Newcomb College History

Harriott Sophie Newcomb and Josephine Louise Newcomb

Josephine Louise Newcomb founded the H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College in 1886 in memory of her only daughter, Harriott Sophie Newcomb. Her gift to the Tulane University Board of Administrators created the first degree-granting college for women within a university in America.

The mission of the College evolved with political and societal events. During both World Wars, Newcomb women filled military roles abroad and support roles at home. During peacetime, the student body grew and became more diverse. The women’s movement encouraged Newcomb students to enroll in classes and pursue fields traditionally reserved for men.

The H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College Institute began operating on July 1, 2006 to provide academic and leadership programs. Each year since its inception, the Institute has hosted speakers across academic disciplines and professions; presented events focusing on leadership, academics, and career preparedness; funded student research, faculty development, and community rebuilding initiatives, and upheld the traditions of the College through events such as Under the Oaks.

The Daisy Chain was part of Newcomb College commencement ceremonies since the College’s early days. The chains were made from clover, oleander, magnolia or daisies and were collected from campus gardens and neighbors’ yards. Later chains consisted of more than 1,000 daisies assembled by outstanding representatives of the junior class. Although daisy chains were once a frequent sight on women’s college campuses, the Newcomb Institute chain is one of the few remaining in the country.

Mission Statement

The H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College Institute shapes the future by educating students to achieve gender equity. It is our mission to develop leaders, discover solutions to the intractable gender problems of our time, and to provide opportunities for students through curricula, research, community engagement, and close collaboration with faculty.

The Commons, home of Newcomb Institute

Executive Director’s Remarks

Address to Graduates

Awards and Recognition

The Newcomb Fellows Program is a voluntary collegial association of faculty drawn from all undergraduate colleges of Tulane University. Newcomb Fellows support women’s leadership and gender equity and participate in activities of the Newcomb Institute that foster faculty-student interaction and research.

Since 1994, an accomplished member of the Tulane faculty has been named Distinguished Newcomb Fellow. Newcomb Institute is proud to carry on this tradition, annually recognizing one Fellow who is judged to have made an extraordinary contribution to the Newcomb community.

Dr. Michele Adams

Michele Adams is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology, whose research interests include gender, family, and culture. Her current research foci include an examination of the discourse of men’s rights groups organized around subverting Title IX, as well as a project addressing the socio-politics of moral capital, in which she looks at how stereotypical gender assumptions about family impact the success of politicians. She is also working on a book that examines the sociology of families through the lens of the gender structure.

Dr. Adams has played a pivotal part in the success of the Newcomb Scholars program as a teacher and a mentor. A sociologist invested in gender equity, she co-taught the senior seminar in the program for almost ten years with Dr. Beth Wee, forming a support system for our senior students as they navigate their own research projects. She has been a valuable resource to all our undergraduates in the humanities and social sciences, and she has recently brought her talents to the entire campus community as the faculty athletics representative for Tulane University Athletics. In her role, she serves as a liaison between the athletics and campus administrations.

Each year, Newcomb-sponsored student organization Mortar Board honors Tulane faculty with the Excellence in Teaching award.

Dr. Mollye Demosthenidy

Mollye Demosthenidy is a clinical associate professor in the department of health policy and management. Her academic interests lie in healthcare reform; the role of law and policy in improving healthcare outcomes; and the intersection of law, politics, and healthcare policy. She teaches courses addressing health law and regulation, ethics, and health policy, at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Prior to joining the faculty at Tulane, she practiced law at two New Orleans firms, focusing on regulatory and transactional issues faced by healthcare providers. She holds a JD and an MHA, both from Tulane University, and a BS from Louisiana State University.

Mortar Board chose Professor Demosthenidy because, "she is a favorite of many public health students at Tulane because of her ability to engage with students as well as teach dense material that is both understandable and applicable to real life. She cares deeply about her students and her passion for public health policy shows through her amazing teaching."

Dr. Tim McLean

Dr. Tim McLean received his Ph.D in Genetics and Molecular Biology from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2001. He further developed and adapted his molecular expertise to the field of marine ecology during two post-doc experiences, first at the University of Southern California and then at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Miami. Before assuming his position as Professor of Practice at Tulane University in 2014, he was an assistant professor at the University of Southern Mississippi. His research interests include using relevant ‘omics-based technologies and bioinformatics to understand the molecular biology and ecology of a marine dinoflagellate that is responsible for forming harmful algal blooms (‘red tides’) in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mortar Board chose Dr. McLean because "He is a receptive science communicator. His classes cover a lot of hard content but he always checks to make sure everyone is following along, gives great feedback, and is kind and available to meet. Mostly though, he is extremely knowledgeable and excited about what he teaches that all of his students want to succeed."

Mortar Board is a national honor society recognizing college seniors for their exemplary scholarship, leadership and service.

Every year student organization Newcomb Senate selects a faculty or staff member to receive the Josephine Louise Award, for outstanding contributions benefitting the Newcomb student body.

Kathryn Fernandez

Kathryn Fernandez, J.D., is a New Iberia native and graduate of Newcomb College at Tulane University. She earned her Juris Doctorate in 2011 from University of California, Berkeley School of Law and returned to Louisiana, where she became a member of the Louisiana State Bar and served as a federal law clerk for the Honorable Jay C. Zainey. Her practice has ranged from criminal defense to complex civil litigation in state and federal court, with a focus on advocating for the civil rights of people with disabilities.

Newcomb-sponsored student organization Newcomb Senate chose Kathryn for her tireless advocacy on the behalf of students with disabilities at Tulane, going above and beyond her role as the Executive Director for Campus Accessibility. Newcomb Senate serves as the liaison between the past and present Newcomb student body of Tulane University. The organization preserves Newcomb traditions as they support the current vision of Newcomb Institute while seeking to incorporate new traditions that promote strength and growth.

The Newcomb Institute Awards recognize students who have demonstrated superior academic excellence, outstanding leadership, character, and integrity, and have created influential initiatives in university and community service.

The Oak Wreath is bestowed upon graduating seniors who have distinguished themselves through an engaged pursuit of learning, leadership in student activities, commitment to the mission of Newcomb Institute, and contribution to the Newcomb/Tulane community. Oak Wreath recipients are asked to name the faculty member who has made the most impact during their time at Tulane; under normal circumstances, the students and their chosen faculty members would be invited to the Oak Wreath dinner held at the end of the school year.

Newcomb Institute Grant Recipients

Newcomb Institute administers a number of grant programs in support of research, conference attendance, and community engagement. We also support a number of experiential learning opportunities, including participation in Feminist Camp, the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN), and summer internships within the corporate and non-profit spheres. The following members of the Class of 2020 received funding in support of these endeavors: research, conference, and community engagement grants, PLEN and Feminist Camp.

Newcomb Institute Internships

Newcomb Institute's Technology Initiatives promote feminist leadership in technology-centered communities through student programming and digital scholarship. Our paid Digital Research Interns and Information Technology Interns work on a team while learning valuable tech skills and building a digital portfolio. We also award grant funding to take a group of students to the Grace Hopper Celebration conference every fall.

Newcomb Institute coordinates with local reproductive rights and reproductive health organizations in New Orleans to provide paid internships for undergraduates. Internship positions provide students with the opportunity to develop valuable skills, knowledge, and connections related to this field.

Student Organization Leadership

Newcomb Institute supports over twenty student organizations. Graduating students who have served in leadership roles in these organizations include:

Newcomb Scholars

At the beginning of every school year, a small group of first-year Tulane students vie for a spot in the selective Newcomb Scholars Program, an academically rigorous, interdisciplinary learning experience focused on feminist leadership.

Upon completing the program, the Newcomb Scholars present their research at the annual Scholars Symposium; this year’s Symposium, like so many other end-of-year traditions, has moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. View the Class of 2020 Scholars Symposium.


The Newcomb pin is a longstanding tradition, carried forward from 1894 to commemorate the first Newcomb class pin.

The Newcomb Mortar Board decal—the blue “N”—is formed by three pillars representing past, present and future.

The two brown commencement robes normally seen on stage at the in-person ceremony are replicas of the robes made at the beginning of the 20th century and passed from class to class to be worn by the Class President and Class Speaker. The original robes were embroidered each year with the year of the graduating class beginning in 1910. They have been placed in the Newcomb Archives. Robes bearing the Newcomb crest that adorned the original gowns were made in 2001 and will continue to be passed from one graduating class to the next.

The Newcomb Leadership Commemorative Cord is a new way for our student leaders to remember their time at Tulane and involvement with Newcomb Institute. The threads of the cord weave together to bond each one into a stronger cord, symbolizing that we are strongest when we work together.

Traditions like the pin, the decal, our Daisy Chain, and the Brown Robes have bound together Newcomb Alumnae throughout the generations. Congratulations to the Class of 2020. Welcome to the Newcomb Alumnae Association.

Welcome to the Newcomb Alumnae Association

Lisa Rice is the current President of the Newcomb Alumnae Association and the proud parent of a 2015 Newcomb-Tulane graduate. Lisa graduated from Newcomb College in 1983, holds a master’s degree in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School and is a political innovator and social media activist in Washington, DC, where she continues to mentor current Tulane students through her involvement with the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN).