reunion photo
Reuners walk along the upper level of the new Rhys Carpenter Art and Archaeology Library before touring the building.

"We should remember that Bryn Mawr has grown stronger and better and wider under each of her leaders."
-- Martha Stokes Price '47, A.B. '60


Vivid portraits of Bryn Mawr's six presidents, in the words of distinguished alumnae and scholars, made a special program for Reunion 1997, although no more at its heart than Step Sing, with a sparkler-lit centennial cake for the Alumnae Association, and its 100th Annual Meeting.

Sponsored by the class of 1947, the program was planned with an eye to "a year of major transition, when the campus community and alumnae/i would be greatly concerned both with the future and with leadership," said organizer Martha Stokes Price. "Where could we find another Pat McPherson? Well, obviously, nowhere. But, in time, we would have a new president. What would the future bring us, and what changes will be made. Our planning group decided that it would be interesting and instructive to take a backward look and to remember the very different women and men who had led Bryn Mawr through all the years from 1885 until today. Each of our six presidents shaped the College by being the kind of person that she or he was. It seemed a good time and perhaps comforting to think about the past as joined with the future. We should remember that Bryn Mawr has grown stronger and better and wider under each of her leaders."

Excerpts from the presentations follow; tapes of the entire program may be ordered through the Alumnae Association. (Please call 1-800-BMC-ALUM to request more information.)

James E. Rhoads

Presentation by College Archivist Lorett Ortalli Treese '73
Only a handful of James E. Rhoads' papers survive. Because of this, he is one of those people who is never going to emerge very much from the shadows of history, but historical oblivion might actually have been OK with him. At his memorial service, M. Carey Thomas said about him, "He had no thought for self, but only for thecause he served. The name and fame of the College were very dear to him, and in the earlier years, I have often seen his face flush and his eyes fill at some flattering notice of the College."

He may have wanted to be remembered as he was by Edith Sampson of the Class of 1890, who said, "He very early ceased to be the formidable president and became the respected friend. His greeting at the conclusion of the chapel service we learned to wait for with pleasure and we carried away with us a feeling of self respect aroused by his hearty words and the warm grasp of his hand."

Dr. Rhoads ceased practicing medicine after he had a stroke, which made him too weak to do all the house calls that practicing medicine then required. He also worked with various Quaker organizations dedicated to the education of newly freed slaves and to Indian Rights.

M. Carey Thomas

Presentation by Mary Maples Dunn, Ph.D. '59, director of the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College, on behalf of Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, professor of history and American studies at Smith College
Helen Horowitz believes that it was M. Carey Thomas' vision that turned Joseph Wright Taylor's philanthropy into Bryn Mawr College, that she played the critical role in the creation of Bryn Mawr as a distinctive institution.

As dean, M. Carey Thomas was responsible for gathering together the faculty, for setting the entrance requirements, for establishing the curriculum, for deciding on academic programs, including the decision to begin a graduate school. ... This first phase of her leadership of Bryn Mawr involved one truly great creative act, the creation of the Self-Government Association, the first in an American college. ...Even at its founding, Bryn Mawr was unlike any other college in the country. It attracted great scholars to teach for a few years or for a lifetime and freed them from administrative work so they could continue research. It shaped student study into the group study and prepared them for graduate training. ...The creation of Bryn Mawr, offering to women scholarship of the highest standards and graduate fellowships and training they could get nowhere else, was a major breakthrough in American women's history. In the history of women, its founding is comparable in significance to the opening of the Lowell Mills. ...

Louise Brownell Saunders, A.B. 1893, Ph.D. 1897, said, "It was above all, contact with her, contagion of the incomparable energy of her spirit, that lighted our spark also to flame. We anted to work hard, passionately, professionally, because we saw her working more passionately, more professionally than we."

Marion Edwards Park

Presentation by Sara Park Scattergood '36
My father was her brother. As all good mothers should but rarely do, my grandmother kept a written record of the amusing remarks of her precocious children. One story is perhaps prophetic of her daughter's lifelong concern for women's rights. Required to memorize a verse from the Bible for recitation in Sunday school, little Marion, aged 5, forgot to do her homework. But when called upon, she created and recited the following verse: "Blessed is he that taketh it away from him and giveth it unto her."

Her presidency paralleled difficult times in this nation - the Great Depression, the McCarthy Era, the rise of fascism and World War II. All these had devastating effects on Bryn Mawr as well as other academic communities. During these years within the College, she provided a wise, steady, forward-looking and optimistic leadership. ... There was an increased emphasis on painting, sculpture, archaeology, history of art and architecture during her administration. She helped to bring about a program of close cooperation between Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Swarthmore colleges, which in some aspects included the University of Pennsylvania.

Memorable was her hatred of fascism, which led her into a great personal involvement in bringing to the College a series of brilliant refugee professors.

photo of Katharine McBride

Katharine E. McBride

Presentation by Mabel L. Lang, Ph.D. '43, Paul Shorey Professor Emeritus of Greek, and Clarissa Wardwell Pell '30
... Most important was her infinite care and concern for the individual, the working staff on the grounds and in the halls, the administrative staff, the faculty and, of course, the students, with or without special problems. ... Many of you know Marianne Moore's tribute, written at the time of Kathy's 25th anniversary and now engraved on the McBride Gateway to the campus. It bears constant repetition: "Oh fortunate Bryn Mawr, with her creatively elegant president, unique in her exceptional unpresidential constant, a liking for people as they are." (Clarissa W. Pell)

... Research was her first love and it not only informed but also enriched both her teaching and administration. Her research was in aphasia and adult intelligence, and it meant much working with people. Such research, at least as Kathy did it, had a far more humanizing effect than most scientific inquiry, and from it she learned what she called, "an inclination to ask about every event or kind of behavior, `What can we learn from this?' "

... And it was from her research, I think, that Kathy first developed her strong belief in bridges - bridges between fields, between institutions, and of course, between people, bridges on which the two-way traffic could flow unchecked. (Mabel L. Lang)

photo of Harris Wofford

Harris L. Wofford

Presentation by Barbara Cooley Dudley '42 and Barbara Auchincloss Thacher '40
... There were hurdles, of course. Harris confronted one upon first entering his Taylor Hall office to find a hymnal on his desk, open to "Turn back oh man; forswear thy foolish ways." Other hurdles: women's rights with changing possibilities and expectations, equal and unequal opportunity dilemmas for all, civil rights issues often noisily inherent in freedom of expression on campus and beyond, learning tools and practices, shaping up in new and very expensive ways in our globalizing world. But it was not in Harris' nature to turn back. (Barbara A. Thacher)

The Board's Finance Committee became professional, monitoring the performance of outside fund managers. No longer was business frowned upon. Students were encouraged to become interns and externs, to meet with business people, who became temporary residents in the halls. Believing that the College has a responsibility to the corporations in which it invests, Harris encouraged the Board to establish a committee on investment responsibility. ...

Harris saw Bryn Mawr's future as increasingly an international institution, working hard with us to involve alumnae overseas in recruiting students and raising money for their support, and for the support of Bryn Mawr's extensive overseas programs. (Barbara C. Dudley)

Mary Patterson McPherson

Presentation by Mary Maples Dunn, M.A. '56, Ph.D. ' 59
Pat McPherson entered office at a challenging moment. It was not a great time to become the president of a women's college. We were being plunged into a very, very debilitating period of double-digit inflation, which forced escalating tuition increases, which starved faculty salaries, which ate away at the College fabric by making anything more than routine maintenance too expensive, and which invaded College assets, which, with a $35 million endowment, weren't all that healthy to begin with. Co-education had won the day, or at least it dominated the rhetoric of higher education.

... Pat's mantra was that we needed to preserve diversity in higher education and that with Haverford, we had the opportunity to join forces in shaping something unique. But those arguments didn't admittedly tend to attract 17-year-olds as a cause, and admissions became a serious worry. And the "something unique" hadn't much attracted Haverford, either; it had just become co-educational when Pat became president.

It's hard to talk about how Pat confronted these troubles, which were deep and terrible, without ascending to the higher reaches of glorification, so let me just enter a caveat or two - she did get a little outside help. ... Eventually, inflation in the later '80s gave way, without the slightest help from her, and the market boomed, also without her assistance. ... studies of the Academy began to show how girls and young women are neglected or negated in coed classrooms ... But these changes in the external environment do not diminish Pat's own achievement over the long period of her presidency. Having taken office at a time of deep trouble, she brought about a renewal of the College in every place you want to look.

The 722 alumnae/i and guests attending Reunion also had a chance to hear from faculty members. Richard B. Du Boff, Samuel and Etta Wexler Professor of Economic History, explored the reasons that economists can hold different opinions on a variety of issues in spite of having received the same professional training. Du Boff also reflected on his discussions about economics with the long-time friend of Joan Coward '45, the late Harvey Wexler, whose bequest has so benefited the College. Joan's sister, Ann Coward Urban '47, introduced the lecture for her class. Professor of English Sandra Berwind, M.A. '61, Ph.D. '68, who has taught the freshman writing course since 1958, traced the changes which have led to the new College Seminars.

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