Virginia Gilderseleeve BC 1899 MA '?? PhD 1908 was the third President of Barnard College, though at the time, she and her predecessors used the title "Dean". Gildersleeve's tenure at Barnard was long, mirroring the reign of University President Nicholas Murray Butler at Columbia.
After graduating from Barnard, Gilderseleeve had earned an MA in medieval English literature from Columbia. She then taught at Barnard, declining a full-time position in order to move on to complete a PhD.
During her tenure as president/Dean, she worked to advance women's access to Columbia professional schools, among other things hiring a young Charles Beard to teach a course on American government at Barnard so its alumnae would be eligible for the Journalism School. She also hired anthropologist Franz Boas away from Columbia when he was threatened with being fired for dissenting against the First World War. Gildersleeve also paid a scholarship out of her own pocket for at least one black student from Harlem to attend the school.
At the end of her tenure as president, in 1945, she served as the sole female delegate from the United States to the negotiation of the UN Charter and the founding of the United Nations (more or less making her a big deal).
Laura Drake Gill
|President of Barnard College