Archive for Saturday, October 10, 1998


October 10, 1998


A small-town Kansas girl who grew up to become a pioneer for women in higher education and corporate America has donated her extensive collection of papers to Kansas University's libraries.

An exhibit about the life of Jamestown native Martha Peterson will open with a reception from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library on the KU campus. The event is open to the public.

The exhibit, which includes information about student life at KU from the 1930s to 1950s, will be on display for the rest of the year.

Peterson, the former president of two colleges and the first woman to serve on the board of directors of Exxon, Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. and Dry Dock Savings Bank, will attend the reception.

``She is truly a trail-blazing leader,'' said Mary Hawkins, a Kansas Collection librarian at KU who handled the Peterson exhibit.

Peterson, 82, began her career at KU, where she earned bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics in 1937 and 1943.

While working on her doctoral degree in educational psychology and counseling, which she completed in 1959, she was an instructor in the KU mathematics department, assistant dean of women and dean of women.

During her tenure, she was credited with the installation of the dormitory system for freshman women at KU.

She left KU in 1956 to become the dean of women at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which made her the highest-ranking woman to serve at the school. She became university dean of students for the 13-campus University of Wisconsin system in 1963.

She then served as president of Barnard College, the affiliated women's college of Columbia University, and as the first woman president of Beloit College.

Peterson retired in 1981.

Peterson, who was inducted into KU's Women's Hall of Fame in 1972, received KU's highest honor, the Distinguished Service Citation, in 1968.

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