Interviewed by Hugh Hawkins
January 22, 2008
Rights and Citation Information
[0:00] Hugh Hawkins: The time is January 22, 2008. We are in the Archives and Special Collection of Amherst College’s Robert Frost library. My name is Hugh Hawkins. And the subject of this interview is Professor Rose Olver. I had the privilege of being her colleague for many years. And we have, we think there are many things she could tell us. She is something of a legend. There are many firsts connected with her name, but I can assure you, it wasn't the firsts alone that made her feel important to Amherst history. And so I think we can get started. I think first question I'd like to ask you, Rose, is what was your initial contact with Amherst and how was it that you were hired here?
[0:52] Rose Olver: Well, as you know, Terry Allen has written that my being hired created some alarms so I guess there is a story connected with getting here. I need to go back just a little bit to the fact that my husband and I got our degrees in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he from MIT, me from Harvard. Really Radcliffe, back then, I was the last of the Radcliffe PhDs. But we decided that he would look for his job first. But look in areas where I might find a position. And you’re a historian so I'm sure I don't need to remind you the world was very different back in 1962. And I had imagined, looking at what other educated women were doing, that my best bet was to try to get a research associateship.
[1:40] And so I'd heard after John got his job at the University of Massachusetts, that there was a big name social psychologist coming to Amherst, and I asked my thesis advisor Jerome Bruner to see whether or not I might become a research associate for this person. And Jerry Bruner, nicely was a mentor to women at that time, which not all big professors were, called Amherst to investigate this, was told that that big name social psychologist had decided to remain at his home institution where he had gotten what he had wanted from them. And therefore the position was open.
[2:21] And so Jerry Bruner said, well, then I have a candidate for that position, and explained who I was and was told Amherst does not hire women. To which he responded, why not? And apparently embarrassed them enough so that they figured that with my credentials, Swarthmore and Harvard, that, you know, what, how bad could it be to hire me on for a year, right? So I came to Amherst late in the spring at a time where, now that I've been a department chair at Amherst, I know that when you have courses on the books, and nobody to teach them you're in a bit of a situation where you're willing to take a risk and Amherst risked that. The department chair from Amherst came to interview me in Cambridge, and--
[3:14] Hawkins: That’s Ted Koester, right?
[3:16] Olver: Ted Koester, right. And I think that it was not just my credentials but the fact that I knew my proper place. I took him to lunch at the Harvard faculty club. And I explained to him that we'd have to go in the ladies entrance, that I was not permitted to go in through the regular entrance. And I think that maybe quieted some of his apprehension about hiring a woman, at least I would be able to fit into what Amherst would expect of femaleness at that time. So, that's how I got here in a real job. When I had only anticipated a lesser research kind of position.
[3:57] Hawkins: When we talked earlier you told me something interesting about how your salary was set?
[4:01] Olver: Oh my, yes. Amherst, I think, tried to be very helpful. And my husband as I mentioned was now going to be teaching at the University, Amherst paid higher salaries than the University, and therefore, there was the fear that they might offer me more money than John was making. And so the President of Amherst, Cal Plimpton, and this, you know, I did not know at the time and perhaps it’s just gossip, but my understanding is that he called the department chair at the University and in the Department of Chemistry, and made sure that the salary I was offered was below what UMass was offering John. They wanted, I understood, to keep the proper balance in this nice family and not create dissension of some sort.
[4:49] Hawkins: I can see that, if I, it sounds credible to me, and there was a great deal of emphasis then on Five College Cooperation.
[4:56] Olver: Right.
[4:57] Hawkins: Being good to other institutions.
[4:58] Olver: Yeah.
[4:59] Hawkins: And neighborly.
[4:59] Olver: Yes. So this conversation could well have happened without any problem.
[5:03] Hawkins: Yeah. My hunch is that’s more than legend, but well, yes. Okay, well, thanks for that. Now, a lots going on here, but the period before one gets tenure, in my experience has become tenser and tenser for young people.
[5:18] Olver: Yeah.
[5:19] Hawkins: Your case is rather special. Could you tell us about your relationship with the college in the formal sense up until the time you were given tenure?
[5:27] Olver: Well, first of all, I want to say that back then, and maybe you remember it as well, tenure was really not the anxious moment, or at least it wasn't the anxious moment for somebody like me, who was not really part of a cohort of people.
[5:46] Hawkins: From a different point of view, I'd say the same thing. That not, not to worry, you know--
[5:51] Olver: Right. And the way you were told about tenure, was it the President called you in and said, you're the kind of person we'd like to keep around, which you then had to understand the Amherst lingo it was like being expected to attend faculty meetings. There's certain words which convey a lot more than they actually are. But certainly in those first years, Amherst continued to be “helpful” in a variety of ways. I'm not sure it was really helpful to keep my salary lower, but that got readjusted later. But the attention people paid to making sure that I was legitimate. Joe Epstein, for example, offered to teach a course with me. And we taught a course in language in the philosophy department, which I think gave me the stamp of approval. That really it was okay to have this woman in the classroom. Other folks like Ted Greene, served on committees with me and watching him operate gave me a sense of what you do in an Amherst committee, particularly how you control an Amherst committee if you're Ted Greene, I never quite pull it off the same way, but I know that you grab the authority of taking the notes and, and setting the agenda. So--
[7:07] Hawkins: I share that experience with Ted with you.
[7:10] Olver: Yeah, right. Well, he was a mentor, I think, to many of us who came in new at that time. The other things that were important to me were the opportunities to teach with people outside of my department, in staff kinds of courses, and problems of inquiry was just coming in at that time. And that allowed me to teach with, in the social sciences, with other people in the social sciences, to learn what it was that an Amherst syllabus ought to be, how you ought to give a lecture, how you run a discussion section, the marvelous meetings we had around the table in Morgan Hall. And then later when I taught in American Studies, this was also important so then I had a lot of mentoring that I guess people were not saying, sitting down saying, gee, I'm going to mentor Rose. But by just allowing me to be a colleague, and giving me a glimpse of what you do, in an Amherst course.
[8:11] Hawkins: May I interject there because I think it's very important to hear that because later on, there was the argument made that women and members of minorities on the faculty aren't being mentored. And the old boys just come together and take things for granted, have conversations among themselves. So it seems to me you were happily an exception to that.
[8:30] Olver: Well, I guess my definition of mentoring is being exposed to situations where you can pick up the ropes
[8:38] Hawkins: Not so much somebody drawing you aside and saying, Listen, if you want to get tenure do such and so
[8:42] Olver: Right,
[8:42] Hawkins: Which perhaps, a young male would’ve had.
[8:44] Olver: So I think that now that I've read more things about gender, my sense is that a mentor for men very often is a kind of almost father-son relationship or uncle-nephew relationship where the older person really does make an effort to say I'm going to teach you the ropes, I will introduce you around that sort of thing.
[9:08] Hawkins: I see that there is a difference.
[9:09] Olver: Yeah, but my mentoring was being allowed to participate in ways where I could see what was going on and pick it up. But you know, that's how women in my generation learn to do things. We read heroic stories of male heroes. And then we had to kind of interpolate for, alright, that's how you do it, but you got to wear a skirt, right? So that or just as a guy, I mean, there were a variety of ways of handling that. So I think it was and this I think, is important, as we talk later about my relationships with other faculty women.
[9:47] Hawkins: Right, but--
[9:47] Olver: Because I think I misunderstood how painful Amherst was to them, because they were looking for the kind of mentoring that you're describing, where someone goes up and says, I will help you. I've been here a while, let me explain to you how things go. And if you're looking for that, I don't think that did exist. And so their experience of lack of mentoring can coexist well, with my experience saying, yes, it was mentoring. It's all a matter of language, right, and of attitude, I guess.
[10:24] Hawkins: And you’re taking advantage of these things.
[10:25] Olver: Right.
[10:25] Hawkins: Perhaps also, there were fewer disciplinary courses that the later women appointees got into. That might be--
[10:33] Olver: Right. I think the interdisciplinary stuff was really very important. Because one's department, particularly my department, once having hired me was therefore nervous about you know, how I was going to do and how I was being presented on campus. Whereas other full professors in other departments didn't have that worry. They could just deal with me as a colleague. And I think that that helped a great deal.
[11:00] Hawkins: Did you ever teach in a collaborative course or in these early years with another member of the psychology department?
[11:05] Olver: Well our Psych 11. Our introductory course was a staff course, which allowed me to get some feedback about the teaching of psychology. It wasn't, I guess what I remember most is coming out of a lecture that I'd given, and having a senior member of my department, Bob Birney, who had otherwise been terribly supportive saying, gee, Rose, I wouldn't have done it that way. So that was, you learn from the good and the bad.
[11:34] Hawkins: That’s a type of mentoring
[11:36] Olver: Right, right. Well, I had used an example about perceptual recognition, citing screaming demons as the– and that was very much in the parlance of perceptual stuff. But he thought that I was making up the sort of funny tag and that the students would remember only that and I would be happy if they did remember that, in fact. So, in part, it was because the kind of psychology I did, cognitive psychology, was rather new at the time. And my department was not well versed in it. So I was bringing a different view of psychology. When I taught outside of the psych department, then everybody was quite willing to say, okay, that's what psychologists do, cool, you know, but--
[12:25] Hawkins: When there are new developments within a discipline those already established, are a little resistant.
[12:31] Olver: Right, and I think that that also accounts again for why my view and some of these women who came after me, that our views were quite different, because they were also hired to bring new parts of the discipline. So being female and representing something new in the discipline sort of came together in a way that was not always positive.
[12:59] Hawkins: Right and in their case more often, the new field was to bring women into the field.
[13:04] Olver: That's right--
[13:05] Hawkins: Which is, which was not what you were doing.
[13:07] Olver: That’s right and and to find– no, certainly people were not studying women in psychology in 1962. I was not accused of having a feminist bee in my bonnet, which I know that sounds--
[13:18] Hawkins: The phrase didn't even exist, probably.
[13:20] Olver: That’s right, well, if it did, it certainly didn't apply to me. I had learned the male view of psychology. That's what it was. And only later was able to realize just that that perspective was rather narrow.
[13:37] Hawkins: Okay, we will move on till we’re ready to talk about why and so on later.
[13:40] Olver: Right, right.
[13:41] Hawkins: Alright. Well, to get through this necessary stage.
[13:46] Olver: Yeah.
[13:46] Hawkins: The tenure decision. Can you tell us a little about when you received tenure and how that went?
[13:52] Olver: Oh my, well as I've suggested, you have to understand the Amherst language and so I went back to my department chair, having been told by the President, I was the kind of person that Amherst would like to keep around. And I said that I believe that that meant I had tenure. And my department chair said, No, it doesn't. You have to be appointed at the Associate Professor level. And he did not put through a request for that appointment, promotion. I understand that perhaps I was wrong about just what you had to do to actually get tenure on the books. But another senior member of the department, who then took over the chairmanship, made sure that I was, in fact, promoted, so everything worked out. But you know, tenure was not the big, I was so pleased to have a job at Amherst, a real job that I hadn't really worried about tenure, it all seemed kind of ephemeral anyway.
[14:57] Hawkins: That’s, that’s nice to hear.
[14:58] Olver: I mean in your, in your situation--
[15:01] Hawkins: I felt that it was a privilege to have been here. I was glad to have had that experience. I was better off because I taught at Amherst. And at least for men at that time, it was very much a seller's market. There were lot of openings, because--
[15:16] Olver: Yeah, yeah.
[15:16] Hawkins: There were not many people born in the ‘30s. They knew that a big wave of students were coming.
[15:21] Olver: That's right. We were the small, just before the expansion, it was before the war.
[15:27] Hawkins: We are not baby, we're not baby boomers.
[15:29] Olver: Not baby boomers.
[15:30] Hawkins: And, and yet--
[15:31] Olver: My class in elementary school was always the smallest. And then they had to hire more teachers as the wave of things came in.
[15:38] Hawkins: An advantage that came to our generation.
[15:40] Olver: Right.
[15:41] Hawkins: To speak loosely, use the term loosely.
[15:43] Olver: Something like that. Right, no I’m happy to--
[15:44] Hawkins: Okay, now, we had talked about mentoring, which wasn't where I came on the list.
[15:48] Olver: I’m sorry about that.
[15:49] Hawkins: But that's all right. No, no, no, that's fine. But I understand how you received something that we could call mentoring all though it’s--
[15:57] Olver: Yeah.
[15:58] Hawkins: Maybe another term might be found for that, but did you mentor others who came in, male and female faculty members? Did you take measures to help new younger people adjust to Amherst?
[16:12] Olver: Well, I think I tried to but with some hesitancy and nervousness, I think well, first of all, we're talking now about a span of years. I came in ‘62. I think the next woman on the faculty came in ‘66, something like that, about four years. And then there were a couple more after that during the late ‘60s.
[16:36] Hawkins: None of whom stayed, if I recall correctly.
[16:37] Olver: None of whom stayed and some of whom were let go and some left under one guise or another. And we were all young folks together, or at least the, the woman who came in 1966, anthropology, Lowell Eayers, and I were great friends and mystified by Amherst. She, being an anthropologist, was also sort of trying to explain to me how institutions worked and that was fun. And she was also quite dedicated to not following what you're supposed to do in order to fit into an institution, which was fun as well.
[17:18] But then after I'd gotten tenure, and women began to come to the faculty in 19- well, late 1960s and 1970s, I felt that the situation I'd been in at Amherst was so different from the situation they were in that when they would come to me for advice, or I would be energized to offer them advice. I'd always have to draw back and say, well, you know, if it were me, I'd be real cautious. I wouldn't do this. I wouldn't do that. I would play it kind of cool and stay back. And then I'd have to say, but you know, it may be different for you, it's a different generation. You were hired, speaking to these women, as women I was hired despite the fact that I was a woman.
[18:07] Hawkins: You were hired "faute de mieux"
[18:10] Olver: Yeah, exactly I was. So I felt that my situation was different. A mentor, as I now understand that term in its fullness, is someone who knows the ropes. And I wasn't really sure that I knew the ropes or how things ought to be played for women in that new historical time when women were being hired in the early 1970s, hired because Amherst thought it ought to have women, even if it didn't become co-educational, for the positive education of the male students you needed to have women faculty, and that's a very different world to enter. Also, I think that the women faculty were a little hesitant about where I stood. Was I part of the old boy network, part of the establishment. I had tenure, I'd been here about 10 years.
[19:07] One example of that is during the debates on co-education, the women faculty, I don’t know if you remember the faculty meeting, we came in wearing raincoats, and at a moment asked to be recognized, stood up and opened our raincoats. And I think everybody waited, bated breath whether we were going to be naked underneath but we weren't. We had sweatshirts, t-shirts, which said “Keep abreast of the times, vote yes.” It was a dramatic moment, which in fact, did not get recorded in the minutes of the faculty. You, as a historian who said you know, don't talk about things that are somehow in the written record, we had to amend the minutes of, at the next faculty meeting to indicate that the women faculty had made a statement in favor of co-education. But let me back up the reason I'd started on that story was when the younger women had decided to do this guerrilla theater, which is very much in the works these days, yeah. They approached me rather hesitantly, they weren't sure that I'd want to participate, that I was not really part of the old guard somehow. And so I think my hesitancy about mentoring and knowing how to mentor was matched by their hesitancy in coming to me as a possible mentor.
[20:32] Hawkins: There’s photographic proof. You were there, you were there in the t-shirt. There’s photographic evidence.
[20:35] Olver: I was there, yes. Yes, there is a photograph that now has become legend. There's a copy of it in archives here in the library. There's also a copy in the Women's and Gender Studies common room along with other scenes of early women at Amherst. So--
[20:54] Hawkins: I’m very glad to get that fully on the record. Well, this is what I was [unintelligible]
[21:02] Olver: Are we back on track on your list of questions?
[21:05] Hawkins: Yeah, yeah. This is what I would’ve said anyway.
[21:06] Olver: Yeah.
[21:07] Hawkins: You in the teaching situation in the classroom, especially at first I'm assuming male students--
[21:15] Olver: Yes.
[21:15] Hawkins: And then changing dramatically at a later point or maybe subtly I'm not sure. But I would like to hear about your teaching style and feeling, whether things were difficult for you?
[21:29] Olver: Ah yes. Well, I think and I had taught for a semester at Harvard. So that being in the classroom was not as first timey as it might have been. But Harvard students and there were also Ratcliffe students of course in the class, were different than Amherst students. Harvard students were much more sophisticated in how you deal with female faculty. Amherst students called me sir. I mean, that's what they always called faculty, right. But I had been well trained by my background, I knew that what we were supposed to do was to deliver the lecture, engage in hand to hand mental combat. And in fact, my first Scrutiny reviews had comments like, well, we left the seminar and went away to lick our wounds. So it was clear that as a swordsman, I had perfected the style enough to compete.
[22:29] Hawkins: Just to interject, the Scrutiny was a journalist student commentary on courses.
[22:33] Olver: Right.
[22:33] Hawkins: Which I think maybe it no longer exists, although there's something.
[22:36] Olver: Occasionally there's things online which call themselves Scrutiny, but I don't think they have quite the– they used to come out beautifully bound with a cover, which was always somewhat embarrassing to someone.
[22:49] Hawkins: And faculty members had to decide did they or didn't they want to read--
[22:52] Olver: Right, their own reviews. Yeah, and it was never, these reviews could never be used as part of the tenure documentation. Because they were unsigned student opinion. But nonetheless, I think they got it right. I was in there for that same mental combat and stuff. And it was really only teaching with women and I had the marvelous experience and again, five college, four college cooperation. I taught in the early 1970s, a course in sex and politics, with Jean Grossholtz from Mount Holyoke and Susie Bork from Smith. And all of a sudden, I found it was another way to teach, a more collaborative discussing kind of way where you put forth ideas and then don't defend them at all costs, but rather build on them and have other people be critical and so that what comes out at the end is a much more mutually collaborative kind of notion. And what the faculty member has, is the possibility they'll learn something from the conversation rather than just imparting knowledge in one way. So that I really learned a different possibility for teaching through teaching with Sue Bork and Jean Grossholtz, and then also teaching in staff courses, where rather than having the big lecture and everybody go to the individual section rooms, they share the classroom, as on occasion, happened in the memory course, and things like that. So that actually being in the classroom with another faculty member meant that you could do different kinds of, you were not the expert, you were sharing that expertise. And as a good colleague, you had to be willing to listen on occasion. Not that we were always good colleagues or always had good colleagues. But, so that my, my teaching style, I think I'd be now very embarrassed if Scrutiny in whatever form said that students went away to lick their wounds, right. That is not what I would like to have happen in a class.
[25:07] Hawkins: True, But that’s the phrase that stuck with you and, and it’s important for us to--
[25:09] Olver: Yeah, right.
[25:10] Hawkins: Okay, I got a good, I'm getting a good sense of you in the classroom. Now, a very dramatic event that some people think is the big event of the 20th century for Amherst College was the decision to admit women as degree candidates.
[25:26] Olver: Ah, yes.
[25:27] Hawkins: I should state this very carefully because women were on campus.
[25:29] Olver: There were many women, that’s right, through the various exchanges.
[25:33] Hawkins: There was that one male student, and I said you know, how did it affect you that Amherst has decided to become co-educational? He said, well, when I was here, I thought it was, I already thought it was co-educational. So there were physically women present.
[25:39] Olver: No, there certainly were--
[25:51] Hawkins: Yeah. Nevertheless, this is a dramatic moment and you had a great deal of involvement with it. So can you tell us about that decision and your role in the making of that decision?
[26:03] Olver: Okay. Well, I suspect that it's a much more complicated matter than I used to believe. There are those who tell me that we could have become a co-educational institution many, many years before. But there, cause there were reports from the Long Range Planning Committee, which argued for co-education, but that President Ward decided to do it in a certain style at a certain pace. Which meant that at the beginning of his presidency, we had a thing called the Select Committee on Co-education, where faculty and alums and trustees and so forth served and the faculty were elected. And lo and behold, two women, me and Ellen Ryerson, were elected to that Select Committee, which either means that the faculty believe that only women could comment on women. Or that is such a trivial committee, just leave it to the girls, they'll, they'll do whatever. I vary between which of those interpretations I'm more comfortable with.
[27:05] Hawkins: As somebody who voted in that election,
[27:08] Olver: Okay--
[27:11] Hawkins: I’d like to add another possible motive that these are two very able people. And by bringing them forward, we make the case that these are very, that these women or our colleagues, and we'd like to have women like them in our student body.
[27:20] Olver: Well, that's very generous. And I appreciate that. That gives me a third thing, I prefer to hold on to your view, because I often try to second guess things. Well, what this led to was a number of discussions about co-education in the presence of women. Obviously, in the context of Smith and Mount Holyoke, a lot of concern that what Amherst did would reflect in some way on what had been very important and continue to be very important relationships. And we gathered data in incredible amounts about other institutions that had gone co-educational. Amherst was rather late to go co-educational. And so there was lots of other places we could turn to. But one of the important meetings of the Select Committee was with the Board of Trustees, which was held in a men-only club in New York City. And so Ellen Ryerson and I met the night before and talked about, should we, as a matter of principle, refuse to attend a meeting held in an all male institution where we were not permitted to enter. And we decided, principle aside, the trustees probably just as happy if we didn't show up, so we better show up. And we did. We were kept in sort of the ladies lobby, until the moment for us to appear with the trustees, at which point we're taking up the service elevator to get into the room where we could meet. It was just that Harvard faculty club again. You know the--
[28:53] Hawkins: The service elevator seems a step lower.
[29:01] Olver: A step lower than the ladies entrance, yeah, no, clearly we were not, not really to be there. And indeed, the trustees were sharply divided about the question of co-education and did not vote it in the first time around. And had asked for a length of time longer than the faculty was willing to tolerate, to keep things in limbo while we debated. So if there was then a great more gathering of materials, and I was on the CEP at that point, and a lot of stuff that: will we have to change the curriculum, what will we have to do in order to accommodate women? And I think it's it's true, it's also been reported elsewhere that one of the turning arguments was a visiting committee that went out and looked at other institutions that have become co-educational, and found that they'd retained their integrity and their identity, which sort of calmed everything down, Amherst would still be Amherst, even if we admitted women. And the next vote of the trustees did in fact, lead to those, again, legendary photos. We're co-ed in the Amherst Student newspaper, right?
[30:15] Hawkins: Visual documents people will rely on. That’ll be deeply enriched by your comments here. I would like to say one thing about the move to co-education, that Ted Greene, who was on the second committee, I remember them saying in the faculty meeting that when we went to Princeton, that women just turned into Princetonians. So your sense that this was a comforting, [unintelligible] and I think we both would agree that it ain't quite developed.
[30:42] Olver: Well, but you, no, it, ultimately, although there were those who were hopeful that bringing women on to the campus might civilize the Amherst man, you know, less food fights in the dining hall, this sort of thing. And it did turn out that women who came to Amherst very quickly learned how to be Amherst men.
[31:04] Hawkins: And participated in food fights?
[31:06] Olver: I’m afraid so, I’m afraid so, and wanted to be in competitive athletics
[31:12] Hawkins: Yes there there--
[31:13] Olver: Ok, I mean that there was a variety of ways in which the hope that women might change the institution, on the part of some, was not lived up to, but the hope was a kind of funny coexistence that Amherst would stay the same and women would still know their proper place and would be the the calming, the civilizing influence although some argued that the tapping of high heels and the jangling of charm bracelets were going to be disruptive in the library. As far as I know, women and men study in the library without-- disruption
[31:45] Hawkins: Without the jangling of bracelets--
[31:48] Olver: and very few tapping of high heels.
[31:51] Hawkins: That is, and the dress, the very relaxed dress that Amherst is famous for, maybe to spread. The great exception that I would think of is the end of fraternities. I don't believe that would have occurred except that women were here. And when they were in fraternities, they were not treated well, to put it mildly, in many cases, and I think that was really what pushed that decision.
[32:17] Olver: Probably so.
[32:18] Hawkins: Yeah. So Amherst opportunities [unintelligible] is considerably different.
[32:21] Olver: Well, I'm not conversant enough, since presumably fraternities no longer exist, with their existence, which I presume they still do, off campus. I mean, fraternities may just have gone underground and still have an influence. But I think that's a story for another interviewer--
[32:42] Hawkins: Another interviewer that-- there must be some dean who knows the full, full story--
[32:44] Olver: who might be in on that, right, who would know exactly what-- who served on those kinds of committees, but fraternities were important in my development as well. Mentoring comes in many forms. There were faculty who took me to the faculty club, there was Cal Plimpton who took me to 10 o'clock coffee. Just once. I mean, that was living above my station.
[33:08] Hawkins: 10 o'clock coffee was very much an in-group of influential faculty.
[33:12] Olver: That's right. And of course, all male and lots older than me, but--
[33:16] Hawkins: Anybody could go, but-- I certainly didn’t.
[33:18] Olver: --But you didn’t. But, you know, I learned that that was fun, but you know, no, I don't think I would go. But students also were part of my mentoring. And I was asked to be a faculty advisor to a fraternity, Phi Psi, which had very often opened doors to--
[33:39] Hawkins: Famous for having pledged and initiated a Black student.
[33:43] Olver: Right. And so, uh-- that sounded okay. Except that back in those days, there were parietal hours, women's hours. Women could not be in the fraternity houses after 10 o'clock at night and the meeting between the faculty advisor and the fraternity men was held after 10 o'clock. So I was in a problematic situation. And I asked for a ruling from the inter-fraternity council, Art Davenport, who was sort of, advisor to them. And I got a ruling which perplexed me and has perplexed me continually in different ways. Word came back: “some women are not women.” Now, I assumed that what that meant was that I could be in the fraternity house when women were not allowed. But what did that say about me? And again, it's a matter of how I now interpret things in a more gendered analysis and how I interpreted them then. That was fine with me back then, in the mid 1960s. I knew I was not doing what academic women usually did. I had a real job. I was teaching at Amherst College. Right? So to to be told some women aren't women, that's fine. Now I'm highly embarrassed by having taken that so congenially. And it's interesting in, in preparing for this conversation I, as you know, ran off a copy of my vitae. And so to look at it as a whole for maybe the first time, and found that my current research with my honor students, much of which has to do with women entering male domains and how they manage their femininity, is the issue that came up with “some women aren't women.” You know, if you're an Amherst College student and play ice hockey, do you, because you're out there competitive and willing to kill on the ice, lose femininity? Or as one of my students working on things this year: if you bulk up, and do your lifting and weights and have a different body shape than what traditionally, women are supposed to have, does that-- how does that affect your feelings of femininity? So that “some women aren't women” seems to have gotten itself into my subconscious in a way that I'm still playing around with.
[36:24] Hawkins: This is very interesting to see you recalling the attitude of the time, and the way you look back on it now.
[36:30] Olver: Right, which makes the whole notion of an oral history or doing this interview, just a little suspect, right? I mean, here I am trying to describe what went on back then. And trying to remember how I felt back then, through lenses, which are now much more gendered, much more analytic about the role of women. And in fact, the coeducation debates made me a feminist. I could not any longer remove myself from the women they were talking about, because they were talking about educated women who could become Amherst College students. And so that distancing began to fall apart at the co-education debates.
[37:13] Hawkins: This is quite a story, Rose. Well, [laughter], thank you for sharing as they say--
[37:16] Olver: as they say, which means probably it'll ought to be removed from the record, I don’t know.
[37:22] Hawkins: I hope not.
[37:24] Olver: Oh gosh.
[37:25] Hawkins: All right. We're moving right along. Yes, I think that maybe that was enough on the big decision of co-education. That's so important in and of itself. Now, all these firsts and “only woman” and “first woman,” quite apart from that, when I think of the psychology department and your role in it, I think of a department that changed radically for the better, underwent major development, gained a reputation it didn't have when you arrived. I don't want to say any more than that, but can you tell us about--within that department--the role you played?
[38:04] Olver: Yes, I feel that I've really had the opportunity at Amherst to influence two departments, Psych and WAGS, I know we'll talk about WAGS later--Women's and Gender Studies. But the psychology story? Well, yeah. At about 1970, the senior members of the department were either retiring or going off to other things. Bob Birney was going to Hampshire, Ted Koester was retiring. There was me who had tenure, and two very good psychologists, young men who did not have tenure, who did not get tenure. And my understanding is they didn't get tenure, because the idea was to clear the decks so that the department could be reconstituted. They were kind of stuck with me, but they could get rid of these other people. And though, let me assure you, those two young men have gone on to do really marvelous things and I wish we'd kept them at Amherst, but okay. Since they were stuck with me, I was given the job of finding a senior male psychologist who would come in and chair the department and rebuild it. The argument was, I could not chair it because no woman had ever chaired an Amherst department. I, after a certain amount of begging and pleading, got them to allow me to sign my name over Acting Chair, just so I would have some authority when I was going around looking for this big guy. Well, I did the best job I could. And I talked to lots and lots of big folks who all wanted to come to Amherst to retire, to write their last book. It was a nice congenial well-thought-of environment. And that didn't sound like a lot of fun at all.
[39:53] Hawkins: Thank you for protecting us.
[39:54] Olver: Yeah, right. Well, fun for the Psych department. So I talked with Dean Gifford. And finally, we decided that there would be a visiting committee of the big name psychologists--whose selection I had some say in--who would work with me and other Amherst faculty to put together a kind of plan for a Psych department. And I think what's very important about that was not that there was a plan that was a little more active than just letting it kind of drift, but that that brought together what now have become important components of psychology and that is the neuroscience aspect. The visiting committee had people who took a physiological perspective on psychology, along with a social and a more humanities kind of perspective. And therefore, we laid the foundation for Amherst then and my working with Tom Yost and Allen Kropf to put together a request to the Sloan Foundation to establish neuroscience at Amherst. I believe--someone's got to check the history on it--that that was the first liberal arts neuroscience endeavor--
[41:10] Hawkins: I recently recall that claim being made at the time, and great pride being taken in this neuroscience department--
[41:16] Olver: Right. So that we, we then established a psych department that incorporated the physiological side along with the social science side. And that is continued, I think, very actively to the present. It meant though, that once we had this plan, I had to go out and sell it to aspiring faculty. And I remember taking our first physiological person, Al Sorenson, to Appleton Hall, and opening up a dusty room with a few electronic things hanging from the walls and saying, “Imagine the rat colony that will live here.” And he imagined, you know, he said, “Yeah, you know, we can do this,” and you need to have someone who could take an empty dusty room and imagine how it could become an active laboratory. And he came and set that on a good, a good path, I think.
[42:13] Hawkins: I remember the order of the rats from there that--
[42:17] Olver: Yeah, I uh, there'd been rats in the building before--in cages. I mean, there may have been rats in the building in other ways as well. But this was now really trying to build that component of physiological stuff into the psychology curriculum and following from the kinds of staff courses that I'd learned in American Studies. What we did was to have our introductory course where everybody on the faculty taught and brought their own special discipline into the intro course. That's very expensive in terms of faculty time, and we’re no longer able to do it, but it was a very good way of getting a young department in a collegial way off the ground and continuing what we still do, and that is: have linkages between the various perspectives in psychology. I just taught, for example, this past year, of course in science and gender with Sarah Turgeon, who's our, one of our physiological people. And so I was doing the social science part, and she was doing the hormones and genetics and stuff like that.
[43:26] Hawkins: [unintelligible] course.
[43:27] Olver: Yeah. So we, I think it was great fun to have the opportunity to try to imagine, with a lot of help, both from Amherst faculty and visiting committee, what a department ought to be, and then to live within it. And see colleagues come on-- When I came to Amherst, I was hired to teach social- and psycho-linguistics and cognitive and developmental. I've kept the developmental part and the rest we now have embodied in people who are really scholars in those areas. So it's been a rather thrilling experience.
[44:08] Hawkins: I was going to press you to name the other people that came in. But I think that's the sort of thing that's on the record.
[44:13] Olver: It certainly is, yeah.
[44:14] Hawkins: Yeah. We can easily find who came when, and and as I say the impression of somebody in another department, this is a growing, developing department in which all of us should take a lot of pride.
[44:25] Olver: Well, I certainly think that it, it went in a good direction in the 1970s, as I said, with a lot of help and counsel that has stood well for the future.
[44:37] Hawkins: And just to generalize it to Amherst history, I think this has happened two or maybe three other times that a department for various reasons, was left with almost nobody in it. And there would be a planning committee appointed with outsiders and faculty from other departments, and then there's major change, and I would say every case has been immensely successful. I won't-- I won't-- I won't mention the departments but
[45:01] Olver: I think that's the Amherst pattern, and it works
[45:04] Hawkins: --it doesn't always happen but the department is left, so… Well, in the case of Psychology you think perhaps they purposely allowed it to become open, and--
[45:15] Olver: I think so. It gave us and, and what I think is also interesting is that psychology had then hired a lot of women faculty. It almost got to the embarrassing point where we would say things like, gee, we'd hire a man if we could find someone qualified. Isn’t that awful? It was sort of reverse--
[45:35] Hawkins: reverse of what one [unintelligible]. Well you’ve talked about the virtues of lecturing in front of one's colleagues. I suppressed an anecdote so we wouldn’t have to hold up. But, in your case, “I wouldn't have done it that way.” In my case I walked out and a dear friend, not older in fact, but about the same age, said “where was your outline?” And I realized I had confused students and faculty and everything else by--
[46:03] Olver: --by your organization--
[46:06] Hawkins: --the free flow of material. So then for a while I rigidly put outlines on the board. Yeah, certainly always planning, but what brings it to mind is that I had in my hand, the outline we agreed on.
[46:16] Olver: Right, but you know what's interesting is how much we remembered those remarks. And when you think of all the offhand comments you've made to colleagues yourself, you wonder which ones they are, when they get interviewed. What they'll remember.
[46:30] Hawkins: Yeah if it stirs emotion, I mean, you’re the psychologist--
[46:40] Olver: Yeah, it if taps into emotion it’s likely to be recollected.
[46:37] Hawkins: And you’ll have the experience of some young person: “I well remember the words you said to me that changed my life.” [And you have] No sense that you ever said that, it doesn't sound like you, and yet perhaps you did one time say it when you walked away.
[46:53] Olver: I occasionally get letters from students, particularly if I've been in the public eye or been in the alumni magazine, or something like that as Faculty Marshal. And they do remember-- I mean I'm happy I had some impact on them, I hope, and I mainly hear from the ones that I had a positive impact on, so that's comforting. But I sometimes don't really remember having had that conversation or, you’re right, or having used words like that didn't sound like me. Maybe they confused me with some other woman faculty.
[47:27] Hawkins: So Women’s, the creation of Women’s and Gender Studies Department, the vote of the faculty.
[47:35] Olver: Okay. Like being late to coeducation, Amherst was late to have formal courses in women's studies, women's and gender studies, and it's not any longer so unique. A lot of departments now are trying--that have been Women's Studies departments--trying to add the word “gender.” We avoided the need to add it by having started out considering that gender--and talking about both masculinity and femininity--were important components. It was not entirely a strategy to get a positive vote from the faculty. It also represented the sense of those of us putting the idea together that gender--that you couldn't just study women.
[48:19] As you recollect that faculty meeting, although there was a fairly strong positive vote for a major in Women's and Gender Studies, there was a very close vote to make it a department. And I think the difference was a department commits you to faculty positions. At least how we do it at Amherst. Programs, or just majors, don't have positions associated with them. And I think people could see okay, where were those positions going to come from? Since we were holding the line having not increased the number of faculty given the coeducation decision and things like that. Many, many faculty had already started by 1985, to teach about women and to teach about gender. It was becoming part of a general academic consciousness in a way that it hadn't been 10 years, and certainly not 20 years before then. The feeling was that maybe we were so good at Amherst, that we could just let departments evolve.
[49:23] But once we began to look at just what courses were evolving, and how that was affecting students who could major in Gender, or Women's Studies or something like that, through the interdisciplinary major, independent major provision. There were a lot of courses, but the number didn't increase, and you couldn't count on them being offered. And there wasn't a structure that we might provide a major that had some sort of sequence to it. So that the need for having a department which could provide the circumstances under which a major curriculum could be developed and have faculty committed to teaching it and have it anticipated to be taught regularly seemed to be the wisest way to go. It also seemed that for the sort of psychological support of women faculty, it'd be useful to have Women's Studies recognized in the Amherst curriculum in a rather formal way. Women had felt that doing gender stuff may not have been as approved of, and here this would say Amherst College recognizes this as an important area of study.
[50:42] So we had the usual sort of Amherst committees to look into how to do it. And proposals brought before the faculty and then a vote, both for the major and for the department. And then a committee, always a committee, to implement that vote. And I was happy to be Chair of that implementation committee. And now we have a department of Women's and Gender Studies. A department that has always relied heavily on willingness of faculty from other departments to contribute courses, but tried to provide a structure within which we would have an introductory course, a senior level kind of endeavor, to provide the frame. And at the moment, our department faculty have been, in WAGS, severely depleted. We have some excellent faculty who have gone off to teach at Harvard, or Santa Cruz. We also have a number of WAGS faculty who get tapped to be Associate Deans, and things like that. So we're again in a state where we need to consider, and in fact are doing a self study and have a visiting committee, just how we can put things back together given our earlier conversation about how Amherst departments have profited from that. I think we can expect that the WAGS tradition will be augmented and, and go forward nicely as a result of that kind of procedure.
[52:12] Hawkins: Really, I didn't, I didn't-- I hadn't thought of this recent history. That’s a very interesting development. Were you a member of that department from the very beginning?
[52:21] Olver: Yes. Yes.
[52:22] Hawkins: You changed your title to professor--
[52:24] Olver: Yeah, once there was a WAGS department, then my title became half in Psychology and half in Women's and Gender Studies. So it means when I sign letters, it goes on, you know, Professor of Psychology and of Women's and Gender Studies, which is a little cumbersome. And therefore WAGS is a nice thing to be able to say. But what, what's happened, I think, and you know, I'm married to this political person whom I know you want to raise at some point, John Olver, who came to the Amherst area, brought me to the Amherst area because he was teaching at the University of Massachusetts, got tenure, decided--. We'd both gotten tenure the same year, I had visions of “let's get Fulbright's, let's go to Africa,” you know, a psychologist and a chemist must be saleable somewhere. His notion was, why not run for political office? And had I known what that was going to involve, I might have had a little more resistant. But he ran for political office and was elected. But his attitude towards my staying in the academy is: “How can you stand to teach the same stuff year after year?” And I have to assure him, it's not the same stuff, that talking about gender has really changed psychology. The opportunity to teach in WAGS, and to teach with people in the humanities in particular, has-- I feel like I've been going to school ever since kindergarten. And I keep having the opportunity to teach and to learn from colleagues and other departments and disciplines.
[54:01] Hawkins: I would like to say that that if, if I could rephrase that so well, that's very much my sentiment about having been lucky enough to have taught at Amherst College. You're learning all the time.
[54:11] Olver: And I wonder if our younger colleagues have the same experience. The reduction in staff courses, collaborative teaching, you know, we've hard-pressed now to get even the first year seminar situation in some sort of collaborative mode. I think you lose a lot if you don't have those kinds of connections, not only about how to become a teacher, be socialized to be a college teacher, but for one's own education and advancement as well.
[54:46] Hawkins: That’s something I began, I began worrying about that a long time ago. And it’s even more worrisome now.
[54:52] Olver: I think so. I think so. Maybe the President's new initiative funds which are supposed to bring people together in collaborative endeavors will be a way we’ll get back into what I think is, had been for me and I gather for you as well, an important aspect of teaching at Amherst.
[55:08] Hawkins: Many, many of the things you said about WAGS, made me think of the American Studies, which is a story in its own right and written and told of elsewhere. Now, I would like to hear more about what it's like to be married to a successful politician who's moved from--
[55:25] Olver: He started in the state, State House in 1968. State Rep, State Senate and then in 1991, ran for congress and was elected and has been in Congress since then, and he is rising with seniority to be--he calls it one of the Cardinals, I'm not sure I quite understand what-- but it's it's because he's Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing which puts him in a elevated state or something, where he can get things done and get things done for his district, even when the presidency is held by the opposing party. So things are not always as grim for the party that isn't– they’re in the majority. Probably we shouldn't get involved, I don’t know about congressional politics. Because mainly what I do, there's a big separation in Congress between congressional and campaign. You can't use public monies, congressional monies to foster campaigns and so forth. Well, in my view, you can't use the politician's wife--me--in congressional because it would be every day talking to constituents, having to understand what legislation he was dealing with, but I'm willing to be-- to come out on working on campaign stuff. And there I do all the-- well, three paces behind, the smile, making coffee, making a little policy but not always owning up to making policy. And I occasionally run into trouble because we'll be at some big event and I'll be introduced as “--and his lovely wife Rose.” And my colleagues will be at some table in the back and they'll start chanting, “she's a person in her own right.” I want to say, you know, “be calm. It's alright.” I'm multiple persons in different kinds of roles at different, different moments. But I do work on his campaigns. And enjoy that, whether it's stuffing envelopes, or trying to figure out what is the best set of clothing to take for his-- making his TV ad, so that they do it all in one day, but it has to look like it's been done over a year. So you know, you go from the sweater, to the jacket, to the coat, to the whatever. And that's a lot of fun.
[57:43] Hawkins: That’s good. When he first ran, am I right that you actually chaired the campaign committee?
[57:49] Olver: Well, uh, I was very much among the three people--I think his first campaign manager was probably Skip Dempesy, an Amherst College faculty member. Yeah. But then at-- in the first of John's state senate campaigns, Skip decided to give up physics and go and work in neuroscience or something like that, which meant that he no longer had much time for politics. And that was in the midst of a campaign. And so I, and a couple of other key campaign workers, took over for the running of the campaign. Back when it was statewide, there was really more hands-on stuff, we spent a lot more making the coffee, making sure the cheese tray was there, whatever. Now that it’s congressional and the congressional district is very big, much more dependent on having a campaign committee in a variety of towns and--
[58:44] Hawkins: It's a huge district.
[58:46] Olver: It’s a huge district.
[58:47] Hawkins: --largest in the state.
[58:48] Olver: Right. I mean, in terms of population, it has to be evened out, but the hugeness of the district in geography runs from the sort of border with Albany all the way through to Fitchburg and above Worcester. So just to travel it is-- but it's been an interesting experience. I think that my life at Amherst was, when I first came here, improved a great deal or made more positive by the fact that the Amherst faculty didn't know what to do with me as a female, but really like John Olver. He played a good game of Bridge. They'd like to get together, it was Monday night bridge, It was four o'clock in the faculty club bridge. He timed track meets with Al Lumley, who was the track coach, professor of physical education. He fit in so well that-- how could I be a dangerous person, you know? I felt that he, that his presence, made my transition, made my acceptance a lot easier at Amherst.
[59:54] Hawkins: And indeed, you became a mother while you were teaching.
[59:58] Olver: Indeed.
[59:59] Hawkins: You were probably first, in that case.
[1:00:01] Olver: It got announced in the faculty meeting, as you know, sort of “first faculty member to have a child,” which, you know, male faculty have children too, but I guess, to actually produce the child. But that was of grave concern. My being pregnant was of grave concern. Because in those days, if you taught in the public schools, and were female, as soon as you started to show, you had to quit. And so the possibility that I might get pregnant, worried my department chair, to the extent he went and talked to the President. The President then called me in and said, “Rosie, you can get pregnant and stay pregnant all you want,” which I'm sure most faculty do not have that conversation with the president of the institution.
[1:00:48] Hawkins: This is Calvin Plimpton--
[1:00:49] Olver: This is Calvin Plimpton, who, in his physician way, was able to talk about most anything. When I actually was pregnant, I was on sabbatical and was teaching at Harvard, they didn't care. So, yeah, I had a child. She is now a librarian at the Holyoke Public Library, and a very bookish kind of person, which-- and I think we're great friends, or I hope we're great friends. So.
[1:01:21] Hawkins: And how about the fact that your husband has to be resident in Washington, and you have never taken up residence there?
[1:01:29] Olver: No, I haven't. Much too many of his constituents who don't know me or know what I do, often to make conversation say it: “How do you like living in Washington?” And I say, “Well, you know, I don't live in Washington. I teach at Amherst College, and I live in Amherst, and John comes back on weekends.” And they say, “oh, but how does he find an apartment? How does he--” and I, you know, that’s-- he's a grown up, that's really his problem. No I haven't resided in Washington. In fact, I very rarely go down to Washington, because the times would be the weekends when I'd have free to go and he's back in the district. And also that would put me in a role that I'm really not terribly comfortable with. And that is the wife of the politician. Because I think to do that successfully, you have to know a great deal about the politics of his position, and who I should be mentioning things to or not mentioning things to. And it's hard enough to deal with the politics of Amherst College. But to keep, you know, the Congress of the United States in mind as well is more than I can cope with.
[1:02:41] Hawkins: Interesting to hear you say the politics of Amherst College because certain-- there's certain elements here that could be similar
[1:02:50] Olver: Yeah, although in our faculty meetings, people actually talk and people are actually there, and change their minds and so forth. If you look at CNN, when they're broadcasting Congress, people are making impassioned speeches. But there's nobody in the audience.
[1:03:09] Hawkins: Occasionally they show you
[1:03:10] Olver: Right, right. So--
[1:03:13] Hawkins: I can remember when I was on the committee where we wanted something to get through, and later people in there were saying “this one voted against us!” You mean you look around? I always lower my eyes, right.
[1:03:23] Olver: Right, you’re not supposed to.
[1:03:24] Hawkins: Don't be so foolish!
[1:03:26] Olver: Well, that's why we now have paper ballots very frequently.
[1:03:30] Hawkins: Yes, there is politics in academic life. But, happily, there is another side when there’s reasoning together.
[1:03:37] Olver: Yeah. And I think I find that the most different from what I see in the congressional world, a lot’s done behind the scenes in Congress, and probably a lot’s done at Amherst College behind the scenes too, but we pretend . Yeah, there's a moment-- And you know, I see people who come and say “well, I'm not going to give the speech I had intended to give because I'm impressed with what my colleagues have said. And I will now vote in the--” So I think there is real listening.
[1:04:07] Hawkins: Those are good moments. I'm glad to hear they continue.
[1:04:10] Olver: Right. They are indeed. Yeah.
[1:04:12] Hawkins: All right, looking back at the agenda here. Well, you've been in a lot of committees, is there something that we should hear about what it's like to be a committee member at Amherst College?
[1:04:26] Olver: It got better once there were more women. Because for a while, I would be asked to serve on committees, because “we need a woman on the committee” and I would have to say, “Please tell me I'm competent.” You know, not just my gender, but there's something-- but on the Committee of Six, five times, something like that through a great range of presidents. That's been interesting to see the development and how much the personality of what goes on in a committee depends upon its composition, not just the president, but the other-- the other individuals as well. Remember quite vividly the first time I was on with another woman on the committee, Jane Taubman. And, you know, what happens often on committees with women's voices is that a woman makes an important point. And it sort of seems to go into the great void, and then later a man makes the same point. And people say, “that's a great idea!,” you know? And what Jane and I were able to do is to say things like, “you know, Jane said that about five minutes ago,” or “if you'd listen, Rose had already covered that point before.” So that was kind of-- it was that, in addition to whatever the agenda was for the committee meeting, there was another kind of social, gendered agenda going on as well.
[1:05:54] Hawkins: This must have been instructive to the others.
[1:05:57] Olver: I doubt whether it instructed them a lot, but it made us feel better, to be able to claim the right to an idea, on occasion. I think that I've been on a lot of committees, the ones that I've felt most satisfaction in, I think, are the search committees. Search committees for presidents, for the librarian of the college, for the Dean of Students, where you feel that you're contributing to something which is then going to have a policy kind of impact. So I've had a lot of fun messing with that, too.
[1:06:32] Hawkins: --your sense of, you know, we’re trying to convey what Amherst is like to this person and see if there's a connection there.
[1:06:38] Olver: Right. And to imagine, although it doesn't always turn out the way you think, what they're going to be like in the Amherst context, and whether the ideas which they're gleaning from their present place, take flower here in some reasonable way.
[1:06:57] Hawkins: There may indeed have been mistakes, but I think on the whole Amherst has very good pattern of searching.
[1:07:02] Olver: I think so, I think we're really good at committee stuff. And I am saddened when I see moves in contemporary Amherst life to sort of cut the number of committees to have faculty not participate as extensively in the business of running the institution.
[1:07:23] Hawkins: “Faculty role in governance” is the phrase that the AAUP [American Association of University Professors] uses. And when I realize, you know, Amherst is pretty good at this, but all over the country, it's shrinking.
[1:07:33] Olver: Yeah, no, I think so. And and I think that it is because more emphasis is being put on disciplinary stuff
[1:07:43] Hawkins: Well managed, well-administered, efficient.
[1:07:47] Olver: But, you know, this may just be my age speaking , and I may have seen it differently at an earlier time.
[1:07:56] Hawkins: Well, not that we couldn’t go on for a long time. But I have got down to-- were the other things you'd hoped would come up as we talk?
[1:08:03] Olver: I think we've about covered everything I could-- can think of.
[1:08:08] Hawkins: That’s good. It's been personally delightful for me--
[1:08:11] Olver: It’s been great fun talking with you and having, having your input. And seeing this from more than one perspective, as well.
[1:08:18] Hawkins: Thank you for letting me know that that would be welcome. Let's hope that future viewers will glean something from this this important--
[1:08:25] Olver: Sounds good.
[1:08:26] Hawkins: Thank you so much.
[1:08:26] Olver: Thanks again. And thanks to the recording staff.
Rose Olver was the L. Stanton Williams '41 Professor of Psychology and Women's and Gender Studies. She graduated from Swarthmore College and earned her doctorate from Radcliffe College. In 1962, she became the first full-time woman faculty member in a tenure-track position, and in 1968 became the first woman on the faculty to receive tenure. Olver became chair of the Psychology Department in 1970, the first woman to chair any academic department at the college. She was considered a leading expert in the psychology of self.
Hugh Hawkins was a past Anson D. Morse Professor of History and American Studies. He retired from the faculty in 2000. He helped build both the history and American Studies departments, as well as being a chief architect for the first-year Liberal Arts studies program.
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