Jane Pinchin: Colgate Through Her Eyes

Maggie Aulman, Maroon-News Staff

Colgate became a co-educational institution 50 years ago and the 2020 Colgate Day is focused on celebrating the impact women have had on this institution. Thomas A. Bartlett Chair and Professor of English, Emerita Jane Pinchin was one of the first two women that was hired to teach full-time at Colgate. Pinchin has since watched the community meaningfully transform over time, starting with Colgate’s shift to co-education in 1970.

Pinchin recounted the history of coeducation and women at Colgate. 

“When I arrived there were women from the community who were here already and teaching part-time like Wanda Warren Berry and Liz Brackett, wonderful mentors who ultimately shaped the institution. And in 1974, the year the first class of women, entering in 1970, graduated, five women were hired on to the faculty: Margaret Maurer, Lynn Staley, Myra Smith, Mary Bufwack, Martha Olcott and Marilyn Thie. The coming of those women really changed Colgate,” Pinchin said.

In the true spirit of lifting other women up, Pinchin revered her other colleagues and openly regards them as having been very impactful in changing the landscape of the university. 

“The late ‘60s and early ‘70s were a time of enormous social change everywhere. It’s hard to think how mild-mannered the decades that followed seemed. It was a time that included the beginning of many academic disciplines that we now take for granted. Women’s studies developed at that point, in a series of fields. The women who were teaching were inventing in the classroom and in their scholarship. They were pioneers. Sometimes in their pedagogy, moving authority from the front of the room to a circle for example. Most often in the subject matter of their teaching and in their research: they were studying, phenomena and people that had not been thought of as worthy of study before; they were listening to new voices, and asking about the underpinnings of fields, whether economics or English or education.”

Pinchin noted an important, coinciding development in interdisciplinary studies that coincided with coeducation’s introduction at the institution.

“Co-education accompanied major change at Colgate and throughout the country. It occurred in the curriculum with the women’s studies program but also within fields like Africana and Latin American studies. Colgate was lucky to have long had an interdisciplinary division, called University Studies, which includes Colgate’s signature Core program, then and now. Like many, indeed most Colgate faculty, it shaped my time, as a teacher here and as an administrator. It’s something that is pretty special and something that’s very much a part of the DNA of Colgate University,” she said.

When asked about Colgate’s future, Pinchin said she believes it is the responsibility of future generations to continue to underscore the centrality of what we study, of the liberal arts, in our lives. 

“How can student and intellectual life be one, smoothly and seamlessly and without a sense that we are working hard and playing hard as two separate categories? This is still decidedly on the table,” she said. 

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new challenges that will undoubtedly shape the future of Colgate.

“I think what’s new now, and that the pandemic has brought to center stage, is how we deal with technology and how we make it an exciting part of our future that doesn’t replace in-person communication but enhances it. We are in Hamilton, New York, in a very beautiful but also a rural and remote part of the world. The pandemic changed how you, as students, intersect with that world. You have a responsibility to get to know it, and to know the community of people living and working on campus, even when technology has changed the equation,” Pinchin said. And those who lead institutions of higher learning everywhere have to better understand these new real/virtual times.” 

Despite retiring in 2015, Pinchin has stayed in the area and lives in Hubbardsville, NY and continues to be actively involved in the Colgate community

“Like many faculty, I’m a participant in the Living Writers series with Professor Jennifer Brice. It’s a wonderful course that actively involves students and also alumni. Perhaps surprisingly, Living Writers has worked really well in the age of zoom.”… “I’m also involved in the Mable Dart Colegrove Commons. I wish it were pre-pandemic times and that it was possible to be in Jane Pinchin Hall if you are not a student who lives there, and I look forward to the time when it will again be possible to be in the building that I feel so honored to have named for me. As provost and dean of faculty, and interim president, student life on campus and the architecture in which it is lived was always of central interest.”

Reflecting on her time at Colgate, as an administrator, faculty and community member who raised her family in the area, Pinchin said the liberal arts foundation of the institution fosters the community’s strength. 

 “ It’s been a pretty terrific place to be. Friends, whether in New York, or Maine or England includes many many people with ties to Colgate. This is a good place to make friendships that last — and I think that says something about the strengths of this community. Would one worry about it being too small? Of course. It’s a college that really benefits from vibrant study group programs, because they regularly take faculty and students to other parts of the world, and a community that benefits from a connection between disciplines that the Core and other forms of interdisciplinary study provide. That makes us stretch beyond silos. Yes. And a community that helps us work for the common good, locally and also in this glorious, troubled world.”