Nancy Weiss Malkiel


Nancy Weiss Malkiel joined the Princeton University Department of History faculty as Nancy Weiss in 1969, where she rose through the ranks from assistant professor, 1969–1975, to associate professor, 1975–1982, to professor thereafter. She was educated at Smith College, obtaining her B.A. summa cum laude and graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1965, and she went on from there having won a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship to Harvard University for her M.A. (1966) and her Ph.D. (1970).

Nancy’s career as a writer and teacher has been a distinguished one. When she came to Princeton, she was already an accomplished scholar. Smith College had published her “solid, full-length biography,” as one reader called it, of Charles Francis Murphy, 1858–1924: Respectability and Responsibility in Tammany Politics in 1968. She went on to publish The National Urban League, 1910–1940 (Oxford University Press, 1974), Farewell to the Party of Lincoln: Black Politics in the Age of FDR (Princeton University Press, 1983), and Whitney M. Young, Jr., and the Struggle for Civil Rights (Princeton University Press, 1989).

While doing research and writing her later books, Nancy was also lecturing, precepting, and leading seminars in the history department and the Program in American Studies. Indeed, she taught or cotaught some of the largest courses in the department’s history, courses that routinely attracted in excess of 200 students. The “United States since 1940,” her signature course, enrolled over 300 students on six different occasions, an enormous number for a class at Princeton University.

After spending a year, 1986–87, on a fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, Nancy’s career took a strikingly different turn. Although she had served as master of Dean Mathey College from 1982 to 1986, she returned to Princeton to take up the many more challenging duties associated with the Office of Dean of the College in 1987, a position she held for twenty-four years. Thereafter, following a well-earned leave, she resumed teaching and research in the history department. By then, the focus of her research had shifted, and she was devoting herself to exploring the decisions that elite male colleges and universities in the United States and the United Kingdom made to admit women in the late 1960s and 1970s, and that their female counterparts made to admit men. In conjunction with this research, she taught a number of undergraduate seminars on coeducation and women in higher education in general. Her work will culminate in a book on achieving coeducation, now in the publication process at Princeton University Press.

Twenty-four years as dean of the college marked an extraordinary tenure in that office. Formally speaking, Nancy was the senior administrator in the University president’s cabinet supervising all aspects of undergraduate education — curriculum, teaching and advising, and rules and responsibilities as they affected the undergraduate student body. This meant she had to provide oversight for a number of specialized offices that catered to undergraduate needs and concerns, everything from academic standing to the students’ place in the residential college system. And this in turn meant she spent uncountable hours chairing committees, serving as a member of other committees, and counseling the Faculty Advisory Committee on Appointments and Advancements (the Committee of Three).

Nancy counts as among her major accomplishments as dean of the college her input into and coordination of the reform of the curriculum with regard to general education, the heightened emphasis on and institutional underpinnings of international experiences for Princeton’s students, the founding of the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, and the significant expansion of educational opportunities for freshmen. She also was a major force in the augmentation of the residential college system, the formulation and administration of the undergraduate grading policy, and the implementation of the University’s pathbreaking no-loan financial aid policy.

Outside the University, Nancy served in numerous capacities with distinction. She held, in addition to numerous other positions, that of chair of the Board of Trustees of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation for ten years (1999–2009), and she was also a member of the board of her alma mater, Smith College, in various capacities for ten years (1984–1994). Among her many awards and honors, the bestowal of the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, by Smith College in 1997 and the establishment of the Nancy Weiss Malkiel Junior Faculty Fellowship in 2015 by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation to celebrate her forty years of service stand out as especially noteworthy.