Ruth Merrill

Dean of Women

Ruth Merrill

32 minutes
Jack A. End
Interview/Event Date: 
ca. 1971
Biographical note: 

Ruth Merrill (1894-1980) was a graduate of Radcliffe College, later earning her master’s at Harvard, and a PhD from the University of Minnesota. In 1933, she became the first woman director of a student union in the United States when she was appointed director of Cutler Union at the College for Women on the University’s Prince Street Campus. In 1954—the year prior to the merger of the men’s and women’s colleges on the River Campus, she was named dean of women, and served until 1960, when she retired. For two years after retirement, she became the first director of volunteers at Strong Memorial Hospital. The Student Activities Center in Wilson Commons was named in her honor in 1976.

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JE: Uh, Miss Merrill, you came to the University as Director of Cutler Union[2] on the, uh, Prince Street Campus in 1933. Uh, what were the circumstances which led you to your accepting this position?

RM: I think probably first and foremost it was because I knew Dean Bragdon[3] very well. She and I had been roommates in graduate school at Harvard. And, uh, I followed her at Minnesota[4], so that when she came here, she, uh, Cutler Union became available and needed a director, why, she urged me to come on and talk to Dr. Rhees[5], which I did, and Dr. Rhees was the one who persuaded me to come and try it[6]. I think the second reason was that, um, I was, um, at the point where I'd finished all the coursework for my doctorate and was working; all I had was my dissertation to finish, and I thought this would be good laboratory experience and didn't expect to stay [laughs] on and on as I have. But I guess that's an experience that a great many people have.

JE: Um, at that time, you were the only woman director of a student union in the country.

RM: Yes.

JE: Um, did you have any special problems because of this or any reactions?

RM: Yes, I had one amusing experience that I'd like to tell you about, uh, Carl Lauterbach[7] was director of Todd Union and I didn't know at the time that I was the only woman director. In fact, I didn't know much about student unions, which, uh, I was also rather pleased that I didn't come with any prec-preconceived notions of how a union should be run. So, uh, Carl called and welcomed me and then I heard that there was to be the, um, conference of student unions held here at Rochester. So I called Carl up and said I had heard this rumor and he said yes, it was true, and I asked if there was anything that I could do about it, could be of any help and Carl was a little hesitant and I was a little puzzled by his hesitation [laughs] because Carl [laughs] was usually very forthright and very, uh, pleasant and more than willing to answer my questions, and finally he said to me, "You know, this is a men's organization and there aren't [laughs] there aren't any women yet [laughs] in the organization, and I will have to find out whether or not I can invite you to come." Well, it Carl did more than that; I think at that-uh, meeting they discussed the possibility of opening it to men and women and within the year I was invited to join the organization.

JE: Now you were Dean of Women at the time when the, um, women's and men's colleges merged, and the women moved to the, um, River Campus[8].

RM: Yes.

JE: What were some of the, um, problems involved for you particularly and others in general in that move?

RM: It was a very-well organized move. Uh, Bob McCambridge[9] was in charge of the mechanics of it and I never saw anything that was that was better done than that was. Um, I had surprisingly few problems. I think I had to somewhat s-um, sell the idea to some of the students. I went to a great many student meetings, both meetings with the boys and, uh, meetings with the men students and meetings of the women students and, uh uh, worked with the girls on committees planning how they would fit into the into the new situation, and answered a great many questions about the men. The, uh, women, as you may remember, Jack, were very eager for the move, a large number of them. That is, the undergraduates. But the men students were a little neglected. [chuckles] I remember one meeting that I went to and, uh, the men asked, um uh - in many different ways but the point of their question was the same - whether the academic standards would be lowered. They apparently believed that, uh, the faculty were kinder to women students than they were to to men students and therefore the girls had higher grades than the men students did and they thought that this would affect their, um, the quality of their their courses. And the woman students and I talked about that a good bit too. The women students weren't at all sure well they were how welcome they would be on the on the men's campus and we discussed many ways how they could fit in, how they could be helpful, and what things they should do and what things they shouldn't shouldn't do to be helpful.

I don't know whether you remember that first year when the colleges moved - or when the colleges merged. And, uh, the women students were elected to all the major offices, which was very embarrassing; the President of the Students' Association was a women, the President of the Christian Association was a women, the, uh um, and there were several other women, I can't name them all now fact they held the major offices. The girls were very embarrassed about this; they hadn't wanted this to to happen, and the boys I think were . . . unhappy and upset about it and startled about it. And the girls the girls were so unhappy that I think they - only class that I ever knew personally that graduated from the University and were really unhappy in a considerable number was that first class, the Class of '56. And this never happened again. What had happened of course was that the girls knew only the girls that were running for office; therefore they voted in what you would call a bloc. And the boys were divided as they usually were between fraternities and different organizations and and so on.

JE: But the logistics, um, work out smoothly and -

RM: I have no - yes, I have nothing but praise for the way that the logistics moved out and the things that were - the decisions that were made, and I was in on some of those, of course, as to what things should be moved and what things should be left in the in the building. And I think that was exceedingly well done, although, um, there have proved to be a few things that was regrettable we didn't take at the time; we had some Susan B. Anthony memorabilia in what we called the Susan B. Anthony Room and there seemed to be no place for those things to go at that time on the River Campus and a few of those things have been left and have since had the proper dispensation made of them.

JE: What were some of the other, uh, major changes that that took place at the University during the many years that, uh, you were here?

RM: ‘Course my, uh, time at the University has covered quite a span and, uh, I felt that the, uh uh, University had outgrown separate campuses and I was pleased with the with the move; I had no - seemed to me that when the time for the merger came, it was a the proper thing to do. I thought the years we spent on taxis with the women running back and forth and with the faculty [chuckles] running back and forth in their own cars were difficulties - one of the very pleasant during that time was the, uh, old Faculty Club on the women campus, the little brown house that, uh, was in the rear of the Art Gallery[10], and I don't think we've ever had as, um, pleasant a time in in Faculty Club, as close an association as we did in those in those days. Um, I think that, uh, the opportunities probably were wider for the women after they went to the other campus. The, um, it wasn't pleasant always to take a taxi or to provide transportation for advanced courses in science; more and more women were becoming interested in science at that time. And it was much easier for them to, um, get to the laboratories and I think in most departments they had better laboratory facilities (clock bell rings) on the River Campus. I think that, uh um, the library facilities were appreciated by the women. Um, the, uh, Sibley Library had done a very good job, and the transportation of of books had been remarkably fast and accurate and satisfactory. But I think the women enjoyed particularly the library.

One of the things that I regretted the greatest in the moving was the giving up of the cooperative dormitories[11]. I felt it brought into the University a group of women that, um, we have never since had. And I thought they were among the most loyal students that the University - the loyal alumni that the University has ever, uh, ever had. I think it-um, living in the small groups did something for those women students. I think the, um, living in a in a home-like situation did something for them. And, um, they are many of the alumni that, uh, I hear from most frequently and see perhaps the most frequently too. I'm not sure they - that those are the women who come back to the, um, River Campus as much as some of the others do nowadays. But at the time you couldn't have had more loyal or more helpful or or better students, [Hmm.] I might say. I regretted greatly seeing the cooperative dormitories go out of existence, not only for financial reasons because it it did give opportunities to women who might not have had them otherwise.

JE: Although there, um, has been some student unrest on our campus, um, i-it hasn't compared with the extremely violent demonstrations at some of the, um, other universities and colleges. Um, why do you think that our University has been relatively calm in this respect?

RM: I think the size has had something to do with it. Um, I think that there has been a tradition of fairly close relationships between students and administration and faculty which has probably had considerable - has had a lot to do with, uh, the fact that we hadn't had the the violence. [Mmhmm.] I also think - although 'cause I don't know this for sure now ‘cause I'm not close enough to it - that, um, we may have had a more homogeneous group of students than some colleges and universities have had. I think perhaps that was on the whole a disadvantage of the women's campus although it made it an extremely pleasant place to be. But, um, it was a homogenous group to a very large extent when I knew the wo-women's campus.

JE: Um, upon looking back on your long association with the University, are there any s-special experiences which stand out in your memory?

RM: I think the my early experiences when I first arrived and had only a building with much too much furniture in some spots and not enough furniture in other spots, when I saw an auditorium floor that had ripples in it and had to be torn up and completely replaced. Um, I think the, uh um, teaching - helping the girls to learn how to use the building. ‘Cause all those things stand out, those those first few years stand out. Then I would say that the second thing which stood out in my mind, uh, was the-um, time when the during the Second World War, when the men students came to the women's campus, those who wer-were not involved in the naval program and stayed on the River Campus but came to the Arts College campus. I have never seen such unhappy young men [laughs] as when they first arrived. Uh, and I've never seen happier ones before they left. They were most helpful and I think they thoroughly enjoyed being on the campus. They took part in-um, student government, they took part in in-uh, religious activities, they took part in-uh, most everything; they were they were extremely helpful young men and-uh, it was possible to set aside a room for their own use so they felt they had some privacy and had a chance to get well acquainted with with one another, and, uh, as those years developed-uh um, I enjoyed them thoroughly and I think they enjoyed the the campus. I think that was an outstanding period which could've been an extremely difficult period on the campus. I think that, uh, when, um, a dormitory came into Cutler Union, that was, uh, a change that-um, we all had to make some adjustments. I remember that-uh, many times when the girls [chuckles] were looking over the balcony at the vets that were going on [laughs] [laughs] in the first floor and they had to be shooed back to their dormitory. [laughs] [laughs] But-uh, on the whole, they were very considerate and helpful.

I think the-um, the pride that the women took in their building I'm not certain has ever been developed as far as-uh, buildings are concerned on the on the River Campus. I think-uh, the girls felt that building belonged to them, and they want to take care of it and they wanted it to be the the very best building possible. I never had any problems with, uh, what nowadays we call vandalism. Um, I think I worked that the-uh, during Freshman Week I always talked with the freshmen. I always-uh, took them on a tour around the building and I pointed out the little interesting things. I pointed out how the dandelion had been used in the light fixtures, I how it had been used in the andirons, how it had been used in many and surprising places around the building. And many the time have I heard a girl showing, uh, a stranger around the building and pointing out [chuckles] all these little special things.

JE: Well it certainly is one of the most beautiful buildings in in the University.

RM: Well, I think it - amazing, uh, the condition that the building was in; I don't think I ever had to have anything repaired because it'd been deliberately harmed. And the repair bills were so low that they would be a be almost unbelievable nowadays as far as our building was concerned. They, uh, as women they took pride in it and they took care of things. And if our maintenance department was missing, for any reason absent, the girls would pitch right in and do the things that needed to be doing.

Another thing which I have remembered particularly was when I think must have been the year 1944[12], well, I'm not positive of that date, when we had the big snowstorms and, uh, the plow that was sent over to plow the Prince Street Campus broke down. The girls did the sh-shoveling [laughs] for most everything themselves; they went down to the - d-they went to the downtown post office and brought back the mail. The-uh, milk couldn't be delivered, bread couldn't be delivered; they, uh, shoveled a path and went out to Prince Street and University Avenue and brought in all the food supplies. They substituted for staff that couldn't come. They were, uh, just a marvelous help in a period like that.

JE: Hmm. Well, aside from the students, uh, who were some of the, um, people with whom you worked at the University that particularly, um, impressed you?

RM: Um, of course I worked first with Dean Bragdon, who was tremendously interested in Cutler Union and-uh, then I worked with Dean Clark[13], who-uh uh, was also very helpful, as far - very understanding, let me say, as far as the students' union was concerned although she hadn't had the experience with student unions that Dean Bragdon had had. And I worked very close with Dr. Wallace[14], who was in the Union a great deal. Um, Dr. French[15] and Dr. Hill[16] were also two people who were very helpful about Cutler Union and who I could call on anytime for help. I, uh, think I was very fortunate in my student helpers. I-uh, all, practically all work in the Union - aside from what the staff had to do which was cafeteria and and maintenance - was done by students. I was told that many things - when I first came that many of the things which the girls did couldn't be done by students. I soon found that they were better done by students. And I don't think I ever called on a student who didn't immediately respond and I had more offers of helpers than I could sometimes even use. [Hmm.] The students did-um, all the hostessing in the building. They did the - they came on at five o'clock in the afternoon and, uh, really took charge of the building from then on until it it closed. I never had a single incident when a student was unreliable. [Hmm.] And I think that's a remarkable record.

JE: That's amazing.

RM: Yes, I think it's a remarkable record. They-uh um, if there was something they couldn't handle, they call me immediately. And if I couldn't get there within a few minutes, they had the watchman in there, um, to help them. We never had a serious problem in the in the Union.

JE: What do you-um, think about student representation on faculty committees and the Board of Trustees and so forth? You think this would be a good thing?

RM: Yes, I'm inclined to to think so. I found that the students, um - and of course I'm thinking mostly in terms of women students - that they-uh, they handle their student government remarkably. They were-um um, very mature in the use of their money. They handled their own student budget with my supervision and, uh, also, um . . . think they did a a very a very good job. And . . .

JE: I think I know the answer to this, but I'm gonna ask you anyway. Um, you held, uh, several positions in the University. Which one-um, interested you the most?

RM: I think-um, Director of Cutler Union [laughs] interested - actually interested me; you know the answer to that anyway. [laughs] I think that's that's true that I enjoyed that the the most. Um, I found it pleasant after I went to the the men's campus; it was interesting to see - to help the girls make this adjustment. The men were awfully nice; they - I saw a great many men in ma-in my office and they were extremely-uh, helpful. And the the men faculty were extremely helpful after I came to the other campus. But I think I-um, enjoyed Cutler Union more than - certainly more than I ever dreamed that I would. [chuckles] ‘Cause it was a new experience to me; I had never done anything quite like it and and I enjoyed it-uh, thoroughly. And I liked the-uh, close contacts that I had with the women students. I planned toum, by Christmastime, know the name of every woman student and know something about her. After three years, I only had one class to learn and a few transfer students so it was comparatively easy. The first few years I had lots of s- of students to to learn, but they were so helpful in in assisting me in this that I had no no problems.

JE: Na-now that you retired, uh, you've always been so terribly active, uh, I'm almost afraid to ask you-uh, what you're doing these days. [laughs]

RM: Well, I, um, I have done a good many things. Um, I was always civic-minded and always had many opportunities to to meet people. I knew quite a considerable range of people in Rochester because Cutler Union was made available to a good many people in the years when when I was there, and-uh, that was one of my contacts. Um, I have of course eliminated some of those things but I have at the present time, um - or perhaps I should say that my first two years after I retired, I went to the-uh, Medical Center as director of volunteers[17], and I found that very interesting and very challenging. There was opportunity for considerable development in the volunteer department and I rather liked organizing and developing things and found that I had a fair amount of aptitude for that. And, uh, I still am on the advisory board of the Medical Center and I still do a certain amount of volunteer work there, not as much as I used to because I've been doing a lot of traveling in in recent years. I have-uh um, always been active in the AAUW[18] and held both local, state, and national offices in that. I have worked with the Girl Scouts. I am now working and have for quite a long time - in fact, I was an organized, I worked some of the - in the National Friendship Council[19]. And I've been a active member of the Zonta Club[20] for a great many years. And I've worked some with my church, and, uh, I have worked-uh . . . oh, well, I can't even begin to enumerate all the different boards that I've been on[21] - oh, I was in the first group of the-um, Human Relations Council[22]. I was one of, um, two women, I think, on that first board of the Human Relations Council. And after two years I resigned because I felt I couldn't give the time to it that I should give to it it and that I was going to be away too much.

JE: Well, you certainly, uh, [chuckles] are leading a very full life; I don't know when you sleep. [chuckles]

RM: [laughs] Well, you just kind of learn to work that in [chuckles] [continues to laugh] among other things. But that's not, uh, I say, this doesn't begin to cover all of the things that I've - have been in, but it, uh, does tell you what I'm doing at the present time mostly.

JE: Miss Merrill, what do you think the-um, future of the University is going to be like?

RM: I can tell you what I hope it's going to be like. [laughs] I hope it's not going to grow too fast. I want to see a few more women there than there are now. But I don't want to see it become a big university. I did my doctorate work at the University of Minnesota and I had a very pleasant time and a very interesting time because I never'd been in as big an institution as that, and I learned a lot by being on committees and and working with students there. But I would hate to see the University of Rochester grow to that size. I'd rather see it small. I, uh, am a little troubled because I think it's losing some of its intimate touch with the chil-students that it used to be possible to have. As a university gets larger, you get less and less of that. I am distressed because there aren't more women in administrative positions at the University, [chuckles] which is a very natural reaction from a [chuckles] from a woman.

And I-uh, am shocked when I find out that-uh . . . your students don't know a woman to whom they can go to talk to over something. I've met them a number of times and it it shocks me a little bit. I think, uh, and I'm also-uh . . . shocked that the women don't know where to go for a great many things on the University that I think every girl used to know, when she had a problem, somebody to whom she could go to talk it over. I don't feel that's true at the present time. The-uh, few that I come in contact - and my judgment is on the basis of a few students ‘cause I don't have enough enough contacts. But, uh, last year I said to a freshman who was living in the Women's Residence Halls[23], who's the director of Women's Residence Halls? And she looked at me and she said, "Director? I don't think we have a director. I don't know anybody." I said, "Who's in charge of the dormitory?" She said, "I don't know." Now this was a good student. She didn't have too many problems. And then I said to her, "Well, if there's something you want to talk over, to whom do you go?" And she said - thought a minute and she said, "Oh, I'd probably go to the junior who lives on my hall." I said, "There isn't any faculty member or any member of the administration that you'd feel you knew well enough to go to?" And she said, "No, I don't believe I would."

I was-um, distressed when the-uh, Dean's Fund[24] was given up. This was something that-uh, I think did something for the alumni as well as for the women students. When I was told that-uh, women students didn't need the help the Dean Fund gave, I frankly said I don't believe it, and I still don't believe it. What I think is that-uh, it was much harder to-um, make known to the students that there was such a thing as a as a Dean's Fund. And I don't think the students would go for a loan, um, as they came to the Dean's Fund, uh, in the days when we had it on the River Campu-on the Prince Street Campus and then later on the River Campus. I am I am really distressed because . . . if a girl needed a dentist appointment and she was embarrassed about going and talking about it, um, she would come to me and we'd see to it that she - that it was made possible. If, um, something happened at home and she needed to go home suddenly, um, there was money from the Dean's Fund that she could make use of. Now a great deal of this money was repaid. But it was emergency - it was used as emergency money. I even remember a senior who-um, should've been taking practice teaching. And I found out that she was-um . . . had told a professor that she didn't want to do practice teaching although she wanted to teach. So I had a talk with her and I discovered that-uh, she was wearing shoes with holes in the bottom of 'em. And she had too much pride to [short cough] tell anybody. The reason she didn't want to do practice teaching was because she didn't think she had adequate clothes. She was - would've been embarrassed to appear in a classroom in what she had for clothes. Well, it was possible from the Dean's Fund to to remedy that situation. I know that she made a very good teacher later on.

JE: Thank you, Miss Merrill.

[recording ends]

Transcribed by Eileen L. Fay, February 2014

[1] Date not given but Jack End's other oral history interviews were done in the 1971-72 period.

[2] Cutler Union was completed in 1932 on the former site of the Alumni Gymnasium, which was razed. The male students had moved to the new River Campus two years previous, so Cutler was constructed to anchor the now-separate College for Women. It was named for the late James G. Cutler of Cutler Mail Chute fame (the company papers are available in Special Collections), who had financed the building's construction. The Gothic academic tower was designed to suit Mr. Cutler's tastes and was made of Indiana limestone. Ezra Winter was the architect. When completed, Cutler Union contained an auditorium, small meeting and reception rooms, classrooms, a chapel (named for Kay Duffield, a longtime religious worker on campus), and a cafeteria. It still stands today as part of the Memorial Art Gallery. The Van Brul Pavilion, an enclosed sculpture garden, was built in 1968 to connect the two.

[3] Dr. Helen D. Bragdon succeeded Annette Munro as Dean of Women in 1930. She had a doctorate from Harvard. She resigned in 1938 over irreconcilable differences with President Valentine over the character of higher education for women (he felt that purely intellectual interests should be stressed at the expense of extracurricular activities; she disagreed).

[4] Merrill received her BA from Radcliffe, her master's from Harvard, and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota.

[5] Dr. Rush Rhees, President of the University from 1900 to 1935.

[6] Before becoming Director of Cutler Union, Merrill had been an assistant dean at Colorado College and Radcliffe College (1921-30) and an instructor at the University of Minnesota (1930-33).

[7] Carl W. Lauterbach was a member of the Class of 1925. He founded the Boar's Head Dinner in 1934. He also served as Vocational Counselor for the men.

[8] The 1955-56 academic year was the first one with the women on the River Campus.

[9] Robert H. McCambridge was appointed administrative secretary of the University by President Cornelis de Kiewiet in 1952. He had worked with de Kiewiet at Cornell. He left in 1961.

[10] The original Faculty Club was formed in 1924 with Donald W. Gilbert as President. They leased a brown-shingled cottage from the University on the western edge of the campus to serve as a lunchroom, social gathering place, and living quarters for bachelor faculty. The club was restricted to male faculty, however, although Dr. French recalls in her Oral History interview that they eventually became "financially embarrassed" and finally allowed the women to participate. The Women's Faculty Club took over the building after the River Campus opened in 1930 and the main Faculty Club moved there. The house has since been demolished. See also: the Oral History interviews of Eleanor Ruth Gilbert and Dr. Ethel French.

[11] The first women's dormitory was Kendrick Hall, a cooperative established in 1931 wherein all residents took care of the cooking and cleaning. The goal was to keep costs minimal; to achieve this, residents even purchased a cow they named Azarella Boody (after Azariah Boody). The model was so successful that the former houses of Psi Upsilon and Delta Upsilon and the former presidential residence at 440 University Avenue (the Harriet Seelye House) were also converted to cooperative dormitories. A dedicated women's residence hall, called Munro House, was finally built in 1939. (A new Munro Hall on the River Campus was dedicated in 1969.) The Prince Street Campus dormitories, of course, had to be abandoned when the women moved to the River Campus.

[12] There was record-breaking snowfall on December 11-12, 1944 that clogged the streets so badly that traffic was disrupted for months. Barraged by criticism, the city administration employed a contingent of German POW's (who were lodge in barracks at Cobbs Hill) to help clear channels through the streets. (source: Blake McKelvey, "Snowstorms and Snow Fighting - The Rochester Experience, Rochester History, January 1965)

[13] Dr. Janet H. Clark was the successor of Dr. Helen D. Bragdon, who succeeded Munro as Dean of Women. Clark served from 1938 until her retirement in 1952. She had a doctorate in physics and held a professorship in the biological sciences. During her tenure as dean, she established a separate faculty for the College for Women.

[14] Dr. Isabel K. Wallace was a member of the Class of 1916. She became an administrator at the University of Rochester and counseled undergraduates on vocational matters. She taught a course on Women in Industry and Society during the 1930s. She retired in 1960.

[15] Dr. Ethel French, Class of 1920, returned to the University as a chemistry professor. She has also done an Oral History interview.

[16] Dr. L. Alfreda Hill was a French professor who arrived at the University in 1925. She retired as Professor Emeritus in 1963.

[17] Merrill's duties were to keep all departments of Strong Memorial Hospital informed of the abilities, availability, and interests of her staff of over 400 volunteers. She also developed new services such as a hospital canteen and puppets to be given to child patients. She held this position from 1960 to 1962. (source: "Ruth Merrill Retires - 2nd Time", Democrat and Chronicle, Oct. 1, 1962)

[18] Offices held by Merrill in the AAUW include national director and vice-president of its state division. She was a also member of its National Committee on the Status of American Women and chair of the Fellowship Committee.

[19] May be referring to the National Council of Soviet-American Friendship that was active from 1941 to 1991. However, nothing in her PR file indicates that she was involved with either this organization or any with a name similar to "National Friendship Council." The closest thing found is the Cosmopolitan Club, which worked with nationality groups in the City of Rochester. There is also no indication that Merrill was sympathetic to the NCSAF's socialist/communist political leanings.

[20] Zonta International, "a global organization of executives and professionals working together to advance the status of women worldwide through service and advocacy." (website) Merrill at one point served as its president.

[21] Other groups Merrill was involved with include the National Education Association, National Vocational Guidance Association, the American College Personnel Association, Pi Lambda Theta, the National Association of Deans of Women, the Joint City-County Human Relations Commission, and the Cosmopolitan Club of Rochester, which often held events in Cutler Union. In 1959 the City Women's Organization at the University of Rochester, which Merrill helped organize, created a Ruth A. Merrill Award given annually to a female senior "who has made the greatest contribution to campus life." Merrill herself was its first recipient.

[22] May be referring to the Joint City-County Human Relations Commission (Rochester), which Merrill was stated to be a member of in 1962.

[23] The Women's Residence Hall was opened in September 1955 when women students first arrived on the River Campus. Each of the x-shaped building's four halls was named for a pioneer of women's education: Susan B. Anthony; Lewis Henry Morgan, the University's first major donor who bequeathed over $80,000 from his estate for the support of female students; Emily B. Hollister, wife of a University trustee who worked closely with Anthony for the admittance of women to the UR; and Mary T.J. Gannett, who became chair of the Susan B. Anthony Committee following Anthony's death. Danforth Dining Hall was named for Edwina Danforth, active in the support of women's education since the 1890s and a major donor for the expansion of the College for Women later on. When the building was renamed Susan B. Anthony Halls in 1974, the former Anthony wing was renamed for Frederick Taylor Gates, a member of the Class of 1877 who was highly influential in the development of philanthropy in science and education.

[24] According to the Oct.-Nov. 1940 issue of the Rochester Alumni-Alumnae Review (predecessor of the present Rochester Review), the Dean's Fund was an "annual project of alumnae reunion classes which means much in the life of undergraduate students." It was founded in the early 1930s with the goal of providing incidentals to financially needy students at the College for Women and expanded to include limited scholarships. The program was broadened further to provide funds for things such as emergency medical bills, meals, clothing, and enrollment in special courses outside the University. Today there are Dean's Funds for various disciplines, such as a Dean's Fund for History and a Dean's Fund for Brain & Cognitive Sciences.