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Ann McKenny Early ’46


Mr. President, I have the honor and pleasure to present Ann McKenny Early, distinguished teacher and academic leader, and generous champion of the personal and intellectual empowerment of young people.

Ann McKenny Early, your work and your life have been directed harmoniously by your devotion to intellectual inquiry, your spirit of adventure, and your vision for an academy fully grounded in human values and broadly situated in the social world.

As the only child of a loving mother and a supportive father and as an adolescent growing up during the Second World War, you developed a passion for reading, a love of ideas, and an awareness of world events that inspired in you the desire to pursue a life of learning and teaching. Taking as your model several strong career women in your family, you saw that the full range of life choices was open to you as a woman — at a time when such a vision was unusual and rarely pursued.

At age eighteen, you entered Clark with the first class to include women undergraduates, and you reveled in the intellectual excitement and freedom of exploration that the University provided. Pursuing your love of literature, you obtained a bachelor’s degree in English, when women represented fewer than twenty-four percent of college graduates in this country.

After receiving a master’s degree from Harvard University, you engaged in a lifelong career of inspired teaching and academic innovation at several colleges in the Northeast and, since 1966, at Southern Methodist University, while also raising three children to become accomplished adults.

As a member of the English faculty and the coordinator of women’s studies at Southern Methodist University, you have created ground-breaking courses that have opened new frontiers in interdisciplinary thinking. You have inspired countless young women and men by the breadth and erudition of your teachings, by your vision of the social context of inquiry, and by the model you set as a woman academic from a pioneer generation. In courses such as “Women: Images and Perspectives” and “Revisions: Woman as Artist, Thinker, and Citizen,” you have presented to students an enlightened picture of the contributions that their mothers and foremothers have made to history and culture. You have nurtured their thinking and empowered them to trust their minds and their efficacy in the world. The Outstanding Professor Award that you received on two occasions expresses the admiration that you have generated in your students, and your recent award for extraordinary service marks the importance of your contribution to the university.

In your career of innovation, you were one of the first faculty members of the Women’s Studies Program at Southern Methodist University, a pioneer program instituted in 1973 only four years after the inception of the first such program at San Diego State University. Under your leadership as coordinator between 1980 and 1989, the program grew tremendously in numbers of faculty, novel interdisciplinary courses, and student interest. You have nurtured the careers and development of junior women colleagues and have inspired them by your strength, warmth, and breadth of vision. After nine years of leadership, widely recognized as critical to the program’s development, you chose to retire as coordinator. And you continue to nurture and support the new leadership, an extension of your career of intellectual generativity and empowerment of others.

Mr. President, on behalf of the trustees, faculty, students, and staff of Clark University, I request that the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, be conforred on Ann McKenny Early.