Millicent C. McIntosh

  1.                                                           “Mrs. Mac”

    Upon President Butler’s exacted retirement at age 83 in 1945, Dean Gildersleeve, then 68,   proceeded with securing her own release. The Barnard trustees resumed the task of finding a successor. One local possibility was Millicent Carey McIntosh, in 1946 the 49-year-old headmistress of the Brearley School. She had  been approached by trustee Helen Rogers Reid back in 1942 when Gildersleeve first broached the subject of retiring, but expressed no interest in the job. When approached again in 1946, this time by Mrs. Reid in the company of Mrs. Eugene Meyer (Agnes Ernst, BC 1909), McIntosh now having been at Brearley for 16 years, she again expressed a disinclination to switch jobs. After talking with her husband (“You might regret not having taken this job for the rest of your life”), she reconsidered.

    A native of Baltimore, Millicent came from that  city’s civic-minded Quaker gentry. Her father was a manufacturer and her mother a member of Bryn Mawr College’s first graduating class (1889), the mother of six children and although never professionally employed,  pursued a lifelong interest in prison reform and civic activism. Millicent attended the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, where she learned Greek from the noted classicist Edith Hamilton, before proceeding on to  Bryn Mawr College, where her mother’s sister,  M. Carey Thomas, was president. Upon graduation in 1920, disappointing her aunt by ranking only third in her class, and following a stint of social work in England, she returned to Baltimore in 1923 to the Johns Hopkins University. There  she earned a PhD in English in 1926.

    She then returned to Bryn Mawr as an assistant professor of English. (Her aunt had  retired  four years earlier but remained a presence.) In addition to teaching, she took on administrative responsibilities and found them to her liking. “I’m not, by nature, a scholar,” she later acknowledged. “I have a good scholarly background, but that’s quite different.” Three  years into her appointment and with no top administrative post likely to open up, she agreed to talk with the trustees of the Brearley School, New York City’s most academically demanding and socially exclusive of its independent girls’ schools, about their vacant headmistress’s position.  They hired her. Two years into the job, the then 33-year-old Millicent announced her pending marriage.

    Her 37-year-old husband-to-be was Dr. Rustin McIntosh, an up-and-coming pediatrician and administrator at New York Babies Hospital. Once married, they proceeded in rapid order to produce four boys, two of them twins, and a girl. The youngest, their only daughter, Alice, was seven when the Barnard search committee, in the persons of   trustee Mrs. Reid, Mrs. Meyer and Professor of German Hugh Wiley Puckett, came calling. McIntosh’s  academic credentials, administrative experience, familiarity  with New York’s wealthy, and not least, her domestic situation as a wife and mother, all commended her  to the two trustees on the search committee.  The trustees wanted a married woman, having grown weary of complaints from parents about Miss Gildersleeve’s  jaundiced view of the marital state, and someone likely for family reasons to stay in town.

Some faculty, including Puckett, were less impressed, holding her years as head of a school, even one as academically demanding  as  Brearley, as disqualifying. Meanwhile, Miss Gildersleeve continued to press for Elizabeth Reynard. In the end, the committee chose McIntosh,  the board concurred and disappointed faculty took to their tents to await developments.

Bob McCaughey
July 24, 2017
[email protected]

Barnard web site]

Millicent Carey McIntosh, 1952-1962
Millicent Carey McIntosh, 1956.
Photographs by Manny Warman, courtesy of the Barnard College Archives

Millicent Carey McIntosh, a native of Baltimore, was chosen from more than 60 candidates to become the fourth dean of Barnard in October 1947. She was later named the first president of the College in 1952, and she served in both roles until 1962. McIntosh was one of the most beloved and inspiring of all of Barnard’s leaders, with her friendly and approachable demeanor prompting many to address her as”Mrs. Mac.” Her achievements as Dean were numerous. She sought to advance the education of women and firmly believed that one needed training as a scholar in order to fulfill one’s role as a person.

McIntosh, who was married to pediatrician Rustin McIntosh and had four sons and one daughter, was the first dean at any of the Seven Sisters colleges to be both a wife and a mother. She was a graduate of and later a teacher and acting dean at Bryn Mawr, received her Ph.D. in English from Johns Hopkins, and served as head of the Brearley School for Girls in Manhattan for 17 years. During her tenure at Barnard, she took on the monumental task of procuring greater funding so that Barnard could renovate and increase space and salaries. She launched Operation Bootstrap, a development fund campaign that, with help from donors like John D. Rockefeller and Barnard alumnae, raised $1.7 million. This money went toward the remodeling of Milbank Hall, including the addition of the Minor Latham Playhouse in 1953; the building of Lehman Hall in 1959; and the construction of Reid Hall in September 1961. McIntosh was also instrumental in centralizing all gifts to Barnard through the Barnard Fund and in forming the first long-range development plans for the College. She was a strong advocate for greater cooperation with Columbia, but in a way that allowed Barnard to maintain its integrity and independence.

Although McIntosh believed that happiness and fulfillment may or may not lie in a career, her successful balance of marriage, children, and career made her a role model to students. She saw education as a way to prepare young women for the complicated balancing act of life.



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