Nancy Dye, the first woman to serve as president of Oberlin College, died Wednesday, Oct. 28 after a long illness.
She was 68.
“Nancy had a profound, positive effect on Oberlin College and Conservatory, building our international engagement and profile, stabilizing and strengthening our finances, and expanding our curriculum,” wrote current president Marvin Krislov.
Her characterized Dye as “an outstanding leader, a fine scholar and teacher, a caring and engaged citizen of the world, and a giving, kind person.”
Condolences and memories poured in after the college formally announced her passing.
“It was my good fortune to serve on the Oberlin board of trustees while Nancy Dye was president. She was a wonderful, thoughtful, and dedicated leader for Oberlin and the legacy of her contributions to Oberlin will be appreciated forever. It was with heartfelt sadness that I learned of her passing,” wrote Philip Hanawalt on the college website.
“A remarkable woman, leader and friend. An honor to know her and work with her on behalf of the amazing Oberlin students, families, staff, and community. Oberlin will always be a special place in my heart and I count myself blessed to have known her,” said Beverly Reep Emory.
Alumni recognize Dye’s legacy.
“President Dye joined Oberlin my freshman year. I like to think we both shared an unbridled joy and enthusiasm for how we could change the world, or at least a small part of Northeast Ohio. She was very down to earth (in true Oberlin style) and accessible to students (even inviting several of us to lunch at her house following graduation). To her credit, she never seemed to mind (or at least hid it well) when I and other students would lobby her for our many causes. I offer my appreciation to her and deepest sympathy for her family,” said Dan Persky.
Those who remembered Dye’s days at Vassar College also offered kind words.
“I greatly admired Nancy Dye. She led the faculty while dean at Vassar with vision, grace, and courage. She said what had to be said and did what had to be done. All with humor, thoughtfulness and deep respect for Vassar, its faculty and its students,” said Kate Susman, professor of biology at Vassar.
“I have always admired her as a liberal thinker and principled feminist, and I thought her presidency at Oberlin was an amazing move for her. I will always think of her as a phenomenal example of a great public intellectual. I send her family my deepest condolences,” said Gabrielle Cody, professor of drama at Vassar.
Dye was the 13th president of Oberlin College.
Born in 1947 in Columbia, Mo., she attended Vassar College, later earning a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
From 1974 to 1988, she taught history at the University of Kentucky. She returned to Vassar as dean of faculty and professor of history in 1988.
A short term as acting president of Vassar in 1992 prepared Dye to make the leap in 1994 to Oberlin College, where in the course of 13 years she oversaw construction of the $65 million science center and Adam Joseph Lewis Environmental Studies Center, as well as restoration of the Allen Memorial Art Museum.
Dye expanded academic offerings, tirelessly promoted the Conservatory on the international stage, and instilled a new pride in Yeomen and Yeowomen athletics programs.
In 2004, Dye traveled to Iran — becoming the first American college or university president to do so in 25 years. There she established ties to not only academics but government officials.
Among her greatest accomplishments in the eyes of the News-Tribune, however, was the creation of the William L. Robinson Scholars program to allow highly-successful Oberlin High School graduates to attend Oberlin College tuition-free.
Dye resigned from Oberlin College in 2007 and continued to travel and be active in academics, serving both as first vice chancellor for the Asian University of Women in Bangladesh and establishing a college for women at the United Arab Emirates University.
She resided in Lakewood until her death.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Photo courtesy of Oberlin College Nancy Dye was a trailblazer, the only woman to ever lead Oberlin College as president, an unparalleled fundraiser who saw record applications to OC during her tenure.