H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College

Tulane University

Seal of Tulane University
Motto Non Sibi Sed Suis (Latin)
Motto in English "Not for oneself, but for one's own"
Established 1834
Type Private
Endowment US $ 807 million (as of June 30, 2009)[1]
President Scott Cowen
Academic staff 1,132[2]
Undergraduates 6,749
Postgraduates 4,408
Location New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
29°56′07″N 90°07′22″W / 29.935344°N 90.122687°W / 29.935344; -90.122687Coordinates: 29°56′07″N 90°07′22″W / 29.935344°N 90.122687°W / 29.935344; -90.122687
Campus Urban
Former names Medical College of Louisiana (1834-1847),[2] University of Louisiana (1847-1884)
Colors Olive Green and Sky Blue         
Athletics NCAA Division I Conference USA
Sports Baseball, basketball, cross-country, football, golf, tennis, volleyball
Nickname Green Wave
Mascot Riptide the Pelican
Affiliations AAU
Website tulane.edu
Tulane Shield and wordmark

H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College, or Newcomb College, was the coordinate women's college of Tulane University located in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was founded by Josephine Louise Newcomb in 1886 in memory of her daughter.

Newcomb was the first women's coordinate college within a United States university. This model was later used in partnerships such as Pembroke College at Brown University and Barnard College at Columbia University.

In 2006, Newcomb College was merged into other Tulane undergraduate colleges, as part of Tulane's Renewal Plan following the major losses and damage of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Alleged heirs of Mrs. Newcomb sued, challenging Tulane on the issue of donor intent and seeking to preserve Newcomb as a separate coordinate college within the university, but the lawsuit ended in 2011 after appellate court rulings in support of the university's position.



Josephine Louise Newcomb (born Josephine Louise Le Monnier, 1816–1901) established the college as a memorial to her daughter Sophie, who died in 1870 at the age of 15. Following an initial donation of $100,000, she made gifts totaling $3 million. She wanted to support a liberal academic education for young white women. Newcomb was influenced by Ida Richardson and the college was associated with the Progressive Movement from its earliest years.

Until its move in 1918 to its Broadway campus, Newcomb College was made up mostly of day students. Its move to its current site on the uptown campus of Tulane was also the occasion of development of dormitories and more campus life. Students at Newcomb College became increasingly sophisticated and the school's reputation grew.

The university had recruited Brandt V.B. Dixon as the first president of Newcomb College. To ensure girls and young women were academically prepared for college, Dixon established the Newcomb High School, which operated from 1888 to 1920. The preparatory school ensured that girls were ready to study at the college level, as some parents tried to send girls to Newcomb who were as young as 13 or 14, with little academic preparation. Dixon worked with faculty and students to continue to raise academic standards. By 1916, Newcomb had achieved a strong regional reputation and become "one of seven Southern schools which held a standard college designation within the Southern Association of College Women." [3]

Out of its art school, the college created the business of what became the renowned Newcomb Pottery. This reflected both a progressive interest in craft and parents' desire for their daughters to learn a practical, "industrial" skill in the economically difficult postwar years. It was first headed by Mary Given Sheerer, previously associated with the Rookwood Pottery in Cincinnati. While the pottery did not employ that many women, some did find work there. Angela Gregory was artist-in-residence at Newcomb College. It produced more than 70,000 pieces before the pottery program closed in 1939. During these years, the college's art program expanded to include other arts and crafts, such as illustrated bookplates, jewelry, embroidery, and hand-bound books, the latter often given embossed leather covers and elaborate clasps.[3]

Newcomb contributed greatly to the early development of basketball and other sports for women, which added to its reputation. The college was one of the first women's colleges to compete in national basketball games, along with northern women's colleges such as Smith, Mount Holyoke, and Vassar.

In 1895, Newcomb's physical education instructor Clara Gregory Baer published the handbook Basketball Rules for Women and Girls. The book described both the one-handed shot and the jump shot, which would not be adopted by men's basketball until 1936. The college had the first women's team to wear bloomers, a better solution for sports. On March 13, 1895, Newcomb students played the first public basketball game in the South before 560 other women at the Southern Athletic Club.[4][5]

Newcomb ball, a game played as an alternative to volleyball, originated at Newcomb College and bears its name. The sport was very popular in the 1920s.[6] The game is still played in various forms across the world.

As it grew, the college reflected many social changes, such as the wider roles of women during and after World War II. Married women were included in admissions. The college began to offer more coeducational classes with Tulane University. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), in the early 1960s both the university and college integrated to adjust to a new moral imperative. The focus of the curriculum changed over the years, and women were offered more science and business classes.[3]


In December 2005 the Tulane University board of directors announced that the university would be reorganized on July 1, 2006, to accommodate needed changes due to losses following Hurricane Katrina.[7] The board also approved the recommendation of a special Tulane Renewal task force to name a revised, co-educational, single undergraduate college Newcomb-Tulane College. The new college within the university is not strictly a successor to Newcomb College.

This followed years of talk about restructuring. Some of the faculty had believed that Newcomb's separate status had adversely affected promotions, for instance, as well as other academic opportunities and had long encouraged a realignment within Tulane University. Since social changes of the 1970s, college and university discussions had centered on a different arrangement within the university.[3]


Arguing the "renewal" plan violated the donor's original intention of the gift, Newcomb's heirs filed and lost two suits against the university to invoke the restrictions of Newcomb's lifetime gifts and bequest in her will. The university stated that by naming Tulane her universal legatee in her will, Josephine Louise Newcomb placed no conditions on the use of her donations, but entrusted her gifts to the discretion of the Administrators of Tulane University.[8]

After working its way through the Louisiana courts, the initial case filed in May 2006, Howard v. Tulane, was heard by the Louisiana Supreme Court.[9] The court ruled on July 1, 2008, that the "successors" of a testator have standing to enforce the terms of a predecessor's will, though it did not rule specifically on the merits of the interpretation of Mrs. Newcomb's will. Instead the court returned the case to the trial court to require the plaintiffs to prove they are heirs. The plaintiffs dismissed their case.

Based on the Supreme Court's definition of "successor", a subsequent action, Montgomery v. Tulane, was filed in 2008 by Susan Henderson Montgomery, another great niece of Mrs. Newcomb and the plaintiff claiming to be a successor. After losing in New Orleans civil district court, the plaintiff filed an appeal to the state. On October 13, 2010, a state appeals court sided 3-2 with Tulane University.[10] On February 18, 2011, the Louisiana Supreme Court voted, 4 to 2, with one abstention, to let a lower court's ruling in favor of Tulane stand.[11] The plaintiffs in the case said that the lack of federal issues meant that the case would not be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and that the lawsuits were over.[12]

H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College Institute

Newcomb College Institute is an umbrella organization that runs programs (for women) that were formerly operated by the H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College. In its first year (2006–07), under the leadership of founding Interim Executive Director Rebecca Mark (Tulane Department of English), the non-academic Newcomb College Institute hosted 104 speakers and 110 different programs for women, men and guests at Tulane.

In May 2007, NCI inaugurated "Under the Oaks," a Commencement awards ceremony recognizing the accomplishments of students involved in Newcomb programs. It maintained some traditions, such as the Daisy Chain, in which rising female seniors dress in white and carry a rope of greenery and fresh-cut daisies.[13]

Under the hand of a new Provost Michael Bernstein, Rebecca Mark was removed from the helm of NCI two years into her appointment, and Molly Travis (Tulane Department of English) was appointed as the second Interim Executive Director at NCI, serving 2008-2009.[citation needed] Sally J. Kenney (formerly of the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota) was named the official first permanent executive director of the Newcomb College Institute in June 2009, and arrived on campus January 2010.[14]

See also


External links

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