Anne Morgan '66
This July, Morgan, who serves as president of the board at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, was invited to celebrate the White House exhibition of Norman Rockwell’s 1963 painting The Problem We All Live With. Inspired by Ruby Bridges’s 1960 integration of a New Orleans elementary school, the painting depicts a six year old Bridges being escorted into the school by US Marshalls.
Morgan, Norman Rockwell Museum director Laurie Norton Moffatt and Ruby Bridges Hall attended the celebration together. For Morgan, the experience was a celebration of both her personal history and a time to reflect on an important moment in the history of the country.
“The president and the first lady were so generous. He spoke with us about the importance of the painting and he showed us his favorite art in the Oval Office, which includes a Rockwell painting of the Statue of Liberty,” Morgan described the visit.
Morgan grew up in Stockbridge, MA, just 15 minutes from the future Simon’s Rock site and down the road from family friend Norman Rockwell.
“Rockwell was a close friend of my parents and he was in and out of our home a lot,” Morgan remembers. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, Rockwell offered local kids the chance to work as an artist’s model, and Morgan did so frequently.
In 1956, Rockwell used Morgan—whose two front teeth were missing at the time —for a Crest toothpaste ad, “Look, Mom—no cavities.” Rockwell painted her teeth in for the advertisement, but he returned to his reference photos of Morgan to create “The Checkup,” in which Morgan shows off her wide, gap-toothed smile. That illustration later became one of the iconic images used on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.
An early college pioneer
At age 16 Morgan enrolled in Simon’s Rock first class ever.
Simon’s Rock was establishing its identity and forging an entirely new path. “Betty Hall made a real effort to hire artists as teachers,” Morgan recalls. It worked—some of the time. Morgan, who comes from a family of musicians, concentrated on voice and drama, but admits that Hall’s approach came with certain drawbacks. Math and science were not required. “The only mandatory classes were English lit and sex ed.”
When she was at Northfield prep school (now Northfield Mount Herman School), her mother described her as “the most radical child on campus.” When she moved to Simon’s Rock, her mother’s appraisal shifted: in the new educational experiment, Morgan suddenly seemed one of the more conservative kids.
Bringing the early classes together
Like her work at the Rockwell Museum, Morgan’s latest project is bringing her back to her roots. She’d slowly reconnected with the College over the past ten years, and in 2006 Morgan and her husband Jim Kelley acted to fund a music scholarship in honor of Mary Thorne, the College’s first nurse and housemother, who shared Morgan’s love of classical music.
“Over the years I’ve watched this school develop and do some really remarkable things for some really remarkable young people,” Morgan recounts. “Having experienced Simon’s Rock wobble through its first years, I’m so proud of what this college has grown to be.”
Now, she’s collaborating with three other early class members—Belinda Rathbone ’66, Antonia Munroe ’68 and Victoria Munroe ’67—to build community among the first Rockers. “We want to round up a group of alumna who were never joiners to begin with. We were all young women who jumped at the chance for an alternative education. Now—45 years later—it’s more important than ever to come together to celebrate Simon’s Rock and the entirely unique experience we had as its first students.” Morgan welcomes members of the early classes to get in touch with her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org