Rosemary Park, 97, Dies; Force in Educating Women



Copyright ©, 2004, The New York Times Co. Reprinted with permission.

By Karen W. Arenson
April 26, 2004

Rosemary Park Anastos, an advocate for women's education and the liberal arts and a former president of Barnard College and Connecticut College for Women, died April 17 at her home in Los Angeles, said a niece, Joan Citron. She was 97.

Dr. Park, as she was known professionally, came from a family of academics: her mother was a teacher, her father and brother were also college presidents. When she left the Barnard presidency in 1967 after five years, she became the first woman to be a vice chancellor at the University of California. At her Barnard inauguration in 1963, she said that "to avoid becoming a nursery school to the university with custodial and elementary responsibilities only," the college must make its liberal arts more sophisticated. She said that meant moving beyond acquiring facts to the mastery of subjects like advanced mathematics, political and economic theory and classical philosophy.

At Connecticut, where she was president from 1947 to 1962, she expanded the student body by one-third, strengthened the curriculum, built major new buildings and was a tireless fund-raiser. She made the campus a national center for modern dance and generally enhanced the college's reputation. When Yale gave her an honorary degree in 1958, it said she had been a major force in "adding a bright star to the galaxy of liberal arts colleges for women."

At Barnard, she followed a similar agenda, strengthening the curriculum, adding major buildings and raising money. But she left after five years, pulled by her marriage in 1965 to Milton Vasil Anastos, a professor of Byzantine Greek at the University of California, Los Angeles. He died in 1997. Dr. Park is survived by her stepson, Milton V. Anastos Jr., of Warwick, R.I., and several nieces and nephews.

Of her departure for California, David Truman, dean of Columbia College, wrote in Barnard's alumnae magazine that although she was the only woman at many Columbia meetings, her wisdom and humor gave weight to her advice and made her "one of the best men in the university."

Not all of her dealings with Columbia were harmonious, however, as she related in an interview with Helen S. Astin, a U.C.L.A. colleague, in "The Higher Education of Women: Essays in Honor of Rosemary Park." When she proposed a new science laboratory for Barnard, she said, Columbia discouraged her, saying its labs were sufficient. But, she said, Barnard did not control those labs, and the absence of its own lab would send a signal "that it didn't believe in science for women." Barnard built a new lab. Born in Andover, Mass., Dr. Park was the oldest of four children of J. Edgar Park, a minister raised in Ireland who became president of Wheaton College, in Massachusetts, and Grace Burtt Park, who taught Greek and mathematics. Her brother, William E. Park, was president of Simmons College, in Boston.

She studied German at Radcliffe and graduated summa cum laude. She later studied at the University of Bonn in 1930 and in 1934 earned a Ph.D. at the University of Cologne. She began teaching German part time, first at Wheaton, then at Connecticut College, where she became dean of freshmen, academic dean, acting president, then president.

She spoke and wrote widely on education, the role of women and other topics, often breaking from conventional wisdom. She told parents that they should encourage their children to take courses in advanced mathematics and French, because society would need scientists and linguists. She said that schools facing teacher shortages should think about using television and older students to help with the teaching; both, she said, had proved effective.

She often leavened her seriousness with wit. In one speech, she took a swipe at English usage: "At some point in most of the professions, the regrettable expression `load' arose: case load, patient load, teaching load," she said. "Artists, as far as I know, do not refer to picture load, poem load or concert load."

Although she supported women's education, she was not a zealot. In her interview with Dr. Astin, Dr. Park said that women's colleges were "particularly important for girls who develop slowly," but said men might benefit "from the same kind of protective environment." She predicted that women's colleges would become less necessary, and she won authority to establish Connecticut College for Men and then admitted men as graduate students.

She was an energetic fund-raiser at a time when it was not always viewed as dignified. To raise $3.1 million for Connecticut College, she crossed the country, meeting with executives who questioned the need to finance women's education.

She became a vice chancellor at U.C.L.A. in 1967, and then a professor. In 1980, she helped develop the Plato Society, a U.C.L.A. study program for retired people. Until a few months ago, she was a member herself, taking courses like "Romantic Composers" and "Brain and Memory."