320 Memorial Dr. Cambridge, MA 02139

History

A Brief History of Stanley A. McCormick Hall

McCormick Hall is named after Stanley A. McCormick, the husband of Katherine Dexter McCormick ’04, who was the benefactor of the building. Prior to the construction of McCormick Hall, MIT had accommodated undergraduate women in an ad hoc fashion and through a series of short-term measures. McCormick Hall’s construction helped solidify MIT’s commitment to the equal education of women, ushering in an era in which the number of women students steadily grew.

Katharine Dexter McCormick, who is most responsible for the construction of the building, was also a central figure in many of the most important social and political struggles facing American women in the twentieth century. She took prominent roles in the women’s suffrage movement, government reform movements, and efforts to develop safe birth control methods. She believed in using her fortune only to aid unpopular causes which, in addition to controversial political movements, included the visual arts and music. McCormick Hall stands as a monument to her belief that it is possible to combine graciousness and style with intellectual seriousness and persistent hard work. Please visit the companion web page on this site for more about this remarkable woman.

McCormick Hall was designed by Herbert Beckwith, a member of MIT’s architecture faculty and a principal of the firm Anderson Beckwith & Haible. It was constructed in two phases.  The first saw the completion of a residential tower, now called the West Tower, in 1963, along with a dining hall, two date rooms, a private dining room, an ornate living room, and a spacious penthouse. In 1967 the East Tower was completed, adding another residential tower and additional amenities on the first floor and penthouse. The neighboring two-family brownstone, which had formerly housed the religious counselors, was converted to residential use and connected to the main McCormick building in 1994. This smaller building (W2) is now referred to as the McCormick Annex.

Other buildings at MIT designed by Herbert Beckwith, in addition to McCormick, include the Alumni Swimming Pool (1938-39, MIT’s first International Style building), Rockwell Cage (1947), the Radiation Lab, the Van de Graaf Generator building (1948, now demolished), the Dorrance Food Laboratory (1950, the first building at MIT to use glass curtain-wall construction), the Whittaker Life Sciences Building (1963), and the Pierce Boathouse (1965). Other area buildings include the Science Building at UMass Boston, the Brookline Town Office Building and Raytheon’s Executive Office Building in Lexington.
McCormick Hall is noted for the graciousness of its common spaces. First floor facilities now include two large living rooms, 4 “date rooms,” a dance studio, the dining hall, and the private dining room. Study facilities are available in three seminar rooms and in study carrels in the West Tower Penthouse. Both the East Tower and West Tower Penthouses offer places for students to socialize, watch television, or catch a spectacular view of the Charles River basin and Boston across the river. The East Tower is also home to an exercise room, dark room, sewing room, music room, and “kitchen in the clouds.”

Although McCormick accomodates all four years of MIT undergraduate women, the East and West Towers have slightly different classes mixes and atmospheres. The residential rooms in the West tower are a mix of singles and doubles. (Many of the doubles serve as crowded triples when the incoming freshmen class is large in size.) The West Tower residential floor plan is like most traditional dormitory hallways, built in a ring, with communal bathrooms and a kitchen. In the West Tower, freshmen live either in doubles or crowded triples; juniors, seniors and a small number of sophomores live in the singles. The East Tower consists entirely of single rooms, organized around suites, two to a floor. Residents in the East Tower are primarily freshmen, sophomores and a few juniors. Rooms in both towers are spacious, and are also noted for the mahogany furniture integrated into each room’s construction. The Annex is a converted 19th century two-family brownstone that houses a mix of singles, doubles, and triples. Approximately 25 undergraduate women live in the smaller-scaled, homier environment of the Annex.

The construction of McCormick Hall came amid a major effort supported at the highest level of the MIT administration to strengthen and enhance the role of women in science and engineering, not only at MIT, but throughout the world. McCormick’s construction and dedication were noted in the local and national press as an indicator of MIT’s seriousness in this undertaking. Coinciding with the opening of McCormick Hall, MIT hosted a national conference on the role of women in American science which was organized by many of the residents of the new dormitory.

At its founding, MIT followed the tradition of most European universities in providing no housing to its students. Thus, a strong tradition of fraternities and rooming houses grew up around the Institute in its earliest days.
When Katharine Dexter McCormick attended MIT around the turn of the twentieth century, she lived at home and commuted to classes each day. Once MIT made the move from Boston to Cambridge and began to develop in the Anglo-American residential mode, the issue of where to house the small population of undergraduate women became more pressing. There was even talk at MIT of turning the Institute into an all-men’s institution, so that the potentially-costly issue of where to house women undergraduates could be avoided. In the 1950s Mrs. McCormick and of Mrs. Karl Compton, the wife of MIT’s president, led to the establishment of MIT’s first dormitory for its women students, at 120 Bay State Road in Boston. One well-beloved feature of this residence was Mrs. McCormick’s endowment of a small “taxi fund,” which paid for trips across the river to class on rainy days for residents of the building.

Past residents of McCormick Hall

Shirley Ann Jackson, noted physicist and former Commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, was one of McCormick’s first residents (and chair of its Judicial Committee). More about noted McCormick alums will follow.

School year Presidents Housemasters House Managers
1963-64 Sue Colodny Prof. & Mrs. Lynwood S. Bryant Frances Rainey Luttman-Johnson
1964-65 Janet Romanowyck Prof. & Mrs. Lynwood S. Bryant Frances Rainey Luttman-Johnson
1965-66 Diane Macunovich Prof. & Mrs. Lynwood S. Bryant Frances Rainey Luttman-Johnson
1966-67 Judi Sahagen Prof. & Mrs. Lynwood S. Bryant Frances Rainey Luttman-Johnson
1967-68 Dinah Schiffer Prof. Klaus Biemann (V) & Vera Biemann Frances Rainey Luttman-Johnson
1968-69 Elaine Lancaster Prof. Klaus Biemann (V) & Vera Biemann Frances Rainey Luttman-Johnson
1969-70 Joan Etzweiler Prof. Klaus Biemann (V) & Vera Biemann Frances Rainey Luttman-Johnson
1970-71 Elaine Savage Prof. Klaus Biemann (V) & Vera Biemann Frances Rainey Luttman-Johnson
1971-72 Marcia Keyes Prof. Klaus Biemann (V) & Vera Biemann Frances Rainey Luttman-Johnson
1972-73 Janet Markham Prof. Stephen D. Senturia (VI) & Alice Senturia Frances Rainey Luttman-Johnson
1973-74 Barbie Miglierian Prof. Stephen D. Senturia (VI) & Alice Senturia Norma Mele
1974-75 Caryl Marceau Prof. Stephen D. Senturia (VI) & Alice Senturia Norma Mele
1975-76 Anita Horton Prof. Stephen D. Senturia (VI) & Alice Senturia Norma Mele
1976-77 Mary-Jo Engelke Prof. Stephen D. Senturia (VI) & Alice Senturia Norma Mele
1977-78 Barbara Ostrov Prof. Stephen D. Senturia (VI) & Alice Senturia Norma Mele
1978-79 Anitta Bliss Prof. Margery Resnick (XXI) & Steve Ault Norma Mele
1979-80 Jean-Marie Hand Prof. Margery Resnick (XXI) & Steve Ault Norma Mele
1980-81 Sandy Waal Prof. Margery Resnick (XXI) & Steve Ault Norma Mele
1981-82 Ruby Chandy Prof. Margery Resnick (XXI) & Steve Ault Norma Mele
1982-83 Stella Hetelikidis Prof. Margery Resnick (XXI) & Steve Ault Norma Mele
1983-84 Anita Killian Prof. Margery Resnick (XXI) & Steve Ault Norma Mele
1984-85 D’Juana White Prof. Margery Resnick (XXI) & Steve Ault Norma Mele
1985-86 Martha McKinney Prof. Margery Resnick (XXI) & Steve Ault Norma Mele
1986-87 Helena Cragg Prof. Graham Walker (VII) & Jan Walker Norma Mele
1987-88 Nirmala Panicker Prof. Graham Walker (VII) & Jan Walker Norma Mele
1988-89 Valerie Feliberti Prof. Graham Walker (VII) & Jan Walker Norma Mele
1989-90 Anne Law Prof. Graham Walker (VII) & Jan Walker Paul Bragger
1990-91 Julie Gupta Prof. Graham Walker (VII) & Jan Walker Paul Bragger
1991-92 Linda Carazos Prof. Graham Walker (VII) & Jan Walker Bailey Hewit
1993 Sonia Ensenat Prof. Charles Stewart III (XVII) & Kathryn Hess Bailey Hewit
1994 Sonia Ensenat Prof. Charles Stewart III (XVII) & Kathryn Hess Bailey Hewit
1995 Ish Modak Prof. Charles Stewart III (XVII) & Kathryn Hess Bailey Hewit
1996 Marnie Biando Prof. Charles Stewart III (XVII) & Kathryn Hess Bailey Hewit
1997 Angela Kwan Prof. Charles Stewart III (XVII) & Kathryn Hess Bailey Hewit
1998 Fenney Kwan Prof. Charles Stewart III (XVII) & Kathryn Hess Bailey Hewit
1999 May Tse Prof. Charles Stewart III (XVII) & Kathryn Hess Bailey Hewit
1999 Robin Chiu Prof. Charles Stewart III (XVII) & Kathryn Hess Bailey Hewit
2000 Ruchi Srivastava Prof. Charles Stewart III (XVII) & Kathryn Hess Bailey Hewit-Morey
2001 Kelly Chin Prof. Charles Stewart III (XVII) & Kathryn Hess Bailey Hewit-Morey
2002 Lauren Frick and Anita Mhaskar; Marjan Bolouri Prof. Charles Stewart III (XVII) & Kathryn Hess Colleen Honohan
2003 Marjan Bolouri Prof. Charles Stewart III (XVII) & Kathryn Hess Colleen Honohan
2004 Alice Wuu Prof. Charles Stewart III (XVII) & Kathryn Hess Colleen Honohan
2005 Emily Cheng; Stephanie Kim Prof. Charles Stewart III (XVII) & Kathryn Hess Colleen Honohan
2006 Petra Barron Prof. Charles Stewart III (XVII) & Kathryn Hess Colleen Honohan
2007 Rebecca Oman Prof. Charles Stewart III (XVII) & Kathryn Hess Colleen Honohan
2008 Sidra Khan Prof. Charles Stewart III (XVII) & Kathryn Hess Colleen Honohan
2009 Anila Sinha Prof. Charles Stewart III (XVII) & Kathryn Hess Colleen Honohan
2010 Hannah Rice Prof. Charles Stewart III (XVII) & Kathryn Hess Colleen Honohan
2011 Krithika Shanmugasundaram Prof. Charles Stewart III (XVII) & Kathryn Hess Colleen Honohan
2012 Sheila Lee Prof. Charles Stewart III (XVII) & Kathryn Hess Colleen Honohan & Jon Nolan
2013 Henna Jethani Prof. Charles Stewart III (XVII) & Kathryn Hess Jon Nolan