Springfield College has welcomed a number of prominent public figures to its campus over the years. Earlier this year, Hall-of-Fame superstar Shaquille O’Neal brought his animated and charismatic personality to Springfield.
In 1964, Martin Luther King Jr visited Springfield College to deliver that year’s commencement speech despite being held in jail the three days before he was supposed to arrive on Alden Street.
However, neither of those, or any other visitors for that matter, have required members of the Secret Service to accompany them. In February of 2008, students, staff and faculty piled into Blake Arena to hear former and current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton deliver a campaign speech.
“It was exciting,” Chair of the Humanities department Alice Eaton said. “It was really cool that this national figure who was running for president and had a shot at the time was on our campus.”
Clinton walked back and forth on a platform, addressing a jam-packed Blake Arena, sharing her ideas and beliefs. Eaton was very impressed with Clinton even though she had already decided she would vote for Barack Obama in the primary election.
“Some public figures have a certain glow–a presence. She completely had that,” Eaton, a lifelong Democrat who has followed politics closely, said. “She attracted attention. She was dynamic, smart, and I was so impressed with her in person.”
In her speech, Clinton discussed issues of tax rates, health care and more while engaging the crowd by making a number of references to Springfield College. Eaton described her as “very professional” and added that she really “knew how to work a crowd.”
Before Clinton came to Springfield in 2008, she was here back in 1994 as well. 1994 was a year for the midterm elections, and Clinton and Senator Ted Kennedy were traveling together, trying to turn out the voters for the Democratic candidates.
The politicians visited the Child Development Center directed by Sandra Keith at the time. Cynthia Nazzaro, a Springfield College professor of dance, had a daughter in the preschool class that Clinton and and Kennedy attended.
“There was great energy and a very positive feeling in the room, throughout their visit,” Nazzaro said. “We all had a great, big laugh when Senator Kennedy forgot a few of the words to the ’Itsy Bitsy Spider Song’ which everyone sang together.”
After singing nursery rhymes with preschoolers, Clinton headed over to Springfield’s main campus where she delivered a speech in Blake Arena.
“She discussed the issues of the day and the platform of the Democratic Party,” Nazzaro said. “Many of us agreed that she was an electrifying personality-smart, strong, articulate and very warm to her audience. At the end, when she was shaking audience member’s hands, you could see a genuine warmth and directness in her eyes.”
Both Eaton and Nazzaro felt positively affected by Clinton’s visits. Despite voting for Obama in 2008, and Sanders in the 2016 primary, Eaton feels very comfortable that Clinton is the Democratic candidate, partially because of Clinton’s visit to Springfield.
“I think seeing a candidate in general, if they do a good job, can really affect you… especially if you’re on the fence. When I saw she was running again, I definitely thought about her visit here.”
Nazzaro said that she supported Clinton before her visit, but supported her even more after she came to Springfield College.
Nazzaro also noted that Clinton’s appearance has been her favorite visit. Who is in second place for Nazzaro? None other than Bruno Mars.
Greg can be reached on Twitter at @GregAllen20