University’s First Female President Ahead of Her Time

In an era when most women earned only high school diplomas, she earned a BS, AM, and a doctorate from New York University, and was a graduate of the Glassboro Normal School, where she was a member of the faculty until 1936, when she transferred to Newark State Teachers College.  There, she rose to the rank of full professor (of English) and stayed until she assumed her presidency at William Paterson.

During her tenure, the institution experienced unprecedented growth.  Enrollment increased from 531 in 1955 to 2,672 in 1966 (up 400 percent); faculty appointments increased from 35 to 212 in 1966. Campus buildings completed included the library, Wightman Gym, and Wayne Hall. She also presided over a significant revamping of the curriculum.

As president, she spoke to the campus community many times. The first such occasion was during the college convocation held on October 8, 1954.  She stressed the opportunities and responsibilities of the college’s students as they prepared to take their place as teachers of children and leaders in the community. The following spring, May 18, 1955, she spoke at an inauguration ceremony, the first for the college.

“The function of education is, as many of us see it, to supply not only knowledge but also power,’’ she said. “Power to understand the universe and the social world in which we exist, and to understand…that the world will be a different place twenty-five years hence when the present student becomes a leader.”

To read the complete text of Dr. Shea’s inaugural address, go to bit.ly/marionshea

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