By Greg Reibman
I know better than many what it felt like to be a Mount Ida student on April 6.
Back in the 70s, I was a sophomore at a small private college in southern Vermont when, one morning in late March, our college president called an all-campus assembly. Windham College, he told us, was out of money and would go out of business in six weeks.
We were floored. We were angry. We had no idea that our school had any financial problems.
Not a clue.
And unlike the scenario at Mount Ida -- which had at least made arrangements for students in good standing to be offered automatic admission at UMass Dartmouth – my college made no such arrangement. We were totally on our own.
Ultimately, it worked out for me. I transferred to Emerson College, which is how I got to Boston and ultimately Newton, Needham and a fulfilling life here.
But I can relate to the anger and loss students, families, faculty and staff are experiencing.
There’s a scramble to find a new school or a new job. Potentially life-long friendships will be prematurely severed. Alumni are losing their alma mater.
Newton is experiencing this loss too. Mount Ida was a welcoming destination for many first-generation college students, offering a variety of unique professional career paths. The college has been a pillar in our community since 1898 and a member of the Newton-Needham Regional Chamber for more than five decades.
The campus hosted countless educational, political and cultural events for our community, including many chamber events. It was a key partner in launching and developing the N2 Innovation District
The school’s students, faculty and staff were smart, driven and passionate about learning. Its students earned a reputation among employers for being among the hardest workers or interns you could hire. We know this first-hand because many bright Mount Ida students interned at the chamber and we hired one fantastic former intern, Nicole Batakis, as our member services manager two years ago.
I also had the honor of working closely with Mount Ida College President Barry Brown, who has been a vice chair of the Newton-Needham Chamber’s Board of Directors for the past five years.
Barry has taken his blows in the press and from parents, students and staff since news of the closing. All I can tell you is that my interactions with him were always professional. He challenged and inspired us to make the chamber better.
We should all be grateful for all Mount Ida has meant to our region and concerned for its current students, faculty and staff. But Mount Ida is not coming back. And it’s important for us as a community to be concerned for not just what happens to those impacted by its closing, but for what happens long term to Mount Ida’s bucolic 74-acre campus.
UMass Amherst plans to acquire Mount Ida’s physical assets where it will establish career preparation programs for high-demand fields that serve the Massachusetts innovation economy. UMass also said it was committed to “preserving the character of the idyllic Mount Ida campus and serve as a custodian of its history and legacy.”
Without UMass stepping in, the campus would likely go into receivership, leaving the fate of the property in the hands of the courts for years, giving Newton little control over what might ultimately be built there.
The loss of Mount Ida and the uncertainty confronting students, families, faculty and staff is considerable. But the plan to preserve its 74 acres as a place for learning for generations to come is a good one.