Jill Ker Conway

Smith College
Historian; Educator; Academic administrator
Public Affairs, Business, and Administration
Educational and Academic Leadership


Jill Ker Conway served as President of Smith College from 1975 to 1985. She was the first woman to hold the Smith presidency. One of her most notable accomplishments at Smith is a program to help students on welfare. She also created the Ada Comstock Scholars program, which permits older women with family and work obligations to pursue their education. Prior to serving at Smith, Ker Conway taught at the University of Toronto, where she also served as Vice President of Internal Affairs, from 1964 to 1975. From 1985 to 2008 she was a visiting scholar and visiting professor in the Science, Technology and Society Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is best known for her autobiographies, in particular her first memoir, The Road from Coorain (1989, Alfred A. Knopf), which describes her early life on a sheep farm in Australia until her departure for North America. She has extensive board governance and leadership experience at such companies as Nike, Colgate Palmolive, and Lend Lease (where she was Chair of the Board). Since 2011she has been a board member of Community Solutions. She is or has also been a trustee of the Boston Museum Project, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation, The Conference Board, Hampshire College, Northfield Mt. Hermon School, and The Clarke School for the Deaf. Mrs. Conway served as a Member of the Harvard University Board of Overseers. In 2012 President Obama awarded Ker Conway the National Humanities Medal. She received the B.A. degree (1958) from the University of Sydney in Australia, and the Ph.D. (1969) in history from Harvard University. Ker Conway has received 38 honorary degrees. She passed away on June 1, 2018.

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