Hillary Clinton delivered the first student commencement speech at Wellesley College in 1969. (Courtesy of Wellesley College)
Hillary Clinton’s alma mater is eager to see the first woman in American history officially accept the presidential nominee of a major political party. After Clinton accepts the nomination Thursday night in Philadelphia, Wellesley College is also expecting a bump.
Wellesley's new president Paula Johnson says – regardless of your political stripes – having Clinton at the top of the democratic ticket is exciting for women and the women's college just outside Boston.
“Obviously we believe that there are a diversity of beliefs on our campus, but on the other hand it’s so important in our country to have a woman in this position finally,” Johnson said shortly after taking the helm at Wellesley.
In 1969, Hillary Rodham's classmatesher to give the first student commencement speech in the college's history.
“For too long, our leaders have viewed politics as the art of the possible,” the 21-year-old told students and faculty 47 years ago. “The challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible possible."
It was Clinton's first major public speech. Since then, the former Secretary of State has maintained close ties to the College.
After she delivers her historic democratic nomination speech, Wellesley can expect a boost in admissions and fundraising.
"It's a terrific accomplishment first of all for Ms. Clinton, but it's also a great testament to Wellesley and what a fabulous place it has been," said historian Patricia Graham, who studies American education at Harvard.
Graham points out that when Clinton and her classmates attended Wellesley in the late 1960s, Ivy League colleges, which have turned out their fair share of U.S. presidents, didn't accept women.
"They couldn't go to Harvard. They couldn't go to Yale. They couldn't go to Princeton,” Graham said. “Women's colleges have played just a magnificent role in our history."
Today, though, just 3 percent of young American women even consider applying to a women's college, so Graham expects Wellesley, Smith, Mount Holyoke and others to band together and find a tactful way to remind families of their role in a competitive higher education.
"One of the distinctive aspects of the so-called Seven Sisters colleges is that they stick together,” Graham said. “They are deeply committed to the idea that for some young women attending college only with other young women is a definite educational advantage."
An advantage that might prepare them for Yale Law School, the State Department or even the Oval Office.