The Club Welcomes Hanna Holborn Gray ’50 to its May Day Celebration, Sunday, May 4

strawberry champ

Please join the Bryn Mawr Club for a very special May Day Celebration! Strawberries, Cream, and Critique: Education and its Discontents, with Dr. Hanna Holborn Gray.

Come and celebrate May Day with your college friends and a legendary academic leader who once said, “The greatest danger, large because also least tangible and most wasting, would be to engage in an apparently principled descent to decent mediocrity.”

hanna holborn grayHanna Holborn Gray ’50 is known for her leadership in many fields: academic, administrative, intellectual and institutional. She is the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, and the 1997 M. Carey Thomas Award among many others. Born in Germany, and raised in New Haven after her family sought exile form Nazi Germany, she entered Bryn Mawr College at 15, and upon graduation travelled to Oxford as a Fulbright scholar. After receiving her PhD degree from Harvard in 1957, she taught there for several more years, being promoted to assistant professor in 1959.

She met her husband Charles Montgomery Gray in a Renaissance history seminar while both were graduate students at Harvard. Hanna Gray received tenure at the University of Chicago in 1964, and taught Western Civilization as well as other graduate and undergraduate classes on Renaissance and Reformation Europe. She is an academic scholar of renown with special interests in the history of humanism, political and historical thought, church history and politics in the Renaissance and the Reformation.

Gray rose to prominence as an administrator after she was appointed to a committee to investigate whether a professor had been denied tenure because of her gender and political sympathies. Recognition of Gray’s administrative acumen led to her being named dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University in 1972, one of many appointments she was to hold as the first woman in a position. Gray’s reputation as an administrator was enhanced at Yale where she was provost and professor of history from 1974 to 1978, and then served as acting president for 14 months.

Returning to the University of Chicago as President in 1978 in a time of deficits and retrenchment, with balancing the budget one of her first tasks, Gray worked to strengthen the University’s historical commitment to scholarship. The problems to be faced were real: erosion of material resources, inflation, changing demographic trends, shifting policies and attitudes of external sources of support, and narrowing opportunities for young scholars. But the greatest danger, she said in her inaugural address, “would be to engage in an apparently principled descent to decent mediocrity.”

After planning and presiding over a year-long celebration of the University’s hundredth anniversary, Gray retired at the end of June 1993, making her 15-year tenure as president the third longest, and one of the most productive, in the history of the University, where she now holds the position of President Emeritus.

Gray’s most recent publication is Searching for Utopia: Universities and Their Histories, published by the University of California Press in 2011.

The information above is excerpted, with editing, from the University of Chicago’s Office of the President website which cites the The University of Chicago Centennial Catalogues, Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library, with additional information provided by the University of Chicago News Office.

More information can be found on Hanna Gray’s biography on the University of Chicago’s History Department’s website.

WHAT:   May Day Party and Talk by Hanna Holborn Gray ’50

WHEN:   Sunday, May 4, 12:00 – 2:00 p.m.

WHERE:   The home of Dr. Eugenie Birch ’65
765 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021

HOW MUCH:   While this event is free, we ask that you consider Club membership dues to support NYC alumnae activities. And if you would consider a contribution to support a Bryn Mawr College summer internship in New York, we would be grateful!

RSVP:   RSVP to Helen Thurston ’74 at by April 25. Please include class year.

Photos from the event are here: