Alumnae Perspectives: Ann Rosch Duffield, 1969

To My Fellow Alumnae,

As someone who has spent my whole professional life in academic environments, I share the sadness that many of you feel about the need for Chatham to adapt its mission in order to achieve financial stability. I have been proud of the fact that our Alma Mater has been able to hold out for so long as a college providing undergraduate education to women only, when other colleges for women and indeed many small liberal arts colleges have had to pursue other strategies. I knew from my experience, however, that it was only a matter of time before my College aka University, too, would have to choose another way to retain both its roots and its future existence. And while I’m still sad that this day has come, I also have a tremendous amount of pride in the tenacity of Chatham’s undergraduate faculty and administration for keeping Chatham’s female spirit alive for so long.

I attended a girl’s high school in Omaha, Nebraska that felt the pinch much earlier and had to go coeducational during my senior year in 1965. It went through a name change from Brownell Hall to Brownell-Talbot School and I remember feeling that I had at least managed almost to escape the change before my graduation. That experience whetted my appetite to continue my learning at a college for women, and Chatham fulfilled all the goals I had as a young woman who wanted to buck the times by going on to graduate school or working rather than marrying and staying at home to raise children.  These seeds had been planted at Brownell, and I saw in Chatham the opportunity to pursue my education in my own way. I know I would never have achieved the professional successes I have, if I had not chosen to attend both Brownell and Chatham.

The times, however, have changed for all small liberal arts colleges and indeed private secondary schools. I spent 26 years working at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and have spent the last 14 years providing counsel to presidents and chancellors of colleges and universities. During a decade of my time at Penn, I led the university’s and medical center’s external relations and marketing operations. I then spent a decade in a leadership position in a research center at Penn called the Institute for Research on Higher Education. In that capacity, I began to work on strategic planning with numerous colleges and universities around the country and in Western and Central Europe. I watched the changes happening in health care and realized early on that American higher education was heading in the same direction: toward a public outcry about the cost of a college education, a broken financial and business model where expenses far exceed revenues, and potential governmental regulation.

This crisis took longer to hit than I thought it would (education is after all the oldest profession except…), but when it did, it struck with a vengeance in the 21st century. Many of my liberal arts clients are suffering, barely able to stay afloat while they heavily discount what it costs for them to deliver a high quality education in order to attract enough students to keep their doors open for another year. Early on in the 1990s, however, Chatham’s board and administration made decisions that enabled the undergraduate program for women to survive. They added graduate programs for women and men; they offered innovative programs off-campus; they engaged in partnerships with other nonprofit and for-profit organizations; and they became infinitely more visible to all of the College’s constituencies. The result was that Chatham was granted university status, which saved at that time CCW’s bacon.

It has become, however, too much of a financial strain for Chatham to continue to support an under-enrolled—in fact, a tiny—entity like Chatham College for Women. Most liberal arts colleges require at least 2000 undergraduate students in order to be viable, and CCW’s student body has shrunk to minus-600, certainly an unsustainable position for any college. My understanding is that plans are in the works to create an institute for women which would keep the University’s original mission alive, while the undergraduate college works to attract young men and young women who would not typically consider an all-women’s college. I believe this is once again an example of my Alma Mater’s innovation, courage, and strength as a campus that believes that its mission is so important that it will keep it alive even as it needs to adopt other strategies to keep it financially viable.

I’m proud to be a Chatham graduate of 1969. I’m proud that my roommate for four years—Sarah Bornstein—will accept an alumnae award at this year’s reunion in June. But I’m also proud that Chatham University will continue to thrive in the future, because the right decisions have been made on its behalf now. I want my grandchildren—female and male—to have the opportunity to consider it as their potential Alma Mater when they reach college age. I know it will be just as important  in their personal and intellectual growth as it was to me in mine.

I only hope that you—my fellow alumnae—can see the facts through your tears and, yes, anger as I have…and continue to provide the support our Alma Mater needs in order to write the next chapter in its history.

With all my best wishes to all of you,

Ann Rosch Duffield, 1969

  1. Peggy Hoff says:

    Chatham was less than 600 students when I graduated in 1978. It was attractive to a graduate of a large co-ed high school near Erie, PA, actually two of us came to Chatham in 1974. I needed a place of sanctuary and studies.

    While I do not have similar exposure to the bigger business of academia, and have only recently become aware of the apparently irreversible decisions made by those who have made it their lives work, I am not ready to chuck the mission of PCW. I am still naive (ignorant) enough to think other alternatives are available. Could we focus on the most viable majors AND market the unique aspects of “Where a Woman Chooses Her Destination”? It may be difficult to sell to the common woman, but CCW certainly has location, location, location! Woodland Road, Eden campus, Pittsburgh!

    Perhaps we could experiment with temporarily dropping requirements for certain incoming freshmen of promise (another 20-30% anyway) who would otherwise be ineligible, provided remedial classes were added and an extra semester to bring those students up to par. Do we have evening classes & seminars for those in the community to enjoy?

    Who am I kidding? The die is cast; the ideology has changed; women do not need to have their own place. The great Oz has spoken and Dorothy is ordered to go. This Dorothy says, “Shame on you!”

  2. Rachel Lenzi says:

    The branch of the administration that is posting the updates on Chatham’s feedback blog has a responsibility to do something that is fair to all parties: post the points of view of the alumnae who are both in favor of co-education and against co-education.

  3. Rebecca '98 says:

    Nope, sorry: “I only hope that you—my fellow alumnae—can see the facts through your tears and, yes, anger as I have…and continue to provide the support our Alma Mater needs in order to write the next chapter in its history.”

  4. Sally Davoren says:

    OK, there’s one. You only need 2,060 more (current number of supporters on Save Chatham Facebook page). #savechatham

  5. Nicole Hagan says:

    If you’re going to start “innovating” the CU Feedback blog with the same topics Save Chatham started weeks ago to voice alumnae perspectives regarding the coeducational vote, the least you could do is also steal all of the amazing ideas and proposals that these women have offered to your administration to delay the vote and allow the women’s college to prosper.

    I guess over at Chatham you only pick and choose which alumnae you listen to and what words of theirs you choose to hear.


  6. Kelly says:

    I would like to ask Ms. Duffield how, if so many of her liberal arts college clients are struggling, she expects Chatham to survive without the one thing that has made it unique in the 200 mile radius that Dr. Barazzone so heavily touts. When we become just one more of those small, private, co-educational colleges, what will be the draw of Chatham?

    Also, I’d like to know with all of this expertise she has, if Ms. Duffield has been involved in the college’s strategic planning over the past several years. Has she committed to doing whatever is necessary for her own college to stay afloat (giving, volunteering her time and expertise), or is she just standing now as part of the death watch?

  7. coug for life says:

    Why are concerned alumnae always “crying” in these posts? Many of us aren’t crying, but we have asked intelligent, pointed questions that have not been answered. All of our serious concerns, questions, and ideas are pushed aside by administration and board members, who, quite frankly, are acting like dictators. Why do we care, you ask? It isn’t because we are simply crying over old memories like stereotypical, emotional women. Many of us were under the impression (from all of the positive press you’ve proudly communicated with us) that all of Chatham was doing just fine. To come out a month or so after the release of the president’s “salary” with talk of the undergraduate school struggling so severely was a shock. How could this news be true? We feel as though we’ve been lied to, and now asking for our ideas and holding town halls is just a formality. You didn’t expect any push back, did you? Some of us might be more accepting of your decisions if you actually listened to us. Well I suppose the only thing you hear is money, but you won’t be seeing any more of mine. I planned on giving more in the near future but that will not happen once the undergraduate program goes coed. I’m glad I didn’t get the customized license plate-I’m no longer proud of my alma mater, especially the way it’s being run.

  8. Ms. Duffield, please stop portraying yourself and others supporting coeducation as reasonable and those of us asking for a postponement of the Board vote as emotional and unable to “see the facts through [our] tears and… anger.” Have you read the posts on Save Chatham? They are passionate–yes–but they are also models of innovative thinking backed by careful, thorough research and analysis–as I only hope you will be able to see through your barely concealed disdain.


  9. KathieConnects is Kathleen A Ferraro ’72

    kathleen.a.ferraro@gmail .com

  10. Coug says:

    Absolutely coug for life. Had the Chatham College for Women alum known that its alma mater was in financial trouble we would have come together, as we have now, in order to offer intelligent and thoughtful possible solutions instead of being blindsided and scrambling for solutions after the fact.

  11. Lucia Melito says:

    This message is for Bill C.
    Bill, are you aware that this blog is not fair and balanced? Are you aware that you only post remarks that support Esther’s doctrine? Is this at her urging? Are you aware that you and Esther have made this issue adversarial? Are you aware of how alienating your remarks are to those of us who have different opinions? Chatham seems like a frightening place now, with her guard way up against her own children. This is not a healthy sign. The coeducation issue never really opened up into a discussion. The administration was hostile and defensive from the beginning. The Chatham I went to wasn’t like this. It was open and inclusive. Now it seems dictatorial and toxic. When I was there from 18-21 years old, I could debate and discuss philosophy with professors with PhDs in Divinity from Yale and always be treated with respect and not condescended to. I don’t think you have any idea why we women of Chatham are so intent on keeping her mission intact. Anything I read from you or see posted from you is divisive and misses the mark. You have done a lousy job of moderating an open and free discussion. Your site reads like propaganda. We should all be very afraid if you represent the innovation that Esther is threatening.

  12. Rachel Lenzi says:

    Yes. Unless the administration chooses to represent all points of view, “propaganda” is the right word to describe the intentions of Chatham’s decision for this particular post.

  13. Kelly says:

    Preach on, sister!!

    And just to let it be known, we are not trying to save THIS Chatham, but rather the Chatham that Lucia speaks of. The Chatham that was inclusive and demanded more from her daughters than blind allegiance. We are trying to save the Chatham that taught us to ask questions, to seek the truth, not the carefully prepared (but usually poorly written) one that is presented to us.

  14. Sarah says:

    You want to convince yourselves that we’re having an emotional knee jerk reaction but that’s not it. We are emotional but we’re also educated. We know the realities of the situation we’re in but we also have hope. We have hope that we can save Chatham without destroying her integrity. You have an army of smart and capable women who believe in the very cause you claim you are trying to preserve by opening your women’s institute. Why wouldn’t you recruit these women to help you? Why wouldn’t you give them time to save Chatham? Why? There is really only one answer to that question. You just don’t care.

    You have been trying to convince yourselves that over time we’ll forgive and forget and come back to you. That the donations will come back, the volunteer hours will come back, that the alumnae will come back. What you don’t realize is that we’re not going to. I’m sure some will but a lot more of us won’t.

    I gave to Chatham because I believe in women’s colleges. I believe in that mission. I truly in my heart know that I would be a completely different person without my women’s college education. I know I’m a better person because of my women’s college education. I also know I’ll gladly give my time and financial contributions to other women’s colleges. If I can’t save Chatham I darn sure will try to preserve other women’s colleges. It was never about preserving my alma mater, it was about preserving my women’s college. The second that women’s college ends, so does my allegiance to Chatham.

    You reap what you sow and I hope Chatham likes what they’re going to find after these seeds take root. Obviously you are hearing the people who are calling and writing to pat you on the back for this misguided attempt at “saving CCW’s bacon” but are you hearing the rest of us? Do you even care? It would seem not.

  15. Christina Griffin, '07 says:

    The current Chatham administration continues to portray any dissident as an emotional, unstable individual unable to comprehend reason and logic. Interesting how this approach parallels the discrimination by the media and society against women. When Hillary Clinton campaigned for President, not a week went by that I didn’t read a headline such as, “Can Clinton’s emotions get the best of her?” How can a women’s college thrive when its leadership is propagating the same stereotypes that women’s colleges exist to dispel? Shame on you, Ms. Duffield for casting those of us who disagree with a coeducational plan for Chatham as “emotional” and unable to see “facts.”

  16. Heather says:

    The definition of ‘innovation’ is something new or different. I am so sick of people saying that the idea of going coed to attract more students is an ‘innovative’ idea. This is not an innovative idea, it has been done at MANY women’s colleges faced with low enrollment. My Chatham sisters have provided many innovative ideas to increase enrollment, I hope the BoT takes the time to review and consider them.

  17. lil Kate says:

    The administration should not chide alums for being emotional. Emotional alums care about their school. We give to our school, promote it, and fight for it. If Chatham is disappointed in our vocal outpouring, I wonder how they will respond to indifference. A co-ed Chatham is one that has betrayed its mission and I will be indifferent to it.

  18. Nicole Hagan says:

    You want alumnae perspectives you should be listening to the alumnae and current students currently attempting a peaceful protest and discussion about the coed vote. You shouldn’t be kicking them off of campus if what Dr. Barazzone wants is an open, respectful dialogue. Kicking the women you repeatedly ask for money and support off their beloved campus is pathetic, cowardly, and a surefire way to lose alumnae support.

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