In 1906, Elizabeth Smith Miller and other pioneer feminists persuaded Geneva businessman and philanthropist William Smith to make the largest donation of his life—approximately $500,000, about $12 million today—to endow a new college for women that would offer a complete liberal education, seldom offered to women at the time. The college would share land and some facilities with the existing Hobart College in an unusual “co-ordinate” relationship. (The two institutions now share a campus and operate as Hobart and William Smith Colleges, but continue to confer degrees as separate entities, an arrangement seen nowhere else in American higher education.) Ironically, Smith originally contemplated making a very large gift to found a Spiritualist college. Miller et al. were able to persuade him otherwise.
In 1907, the new college’s first building was constructed: Smith Hall of Science, a classroom building. (Lavishly restored in 1992, Smith Hall now houses deans’ and department offices and some classrooms.) In 1908, the College accepted its first class. In 1911 Smith, then aged ninety-one, laid the cornerstone of the college’s first residence hall, Miller House, named for Elizabeth Smith Miller. The building still serves as a residence.
In 1911, the ninety-one-year-old William Smith laid the cornerstone for William Smith College for Women’s first residence hall: Miller House, named, of course, for the indefatigable Elizabeth.