Alumnus to walk 17 miles for Hampshire College student support fund

  • Davis Bates will be walking 17 miles on his birthday Thursday to benefit a student support fund at his alma mater, Hampshire College. Contributed photo

Staff Writer
Published: 4/3/2019 12:01:40 AM

SHELBURNE FALLS — A Hampshire College alumnus will walk 17 miles on his birthday Thursday to benefit the college’s Urgent Support Fund for Current Students and a couple of its pledge drives.

Davis Bates, a Shelburne Falls resident who graduated in 1973, begin his walk at 6 a.m. and expects to finish at the school at between 3 and 4 p.m. He’ll leave Mount Sugarloaf in South Deerfield and walk to the Harold Johnson Library on the Hampshire College campus in Amherst.

In early February, college trustees announced a full class would not be admitted in fall 2019. Since then, college officials have said it is looking for a “strategic partner” amid financial trouble. Some have questioned the wisdom of not accepting a full class to a college that depends on tuition for 87 percent of its revenue.

Bates, a singer and storyteller, said it’s how he decided to celebrate his 64th birthday Thursday and all that he’s grateful for this year. He said he chose 6 a.m. because that was the hour of his birth on April 4, 1955.

He said the walk — the idea came to him a little more than a week ago — was inspired partly by a post made by a Hampshire parent, partly by radio personality Monte Belmonte, who walks for hunger each year, and partly by his desire to give back to the only college he said he could ever imagine graduating from.

“There are some famous folks who have graduated from the school, and their contributions are often valued,” Bates said. “There are also many more who are not famous — teachers, social workers, librarians, therapists, small business owners, community organizers, writers, artists, mechanics, farmers and more, many of whom have settled and contributed to the lives people in western Massachusetts. I hope this walk can honor them, as well as support the reality of an independent future for the college.”

Seventeen members of the Hampshire College community will join Bates for the last six miles. Once they arrive on campus, a short ceremony will be held by the college bell near the library. 

As an Alumni Advisory Group member, Davis was working early in 2019 with others to organize the planned June 2020 celebration of Hampshire’s 50th anniversary, when the decision was made by Hampshire College’s Board of Trustees to accept a reduced class of 77 students in fall 2019.

Since then, he said he has joined with the many students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents — and many of the Five College community who have been organizing in response to that decision — to support an independent future for the college. The have come up with a re-envisioning plan for the college.

“The walk is also in support of that plan,” Bates said. 

He said social media posts will be made during the walk, and people are encouraged to donate to one or all of three funds: The Urgent Support Fund for Students, The Hampshire Future Fund and the Campaign for Hampshire Fund.

For information about the walk, contact Bates at 413-625-0202 or email him at: Also visit:

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