Alice Ilchman; College President, Federal Official

By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Write
Friday, August 18, 2006

Dr. Alice Stone Ilchman, 71, a former president of Sarah Lawrence College and an assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs during the Carter administration, died Aug. 11 at her home in Bronxville, N.Y. The cause was complications of pancreatic cancer, a spokeswoman for the college said.

At the time of her death, Dr. Ilchman was director of the Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship of the Thomas J. Watson Foundation.

She was the eighth and longest-serving president in Sarah Lawrence's history, a position she held from 1981 to 1998. As assistant secretary of state from 1979 to 1980, she managed a number of exchange programs, including the Fulbright Fellowship.

She was born in Cincinnati and grew up in the District, where her father served in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations from 1933 to 1948. Her son recalled that she won awards in elementary school as a champion "paper trooper," recycling paper for the war effort. She graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1953.

At Mount Holyoke College, where she was a religion major, she once answered the question of whether Reinhold Niebuhr was an existentialist by collecting dimes from her classmates and calling the famed theologian at his Union Theological Seminary office. She received her undergraduate degree in 1957.

She received a master's degree in public administration from Syracuse University in 1958 and a doctorate from the London School of Economics in 1965. At the University of California at Berkeley, she directed three Peace Corps training projects for India and co-taught the school's first interdisciplinary South Asian studies course. She also served as dean and professor of economics at Wellesley College before joining the Carter administration.

Long interested in women's education, she chaired the National Research Council's Committee on Women's Employment and Related Social Issues and co-authored, with Sylvia Hewlett, the 1986 book "Family and Work: Bridging the Gap." At Sarah Lawrence, she fought to sustain the college's commitment to liberal arts education. The school's endowment increased tenfold during her tenure.

"She was of a generation that made it possible for later, younger women to have it a lot easier in professional life," said Michael Beschloss, a historian and longtime friend. Beschloss noted that Dr. Ilchman remained dedicated to public service her whole life, despite numerous opportunities in other areas.

Survivors include her husband of 46 years, Warren F. Ilchman of Bronxville; two children, Frederick Ilchman of Boston and Sarah Hollinger of New York City; two sisters; and a brother.

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