Martha Peterson — A Biographical Note

Martha Peterson (1967-1975)

Biography
Born 1906, Jamestown, Kansas, daughter of a wheat farmer;
University of Kansas AB 1937
Taught high school mathematics for several years
University of Kansas, dean of women, 1952-57;
University of Wisconsin, dean of women, 1957-67
Earned PhD in educational psychology, 1959
Chosen Barnard’s 3rd president in fall of 1967 (age 61)

Selection
Seen as someone capable of dealing with students and experienced campus administrator;
academic credentials modest; new to New York and working with private-college trustees
Fall Semester 1967-68 –
MP arrives on campus to assume presidency
Wallace Jones elected chair of trustees

1968
Spring — Linda LeClair suspended for lying about her off-campus living arrangements
April 23-24 – Student march on Gym Site and occupation of 5 Columbia buildings;
April 29 – MP inauguration
April 30 — 115 Barnard students arrested when police cleared Columbia buildings

Fall – Plimpton Hall opened and dedicated
Change in residence regulations allowing off-campus residency with parental approval.

1969
October 15 – Moratorium Day for protesting Vietnam War

1970
May – last weeks of class and Commencement disrupted by Cambodia
incursion and Kent State killings
June – Boorse retired as dean of faculty à LeRoy Breunig appointed
November 13/14 – McIntosh and Altschul opened and dedicated

 

1971
Fall – Barnard Women’s Center opened
MP in negotiations with Columbia about financial arrangements and greater
curricular cooperation/coordination; regarded highly by CU president McGill

1972
Spring – Ellen V. Futter ’71 elected to board

1973
October – William T. Golden elected to board
December – Eleanor Elliott elected chair of board
December – Helene Kaplan elected to board

 

1974
November – New board chair Elliott suggests MP look for another position
MP in China; Arthur Altschul elected to board

1975
June 24 – MP resignation to accept presidency of Beloit College; widely seen as being
pushed out by Elliott and a faculty contingent with the Board’s ear
Peterson’s departure
Caught in Trustee division
Wallace Jones/Francis Plimpton/Robert Huguet – supportive of MP — McGill, too
Plimpton polling of faculty on MP — finds wide support
Eleanor Elliott/Blanche Graubard opposed to her – had allies in one part of History Department
Fall 1974 – new chair of trustees EE suggests MP should resign
Complaints: deficit budgets; too cozy with CU; away from campus too much on national affairs
May 1975 – Faculty petition supportive of MP Faculty petition
June 24 – Peterson accepts Beloit offer
June 26 – Faculty Minute commending MP
November 7 – EE to alumnae group: not to merge; to undergo “creative retrenchment”

November 12 – Trustees name Jacquelyn Mattfeld Barnard’s next president

MP serves as president of Beloit, 1975-1981; then retired; died in 2006.

Last updated: March 28, 2015
ram31@columbia.edu

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