Beginning in 1909 with Ashley Hall’s first class of fourteen boarders and thirty day students, the Boarding Program was an integral part of founder Miss McBee’s commitment to offering young women in the Southeast (and eventually nationwide) a quality educational experience that would fully prepare them for college. For hundreds of young women, Ashley Hall not only became a second home but also the location of some of their most meaningful life experiences.

Discontinued in 1974, the Boarding Program was revived in 2011 to welcome international students, who settled into the newly opened Elizabeth Rivers Lewine ’54 House in 2015. Now, this treasured Ashley Hall boarding tradition with its proud legacy returns to campus this fall to begin a new era of welcoming young women from across the nation and around the world.

Learn more about Ashley Hall’s Boarding Program

In honor of the newest milestone in Ashley Hall Boarding, alumnae Missee Tuttle Fox ’73 and Betsy Cheek Howland ’74 shared their memories of an unforgettable experience that shaped them into the women they are now and changed their lives forever.

Missee Tuttle Fox ’73 (MTF): The Boarding Program was one big family, and to this day, it is a shared sisterhood bond of living together, away from home. There were around ninety girls in the early 1970s. Although we had a lot of independence, we were also dependent on our family of Ashley Hall, including day students. It was a very inclusive community.

Betsy Cheek Howland ’74 (BCH): We were incredibly supportive of each other. Living with roommates encouraged us to compromise. We teased, shared clothes, cut hair, comforted each other, and celebrated our achievements. We were sisters.

MTF: I lived in the middle room with the long balcony on the third floor of McBee House, a great place to throw day-old bread at the dates who ventured onto the front yard for the last goodnight kiss. We had to know by Wednesday what our plans were for the weekend so we could hand in a permission slip. It had to have two signatures—Miss Brown and Miss Pardue. Our day students were our good friends and our key to getting out the gates. I figured out quickly who was on the approved list!

BCH: As a senior, you could go out both nights of the weekend, but if you were a junior, you could go out only one night of the weekend, and a sophomore was allowed out only once a month or to go to a mixer or a dance. On Sunday, after a white tablecloth dinner, we attended a formal tea in McBee House, where we learned the art of holding conversations with faculty. We also had to learn other finer points of etiquette, like how to pour punch without dripping it everywhere.

MTF: Miss Pardue was the college counselor for all of us, and she chose Randolph Macon Woman’s College for me, which I was not going to even look at. I have such gratitude for that. I visited and immediately knew it was the perfect college for me. I declared early decision right then and by September was the first senior accepted to college that year. She knew me that well.

BCH: We would gather for a meal at two o’clock with a faculty member at the head of the table and discuss books, current events, and—always a favorite of mine—history. I tried very hard to be assigned to Mrs. Morgan’s table, where there was never a dull conversation. We were allowed to express our opinions, and we talked politics, women’s rights, war, communism, everything.

MTF: I learned lessons in independence, decisions, and consequences and got an outstanding education from the finest teachers. The friendships I made broadened my views of the world and have lasted five decades.

BCH: We also had a lot of fun together. We took road trips and went to football games at Porter, just going all around town on the bus or walking. Missee and I would put on baby oil and iodine and go out on the roof to bake in the sun until we were fried and looked like lobsters! We’d tell each other, “Flip over! Flip over!”

MTF: I remember when school was closed for a few snowy days in February of 1973. We slid down the walkway in front of Lane Hall on trays from the kitchen right into the bushes. There were also some scrapes and secret pacts that nobody, and I mean nobody, talked about until our thirtieth reunion! These are friendships and memories that have lasted over fifty years.

BCH: You’ll never find a group of people who are closer to one another than the Ashley Hall boarders. I know that if I needed Missee, I could call her, and she would be there in a second, and I would do the same. It is just something about that bond.

Missee Tuttle Fox ’73 is a faculty member in Ashley Hall’s aquatic program and often assists in the Lower School and Intermediate Program. Betsy Cheek Howland ’74 is the Division Assistant for the Lower School.

Are you an Ashley Hall Boarding Program alumna? Share your memories and stories with us!

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