Yale Alumnae Celebrate 40 Years of Women at Yale

In recognition of 40 years of coeducation at Yale, several generations of Yale affiliated women, from the pioneering female students who graduated with the Class of 1971 to current students and faculty, will meet on the weekend of March 26–28 to take stock of their accomplishments and to forge a common vision for the future.

Scheduled events include presentations and talks by academic and professional leaders on diverse subjects ranging from “ancient secrets of modern happiness” to running large nonprofit agencies for the common good.

Yale women yet to enter the workforce will find inspiration from trailblazing alumnae such as Unite for Sight founder and CEO Jennifer Staple-Clark and Pepsico CEO Indra Nooyi, and there will be networking opportunities for all the attendees throughout the weekend.

Female students became a presence on the Yale campus 100 years before coeducation began at Yale College: In 1869 when Yale’s School of Fine Arts opened, two of the three members of its first class were women.

In 1968 President Kingman Brewster announced that Yale would be accepting its first female undergraduates, and in 1969 close to 600 women, half of them freshmen and half sophomore and junior transfers from other colleges, became Yale’s first “coeds.” Among the well-known alumnae who date from the earliest years of Yale coeducation are President of Sarah Lawrence College Karen R. Lawrence, architect Billie Tsien and U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.

Centered at Rose Alumni House, 232 York Street, the conference will begin with presentations by Yale alumnae and current faculty members Tamar Gendler and Margaret Grey. Professor of Psychology and Philosophy, Gendler will talk about what philosophy and cognitive science can teach about human happiness, and Grey, dean of Yale School of Nursing, will discuss how advances in technology and science have changed the nursing profession.

In the second session on Friday, Elga Wasserman, Henry “Sam” Chauncey, Jr. and John Wilkinson, three former Yale administrators who helped lead the coeducation effort, will provide first-hand historical background of the transition. Mary Miller, who is the first woman to hold the title Dean of Yale College, will moderate the discussion.

Following a selection of scheduled lunchtime activities, conference attendees will hear three other Yale faculty members discuss their respective areas of research. Yale School of Management Dean Sharon Oster will talk about nonprofit management; Dr. Carolyn M. Mazure, director of Women’s Health Research at Yale, will make a presentation on “Socio-politics, Sex and Science”; and Priyamvada (Priya) Natarajan, who teaches in the astronomy and physics departments, will shine a light on the dark side of the universe.

In the last session on Friday, three top college administrators — Wellesley College President Kim Bottomly; University of Chicago Dean of Students Kimberly Goff-Crews and Karen Lawrence will discuss the present and future of women in higher education.

This conference is hosted by the Association of Yale Alumni, which has also organized celebrations of the milestone in other cities. Three of these have taken place in Boston, Chicago and Cincinnati. On April 28, the Yale Club of Southern California is hosting a discussion on empowering women through microfinance and on May 15 in conjunction with Yale’s Day of Service, Yale alumnae will meet at the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts.