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Flag to be Lowered in Memory of President Emerita Jill Ker Conway

June 2, 2018

Dear students, staff and faculty:

Late yesterday, President Emerita Jill Ker Conway, a renowned historian and author who served as Smith College’s president from 1975 to 1985, passed away at the age of 83. A visionary leader whose work had centered on women’s history, Jill focused her presidency on conceiving and launching new opportunities for women, through such initiatives as the Ada Comstock Scholars Program, the Smith Management Program (now Smith Executive Education), and significant investments in career development and athletics. Her autobiography, told in three volumes—The Road From Coorain, True North and A Woman’s Education—recounts the intellectual journey of the first woman to serve as Smith's president. Her other books included Women Reformers and American Culture.

On a personal note, Jill was a generous friend to me and one of the first to reach out when I was appointed to the Smith presidency. She was gracious with her wisdom and advice about the unique community I was about to join. She reminded me of the legacy with which I had been entrusted, and about the power of Smith as a place where students have permission to be curious and to proudly express, as she once said, their “intellectual bravado.”

Jill was a true champion of women everywhere. I invite you to read this remembrance and offer your own memories in the comments.

The flag at College Hall will be lowered to half staff in Jill’s memory on Monday, June 4. Funeral services will be held at St. Mark’s Church, Conway, Mass., on Saturday, June 9. A memorial will be held on campus later this year.


Kathleen McCartney