Office of the President Mary Maples Dunn Files
Mary Maples Dunn was Smith's president from 1985 to 1995, an economically troubled period for the college. But the imbalanced budget was just one of the challenging issues she faced during her tenure. Campus diversity, internal communication flow, and socially responsible investment were also significant issues during her presidency. However, Dunn maintained a cheerful image and a sense of humor throughout, and persevered through the trials of her difficult position.
Dunn took office in 1985 after seven years as an administrator at another of the famed Seven Sister colleges, Bryn Mawr. In fact until that point nearly the entirety of Dunn's academic career was spent at Bryn Mawr. After she received her undergraduate degree from William & Mary in 1954, she went on to Bryn Mawr to do her graduate work in colonial U.S. history. She began teaching at the college while she was completing her Ph.D. then moved through the academic and administrative hierarchy until she became Dean of the Undergraduate College in 1978 then Academic Deputy to the President in 1981.
When she arrived at Smith the first order of business was to work on her fundraising skills. Development became a significant part of the duties of the President during Jill Ker Conway's tenure. Dunn immediately set to work on enlarging the college's endowment and locating funding for several new initiatives. The battle to balance the college's books included two capital campaigns, an increase in tuition, and a number of structural changes. Alterations in employee benefit packages and offers of early retirement had a significant impact on the college staff and caused considerable distress in the community. But while scaling back in some quarters of the campus, Dunn also had to fund necessary progress. Physical changes included the construction of Bass Science Center and the Young Science Library, and a number of renovations to residence houses. She also began the process of getting the college on the "Information Highway." The internet was first introduced to campus during her tenure along with e-mail and voice mail.
As Dunn was preparing to leave the college she reflected, "It's true that acquiring budgetary accountability is among my most important achievements, but I hope I'll be remembered as a president who helped open the college up to a more diverse population." Some of Dunn's most well-known challenges were related to diversity. South African divestment was a source of much conflict on campus when she first arrived, and a few years later inadequate office space for the multicultural organizations on campus reached a fever pitch. Dunn also had to deal with continuing publicity and institutional attitudes about Smith students' sexuality. Throughout her tenure Dunn was repeatedly forced to address media coverage of Smith, Northampton and the "L-Word." Her administration created programs, wrote position papers, and adjusted college policies and structure in order to deal with the questions of race and sexuality. The most extensive program, the 1988 Smith Design for Institutional Diversity, dealt primarily with race, but other endeavors handled questions related to sexuality, physical disabilities, and derogatory language.
When Dunn left Smith 1995, she went on to become director of the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women, then interim president of Radcliffe College and acting dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Dunn left the Radcliffe Institute to become Co-Executive Officer, with her husband Richard, of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They retired from that position in July 2007.