Barnard Chief Administrators, 1889-2008

Ella Weed, 1889-1894

Ella Weed, ca. 1885.
Photograph by Knowlton, courtesy of the Barnard College Archives.

Ella Weed was born on January 27, 1853, in Newburgh, New York, the eldest daughter of Jonathan Noyes Weed and Elizabeth Merritt Weed. She attended Miss Mackay's School in Newburgh before matriculating at Vassar College, where she wrote for the Vassar Miscellany, helping to establish the publication's high reputation. After graduating with honors in 1873, she moved to Springfield, Ohio, in 1875 to teach at an all-girls school, specializing in preparing students for Vassar. In 1882, she returned to New York to teach at her former school, Miss Mackay's, and in 1884, she became head of the day school at the Anne Brown School in New York City.

Annie Nathan Meyer sought Weed's assistance when she wanted to establish an annex to Columbia for women. She hoped to replace the existing Collegiate Course for Women, which did not allow women to attend lectures but required them to complete the same work at the same standards as the male students who did go to lectures. Weed's contacts at the Anne Brown School were socially prominent, and she was able to get the signatures of well-known New Yorkers on a petition to the Columbia University Board of Trustees. As a result, Barnard College was founded.

Weed played an essential role in establishing Barnard's academic standards and reputation early on. She served on the Board of Trustees as chair of the academic committee, performing the duties of dean while maintaining her position at the Anne Brown School. She also helped with public relations and fundraising for the College. Weed believed in high standards, which became evident in the various ways in which she shaped the Barnard education. She established a Greek entrance requirement to mirror that of Columbia College. She also felt it was important for students to have a breadth of knowledge and therefore did not allow them to specialize in any area, with the exception of the sciences. Additionally, she did not allow students to transfer into the College, so that all Barnard graduates would receive a Barnard-only education. Further, she insisted that Columbia supervise all instruction at Barnard, winning the cooperation of Columbia's faculty and administration. Ella Weed's determination that women should be equipped with the tools they needed to fully realize their abilities made her an important figure in women's education and in Barnard history.


Emily James Smith, 1894-1900

Smith 1897
Emily James Smith, ca. 1887.
Photograph courtesy of the Barnard College Archives.

Emily James Smith, then 29 years old, became the first dean of Barnard College in 1894 when it was still at its original location at 343 Madison Avenue. Her wise manner and determination aided her in setting the foundations for Barnard's sound curriculum and its commitment to assembling a good academic staff.

Smith graduated from Bryn Mawr with its first class and went on to become one of the first women to study at Girton College of Cambridge, later becoming a distinguished scholar of Greek at the University of Chicago. Her mastery of the classics allowed her to become personally involved in the education of Barnard students, teaching Homer to first-years and Plato to sophomores. Through her interactions with students and her extensive involvement in the College's everyday affairs, Smith successfully molded the school's character and shaped its place within Columbia University.

Under Smith, the College moved to its current Morningside Heights location, starting with one square block of land between 119th and 120th Streets on which Milbank, Fiske, and Brinckerhoff Halls (now collectively known as Milbank Hall) were built. Following this move, Smith fought for Barnard's right to offer classes that Columbia did not, and in 1898, she was able to secure Barnard alumnae representation on the Columbia Board of Trustees. Two years later, Smith renegotiated the terms of Barnard's relationship with Columbia. Under the new terms, Barnard was given representation on the University Council; Barnard faculty appointments were made by the University, which continued to grant all degrees; Barnard students were allowed to take some Columbia graduate courses; and Barnard was given permission to expand in any direction it saw fit. This agreement made Barnard the only women's college in the county at the time that could act independently while still allowing its students open access to an Ivy League university. Barnard was now responsible for its own finances, and the College, like a modern woman, paid its own way.

Smith's marriage to famed publisher George Haven Putnam proved that a woman was capable of combining a happy marriage with a successful career, and helped make her a role model to her students. Smith's term as dean ended on February 1, 1900, when she resigned due to her pregnancy. She returned to the College as a part-time lecturer from 1914-30 and remained a major presence in Barnard's development.


Laura Drake Gill, 1901-1907

Laura Drake Gill, ca. 1901.
Photograph courtesy of the Barnard College Archives.

Laura Drake Gill, the third dean of Barnard College, was born in Chesterville, Maine. She attended Smith College, specializing in mathematics, and received a bachelor's degree in 1881 and a master's degree in 1885. She later became president of the Smith Alumnae Association. After further study at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, the University of Leipzig in Germany, and the Sorbonne in France, she received a doctorate degree in civil law from the University of the South. Excluding the time she took off to pursue her master's degree and advanced study in Europe, Gill taught mathematics at Miss Capen's School in Northampton, Massachusetts, where Smith is located, from 1881-98.

In 1898, at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, Gill joined the Red Cross and was part of the first group of nurses sent to Cuba. She was responsible for hospital affairs there, selecting and placing nurses in army hospitals—a position she later continued in New York and Tennessee. Gill was also put in charge of the Cuban Orphan Society, through which she helped to secure homes and education for orphans. Her work in Cuba established her reputation as both an educator and a leader, and in 1901, she was appointed dean of Barnard.

Under Gill's leadership, Barnard's campus expanded in size to three-and-a-half acres after a generous donation by Elizabeth Milbank Anderson, who also funded Milbank Hall. The College's endowment grew to over half a million dollars, thanks in part to John D. Rockefeller. Enrollment increased as well, necessitating the construction of a new residence hall, Brooks Hall. Barnard's Greek Games were also launched during her tenure. Gill resigned in 1907.


Virginia Crocheron Gildersleeve, 1911-1947

Virginia Crocheron Gildersleeve, 1937.
Photograph by Pach Brothers, courtesy of the Barnard College Archives

Virginia Crocheron Gildersleeve was born in 1877, the daughter of Judge Henry Alger Gildersleeve and Virginia Crocheron, and grew up in New York City. She attended Barnard because her mother wanted her to stay close to home. In fact, Gildersleeve commuted to Barnard and continued to live at home with her parents for years, even after she was appointed dean of the College. She later moved into a duplex apartment on Barnard's campus, where the Vagelos Alumnae Center is now housed. She graduated first in her class in 1899 and later enrolled in graduate school at Columbia, where she received a master's degree in history in 1900 and a Ph.D. in English in 1909. She taught at both Columbia and Barnard before being appointed assistant professor of English at Barnard, and in 1911, Columbia University President Nicholas Murray Butler, her former professor at Barnard, named her dean. Despite the wishes of parents and the Board of Trustees, Gildersleeve did not prevent her students from becoming politically active. Later, in the years leading up to World War II, Gildersleeve urged students to resist being closed-minded, telling them to avoid believing only official propaganda and discounting other views. "More than anything else in the world," she said, "I want to preserve for Barnard the utmost freedom of discussion, and I ask the cooperation of all in preserving this freedom."

Gildersleeve fought for the rights of Barnard women and female students everywhere. Thanks to her work, many of Columbia's professional schools, such as the School of Journalism, were opened to women. Later, she also fought to open the medical, law, and engineering schools to women. Her work affected other women's colleges as well. In 1924, she formed the Seven Sisters association, which included Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Radcliffe, Smith, Vassar, and Wellesley Colleges. Gildersleeve helped women to gain positions in the sciences during World War II, arguing that highly trained scientists were needed to win the war and that without female scientists, the country would not have enough. As a result of the war and Gildersleeve's work, many Barnard graduates were able to find jobs. Gildersleeve even helped to found the Navy's female reserve officers' corps, known as WAVES. In 1945, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed her to the United States delegation to author the United Nations Charter, where she insisted on the creation of the Commission on Human Rights (which later produced the Declaration of Human Rights). She also served as chair of the American Council on Education and twice as president of the International Federation of University Women.

Gildersleeve fought for the rights of married women at Barnard, as she believed that a woman's marital status was personal and should not affect her employment. In the 1910s, the New York City public school system did not allow married women to teach, and in 1906, then-Dean Laura Drake Gill forced physicist Harriet Brooks to resign when Brooks announced that she was getting married. Under Gildersleeve, married women and even mothers were allowed on the College's faculty. She also saw the injustice of allowing faculty members paid leaves of absence for being ill but not allowing new mothers the same benefits. As such, she persuaded the Board of Trustees to allow new mothers a one-term leave of absence with full pay or a full year off with half pay. In 1947, after achieving much for the College, she retired from her position as dean after 36 years of service.

Millicent Carey McIntosh, 1952-1962

McIntosh 56
Millicent Carey McIntosh, 1956.
Photographs by Manny Warman, courtesy of the Barnard College Archives.

Millicent Carey McIntosh, a native of Baltimore, was chosen from more than 60 candidates to become the fourth dean of Barnard in October 1947. She was later named the first president of the College in 1952, and she served in both roles until 1962. McIntosh was one of the most beloved and inspiring of all of Barnard's leaders, with her friendly and approachable demeanor prompting many to address her as"Mrs. Mac." Her achievements as Dean were numerous. She sought to advance the education of women and firmly believed that one needed training as a scholar in order to fulfill one's role as a person.

McIntosh, who was married to pediatrician Rustin McIntosh and had four sons and one daughter, was the first dean at any of the Seven Sisters colleges to be both a wife and a mother. She was a graduate of and later a teacher and acting dean at Bryn Mawr, received her Ph.D. in English from Johns Hopkins, and served as head of the Brearley School for Girls in Manhattan for 17 years. During her tenure at Barnard, she took on the monumental task of procuring greater funding so that Barnard could renovate and increase space and salaries. She launched Operation Bootstrap, a development fund campaign that, with help from donors like John D. Rockefeller and Barnard alumnae, raised $1.7 million. This money went toward the remodeling of Milbank Hall, including the addition of the Minor Latham Playhouse in 1953; the building of Lehman Hall in 1959; and the construction of Reid Hall in September 1961. McIntosh was also instrumental in centralizing all gifts to Barnard through the Barnard Fund and in forming the first long-range development plans for the College. She was a strong advocate for greater cooperation with Columbia, but in a way that allowed Barnard to maintain its integrity and independence.

Although McIntosh believed that happiness and fulfillment may or may not lie in a career, her successful balance of marriage, children, and career made her a role model to students. She saw education as a way to prepare young women for the complicated balancing act of life.


Rosemary Park, 1962-1967

Rosemary Park 1962
Rosemary Park, 1962.
Photograph by Jack Mitchell, courtesy of the Barnard College Archives.

Rosemary Park became president of Barnard after Millicent McIntosh retired in 1962. Her father, Dr. J. Edward Park, was president of Wheaton College, and at the time that she became president of Barnard, her brother was president of Simmons College in Boston. She graduated summa cum laude from Radcliffe College in 1928 with a degree in German and received her master's degree in 1929. She studied in Germany at the University of Bonn and the University of Cologne, where she earned her Ph.D. in 1934. She taught German at Wheaton and later at Connecticut College. There, she held a series of positions: dean of freshmen, academic dean, acting president, and finally president. While at Connecticut College, which was all-women at the time, she established Connecticut College for Men and later admitted men as graduate students. She served as president there from 1947 to 1962, strengthening the curriculum, adding new buildings, and raising large amounts of funds.

Park continued that work at Barnard. She encouraged students to pursue degrees in the sciences and fought for Barnard to have its own new science laboratory, despite discouragement from Columbia, which felt that its existing labs were sufficient. She believed that by continuing not to have its own lab, Barnard would be conveying the message "that it didn't believe in science for women." Furthermore, she encouraged women to study subjects such as advanced mathematics and foreign languages in order to fill society's need for scientists and linguists. After leaving Barnard, she went on to UCLA, where she served as vice chancellor and later as a professor. At UCLA, she helped establish the Plato Society, an academic program for retired persons. As a member of the Society, Park took courses until her death in 2004 at the age of 97.


Martha Peterson, 1968-1975

Peterson 1968
Martha Peterson, ca. 1968.
Photograph by Bradford Bachrach, courtesy of the Barnard College Archives.

Martha Peterson, who served as president of Barnard from 1967-75, was chosen after a nationwide search. The first Midwesterner to lead Barnard, Peterson was described as being straightforward, down-to-earth, and very warm. She guided the College through difficult years, when demonstrations and protests against the Vietnam War were raging all around. Rather than stifle her students and ignore their political beliefs, she decided to hold a town hall meeting to let them speak their minds. She approved of students' right to protest, so long as these protests did not become negative and self-defeating. She also recognized the value of having student input on decision-making committees. Her philosophy was that administrative changes should come about through consensus based on the participation of students, faculty, and trustees.

Born in 1916 in Jamestown, Kansas, Peterson graduated from the University of Kansas in 1937 and received her master's degree in educational psychology in 1943. She became the dean of women there in 1952 and later took on a similar role at the University of Wisconsin. After earning her doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Kansas in 1959, she arrived at Barnard as a highly accomplished scholar with extensive experience working with and addressing the needs of female students. She left Barnard in 1975 to become president of Beloit College in Wisconsin.

While at Barnard, Peterson successfully defended the College's interests in its relationship with Columbia. She fought to expand cross-registration so students at both schools could take an unlimited number of courses at either, and she also regularized the College's relationship with the University with regard to payment for the use of Columbia's facilities. Throughout her tenure, she was able to maintain Barnard's stability in troubled times while increasing its luster as a top women's college.


Jacquelyn Mattfeld, 1976-1980

Mattfeld 1976
Jacquelyn Mattfeld, 1976.
Photograph by Warren Jagger, courtesy of the Barnard College Archives.

Jacquelyn Mattfeld became president of the College on July 1, 1976, at a time when Columbia University was eyeing Barnard acquisitively.

Born on October 5, 1925, in Baltimore, Mattfeld received a diploma from the Peabody Conservatory of Music in 1947 and her bachelor's degree from Goucher College in 1948. She went on to earn her Ph.D. from Yale in 1959. Later, as associate dean of student affairs at MIT, she was responsible for overseeing both graduate and undergraduate women. She also served as provost and dean of faculty at Sarah Lawrence College in 1965, on the Brown University faculty in 1971, and as dean of Brown in 1974.

Mattfeld's extensive leadership experience at other top institutions made her a good fit for Barnard, which needed a strong leader who could stand up to the demands being made by Columbia President William J. McGill. McGill envisioned a full merger of Columbia and Barnard by 1985, and tensions built between the two schools as Mattfeld stressed the College's autonomy, bringing negotiations to a halt for a while. Eventually, she was able to gain support for a partnership rather than a merger. After reviewing Barnard's intercorporate agreement with Columbia, she had the Barnard Board of Trustees write a mandate affirming the College's independence.

Mattfeld resigned in 1981, saying that her goals had been accomplished and that, most importantly, Barnard would maintain its position as a prestigious institution of women's higher education.


Ellen V. Futter, 1981-1993

Futter 1984
Ellen V. Futter, 1984.
Courtesy of the Barnard College Archives.

In 1981, Trustee Ellen V. Futter was named the ninth leader and fifth president of Barnard, a post she went on to hold for 13 years. A native New Yorker, Futter graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude from Barnard in 1971 and earned her J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1974. First elected to the Board of Trustees as a student representative, she soon became a full board member.

When she was inaugurated, Futter was, at age 31, the youngest person ever to assume the presidency of a major American college. Barnard survived the difficult decade of the 1980s under her determined leadership. She preserved the College's independence from Columbia when the latter decided to admit women in 1983, and in the wake of that decision, she helped to establish a new affiliation accord between the two institutions. She launched a major fundraising campaign, accepted the recommendation of a faculty committee on a maternity- and parental-leave policy in 1985, and, in a most daring decision, embarked on the construction of a new dormitory, Sulzberger Hall, for which Barnard did not yet have sufficient funds. She was a provocateur for change, advancing the institution while staying true to its history and its mission.

In 1993, Futter left Barnard to become president of the American Museum of Natural History. She is also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Widely recognized as a dynamic voice for education, she has been awarded numerous honorary degrees and is the recipient of the National Institute of Social Science's Gold Medal Award and the National Organization of Women's Eleanor Roosevelt Leadership Award. In 2009, she was elected to the American Philosophical Society, a prestigious organization founded by Benjamin Franklin.


Judith R. Shapiro, 1994-2008

Shapiro 1997
Judith R. Shapiro, 1997.
Photograph by Joyce Ravid, courtesy of the Barnard College Archives.

Judith Shapiro, who arrived at Barnard in 1994, was the College's first president to have been educated in the New York City public school system. In addition to being a respected anthropologist, she is known for her work in women's education, community development, and advocacy in New York. In 1998, she was named one of Vanity Fair's "200 Most Influential Women in America." Shapiro graduated magna cum laude from Brandeis University and earned her Ph.D. from Columbia. In 1970, she became the first woman to be appointed to the department of anthropology at the University of Chicago, and in 1975, she joined the Bryn Mawr faculty. Later, she became chair of the anthropology department at Bryn Mawr, then served as acting dean of the undergraduate college for a year before becoming provost in 1986, a position she held for eight years.

Under Shapiro, Barnard made incredible advances in several areas. The number of applicants doubled, resulting in the College becoming increasingly selective. Additionally, Barnard became more financially secure than it had ever been, more than doubling its endowment to $171 million and doubling the number of alumnae who made donations. The curriculum was also refined under her leadership, with the creation of the "Nine Ways of Knowing." Shapiro's dedication to ensuring technological fluency among students led to the establishment of the Barnard Electronic Archive and Teaching Laboratory, which uses technology to enhance education. She also launched a major building and restoration project, which included the construction of the Diana Center. Additionally, in June 2007, Shapiro joined the presidents of several other liberal arts colleges in announcing that Barnard would no longer participate in U.S. News and World Report's annual college rankings.

The various groups of which she is a member are evidence of Shapiro's dedication to New York City. She serves on the board of the Fund for the City of New York, on the executive committee of the board of the New York Building Congress, and on the New York State Leadership Council for the development of a women's museum in the city. She is also a partner in the New York City Partnership and Chamber of Commerce and a member of the advisory committee of Save the Children (Every Mother/Every Child). Shapiro's dedication to Barnard's role in the world beyond its gates led to the launch of a major public forum on women's advancement. In 2001, she established the Barnard Summit, which drew over 1,000 people in its first year and featured panelists such as activist Marian Wright Edelman and former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.

Shapiro has received numerous awards and distinctions, including the National Institute of Social Sciences' Gold Medal Award for her contributions to women's education in 2002. In 2003, she was elected to the American Philosophical Society. She has also served as president of the American Ethnological Society and was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences and the American Council of Learned Societies. She has had articles published in the New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education, and her views have been cited in the Christian Science Monitor, the Boston Globe, and U.S. News and World Report, among other publications. She is also the editor of Source of the Spring: Mothers Through the Eyes of Women Writers, a collection of essays, many of which were written by Barnard alumnae and faculty.


Debora L. Spar, 2008-present

Debora L. Spar  became the seventh president of Barnard College on July 1, 2008.

Since her arrival at the College, Spar has been a vocal proponent of women’s education and leadership, spearheading initiatives that include the Athena Center for Leadership Studies, an interdisciplinary center devoted to the theory and practice of women's leadership, and Barnard’s Global Symposium series, an annual gathering of high-profile and accomplished female leaders held each year in a different region of the world.

A political scientist by training, Spar’s scholarly research focuses on issues of international political economy, examining how rules are established in new or emerging markets and how firms and governments together shape the evolving global economy. She is the author of numerous books, including Ruling the Waves: Cycles of Invention, Chaos, and Wealth from the Compass to the Internet(2001) and The Baby Business: How Money, Science, and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception (2006). Her next book, titled Wonder Women: Sex, Power and the Quest for Perfection, is due to be published in September 2013.

Spar is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and received her doctorate in government from Harvard. She is a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences and currently serves as a trustee of the Nightingale-Bamford School and a director of Goldman Sachs. Prior to coming to Barnard, Spar was the Spangler Family Professor of Business Administration and had served as senior associate dean for faculty research and development at Harvard Business School. At Harvard she taught courses on the politics of international business, comparative capitalism, and economic development.