Mary Randall Preschool celebrated its 50th anniversary in October and will be celebrating it again with a reception after its annual Christmas program on Dec. 8.
“We’re inviting all of [the Women’s Commissioners] to come back,” Sonja Bindus, Director of Mary Randall Preschool said. “We’re just going to have this Christmas celebration-slash-50th anniversary.”
The school has been a staple in educating not only children of Hillsdale but also many college students for 50 years. It started in the basement of Mauck Hall in 1929 under the name Hillsdale College Nursery School. Founded by the college at the request of one of the college’s psychology professors and with the aid of the Women Commissioners, it was created to be a lab school where college students could observe child development in a natural setting. The school moved to its current building in 1967 and was renamed Mary Randall Preschool after the building project’s largest donor and Hillsdale College alumna Mary Proctor Randall, according to former Mary Randall preschool student Kathy Connor, who is also the retired director of the same preschool she attended.
Connor was a student there during its days in the Mauck basement. She remembers the impact the college students made on the learning environment when she was a child.
“The kids would always know when the students were coming, who their favorites were. The little boys couldn’t wait for the football players to get there,” Connor said. The college students also helped improve the preschool’s facilities. “They renovated the basement by making a new class — Maintenance and Playground Planning,” Connor said.
The interaction between the college students and the preschoolers has continued to play a key role. Hillsdale College senior Andrew Wilcox attended Mary Randall as a child and has volunteered there since his sophomore year of college.
“When it comes to volunteers helping out, I think a lot of other preschools may only have one or two extra aids,” Wilcox said. “With Mary Randall, it’s awesome that it’s here on campus. We have at least five or six volunteers at all times throughout the day. That extra help with the teachers, through the volunteers, is a huge part of the success of running a preschool.”
Since its founding, the psychology department at Hillsdale College has continued to conduct research in the lab school it founded.
“The preschool has been very supportive of the psychology faculty and students through the years,” wrote Kari McArthur, associate professor of psychology, in an email. “I often have Introduction to Psychology students conduct demonstrations of Piagetian concepts with the preschoolers,” she said.
There will be a reception on Friday at Mary Randall after the Christmas program to celebrate the 50th anniversary.