In the fall of 1973, Roz Bernstein was elected to Bowdoin’s Board of Overseers—the first woman to serve in that capacity in the history of the College. Her election was motivated, in part, by the College’s 1971 move to coeducation. She served on the Board for over twenty years, where she was instrumental in the decision to eliminate fraternities. Today, she remains a Board member emerita. Click the audio link below to hear Bernstein’s reflections on her time on the Board—particularly its approach to coeducation, and the questions that she expects it to confront in the future.
Audio: click below to begin listening
On the Board’s reaction to her appointment: “When I went to my first meeting, you know, everyone was most cordial, but one guy said to me, ‘I’m very glad to meet you, but you know, I still think women don’t belong at Bowdoin,’ and I said, ‘Well, you know, that may be your opinion, but obviously, you’re in the minority.’ ”
On alumni backlash against some of the Board’s decisions: “People have this passion about their college, which is wonderful and has to be maintained, but you know, I don’t pay much attention to the grumbling. There will always be grumblers. But that fades away over time.”
On coeducation: “It’s the best thing that ever happened to Bowdoin College…It transformed attitudes on campus; it transformed campus life; it transformed the classroom.”
Citation: I, Anna Wright, interviewed Roz Bernstein on Sunday, October 30, 2011, at her home in Portland, Maine. We discussed her experience as the first woman on the Bowdoin College Board of Overseers, particularly as it related to the College’s change from an all-male institution to a coeducational one.