Sandra Grayson, who was earlier named the 2009-2010 Professor of the Year after being nominated by every member of the English department, has compiled a notable list of achievements during her 25-year tenure at Saint Mary's College. Along with serving on multiple committees and as director of the Women's Studies Program and English department chair, Grayson co-authored the proposal for a women's studies minor and co-founded the Women's Studies Program.
At an event honoring Grayson on April 21, Provost Beth Dobkin introduced the professor by quoting one of her former students: "Sandy is always the model of patience, grace and composure."
Grayson opened her talk describing her great-grandmother, who worked in textile mill as an 11-year-old. Despite the fact that she only stayed in school until the third grade, she encouraged Grayson to go to college and to get her master's degree.
"There were some in my family who thought college was optional for females," Grayson said. "But my great-grandmother was a powerful woman."
After completing her doctorate, Grayson taught at various universities in the Midwest before traveling to the Bay Area with her husband. Grayson described her first impressions of the Saint Mary's staff.
"I thought they would be a fun group of colleagues," she said. "They have been. I chose the school at which I felt most at home, intellectually and personally. But I also recognized that there was a lot of work for women to do at this place."
One of Grayson's favorite literary characters, Mr. Bumble from "Oliver Twist," provided an analogy for Saint Mary's relationship with women over the years. "That is, when the College decided to accept women students, it got something it wanted, and much more besides."
Grayson described the history of the school and the decision to allow women to join the student body. She also spoke of the protests about race, social class, sex and gender throughout the years.
Grayson recalled receiving criticism for her conservative women's studies speaker choices. She countered that she was too afraid of budget cuts to rock the boat.
"I remember saying that I thought Saint Mary's needed to begin with 'kindergarten feminism,' and that if at the end of my term everyone on campus was aware of gender as a shaping force in our lives, I'd be satisfied."
She described the need for the Women's Resource Center and the initial resistance to it. Grayson said "â€¦our campus needs a WRC," and stated that t the time of crisis has not passed, as some might argue.
Grayson ended her speech with expressions of gratitude for her award and with a message.
"Institutional change is hard; we continue to struggle with it at Saint Mary's, which is why we have a committee for inclusive excellence, a multicultural center, a Women's Resource Center, an ethnic studies major, and a women's studies major â€“ and students demonstrating on the Chapel Lawn," she said.
"These changes come about when members of our community speak to claim a voice in the community â€“ when women, when students of color, when members of the Gay-Straight Alliance say, 'This is our college, too.' The more clearly we hear their voices, the better we will be."
-- Caitlin Graveson '11