Ada Comstock Dies at 97


Ada Comstock Notestein, whose leadership as Radcliffe's first full-time president set the stage for the historic 1947 Harvard-Radcliffe merger, died last week.

Death came last Tuesday night at her home in New Haven, Conn. She was 97 years old.

Those who she worked with were uniform in their praise for Notestein, who took office in 1923 and stepped down in 1943.

Former President James B. Conant '14, who administered Harvard while Notestein led thousands of women one-quarter of a mile away, cited her "lasting contributions" to American education and to Radcliffe.

Wilbur K. Jordan, Notestein's successor, called her "one of the great women of our generation."


Indeed, Notestein was a pioneer and her achievements enduring; under the 1947 concordat for which she laid the groundwork, Radcliffe women were first admitted to the same classes attended by Harvard students. From the founding of Radcliffe in 1891 until the merger, the College had hired Harvard instructors to repeat their classes at Radcliffe.

Since 1947, Harvard and Radcliffe have moved ever closer to full merger, with Harvard degrees going to Radcliffe graduates in 1962 and the Houses becoming coed in 1971.

Notestein came to Radcliffe from Smith College, her alma mater, where she was dean. Born on Dec. 11, 1876, she graduated from Smith in 1897, received her M.A. in English at Columbia in 1899 and from there went to the University of Minnesota as an instructor in English and the school's first dean of women.

At Radcliffe's 75th anniversary in 1966, she received the Founder's Award. It stated: "Superb master of English prose, wise teacher, witty and gentle friend in whose presence either sensed their breadth and worth, Radcliffe is honored to acknowledge her contributions to its academic life."

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