After three years of planning, Kirkland College opened in 1968 as a small, liberal arts college for women, coordinate to Hamilton College in upstate New York. The author was the first, last and only President. Planners envisioned a female counterpart of Hamilton which could introduce women without distressing alumni, and allow needed curricular expansion. But Kirkland’s advisors and administrators wanted innovation. Its openness, inclusiveness and curricular choices affronted many Hamiltonians. When, at last, Kirkland sought further support to undertake a necessary endowment campaign, Hamilton let the young college go under in a contentious and wasteful way. It closed in 1978.
Samuel Fisher Babbitt was born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1929. His father was on the Yale University faculty, and his mother was from a prominent New Haven family. He attended private grammar school (The Foote School) in New Haven, and then Pomfret School, in the northeast of the state. Babbitt entered the largest freshman class in the history of Yale College in the fall of 1946 – together with the peak of returning WWII veterans. After his sophomore year, facing the prospect of some form of military obligation, he enlisted in the peacetime army for two years. A month before he was due for discharge Babbitt was “frozen” in for an additional year because of the Korean War. He served in Japan and Korea until his discharge as a Master Sargeant in September of 1951. He was awarded the Silver Star in absentia. Returning to college, he majored in American Studies, receiving his B.A. in 1953. Babbitt remained in New Haven, working for the University. During the next two years he completed work on an M.A. and published a short story in Colliers magazine. In 1954, he married Natalie Zane Moore, who, as Natalie Babbitt, later became the acclaimed children’s book author. Babbitt was named Dean of Men of Vanderbilt University in 1957. The Babbitts moved to Nashville with their first child, Christopher. A second child, Thomas, was born there. With one intervening year in New Haven to pursue course work towards a doctorate (and to have their third child, Lucy), Babbitt remained at Vanderbilt until February of 1961, when he left for Washington, D.C. to become head of the College and University Liasion Office of the Peace Corps, in charge of recruiting volunteers from the nations campuses. The family remained in Washington until the fall of 1962, when they returned to New Haven. Babbitt continued his graduate work while working part-time in the offices of the Yale College Dean and the Dean of the Graduate School. He completed his doctorate in 1965. That same year, Babbitt was asked to take the presidency of Kirkland College, in Clinton, NY - an institution that existed only on paper. He would have the job of bringing the college into being, literally building from an empty field. Kirkland opened in the fall of 1968 and was operational until 1978 when it was forced to close and become part of previously all-male Hamilton College, the institution that had planned it as a coordinate partner. Following a year-long sabbatical, Babbitt accepted the position of Vice President for Program, Planning and Resources at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Then, in 1983, he became Vice President for Development at Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island. He retired from that position in 1993, after serving as Senior Vice President for Development and as Special Assistant to the President for Far East Affairs. Throughout his life, Babbitt has had an ongoing love of live theater. Whenever possible, he has participated in local and community productions. In Providence, while still at Brown, he became deeply involved with a local theater, both as an actor and Board President, and this connection has strengthened in retirement. Babbitt continues to take parts in two or more productions each year and is currently Treasurer of the very successful Gamm Theatre in Pawtucket, just north of Providence, which has recently become an Equity house.