Mary Jean Ahern Hale, MD ’67
Although Mary Jean Ahern Hale, MD ’67—now called “Zoe”—had big aspirations for her career, she says her support for Mount Holyoke started small and evolved.
In 1964, Hale was far from the typical Mount Holyoke applicant. At 28 years old, she had already earned a degree from Vermont Junior College and worked as a medical technologist. She had also been married and subsequently divorced by the time she applied. Initially, Mount Holyoke rejected her application and returned the application fee of $25. However, to her surprise, she then was invited to South Hadley to meet with members of the College administration.
“We had a wonderful conversation. I was anxious to get on with my premedical studies, and for some miraculous reason, Mount Holyoke reconsidered and decided to accept me as a student.”
At the time, there were no other nontraditional students on campus, so the College appointed Hale assistant housemother for South Mandelle. In exchange for those duties she received tuition support and completed her degree in two years.
Twenty-three members of the class of 1967 applied to medical school, including Hale. “Competition was fierce, particularly for women,” she says, “but I was accepted at the University of Pennsylvania. I graduated in 1971 and began my career. Mount Holyoke’s willingness to admit a completely nontraditional applicant allowed me to achieve my goals.”
A medical residency and an infectious disease fellowship at Yale followed, and it was there she met and married psychiatrist Mahlon Hale. Zoe practiced medicine in New Haven for almost twenty years before becoming a medical director, first at Blue Cross and then at Medicare in Connecticut.
Meanwhile, Hale continually expanded her support to Mount Holyoke. In 2003, she endowed a fund for environmental studies internships, and in 2008 she was able to add to that fund while also providing an income stream for life by establishing a charitable gift annuity with the College. “It means everything to me to give back to Mount Holyoke. I have always felt completely and totally in debt to the College,” she says.
Since 2003, Hale’s fund has provided support for nearly fifty environmental studies and geography majors who have pursued real-world experience. More recently, Hale’s gifts have helped Mount Holyoke commit to provide funding to every student who has secured a qualified internship or research position through The Lynk, the College’s signature approach to connecting curricular choices to careers.
“If I could offer one piece of advice to young alumnae about supporting the College, it would be: Start giving as soon as you can and, as circumstances merit, look forward to doing more,” says Hale. “That’s been my way of thanking Mount Holyoke for changing my life.”