Wilson Taps Former Colleague for Radcliffe

When reporters received a tip that the new president of Radcliffe would come from the University of Michigan, at least one professor there was sure of the choice.

"Robin Jacoby," said the history professor. At the time, Jacoby was the special assistant to Michigan's president.

But one day later, the Radcliffe Board of Trustees announced that Linda S. Wilson, Michigan's vice president for research, would become the school's seventh chief executive.

Still, the Michigan professor was not so far off the mark, as Radcliffe officials announced this week that Jacoby would become the school's first vice president for college relations.

And, say some Radcliffe observers, Jacoby could end up playing a significant role in the school whose chief post went to her former Michigan colleague.

Jacoby, who is a lecturer in Michigan's history department, has been described by her co-workers as a "strong feminist" who helped to establish the school's women's studies program.

Other Michigan professors describe Jacoby as a "behind the scenes" kind of administrator who has been President James Duderstadt's "right hand man."

"She's not so visible [as Wilson was, but] she is considered a feminist and, in the past, would occasionally teach a course on women's studies," says Martha Vicinus, a professor of English and women's studies at Michigan.

Ironically, Jacoby's experience with women's studies and personal identification with feminism are just the characteristics that many Radcliffe affiliates had urged the search committee to consider when making the decision on a new president.

When the Board of Trustees chose Wilson for the post, some undergraduates said they were concerned that she would be more interested in fundraising than in the lives of Harvard women.

But Wilson has said this fall that identifying the concerns of women at the University is a high priority for Radcliffe in the future.

"I want to identify concerns and aspirations," Wilson says. "We really want to bring the opportunities to the undergraduates."

In addition, Wilson has publicized her office hours for undergraduates all around campus, encouraging students to visit her and offer their ideas.

Reaching Out to Undergraduates

Jacoby's appointment comes in the midst of these attempts to reach out to the undergraduate community, and Wilson says she hopes the new position will be a central one in helping set a direction for her fledgling administration.

Wilson told The Gazette this week that Jacoby "brings an unusual combination of skills and experience to this unique institution...Her experience in teaching scholarship will add strength to our pursuit of Radcliffe's mission."

Although Jacoby's main responsibilities will involve Radcliffe's newly restructured development program, alumni affairs and public information office, she says she will begin her job by looking at the Harvard-Radcliffe relationship.

"The main thing will be to develop as full an understanding as I can of Radcliffe and its relation to Harvard and of what life is like for an undergraduate today," Jacoby says.