Editor's note: The Coeducation Project was fully conceived and executed by Rosemary C. McDonough '76, P'11, P'18, in recognition of the historical significance of the coeducation of Franklin & Marshall College in 1969, and the vital role that so many of her friends and classmates played in making that history.
Taina Perez ’20 lights up as she remembers the moment she heard the news that she had become Franklin & Marshall’s first recipient of the prestigious Donald M. Payne International Development Graduate Fellowship.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Perez says of the phone call she received in February. “I thought of the many people who helped me along the way, both at home at here at F&M. It’s an honor to be the school’s first winner.”
The Payne Fellowship program seeks to attract outstanding individuals who are interested in pursuing careers in the Foreign Service of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Perez will pursue a master’s degree in environmental management to work on inclusive developmental projects that involve the community on all levels.
The honor was the latest in an impressive series of awards Perez has received at F&M. An environmental studies major Latin American studies minor, she also has earned a Marshall Fellowship, the Sidney Wise Public Affairs Internship, the Alice Distler Award and the Karel Fellowship. She attended F&M with support from a Posse Scholarship.
Perez is a modern-day example of the high-achieving women who have created a legacy of excellence at F&M and beyond—in every field imaginable. It is difficult to comprehend that it was only two generations ago when the College took the monumental step of admitting its first coeducational class. The Board of Trustees at F&M made the historic decision on Jan. 17, 1969, and a group of more than 100 pioneering women joined the Class of 1973 that fall.
Today, 54 percent of F&M’s student body are women. Eighteen women have earned the Williamson Medal, the College’s highest award for student achievement. Women have earned prestigious honors across the spectrum of the liberal arts.
Through a series of retrospectives and interviews, we take a look back at the College’s transition to a coeducational institution — what it meant then, and what it means now.
The Pioneers: ‘Ferment and Foment’
Sue Washburn ’73 was a member of Franklin & Marshall’s first coed class. Now she’s also the College’s first alumna to serve as chair of the Board of Trustees. She describes her student days as a transformative time of great intellectual and educational “ferment and foment.”
A first-generation college student from Rahway, N.J., Washburn applied to F&M in fall 1968 because she was interested in studying Greek, and the College offered a scholarship for such students. Ron Potier, then dean of admission, told her that F&M did not admit women -- yet. But he was confident that the Board would change its policy, and promised to refund her application fee if he was wrong.
Potier’s instincts were correct. In January 1969, the Board voted to admit women, giving the College just eight months to bring in its first coed class. Washburn was admitted and awarded the scholarship that enabled her to attend F&M. Before she arrived on campus, a student ambassador visited her at her home, but his message wasn’t particularly welcoming. “He told me that girls would bring down F&M’s academic standards,” Washburn said. The apparent concern never materialized, since the grade point averages of women were as strong -- and in some cases, stronger -- than those of men.
Coeducation had been approved so quickly that “the College was pretty unprepared for us,” Washburn recalls. “All the first-year ‘coeds’ were housed in Marshall Hall, with a male student assigned as a guard who reviewed all guests. We had rules that the men didn’t have: curfews, parietals, once-weekly ‘Ladies’ Night’ at the gym. The bathrooms still had urinals. But we weren’t shy about demanding fair and equal treatment and access, and the College was generally willing to accommodate us.”
It was a time of tremendous campus upheaval across the country. Washburn remembers it as a time of great personal growth and activism about the Vietnam War, racial inequality, women’s rights, and the nascent environmental movement.
She found no difference in how faculty treated men and women -- once the predominantly male faculty became accustomed to having women in their classes. She fondly remembers English professor Robert Russell, who was blind. He had a finely developed ability to recognize students’ voices, and encouraged his students to use all of their available senses to attend to writers’ distinct voices. “We became much more attentive readers because he challenged us to read and see and hear and feel the work with greater intention,” Washburn says.
After she graduated, Washburn joined F&M’s administrative staff. Here, too, the College was not quite ready for women. “When I was hired, my compensation included a bedroom and sitting room in the Alumni House. I really loved it, but after a while, I was ready to move off campus. I asked my boss to adjust my salary up to the same level as that of a male co-worker doing the same job I was doing with the same level of experience. When my boss told me he didn’t think that was possible, I remember saying, ‘I am one of the first alumnae administrators in this College. Do you really think it’s right to pay me less than you’re paying a non-alum man when we’re doing the same job?’ I got my salary adjustment!”
As chair of F&M’s Board of Trustees, does Washburn see a difference in male and female leadership styles? “Women are often seen as having ‘soft skills’ -- listening, empathy, collaboration... These are skills that matter more than ever in today’s diverse workplaces and communities. Sometimes women feel they have to be ‘tough’ to be taken seriously. We should all develop our own styles, not just fall into stereotypic gendered traps.”
—Rosemary C. McDonough ’76
A College Evolves
Richard Kneedler ’65 has probably seen Franklin & Marshall from more perspectives than just about anyone else. He enrolled at an all-male college in 1961; returned to teach French when F&M was still an all-male institution; served on the faculty before, during and after coeducation; and held a host of administrative positions, culminating in 14 years as president from 1988 to 2002. What impact did coeducation have on his alma mater?
“F&M’s academic standards increased dramatically with coeducation,” Kneedler recalls. “Declining selectivity was clearly the driver of coeducation. In the mid-1960s, the College had a lot of seats to fill.”
Kneedler was attracted to F&M largely for its welcoming atmosphere. He’d found Princeton too big and Swarthmore too formal. Franklin & Marshall had a particularly engaging admissions process. Most important, F&M treated students as adults.
Two contrasting anecdotes illustrate his point. Kneedler was elected to Phi Beta Kappa when he was just a sophomore. In his junior year, the dean of students asked to see him. He had noticed that Kneedler had failed badminton -- a physical education requirement that the honor student had neglected to fulfill. The dean told him that he had removed the F from his transcript. The University of Pennsylvania would not see Kneedler’s failing grade when he applied to its doctoral program. “It was a very gentlemanly conversation,” he recalls. “The dean treated me as an equal.” Kneedler later earned his doctorate from Penn.
Meanwhile, a friend of Kneedler’s, also a member of Phi Beta Kappa, had a very different experience at another institution. One night, the woman was smoking in her dorm room. Smoking was not against the rules, but her housemother disapproved. The housemother entered the woman’s room uninvited, and smacked her star student across the face. “It was really quite shocking,” says Kneedler. “She was treated like a child. That never would have happened at F&M.”
Perhaps F&M’s supportive culture helped smooth the path to coeducation. President Keith Spalding had long lobbied the Board to go coed, and they finally voted in favor of the move in January 1969. But there was little effort to prepare for the admission of women. Every dorm but Thomas Hall (then called “New Dorm,”) had been built for an all-male campus. Amenities for women were non-existent. But Kneedler reflects that, on balance, this might have been a good thing. “Instead of all the decisions being made for the women by men, the women drove the changes. Their influence was strongly felt.”
Coeducation affected some board members personally. Though trustee Hiram Ball originally opposed the admission of women, one of the first “coeds” to enroll was his daughter, transfer student Vicki Ball ’71. She later became an active alumna and the College’s first career director.
Coeducation brought two concerns for the faculty. Would women want new academic programs? And would the male faculty have to alter their behavior?
Even before coeducation, President Spalding had sought to improve the arts program. Before women, the arts were treated primarily as extracurricular activities -- the Green Room, chorus, orchestra, etc. But the College assumed that women would want to study the arts, and this gave Spalding the rationale he needed. As it turned out, men and women participated equally in F&M’s expanded arts curriculum. Coeducation benefitted them both.
—Rosemary C. McDonough ’76
This is What a Feminist Looks Like
It’s one of Alice Drum’s favorite photographs: a group of F&M students in her Women’s and Gender Studies class. The young women—and one young man—all hold signs proclaiming, “This is what a feminist looks like.” Each student is unique, but each looks cheerful and optimistic—like Alice herself.
If you want to trace the rise of modern American feminism, you might well start with Alice Drum. This Wilson College graduate became a mother nine months after her first marriage. The next year, she had twins. In all, she had five sons in seven years, and later raised a stepson as well. After there were no more children in diapers, she earned a Ph.D. in English, commuting 90 minutes each way from her Gettysburg home to American University.
After holding adjunct positions at Georgetown and the University of Maryland, Alice Drum got her first full time job at Hood College—at age 45. Five years later, in 1985, F&M hired her as the first dean of freshmen; she would later become their first female vice president.
Dean Drum learned that women could hold management positions along with men—with a few caveats. She was advised to “act like one of the boys.” But when she advocated for women to become Dana Scholars, an honor reserved for student leaders, a male colleague mused, “Female leadership? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?” Responding like one of the boys was clearly not the answer, she said.
Dean Drum developed a management style that was transparent, inclusive, and tough when necessary. Some colleagues dubbed her “the firing dean.” To others, she would say, “Please do not interrupt me again.” She got to work early, stayed late, and attended College events daily to meet students. Along the way, she earned the support of prominent male colleagues such as Stanley Michalak, Claude Yoder, and Joel Eigen, who joined her in developing a more balanced social/academic approach to First-Year Orientation.
She particularly enjoyed the strong connection between F&M faculty and students, and the students’ serious academic commitment. When the College derecognized fraternities, students held an impassioned rally in front of the College Center. It ended promptly so they wouldn’t be late for class.
Dean Drum was also on the committee that proposed women’s studies as an academic program. She team-taught its first core course with Leslie Burlingame and Nancy McDowell. Soon, students asked her to launch a Women’s Center. She did so—and encouraged students to define its mission. With Maura Condon Umble ’83 as director, the Women’s Center opened in 1992 as a safe place for women—and men—to discuss gender-related issues. When Dean Drum retired in 2001, the Women’s Center was renamed The Alice Drum Women’s Center in her honor.
The ADWC has remained committed to longstanding programs such as “Take Back the Night.” It also reaches out to women of diverse backgrounds, and studies global issues. Current speakers address topics from the hook-up culture to the ongoing crisis in Puerto Rico.
Now that F&M boasts its first alumna board chair, first woman president, and a student body that is 53 percent women, is the work of the women’s movement complete? What about those successful alumnae who refuse the label, “feminist?”
Dean Drum replies, “We must remind them that not every woman has had their success. We still need them to be role models. We need to hear their voices.”
What surprises Alice Drum the most? How long it’s taken for women to achieve a degree of equality in public life. Yet she sees women’s challenges as similar to men’s: how to adjust to a rapidly changing world, while balancing career, family and personal lives.
So, what does a feminist look like? If Alice Drum is our example, she is bright, confident, caring… and someone you’d be wise not to interrupt.
—Rosemary C. McDonough ’76
The residential halls’ transition to coeducation was slow in the making. The bathrooms had group open showers with no privacy, as well as urinals. (Resourcefully, we put plants in them).
Athletic facilities were slow in adapting to us coeds. The group steam room and sauna were often off limits to us females, since the men were used to being there in the buff. My roommate and I learned this the hard way after swimming laps in the Mayser Gym pool one day. We decided to go for a steam afterwards. Before the steam cleared, two male students announced that they were there, and clothed only with towels if that. We ran out of there as fast as we could.
Articles in the “Intelligencer Journal,” the local paper, referred to us coeds as “pretty but also smart.”
I also had the chance to work for F&M as a young administrator. A capital campaign meeting was being held in New York City at the University Club. I arrived early but was relegated to a women’s waiting room until my male college president, Keith Spalding, arrived. The room was walled with mirrors like a mini Hall of Mirrors at Versailles and the reading materials —copies of Glamour and Mademoiselle magazines only. Didn’t they know that I read the Wall Street Journal every morning? Bravo F&M—President Spalding never held an event there again until their rules changed about women.
As women administrators, we were approaching local corporations throughout Lancaster County for annual support. More often than not, the local business leaders (all male) shared that they were not fans of the College having gone coed and accepting all those students from New York and New Jersey. (I was one of those coeds from New Jersey.)
My years at F&M as a student and as an administrator after graduation, and my upbringing with extremely supportive working parent role models, made me stronger and independent. Many of us women in the early 1980s faced glass ceilings in the beginning of our careers. My one fear is that our women today take for granted the road we paved for them.
Linda Rovtar Hopkins ’78
In January 1973, with Title IX newly in force, F&M fielded its first women’s basketball team. I was 5’4,” and had never played a moment of organized sports. But my dorm counselor encouraged me to go out for the team, so off I went.
There were barely 600 female students at F&M then, so there were no try-outs for women’s basketball. If you showed up, you made the team. That was my first surprise. My second surprise was that our opening game was against the University of Virginia. I remember watching their team file out, thinking, “These girls are bigger than half the guys on my hall.”
I’d been in the game for about 90 seconds when the UVA player I was guarding knocked me flat on my bottom. The ref called a foul on her. But I was so distracted by the blood in my mouth (I’d chipped a front tooth) that I didn’t even hit the backboard when I took my foul shot. I returned to the bench in disgrace.
After our resounding defeat by UVA, all I wanted was a shower. But as I approached the showers, I was greeted by a sign: “Men Only Beyond This Point.”
The purpose of this sign was to let men continue their tradition of walking around in the buff. I am embarrassed to say that this sign did not offend me in the least. I just turned around, went back to Atlee, and cleaned up there.
In the decades since my short-lived career as a student-athlete, I’ve thought a lot about that sign. I’ve thought about how “Men Only Beyond This Point” is a great metaphor for the world we women lived in then. And I think of what we women have accomplished since.
I think of the honor roll of F&M alumnae --the first female chair of the SEC, the CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies, the deputy assistant secretary of defense. I think about the women trailblazers in law and medicine and business; the women who learned to juggle careers, marriage and children; and the women who didn’t need men to create lives of dignity and purpose.
“Men Only Beyond This Point” is long gone from Mayser Gym. But more important, it’s gone from the world we’ve created. That’s today’s “point:” we women have blown the doors wide open. It’s a world I couldn’t have imagined that night as I sat in shame on the cold gym floor.
Rosemary C. McDonough ’76, P’11, P’18
Some things made it obvious that women were a new feature on campus. There were urinals in the women’s restrooms in Schnader Hall. So we planted flowers.
Professor Lou Athey’s history seminar required each of us to teach a class putting an important novel in historical perspective. Mine was “Catch 22.” Knowledge of two wars not enough, I had to talk about the origins of black humor. Professor Leon Galis’ final exam required us to discuss (our choice of) three philosophers’ views on abortion. None of them had ever written anything on this subject! We had to use our knowledge of the philosophers’ views on what makes humans human to infer what they might have thought of the morality of abortion.
Virtually every professor demanded this level of evidence-based thinking and clear reporting, never tolerating the merely accurate. There was an insistence that we set our sights high, that we envision and pursue careers full of contributions that would advance knowledge in our fields. I think this expectation was communicated with special insistence to women. When I expressed interest in pursuing research in education, mentors took great pains to ensure that I wasn’t headed that way because it’s a woman’s kind of research. When I got engaged to be married, mentors took great pains to ensure that I would not be diverted from my obligation to contribute my intelligence to the advancement of great work.
These expectations, these assumptions of original and important contributions, made a big difference in my early career. I jumped into difficult projects and made real advances that surprised more senior officials. Later, when I was responsible for leading groups and mentoring young professionals, I imitated my F&M mentors, communicating high expectations to my teams.
I’ve measured my effectiveness throughout my career based on those high expectations. My only regret is that more people across the country don’t know the value of this training. I want business and government and arts leaders everywhere to see Franklin and Marshall College on someone’s resume and think: “This woman is going to be one hell of an innovative and rigorous contributor.”
Sherri Z. Heller ’76
Let's talk about the student handbook for a minute. It was not long on campus when the “girls” realized they had been rated by the “boys” in the student handbook, better known as the “Pig Book.” Passing comments were often degrading.
There were no sororities or women's clubs. There were 11 fraternities who were busing in women from Hood and Wilson Colleges. Meanwhile, back in the dorms, most of us did not have dates. One guy told me most of the other guys thought there was too much competition. That first half year, we were rated but not dated.
Most of the girls were housed in Marshall Hall. I loved my room on the 2nd floor overlooking the Quad. There was always music blaring, and people were throwing Frisbees. The bathrooms were another matter. They had gang showers and urinals. We put flower pots in the urinals, but were not thrilled taking group showers.
The first years, there were men professors who were openly hostile to women students. They thought we were ruining a great men's college. Luckily there were some who were very supportive, and that's why I become a geology major.
Things I remember fondly are putting up a Christmas tree with an owl on top. O.W. Lacy (nicknamed the “Owl”) and his wife came to see it. And we had some of the best concerts ever.
The first couple of years were hard, but as the women in our class got involved, we started sports programs, got involved in drama, government, music and the newspaper. We threw our bras on the Protest Tree and let our voices be heard.
Cathy Cunningham Maloney ’74
“It wasn’t about the women’s movement. It was about filling empty seats.
So recalls Ron Potier, Franklin and Marshall’s director of admission from 1967-1990, and the man who oversaw a nine-month whirlwind to implement F&M’s decision to go coed.
Potier was admissions director at Clark University when President Keith Spalding asked to meet with him. “It was clear that Spalding was leaning toward coeducation, and he wanted to feel me out. I had experience with two coed institutions, Clark and Middlebury. I knew that many single-sex colleges were going in that direction. There was a lot of chatter about it.”
When Spalding later hired Potier, the College was still all-male. The admission staff included just him and Assistant Director Don Martin. They would work together for several decades to transform F&M from 100 percent male to more than 40 percent female. (Today, the College is 54 percent women.)
“Don and I recruited heavily in the Northeast: southern New England, New York, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland. The high schools we worked with were asking us if we were going coed,” he remembers. “Many of our peer schools were considering it. We told them that F&M hadn’t decided yet. But we encouraged the women to apply, and promised to refund their application fees if we were wrong.”
No refunds were needed. The Board voted in January 1969 to admit women – effective September 1969. That didn’t give Potier and Martin much time. Especially since – as inconceivable as it now seems – there was no marketing plan.
Luckily, they had an ally in Board Chair Robert Sarnoff, who was also chair of RCA. Sarnoff put RCA’s public relations department to work for F&M. “Time” magazine had just decided to profile a different college each month for a year. RCA convinced “Time” to include F&M. The now-famous “We’ve Gone Coed” ad ran at a critical time for admissions applications, helping to attract the 125 women who would eventually join 1,600 men at the College that fall.
The decision to go coed was driven by finances, not feminism. “Applications were down,” says Potier. “Many colleges like ours felt they had maxed out on male applicants. By going coed, we could double our applicant pool, and also attract that growing number of men no longer interested in single sex education. Coeducation increased our applicants in both quantity and quality. The female students were very strong.”
Women were showing up in other places, too. As applications grew, more staff was needed. So Potier hired several women, some as part-time interviewers and some as full-time admissions counselors, including Wendy McMahan ’73. Meanwhile, through his contacts in the State Department, he began to recruit international students. One of his part-time staffers, Penny Johnson, covered a trip abroad for him, and went on to become one of the country’s leading recruiters of international students. She built on Potier’s extensive network, from Beijing to Iran; established a consistent presence abroad; and helped F&M’s reputation grow. Potier proudly notes that today, about 20 percent of F&M’s students are international.
The admissions process has changed significantly in the last 50 years, with more data, more staff and yes, even marketing plans. The extraordinary rise in tuition, the need to bring in an increasingly diverse class, and new demographic challenges make admissions increasingly complex. But let’s remember that coeducation, the biggest change in Franklin & Marshall’s history, was largely accomplished by one president, two male staff, a supportive college community, and a Board of Trustees. The time to admit women had come.
—Rosemary C. McDonough ’76
Andrea Deutsch ’89 still remembers the moment when everything changed. She was in a large public speaking class at F&M. A shy student in high school, she had entered college unsure of her speaking skills. But Andrea had just finished her final presentation, and her professor’s feedback surprised her. “Andrea,” the woman told her, “you’ve put together every single thing I’ve taught you. An excellent speech!”
Andrea took these comments to heart. And she decided she had a few things to say. Today, she is the first female mayor in the 124-year history of Narberth, PA, a thriving borough of 4200 residents on Philadelphia’s Main Line. A devoted rescue dog owner, she’s also sole proprietor of the pet store, Spots. With a degree from Temple Law School, she has ten years’ experience as a litigator as well. Public speaking comes to her as naturally as breathing.
The confidence Andrea gained at Franklin & Marshall helped her see her leadership potential. “For me,” she recalls, “the 2016 election highlighted the lack of female representation in government. I thought it was important to find role models for the next generation of girls and women. As they say, ‘Be the change you wish to see.’ The time was right for me to enter local government.”
Though running a business and running a borough seem to require different skills, Andrea says her roles are “all part of the same stew. I like developing relationships with people, and I like problem solving. Whether I’m helping a customer choose the best food for her dog’s dietary needs, or managing big construction projects in a small town, I need to be a both good listener and a good communicator. I need to understand people’s different perspectives, and then make the best decisions for all involved.”
A word on finding your mentor: Andrea believes in looking far and wide. Though it was a female professor who told her she was a good speaker, it was her late dad, Myron Deutsch, who taught her to believe in herself professionally. “My dad was my greatest champion. He always had faith in me. He taught me to speak my mind.” In fact, Mayor Deutsch is known for her candor – a rare quality in politicians.
That once-shy student may have never imagined that she would develop such a strong voice. Today, she uses that voice to represent her constituents, manage the local police force and market her business. Whatever Andrea’s duties, one thing is certain: her town hears her loud and clear.
—Rosemary C. McDonough ’76
My college roommate, Rosemary, says that I introduced Raul Morales to her. I’m not sure how our friendship got started, but I do know that we met him at F&M. F&M was such a new experience to me. Before enrolling in the College, I had only been to one party that I can remember, and that was in seventh grade. I was a shy high school student with very few social experiences. The coed dorms at F&M were a revelation to me in my freshman year. These dorms impressed me because their setup provided a way for young men and women to fraternize in an easy, casual way and to form friendships, many of which became permanent. This idea of friendship with people of the opposite sex was new to me. The young men on one side of the dorm floors would become close friends with the young women on the other side. I loved the way that people would leave messages for each other on the doors of the dorms, and leave artwork and doodles on their friends’ doors’ whiteboards. One girl on my floor had her door decorated by an admirer with holly and bows at Christmas; it was stunningly beautiful in our otherwise very plain hallway. Then there was junior year, and we met Raul Morales.
I had never had a male friend before attending F&M, and Raul Morales, Class of ’78, became my friend. I still think that it must have been my roommate who introduced him to me. Raul brought a rollicking good time with him wherever he was, and it was not necessary for him to be drinking to be funny. He was medium height, smartly dressed, and hilarious. Puerto Rico lost something deeply funny when the Morales family left that island. He had such a vibrant personality and was so quick witted that he brought joy wherever he went. He was an exuberant, life giving force, and when I return to campus, I always think of him and miss him. He was a part of our dorm room laughter and general happiness. He died in his mid-thirties. He left us too soon.
The new campus dorms seem very sophisticated and luxurious to me when I visit the campus today, but we did well enough without all those luxuries. We made friends before Facebook and cellphones. Our Facebook was just that — a printed book of hazy photos that we pored over and treasured, sharing the information that we knew about others from real face-to-face contacts. I do not envy the new students their social lives enabled by technology and selfies, and their desire to rack up “likes.” We did just fine without those things. We were happy before Hartman Hall was torn down and the campus extended itself to the other side of Harrisburg Pike, becoming the luxurious, high tech wonder school that it is today.
—Becky Reed ’76
When Franklin & Marshall announced in 1969 that it was going coed, Dean Becker ’71 was not aware that his college was making history. There was too much going on already. Classmates huddled before the TV, waiting to discover their draft numbers. Protests against the Vietnam War were rampant. Fraternity life was thriving, and so was the drug culture. Besides, Dean had chosen to attend F&M because, as a prospective pre-med student, he thought an all-male school would provide more academic discipline.
There was only one problem: the men spent most of their waking hours trying to meet women.
Like many F&M men of his era, Dean attended mixers at Wilson College, an hour away. In his freshman year, he met his first wife there: problem solved.
When he switched from the pre-med program to a major in Psychology, Dean began spending long days and nights at Whitley, the psychology lab a few blocks off campus. There, he studied rats and Rhesus monkeys. But there were no women to be seen. None majored in Psychology, and, but for one visiting professor, there were few women in the department at all.
Five years later, only one member of the Class of ’76 would graduate summa cum laude. At the time, a student could only earn this honor if 100% of his or her grades were A- or better. This distinguished scholar was a woman…and she majored in Psychology. Coeducation had not just improved the College’s social life; it had raised the bar academically.
—Rosemary C. McDonough ’76
After four years at a Catholic all-girls high school, I was ready for a change. The world I was about to enter was coed and I thought college should be, too.
Luckily, we were coming of age at the right time. Many of the best all-male colleges were beginning to admit women, including Franklin and Marshall. Since I was programmed to be a physician from a very early age, F&M and its Pre-Healing Arts Program was at the top of my list.
Arriving in 1972, I found it nearly undetectable that female students were relatively new to the school. The environment was normal and there was no gender bias in the classroom.
Woman’s sports were quickly developed. A couple of years ago, Mary Kate Salko ’01, head volleyball coach, invited my volleyball teammates and me to an on-campus recognition event because we were members of the inaugural women’s volleyball team. I had no appreciation back in 1972-73 that we were starting a new sport at the College. I was privileged to play, but never realized I was blazing new trails.
—Susan Boylan, M.D., ’76
When Ben Franklin helped found Franklin College in 1787, it actually was coed, a rarity then. Not until 1853, when its merger with Marshall College created Franklin & Marshall College, did F&M become a single-sex institution.
Franklin & Marshall continued on this path for more than a century. But as students were drafted during World War II, the College, like many of its all-male peers, faced dire financial straits. F&M considered but rejected the idea of admitting women to fill its classrooms.
In 1946, wives of veterans could enroll, but not earn a degree. By 1955, only faculty wives and female College staff could take courses. Trustee William Schnader and Dean of the College, James (“Mac”) Darlington, were early advocates for coeducation. But they met significant opposition. Though some midwestern schools had started admitting women, the last frontier of single sex education was largely the east coast, small liberal arts college.
Then came the tumultuous 1960s. By the middle of that decade, society had been turned on its head, from race relations and the Vietnam War to women’s rights and student revolts. Meanwhile, F&M was facing another admissions crisis. From 1965 to 1968, applications plummeted, and the College was forced to accept over half of its applicants.
President Keith Spalding knew the time for coeducation had come. But first, he had to convince a reluctant Board. He wisely convened a Task Force on Coeducation. Their April 1968 report helped the Board to imagine women as students, not merely girls to enhance the College’s social life with weekend visits.
In January 1969, the Board voted to admit women; in September 1969, 124 “coeds” joined 1,600 men on campus. Most women entered as members of the Class of ’73. But a few entered as transfer students, including Vicki Ball ’71. Ironically, her father, Hiram Ball, had been the only trustee to vote against coeducation.
While the women’s SAT scores were identical to the men’s (1223 for women vs. 1226 for men), “successful” women learned not to emphasize their intelligence. As one cynical faculty member put it, “We didn’t want to fill the campus with women who wore sensible shoes.” F&M, like the larger society, was slow to accept women as both social and intellectual equals.
Professor of French and Italian Angela Jeannet was one of three women faculty members when F&M went coed. She recalled that “there was still great resistance in the classroom…Women were not taken seriously…But they were extremely well prepared, smart and enthusiastic.”
As women grew to 40 percent of the student body by the late 1970s, their confidence grew in leaps and bounds. When they saw obstacles in the culture, they didn’t accommodate to the culture – they changed it. We believe our College—and our world—are the better for it. We think Ben Franklin would agree.
Adapted from the senior thesis of Linda Cortese ’90 by Rosemary C. McDonough ’76
In my first 18 years of life, my first day of college was, without a doubt, the most exciting. While I approached it with some trepidation, I couldn't wait to meet my freshman roommate and all of the girls on my floor in Schnader. The biggest surprise came when I realized that boys, yes, BOYS, would be living just a short distance past the center common room on the SAME floor! As a self-confessed high school geek who wasn't asked to the senior prom, I wasn't even aware that the boy who asked me about the bright red storage trunk in our dorm room was actually just trying to break the ice and start a conversation. He would later become my first-ever boyfriend, albeit a short-lived affair of the heart.
What I didn't expect, however, were the many platonic relationships that would be forged that year. Only boys lived in the basement of Schnader. This was presumably because the windows were at ground level, and could compromise the safety of the rooms. Some of the basement dwellers, unhappy because they were segregated from girls, took us first-floor co-eds under their wing. One of them arranged a pajama party in the basement so we could all get to know one another. I was interested in one particular "basement boy," so I wore a frilly, lavender nightgown and white and lavender dotted-swiss robe that my sister had made for me. Today, the thought of my fashion choice makes me cringe. Ultimately, my plan didn't work because, as it turned out, the boy to whom I was wildly attracted was gay. In the end, it didn't matter, because we became close friends.
I was also surprised that it wasn't just boys that I was introduced to at that pajama party, but also the pungent scent and smoky haze of weed. Schnader basement may not have been home to girls, but it certainly became the not-so-secret residence of the cannabis plant! Everything considered, living in close proximity to boys that first year made me realize that they actually didn't belong to another species, and I no longer had to fear them!
While I can absolutely say that there were many positives about all four years of my life at F&M, including meeting my future husband and my sophomore roommates, (who would become lifelong best friends,) my freshman year as a co-ed changed me from a shy high school wallflower to a happy, more outgoing and confident individual.
-Anonymous, as told to Rosemary C. McDonough ’76
I was dating this basketball player. It was a big deal for me. In high school, I’d been so shy that the athletes didn’t know I existed. Now, I could become a different person.
He was having a great year on the court, and I was having a great year in the classroom. My GPA was nearly double his: 3.9 to his 2.0. But I didn’t tell him, because I didn’t want to look “too smart.” “Too smart” meant the Dean’s List, but for a girl, it could also mean some dull Saturday nights.
One day, the boy came to my parents’ house for lunch. The mailman had just delivered the postcard from F&M that reported our grades. My mother knew what was going on. She took that postcard and put it right on the boy’s placemat. He saw it and said, “Wow, this is great! Why didn’t you tell me?” I was furious with my mother. When the boy left, I told her she had embarrassed me, that she had no right to do that.
My mother was very bright, but she never went to college. The thinking then was, “Why waste money on a girl’s education when she’s only going to get married?” So, Mom poured all her ambition into me. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “You worked as hard for your A’s as he worked for his jump shots. If he can’t handle how smart you are, he is not worthy of you.”
The boyfriend didn’t last, but my mother’s lesson did. When I chose the amazing man I married, it was in large part because he was my academic equal. My intelligence became an asset, not a liability. And that’s when I became the person I really wanted to be.
-Anonymous, as told to Rosemary C. McDonough ’76
Patricia E. Harris ’77 is the Chief Executive Officer of Bloomberg Philanthropies, a data-driven foundation that encompasses all of founder Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable giving. Last year, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $767 million around the world. Previously, Harris served as the First Deputy Mayor of the City of New York during the Bloomberg Administration, becoming the first woman in the city’s history to serve in its highest appointed position. She joined Franklin & Marshall’s Board of Trustees in 2006 and was honored by the Franklin & Marshall Alumni Association with its Alumni Citation for outstanding professional development achievement in 2007. Two years later in 2009, the College announced the naming of the Patricia E. Harris Center for Business, Government & Public Policy in her honor.
Q: What attracted you to F&M? Tell me how you got from F&M to the wonderful career you have today. Did attending F&M have any influence on you?
At F&M, I studied government and art history. Both were topics that I was interested in, and I also knew that at F&M I’d be able to explore a wide range of subjects and ideas through an incredible liberal arts education. When I started school, I thought that I wanted to go into advertising, but instead my classes in political science and the arts led me in another direction. In fact, I was partially motivated to study government after I received my lowest grade ever in a poli sci class. There’s nothing like failing to motivate you to succeed – and I eventually ended up majoring in it.
Studying both art and government gave me a grounding for jobs in both fields, including Executive Director of the New York City Art Commission and First Deputy Mayor of the City of New York. Today, leading Bloomberg Philanthropies, I rely every day on my F&M education and the way of thinking and problem-solving skills that it taught me.
Q: What are your favorite memories?
My favorite memories were certainly time spent with friends, whether in class, out in front of OId Main, or in my apartment on North Pine Street. In fact, I am still very close with my wonderful roommate from Pine Street, and have crossed paths many times with alumni who I didn’t know in school but who are still always so supportive of one another. I’ve always tried to stay involved with the community, and being on the board is truly one of the most rewarding things that I get to do. I would encourage everyone – no matter how busy life can be – to find a way to stay connected to the school.
Q: Who were your favorite faculty, staff, or mentors?
I had an art professor who has long since retired, Professor Cosentino. I took art history with him early on in college and his class really inspired and encouraged my love of art, which is still very much a part of my personal and professional life today.
Q: What advice would you give to today's female students?
Work hard and have fun at F&M. College is a special time. And as they go into the workforce, I would encourage them to continue with that mindset. Our careers are long and my best advice is to find roles that give you the opportunity to work with people that you respect and enjoy. It’s really one of the biggest secrets to succeeding and thriving in the working world.
Another thing that I would mention to female students is there have been times when I’ve been the only woman at the table, and despite the progress that’s been made since I left F&M, today’s female graduates may find themselves in similar situations in many industries. I’ve always tried to make the best of it and focus on doing my job well – and, of course, being a part of the solution by mentoring young women and creating more seats at the decision-making table. The landscape has changed for the better, for sure, but we still have a long way to go.
Q: Tell me about the Harris Center - your dreams for it, its purpose, and how you see it in the context of our liberal arts education. What are the advantages to housing the Departments of Government and Business and Terry Madonna's polling center in one place?
In every job that I have ever had – in business, government, and philanthropy – collaboration is a constant key to progress and success. I’ve seen time and again that when government and business collaborate, the possibilities for innovation and impact are truly limitless. The Harris Center is an embodiment of this. Every time I walk in, I see collaboration in action – whether it’s faculty from across disciplines doing research together on some of our world’s greatest challenges, students chatting after class in front of inspiring art, or alumni coming back to campus to share what they’ve learned with the next generation. The whole building is designed to spur connection and creativity
Q: What is it like to work for Michael Bloomberg?
I’ve worked for Mike for many years, and for most of that time we’ve sat right next to each other. One of his core values is openness and transparency, so there are never any walls in our offices. The truth is he is unique. He’s had so much success in business (building Bloomberg L.P., the global financial technology, data, and media company that he founded in 1981), in government (serving as mayor of New York City for 12 years), and in philanthropy (saving and improving millions of lives around the world). He’s a brilliant manager and he’s put together an incredible team – empowering them, having their back, and holding them accountable every step of the way. He’s never stopped being an Eagle Scout. Service to country and community have always come first. Put simply, he is a visionary leader, the most energetic person I know, and he’s actually a lot of fun to sit next to every day at the office.
I’m the proud mother of a young F&M alumna who is a doctor. Like all families, we have our friendly rivalries. My daughter’s cousin is a sweet young woman, but not known for her academic prowess. Lo and behold, this cousin announces her engagement to a doctor. Not just any doctor, but an F&M graduate.
I call my daughter to share the news. Then I ask her how she feels about her cousin marrying an F&M doctor. She sighs and answers, “I don’t have to MARRY an F&M doctor. I AM one.”
-Anonymous, as told to Rosemary C. McDonough ’76
I took classes at F&M from 1969-1971. I found all the professors welcoming and encouraging and had very good academic experiences. I felt challenged intellectually for the first time and enjoyed my work. I guess I made all A’s. I began to realize that disciplines beyond French (my original interest) were a good fit for me.
Note: Lea came to F&M from Georgetown as the wife of an F&M student. She is a retired professor of English.
- The Jersey Girl with the Green Thumb
- Men Only Beyond This Point
- Great Expectations
- ‘Rated, Not Dated,’ and other Indignities
- Inside the Admission Process
- Speak Up!
- Making Friends with Boys
- Psyched Out
- Programmed to be a Physician
- How Did We Get Here?
- The Boys in the Basement
- Don’t Hide Your GPA Under a Basket
- A Conversation with Patricia E. Harris ’77
- I Am One
- ‘I Felt Challenged Intellectually’