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Records of the President's Office

Identifier: 1DB11-Keohane

Scope and Content

The majority of these records date from Nannerl Keohane's arrival as President of Wellesley July 1, 1981, through her departure the end of June 1993. There is some material dating from December 1980 when Keohane's appointment was announced, and a small amount from the months following her departure.

The records of the President's Office are primarily those of Keohane, but the files of others (Vanessa Allyene, Gwendolyn Bookman, Katherine MacDonald, et. al.), generally assistants to the President, are often mixed in. In some cases the creator of the files is clear, but in others it is not. In general, the records are arranged alphabetically in a single subject file. Where there is more than one folder on the same subject, they are arranged chronologically. Restricted materials have been removed from the main sequence, as have two boxes of materials of unusual sizes. One of these contains ledgers and a shirt. The other contains a file of index cards. Notice of removal is given with explanation of the new location and method of access.

The files relate to almost every aspect of college life, but there are concentrations of material in some key areas.

As chief executive officer, Keohane chaired groups which oversaw the management of the college. There are extensive Senior Staff files including agendas and minutes, reports and correspondence. Academic Council and Administrative Council materials are here as well, but not as complete as those of Senior Staff. Keohane also served as an ex officio member of the Board of Trustees. The Trustee and Trustee Committee files are in the restricted portion of the collection.

Although the Dean of the College is the chief academic officer of the college, the president's files include materials on academic departments (annual reports, correspondence and information about programs), materials on faculty (benefits, salaries, publications, etc.) and faculty workload committee files. There are also files on academic opportunities for students: foreign study, internships, research projects, scholarships and preparation for graduate school.

During Keohane's tenure at Wellesley there was a great emphasis on strengthening the college's diversity and multiculturalism in general. This emphasis is reflected in the files. Both Vanessa Allyene and Gwendolyn Bookman served as Assistant to the President and Affirmative Action Office. Their files are included as are files relating to Consortium for a Strong Minority Presence at Liberal Arts Colleges, Minority Scholars in Residence, the Task Force on Racism and various multicultural programs.

During the 1980s there was a growing anger on campuses in the United States and throughout much of the population against apartheid in South Africa. There was great pressure on investors to divest themselves of companies doing business in South Africa. Wellesley College's Trustee Committee on Investment had an advisory subcommittee on Social Responsibility in South Africa. Files of this committee are in the restricted portion of the collection, but much of the correspondence and published material is available in the main trustee collection. The president's files also have general material on South Africa and South African student programs.

The president of a college also serves as its foremost representative. In this role Keohane was involved with a number of national and regional organizations relating to higher education. Some of the most active of these were: the Consortium for a Strong Minority Presence at Liberal Arts Colleges, Learned Colleagues, the Seven College Conference and the Oberlin Group. These groups shared ideas and information about similar challenges and new initiatives, and in some instances made joint proposals for funding.

Keohane also served on other boards as a representative of Wellesley College and the academic world. These included: IBM Corporation, State Street Boston Corporation, WGBH Broadcasting and the Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institute.

The president also serves as representative of the college for alumnae, parents and others. This is particularly clear in the events surrounding Commencement 1990. First Lady Barbara Bush was announced as commencement speaker. A number of students felt she was not the best choice as she gained her fame through her husband. The press and many others, including alumnae, were outraged. There are many clippings and letters on this topic.

There a number of files on various aspects of the college's relationship with its graduates: Alumnae Association, Alumnae Leadership Council, Reunions and Wellesley Clubs from all over the world.

Finally the president serves as chief fundraiser with the strong support of the Resources staff. It is the president who takes trips and makes appeals and speeches to foundations, corporations, alumnae and friends regarding the mission and dreams of Wellesley College. Keohane might well have breakfast in New York City, lunch in Philadelphia and dinner in Pittsburgh always presenting opportunities for contributing to the Wellesley community through financial aid, a professorship/chair, an academic program or an additional to the facilities. There are numerous files relating to these trips, found under Capital Campaign, Dialogue Dinners, Resources and Trips. Portions of these files which relate to individual donors are found in the restricted portion of the collection. Similarly, not all resources files are under Resources; others can be found under Durant Society, Founders or Parents Committee, etc. Again, that material relating to specific donors has been restricted.

Keohane was particularly successful at the fund raising aspect of her job. The Campaign for $150 Million more than met its goal. Donors helped fund the Sports Center, the Davis Museum and the Jewett Arts Center, the addition to the Science Center, the computer network system and Continuing Education.


  • 1974-1999
  • Majority of material found within 1981 - 1993


The following types of materials are restricted:

1. Student records generated and maintained by the college covered by FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act): grades, work, faculty/class evaluations, questionnaires, recommendations, et cetera.

2. Minutes and other records of the Board of Trustees. Access to this material is granted only through the Trustees. Requests for access should be directed to the Clerk of the Board of Trustees.

3. Information relating to specific salaries, pensions or financial transactions between the College and individual employees.

4. Materials relating to reappointment, promotion and tenure.

5. Recommendations and performance evaluation of individual employees, as well as evaluations of candidates for College positions.

6. Materials published by consortia of colleges and universities, specifically the Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE) and the Higher Education Data Sharing (HEDS), which conduct surveys of various institutes promising confidentially.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright in some papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright before publishing quotations from any material in the collection.

Biographical/Historical Note

Nannerl O. Keohane took office as the eleventh President of Wellesley College on July 1, 1981. A member of the class of 1961, she was the third alumna to serve in this position. A Political Science major at Wellesley, she continued her studies on a Marshall Scholarship at Oxford University and a Sterling Fellowship at Yale University. Before returning to Wellesley College, Keohane taught at Swarthmore College, University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University.

President Keohane, known to the Wellesley community as Nan, brought a renewed sense of energy and excitement to campus. She was outgoing and seemed tireless. The president's role as chief executive officer under the Board of Trustees tied her to every part of the community from applicant to alumna. She traveled widely, strengthening bonds with alumnae, raising funds from alumnae, corporations and foundations, and generally spreading the word about Wellesley College. Keohane also held an appointment in the Political Science department and found the time to teach an occasional seminar some semesters.

The President oversees all aspects of community life and the college's senior staff. The positions that report directly to the President were Assistant to the President and Affirmative Action Officer, Secretary of the College and Clerk of the Board of Trustees and Art Museum Director.

The expansion of the curriculum that had started in the 1970s continued. The faculty and administration focused on retaining the best interdisciplinary and new programs and reconsidering those that were less successful. The interdisciplinary Freshman Cluster and Women's Studies were developed during Keohane's tenure. As efforts to recruit and retain a more diverse Wellesley community intensified, multiculturalism became an integral part of the curriculum. By 1988 a multicultural distribution requirement was in place. By the 1980s technology was no longer essential only to scientists and mathematicians, it too gained a primary position in the curriculum. A Computer Science major was in place by 1981 and a Technology Studies Program, supported by the Sloan Foundation, was in place by 1984. Nan noted in her 1984-1985 President's Report that Technology Studies is "designed to introduce students in the humanities and social sciences to technological modes of thought." Exchanges with other colleges and universities, cross enrollment programs, internships and foreign study added new ways of gaining knowledge.

The willingness and enthusiasm of the faculty toward all these new approaches to learning emphasize their dedication to teaching, but many felt the need to spend more time on their own research. In June 1981 (just before Keohane arrived) the first of many Pinanski Teaching Awards were given and the Brachman-Hoffman Fund established by alumna Marilyn Brachman-Hoffiman was granting research funds to individual faculty members. Still some faculty felt they were constantly short on time trying to focus on teaching, research and committee work. Those recruiting new faculty felt their first choices were going elsewhere because of the heavy commitment of time. In 1987 a committee was formed to investigate the faculty workload. In 1988 a four-course workload was approved. Some small departments suffered because there were not enough faculty to teach all the necessary courses.

By 1990 33% of the incoming class was drawn from minority groups (Asian American, Black, Hispanic, Native American) and 24 foreign countries were represented. The non-traditional student population grew as well. In 1990 the Continuing Education Program celebrated its 20th year. Elisabeth Davis and her husband Stanton Davis designated a large portion of their $10 million gift for financial aid and housing for the program. Continuing education students became known as Davis Scholars. Several housing options were added for all students and student organizations proliferated.

The cost of higher education grew in the late 1979s and 1980s, while investments were quite volatile. In 1982 the Trustees imposed an endowment spending cap. Tuition and fees crept up, but the college was still committed to need-blind admissions. Launched in April 1989, the Campaign for $150 Million was successfully completed in the 1991-1992 academic year. The Committee for Wellesley in the 1990s was formed in 1990 and began a highly participatory study of the college and its needs. The final report was released in February 1992 and many of its recommendations were acted upon. Significant reorganization followed and many in the administration took advantage of a Volunteer Incentive Payment Program (VIPP) for retirement. Approximately half were replaced.

The campus facilities grew and changed during Keohane's tenure as President. A number of renovations were completed, ranging from the dormitories to the Jewett/Pendleton Arts Center. Several new facilities were added to the campus including the new Sports Center, the Davis Museum and Cultural Center, a campus day care center and Nehoiden House. Computer facilities were vastly expanded, the library catalog system was automated and the first phase of a campus wide telecommunications system was completed.

History of the Office

1875-1881 Ada Howard

1881-1887 Alice Freeman Palmer

1887-1894 Helen Shafer

1894-1899 Julia Irvine

1899-1910 Caroline Hazard

1911-1936 Ellen Fitz Pendleton

1936-1949 Mildred McAfee Horton

1949-1966 Margaret Clapp

1966-1972 Ruth Adams

1972-1981 Barbara W. Newell

1981-1993 Nannerl O. Keohane


74.5 Linear Feet ( (232 boxes))

Language of Materials



Records of the President's Office during the administration of Nannerl O. Keohane (1981-1993) consisting of correspondence, reports, statistics, minutes, and bylaws; arranged alphabetically by subject; concerning Academic Council and its committees, academic departments, buildings and grounds, admission policies, relations with the Alumnae Association, and administration.

The records contain some material from the previous and following administrations.


The records are arranged alphabetically by subject. Where there is more than one folder on the same subject, they are arranged chronologically. Restricted materials have been removed from the main sequence.

Acquisition Information

Transferred from the President's Office, 1983-1999.
Records of the President's Office, 1974-1999, bulk 1981-1993: a guide.
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Wellesley College Archives Repository