The portrait of Mary Babcock that hangs in the entry of Babcock Residence Hall is one of the most well known paintings on campus. You may know her portrait, but do you know the story behind this famous woman? In honor of National Women’s History Month, The Salemite has decided to shed some light on this important woman who is well known on Salem’s campus.
Mary was born in 1908 to R.J. Reynolds, the founder of the well-known tobacco company located in Winston-Salem. She attended a private school in Winston-Salem, and even Salem Academy for a brief period of her life when she was growing up. Mary Babcock donated money to Salem College to establish a residence hall that was then named after her. Many on campus students have stayed in her dormitory for one point in their four years.
According to sophomore, History major, Ella Hill, “In 1951, Mary and her husband offered Wake Forest College three hundred acres of land that was originally part of the Reynolda Estate so that the whole institution could be together. The City of Winston-Salem had grown and had included Reynolda House in the city limits so the taxes were too great. They thought that offering the land to the school instead of selling it would be the best solution.”
Mary took over Reynolda House in 1934 and she finished the basement of Reynolda House as a center for her children and friends to play and socialize.
“The floor of the basement is meant for roller-skating!”says Hill.
It has been a tradition on campus to always say “hello” and “goodbye” to Mary’s portrait in the entrance of Babcock.
Hill says, “People that live in Babcock will blame Mary for strange occurrences that happen in the building. During Fall Fest week some senior classes will mess with her portrait and the myth goes that it will rain on Fall Fest day if they do. My two years at Salem there has always been a group that messes with it and Fall Fest day is rainy. A copy of Mary’s portrait can often be found in Orientation or Fall Fest skits.”
As you can see, Mary Babcock is a very famous face at our institution. She is very well known among the students. She was very successful, kind, and generous to all. She also founded one of the most cherished residence halls on campus. So make sure to say “hello” and “goodbye” to her portrait, and to not tamper with her portrait on Fall Fest!