Thousands of woman have better lives today because of Carol Hollenshead. As a student at the University of Michigan in the late 1960s Carol never had a woman professor and was one of only two women serving on student government.
After graduation she began working at U-M as a volunteer and an administrator to remedy the many gender discrimination issues exposed by the federal complaint filed against U-M by Jean King.
“I got fed up being treated as a second class citizen but I never gave up,’’ Carol says of those early years. “I hung in there.”
It was during that time that she also met Jean Campbell, the founder of U-M’s Center for the Education of Women and Jean King, who served as constant sources of inspiration.
Carol’s relentless efforts on behalf of women eventually led to her appointment as director of The Center and also the Chair of U-M’s President’s Advisory Commission on Women’s Issues, positions she held for 20 years, from 1988 to 2008.
She directed research, service programs, counseling programs, advocacy, and policy development focused on higher education, careers and leadership. The Center became an awarding-winning international model for campus-based women’s centers.
She increased its influence as a force for advocacy and policy change, leadership development and research in academia as well as the corporate world. The Center also conducted research on state and national issues such as affirmative action and welfare recipients’ access to education.
As chair of the U-M President’s Commission she and her colleagues helped create many policies benefiting women and men, including new work-family policies for students, faculty and staff; salary equity studies; and improved sexual harassment policies.
“I heard stories of junior faculty members returning to the classroom only a few days or a week after giving birth because there was no policy for time off,” Carol recalls. “They were afraid that taking time off would hurt them when they went up for tenure.”
After The Center’s work helped change the policy, Carol remembers a faculty member stopping her on the street to thank her.
“She had three children and it was only with her third child that she was able to take time off because of new policies,” Carol says. “She told me what a difference it had made to her and her new baby. It was one of my most rewarding moments.”
Under Carol’s leadership The Center built a multimillion-dollar endowment for scholarships, which made a college degree possible for thousands of women.
Every year The Center awards more than 40 scholarships to women like Patti, a widowed mother of three young girls, who was supporting herself as a seamstress. She decided to become a registered nurse but needed help with tuition. She became the first recipient of The Center’s Linda Ryder Scholarship, which had been endowed by Ryder’s son Rob, after her death from cancer.
“That scholarship made a huge difference,” Patti, now the clinical director of a local orthopedic practice, said recently. “I also remember meeting Rob at the scholarship awards ceremony. It was very touching.”
To women like Helen, a mother of nine children whose husband left her for another woman. She did not have a college degree and was struggling with severe depression after the divorce. With counseling and scholarships from The Center, Helen went on to earn a master’s degree and now has a good-paying job and a new life.
Under Carol’s leadership The Center also addressed the special concerns of women of color and received awards from the National Council for Research on Women and the American Council on Education.
Carol Hollenshead’s tireless advocacy for women’s education, family issues, equity and justice has dramatically improved the lives of many women and their families.
– written by Maryanne George
Note: Carol passed away of cancer on November 17, 2018, surrounded by her family. She will be keenly missed.