Forever the First

By Maura King Scully

Alyson Adler
Alyson Adler ’73 in 2018, in her Manhattan apartment. Photo by Caroline Voagen Nelson

It came as a surprise to Alyson Adler ’73 when she was summoned to Trinity’s President’s Office at the start of her first year in 1969. “One person for each class had the job of signing the college’s Matriculation book in a public service in the Chapel. They asked me to do it,” she recalls. Adler then became the first female first-year student to sign the Matriculation book. “They said it was because of my name in the alphabet and that I was a woman. When I did it, I didn’t realize my picture would be on the front page of The Hartford Courant.”

Adler, a National Merit finalist who graduated at the top of her all-girls’ high school class, jumped at the opportunity to go to Trinity when it went coed. Her older brother, Edward Adler ’69, as well as two uncles—longtime Trinity trustee and former board chair Alfred J. Koeppel ’54, H’00 and his brother Bevin D. Koeppel ’47—attended the college, so she was familiar with the school. (The Koeppel family name now adorns the Koeppel Community Sports Center and the Koeppel Student Center.) “There was a lot of change in the air. People were against the war, and the hippie culture was thriving,” explains Adler, who despite graduating in 1972 thanks to AP credits still considers herself a member of the Class of ’73. “My little act of rebellion was to not go to Wellesley or Smith. I know my guidance counselor at the time was appalled. She was upset that I was giving up a place at the Seven Sisters. I never looked back.”

At Trinity, Adler found a home at Delta Kappa Epsilon, where her brother previously had served as president. “It was this wonderful collection of very bright but very freaky kinds of counterculture people,” she says, adding with a chuckle, “as much as Trinity had a counterculture.” She also met her future husband, William Green ’70, a member of the fraternity. “They called me a social sister, but it really wasn’t coed.”

Adler believes that being among the few women in her class at Trinity set her up for success when she attended Columbia Law School, where the number of women was similarly small, and in professional life. “I experienced a lot more sexism after I left Trinity. … A number of other attorneys and judges said things they wouldn’t dare say to a man. Even in the law firms where I worked, it was rampant. I think my positive experience at Trinity and relatively positive experience at Columbia helped me not only learn to diffuse it but also thrive and feel at ease in the old boys’ club atmosphere around me.”

Next: First Female to Graduate, Judy Dworin ’70