Rosemary Pierrel, class of 1953 Ph.D.


In this interview, Dr. Rosemary Pierrel Sorrentino describes her leadership as Dean of Pembroke from 1961 through 1972. Dr. Sorrentino, or Dean Pierrel as she was known to Pembrokers, reviews the rapidly changing societal norms, her perceptions of the demands upon Pembroke and upon her role as Dean, and the failure of leadership that led to the abrupt end of Pembroke College as an administrative unit within Brown University. She is quite candid about her opinions and her colleagues. She notes that shared values began to erode after 1966-67.

In Part 1, Sorrentino describes her education and early teaching, the forces that prompted her to become dean, her relationship with students and with President Keeney, including the division of labor between them, and her love of working with faculty and the Curriculum Committee. She opines against on the sweeping 1969 curricula changes, which took place during a sabbatical for her. She also describes the changes she fostered in the rules for Pembroke students and her interaction with students and student leaders.

In Part 2, Sorrentino describes her changes to the in loco parentis and other rules in more detail, including the prescription of birth control pills, the occurrence of abortion, the role of the chaplaincy and the health service. She notes her belief that the coordinate college model is outmoded but laments the manner in which Pembroke abruptly ceased administratively in 1971 after a period of three Brown Presidents in four years. She also describes her restructuring of the Pembroke staff.

In Part 3, Sorrentino discusses sexism in Pembroke salaries, Brown academic departments, and the Alumni Council. She returns to her contention that the coordinate model was outlived but that change should take place over several years with preparation of alumnae and students alike. She charges that the Study Committee recommending the change was “window dressing” for a decision already made. She also describes the racial charge and riots within the campus, as she does on earlier tapes. She gives candid assessments of colleagues. In summation, she ends the interview with her most and least favorite opportunities and challenges during her Deanship.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


Recorded on December 7, 1988
Interviewed by Karen Lamoree and Louise Newman

Suggested Chicago style citation: Pierrel, Rosemary. Interview. By Karen Lamoree and Louise Newman. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. December 7, 1988.


Rosemary Pierrel Sorrentino received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Boston University (1945 and 1946, respectively), and her Ph.D. from Brown University in 1953. She was an instructor at Wheelock College in Boston from 1946 to 1949 and at Brown University from 1953 to 1955 before heading to Columbia University to teach experimental psychology. She went on to become the last dean of Pembroke College and one of the first female professors at Brown. During her decade as dean, she emphasized academics and encouraged women to pursue careers as scholars.