About Radcliffe / Leadership

Wilbur Kitchener Jordan

Portrait of Wilbur Kitchener Jordan
Wilbur Kitchener Jordan. Photo courtesy of Radcliffe College Archives, Schlesinger Library

Wilbur Kitchener Jordan, the fourth president of Radcliffe, was brought up in Lynnville, Indiana, and received his undergraduate degree in that state from Oakland City College. He earned a master’s degree from the University of Missouri and a master’s degree and PhD from Harvard. After becoming a professor of history at Scripps and Claremont Colleges in California, he moved on to the University of Chicago, where he was a professor of English history and served as the general editor of the University of Chicago Press. He was named the fourth president of Radcliffe in 1943 and, at the same time, appointed as a professor of 17th-century English history at Harvard.

In 1943 Jordan implemented the Harvard-Radcliffe agreement, stipulating that Radcliffe would pay approximately 85 percent of its tuition to Harvard in a lump sum, rather than making individual payments to members of the Harvard faculty for teaching at Radcliffe, as in the past. This agreement opened the door to joint instruction for Radcliffe and Harvard undergraduate and graduate students.

Jordan was also responsible for launching new programs in women’s education: the Radcliffe Seminars, established in 1950, to provide noncredit courses for older women; the Training Course in Personnel Management, started in 1937 and which evolved in 1954 into the Harvard-Radcliffe Program in Business Administration; the Publishing Procedures Course, begun in 1947, offering graduates an introduction to publishing; and the Institute of Historical and Archival Management, which ran from 1954 to 1960.

After Maud Wood Park, Class of 1898, gave her suffrage collection to the College in 1943, Jordan and Arthur M. Schlesinger ensured that these records became the cornerstone of the Women’s Archives and were developed into a major collection of books and manuscripts documenting the history of women in America. The archive was renamed the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America in 1965.

During Jordan’s presidency, three new Radcliffe dormitories were built and the Jordan Co-operative Houses were under development. The percentage of resident students rose to about 90 percent from 45 percent. By 1959 Radcliffe’s endowment had tripled.

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