Beyond Vassar

Back to Africa: Alison Church Hyde ’59

By Baize Buzan '10

Alison Church Hyde ’59 describes herself as a “freelance educator and volunteer.” She has spent her entire career — from kindergarten teacher to educational resource consultant to member of the board of directors of the New York State School Boards Association — focusing on advocacy and betterment of programs for children and families through education. It is this tireless commitment to building a better world for others that led Hyde to cofound the Crossroads Springs Institute of Hamisi, Kenya, and that also makes her an exemplary recipient of the 2009 Spirit of Vassar Award, honoring Vassar alumnae/i for extraordinary volunteer service.

Hyde first traveled to Africa in the summer of 1962 with new spouse Arthur Hyde on a work project with Operation Crossroads Africa (an organization described by President Kennedy as the “progenitor of the Peace Corps”). “We went to Kenya with the advice ‘expect the unexpected’ ringing in our ears,” Hyde recalls. Most unexpectedly, the experience moved the young couple so much that they became eager to teach and live in Africa. A year later, Arthur and Alison returned, and this time, stayed for six years, during which time Hyde worked as a teacher at both a preschool she started and a teacher training college in Zambia.

In 2003, when Hyde learned how seriously the AIDS epidemic was affecting the area in Kenya where she had previously worked, she contacted Dr. Meshack Isiaho, a Kenyan friend who told her of his plan to help rescue children who had lost one or both parents to AIDS. Hyde wanted to do more than just donate to his efforts — she wanted to be a part of that effort. And so, in September of 2004, Hyde returned to Africa, this time to help build an educational and care center for the hundreds of children who had been orphaned by AIDS in that area of Kenya alone.

Alison Hyde with husband
Alison Hyde with husband

Thus began the Crossroads Springs Institute, now in its fifth year. Formed through the collaborative efforts of Hyde, her husband Arthur, and Dr. Isiaho, the institute aims to provide health services, nourishment, care, and an education to orphans so that they can learn happily in an environment that fosters future leadership and strength for Kenya. Upon its inception, 40 children were enrolled. Now, 250 children are learning at Crossroads Springs, with 40 of the neediest children living there. In addition to her personal contributions, Hyde warmly notes that her hard work has been “full of Vassar serendipity,” thanks to the involvement of classmates, alums, and the greater Vassar community.

Her next challenge: fundraising to complete the construction of what she describes as a “desperately needed” new classroom building at Crossroads Springs. As she looks toward the future, Hyde notes the way in which her Vassar education influenced all that she has accomplished: “The spirit of Vassar has been prevalent in my work and in my life,” she says. Her advice to fellow alums? “Take risks! Serve! Think outside the box!” 

— Baize Buzan ’10

For more information about the Crossroads Springs Institute, visit

Read Hyde's AAVC Award for Spirit of Vassar College acceptance remarks.

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