Gray Matter Article
They were sometimes known as
"Cliffies," and their campus was located near a prestigious men's institution of
higher education. We are not referring, however, to the ladies of Radcliffe and
their effete, intellectual neighbors at Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Rather, these Cliffies attended Ladycliff College in Highland Falls, New York,
just a few hundred yards south of Thayer Gate at the then-all-male bastion of
West Point. They tended to be well groomed, interested in the arts, well spoken,
and some of the only women attending week-night movies with cadets during the
limited First Class privileges available during that era. Their college is gone
now-closed due to diminishing interest in small, Roma n Catholic, all-women,
liberal arts collegesand attendant budgetary problems that even going
coeducational in the late seventies (two years after West Point) could not
overcome. Ladycliff was only one of many small colleges that closed in New York
State during the last quarter
of the 20th Century.
The doors of Ladycliff College closed in 1980 (with final degrees granted in 1981), just as West Point was graduating its first women officers. The Ladycliff annual reunions resumed a few years later, initiated by alumnae living at West Point and in the Highland Falls area. The old Ladycliff campus is now South Post, or Pershing Center, and an integral part of West Point. A WWII Sherman tank proudly stands guard at Abrams Gate there, and the Visitors Center is the first stop for most first-time visitors, who crowd the Army Athletic Association gift shop and sign on for the bus tours that are the only means of access to historic sites o n West Point for non-affiliated tourists in the post-9/11 world. Rosary Hall is now Olmsted Hall, the West Point Museum, and a former dormitory, Mary Hall, is now The Five Star Inn, a military guesthouse (this year, the Ladycliff Class of 1964 held a reception, after lunch, in the lobby-their former dormitory TV room). Some of this is déjà vu: the original Catholic parochial and high schools, that eventually grew to include Ladycliff College in 1933, were established on the site of the old Cozzen's Hotel, one of the premier hotels in the era of visits by President Lincoln and Generals Ulysses Grant and Winfield Scott. The Franciscan Sisters still have the guest book of the old hotel (Ladycliff was founded by the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart and the Franciscan Sisters of Peace). Ironically, when West Point purchased the campus, one of the buildings torn down to clear space for the Visitors Center was believed to have been part of the old Cozzen's Hotel (renamed Regina Hall, with an attached chapel/auditorium).
Three other reminders of this brave, little college remain: a small park in Highland Falls (dedicated at a past reunion with the help of the Mayor of Highland Falls, the son of a Ladycliff graduate); a number of West Point graduates who met, dated, wooed and won spouses from Ladycliff; and a devoted group of alumnae who annually gather for reunions, usually at the Hotel Thayer or the West Point Club. The reunion this year was held on Saturday, 12 June, and a notable feature was a reception held at venerable Quarters 100, which just happens to be the current residence of Anne Lennox, Ladycliff '72, first lady of West Point, and spouse of LTG Bill Lennox, USMA '71, Superintendent. Thereafter, at least 220 attendees from a mailing list of some 1,500, including some former Ladycliff faculty members, adjourned to the West Point Club for lunch.
Of the three surviving members of the Class of 1939, two will attend their 65th Reunion. The only Ladycliff classes senior to them are those of 1937 and 1938. Fifty of the original 80 graduates of the Class of 1964 will be there, as will be 20 members of the Class of 1974. Lest one receive the erroneous impression that most Cliffies found their lifemates at West Point, the statistics for the Class of 1964 are instructive. Of the 50 Ladycliff graduates attending, only nine are spouses or widows of West Point graduates, and these statistics are fairly typical. Dr. Linda Best, Ladycliff '72, is writing a history of the college and working on a web site to provide information on Ladycliff and the accomplishments of its graduates. If you are a graduate of Ladycliff, you most likely have been contacted by her already. If you are a graduate of Ladycliff
College who married a West Point graduate or dated a cadet and have anecdotes that you would like to share, please feel free to contact Gray Matter via email at the address below.
Please forward Gray Matter guest articles, comments and suggestions for future topics to JPhoenix@aogusma.org.
If you liked this Gray Matter, you may also enjoy ASSEMBLY magazine, the Voice of the Long Gray Line. For additional information, visit
Home About Ladycliff About the Alumnae Association Photo Gallery Our Journal Contact Us