Maria Ball Babbit’s life was promising from the beginning. She met her future husband, Edward Henry Fairchild, at age 13 when they gathered for a prayer meeting. He would later become the first president of Berea College. She served on the Council of the Dean of Women from 1869 until the day she died.

Side photo of Fairchild Hall, which continues to be one of the main female halls on campus.
Fairchild Hall, ca. 1920. Ladies Hall was renamed Fairchild Hall in honor of Maria and Edward’s daughter, Marie. Unfortunately, Berea’s archives do not contain any photographs of Maria Fairchild.

Fairchild passed her love for Berea to her children, as one of her sons became a professor at the college, another one was an alumnus. Ladies Hall was renamed Fairchild Hall in honor of the couple’s daughter, Julia Marie. Bad things often happen to good people, and Fairchild was afflicted by a debilitating illness; her husband watched her while she slept to ensure she didn’t injure herself.

Despite that, she remained devoted to the College and is the only first lady to die “in office.” She is buried in the Berea Cemetery. Maria Fairchild was an active member of the Berea community, and her influence and legacy remain in the College to this day, being remembered as kind-hearted, affectionate, sincere and honest.

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