Contact: Michael Traupman, Director of College Relations, 610-740-3790


"Polly" Tompkins was First Woman President of Cedar Crest College"

Allentown, PA (November 19, 2004) - Dr. Pauline "Polly" Tompkins passed away on November 19, 2004, in Edgecomb, Maine, an influential leader in American and international higher education and a pioneer in higher education for women. A distinguished scholar, college president, dean of students, historian, writer, professor, political scientist, board member, and matriarch of the Tompkins family, Dr. Tompkins was predeceased by her brother Edward B. Tompkins and her nephew, Robert V. Tompkins. She is survived by her nephews Gerry E. Tompkins, his wife, Joirá, and their children, Tatiana and Alex; James D. Tompkins, his wife, Ester, and their children, Bianca and Douglas; great nieces Pauline Tompkins Jackson, her husband, Greg, and their children, Austin and Kelsey; Suzanne Tompkins Lang, her husband, Jamie and their mother Susan M. Tompkins, wife of Robert V. Tompkins, and Jeanne Tompkins, wife of Edward B. Tompkins.

A native of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, Dr. Tompkins graduated from Pine Manor Junior College in 1938 and Mount Holyoke College in 1941, Phi Beta Kappa. She received an M.A. and a Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University) in 1942 and 1948, respectively. In addition, Dr. Tompkins has been awarded 11 honorary degrees including L.L.D. degrees from Hood, Mount Holyoke, Western and Wilson Colleges and an L.H.D. from Muhlenberg College. The Polly Tompkins Award for Distinction in Political Science was established in 1970 at Pine Manor College. Her doctoral dissertation, "American Russian Relations in the Far East," was subsequently published by MacMillan (New York) in 1949.

Dr. Pauline Tompkins was the first woman President of Cedar Crest College, Allentown, PA. She served as President for 11 years.

"Polly Tompkins was a great lady and educator. We are very grateful for the time that she nurtured Cedar Crest," said Dr. Dorothy Gulbenkian Blaney, current president of Cedar Crest College.

Under Tompkins' leadership Cedar Crest reaffirmed its commitment to the education of women at a time when many single-sex colleges were going co-ed. To help women prepare for new opportunities and responsibilities in a rapidly changing society, Cedar Crest intensified academic and career advising, expanded opportunities for student leadership, and introduced pre-professional programs in business, law and medicine, and a baccalaureate program in nursing.

During Tompkins' tenure, Cedar Crest strengthened its relationship with the community. In 1967, the Program of Return to Advanced Learning, now the College's Center for Lifelong Learning, opened the gates of the College to local residents who wanted to further their education. A Women's Center, established in 1974, made the campus a focal point for educational and career counseling, conferences and credit-free courses for area women. The Weekend College, launched in 1977, was the only program of its kind in the Valley at the time and served both women and men who could not attend classes during the week. As a member of the Board of Directors of the Allentown-Lehigh County Chamber of Commerce, Tompkins helped to grow an internship program that put students to work in local businesses and government agencies.

Within the educational community of the area, Tompkins helped lead the move toward increased cooperation among area colleges. She served as president of the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges during its early years and played a major role in the formation of Educational Ventures, Inc., to explore ways in which Cedar Crest and Muhlenberg might work together more closely.

In addition to leading program development, Tompkins also presided over significant improvements in the physical plant at Cedar Crest. Steinbright Hall, a student residence, was completed early in her presidency. In 1972, years of planning culminated in the dedication of a four million dollar College Center designed by internationally renowned architect Victor Christ-Janer. The building became officially known as the Tompkins College Center when she resigned as president of the College in 1978.

Starting in 1959, Dr. Tompkins was named General Director of the American Association of University Women and the AAUW Educational Foundation for eight years.

In 1964, President Johnson appointed Dr. Tompkins to the United States Advisory Commission on International Education and Cultural Affairs. She was the only woman on the nine member commission. Dr. Tompkins also served as a member of the Committee for Education, part of President Kennedy's Commission on the Status of Women.

Dr. Tompkins has been a Member of the Board, and Vice Chairman, of the American Council on Education; the Association of American Colleges; the Pension Funds of the United Church of Christ; and she was President of the Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Universities. From 1970 1978, she was a Member of the Board of Directors of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and Chairman of the Board from 1974 1976.

The highlights of her career included extensive travel in the U.S. (all 50 states), and Australia/New Zealand, southern Asia, South Africa, the Middle East, USSR, Western Europe, and Central/South America. While in South Africa, she had the stimulating experience of meeting and getting to know many individuals deeply immersed in the anti apartheid struggle including Helen Joseph, viewed by many blacks as "a mother of the struggle" and Winnie Mandela.

Her wish was to live independently on her farm called Singing Meadows in Edgecomb, Maine, which she did up until her 86th year. Polly made sure the family met at the farm for an annual reunion, which has fostered many years of heartfelt memories. She donated part of the farm to the Boothbay Region Land Trust to be preserved in perpetuity for public enjoyment.

Gifts in Dr. Tompkins' memory may be made to Pine Manor College, Mount Holyoke College or Cedar Crest College.


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