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Who was Alice Lloyd?

By James Tobin
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Early feminist, inspiration, dean of women

She was a philosopher’s daughter, a feminist, and registered nurse who became the University of Michigan’s longest-serving and most revered dean of women, the administration’s highest-ranking woman when U-M was still run all but entirely by men.

Alice Lloyd was dean of women for 20 years. (Image courtesy of U-M's Bentley Historical Library.)

Alice Lloyd was dean of women for 20 years. (Image courtesy of U-M’s Bentley Historical Library.)

Born in 1893, Alice Crocker Lloyd grew up in a Greek Revival house at Washtenaw Avenue and Cambridge when that corner was near the outskirts of town. Her father, Alfred Henry Lloyd, a Harvard PhD, was a rising instructor in philosophy who would become professor and dean of the Graduate School, then interim president of the University.

With her brother, Frederick, who was a year older, she went to Ann Arbor High School (the building at State and Huron that would become the Frieze Building) and rode the city’s street cars down to Main, where, she would recall many years later, “one of the affable motormen would occasionally stop for a few minutes while you did an errand.”

For two years after high school, Lloyd attended the exclusive Milton Academy near Boston. Next came four years at Michigan—she made Phi Beta Kappa—and two years of training as a registered nurse in New York. (Her brother, gassed and shell-shocked in World War I, would spend the rest of his life in the veterans’ hospital at Battle Creek.)

Returning to Michigan, Lloyd traded nursing for a job as probation officer in Detroit. In 1926 she came back to Ann Arbor as one of four official “advisors to women,” and in 1930 she was named dean.

She was beautiful in the way that used to be termed “handsome,” with striking, wide-set eyes. Remaining single, “Miss Lloyd” soon was held in some awe for her inexhaustible devotion both to her work and the ideal of equal education for women. To students she was a blend of advocate, friend, and moral compass. She thought the lives of her charges were overcrowded with parties, dances, and romantic drama, and she often cited the example of Michigan’s pioneering “co-eds” of the 1870s.

“The early women students were here because they were fundamentally interested in obtaining an education,” Lloyd told students of the mid-1930s. “Now it is the social thing to come to college, and though we still have a serious group who are well adjusted to the idea of their purpose in being here, there are large numbers who are, shall we say, socially inclined and not only light-hearted but light-minded.”

At the same time, Lloyd did not expect academic stardom from every student. “It is not given to many of us to become great philosophers or scientists,” she said. “There are only a few geniuses. But to make friends and establish a fine human understanding is a worthwhile aim for all of us.”

In loco parentis

Lloyd counseled countless women students in private and addressed many more in groups. In the (silent) footage below, shot in 1938 to encourage women to enroll at the University of Michigan, we get an idea of how indispensable “Miss Lloyd” was to her female charges, many of whom looked to her for help when faced with life-changing decisions. (Of particular note: The woman in this clip is studying science and using a microscope.)

Lloyd’s speeches (preserved in her papers at U-M’s Bentley Historical Library) offer a glimpse of campus life when the University acted in loco parentis—”in the place of parents.” She was perfectly comfortable in the role of moralist—an impressive, concerned aunt who did not hesitate to tell her charges to wise up and get serious. There is little in her advice that today seems anything less than wise.

On sororities

“I don’t want anyone to make a tragedy out of the sorority situation. The rushing business if very artificial … and it is nothing against you if you do not get a bid. I believe you are here to get an education. The most important thing in your college conduct is that purpose in being here as the foundation of all that you do.”

On extracurricular activities

“We may well ask why an educational institution sponsors Senior Operas and Junior Girls’ Plays and Frolics and Hops and Proms and Tea Dances, Sophomore Cabarets and Freshman Pageants, Pan-Hellenic Balls, Comedy Clubs, and the innumerable other activities which we now take for granted as a necessary part of student life. One of the older members of the faculty described the situation rather vividly when he said in a discouraged moment that most of the students, so-called, were so taken up with the side shows that they forgot all about the show in the big tent. It all boils down … to lack of interest in education for its own sake. We have not the interest that the pioneer women had.”

On fashion

“A few years ago Michigan had the reputation of being one of the dressiest colleges in the Middle West. Some of us were rather ashamed of that reputation. It is exceedingly bad taste to be over-dressed. We used to be too fussy, now we’re getting almost too careless.”

On men

“Your relation to men should be a friendly one, not one in which you make impossible demands on each other. Don’t waste each other’s time. You can keep each other in an emotional ferment, but neither of you will have a good time if you do, or get much out of your college life.”

On drinking and sex

“Don’t let anyone tell you you’re a poor sport if you don’t accept a drink. Don’t go with an escort who can’t be a gentleman … Don’t ever stoop to do anything of which you will be ashamed.”

More than a dean

Alice Lloyd poses with a friend's baby. (Image courtesy of U-M's Bentley Historical Library.)

Alice Lloyd holding a friend’s baby. (Image courtesy of U-M’s Bentley Historical Library.)

Lloyd began as dean just as the Michigan League was being completed, and she presided over the League when it was home to most of the University’s women’s organizations. She oversaw the early years of the first big women’s residence halls—Mosher-Jordan and Stockwell—and she helped to plan the new residence hall that would be named for Miss Lloyd herself.

In 1950, after 20 years as dean, she died suddenly at the age of only 56 after what the Regents called “a supremely useful and exemplary life.”

“More than a dean,” said a student, “she has been a friend to every Michigan woman, and an inspiration.”

The new residence hall on the hill, then the largest on campus, was named Alice Crocker Lloyd Hall and dedicated on Dec. 3, 1950. The building underwent extensive renovation most recently and was reopened to residents in August 2012.

James Tobin

James Tobin

JAMES TOBIN is an author and historian. His new book, The Man He Became: How FDR Defied Polio to Win the Presidency,was published by Simon & Schuster in November 2013. He contributes regularly to the U-M Heritage website, an online repository of historical stories and images about the University.

COMMENTS

  • brian bierley - 1993

    Sure appreciate the story on Alice Lloyd. Spent years visiting friends in that dorm while I lived in South Quad. Never knew the back story. Love all of the history of the UofM and will fondly share the info you provided here when I am back on campus in the future. Respectfully, Brian Bierley UM 1993 Kinesiology

    Reply

  • Richard Cardullo - 1979

    I enjoyed reading this piece as I spent my freshman year at UM living on a coed floor in Alice Lloyd. I never knew the history and appreciate learning about the name behind the dorm.

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  • Judy Paull - 1992

    I am proud to know that she was a nurse! I was unaware of this previously.

    Reply

  • Jay Levinj - 1978

    Great story by my Michigan Daily colleague Jim Tobin. Interesting that Alice Lloyd the dean was a feminist … I recall taking a 1 or 2-credit Women’s Studies class at Alice Lloyd Hall … believe the class was held in a lounge at the dorm. (Also remember the class not being the easy A that I thought it would be … )

    Reply

  • Vaughan Parker

    We lived a 1/2 block from her. And her mother was my sister’s god mother!

    Fascinating story. Thanks!!

    Reply

  • Bruce Kimball - 1969.1971

    Went on my first panty raid to Alice Lloyd Hall (from Lloyd House in West Quad) back in 1965. Still have my “prize” from that raid.

    Reply

  • Betty Hahneman

    I knew Dean Lloyd when I was a student. She was a wise, helpful, and sympathetic person, and always upheld the highest standards of the University. It is a privilege to have known her. I am very happy to see that she is remembered and that you are introducing her to today’s students. And I loved the film of the women of the ’30s – we weren’t too far removed from those days!

    Reply

  • Betty Borgen

    Loved the backstory and the comments. I arrived on campus from New York in September 1948 along with a huge contingent of men returning from WW II to reclaim their dorms. Since this was the era of single-sex dorms, I was one of about 20 overflow women assigned to “The Nurses’ Dorm”, Couzens Hall, where we were designated euphemistically as “Campus Students.” My assigned roommate was (the late) Betty Jane Stewart (Kinyon),’52, from Detroit, another “Campus Student.” (And I do believe it was Dean Lloyd herself who delivered “The Talk”, a compulsory sex-ed lecture for all incoming freshman women.) BJ and I loved the nurses and that old dorm but the next fall we were reassigned to the brand new Alice Lloyd Hall and took part in the dedication ceremonies on December 3, 1950. The next spring, BJ secretly eloped with football hero Pete Kinyon,’52, but came back to live out the semester with me so their parents wouldn’t find out. I wonder whether she holds the record as Alice Lloyd Hall’s only married resident.

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