Rosemary Park

  1. The Rosemary Park Interregnum

In 1960, when her husband reached the mandatory retirement age of 65 and prepared to leave his deanship of  Columbia’s  Babies Hospital, Millicent McIntosh informed her trustees that she wished to accompany him into retirement .  Mrs. Reid persuaded her to remain until a replacement could be found, a process in which she was asked to participate.

A year later the presidential search committee had found its candidate, Rosemary Park, a 50-year-old scholar of German literature and president of Connecticut College. A Bryn Mawr graduate with a PhD from  the University of Cologne, she hailed  from a family of academic administrators, her father having been president of Wheaton College and a brother  president of  Simmons. Her fifteen years at Connecticut College  had been marked by great success in fundraising and additions to the New London campus’s physical plant. By all accounts she was  loved by students and alumnae and admired by her faculty.  Her motives for coming to Barnard are not known, other than looking for a change and  seeing the Barnard presidency as a new and exciting challenge.

Whatever her reasoning, Park’s acceptance of  the Barnard presidency was universally applauded. McIntosh had  championed  her candidacy and Dean emerita Gildersleeve approved, calling the appointment  of  a scholarly and unmarried women   “in the Barnard  tradition.” Mrs. Mac let this last swipe pass.

Once installed in November 1962, Park  demonstrated strengths in two crucial areas of presidential responsibility. First, she quickly made good on her reputation as a formidable fundraiser, both among the trustees and with the major foundations  [Specifics]

 

1965 – Ford Foundation $2,500,000 if 3/1 match by 6/30/69

 

Altschul Science Tower
Milbank Memorial Fund — $750,000
Barnard to raise $1,000,000 by 6/30/67

600 and 620 116th St.
Bryn Mawr Hotel space on Amsterdam – for Plimpton Hall

Endowment growth
And second,  she got on famously with Columbia’s President Kirk and with the intellectually formidable Provost Jacques Barzun, who shared Park’s love of classical music and the habit of sneaking off on Wednesdays to attend afternoon performances of  the New York Symphony Orchestra.
Some Barnard faculty especially big on her: Stephen  Koss/Chris Royer/B. Schmitter \

As she had with Barzun, Park secured  the instant respect of her faculty, many seeing  her as the scholar and public intellectual that Mrs. Mac never pretended to be. But this did not stop some of her most promising faculty from accepting academic positions elsewhere.  McIntosh had presided over the beginning  of  what Barzun called with reference to Morningside faculty “the era of the packed suitcase,” but it was Park’s fate to experience it at floodtide.
In 1962, the economist Robert Lekachman left Barnard  for Stonybrook  where he doubled his salary; two years later, English professor Marcus Klein left for the University of Buffalo, for  what McIntosh called “a big, fat state university salary.”  Such raids became less common with the turndown in the academic job market, beginning in the mid-1960s in the humanities and then spreading across all disciplines,  and have since focused on Barnard minority faculty, but here too the persistent challenge  to Barnard of  retaining its many scholarly productive senior faculty of both genders that first surfaced in the 1950s. Nor did her predecessor  let Park  escape all responsibility for these departures. “Some of these losses I think she could have avoided, “ McIntosh suggested tartly in her 1966 oral history, ”if she had spent more time getting to know her faculty.”
Park’s biggest challenge came adjusting to the differences between the  students  she encountered at Connecticut College and now on Morningside.  The differences here were in part generational (‘50s vs. ‘60s), in part demographic (mostly WASPs vs. lots of first-generational ethnics), and  in part locational (New England suburbs vs. inner city), but together they were ones that Park had trouble bridging. At some point she may have stopped trying. Again, her predecessor proved less than fully forgiving, seeing her as “cool and aloof” in her dealings with most students, while increasingly unsettled my Barnard’s more aggressive  students, reportedly finding them “dirty, beatnik, unpleasant.” As for Barnard’s best and brightest students:  “They’re just alien to her.”

Three years into her presidency, the xx-year-old Park announced her marriage to Milton Anastos, an internationally known scholar of Byzantine history and professor at  UCLA. Shortly thereafter she informed the Barnard trustees of her intention to resign effective June 30, 1966 to join her husband in California and to take an administrative post at UCLA.  That summer Barnard found itself back for the second time in five years on the presidency market.

 

Park’s presidency was too brief – 4 ½ years – to be considered successful. Moreover, her unexpected departure left whoever succeeded her in a tight spot. That campus tensions were higher at her leaving than at her coming could be attributed to the changing times rather than any specific actions she took during her presidency. Still, it does seem that she lacked a visceral connection to New York City, perhaps not an absolute requirement for the job but without it success is less likely.

The Park presidency did benefit from good timing. It ended  before the escalation of student protests that began in May 1965 and soon made the Barnard campus a hostile environment for confrontation-shy administrators, faculty and students,  reaching its crescendo in 1968  after her departure for California. Housman’s assessment of his young athlete’s departure, the gender and generational mismatches aside, fits: “Smart lad, to slip betimes away.”

Bob McCaughey
July 24, 2017
ram31@columbia.edu

———————————————————————————————-

Rosemary Park (1907-2004)

Barnard’s 6th head and 2nd president (1962-1967)
55 years old and single at her appointment in 1962
Had been president of Connecticut College for 15 years
From a family of academics and college presidents
Respected as a published scholar of German literature – Radcliffe (1928) and University of Cologne (1934)
Had been suggested as a candidate by Millicent McIntosh for her administrative experience, academic standing and record as a fundraiser.
Well received by Barnard faculty, especially by those who wanted a scholar as president.
Got along well with Columbia counterparts and with leading trustees; successful as fundraiser.
Campus transformed during her tenure by construction of Altschul Science Tower, McIntosh Student  Center and Plimpton Residence Hall
Made uncomfortable by Barnard students who were more heterogeneous and demanding than Conn. College women; student leaders found her aloof and distant
1967 – announced plans to leave presidency upon her marriage to a UCLA-based academic and offer of an administrative post at UCLA. Retired from UCLA as vice chancellor in 1975, but remained involved in education into her 90s. In 1993 she was awarded the Barnard Medal of Distinction. She died in 2004 at age 97.

Bob McCaughey

 

 

From Barnard web site]

Rosemary Park, 1962-1967
Rosemary Park, 1962.
Photograph by Jack Mitchell, courtesy of the Barnard College Archives.

Rosemary Park became president of Barnard after Millicent McIntosh retired in 1962. Her father, Dr. J. Edward Park, was president of Wheaton College, and at the time that she became president of Barnard, her brother was president of Simmons College in Boston. She graduated summa cum laude from Radcliffe College in 1928 with a degree in German and received her master’s degree in 1929. She studied in Germany at the University of Bonn and the University of Cologne, where she earned her Ph.D. in 1934. She taught German at Wheaton and later at Connecticut College. There, she held a series of positions: dean of freshmen, academic dean, acting president, and finally president. While at Connecticut College, which was all-women at the time, she established Connecticut College for Men and later admitted men as graduate students. She served as president there from 1947 to 1962, strengthening the curriculum, adding new buildings, and raising large amounts of funds.

Park continued that work at Barnard. She encouraged students to pursue degrees in the sciences and fought for Barnard to have its own new science laboratory, despite discouragement from Columbia, which felt that its existing labs were sufficient. She believed that by continuing not to have its own lab, Barnard would be conveying the message “that it didn’t believe in science for women.” Furthermore, she encouraged women to study subjects such as advanced mathematics and foreign languages in order to fill society’s need for scientists and linguists. After leaving Barnard, she went on to UCLA, where she served as vice chancellor and later as a professor. At UCLA, she helped establish the Plato Society, an academic program for retired persons. As a member of the Society, Park took courses until her death in 2004 at the age of 97.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *