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About HGSE

Patricia Albjerg Graham, born 1935

Dean, 1982-1991

Patricia Albjerg Graham became dean on July 1, 1982. She had previously directed Barnard College’s Education Program and held faculty appointments at Indiana University, Northern Michigan University, and Columbia University’s Teachers College. Graham joined the HGSE faculty and concurrently served as dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Independent Study, vice president for Institutional Planning for Radcliffe College, and vice president of Radcliffe College. She left these positions to become president of the National Institute of Education. She returned to Harvard in 1979, becoming the Charles Warren Professor of the History of American Education. In addition to her many accomplishments as dean, Graham’s place in the historical annals of Harvard University will be secured by the fact that she was the first woman to be appointed dean of a Harvard faculty.

While research programs were always an integral part of HGSE during Graham’s tenure, she re-established strong ties to public schools and brought a strong focus on education practice back to the curriculum. Graham attracted future practitioners to the School with programs such as the Undergraduate Teacher Education Program (UTEP), Urban Superintendents Program, and the MidCareer Math and Sciences Program.

UTEP offers the Harvard undergraduate the opportunity to simultaneously earn their bachelor’s degree and educator licensure. The Urban Superintendents Program is a course of study for doctoral students interested in leading city public school systems. The MidCareer Math and Science Program is designed to draw professionals from technically oriented fields into careers as secondary science and mathematics teachers. With the renewed interest in teacher training, new partnerships were forged between HGSE and local school districts, thereby securing “fieldwork” sites for students in those programs.

During her tenure, new outreach programs were established and strengthened. Programs in Professional Education and the Principals’ Center continued curriculum support to current practitioners. The Harvard Education Letter was established in 1985 as a means to reach K–12 educators. This newsletter became a concise source of information for new research and innovative practices. The years of Graham’s administration also brought stability to the senior faculty as a ten year moratorium on granting tenure was lifted with nine new tenured appointments.

Graham resigned from the deanship in 1991, after which she served as president of the Spencer Foundation. Graham continued to teach at HGSE until 2006 when she retired as the Charles Warren Research Professor of the History of American Education, Emerita.

About the Artist: Melvin H. Robbins, American, 1918–1999

The portrait of Dean Patricia Albjerg Graham was painted by Melvin H. Robbins, a Cambridge-based portrait and courtroom artist. In the painting, Graham is seated on a tan-colored sofa against a grey-colored wall.

Born in Boston, Melvin “Mel” Robbins graduated from Boston University in 1939 and the Massachusetts Art School in 1941. During the Second World War he painted murals and portraits as a member of the United States Army Special Services. After the war, Robbins was president and art director of the White Card Company. He retired in 1968 to become a full-time portrait artist.

Robbins painted two of the portraits on display in the Eliot-Lyman Room — the portraits of Deans Graham and Paul N. Ylvisaker. Additionally, he received portrait commissions from other Harvard University faculties, including the Dental School, Divinity School, Law School, and Medical School. The medium Robbins selected for Harvard University portraiture was oil on canvas. Additionally, his portraits have been commissioned by other educational institutions, local and state governments, and hospitals. These commissions include: Lesley College, University of Massachusetts, Massachusetts State House, Cambridge City Hall, New England Medical Center, and Children’s Hospital.

Robbins worked as a highly acclaimed courtroom artist for local television news programs and newspapers. Phyllis Robbins, his wife, recalled that he did courtroom sketches to get out of his studio and into the “real” world. Although most of his fellow courtroom artists used pencils, pastels and sketch pads — the typical tools of the trade, Robbins employed canvas and acrylic paint for his work. His work for WBZ-TV was awarded a regional Emmy Award in 1979. University of Massachusetts President Robert Woods was so impressed by his courtroom work that he later commissioned Robbins to paint his own portrait. This led to portrait commissions of other university dignitaries.

Robbins passed away on November 24, 1999 at age eighty-one.