Passages: Nancy Ransom, Champion of Women

Daniel DuBois/Vanderbilt University
Daniel DuBois/Vanderbilt University

Nancy Ransom, MAT’71, EdD’88, founding director of the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center at Vanderbilt and a champion of women’s rights, education and gender equality, died March 19 in Wilmington, Delaware, from complications of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. She was 89.

From 1978 to 1997, Ransom guided the women’s center through projects such as the development of Vanderbilt’s first university-sponsored child care center, which opened in fall 1983, and its Women’s Studies program. She also taught sociology and women’s studies at Vanderbilt and at the University of Tennessee at Nashville, and worked as a consultant on establishing women’s centers and women’s studies programs.

“Nancy charted the territory for Vanderbilt in responding to all issues related to women and gender equity,” says Rory Dicker, director of the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center. “She saw the role of the women’s center as broad, benefiting not just women but the university as a whole. We at the women’s center are lucky to have had her leadership to set the center on its course.”

A native of New Haven, Connecticut, Ransom majored in history and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa at Vassar College. She later studied sociology at Columbia University. In 1961, Ransom moved to Nashville with her husband, Harry Ransom, BA’43, who was joining the political science faculty at Vanderbilt, and their three children.

Ransom contributed time and expertise to many organizations, including the American Association of University Women, the League of Women Voters, the Nashville Women’s Political Caucus, the National Urban League, the Tennessee Commission on the Status of Women, and Women in Business.

She was elected president of Planned Parenthood, Senior Citizens Inc. (now FiftyForward), and CABLE, a women’s networking organization. She served on numerous boards and was a delegate to United Nations Decade for Women forums in Copenhagen (1980) and Nairobi (1985).

Her many honors included CABLE’s Molly Todd Cup, Middle Tennessee State University’s inaugural Women of Achievement Award, and Vanderbilt’s Mary Jane Werthan Award. She also received the Council on Aging’s Sage Award, Senior Citizens’ Staff Champion Award, and the Harriet Foley Board Leadership Award.

Survivors include her three children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.