A Sisterhood of Distinction: 1970-2020

As the first generation of women students established themselves at Union College, the presence of women faculty members soon followed. The women featured here represent a sampling several women who challenged the norms on the previously all-male campus.

The Daggett Awards

Anne R. Pebley was the first woman to receive the Daggett Prize in 1974.

After receiving a BA at Union College, Dr. Pebley ’74 earned an MPS (International Development) and PhD (Sociology) at Cornell University.

As the Fred H. Bixby Chair and Distinguished Professor at UCLA, Dr. Pebley is a social demographer who works on a wide range of issues related to social inequality and the determinants of health, both globally and in the United States. 

Photo from: Garnet, 1990

Duvilaire, Nadia

Nadia Duvilaire ‘90 was the first woman of color to win the Daggett Prize. The Daggett prize was established in 1897 by Josephine E. Daggett and is awarded annually to a senior for “conduct and character.”

After graduating from Union College, Dr. Nadia Duvilaire earned her medical degree from Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, NY in 1994, and completed her Family Medicine residency training at St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center in 2000.

The Baily Cup Awards

"The Bailey cup was established in 1912 and is awarded to a member of the senior class who has rendered the greatest service to the College in any field."

Encyclopedia of Union History, p. 80

Valerie Hoffman was the first woman awarded the Bailey Cup in 1976. Ms. Hoffman ’76 studied history at Union College before earning a J.D. from Boston College Law School. A partner at Seyfarth Shaw LLP,  she practices employment law nationally.

Valerie Hoffman is the first woman undergraduate in Union’s long history to be voted by the faculty as ‘the senior who has rendered the greatest service to the College in any field.

-Concordiensis May 14, 1975 p.1


Photo from: Garnet, 1988

Jackson, LeAta R.

LeAta R. Jackson ‘88 was the first woman of color to receive Union College’s Baily Cup. She also received a Meritorious Service Award and Delphic Honor Society Award. 

Ms. Jackson majored in Computer Science at Union. After receiving a BA, she has worked in the information technology field and is currently an independent business analyst.

Photo from: Garnet, 1990

Robinson, Scharn

Scharn Robinson ‘90  was awarded the Bailey Cup in 1990.

In 1988, Scharn Robinson ‘90 was awarded a scholarship from the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. After receiving a B.A. at Union College, Ms. Robinson later earned a J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Rackham School of Graduate Studies (Political Science).

A sisterhood of the first women faculty at Union College

Ruth Ann Evans was the first Union College female faculty member to be named full professor in 1973. Ms. Evans worked as a librarian at the Schaffer Library from 1952-1989. A native of Schenectady, she graduated from Smith College and later earned an additional B.S. degree at Columbia in 1948.

Photo from Picture File, Special Collections and Archives, Schaffer Library

Evans, Ruth Anne

Concordiensis, April 25, 1969, page 1

Ruth Ann Evans faculty promotion announcement

“At Union, as at other men's colleges, an all-male student body seemed to dictate an all-male faculty. Although many women earned PhD degrees, Union did not hire them. The male faculty's reasoning was probably similar to that offered in 1937 by College Librarian Helmer Webb, who told President Dixon Ryan Fox that he wanted to hire a man as a reference librarian: “In a college such as this I think that it is very advisable that we have a young man on the staff who can work more effectively with the students and faculty than the ladies can.” In fact, however, the College librarians were the first sector of the faculty to accept women, when Ruth Anne Evans was hired in 1952, with faculty status but not rank. Eventually, in 1973, she became the school’s first female full professor.

- From: Encyclopedia of Union History, p. 796

Concordiensis, January 28, 1976, p.8

Walker, W. Loretta

Concordiensis, April 7, 1976, p. 2

Faculty Promotions Announced

W. Loretta Walker was the first African-American woman to receive tenure at Union College. She served in the Schaffer Library as a librarian from 1968-1981 and retired as the Head of Information Services. Ms. Walker graduated from Howard University and received an M.A. from the College of St. Rose and Masters of Library Science from SUNY Albany.

Urania Nott

The story of coeducation at Union College would not be complete without the contributions of Urania Nott, third wife of President Eliphalet Nott. Prior to her marriage in 1842, Urania had attended the Emma Willard School, worked briefly as a governess, and eventually opened a private school for young ladies that ultimately moved to Schenectady in 1830. It is likely Urania first met President Nott through her Schenectady social connections, in particular that of Mary Hosford who taught at her school and later married Jonathan Pearson, UC ‘35. As a steadfast educator and independent woman in her own time, Mrs. Nott dedicated herself to ‘local good works.’ She died in 1886.

For more information about Urania Nott, read Behind the Great Leader The Story and Influence of Urania Nott

From Picture file, Special Collections & Archives, Schaffer Library

Nott, Urania Sheldon

Miss Sheldon [later Mrs. Urania Nott] has been for several years past, the principal of the Schenectady Female Seminary, which under her superintendence attained the highest rank as a school for the thorough and accomplished education of young ladies.

- From: Schenectady Cabinet newspaper, March 24, 1837

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