The infastructure of an academic residential community like Smith has a large number of people who don’t usually get to see themselves on the College website; quoted in College publications, or tapped for radio pieces on National Public Radio. They do hold jobs of importance, however, in keeping the pursuits of the academy and campus running as smoothly as possible. The Smith College Archives blog will periodically celebrate some of these individuals from the past.
Today we celebrate two men who held a dear place in the hearts of students because of their jobs:
John Quirk was the first mailman for the College, who also worked as a janitor and nightwatchman. He served the College from 1878-1895. On the back of this cabinet card photograph (above) the owner writes, “Mr. Quirk–‘A Man of Letters’ so called because he was our mailman and brought up in one bag to College Hall all the mail of the College.” The mail was delivered to College Hall and then distributed at the ‘post office’ room near the circular stairs on the first floor, now part of the Student Financial Services Office. A member of the Class of 1880 described him as “reliable as the College clock… He was a big man with reddish or sandy hair…a distinct Irish brogue, and a characteristic combination of dignity and good humor, and an object of general affection. When you needed to know about anything, you could always ‘ask Mr. Quirk.'”
The man to replace Quirk also became a Smith institution. John Doleman was first seen by President Seelye when he was part of the construction crew that built Lilly Hall, the College’s first science building. He served the College for 30 years as the watchman and on his death in 1923, President William A. Neilson proclaimed, “…no single personality connected with the College has been known more widely than our faithful watchman. He looked after our institution with skill and zeal. He knew more people than anyone in the College. He was known by more people. Thousands of alumna count him among their real memories of the College.”
Rosamond Kimball, Class of 1909 recalled how John Doleman would come to the houses and tell ghost stories at Halloween. He is also attributed with telling ghost stories in the tower of College Hall on nights with a full-moon. His best claim to fame with the students, however, was his undercover work to nab a peeping tom on campus. According to Kimball, John Doleman dressed up in a ruffled skirt and large hat, and walked the campus at night, hoping to lure the peeping tom out from his hiding place. Apparently the trick worked as Doleman tackled the man and knocked him out cold! He was so well loved, that there is a plaque in his honor on the side of College Hall, (facing Pierce Hall) from his many student friends.
The images of both men appear in student photograph albums that are located in the College Archives, which attest to their popularity and integral part of student life. Today, there are men and women like Quirk and Doleman who take pride in their association with Smith. Many of these individuals have spent years in this community. Periodic blog entries will share their stories, as we know them.