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The annual Hortense Parker Celebration honors the legacy of the first known student of color to graduate from Mount Holyoke College and first African American to attend Mount Holyoke College. The annual event honors and inspires students of color both past and present at Mount Holyoke College. It includes a speaker and panel, as well as an essay contest. 

Speaker and Panel

Keynote speaker and moderator: Rochelle Calhoun ’83, Vice President of Campus Life, Princeton University.

Alumna Rochelle Calhoun ’83 began her career in higher ed administration at Mount Holyoke in 1986 as an assistant dean of students responsible for working with students of color and cultural organizations. In subsequent student affairs positions, and as ombudsperson and director of diversity and inclusion, she continued this work with a broader institutional focus. She later became the executive director of the Mount Holyoke College Alumnae Association before moving to Skidmore College, where she served as the associate dean of the College.

Alumnae Panel

  • Zowie Banteah ’96
  • Naliena Ali ’16
  • Fabiola Tafolla ’96
  • Natasha Lewis ’15

The 2019 theme is “A Passage Through Time.” The Students of Color Committee chose this theme because they want everyone to realize that they are the legacy of Hortense Parker and should be empowered to thrive as a successful student within the Mount Holyoke community. In addition, they wanted to emphasize the importance of the entire Mount Holyoke community coming together to continue working towards a just community for students of color and and all historically marginalized identities.

Essay Contest

Each year, the event also includes an essay contest. This year’s question is: When you leave the “gates” of Mount Holyoke College, what do you hope to leave behind? What will your legacy be?


  • 1st Place:  $500
  • 2nd Place: $250
  • 3rd Place:  $100


Essays must be submitted by 11:55 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 23, to

Learn more about the essay contest.

The Hortense Parker Celebration is coordinated by the SOCC (Student Government Association Students of Color Committee) and the Division of Student Life.

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