Amphitheater

(Photo by Ben Barnhart)

In 1961 the amphitheater was constructed as just one part of an ambitious campus improvement plan implemented by Richard Glenn Gettell, the College’s thirteenth president.

  • In its earliest years Pageant Green was a popular spot for professors to hold class on a nice day. In 1912, benches were installed on the green as part of the seventy-fifth anniversary of Mount Holyoke. By 1948 the benches were removed, due to material restrictions during the war years that prevented further upkeep.
  • The class of 1961 was the first to process across the amphitheater stage to receive their diplomas. Nine years later the structure was officially named for Gettell, who received an honorary degree at the College’s 133rd commencement, at which the Honorary Edward M. Kennedy was the speaker.
  • Perhaps the most famous person to have addressed the community from the amphitheater stage was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who came to campus in fall 1963.
  • Today in addition to being the location of commencement and convocation, the amphitheater is also host to Pangy Day festivities, the occasional movie night, and even a meeting place for Mount Holyoke’s student Lunar Howling Society. And it’s not unusual to see a professor leading a class meeting on the shady grass steps.

This article appeared in the summer 2014 issue of the Alumnae Quarterly.

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