First Female to Graduate

Though Alyson Adler ’73 was the first woman in the first coed cohort to graduate from the college, a handful of women transfer students earned their degrees ahead of her. The first woman to receive a Trinity undergraduate diploma was Judy Dworin ’70, who came to Trinity in the fall of 1969 as a transfer student from Smith College. An American studies major with a focused interest in dance, she was drawn to the college by the chance to study with Clive Thompson of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, who, with wife Liz Thompson, introduced dance to Trinity that year. Dworin ended up staying for the spring semester because she was drawn to the school’s open curriculum.

“I was able to do several independent studies, starting a dance program in an inner-city school as well as an alternative high school for troubled youth on Trinity’s campus. I really wanted to stay at Trinity,” she recalls. “It was also a year of campus strikes and political and social activism on campuses. I was very engaged in all of it. It really gave me the opportunity to do things I couldn’t have done at Smith, even though I had gotten an enormous amount out of my education there in the first years.”

On the other hand, “Trinity wasn’t really prepared for women’s arrival,” she notes. “It was a male institution, and it had a very male feeling to it. That took time to go away.”

Dworin played a decisive role in Trinity’s evolution into a more balanced coed environment as both student and faculty member. A year after graduating, she returned to join the faculty—which was then predominantly male—to teach dance. “I actually felt it was more difficult for me as a woman to be a faculty member than a student,” she recalls. “Ed Nye, an engineering professor who had just been appointed dean of the faculty, offered me a part-time position when Clive Thompson left to pursue his performing career, to prove that a dance program could work at Trinity. Dance had very little respect as an academic discipline among many of the faculty and administration. I started out feeling very much like an outlier with a very challenging job ahead.”

Over time, Dworin built the dance program and helped to create the Department of Theater and Dance, which she chaired for many years. “It was important to establish an equality for dance with theater right from the start, in the same way that it was essential to do so for women and men,” she explains.

“As hard as it was to build the dance program, I feel very committed to it and to the college,” says Dworin, who retired recently after nearly 45 years on the faculty. “Over time, I think Trinity has become a more arts-engaged place and has become a more solidified community as a whole.”

She continues to lead the Judy Dworin Performance Project (JDPP), an arts nonprofit in Hartford she founded in 1989 that reaches out on stage and in the community’s schools and prisons to educate and inspire. JDPP remains a community partner of the college. And Dworin remains appreciative of the opportunities she had at Trinity.

“There were very few places that would have given someone right out of college the opportunity to see if they could create a program,” she says. “The program for me became a model of what learning should and could be about, combining experience and creative expression with more traditional academic study in an environment that welcomed both women and men.”

Next: First Female Tripod Editor, Susannah Heschel ’73, H’10