Bennington College

President Gail Thain Parker, 1972-1976

President Gail Thain Parker, 1972-1976


Gail Thain Parker was the sixth President of Bennington College, serving from 1965 through 1971. She was born in Chicago in 1943 and grew up in Evanston, Illinois. She received her B.A. from Harvard University in 1964, and went on to earn a Ph.D. in History from the same institution. Before coming to Bennington, Parker was an Assistant Professor in American literature and history at Harvard. President Parker’s appointment included the creation of a Vice President position at Bennington College, filled by her husband, Thomas D. Parker, a former tutor and student counselor at Harvard. After resigning from the Bennington College presidency in January 1976, Parker authored two books and a number of articles on higher education. For over 20 years, she worked as an executive for PaineWebber, a stock brokerage firm. Historical landmarks of Dr. Parker’s presidency include the institution of affirmative action policy (1974), the final phases of construction of the Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) buildings (1976), and controversy surrounding the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Future Directions, (1975). President Parker’s relationship with the faculty and students became strained after the release of the report in November 1975, which precipitated a vote of no confidence in President Parker by the faculty. President Parker and Vice President Parker resigned from their positions in January 1976. After President Parker’s resignation, Bennington College trustee Joseph S. Iseman served as Acting President during the spring 1976 semester. Science Division faculty member Robert H. Woodworth served as Acting President during the fall 1976 semester. The arrangement of records in the Parker series is based upon the original filing system used by President Parker’s office.

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