This center was established in 1993 and was named after the first woman to graduate from Middlebury in 1886, valedictorian May Belle Chellis.
In 1883, the College’s precarious finances, low enrollments, and a demand for female higher education from the townspeople of Middlebury, led to the acceptance of the first three female students: May Anna Bolton, Louise Hagar Edgerton, and May Belle Chellis. This was not unusual for the time, as over 50 percent of American colleges were already letting women in by 1880. May Belle Chellis finished first in her class and created some degree of consternation when she walked away with the coveted Greek prize.
The reading room at Chellis House is dedicated to Alison Fraker who died in 1989, during her final semester at Middlebury, in an automobile accident. This room commemorates Fraker’s love of reading and her interest in creating a center for women on campus.
Chellis House would not have come into being without the generous support and leadership of the late Drue Gensler ’57. She has been called a “donor,” and that most certainly she has been, but her support has never been limited to writing checks. Drue has been the heart of Chellis House since its inception, always caring and making imaginative suggestions about how things could be. Her courage and conviction have made Middlebury a better place for all the College’s faculty, staff, and students.