The Arts at Connecticut College

Katherine Bergeron, President of Connecticut College

Connecticut College was the first college in the country to offer music and art as fully fledged academic disciplines. When Virginia and Theodora Palmer left a bequest in 1936 to build an auditorium in honor of their father, President Katharine Blunt engineered another first. She hired New York architectural firm Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon—newly famous for having completed the Empire State Building—to design a hall that could accommodate over 1000 people.

The opening season in 1939 demonstrated that benefit, bringing throngs to campus to hear the popular baritone John Charles Thomas, the renowned Ballet Russe of Monte Carlo, the great Russian violinist Ephram Zimbalist, the English pianist and Bach scholar Wanda Landowska, and the Austrian Kolisch String quartet. Soon the Boston Symphony and the New York Philharmonic would schedule regular performances in Palmer as they toured the East Coast. And the American Dance Festival would eventually bring Martha Graham, José Limón, and other famous performers to the Palmer stage. Limón’s most famous piece, The Moor’s Pavane, was premiered at Connecticut College in 1949.

Now, eight decades later, we are thrilled to be welcoming you to a grand reopening season that represents the same legacy of greatness now in a brilliantly renovated hall: the new Athey Center at Palmer Auditorium. We are especially proud that among the esteemed guests this season are a number of graduates of Connecticut College. We are so grateful to Nancy and Preston Athey and to the Sherman Fairchild Foundation for helping us bring this exceptional theater back to life, allowing Palmer once again, as the original donors wished, “to be a continuing benefit to the College and community."