Bowdoin's first female graduate, Susan Jacobson '71, died October 4 after a long battle with type 1 diabetes and its complications. Her mother, Shirley Jacobson, told the Orient that Susan Jacobson had lived with type 1 diabetes since she was 16 years old.
She is survived by her mother, father, siblings and nephew.
After graduating from Bowdoin magna cum laude with an English degree, Jacobson "received her master's degree from Simmons College in Library Science and worked at Yale University and then became Acquisition Librarian at Youngstown State University," according to the Portland Press Herald's October 7 obituary.
Jacobson arrived at Bowdoin her junior year during the fall of 1969, as an exchange student from Connecticut College—then an all-women college—through the Twelve College Exchange Program, according to the June 4, 1971 issue of the Orient. After learning that there was available rooming at the College for the following year, she returned to Bowdoin in the fall of her senior year. That semester, in September 1970, the College voted to become a coed institution. Learning of the policy change, Jacobson met with then-Dean of the College A. LeRoy Greason to ask if she could graduate from the College. Greason coordinated logistics between Connecticut College and Bowdoin to allow Jacobson to graduate with a Bowdoin degree.
Jacobson grew up in Portland. Her father graduated from the College in 1940; Shirley Jacobson said that this legacy motivated her daughter to attend Bowdoin as an exchange student in the first place.
"She felt that, from his remarks, and what he said about Bowdoin, it made her think that she would enjoy that kind of background that Bowdoin gives," Shirley Jacobson said.
The 1969-1970 academic year was the first year of the Twelve College Exchange Program; 12 female students from other northeastern colleges studied at Bowdoin over the course of the year, five—including Susan Jacobson—for the full year, three in the fall semester, and four in the spring.
In the May 1970 alumni magazine, Jacobson was profiled in an article on the women that participated in the first year of the Twelve College Exchange.
"I've always wanted to attend a Maine School. I just love Maine but I couldn't find a college of Bowdoin's caliber to attend here," she was quoted as saying.
Jacobson was also drawn to Bowdoin for its English department, its small size, and its proximity to doctors in Portland familiar with her medical condition, her mother said. Jacobson's interest in the English department also aligned with her aspiration of studying library science at a graduate level.
"She was very happy at Bowdoin," Shirley Jacobson said. "She had a feeling that she could do best in that environment where it seemed more to her liking than any other college."
In the fall of 1970, 147 women were students at Bowdoin: 64 were members of the class of 1975, 29 were junior-year transfers that graduated as members of the class of 1972, 39 were participants in the Twelve College Exchange, and 15 were Special Students, according to the November 1971 alumni magazine.
Susan Jacobson was one of four graduating students who spoke at the 1971 commencement ceremony. According to June 4, 1971 press release from the college, she described her speech as a "vindication of coeducation."
"A brief projection of Bowdoin's giant step forward in admitting coeducation into its fraternal order will allay some of the fears and negative attidutes of administrators, parents, students, including many of the people in today's audience," she said in her address.
"Instead of viewing these women as invaders from another galaxy, one should and must accept them as a complement to the male student body," Jacobson suggested to her graduation audience.