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Office of the President Mary Maples Dunn files

Identifier: CA-MS-00073

Scope and Contents

The Dunn Files include approximately 82 linear feet (198 document boxes) of material dating from 1985-1995. Some material has been restricted according the College Archives policies. The open records (99 document boxes/ 41 linear feet) include incoming and outgoing correspondence, reports and working papers, newspaper clippings and photographs. For more specific information about the contents of the collection see the series descriptions and folder listing below. See the Subject Guide on pages 9-11 of this finding aid for a list of topics of a broad nature.

Dates of Materials

  • 1985-1995


Conditions Governing Access

Half of the collection (99 document boxes, or 41 linear feet) is open to researchers according to the regulations of the College Archives. Another 99 document boxes (41 linear feet) are currently open only to employees of the office of origin.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish or quote from the documents must be obtained from the Smith College Archives.

Biographical / Historical

Mary Maples Dunn was Smith's president from 1985 to 1995, an economically troubled period for the college. But the imbalanced budget was just one of the challenging issues she faced during her tenure. Campus diversity, internal communication flow, and socially responsible investment were also significant issues during her presidency. However, Dunn maintained a cheerful image and a sense of humor throughout, and persevered through the trials of her difficult position.

Dunn took office in 1985 after seven years as an administrator at another of the famed Seven Sister colleges, Bryn Mawr. In fact until that point nearly the entirety of Dunn's academic career was spent at Bryn Mawr. After she received her undergraduate degree from William & Mary in 1954, she went on to Bryn Mawr to do her graduate work in colonial U.S. history. She began teaching at the college while she was completing her Ph.D. then moved through the academic and administrative hierarchy until she became Dean of the Undergraduate College in 1978 then Academic Deputy to the President in 1981.

When she arrived at Smith the first order of business was to work on her fundraising skills. Development became a significant part of the duties of the President during Jill Ker Conway's tenure. Dunn immediately set to work on enlarging the college's endowment and locating funding for several new initiatives. The battle to balance the college's books included two capital campaigns, an increase in tuition, and a number of structural changes. Alterations in employee benefit packages and offers of early retirement had a significant impact on the college staff and caused considerable distress in the community. But while scaling back in some quarters of the campus, Dunn also had to fund necessary progress. Physical changes included the construction of Bass Science Center and the Young Science Library, and a number of renovations to residence houses. She also began the process of getting the college on the "Information Highway." The internet was first introduced to campus during her tenure along with e-mail and voice mail.

As Dunn was preparing to leave the college she reflected, "It's true that acquiring budgetary accountability is among my most important achievements, but I hope I'll be remembered as a president who helped open the college up to a more diverse population." Some of Dunn's most well-known challenges were related to diversity. South African divestment was a source of much conflict on campus when she first arrived, and a few years later inadequate office space for the multicultural organizations on campus reached a fever pitch. Dunn also had to deal with continuing publicity and institutional attitudes about Smith students' sexuality. Throughout her tenure Dunn was repeatedly forced to address media coverage of Smith, Northampton and the "L-Word." Her administration created programs, wrote position papers, and adjusted college policies and structure in order to deal with the questions of race and sexuality. The most extensive program, the 1988 Smith Design for Institutional Diversity, dealt primarily with race, but other endeavors handled questions related to sexuality, physical disabilities, and derogatory language.

When Dunn left Smith 1995, she went on to become director of the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women, then interim president of Radcliffe College and acting dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Dunn left the Radcliffe Institute to become Co-Executive Officer, with her husband Richard, of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They retired from that position in July 2007.


105.15 linear feet (221 containers)

Language of Materials



Smith College president from 1985-1995 whose administration created programs, wrote position papers, and adjusted college policies and structure in order to deal with the questions of race and sexuality. Dunn dealt with the budget during an economically troubled period and began the process of getting the college on the "Information Highway." Includes incoming and outgoing correspondence, reports and working papers, newspaper clippings and photographs.


This collection is organized into eighteen series:

  1. I. Biography
  2. II. Academic Departments
  3. III. Academic Programs
  4. IV. Administrative Issues
  5. V. Administrative Offices
  6. VI. Alumnae
  7. VII. Buildings and Grounds
  8. VIII. Colleges and Universities
  9. IX. Committees Boards
  10. X. Engagements
  11. XI. Events
  12. XII. Faculty and Staff
  13. XIII. Graduate Work
  14. XIV. Intercollegiate Associations
  15. XV. Non-Smith Organizations
  16. XVI. Speeches
  17. XVII. Students
  18. XVIII. Photographs

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

As a preservation measure, researchers must use digital copies of audiovisual materials in this collection. Please consult with Special Collections staff or email to request the creation of and access to digital copies.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The majority of the Dunn Files were transferred to the College Archives from the Office of the President in a number of accessions dating from the time of her tenure until the present. Some material, however, came from Dunn herself after her departure in 1995. Additional biographical materials, such as newspaper clippings, press releases, and photographs, have been added by the College Archives staff.

Additions to the Collection

The Records of the Office of the President constitute a continuing collection, because certain materials remain in active use by the office for periods exceeding a president's actual tenure. The College Archives may receive accessions/additions long after the date of creation.

Related Material

Additional material in the Smith College Archives about the Dunn era may be found in the records of other departments and offices of the college, as well as in the personal papers of Mary Maples Dunn.

Subject Guide

The Subject Guide is meant as a supplement to information provided in the Series Descriptions and Folder Listing, and is in no way intended as a comprehensive listing of significant subject matter in the collection.

Academic Programs Funding Sources

  1. -Ada Comstock Scholars
  2. ___Series V. Administrative Offices
  3. ______-Development-Corporations
  4. _________>-Connecticut National Bank
  5. _________-Philip Morris
  6. ______-Development-Foundations
  7. _________-Aetna Foundation
  8. _________-Dr. Scholl Foundation
  9. _________-Starr Foundation
  10. _________-Valentine Foundation
  11. -Community College Connections
  12. ___Series V. Administrative Offices
  13. ______-Development-Corporations
  14. _________-Chemical Bank
  15. _________-Connecticut Bank and Trust Company
  16. _________-Connecticut National Bank
  17. _________-Northeast Utilities
  18. _________-Warner-Lambert Company
  19. ______-Development-Foundations
  20. _________-Aetna Foundation
  21. _________-Balfour Foundation
  22. _________-Donaldson Charitable Trust
  23. _________-Freeman Charitable Trust
  24. _________-Roche Relief Foundation
  25. _________-Sprague Educational and Charitable Foundation
  26. _________-Stackpole Trust
  27. _________-Surdna Foundation
  28. -Current Students / Future Scientists and Engineers Program:
  29. ___Series V. Administrative Offices
  30. ______-Development-Corporations
  31. _________-Bay State Gas
  32. _________-Bull HN Information Systems
  33. _________-Citicorp
  34. _________-Honeywell Bull
  35. _________-New England Electric System
  36. _________-Northeast Utilities
  37. _________-UNISYS
  38. _________-Warner-Lambert Company
  39. ______-Development-Foundations
  40. _________-Norton Company Foundation
  41. _________-Shell Companies Foundation
  42. -Dual Degree Program
  43. ___Series V. Administrative Offices
  44. ______-Development-Corporations
  45. _________-Analog Devices
  46. _________-Combustion Engineering
  47. _________-Hoechst Celanese Corporation
  48. _________-Honeywell Bull
  49. _________-UNISYS
  50. ______-Development-Foundations
  51. _________-General Electric Foundation
  52. _________-Shell Companies Foundation
  53. -Smith Summer Science Program
  54. ___Series V. Administrative Offices
  55. ______-Development-Corporations
  56. _________-Citicorp
  57. ______-Development-Foundations
  58. _________-Balfour Foundation
  59. _________-Shell Companies Foundation
  60. _________-Surdna Foundation

Affirmative Action:

  1. Series IV. Administrative Issues
  2. ___-Diversity
  3. Series V. Administrative Offices
  4. ___-Affirmative Action
  5. Series VI. Alumnae
  6. ___-Individuals. There are a number of letters from alums asking about the topic, and many variations on the same response from MMD.
  7. Series II. Academic Departments
  8. ___-Religion Biblical Literature for April 1988 letter to the Sophian and May 1990 report on Smith Design
  9. Series XII. Faculty & Staff
  10. ___-Equal Opportunity Employment and Grievance Procedures
  11. ___-Minority Faculty


  1. Series IV. Administrative Issues
  2. ___-Diversity
  3. ___-Lesbianism
  4. Series V. Administrative Offices
  5. ___-Admissions-General. Scattered throughout are concerns about losing prospective applicants due to rumors and media coverage
  6. Series VI. Alumnae
  7. ___-Individuals. There are a number of letters from alums asking the question, and many variations on the same response from MMD.
  8. Series IX. Committees & Boards
  9. ___-Community Policy, Committee on-General for 29 March 1994 letter from MMD addressing the issue of same sex benefits.
  10. ___-Diversity, College/Alumnae Task Force on
  11. Series XI. Events
  12. ___-Otelia Cromwell Day, for panels addressing homophobia
  13. Series XVII. Students-Unrest-Diversity (1992-1993)


  1. Series IV. Administrative Issues
  2. ___-Diversity
  3. ___-Racism
  4. ___-South Africa
  5. ___-Town Gown Relations-Civil Rights Advisory Board
  6. Series VIII. Colleges & Universities
  7. ___-Swarthmore. For info regarding June 1987 conference entitled " The Recruitment and Retention of Minority Students in Liberal Arts Colleges."
  8. Series IX. Committees & Boards
  9. ___-College/Alumnae Task Force on Diversity
  10. ___-Community Policy, Committee on
  11. ______-Race/Diversity
  12. ______-Task Force on South Africa
  13. ___-Senior Staff, for 12 April 1993 agenda item regarding Rodney King verdict
  14. ___-Space Allocation Committee-Student Cultural Organization Space
  15. Series XI. Events
  16. ___-Conferences
  17. ______-Civil Rights: Institutional Diversity
  18. ______-Encuentro de Latinas
  19. ______-Experiences of Black Students
  20. ___-Otelia Cromwell Day
  21. Series XII. Faculty & Staff
  22. ___-Minority Faculty
  23. Series XVI. Speeches
  24. ___-All-College Meeting on Race (1 May 1989)
  25. Series XVII. Students
  26. ___-Unrest

South Africa:

  1. Series IV. Administrative Issues
  2. ___-Legislation Legislators-South Africa
  3. Series IX. Committees & Boards
  4. ___-Trustees, Board of-Finance Committee (for material re scholarships)
  5. ___-Trustees, Board of-Investor Responsibility (restriced material)

Processing Information

Processed by Laura Finkel, with the assistance of Sara Streett.

Processing Information

Please note that prior to 2018, folder inventories were not always updated when new material was added to the collection. As a result, folder inventories may not be complete and folder numbers may be incorrect.

Processing Information

Between September 2022 and February 2023, Smith College Special Collections renumbered many boxes to eliminate duplicate numbers within collections in order to improve researcher experience. A full crosswalk of old to new numbers is available.

Finding Aid to the Office of the President Mary Maples Dunn files
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Compiled by Laura Finkel, Sara Streett; Scott Biddle
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2005-09-23: manosca73 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2019-07-08: Container inventory deleted and re-imported
  • 2020-06-18: Added 5 flat file folders

Repository Details

Part of the Smith College Archives Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063