Interviews by Topic: Academics

Emerson tells of her family’s tradition of attending Brown University, which included her mother, her maternal uncles and her maternal grandfather. Like her mother, Emerson became a science teacher, teaching biology, geometry, general science, chemistry and physics. She speaks of her early life: losing her father at age 11 while living in Louisiana, then moving with her mother to Rhode Island to be close to her mother’s family.

Alice Elizabeth O'Connor Chmielewski, class of 1928

Alice Chmielewski begins by discussing her life growing up in East Providence and assuming guardianship of her brothers and sisters after the early deaths of her parents. In Part 1, she also talks about changing careers to become a social worker, the state of public welfare services and her work for the Rhode Island Department of Children, her marriage and children, and earning a Master's degree later in life.

Beatrice Wattman Miller, class of 1935

Beatrice "Bea" Wattman was the daughter of a jeweler who immigrated from Moldavia in 1895  at age 18, and a mother who came from Austria as a young child. Raised in Providence along with two younger brothers, she attended Hope High School, where her classes in the "Classical" curriculum track were taught by several Brown alumnae. This interview touches on many subjects relating to her family, education, and work. 

Clarice Pitta Chapman, class of 1933

Clarice Pitta Chapman begins the interview by discussing her family background and the circumstances that led her to attend Pembroke College. In Part 1, she also addresses the effects of Great Depression on life at Brown, her ambitions to study medicine, pursuing a career as a woman, and drinking at Brown during Prohibition. 

Elissa Lynne Beron Arons, class of 1966

In Part 1 of this interview, Elissa Beron Arons describes her enthusiasm for college life, having entered Pembroke after her junior year of high school. She describes the social expectations of the time and how they began to change; her experience applying to medical schools as one of few female pre-med students; her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement; the creation of the Pembroke Pandas, the first college women's ice hockey team; and Posture Pictures.

Elizabeth Anne Gibbons Perryman, class of 1952

In Part 1 of the interview, Elizabeth talks about her family and her upbringing in rural Texas and how she came to attend Pembroke College. She also discusses her close relationship with Nancy Duke Lewis (Dean of Pembroke College from 1950 to 1960), the tradition of chapel, dinner in Andrews Hall, her dislike of the physical education requirement, and her holiday train trips back to Texas.

Elizabeth Pretzer Rall, class of 1944

At the start of this interview, Elizabeth Pretzer Rall describes what it was like to attend Pembroke College while living at home with her family in Providence. She explains her decision to major in Geology and remembers some of the geology field trips she took as an undergraduate. Later, she discusses earning her Ph.D., balancing her work life with the demands of three children, and moving to Texas to research the Midland Texas Basin. Towards the end of her interview, she transitions back to discussing Pembroke and contrasts her wartime college experience with Brown today.

Elizabeth Young (Jeffers) Winsor, class of 1924

Elizabeth Young Winsor begins the interview by discussing her family and the history of careers in education within her family. In Part 1, she talks about her courses at Brown; her disapproval of the Pembroke-Brown merger; extra-curricular activities including being class president, a member of the glee club, and a member of the pyramid squad; and other women’s colleges of the time.

Elsie Barbara Anderson Lewis, class of 1947

Elsie Anderson Lewis discusses her family's Swedish origins as well as their American experiences. She describes her nursing education and training, including her scholarship, courses at Pembroke, Brown professors, and her Biology instructor Virginia Granger. Mrs. Lewis also discusses the differences between Brown men and Pembroke women, the advantages of attending a women's college, social life and campus activities, and Pembroke traditions. She describes her dismay about he Pembroke-Brown merger and relates her experiences as a working mother.

Enid Wilson, class of 1943

Enid Wilson describes her family, her time as a student at Pembroke College, the impact of World War II on Brown's curriculum, and her work as a librarian in this interview, which was conducted nearly 70 years after she graduated from Brown University with an AB in English.

Esther Amelia (Snell) Dick, class of 1934

Dick begins by speaking of her childhood in Reading, PA; coming to Pembroke and struggling early on with Meniere’s syndrome; campus rules & requirements; clothing standards and restrictions with alcohol and smoking; access to the Brown campus; she gives her opinions of several professors. She discusses being deeply affected by the Great Depression and cooking all her meals in the science labs. She speaks of being discriminated against as a woman by the University as a student and later as a woman doing research in the sciences.

Ethel Mary Humphrey Anderson, class of 1929

In Part 1 of her interview, Ethel Humphrey Anderson discusses the circumstances that led her to attend Brown University; academics and student relationships with the deans; her involvement in the Press Club and drama productions; coeducation; attitudes surrounding the name change to Pembroke College; and social interactions between men and women, including drinking during Prohibition.

Gladys Paine Johnson, class of 1913

Gladys Paine Johnson begins her interview by describing her family and how she came to Brown in 1909, the first member to attend college. She considers herself lucky to have lived in the mansion on Benefit Street, where she met Sarah Doyle and made lifelong friends. Describing her classes and professors, Gladys remembers public speaking with Professor Thomas Crosby and Deans Lida Shaw King and Margaret Shove Morriss. She majored in math and notes that she did not receive any career guidance while in school.

Gloria Elizabeth DelPapa, class of 1946

In Part 1, Gloria begins by describing her relationship to her father, an immigrant cement business owner, her role as a “typical Italian daughter,” and how her father insisted she go to Pembroke.  When discussing her life at Pembroke, she speaks about her academic record, the discovery of her passion for English, after an initial focus on biology, her dedication to her studies and the many student activities in which she was involved.  The people who influenced her include Dean Morriss and Dean Lewis, English Professors Kapstein and Hunt, and Miss Rudd, the gym teacher. 

Helen Hoff Peterson, class of 1923

Helen Hoff Peterson begins her interview by discussing her childhood education in New Jersey and her family background.  She explains that a high school superintendent convinced her to apply to Pembroke, making her the first person in her town to attend college.  She discusses her experiences in various academic departments and her extracurricular involvement, which centered around the Christian Association. After an unhappy stint teaching, she went on to work for the Young Women’s Christian Association.

Helena "Pat" Hogan Shea, class of 1930

Helena “Pat” Hogan Shea was born in Ireland and was a student in 1928 when the Women’s College became known as Pembroke College. She worked her way through school as a commuting student, or “city girl,” who came to campus every day on the trolley. In her interview, Pat describes buildings on the Pembroke campus; her choice to major in Psychology; physical education; people she knew at Pembroke (Professor John Spaeth, who created Josiah Carberry, married her roommate); and elements of her family history.

Isabel Ross Abbott, class of 1922

Isabel Ross Abbot begins with her parents’ lives in Nova Scotia before she was born. In Part 1, she also discusses the family’s move to Providence, Rhode Island and her childhood there, including attending elementary school and happy memories of Christmas and sledding down the hills of Providence.

Jean Ellen Miller, class of 1949

Jean Miller tells the story of her life in this interview, which was recorded on three occasions in 2014 and 2015. In Part 1, she describes being a young child raised during the Depression in the home of her Scottish grandparents, following the death of her mother. Jean discusses how she received a scholarship to Pembroke College before she had even applied to attend the school and she relates several elements of her life as a student, including the summers that she spent working in New Hampshire.

Katherine Perkins, class of 1932

In this interview, Katherine Perkins talks about her family and her upbringing in East Providence and how she came to attend Pembroke College.  She discusses her travel as a day student to campus, the courses she took, extracurricular activities, the one black woman in her class, and the Great Depression. Katherine describes her first career as a social worker and her later work as a French teacher at East Providence High School. At the end of the interview she discusses her activities in retirement, including the Brown Street Series and the Pembroke Club.

Lillian Dorothy Beals, class of 1918

In this dual interview, Presel and Beals speak extensively about their classes at Pembroke, the different professors they had.  They discuss social life at the college especially the four dances held each year and the Pembroke traditions of Sophomore Masques, May Day, and Ivy Day.   In section one, they describe the dynamic between Pembroke and Brown; that as underclassmen they were not allowed to walk across the Brown campus at any time.

Lillian Shoushan Berberian Klanian, class of 1957

This interview concentrates on Lillian's family life and her experiences as a commuter student. She explains that her parents expected her to live at home while she attended Pembroke, and she describes her days on campus  as “an outsider.” She reminisces about life-long friendships with other city girls (they had celebrated their 30th reunion together shortly before this interview).

Linda Jennifer Peters Mahdesian, class of 1982

Linda Peters Mahdesian begins this interview by talking about her family background in Chicago, Illinois; her reasons for choosing Brown; the experience of bi-racial students at Brown; and the Women's Movement on campus. In Part 2, she discusses her jobs after graduation; hiring of minority faculty; and the choices that women have to make as a result of the gains of the Women's Movement.

Margaret Moers Wenig, class of 1978

[2013 Interview] Margaret Wenig begins by discussing her admission to Brown, where she was involved with the Brown University Women's Minyan. She discusses the rigor of the Religious Studies Department, the strength of its professors and their mentorship, specifically Professor Jacob Neusner, and her subsequent inspiration to go to the rabbinate at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Marjorie Phillips Wood Burroughs, class of 1911

Marjorie Burroughs entered Pembroke College in 1907. In Part 1 of this interview, she remembers being disciplined as a freshman for the fun she had with her friends; Lida Shaw King, Dean of the Women's College; expectations for dress and behavior at Pembroke; the language courses she took at Pembroke and at Brown; becoming a librarian at Harvard; basketball, bowling, dances, sororities, and other extracurricular activities; and being a tomboy. 

Marjorie Whitcomb Sallie, class of 1927

Marjorie Sallie recounts her experience as a student commuting from Foxboro, Massachusetts.  She describes  about her rigorous co-ed science courses,  her desire to become a doctor, and the guidance of Dean Morriss.

Mary Carpenter (Sweet) Emerson, class of 1927

Emerson tells of her family’s tradition of attending Brown University, which included her mother, her maternal uncles and her maternal grandfather. Like her mother, Emerson became a science teacher, teaching biology, geometry, general science, chemistry and physics. She speaks of her early life: losing her father at age 11 while living in Louisiana, then moving with her mother to Rhode Island to be close to her mother’s family.

Penelope "Penny" Anne Baskerville, class of 1968

Penelope “Penny” Baskerville begins this interview by recounting her family life and early education in New Jersey. In Part 1, she discusses the experience of being a racial minority at Pembroke (Penny was one of six African-American women in her class) as well as the general novelty of the college social experience, stressing the strength of the friendships she developed. Penny recounts her extracurricular involvement, the founding of the Afro-American Society, and the unique nature of college in the 1960s.

Penelope Claire Hartland-Thunberg, class of 1940

Penelope Hartland-Thunberg begins this interview by focusing on her education. She describes her academic achievements at Brown University, as well as the significance of being the only Pembroke student to concentrate in Economics. She details her educational and social experiences at both Brown and Radcliffe, where she received her Ph.D. The interview then transitions to Hartland-Thunberg's career, which began with a teaching appointment in Brown's Department of Economics. She describes her interview with Brown University President Henry Wriston.

Rita Schorr-Germain, class of 1953

Rita Schorr-Germain begins this interview by recounting her childhood in Poland, the outbreak of World War II, and her and her family’s placement in Auschwitz.  She explains the trauma of this experience, as well as her determination to survive.  Rita transitions to discuss her education in Munich after she was liberated, and her later move to the United States.

Romaine Ahlstrom, class of 1962

In Part 1, Romaine Ahlstrom discusses the many moves her family made as child; her reasons for choosing  to attend Pembroke College; the difficulties living in the sexist culture of the 1950s; her personal challenges at Pembroke; and the curriculum of Brown/Pembroke at the time.

Rose Presel, class of 1918

In this dual interview, Presel and Beals speak extensively about their classes at Pembroke, the different professors they had.  They discuss social life at the college especially the four dances held each year and the Pembroke traditions of Sophomore Masques, May Day, and Ivy Day.   In section one, they describe the dynamic between Pembroke and Brown; that as underclassmen they were not allowed to walk across the Brown campus at any time.

Rose Beatrice Miller Roitman, class of 1931

In this interview, Rose Miller Roitman discusses the reasons she attended college; her graduate studies and career in bacteriology; Deans Morriss and Mooar; Magel Wilder, her sole female professor at Brown; sex and dating; attending Pembroke as a "city girl"; life during the Depression; and her work with Planned Parenthood.

Ruth Ellen Bains Hartmann, class of 1943

Ruth Bains Hartmann discusses growing up in Providence, her family, and her educational background.  She proceeds to describe the academic atmosphere of Pembroke College; extracurricular activities, including Sock and Buskin and the Pembroke Dramatic Society; and Pembroke’s institutional individuality, which influenced her to oppose the 1971 merger of Brown and Pembroke.  Upon her wartime graduation, Ruth moved to Washington to work in the Office of Strategic Services, which recruited English majors to work on cracking codes.

Ruth Lilian Wade Cerjanec, class of 1933

This interview begins with biographical and family information about Ruth, whose mother was a supporter of female suffrage and determined that her daughter should attend Pembroke College. In Part 1, Ruth also describes her experience at as a "city girl" from Central Falls and the attitudes of her classmates.

Sarah Gertrude Mazick Saklad, class of 1928

In this interview, Sarah Mazick Saklad describes working in Providence as a teenager; her desire to attend medical school, against the wishes of her mother; and her memories of World War I, including learning to knit, Armistice Day celebrations, and the influenza epidemic of 1918. She also discusses the lack of financial aid for female students, effects of the Great Depression, and her pre-med coursework at Brown. She remembers Lillian Gilbreth’s visit to Chapel, an exchange she had with Dr. J. Walter Wilson, and her affection for Dean Morriss.

Susan Elizabeth Geary, class of 1967

Susan Geary begins her interview by discussing her early education in Scituate, Rhode Island and her matriculation to Pembroke, where she was a commuting student. She goes on to discuss in detail the varying elements of her time at Brown, specifically focusing on her academic performance and experiences, dorm life, social life, and social codes. She then outlines her career path, which included earning a Ph.D. in American Civilization from Brown and working in University Development. 

Teresa Elizabeth Gagnon Mellone, class of 1939

Teresa Gagnon Mellone begins this interview by discussing her early experiences at Pembroke, including freshman orientation week and the embarrasing experience of taking posture photographs. In Part 1, she also talks about the academic curriculum at Pembroke, her passion for languages, and the strict physical education requirement. 

Virginia Belle Macmillan Trescott, class of 1938

This interview begins with descriptions of Virginia's childhood and family in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. She recalls her years at Pembroke College, in particular: her role on the Pembroke Record staff and as President of the Student Government Association; life as a commuter student; attending college during the Depression; interactions with Brown faculty members; and student activities, including formal dances, Ivy Day and Scut Week.

Zelda Fisher Gourse, class of 1936

Zelda Fisher Gourse starts by describing her decision to enter Pembroke,  Dean Margaret Shove Morriss, and her favorite professors.  She and the interviewer discuss travel in Israel and Ms. Gourse’s daughter, author Leslie Gourse; annual student events like Sophomore Masque and Junior Prom; her older sister’s decision to return to college; being elected SGA President (“why not a Jewish girl?”); and other campus activities.  Gourse then describes her marriage and her career as a librarian at Bristol Community College.