Welcome to Wellsipedia


Librarians at the Louis Jefferson Long Library have developed an online encyclopedia of Wells College history, titled “Wellsipedia.” This exciting resource includes entries highlighting historical events, student life, administration, faculty, and traditions, as well as, information relating to the special collections housed in the Archives.

It is our hope that in providing online access of these important and fascinating collections to students, faculty, alums, and researchers, interest in the history of Wells College will be revived. We welcome your comments and questions. Our aim is to make Wellsipedia a place to learn and share while creating a lasting record of Wells College History.

Click here for more information about the Wells College Archives.


President Frances Tarleton Farenthold

Farenthold 1

Frances Tarleton Farenthold, sometimes referred to as “Sissy,” was born on October 2nd, 1926 in Texas. During her childhood, she attended public schools, then Hockaday Preparatory School in 1946. She continued to receive her Bachelor of Arts from Vassar College in 1946; she later became a member of their board of Trustees. Frances went even further and attended the University of Texas law school and obtained her Doctorate in Jurisprudence in 1949. A year later she married George Farenthold. Together, they had five children, one of whom tragically passed away during early childhood.

While she was raising a family, she was also very active in civil rights organizations as well as built a successful political and law career. She was an outspoken advocate for government reform and civil rights for women and people of color who lacked representation in the political world.

She was one of the early women in U.S. politics that paved the road for others to follow, accomplishing many firsts and becoming a role model for many young women. She served two consecutive terms as the only woman in the Texas House of Representatives in 1968 and 1972. She also was the first woman to be nominated for Vice President of the United States at the national convention in 1972. She also was the 1st chairwoman of the National Women’s Political Caucus from 1973-1975.

In 1975, she was invited as a guest speaker at Wells College for a conference about Women’s Rights. She instantly fell in love with the college’s charm and beautiful landscape. Shortly after, she asked to become the first female president of the college and, overjoyed, she agreed. On September 20th, 1976, she was inaugurated as the thirteenth president of Wells College and served here until 1980. At her inauguration ceremony, there was a time capsule that was sealed and is dated to be opened on September 20th, 2076.

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President Farenthold (left) with Wells College students

Before her time here, Wells was suffering economically and was on the verge of having to make a hard decision at the time; closing its doors or becoming a co-educational institution. However, thanks to President Farenthold’s financial planning, and the assistance that came flooding in from alumnae after her inauguration, she was able to cut the deficit and allow Wells to stay an all-women’s college for a while longer. Due to this, her successful background and beliefs, she became a role model to the young women who attended Wells.

Information taken from the print and photo collection of the Wells College Archive, Louis Jefferson Long Library, Aurora, New York.

Shelby Talbot ’19

Tiffany Raymond ’10, Reference and Instruction Librarian

Pettibone House

Pettibone House.jpg

Pettibone House is a picturesque gothic style manor and a landmark of Wells College, nestled to the side of MacMillan Gorge. This charismatic building was first constructed for the estranged George Pettibone and his family in 1857. It is believed however, due to poor investments and business deals, the Pettibone’s relocated and never had the chance to live at the residence. Thus, Pettibone House remained vacant until 1869 when Henry Wells, in his beginnings of establishing Wells College, purchased the house to serve as a home for the presidents of the college.

Pettibone served as the President’s home until 1913 when a need of a full-term infirmary was in demand. Pettibone filled this need, taking the role of an infirmary through the 1920’s and 1930’s during various outbreaks of illness through the history if the college. It wasn’t until 1935 that Pettibone was transformed into a residence hall for the burgeoning number of students attending Wells. Pettibone is likely most remembered as a residence hall, as it housed multiple generations of Wells women throughout the years. During this time, students who lived in Pettibone were known to form very close bonds with one another due to the cozy and tight-knit structure of the building. Pettibone was also arguably considered the “favorite” of the dorm buildings on campus by those who resided there.

In 1984, however, Pettibone was forever closed as a residence hall due to its failure to meet updated fire code regulations. Rather than letting the once beloved dorm building stand empty, students proposed a renovation of the building to transform Pettibone into a student center. In the original draft of the project, students had expressed interest in employing a student-run coffee shop, specialized club rooms, a student center as well as a greenhouse and eco-center, sustained by solar energy. While these ideas were promising, it was ultimately decided that Pettibone would become the admissions building, as it remains to date.

These renovations began in 1991 and finished by 1992, made possible from donations from alumnae. During the renovations, curators engaged in a “scavenger hunt” of sorts searching all over the country for antiques that fit with the original gothic design of the building. This was done in order to restore Pettibone to its original glory as a distinguished manor house. Once complete, Pettibone was reopened as the admissions offices and the first building prospective students would enter when visiting the college. In 1996, Pettibone was also nominated by Ezra Cornell III and Randi Shaw Zabriskie as a candidate for the Historical Educational Building Award.

While undergoing various transitions through the years, Pettibone has remained a stunning landmark of Wells as well as a home to all the students that shared in its history. It is  likely that Pettibone will continue to be significant part of Wells for years to come.

Information taken from the print and photo collection of the Wells College Archives, Louis Jefferson Long Library, Aurora, New York.

Angela Paul ’18

Tiffany Raymond ’10, Reference and Instruction Librarian

Odd/Even from an Oddline Coach


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Evenline Team Photo


Being an Oddline coach, I am of course fascinated with the history of a tradition that began at an all-female liberal arts college. The Odd/Even rivalry started in the 1890s. Your team was based on if you were graduating in an Odd or Even numbered year. The rivalry for the women consists of a sing off then a basketball game. Oddline won the very first basketball game, which took place in June of 1898. For the Odds, our colors are now purple and gold/yellow and the Evens claim blue and green. However, back in the day the Odds claimed grey and the Evens claimed white.

In 1913, Song leaders were introduced. They had the responsibility of creating the songs the teams would sing. For the Sing Off, both teams decided on an amount of songs that would be sung that night, then go head-to-head singing both traditional songs as well as remixes made by the song leaders of popular songs during that time or in their song books.

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Training for Odd/Even was very intense in those times. In the 1920’s teams had training tables and were coached by people in their sister class. There were special banquets surrounding the event and the teams received a lot of attention- so much attention that they would receive goodnight notes. Odd/Even became an indoor event in 1959. Prior to 1959 the events were held on one of the campus fields. Evens drove their team to the event in cars and Odds drove in a fire truck. Changes were also made with the team uniforms- long basketball skirts became shorter and eventually turned into shorts.

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Team Photo in Uniform

There were many changes over the years as to the timing of the event. Now Odd/Even is held in the middle of September, while Even/Odd (the men’s season) is usually held later in the month of February or in April. Men eventually followed the tradition after Wells became co-ed in the 2000’s. Their rivalry now consists of a dance off and a dodge ball game, but it once consisted of a very intense chili cook off. The history of Odd/Even is amazing, who knew an 1890s tradition would still be going on? When writing this article, I received some of the information from my previous coaches and “song mamas” (what team members call their song leaders).

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Class of 1965’s Team Photo

Information taken from the print and photo collection of the Wells College Archive, Louis Jefferson Long Library, Aurora, New York.

Aaliyah McNair ’19

Tiffany Raymond ’10, Reference and Instruction Librarian



The Statue of Minerva outside Main Building

Minerva is another beloved symbol at Wells College. She is the Roman Goddess of wisdom. The statue of Minerva was a gift to the College from Charles Wells in 1868 and has resided in a little nook by the front door to the Main building for many years. She was similarly placed in the old Main building before the devastating fire destroyed it in 1888. The statue of Minerva is the only thing left from the old Main building that survived the fire.

She has also been part of many practical jokes, as students from neighboring colleges have tried to kidnap her from time to time. In 1975, six boys from the neighboring Hobart and Williams Smith College were caught after they stole the adored statue. During this adventure Minerva did suffer a few damages that were repaired before she was returned to her rightful spot at her small lakefront home.


Kissing Minerva’s feet

She is also part of some of the traditions at Wells, including Moving Up Day, which takes place on the last day of classes in the spring semester. During this ceremony graduating Seniors place a rose, given to them by their sister class, at her feet and kiss her big toe for good luck. Minerva is an influential part of the Wells Community and is considered by many to be a Wells Woman.

Information taken from the print and photo collection of the Wells College Archive, Louis Jefferson Long Library, Aurora, New York and Dieckmann, J. M. (1995). Wells College: a history. Aurora, NY: Wells College Press.

Shelby Talbot ’19

Tiffany Raymond ’10, Reference and Instruction Librarian

The Wells Bells


Wells College Bell Ringer

A quintessential part of Wells College history is Main Building’s prominent bell tower and the bells hosted there. Although the tower was built during the reconstruction of the Main in 1888, the tower wouldn’t house bells for several more decades. It wasn’t until 1922 that nine bells were gifted to the college by Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Messner. The Messners donated the bells in the memory of their daughter Lillian “Lillie” Messner Chapman, Wells College Class of 1912. The nine bells were cast in Troy, NY, by Meneely Bell, one of the last American bell companies. The company has since gone out of business. Sometime later in the 1940’s, a tenth bell, the E Flat, was also added to the Wells collection.

Once the bells were installed, Lillian’s father was the first to play them. He later organized that the bells be rung daily at 5:30 in the evening to announce dinner, as well as at convocation and commencement. Over time, the bells were also rung at 12:30 in the afternoon on weekends and on special occasions, such as weddings, Wells athletics victories, and in the rare occurrence of Cayuga Lake freezing over. This daily tradition continued at Wells for nearly a century, passed on from generation to generation of senior Wells students. Today, the tradition lives on through the Bell Ringers, a student club open to all class years. While student bell ringers have the freedom to choose the songs played, there are four songs that are required in the daily repertoire. They are the Jubilation, translated from the Wells College hymn book, the Vesper Peal, the Westminster chimes, announcing the hour, and the Alma Mater as the closing song.

After operating for 70 years, the bells were briefly removed from Wells during the summer of 1995 for cleaning and tuning. The bells were taken to the Verdin company in Cincinnati, Ohio for these services. Prior to this, it is believed that the bells were never properly adjusted and as such, were always out of tune. After a summer of maintenance, the bells were returned to the tower where they remain today. Sometime in the last few decades, the bells were also given names. The names in order are Fiddle, Goply, Artemis, Bartamus Flat, Cadaver, Dexter, Eeyore, Ejenstein, Faddle, and Goop.  

Information taken from the print and photo collection of the Wells College Archives, Louis Jefferson Long Library, Aurora, New York.

Angela Paul ’18 and Tiffany Raymond ’10, Reference and Instruction Librarian

Wells College Alma Mater

Alma Mater

While no one knows for sure who wrote the Alma Mater, “Fair Wells with Loyal Hearts”, it is still a staple in the Wells College community and is adored by past, and present students. This song ties together the community and has continuously been sung at all official college gatherings, including many of the unique Wells traditions. The lyrics to the Alma Mater were first published in the very first publication of the college yearbook, The Cardinal, in 1896. Even in the Alma Mater’s first release, there was no author or source listed. It wasn’t until years later, in 1917, that sheet music was included with the first verse of the song.

There was some confusion as to the college’s alma mater when a newspaper published an article about the dedication of the new Main Building, and reported the alma mater as being “All hail, by the blue waters.” However, it is now clear that “Fair Wells with Loyal Hearts” is what continues to be recognized as the Alma Mater. In fact, in 1908, the college songbook even titled it as such, while the song the newspaper had previously reported as the alma mater in the was titled The College Song.

Dr. Alice Hanson, class of 1971, wrote the archivist of the College at the time, describing her musical findings of the beloved song while working on her dissertation. She confirmed that is similar to the popular German folk song, “Den Lieben, Langen Tag.”

The lyrics to the Alma Mater were altered when the school became a co-ed institution in 2005. The line “Thy daughters ever sing” was changed to “We will Forever sing” to be more inclusive to the new array of students who were now able to attend Wells. Regardless, the alma mater represents Wells sisterhood and unites the community whenever it is sung.

Information taken from the print and photo collection of the Wells College Archive, Louis Jefferson Long Library, Aurora, New York.

Shelby Talbot ’19 and Tiffany Raymond ’10 Reference and Instruction Librarian

Margaret Floy Washburn

Margret Floy Washburn was the only child of Francis Washburn and Elizbeth Floy Davis. She grew up in Harlem She studied at various public and private schools as her family moved around to accommodate her father’s work as a pastor throughout the Hudson Valley. She graduated from Ulter Academy in Kingston NY in 1886.  Then, Washburn entered Vassar college and spent the next five years earning her undergraduate degree. She then pursued further education at Columbia University in New York. However, they denied her doctorate degree; therefore, she transferred to Cornell University, where she was eligible for a degree and a fellowship and was able to study under E.B. Titchener. In 1894, Margaret Floy Washburn became the first woman to earn a doctorate in psychology.

Shortly after earning her degree, Washburn was offered a position to teach psychology and philosophy at Wells College where she remained for the next six years. At Wells, she also served as the secretary of administration starting in 1896 until she left. She began her career as a professor teaching courses such as experimental psychology, Ethics, Logic as well as courses on the history of both psychology and philosophy and many more.

In 1900, she accepted an offer to become the warden of Sage College. However, her time here was short as she accepted an offer for assistant professorship at the University of Cincinnati. This transition was hard for her because in 1902-1903, not only was she only woman faculty at the university, but she was also the furthest she had been from her parents. In 1903 however, she was delighted to receive an offer of associate professor of psychology from her alma mater, Vassar College. She also served as a review editor for animal behavior until she reigned in 1913 to have more time pursuing her work. She published what she considered to be her most significant work Movement and Mental Imagery in 1916.

She remained unwed as many early professional women chose to do and very close to her parents. She was elected membership of American Psychological Association, only one of three women of the time from 1912-1914. She served as a chair for many years and eventually was elected the President of American Psychological Association in 1921. Her final and highest honor was in 1931 when she had the honor of being elected to the National Academy of Sciences. She was only the second woman to do so. She sadly passed away eight years later due to a hemorrhage leaving a legacy for many other young women to follow.

Information taken from the print and photo collection of the Wells College Archive, Louis Jefferson Long Library, Aurora, New York.

Scarborough, E., & Furumoto, L. (1989). Untold lives: the first generation of american women psychologists. New York: Columbia Univ Press.

Furumoto, L., & Scarborough, E. (1986). Placing women in the history of psychology: The first American women psychologists. American Psychologists,41(1), 35-42, 527-543.

Compiled by Shelby Talbot ’19

Ivy Day (Class Day)


Ivy Day 1916. Photo taken from Wells College Archives, Louis Jefferson Long Library, Aurora, NY

Traditions are an important part of the Wells Community, and one tradition that evolved many times before falling out of practice was Ivy Day, also known as Class Day. The first version of Class Day was in 1871. On the Monday after commencement, the graduating class planted elm trees on campus. The practice became known as Class Day, a day for speeches and banquets taking place within a couple of days after commencement. Eventually the tradition changed to planting ivy and in 1901 the name was changed to Ivy Day.

The seniors would wear their caps and gowns, and the rest of the students would wear white dresses. After the fire that destroyed the original Main Building, the seniors planted their ivy around the new Main Building. The year of Frances Folsmon Cleveland’s graduation the ivy was provided by President Grover Cleveland.  After the planting was completed, a member of the graduating class would present a trowel to the president of the junior class, to pass along the responsibility of the senior class. The ceremony would include speeches, and concluded with the singing of the Alma Mater. In 1903, the seniors sang an original Ivy Day song, that was performed until 1932. In 1932 “Ivy Walled College” became the new Ivy Day song.

Another aspect of the ceremony was a procession by the students, some years carrying a maple chain, other years carrying daisies (the school flower). The classes would form a W, through which the seniors would walk. The ceremony became less solemn as time went by, and the serious speeches were replaced with humor.

Main Building eventually became too engulfed in ivy, and in 1915 the senior classes began planting ivy at other buildings around campus. In 1918 the seniors planted their ivy around Zabriskie. Eventually there was so much ivy around Main Building that it had to be removed for the safety of the building. When it was removed, you could see the class names where they had planted their ivy. The tradition of Ivy Day itself began to disappear in the 1950’s.

Information taken from the print and photo collection of the Wells College Archive, Louis Jefferson Long Library, Aurora, New York.

Tiffany Raymond ’10 Reference and Instruction Librarian Wells College Long Library

Origins of the Honor Code

In the early years of Wells College, student life was governed by a set of rules. These rules included required periods of exercise, noise levels, and times for lights out in the evenings. Eventually, many students became concerned by the amount of rule-breaking going on at the school. In 1897 they decided to adopt a system of self-governance, with rules drawn up and agreed upon by the students. They hoped that by having the students agree on the rules they would feel a greater responsibility to keep them.

The first code was signed by a group of students on a trial basis. Following the successful trial, the system was presented before Collegiate, which had only recently been founded. The code was unanimously adopted and implemented for every student belonging to Collegiate. Students were elected to a committee to enforce the new honor system.

Many of the rules in the code were considered common sense by the students, such as the amount of exercise required by each student daily or the times students should go to bed at night. For example, the rules stated each student should do45 minutes of open-air exercise a day, go to bed at 10:00pm (with the exception of seniors, who were allowed an extra half hour), and refrain from playing an instrument from 3:00pm-5:30pm on Sundays. The students noticed that the new honor system improved daily chapel attendance, but the hoped-for reduction of noise in the library was not realized.

The Honor Code has undergone changes since 1897, but remains an integral part of the Wells Community.

Information taken from the print collection of the Wells College Archive, Louis Jefferson Long Library, Aurora, New York.

Tiffany Raymond ’10 Reference and Instruction Librarian Wells College Long Library

Old Main Building


Old Main Building

Completed in 1868, Old Main Building served as the heart of Wells College until 1888. Situated across the bridge from Henry Wells’s house at Glen Park, Old Main served as the only building of the college for a period of time. The building was built with brick and stone, and, as she does today, a statue of Minerva stood at the entrance. The first floor had 14 rooms, including a parlor, library, office for the president, music room, and school room. The second and third floor had 160 sleeping-rooms.

At about 1:30 in the morning on August 9th, 1888, Old Main was destroyed by fire. The fire started in the basement kitchen. The students were on summer vacation, and some of the valuable art works had also been removed from the building due to the vacation. However, everything left in the building was destroyed, including things left by the students during the vacation, a portrait of Governor Seward. Everything in the library was destroyed.

The destruction of the building did not deter the college, however. Although the start of fall classes was delayed two weeks, the college was able to house students in the village of Aurora and classes were held in Morgan Hall. An appeal was sent out for books to furnish the library, and plans were made to rebuild at the same site. The new building would have the same name- Main Building, still in use at the heart of Wells College.

Information and picture taken from the print and photo collection of the Wells College Archive, Louis Jefferson Long Library, Aurora, New York.

Tiffany Raymond ’10 Reference and Instruction Librarian Wells College Long Library