First alumnae share stories about the early years

Academic rigor stands out in memories of sisters Beth Brownell Lee ’71 and Martha Brownell Grant ’73.

September 28, 2020

Beth Brownell Lee ’71 has the distinction of being the first female student to ever graduate from Exeter, but the diploma she was presented on that June day nearly 50 years ago was a dud.

Oh, Lee surely earned the honor for navigating the choppy waters of Exeter’s first year of coeducation as one of nine female graduating seniors. Trouble was, the parchment referred to “he” and not “she.”

A replacement arrived by mail a few weeks later, she recounted to a virtual assembly audience last week, but she proudly framed and hung both diplomas on her wall.

Lee and her sister Martha Brownell Grant ’73 were joined by their mother Shirley Brownell ’70 (Hon.), P’71, P’73, P’79; and Barbara Eggers ’66 (Hon.); P’89, P’91, chair of the Department of History, dean of faculty emerita, instructor in history, as they shared stories in a panel discussion via Zoom webinar. The panel, moderated by Maegan Paul ’21, was presented in conjunction with the Academy’s yearlong celebration “Her Voice at the Table: 50 Years of Coeducation at Exeter.”

Watch the full panel discussion here:


Exeter is celebrating 50 years of coeducation. See more coeducation news and learn about upcoming coeducation events.


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