Gracie Hackenberg: Driver, race-car fabricator, and Smith College student

When it comes to America’s best schools for aspiring mechanics, Smith College appears on no one’s top-10 list. The elite women’s liberal arts institution in Northampton, Massachusetts, is known for its strong focus on environmental sustainability and social justice—not automotive mechanics and certainly not racing.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/08/14/gracie-hackenberg-driver-race-car-fabricator-smith-college-student
1 Like

My daughter is a Smith grad in comparative literature. When she was home one summer, the timing belt broke on the Honda Civic she shared with her younger brother. I told them that if they could get the head off, I would pay for a machine shop to repair it, but they had to put it back together. She did her research and went at it. Given the age it was no surprise that the oxygen sensor didn’t want to leave the exhaust manifold and I didn’t have a wrench that fit it. As we where buying the wrench we needed, I said, "Here is something you need to be prepared for: Anytime you work on your car, someone will point out that you have spent more money on tools than it would have cost to have the car fixed. When they do just say, “Yea, but I get to keep the tools”. Driving home, we talked about Smith, where she was doing well and about post college plans. Smith is not cheap and we received no financial aid. I said, “I know it is a great school and you are developing great critical thinking skills, but I don’t think there are going to be many jobs in Comparative Literature.” She smiled sweetly and said, “Yea, but I get to keep the tools”. She is now a tenured professor at Princeton. Smith was worth every penny.


I was also a Comp Lit major, class of '91. Now I run my own linguistic & educational consulting business. I explain English spelling, silent letters and all, to people all over the world, through online clsses, professional development, and researched educational resources. I’m organizing work in France, New Zealand, and Australia next summer. I recently shipped my first order to the Philippines, and I am helping a young mother in Taiwan teach her child English and French.

When I was a First-Year at Smith and declared my major, my oldest brother (BS Physics, MBA, DBA) ribbed me about my major, asking, “What are you going to do with that? Open up a business? Lit Compared While-U-Wait?”

Fast forward 30 years, and yeah, pretty much. One word at a time. Thanks for the story and for the comment, Smith College. But mostly, THANK YOU for the tools.