A Moment in the Sun with Alice Manicur

A legend in her time, Dr. Alice R. Manicur was a pioneer in student affairs and higher education who broke the glass ceiling for women in the field.  While her name may not be household yet to some, her influence is felt every day by the many supporting the student experience.  After 92 years of continued service, passion, and dedication, Dr. Manicur passed away early last week leaving many reflecting on shared moments and lessons learned.

Who exactly was this incredible leader? For Alice, the story is worthy of many long conversations, as her impact in higher education was widespread. Her most widely known accomplishments occurred during her 46 year tenure at Frostburg State University.  In 1960, she took a position as the school’s first dean of students and, at the time, there were few women serving in such a role. Alice retired in 2007 as the vice president for student affairs. While at Frostburg, she built up the student experience, so much so that the University named the student union’s largest hall after her, the Alice R. Manicur Assembly Hall.  The space is dedicated to student programming and events – things that were near and dear to Alice’s heart and served as continual motivation for her work. A few samples of the programming she initiated at Frostburg included: developing a robust career services, the Honors convocation, the Introduction to Higher Ed course, the Cultural Events Series, and national service programs through AmeriCorps. Alice earned her bachelor’s degree from Berea College, where she remained an active alumna throughout her life. As a woman from a family from limited financial resources, she held a deep sense of gratitude for her undergraduate institution for making her education possible. She later achieved a doctorate in higher education from Indiana University.

As the first female to serve as NASPA President, during a time when the Association was dominated by men, leaders who serve today have Dr. Manicur to thank for paving the way for women to lead change in the organization. Upon hearing the news of her passing, Past NASPA Presidents and Board Chairs shared stories about how her gentle and caring demeanor was matched only by her determined force to change a life. Their stories included how she could be a shrewd administrator, when it was called for, but will always be remembered for her generous spirit and her commitment to students.

Not one for awards or recognition, Dr. Manicur received countless awards over her lifetime. Most notably, she was inducted to the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame and received NASPA’s Scott Goodnight Award for Outstanding Performance as a Dean. The NASPA Foundation honored her lifetime of commitment to the field with the John L. Blackburn Distinguished Pillar of the Profession Award at the 2015 NASPA Annual Conference in New Orleans. In typical Alice fashion, she brought tears, laugher, and a standing ovation when receiving the Distinguished Pillar award by reflecting,

"I didn't come here to make a speech but when I see all these women in here, I want to shout!"

As a woman in the field, I, along with hundreds – if not thousands, am grateful for her courage and strength in sharing her voice and creating her own path, one in which other women could follow. As a result of Dr. Manicur’s stewardship, NASPA Executive Director Emerita Gwen Dungy, worked with the Center for Women to rename the Alice Manicur Symposium in her honor. Hundreds of women have completed this career changing experience which focuses on developing the skills and tactics for women to become strong vice presidents for student affairs. The program is one of NASPA’s strongest and most meaningful professional development opportunities. Mirroring Alice’s legacy, the program provides women the space to learn, grow, challenge, and support each other in a space of their own as they seek to determine if they would like to be a vice president for student affairs. For those interested, the Alice Manicur Symposium will be offered January 2018; additional information will be available soon.

Alice was strong proponent of paying it forward and to honor this, we’ve created two ways for you to pay tribute to her legacy:

·       NASPA will honor Alice’s work during the 100th anniversary celebration of the Association and at the 2018 NASPA Annual Conference. Take a moment to share a reflection on Alice or the impact of her work; with permission, NASPA will use these during the celebration.  Upload documents, photos, a favorite memory, or simply say thanks for shattering the student affairs glass ceiling here.

·       Pay it forward for women in the field and make a donation to the Zenobia Hikes Scholarship in Dr. Manicur’s honor. This is a full scholarship for a participant to attend the Alice Manicur Symposium. You can donate online.

Dr. Manicur’s students and programs were her proudest accomplishments, as evidenced by the lives she affected and changed. For those who were fortunate to meet Dr. Manicur in person, you only needed a few moments to feel empowered and understand how she was able to be incredibly transformative throughout her lifetime. I was fortunate to work with her upon receiving the Distinguished Pillar award and her presence alone left me in awe.  Part of my role at NASPA allows me the privilege to facilitate the Alice Manicur Symposium, which is always a humbling experience and viewed as an opportunity to carry out her legacy. While she will be missed, her influence is reflected every day in the higher education community and for that alone, we shout words of praise and thanks.