Every August, young students usher in the hallways of the residence department, prepared to make Hockaday their home for the next several months. The students living across the hall quickly become their study mates, workout partners, best friends and family. As of this year, there have been 100 Augusts filled with the same anticipation. This year, the Hockaday Residence Department celebrates its centennial and the impact it has had on the many students who have come through the program.
When Ela Hockaday founded The Hockaday School in 1913, she envisioned a future for women’s education. Sarah B. Trent, one of the first teachers at Hockaday, and Ela Hockaday contacted Mary Miriam Meredith Morgan in May 1915 asking for her assistance in the opening of a boarding department at The Hockaday School. Morgan later become the first Head of Residence.
Because official archive documents do not show a conclusive date for the inception of the residence department, speculation has arisen concerning the centennial year.
Director of Residence Life and Global Outreach Meshea Matthews has not let the contradictory records of the Boarding Department take away from the celebration.
“We have named it the centennial and it is our year,” Matthews said regarding the unclear dates.
The boarding program has provided an opportunity for a women’s education to prospective students from small Texas towns as well as Oklahoma and other neighboring states since the early 1900s when quick transport was rare. Less than three decades after its founding, the program extended to an international residence hall and welcomed the first international boarder, Irma Salinas Rocha ‘39, from Monterrey, Mexico. In 1915, the annual cost of boarding at Hockaday was $700 and by the third year of the residence program there were approximately 18 boarding students. The program has grown slowly over the past few decades and now includes 73 boarding students. While the size of the program has remained fairly stagnant in recent decades, boarders now hail from 14 countries.
Julie Allen, alumna boarder ‘83, has watched the boarding department change over the years as a boarding student, a day student parent and a host family. Allen and her family have kept in contact with the boarding students whom they have hosted.
“The boarding department enriches the Hockaday experience,” Allen said.
The dormitories, which were renovated in 2013, are just shy of full capacity. The four halls in the residence department are named after Sarah Trent and Mary Morgan, the two women who helped create the department under the guidance of Miss Hockaday. There are no current plans to expand the program, but Matthews speaks of plans to make boarding a more visible piece of campus. With events like a March Madness viewing party, Matthews attempts to include day students in residence department activities. She also hosts meetings in the boarding department to get students and faculty more comfortable with the space.
In celebration of the centennial year, the Hockaday Alumnae Committee hosted a Centennial Boarding Dinner on April 14. This event kicked off Alumnae Weekend; the guest list includes all boarder alumnae, which totals 2,000. One hundred are expected to attend.
Allen helped organize this event in conjunction with the Hockaday Alumnae Association. “Just like we celebrated Hockaday’s centennial, a 100-year-old boarding department in the southwest is exciting,” Allen said.
The festivity was designed to resemble a traditional dress dinner which, in the past, boarding students participated in weekly and now do so monthly. These dress dinners are something that all boarder alumnae have in common as part of their Hockaday boarding experience. The traditional Hockaday foods, like chess pie and Rosie Mae Bell’s cornbread muffins, were served at the event.
The sisterhood bonds of Hockaday remain even more evident in the boarding department. Junior Vyanka Sotelo calls 11600 Welch Road home for the majority of the year.
“I never thought that I would create a bond so strong with so many girls,” Sotelo said. “It is really something that most people do not get to experience.”
The boarding department has now allowed a century of sisterhood bonds and numerous educational opportunities for young women around the world.
“I am extremely grateful for the boarding department,” Sotelo said. “It gives me the opportunity to get the education that I am getting at Hockaday that I would not be able to get if I were back home in Brownsville.”