Wellesley College Presidents

President History

Kim Bottomly

H. Kim Bottomly, a renowned immunobiologist and former deputy provost at Yale University, is the thirteenth president of Wellesley College, a position she assumed on Aug. 1, 2007. A Montana native, Bottomly graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in zoology and earned her doctorate in biological structure from the University of Washington School of Medicine. Before joining the Yale faculty in 1980, she did postdoctoral work in immunology at the National Institutes of Health. In her role as deputy provost for science, technology and faculty development at Yale, Bottomly was responsible for an array of academic, administrative and budgetary activities across many departments and divisions. She also initiated and oversaw efforts to enhance faculty career development and was instrumental in Yale’s efforts to recruit and retain women in the sciences and underrepresented minorities in all fields. A lifelong scientist and educator, Bottomly’s research has focused on the molecular and cellular factors that influence the initiation of immune responses. She was the principal investigator on five grants from the National Institutes of Health, led a 16-person laboratory at the Yale Medical School, and has written more than 160 peer-reviewed articles.

Diana Chapman Walsh
1993 - 2007
Wellesley class of 1966

Diana Chapman Walsh was the twelfth president of Wellesley and the fourth alumna to head the college. During her tenure, the college undertook a number
of new initiatives, including a revision of the curriculum and expanded programs in global education, experiential and service learning, and technology-assisted teaching and learning. Other important innovations during this period included the opening of the Davis Museum and Cultural Center and the Wang Campus Center, the establishment of the Religious and Spiritual Life Program, the construction of the Knapp Media and Technology Center and the Knapp Social Science Center, the creation of the annual Ruhlman and Tanner Conferences on student research and learning, and other initiatives designed to strengthen the quality of campus intellectual life. During her tenure, Wellesley’s endowment grew from $485 million to $1.6 billion, and the College set a record for fundraising by a liberal arts college, with gifts and pledges to its five-year campaign totaling $472.3 million. An English major at Wellesley, Walsh earned a master's in journalism and a Ph.D. in Health Policy from Boston University. She taught at Boston University's School of Public Health and chaired the
Department of Health and Social Behavior at Harvard's School of Public Health. She is a trustee of Amherst College and a director of State Street Corporation.
Nannerl Overholser Keohane
1981 - 1993
Wellesley class of 1961
Nannerl Overholser Keohane '61 participated in the Washington Internship Program while a student. She attended Oxford University on a Marshall Scholarship before getting her Ph.D. at Yale. She taught political science at Swarthmore, the University of Pennsylvania, and Stanford before returning to Wellesley College as its eleventh President. Under her leadership, Wellesley
embraced multiculturalism. The College's sports facilities were vastly improved during her tenure and the Davis Museum and Cultural Center was built. The
first-year cluster program and the writing and multicultural requirements were instituted. Advances in technology included automation of the library's catalog, the beginning of the campus-wide information system, and the installation of the satellite dish. Keohane left Wellesley in 1993 to become the first woman President of Duke University.
Barbara W. Newell
1972 -1980
Barbara Newell, an economist, was educated at Vassar and the University of Wisconsin. Before coming to Wellesley College, Newell taught and served as
Assistant to the President at the University of Michigan and as Associate Provost at the University of Pittsburgh. During her term, Wellesley celebrated
its centennial, and Newell served as an advocate for women's education. The Center for Research on Women opened. Science facilities were greatly expanded and brought together in one place with the construction of the Science Center. The Clapp Library also was significantly enlarged. From 1979-1981 Newell was the first woman to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the United
Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). After leaving Wesley College, Newell served as the Chancellor of the State University System of Florida (1981-85), and taught economics.
Ruth M. Adams
1966 - 1972
Ruth Adams was President of Wellesley during a turbulent period in American history. An alumna of Adelphi College with a master's from Columbia and Ph.D. from Radcliffe, Adams taught Victorian literature at the University of Rochester, and served as Dean of Douglass College before coming to Wellesley. During
her administration, student participation in the governance of the College increased; the faculty/student agreement on student government was revised, and students were permitted to serve on Trustee and Academic Council committees. Educational opportunities were broadened. A cross-registration program was established with M.I.T., and exchange programs were established with eleven other New England liberal arts institutions. The Continuing
Education Program was established. Wellesley decided to remain a single-sex institution. After leaving Wellesley, Adams became the first woman vice
president at Dartmouth College where they had just decided to admit women students. She died in Hanover, New Hampshire, in November 2004, at the ageof 90.
Margaret Clapp
Wellesley class of 1930
Wellesley's second alumna President, Margaret Clapp '30, received a master's and Ph.D. in history from Columbia University. Clapp taught history in NY City
schools and at CCNY, New Jersey College for Women, Columbia and Brooklyn College before returning to Wellesley. She won a Pulitzer Prize for her biography, Forgotten First Citizen: John Bigelow. During her term a number of changes were made to the campus. Bates, Freeman and McAfee, faculty housing, the Jewett Arts Center and a major addition to the Library were built,
and the campus road system was revised. Significant improvements were made to faculty salaries, and a system of leaves for junior faculty was instituted.
The amount available for financial aid to students was increased. The curriculum was expanded and its structure revised. After leaving Wellesley, Clapp served as principal of Lady Doak College in Madurai, India, and as U.S. cultural attaché to the U.S. embassy and head of the U.S. Information Agency's cultural operations in India. She died in 1974.
Mildred McAfee Horton
Mildred McAfee Horton, a Vassar alumna, received her master's from the University of Chicago. Before coming to Wellesley College she taught Economics and Sociology, and was Dean of Women at Center and Oberlin Colleges. McAfee was given a leave of absence during World War II to become the first Director of the WAVES, the women's branch of the Navy. For nearly
three years she divided her time between Wellesley and Washington. She was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 1945. McAfee wed Douglas Horton in 1945, the second Wellesley President to marry while in office. In 1946, Mrs. Horton served as a member of the American Education Mission to Japan. After leaving Wellesley, she served on a number of corporate, civic and educational boards. She was Vice President of the Federal Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches, and President of the American Board of
Commissioners for Foreign Missions. She died in September of 1994 at the age of 94.
Ellen Fitz Pendleton
Wellesley class of 1886
Wellesley's first alumna President, Ellen Pendleton '86, received both a B.A. and master's from Wellesley. She served as a member of the Mathematics Department and as Dean before becoming President. Pendleton has the distinction of having the longest term as Wellesley College President - 25 years! She brought the College through the College Hall fire in 1914, and the rebuilding of the dormitory, classroom and office facilities lost in that disaster. Under her administration, admission requirements and the curriculum were both liberalized. A program of honors in the major was begun. Under her
stewardship, the College survived the Depression without cuts in staff or salaries. She died just one month after retiring from Wellesley in 1936.
Caroline Hazard
Caroline Hazard was the first Wellesley President to have a formal inauguration. Hazard, who held no formal college degree, was responsible for putting the College back on a sound financial footing. Hazard hired the noted landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., to help develop the Wellesley College grounds. Under Hazards' aegis, and sometimes with her personal financial support, a number of buildings were constructed: the Observatory and Observatory House, the dormitories of the Hazard Quadrangle, and the Library. They carry her symbol, the scallop shell. She retired in 1910, but continued as a Wellesley College trustee until 1927. She died in 1945.
Julia Irvine
Julia Irvine a Cornell graduate and a Professor of Greek at Wellesley, continued to teach after her marriage to Charles J. Irvine. Her tenure as President at Wellesley was marked by great changes in the faculty. Many of the
early teachers who did not have formal training or college degrees were replaced with faculty who did have these credentials. Some of the rules for students such as mandatory Chapel attendance, domestic work, silent time, and the prohibition on Sunday library hours -- rules which had a "seminary" air -- were eliminated. After leaving Wellesley, Mrs. Irvine lived in France. She returned to Wellesley College in 1913-1914 to reorganize and teach in the French Department. She died March 14, 1930.
Helen Shafer
Helen Shafer, an Oberlin graduate, began her career at Wellesley as Professor of Mathematics. The chief achievement of her Presidency was a major change
in the College's curriculum that allowed more student electives. During her tenure, Wellesley established a psychological laboratory. Miss Shafer died suddenly in January 1894, the only Wellesley President to die while in office.
Alice Freeman Palmer
At age 27, Alice Freeman was Wellesley's youngest President. Among the first women to graduate from the University of Michigan, Freeman was teaching
history at Wellesley when Henry Fowle Durant died and Ada Howard left. During her years as President, faculty collegiality and responsibility were fostered. Academic Council was founded. As perhaps the most visible woman educator in the U.S., she played a major role in defining a community of educated women. Her Presidency ended in December 1887, a few days after
she married George Herbert Palmer, Professor of Philosophy at Harvard. She continued to serve Wellesley as a member of the Board of Trustees. From
1892-1894 she served as Dean of Women at the University of Chicago, which had just begun to admit women. She died in 1902 at the young age of 47.
Ada Howard
Ada Howard was a graduate of Mount Holyoke College. Howard had taught at Western College in Ohio, been the principal of the Woman's Department of Knox College in Illinois, and operated Ivy Hall, a school for girls in Bridgeton, New Jersey. Although she had the title of President, many of the decisions concerning the College were made by the College's founder, Henry Fowle Durant. Howard left Wellesley for health reasons shortly after the death of Mr. Durant in 1881. She lived quietly in New York City until her death in 1907.


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