Early Women Faculty and Administration

Margaret Peissner

Margaret Peissner, earlier mentioned as the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lewis, was the first woman to be appointed to the administrative staff at the college. She had married faculty member Elias Peissner, although she became widowed when he was killed in combat. In 1883, Margaret was appointed to Acting Registrar for a short duration, and returned in 1886 as Registrar ad interim. Although her health suffered by the end of her service, she remained in the position of Registrar until her death in 1904.18 

Margaret Peissner, 1848. Photograph from the Picture File (SCA-1026). Courtesy of the Department of Special Collections, Schaffer Library. 

This typewriter used by John Bigelow would have been similar to the tool used by Margaret Peissner in her position. From the Artifact Collection (SCA-1096). Courtesy of the Department of Special Collections, Schaffer Library.

Barbara Rotundo and Doris Larrabee

Women were irregularly hired to part-time teaching positions before coeducation at Union. During World War II, Doris Larrabee was hired to teach math courses and became Union College's first full-time female faculty member in 1943 to1944 and in 1945 to 1946.19 Barbara Rotundo was hired in 1955 temporarily to teach for the English Department.20 

Ruth Anne Evans

Ruth Anne Evans was the first woman to be granted faculty status in 1952, and she went on to become the first woman made full professor in 1973.21 She was employed at Union from 1952 to 1989 as a librarian. An interview with her appears in the oral history section later in this site.  Evans was made Interim Director after the unexpected death of Edwin Tolan, who had been the Library Director at the time. Because Evans was on sabbatical, Loretta Walker, mentioned later, served as Interim Library Director until her return.22 

Nanette Funk

Nanette Funk was the first woman to be hired to a regular teaching position in 1965-1966 in the Department of Philosophy.23 

Article from the Schenectady Union Star, 1955. Original held in the Department of Special Collections, Schaffer Library.

Ruth Anne Evans, undated. Photograph held in the Picture File (SCA-1026). Courtesy of the Department of Special Collections, Schaffer Library. 

Nanette Funk, approximately 1965. Image comes from the Picture File (SCA-1026). Courtesy of the Department of Special Collections, Schaffer Library.

Sheila Beam article from the Concordiensis, 1969. Image courtesy of the Department of Special Collections, Schaffer Library. 

Helena Birecka, undated. Photograph from the Picture File (SCA-1026), courtesy of the Department of Special Collections, Schaffer Library. 

Article from the Concordiensis from January 12, 1977. Original held in the Department of Special Collections, Schaffer Library. 

Dean Brownlee, undated. Photograph from the Picture File (SCA-1026), courtesy of the Department of Special Collections, Schaffer Library. 

Therese McCarty, courtesy of the Department of Communications and Marketing. 

Sheila Jayne Beam

Sheila Jayne Beam was the first woman awarded a dean position in 1969 the Assistant Dean of Students, and Muriel Kaufmann was the first woman appointed to the Board of Trustees in 1970. 

Helena Birecka

Helena Birecka was the first woman to be made a full professor of the teaching faculty in 1975. She taught in the Biology Department.24 It was not until the 1970s that women were actively recruited to teach at the College, and it was said to be difficult to recruit women who had the appropriate credentials for such positions. 

Dean Brownlee

Dean Brownlee was a Professor of Chemistry at Union and was appointed Dean of Faculty in 1976, after coeducation was officially in place. In 1981 she went on to become the President of Hollins College in Virginia. 

Therese McCarty

Therese McCarty, John Prior Lewis ’41 Professor of Economics, was appointed Acting President of the College in 2013 for a six-month term. She held many other positions at Union College, including  Interim Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs from 2005-2007, then Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs from 2007-2016.  Prof. McCarty was the first woman to receive tenure on the economics faculty and was the first woman faculty member to be elected chair of the Faculty Executive Committee.

18 Somers, 545.
19 Ibid., 443. 
20 Ibid., 796.
21 Ibid., 796.
22 Ibid., 457. 
23 Ibid., 555.
24 Ibid., 798.
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