International Women’s Day

International Women's Day logo small

Saint Michael’s College is celebrating International Women’s Day and the contributions that outstanding women make to our community each and every day.

In honor of our first two Golden Knight classes to include women, we are reflecting on those early co-ed years and how the College has evolved over the past 51 years.

We also invite you to share your own story!

International Women’s Day Scholarship

The International Women’s Day Scholarship was established in 2019 to support deserving female students in need of financial assistance and to celebrate the contributions of women within the Saint Michael’s community. Make a gift to the International Women’s Day Scholarship.

Read about this year’s Scholarship recipients below: 

Spotlight on SMC Women

Check out some of our amazing Saint Michael's College community members.

Celebrating Women at Saint Michael's College!

We hope you enjoy the video below – a tribute to 50 years of women at Saint Michael’s!

A timeline of female firsts at Saint Michael’s College

The following was written by SMC librarian and archivist Liz Scott.


Saint Michael’s College opens its doors. Three Daughters of the Holy Ghost traveled from France and perform the domestic tasks necessary for housing and feeding people. They cook, clean, and do laundry for both priests and students.

Nuns pose on the porch of Founders Hall.


A handful of Women Religious take a full schedule of college classes at Saint Michael’s. While they do not take courses alongside male students, their curriculum is similar and they are taught by some of the same professors.


Sr. Mary Emmanuel, Sr. Mary Jerome, Sr. Mary Loyola, and Sr. Mary Mechtilde receive A.B. degrees from St. Joseph’s Hall of Saint Michael’s College. Women would not receive bachelor’s degrees again until 1972.


Sister Mary Gonzaga receives an M.S. from Saint Michael’s. The subject of her thesis is “The Apollonian Problem.” It is the second M.S. granted by the college.

Elsa Kiel Sichel


Elsa Kiel Sichel is the first female faculty member. She teaches biology from 1942-1943, but, as was true with many women working in wartime, she was replaced by a man once they started returning from WWII placements.


Although Religious Women had been earning Master’s degrees since 1931, Eileen McGinley’s Master of Education is notable, as she is the first lay woman to earn a degree at Saint Michael’s.


“Ladies of Saint Michael’s” begins as a group for the wives of the students who came to campus with the GI Bill. Many of the families lived on campus, and the club was a welcome outlet. Wives of faculty and staff also participated, and the club was a very visible presence welcoming new students and their families at the beginning of the year and hosting periodic events for many years.


Nursing students at nearby Fanny Allen Hospital take science courses on campus. This arrangement continues until 1968.

Dr. Alice Thayer


  • Dr. Alice Thayer is the first woman hired to teach on campus after World War II. She teaches in the English Language program until 2001, when she retired as Professor Emerita.
  • The English Language program accepts female students.


  • Maureen McNamara becomes the first female administrator when she is named Registrar. After beginning as a secretary in 1947, McNamara received various promotions, serving as Assistant Registrar and later as Coordinator of Extension Services and Graduate Programs before becoming Registrar.
  • Dr. Marie Henault becomes the first woman to chair an academic department –English. There is a senior class award named in her honor.


Saint Michael’s admitted women as full-time undergraduate students. Although admissions staff promised 100 women, only 23 began in the fall of 1970. (Some records say 26 – with three living off campus). They made up slightly more than 2% of the undergraduates. Six women are listed among Faculty in the 1970-71 catalog.


  • The first female undergraduates receive their bachelor’s degrees from Saint Michael’s.
  • Title IX is a federal civil rights act that prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs and activities. While it is far –reaching, one of the most immediate effects at Saint Michael’s was that athletic offerings for women were vastly expanded.

Sue Duprat with former St. Mike’s athletic director Ed Markey


Sue Duprat becomes the College’s first female full-time member of the athletic department. She’s hired as coordinator of women’s athletics, coach of three sports (field hockey, basketball, softball), and advisor for cheerleading.

Professor Emerita Carey Kaplan and former Communications Director Buff Lindau co-organized the Women in Society Symposium.


  • The Women in Society Symposium, organized by Dr. Buff Lindau and Dr. Carrie Kaplan, draws large crowds for a series of lectures, panels and other events by famous (and not yet famous) authors, thinkers, and artists on a broad range of topics related to women. The New York Times publicizes it in a half-page article.
  • Eileen O’Brien ’81 is the first female on the Student Association Executive Board.


  • Molly Dwyer ’81 is elected Student Association president. All members of the Executive Committee were female.
  • After a successful campaign spearheaded by Molly Dwyer, The Michaelman changed its name to The Defender. The first issue was printed Sept. 12, 1980.



  • The Early Learning Center, the College’s childcare center, opens on North campus. On campus childcare was increasingly important as more women joined the Saint Michael’s community.
  • Andrea Cremins ’81 is the first female editor of the 1981 Hilltop yearbook.


Gender Studies becomes a minor.

Dr. Susan Summerfield


In January 1991, Dr. Susan Summerfield of the Fine Arts Department became the first Dean of the Faculty. She was the only woman to hold that position until Dr. Tara Natarajan became Dean in 2019.


Nancy Fink ’77 becomes first female president of the Saint Michael’s College Alumni Association. She goes on to serve as a Trustee.


Geri Knortz is named Saint Michael’s first female Athletic Director. At the time, only 12% of athletic directors in NCAA Division II schools were female. She succeeds long-time AD Ed Markey ’51.


Dr. Jan Sheeran becomes first female Provost, the chief academic officer of the College, in July 1998.


The Women’s Center opens on campus.

Loung Ung ’93


Award-winning author and political activist Loung Ung ’93 (right) is the first woman inducted into the College’s Academic Hall of Fame.


Jamila Headley ’07, originally from Barbados, is the College’s first female Rhodes Scholar recipient and goes on to earn her Ph.D. from Oxford University.

lorraine smiles

President Lorraine Sterritt


In September 2018, Dr. Lorraine Sterritt was inaugurated as the 17th president of Saint Michael’s College.


This academic year, 53% of undergraduate students and 47% of faculty members are female.