Why women professors?

Why women professors?
by Nancy C. Unger |
Marking 50 years of coeducation at Santa Clara—and recognizing that it’s not just the composition of students that has changed profoundly. Teaching scholars are a big part of the equation.

Mentors and friends: As teachers, scholars, mentors and friends, who are the women at Santa Clara who have shaped the way you see the world? Share your stories below.

50 years of coeducation: See videos, photos, and more commemorating 50 years of coeducation at SCU on the Alumni Association website.

In 1987 early in my career as a historian, I was approached in the hall by a young woman who asked hesitantly if I was pregnant. I was full term and roughly the size of a Buick, so I allowed that, yes, I was indeed. “I just wanted to tell you,” she said, “what it means to me to see a pregnant professor on this campus.” What did it mean to her? For a young woman whose professors were mostly male, I was walking, talking proof that it was possible to be both an intellectual and a mother, to have a career as a teaching scholar in addition to a family. In that moment I was reminded of how important and new that reality was. As a woman, my presence on campus was significant beyond my scholarship and classroom lectures.

The last half century at Santa Clara University has been filled with “aha!” moments like that one for students and faculty alike. For the sake of accuracy, I should note that the particular encounter I described happened at another university. But that’s also a reminder that Santa Clara’s move to coeducation did not occur in a social, religious, or political vacuum. The men and women in the university’s classrooms were experiencing many challenges to tradition and being exposed to new, more inclusive ways of thinking.

Even before women were admitted as undergraduates, a woman joined the University faculty: Margaret Chamberlin began teaching public speaking at Santa Clara in 1955. The admission of women in 1961 sparked rising enrollments and the construction of new buildings. Harder to measure are the gains made in human understanding.


Diane Dreher joined the English faculty in 1974. She's served as department chair and associate dean of arts and sciences.

Janet Flammang began teaching political science at SCU more than three decades ago; she's now professor and chair.

Mary Emery J.D. '63 was in the first class of women to graduate SCU Law and became associate dean and director of the law school's library.

Nicole Sault, a professor of anthropology, took SCU students for a study tour to Chiapas, Mexico, in 1995.


Truly equal

The curriculum was transformed by Vatican II as well as a variety of social movements demanding that women and people of color finally be recognized as truly equal. A new spirit of inquiry, openness, and a dedication to social justice began to take hold.

That said, it took time. By 1963, there were only three women teaching at Santa Clara: in biology, the honors program, and English. And in changing the face of the University, certainly there were unique learning opportunities. Patricia Neal in English recounted a male student who left class early one day and then stopped by her office to explain why: “I have a problem with a woman as an authority figure.” Neal told him, “Well, you do have a problem.” (He enrolled in more classes with her after that and turned to her for advice on other professors to take.) It took longer for some male students to accept women professionals on a par with men. One scholar found students who strolled by her office kept asking for directions; they thought she was the department secretary. Another shared the story of a male student she had taught who stopped by to ask if he might hire her to type up his term paper for another class.

In the newly coeducational classes, young men and women sharing ideas and learning together gained profound truths about themselves as well as the course content. On the academic playing field, students no longer saw members of the opposite sex through the glass darkly, as some mysterious “other.” They found truth in the defense that President Patrick Donohoe, S.J., offered for his decision to admit women: “A mixed university is a much more accurate mirror of life … and better preparation for the society the student is entering.” (Fr. Donohoe also quipped that the University admitted women “to raise the GPA!”—which it did.)

At a time when 95 percent of the nation’s doctors and 97 percent of lawyers and members of Congress were men, male students and faculty at Santa Clara were forced to take women seriously as intellectuals. Perhaps as significant, women were forced to take themselves seriously. 

More than a decade later, this was still a foreign concept for a lot of people, including myself. When I entered Gonzaga University in 1974 as an insecure freshman, I was stunned to find that professors were interested in my academic development and found me worthy of their time, attention, and encouragement. With these educated, accomplished people taking my scholarly potential seriously, I had no choice but to follow suit, shedding my self-doubt along the way.


Denise Carmody taught religious studies at SCU before, in 2000, she became the first woman to serve as provost of the University.

Marilyn Fernandez has taught sociology at SCU since 1992 and served as director of the Center for Multicultural Learning.

Helen Moritz has taught classics since 1977 and chaired three departments.

Karen Fox is an internationally recognized expert on marketing; she came to SCU in 1980 and was the first woman tenured in the Leavey School of Business.


All the boats

In a variety of ways, the introduction of women into Santa Clara’s student body, faculty, and staff touched countless lives. By the mid 1970s, there were only 16 women teaching full time and six teaching part time on the 206-member faculty. Today, 40 percent of the University’s faculty are women.

As women’s presence continued to expand, it transformed the curriculum of the University and the scholarship produced. The first Women’s Studies courses were offered in 1973, and the Women’s Studies Program, predecessor to today’s Women’s and Gender Studies (now a major), was created by President William Rewak, S.J., in 1980 upon the recommendation of a task force of faculty and students. History professor Mary Gordon headed that task force, then served as the program’s first director.

Rather than operate in isolation, the Women's and Gender Studies program at Santa Clara remains true to its roots and is strongly interdisciplinary, integrating some 90 courses taught by faculty from across the curriculum. Offerings range from the philosophy course “Ethics and Gender” to the economics department’s “Gender Issues in the Developing World.”

Women at Santa Clara have been dedicated to enriching traditional disciplines as well as creating new ones. And women faculty have gained reputations as leaders in various fields. Sally Wood in electrical engineering was the first SCU scholar to receive a National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award. Catherine Bell of religious studies was an internationally renowned expert on ritual and Chinese religions. The first SCU recipient of the Graves Award, given by the American Council of Learned Societies to recognize outstanding teaching in the humanities, was Diane Dreher—now professor of English and research associate at, SCU’s Spirituality and Health Institute.

Ruth Davis, associate dean of undergraduate engineering, is dedicated to increasing the diversity of the engineering workforce, particularly to empowering girls to enter Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs. With Professor Kieran Sullivan of the psychology department, she has produced valuable studies on increasing retention rates among women engineering students. Notably, the School of Engineering has the highest percentage of women faculty (tenured or tenure track) in the United States, a distinction it’s held for several years.

SCU women students as well as faculty have taken advantage of the university’s commitment to educating the whole person. The result for the University? When revered Professor of Ethics Austin Fagothey, S.J., considered his long tenure at Santa Clara, two events marked especially significant improvements: the arrival of GIs after World War II and coeducation. In both cases, the quality of academic life was made strikingly better by their presence. In the words of University Historian Gerald McKevitt, S.J., the rising tide of women lifted all boats.

Nancy C. Unger is an associate professor of history at SCU. She is the author of Fighting Bob La Follette: The Righteous Reformer and is currently at work on Beyond Nature’s Housekeepers: American Women in Environmental History for Oxford University Press.

Maggie Beidelman '09 said on Apr 4, 2012

I would definitely like to mention Barbara Kelley '70.

BK was a wonderful magazine journalism professor during my time at SCU. She showed genuine interest in my improvement as a journalist, and it showed in my work for that class, which ended up getting published. I largely credit her enthusiasm for the trade for inspiring my own—it's one of the reasons I am at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism today. Also, since graduating, I—and a ton of other women—have particularly benefitted from her book and her blog that she writes with her daughter, "Undecided." It's an excellent ongoing conversation about the trials of women in the modern world and the choices that haunt and hoist us. :) Thanks, Barbara!

[An article about Barbara's book, as well as her reading an excerpt, was in the Winter 2012 issue of SCM. —ed.]

Michelle Marvier '90 said on Apr 4, 2012

Working with Dr. Janice Edgerly-Rooks of the Biology Department got me interested in research and inspired me to apply to graduate school. Without her mentorship, I doubt I would have considered graduate school. I love the path my life has taken, and I owe so much of that to Janice. Now that I'm also a professor here at SCU, I try to model Janice's passion for science and similarly pass the joy of research along to my students.

Daniel Romanski '98 said on Apr 7, 2012

Jagienka Drweski - Jagienka was my freshman acting teacher. I thought it would be an easy class to clown around in and get an A. I mean it was "acting." Somehow Jagienka's soft spoken yet direct way made it difficult to get away with much without embarrassing myself. She was able to pierce straight to the heart of a person, situation, idea, or motivation with ease, all while having a smile on her face. She made me realize the value of time and how not to waste it by making bad choices. She was much more than an acting professor but rather a great example of how to live one's life with sincerity and without fear. I think about her to this day.

Jane Curry - I entered SCU without a declared major and signed up for an introductory political science class as part of my overall requirements. Professor Curry gave us a ton of books to read with titles like "Eastern European Political Systems." BOR-ING! When Professor Curry would start a lecture it seemed as though the people, places, and events came alive. It was as if she'd just had breakfast with the foreign minister of so and so country that morning and was simply reporting about what they talked about over tea. I came to find out that she actually DID know many of the eastern European power brokers throughout the region and flew there regularly to participate in the ongoing transition of eastern Europe from a closed, socialist system to an open democratic one. Professor Curry explored psychology, history, economics, art, and all of the other liberal arts through the lens of political science. Her insight has definitely had a great impact on how I see the complexities of the world woven together.

Keith Marshall '98 said on Apr 7, 2012

As a freshman at Santa Clara, I found myself studying in a Major that was what you were "supposed" to do, but not really finding myself. During this time, I was talked into taking an acting class to fulfill my Fine Arts requirement. I ended up enrolled in Beginning Acting 1 with Jagienka Drweski and before I knew it, I was enrolled in Beginning Acting 2. A few conversations later, she was my new academic advisor and I had switched majors. None of it was by her direct persuasion, rather the way she taught. I found myself learning more about life and how to observe it. I've never regretted changing majors, and to this day utilize more of what I learned in the Theatre department than any other subject. Jagienka helped me realize what I truly was supposed to study.

Michelle Petlow JD '11 said on Apr 9, 2012

Susan Erwin M.A. '01, Senior Assistant Dean, Student Services at Santa Clara Law (confidant / mother-to-all): Dean Erwin has always been there for me, whether it's a school-related issue or not. She has been a constant source of compassion, regardless of the obstacle I come to her with. I am not sure what my Santa Clara Law School experience would have been like without her. From the moment I became a law student, Dean Erwin was there for me. And luckily she continues to be there for me. Her caring and kind heart does not just shut off when a law student graduates, she continues to be a part of your life, long after you graduate. And the best thing about her is that she's like this to all. This is why she made a difference in my time at Santa Clara and for every other law student that walks through her door. She is an incredible woman with a heart of gold.

Professor Nancy Wright J.D. '80, Santa Clara Law (professor of law / Inspiration): It is people like Professor Nancy Wright that remind me of the good in the world. It's easy to get caught up in the drudgery of our every day lives and the sadness that surrounds us (especially when studying certain areas of the law), but Professor Wright has an innate ability to shine the light on the positive. She has dedicated her life to helping others, whether its a low income client or a teen caught up in the "wrong crowd." She educates each of her students to be "lawyers that lead" with a heart filled with compassion and positivity. Her patience, her passion, and her dedication to helping her community gives all of us future lawyers something to aspire to become.

Rob Tepper '00 said on Apr 9, 2012

I have fond memories of Jagienka Zych-Drweski, one of my theatre professors when I was attending Santa Clara. She taught me about Stanislovsky and I remember speaking with her many times at length about the method. I believe that her influence, grace and strength all aided in what has become my passion for the craft. I think of her often and smile when I do.

Michelle (Premo) Walsh '87 said on Apr 9, 2012

I had the privilege of knowing Dean Mary B. Emery J.D. '63 and she became for me one of those mentors that would have a profound impact on my life. She was a family friend, brave enough to offer me a job in the Santa Clara Law Library during my undergraduate years. Here she would keep a close eye on my academic and personal development, ensuring I made the most out of my Santa Clara education.

Mary Emery was a smart, witty, dynamic lawyer, educator, administrator and friend. As one of the first female Santa Clara Law School graduates, she was considered a pioneer, a role model for women's upward mobility. As I entered Santa Clara University on the heals of the Title IX decision, I was keenly aware that it was thanks to women like Mary Emery that I would be given the opportunity to compete as a female athlete here at the school. Through her many committee positions at the University, she played a vital role in ensuring equality for women on campus.

Looking back now on the impact Dean Emery had on my life, I credit her with many of my life's career achievements. I had watched this brilliant women succeed on so many levels and what I learned from her was that if I believed in something enough, I too could succeed in anything I set out to do. She instilled a confidence and fearlessness in me, which I've leveraged throughout my career in Silicon Valley. This year Santa Clara University lost a true shining light, yet her legacy lives on in the many friends and colleagues that continue to serve the institution. Mary Emery lived a life of selfless contribution to her community. I hope to honor her legacy by giving back to the community that gave so much to me.

Lindsey Kouvaris '02 said on Apr 13, 2012

Brigid Barton, Professor Emerita, Department of Art and Art History: I've been lucky to study under several brilliant, strong, and inspiring women, but Brigid Barton stands out as one of the most influential to me as an undergrad. She challenged me through my course work, yet always expressed an unwavering faith in my abilities. She encouraged me to pursue my professional dreams and supported me by helping secure my first museum internship. Ten years later, she remains a friend and mentor--someone whose opinion I trust and whose friendship I value.

Marygrace Colby M.A. '91 said on Apr 20, 2012

When I arrived on the Santa Clara campus in the fall of 1963, I was a thirty-two year old high school Physical Education Teacher with little coaching experience, hired to "direct and instruct women students in various recreation and athletic pursuits." No perimeters given, nor printed material on how to proceed, except that "Recreation" was to be the emphasis.

There were three female teachers/administrators on campus in those first few years: Elizabeth Moran, English, was the first full time female teacher, becoming the first female President of the Faculty Senate in 1974, Viola Kamena was the first Dean of Women, and Garland White, the Placement Director. These few women, and a number of female staff, became my supporters, mentors, and friends.

Being the sole female coach/administrator in the all male Athletic Department for many years was a challenge. With the special help of the Department secretaries, Kathy Ivers and Dolores Gisi, I began new programs and activities and hired qualified coaches for women students who wanted to be involved in Intercollegiate Athletics.

I have always admired those first female student-athlete pioneers at Santa Clara, who were provided with little in terms of finances, equipment and qualified coaches. Faced with antiquated, almost non-existent facilities, they practiced in the tiny St. Clare Church Hall for many years. They played all their games on the road, often sleeping on gym floors. It was not taken for granted how women would or should be able to participate on intercollegiate teams, representing their college or university. Now, fifty years later, Santa Clara's Women's Athletics and female participation at institutions all over the country have come a long way. Santa Clara has become much  more liberal and open to new ideas.

In 1988, many years into my Santa Clara history, and at the suggestion of Lee Mahon and JoAnne Vasquez, the administrators of the Counseling/ Psychology and Education Administration graduate programs, I started attending classes. In 1991, I received my M.A. degree in Educational Administration. At the graduation ceremony, I received a very special honor of being inducted into Alpha Sigma Nu, the National Honor Society of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. Awarded for distinguished achievements in scholarship, loyalty and service, this honor made me a real BELIEVER in Santa Clara and all it stands for. During this time Lee and Joanne became my mentors, not only while I was in their program, but also because of their special interest in equality for all of our female student-athletes.

For thirty-two years I gave a lot of my life to Santa Clara University and it has continued to give me a lot in return. Once a Bronco, always a Bronco!

Marygrace Colby M.A. '91
Director of Women's Athletics, retired

Patricia Badia-Johnson M.A. '76 said on Apr 20, 2012

JoAnne Vasquez was a beacon of hope and inspiration to me, then a young single mother with a severely handicapped child. I went on to a career of school counseling for 22 years and found the perfect fit. I was honored to be selected as a 1999 Alumna of the Year. I owe so much to the university, but especially to this all encompassing, dedicated woman.

Patricia Badia-Johnson M.A. '76, (Patricia Badia Williams)

Bob Konrad said on Apr 20, 2012

Marcelline Krafchick was one of those 3 early women professors who taught in the short lived Honors Program. She challenged students and faculty to understand and appreciate literature and expand our perspectives. Forty years later, when she sent me back my term paper on King Lear, I came to more fully appreciate how learning from her helped me not only to become a better academic but also a better father to 3 daughters.

Jose R. Lopez '75 said on Apr 21, 2012

Dr. Eleanor Long taught me that when doing research, it was not enough to dig deep enough to prove that you were right. You had to be willing to dig deep enough to find out if you were wrong. A lesson worthy to be remembered in all walks of life. May she rest in peace.

Spring 2012

Table of contents


Bucky Bronco Confidential

Who wears the costume today may be classified information. But here's one secret revealed: how Bucky came to be.

Why women professors?

Marking 50 years of coeducation at Santa Clara—and recognizing that it’s not just the composition of students that has changed profoundly.

Mission Matters

Here comes the sun ... and our solar decathletes

The 2013 Solar Decathlon is on! Santa Clara is competing for the third time, after third place wins in 2007 and 2009.

Bigger than all of us

Baseball Coach Dan O’Brien goes old school. He wants players—and fans—to rekindle a love affair with the game.

Opening new doors in the Philippines

Introducing Casa Bayanihan—a place to learn, work, and be changed forever.