TOBY LEVINE: Hi. I'm Toby Levine. I'm class of '64 from what was then called the College of Home Economics and is now called the College of Human Ecology.
Actually, when I was thinking about college, I was only 15 years old. And I didn't really know very much about college, so I would have to say that my parents were most responsible for choosing Cornell. I had several cousins who went to Cornell. And because the College of Home Economics was state-supported, which meant we had no tuition, it was a very good value to get a higher education at Cornell.
Well, my student years in the early '60s were very, very different than students' experience today. The young women of today are always surprised to hear about our curfews that we had seven nights a week until I was a senior. They are surprised that we lived in single-sex dorms, and that men were not allowed to go over the bridge after midnight.
And I do remember once having a boyfriend who tried to climb into the window of my room, which was not thought well of by the house mother. House mothers were something else that students of today know nothing about. But we did have these lovely ladies who we thought of as being quite elderly. They probably were not so elderly. But they were in loco parentis.
Well, for the first 10 years after graduation, I really was not active at all. I was then invited by one of my professors to come back to campus to speak to his class, and I was very impressed with myself to get such an invitation. And I remember going to check into the Statler Hotel on campus thinking, I must be very old, because in my experience, only old people stayed at the Statler.
But that did reacquaint me with being an adult on campus and started my reacquaintance with Cornell as an alum.
Cornell was a great influence on my life. I grew up in the Bronx, New York, in a small very ethnic community. That was really my whole experience. And I came to Cornell and met a whole new world of people. I got a superb education there. Cornell taught me how to think. It introduced me to many new ideas and how to find new ideas and information. And it really created for me a love of lifetime learning. And I made many friends there who remain my friends.
I think today, Cornell does contribute significantly to developing women who have great leadership potential. Young women, as undergraduates, do research projects with full professors. They have great internships. They have opportunities to be out in the public, to express their ideas and get feedback on their ideas.
They have access to many, many professionals who can help them be mentored and develop their careers, which I have to say is very different than it was in my day. We were women who were brought up in the '50s. We graduated at a time when the world was changing very rapidly. And we really had to make our own way in the world and find our own idea of what the roles of women should be.
So I really envy the women of today who are getting the experiences that just weren't available when I was coming along.
Cornell has always been coeducational and has always had a very significant proportion of undergraduate women. But for many, many years, that was not necessarily the focus of the university. It also was not the focus of hiring at the faculty level.
I think where PCCW has been most effective is in bringing attention to the needs of women and to the needs of having a large diversity of women on campus so that the graduate and undergraduate students coming along have role models and see that they can be leaders in their fields, that they can go into academia, or into any field that they want to be in, because they've seen that it can be done.
In my day, we had mostly male professors. And as I've indicated before, we often had to make our own path to success.
I think PCCW will always be a vital and necessary part of the university. I think it's important that somebody, some group, keep an eye on the needs of women, whether they're women on staff, women on faculty, junior faculty coming along, undergraduate students who need to have contacts in the outside world. PCCW focuses on that, and they're probably the only group on campus that does that.
So I think we will continue to be needed in the long run. I think also that the funds that we provide for leadership grants, for grants to junior faculty, to tradition fellowships, to other kinds of scholarships are very important to developing women leaders in the world.
I was invited to join PCCW by President Rhodes in 1991. But I think my real involvement started at a breakfast in New York at the Cornell Club with Francille Firebaugh, with whom I discussed the roles of women of my years in the world at that time, and how many of us had achieved leadership positions in our professions, and had a great deal to offer at the university. And I believe it was Francille who recommended me to the president for membership in this group.
Since my involvement in PCCW, I've had lots of involvement in a variety of Cornell activities, both at the college level with the University Council, with different committees. I was very much involved in a committee that resulted recently in the addition of daycare facilities on the campus. This is something that we were fighting for a long, long time, and I'm very proud that it finally has happened.
I had the honor of being chair of PCCW during its 10th anniversary year. And it was really a very exciting time. Our big meeting of that year, our main speaker was Hillary Clinton, who was then running for the US Senate from the state of New York and she agreed to be our keynote speaker. We also had a meeting in Palo Alto, which was our first meeting on the West Coast, and that was very exciting.
I had another note there. There was something I wanted to say. The thing that I'm proudest of from my 10 years as chair was starting the leadership fund. When I came into the chair, one of the things I realized is that we really had no ready money to contribute to the university for needs that came up suddenly.
Anytime there was a need that we felt we wanted to fund something, we had to start a campaign from scratch, and that often took a very long time to achieve the goal. By creating this leadership fund, which now stands at well over a million dollars, we now can give grants as they are needed to groups as needs arise. And I think that has been a very important contribution to the university.
I think the biggest contribution that PCCW has made to Cornell is really to shine a spotlight on women. On women alumni who have achieved wonderful things in their own careers. Whether they are executives, or artists, or musicians, or writers, we've tried to really have a diversity of 0 not everyone is a corporate executive.
I think we have listened carefully to undergraduate women, to staff women, to faculty women to find out what their experience is at Cornell, And what, if anything, might need some study and perhaps change. Where possible, we've been able to contribute ideas to those changes from our own experiences. And where necessary, we've been able to contribute some financing to make those things happen.
Dear me. I think the most memorable moment I had at PCCW was chairing the meeting at which Hillary Clinton spoke at our 10th anniversary. She was just a very exciting speaker. We filled Barton Hall that day. 5,000 people came to hear her. We had undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, alumni. It was just a thrilling, thrilling afternoon for PCCW, which after all, is an organization of only 300 women. So to fill a 5,000-seat hall is a pretty terrific experience.
What I'd like to see in the future PCCW is really a continued partnership between the university administration and PCCW. We cannot operate in a vacuum, and we should operate in a vacuum. What has been exciting about the tenure of President Skorton is that we are a partnership. We work with his priorities. We respond to his priorities.
And we have been able to form an effective relationship by listening to the needs that he would like us to study. I think that has worked well, and I hope it will continue to do so.
One of the great things about PCCW is our membership. We come together. We used to come together twice a year. Now we come together once a year. And we always provide time for members to stand up, and in a very brief time-- we try for 30 seconds. It's usually a little more than that-- they update us on their lives.
During that period of time, we have found out incredible things about the women in this organization, people who have had illnesses, people who have had tragedies, people who have had wonderful successes. They've shared them with us in a way that perhaps they have not shared with any other group in their lives. We have become friends. We support each other. We care for each other, and we care for this university.
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PCCW emerita member and former chair Toby Kleban Levine '64 reflects on how she chose Cornell, her memories of the university, and how Cornell has shaped her life both personally and professionally.
The President's Council of Cornell Women is a group of highly accomplished alumnae working to enhance the involvement of women students, faculty, staff, and alumnae as leaders within Cornell University and its many communities.