Mary Maples Dunn, 1931–2017

Drew Gilpin Faust (left), newly appointed dean of the Radcliffe Institute; Mary Maples Dunn, acting dean; and Neil L. Rudenstine, president of Harvard University, in April 2000. Photo by Marc Halevi, Harvard News OfficeDrew Gilpin Faust (left), newly appointed dean of the Radcliffe Institute; Mary Maples Dunn, acting dean; and Neil L. Rudenstine, president of Harvard University, in April 2000. Photo by Marc Halevi, Harvard News Office

Mary Maples Dunn—who served as the Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Director of the Schlesinger Library from 1995 to 1999—died on March 19. A renowned scholar of American history, she was also a talented administrator who led Radcliffe during its 1999–2000 merger with Harvard, as both acting president of Radcliffe College and then as acting dean of the Radcliffe Institute. She was president of Smith College from 1985 to 1995. Dunn began her career at Bryn Mawr, where she earned her doctorate and stayed on to teach. In all her roles, she was an ardent advocate of women’s education.

“Mary’s way of leadership inspired confidence and insisted on the highest standards of scholarship and programming,” said Lizabeth Cohen, dean of the Radcliffe Institute. “But she did it with a sparkling personality and a twinkling eye.”

When Dunn was hired to lead the Schlesinger, Anne Firor Scott, a pioneer in the field of American women’s history who chaired the library’s search committee for a new director, told the Harvard Crimson, “[Dunn] is an expert on colonial women’s history; she and her husband have edited the papers of William Penn; and she’s a wonderful person.”

Search Year: 
2017