A Force at Amherst, and on Wall Street

By Katherine Duke ’05

The man who chaired the board of trustees when it voted to admit women—and who left Wall Street to study American literature—has died.

[Obituary] George L. Shinn ’45, chairman of the board of trustees when it voted in 1974 to admit women to Amherst, died on Dec. 16, 2013, in Scarborough, Maine. A life trustee of the college, he was 90.

Shinn joined the board in 1968 and was its chair from 1973 to 1980—the years during which the college began admitting female students.

Shinn was an important force on Wall Street during the 1980s. Starting as a trainee in 1949, he rose through the ranks of Merrill Lynch, the nation’s largest securities firm, to become its president and chief operating officer in 1974. But the next year, he left to lead the First Boston Corp.

He surprised the Wall Street community when he retired from First Boston in 1983 to return to school. He earned a Ph.D. in English from Drew University in 1992, at the age of 69, and went on to teach American literature courses at Drew and investment banking seminars at Columbia University.

George L. Shinn ’45

George L. Shinn ’45.
Photo by Jack Manning/New York Times/redux

Shinn was born in Ohio and enrolled at Amherst on a scholarship in 1941. He joined the basketball and football teams and Psi Upsilon fraternity. World War II interrupted his college career—he served as a flight instructor and captain in the Marine Corps—but he returned to Amherst and graduated with a psychology major in 1948. He received a doctorate of laws from Denison University in 1975.

Shinn served on the boards of The New York Times Co. and the New York Stock Exchange, among other organizations. He was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Survivors include his children, Andrew Shinn ’85, Deborah Shinn, Amy Shinn, Martha Moore and Sarah Shinn Pratt; daughter-in-law Margaret McKay Shinn ’85; and five grandchildren. His granddaughter Nora Moore ’07 died in 2004, and his wife, Mount Holyoke College alumna Clara LeBaron Sampson, died in 2010.

Coeducation the Early Years

Warhol-inspired coeducation sticker.

Amherst students who favored coeducation created this Warhol-inspired sticker in 1972.

1974 The trustees voted by a margin of 15 to 3 in favor of coeducation. This vote came after years of debate among board members, administrators, faculty, alumni and students.

1975 Nine women who were already exchange students at Amherst were admitted as transfer students to become members of the Class of 1976.

1976 By virtue of alphabetical order, psychology major Anita Cilderman, originally from Mount Holyoke College, became the first woman to receive a bachelor’s degree from Amherst. A few months later the first women admitted as first-year students arrived as members of the Class of 1980.

Anita Cilderman receives diploma

Source: Archives & Special Collections