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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
In celebration of the appointment of Professor Carol A. Gilligan to a newly endowed chair in gender studies at the Graduate School of Education (GSE), a panel entitled "Gender Matters" was held last night in a packed Longfellow Hall.
The chair is the University's first in gender studies and is named for Patricia Albjerg Graham, the dean of the education school from 1982 to 1991. She was the first and only woman to serve as a dean of a school at Harvard.
The $2.5 million endowment for the chair was the gift of Elisabeth A. Hobbs and Emily Fisher, both of whom are GSE alumni and two other female donors who wished to remain anonymous.
In his opening remarks, Dean of the Graduate School of Education Jerome T. Murphy said the chair was named for Graham by the four women "to honor her life and her superb leadership of the school."
In 1972, while Graham and Gilligan were new members of the faculty at the GSE, neither one was permitted to enter the Harvard Faculty Club through the front door.
Graham recounted this anecdote as evidence of the historic importance of Gilligan's appointment to an unprecedented chair position at Harvard.
"This will legitimize gender studies," Graham said.
Gilligan was chosen as the chair in part for her pioneering research on women's and girls' psychological and moral development.
Panelist Gloria Steinem, the renowned women's activist and writer, said that Gilligan has had a profound impact on gender studies.
The GSE has a long tradition of including women and recognizing their importance to co-education.
The GSE established Harvard's first co-educational student body in 1920. Today, 32 percent of tenured professors at the Graduate School of Education are women, versus 12.5 percent for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Gilligan stressed the impact that this new chair will have not just on the field and the GSE, but on Harvard as a whole.
"Harvard before was looking at the world through one eye, one could say, and now the other eye has opened," Gilligan said.
Panelist Cornel R. West '74, professor of Afro-American studies, also emphasized his feelings on the historic importance of Gilligan's appointment and the creation of the chair.
"I'm here because this is a historical moment-and I didn't want to miss out," West said.
"I cannot but think of the women of all colors who have suffered so much to push Harvard a little bit," he added.
Mary Maples Dunn, the director of Radcliffe's Schlesinger Library, emphasized that women could play a leading role in changing the system at Harvard.
"It is a good step for Harvard and I am thrilled it was all brought about by women," she said.
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