Mildred "Midge" Goldsmith Palley ’78 creates an endowed fund for student mental health and wellness.

On college campuses nationwide, there is a critical need for mental health resources. The latest data* from Wellesley illustrates the severity of the challenges students are facing: 83% of respondents reported grappling with moderate to high stress in the previous month, compared with 79% nationally. The significance and breadth of these struggles call for approaches to mental health care that are both thoughtful and profoundly meaningful.

That need spurred Mildred “Midge” Goldsmith Palley ’78 into action: She committed $500,000 to establish an endowed fund for student mental health and wellness at Wellesley. Palley, who majored in art history and was a member of Tau Zeta Epsilon, Wellesley’s Art and Music Society, had previously directed her philanthropy toward art-focused initiatives on campus. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, she felt it was urgent to support student mental health immediately as well for the long term.

“Over the years, I have grown to better understand the complexity of young people going through their pre-college and college experiences,” says Palley, who has witnessed the heightened pressures on young people since the pandemic. She works closely with adolescents in the United Kingdom through the Mildred Fund and her widely successful Creative Connections project with the National Portrait Gallery in London. In recognition of her services to art and education, she was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire on King Charles III’s New Year Honours list for 2024.

A portion of Palley’s gift has already been put to use funding Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training for faculty and staff, equipping them with knowledge and skills to help them navigate mental health crises and make appropriate referrals. So far about 170 faculty and staff members have completed the training. Wellesley’s Office of Student Wellness (OSW) is the campus hub for mental health resources, offering prevention education, programming, and outreach to support the whole student. OSW notes that this training is crucial because these College community members “are the adults in our students’ lives who regularly have eyes on their well-being.”

As highly motivated and academically driven individuals, Wellesley students tend to sacrifice their overall well-being to perform in the classroom. OSW strives to help them understand that to be successful academically, they need to prioritize caring for themselves. Roughly 500 students each semester attend the office’s wellness workshops and consultations to learn self-care strategies, healthy sleep habits, and stress management. OSW also organizes therapy dog visits and finals support programming that bring together hundreds of students.

“Wellesley is a place where I knew that whatever support I gave them would be properly used, and would also have an impact,” Palley says. “Mental health care is an area where you can see the difference. You can track the impact: You can see it now, you can see it in a year, but you can also see the impact in five to 10 years as people look back and realize what an effect it has had on them and how, in some cases, it has saved their lives.”

Wellesley is prioritizing the construction of a new health and counseling center on campus, slated to be completed in August 2024. If you’d like to support these efforts, please reach out to Kirsten Burch, director of donor relations, at

*Data from the Wellesley College Office of Student Wellness’ most recent administration of the National College Health Assessment (2022, n=763).