My Chat with Jean Hall

Jean Hall pictured in the 1950 'Microcosm' Yearbook

Jean Hall pictured in the 1950 'Microcosm' Yearbook

Helen Ruhlin, Opinion Editor

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Simmons University alumna, Jean Harriet Morgan Hall, passed away at age 90 on February 27, 2019. She was born in Braintree, MA on November 9, 1928 and graduated from Simmons with a Business Degree in 1950. Following her college education, Jean worked for the “Yale, New Haven Medical School of Nursing.” After starting a family in Lynnfield, MA, she worked for “Addison Westley Publishing.” Jean’s final home was in Cornish, ME where she was an active part of the community and board member of the local library. She is survived by her loving husband, Kenneth Hall, son David K. Hall and sister Barbara Anderson.

Two summers ago, I received a letter in the mail from a woman I didn’t know, but an address that I did. The envelope signed by Jean Hall, revealed that she lived just a few miles away from my home in Cornish, ME, a town of 1,200 familiar faces. Upon opening the letter, I was struck at first by the beautiful stationary with a sketch of the Simmons Main College Building, and second by what was written inside. In perfect cursive, Jean congratulated me on my graduation from high school and wrote that she’d seen my photo in the local newspaper announcing my plans to attend Simmons, and she wished to chat in-person. After a few more letters and phone calls, we set a date and she invited me over for tea to discuss our different Simmons experiences and her early life in New England.

In meeting Jean, I quickly realized that she hadn’t missed a beat keeping up with Simmons. Despite our near seventy year age difference, we were quickly able to connect, one shark to another. Her memory was more than sharp; she could still name all the Green Line T Stations I use now and was eager to hear my thoughts on the school. As a devoted Simmons Magazine subscriber, she showed me endless stacks of publications that we flipped through remarking on impressive changes at Simmons such as student population, fashion, and campus size then and now.

Jean began school during the mid 1940’s, right around the time Simmons saw its very first male veteran students, enrolled in the School of Library Science and Social Work. By 1950, Simmons had just three residence campus dormitories and a few houses, only a third of what many students call home today. And although most Simmons students no longer sport long pleated skirts, blouses, and saddle shoes, we both agreed that dressing with class was the timeless Simmons way.

 

Jean grew up during the Great Depression, an economic downfall that, at its peak, left 25% of Massachusetts residents unemployed. As a result, she was known by friends and family for her strong-willed nature and kind disposition throughout her life. She was also known as an involved alumna within the Simmons community, making several lengthy trips to class reunions and other alumnae events.

The world has lost a wonderful individual with Jean’s passing, but I have no doubt that her presence will have lasting impacts on both the Simmons community and the town of Cornish. Although I only knew her a short while, our lovely conversation reinforced Simmons’ longstanding mission: “rooted in tradition, thriving on change.” A memorial service was held for Jean on Saturday afternoon, March 9th, at the Cornish United Church of Christ in Cornish, ME. Her burial is also planned to take place in Cornish in the future.