Mary Morgan Hamilton ’41, a founding member of The 1892 Society, former trustee, alumnae board member, class representative, reunion representative and a 1940s decade representative, passed away on April 13, 2017.
Mary grew up in New York City and wasn’t planning on attending Spence until her best friend applied. While her friend never ended up going to Miss Spence’s School, Mary was told by her mother, “You are going to Spence.” Mary later called this “a most fortuitous move.”
In a 2008 Class Notes profile, Mary described Spence as “kind, rigid, yet supportive.” One Spence memory she looked back on with fondness was when Kay Harper, head of the primary school, gave out tissues to all the seniors on Commencement Day to wipe off their lipstick. Mary also loved to ride her horse through the Bridle Path in Central Park when she was a student. Bruce Hamilton, Mary’s son, described his mother as a very accomplished jumper and said she performed at Madison Square Garden.
Mary attended Pine Manor Junior College, then Duke University. She also took classes at Columbia University during the summer in order to study sociology at Duke. After graduating from Duke, Mary worked as the admissions director at The Day School (now Trevor Day) for 15 years, then as the alumnae director at Brearley School for 16 years, before retiring in 1991.
“She really understood how important school was in people’s lives—how it shaped them as people, their relationships and friendships, and the transformative effect that a school can have on somebody, and I think that came from her own personal experience at Spence,” Bruce said.
For The Spence School’s centennial year, Mary was asked by then Head of School Edes Gilbert to serve as a co-chair of the centennial gala, and that same year, she became one of the charter members of The 1892 Society.
In 2011, Mary came back to Spence for a tour of the School with her daughter, Virginia Hamilton ’70, and in 2015, Head of School Bodie Brizendine paid her a visit at her home. She was also a regular attendee at Reunion teas and supported Spence for decades.
“My mother loved Spence,” Bruce said. “Her best friends in life were from Spence. She had some of those friendships for 70 years.”
Virginia said her mother and her friends served as each other’s maids of honor and later as godparents for their children. Mary’s Spence friends visited each other at their homes in New York, Pennsylvania and at the beach in Connecticut. They also held annual “mini Spence reunions” typically at the Colony Club, where a number of them were members.
“It was truly an extended family, and we ‘children’ are still in touch with each other,” Virginia said.
Virginia described her mother as devoted to Spence, both in her volunteer efforts and in her relationships as a student and parent.
“She had beloved teachers at Spence, and Kay Harper was still teaching when I started. She told me that she loved her teachers, and did well in literature and French, but not math,” Virginia said.
Mary was a parishioner of The Church of the Heavenly Rest, a member of the Colony Club, the National Society of the Colonial Dames and the Royal Oak Society, counselor to Scottish Heritage USA and life member of The National Trust for Scotland.
Mary met her husband, Alexander R. “Pete” Hamilton, at the Sleepy Hollow Country Club in New York. Pete, born in Paris, served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and saw action in the Pacific and at D-Day. Mary and Pete had three children: Virginia Hamilton ’70, Bruce Hamilton and Alexander Morgan “Sandy” Hamilton. Mary is survived by grandchildren Alice, Ellen and Angus, and a great-grandchild named Kaia.
The Church of the Heavenly Rest, 2 East 90th Street, New York, will hold a celebration of Mary’s life on September 23, 2017, at 3 p.m. Mary’s obituary was published in The New York Times.
Bruce said his mother leaves behind a legacy of her devotion to other people.
“She loved being part of the community on the Upper East Side,” he said. “Whenever she walked down the street, she saw people she knew, and she remembered what year they were in school. And she loved her church. She was always about other people and her devotion to her family and her friends.”