The Harkness Family

The interior of Harkness Chapel, looking toward the organ alcove.

Mary Stillman Harkness was the daughter of a prominent New York lawyer and granddaughter of Thomas Greenman, a prosperous shipbuilder in Mystic, Conn. Her husband, Edward S. "Ned" Harkness (1874-1940), was heir to part of the Standard Oil Co. fortune.

The couple shared an interest in philanthropy and during their lifetimes gave an estimated $120 million to various causes. Their primary interests were education and health care. They believed they had a responsibility to use their wealth wisely, and often financed projects that furthered their progressive ideals.

Mrs. Harkness maintained her southeastern Connecticut ties throughout her life. The couple, who had no children, kept a summer home named Eolia (meaning "formed by the winds") at the shore in Waterford. Their estate is now a Connecticut state park. The Harknesses contributed to many local causes over the years, including the founding of Connecticut College in 1911. Mrs. Harkness developed a friendship with Katharine Blunt, president from 1929-43 and 1945-46. In addition to the chapel, Mrs. Harkness gave the College a residence hall - Mary Harkness House, completed in 1934 - and also made gifts for the infirmary and library.

Mrs. Harkness took a keen interest in campus life. She visited "her dorm" frequently, always driven to the College by her chauffeur. She would receive guests and stay until well after dinner. Concerned that the campus lacked a center for religious study and activity, Mrs. Harkness decided in 1938 to give $380,000 for a chapel and the endowment of its upkeep.

Contact Information:



Email Laurie McGrath,

Office of Religious and Spiritual Life
Harkness Chapel
Box 5203
New London, CT 06320-4196