Women at SI & the Coed Issue

The move represented a shift in attitude toward women at SI. Not surprisingly, that attitude changed along with the demographics of the faculty. In 1973, Anny Medina joined the faculty as a Spanish and French teacher, and in 1976, Carolyn Rocca came as a part-time Italian teacher. In 1978, three more women joined the faculty and staff: Julia Maionchi (Italian), Katie Robinson (counseling) and Katie Wolf (studio art).

In 1979, Mary Husung McCarty joined the faculty as a Latin teacher. She did not find it strange teaching at an all-male school, as she was the only woman in her graduate program and had taught three years at an all-boys school. She recalls that “a few kids developed crushes, as they definitely weren’t used to having a young, female, single teacher, but I was used to dealing with boys, so it didn’t rattle me much.” She did receive a few love letters and one boy hung around the classroom and left notes on her car. “I much prefer teaching at a coed school,” said McCarty. “It’s more normal to have girls and boys in the same room, and they are more fun to teach together.”

While SI would not admit girls until 1989, students and faculty discussed the possibility of coeducation throughout the 1970s. The April 27, 1971, Inside SI ran a column entitled “Girls at SI?” and the December 16, 1976, issue of The 2001 ran a story by Phil Bennett ’77 (now the managing editor of The Washington Post)with this headline: “The Question Remains: Coeducation?” Several faculty offered their reflections, including Charlie Dullea, who noted that “coeducation would be a logical step in the progress of the school in light of the recent changes under the stimulus of the Preamble. Women are certainly a part of the community we are tasked to serve.”

Others disagreed, including math teacher Col. Vern Gilbert, who feared that going coed would dilute the sports program. SI Chaplain Gordon Bennett, SJ (now the bishop of the Diocese of Mandeville in Jamaica), noted that he had spent two years researching the subject and found no conclusive evidence regarding whether coed or single sex schools worked better. “I personally favor coeducation at SI for reasons that are particular to the city of San Francisco. I am also convinced that, because of the lack of direct evidence, that SI will not become coeducational until financial circumstances indicate that the school must change or face oblivion….”