The Role of the President's/Chancellor's Spouse or Partner


By Kathleen Grove, Director, IUPUI Office for Women


When Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis came into being in 1969 Maynard K. Hine, the former dean of the IU School of Dentistry, was named the first Chancellor of the combined campus.  At his side was his wife, Harriett Hine.  In those days, the Chancellor's spouse was referred to as the "first lady" and the parameters and expectations of her role were not considered official university business.  Since 1969, we have had five Chancellors at IUPUI and they each have been accompanied by a spouse who contributed to development of IUPUI in their own unique way: Harriett Hine, Marianna Irwin, Jean Bepko, Gail Plater and Sandra Petronio.  Over the years, the role of the "Presidential Partner" as it is now called has evolved from one of a helpmate to today's understanding that the role can have official duties of its own.


Although definitely a helpmate and supporter of the Chancellor in his official duties, much of a Chancellor's Spouse's efforts on behalf of the university are unofficial although they can be time-consuming and demanding.  Here, Alice Huang, PhD., a scientist married to David Baltimore, the President of the California Institute of Technology, describes the traditional role of a "first lady"(1):  

"The responsibilities that fall upon the spouse in her role as "first lady" are many.  The president's wife is expected to run a gracious house and lovely garden that is open and welcoming to the academic community, including students, faculty wives, returning alumni, visiting trustees, and potential donors.  She is expected to be present at numerous institutional events with the president and serve as hostess at others.  Other obligations often include honorary chair of auxiliary groups on campus and volunteer work in community service organizations.  Even students looking for advice and support may seek her out for attention.

Beyond campus and community obligations, there are the on-going demands of travel.  The partner serves with the president as an ambassador for the institution, and in many cases, plays an important role in planning, preparation, and successful execution of presidential travel obligations.  To be sure, a spouse is accustomed to being a confidante, but a heavier than normal burden is placed on a university president's spouse who becomes the only safe person with whom confidences and opinions, both unvarnished and even impolitic, can be shared on a daily basis.  No chief executive can function without support of this kind."


Today, in addition to some of the traditional duties, the role of the "Presidential Partner" is recognized as being an important one for university business with its own set of duties and responsibilities from fund-raising to alumni and community relations.  Presidential/Chancellor's spouses or partners are now often included in the interview and screening process in a presidential search and many colleges and universities create official positions for them with remuneration.  And now, with more women assuming university presidencies, many of the spouses are men.  Or there is no presidential partner or a partner with their own career demands.  Increasingly universities are finding that in addition to hiring maids, gardeners, and housekeepers to maintain the presidential residence, they may also need to hire special assistants, social secretaries or event planners to assist the presidential spouse with the conduct of official business.


Today, the role of the Presidential Partner is acknowledged as important and demanding and higher education associations are assisting universities in defining that role and helping partners in gaining the expertise needed to integrate the role into their lives.  In 2005, the Association of American Colleges created a set of guidelines for university governing boards (boards of trustees) advising them on how to interview a prospective Partner during the recruitment process and what to consider in terms of an official arrangement or assignment with the university (2).  The Council of Independent Colleges offers a concurrent program for Presidential Partner's during their annual meeting covering such topics as "Building Relationships with Your Alumni", "Collaborating with the Advancement Office for Fund Raising", and "The Varied Roles of a Presidential Spouse."  Likewise, the Association of Land Grant Colleges and Universities, has a Council of Presidents ‘and Chancellors' Spouses that "facilitates communication among spouses, promotes public-affairs programs and projects, and provides a source of advice and counsel to spouses on issues of common concern, particularly through programs at the A۰P۰L۰U Annual Meeting."

We have been fortunate to have these women each with their own gifts in the role of the Chancellor's Spouse.  They have all fulfilled this role with dignity, grace and generosity and we include them in our exhibit, "Women Creating Excellence at IUPUI" to honor their devotion and service to our community.

(1) Marriage Counseling for Boards, a publication of Association of Governing Boards Trusteeship, August 1999

(2) "Factors to Consider about a Partner's Role During the Recruitment of Association of American Universities Presidents and Chancellors", approved by the Partner's Executive Committee, April 2006

Harriett Hine

Dr. Maynard Hine served as the first chancellor of IUPUI from 1969 to 1973.  He laid the foundations for blending the two campuses of Purdue and Indiana University in Indianapolis into one cohesive campus.  The following biography was provided by Harriett Hine's grandson, Dr. William Hine of the IU School of Dentistry --

Harriett Anna Foulke was born and raised in Maroa, Illinois.  She was one of 13 children.  She earned an elementary teaching certificate at Eastern Illinois Normal School (now Eastern Illinois University) and taught elementary school in Chicago where she met and married University of Illinois Dental School student Maynard K. Hine.  She was a strong proponent of women getting a higher education degree and later on, in her 40s, she went back as an adult student to earn a B.S. degree from Butler University.  She was strongly supported in this endeavor by Dr. Hine.  Harriett was very active in the Marion County Mental Health Association and was instrumental in getting dental care to Central State Mental Hospital and other state mental institutions.  She was very active in G.O.P. politics, elected as a delegate to the National G.O.P. Convention and serving as Vice-chair of the Marion County G.O.P.  She was also active in the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women.  She started the IU School of Dentistry Faculty Wives and was a very active supporter of the Dental Hygiene program.  There is a Dental Hygiene scholarship named for her.  She and Dr. Hine were married for 39 years and had 3 children.  She died in 1972, a year before her husband retired, at age 67 of colon cancer.

Marianna Irwin

Glen Irwin served as Chancellor from 1973 to 1986.  While he was busy overseeing construction of IUPUI's campus, including the addition of the first Law building, the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and a Medical campus expansion, Glen's wife, Marianna, oversaw beautification efforts.  Marianna oversaw a campaign to plant trees on the campus of IUPUI.  A volunteer and local philanthropist, Marianna also took an active interest in her role as spouse of IUPUI's chancellor.  She served as hostess of numerous events for IUPUI faculty and helped her husband behind the scenes at many campus activities.

Marianna Irwin was the president of the board of numerous local organizations including the Junior League of Indianapolis, Marion County Medical Society Auxiliary, Indiana State Medical Auxiliary, North Central High School PTA, Noble School, Social Health Association, and Marion County Child Guidance Clinic.  She as a board member of many other local groups.

Marianna Irwin died on April 19, 2010.

Jean Bepko

Gerald Bepko served as Chancellor from 1987 to 2003.  During his tenure, the Purdue Schools of Science, Engineering, and Technology relocated to the IUPUI campus, and plans were made to bring the Herron School of Art and Design to campus.  Jean Bepko, like her predecessor, Marianna Irwin, was actively involved with her husband's administration.  She supported the Friends of Women's Studies initiative at IUPUI and, along with her husband, started two scholarship programs.  The Arminda B. and Jean C. Bepko Scholarship awards an annual scholarship to students minoring in Women's Studies.  The Jean C. and Gerald L Bepko Lifelong Learner Award is awarded annually to a general education major who has overcome obstacles to obtain a degree.  In 1998, Jean was named one of Indianapolis's Influential Women by the Indianapoils Business Journal.  In 2002, the Indiana University of Nursing awarded her with an Honorary Alumni Award.

Jean Bepko has served as the chairwoman of IUPUI's Friends of Women's Studies Board.  She was also on the advisory board of the Herron School of Art and Design.  In the community, Jean was active in local arts and literary organizations.  She was the chairwoman of the Indiana Literacy Foundation board and vice president of the Indianapolis Arts Council board.  For more information, see full sketch of Jean Bepko in biographies section.

Gail Plater

William Plater was actively involved in high level decision making within IUPUI's Central Administration for almost 2 decades.  He served as interim Chancellor in 2003.  From 1986 to 2003 he served as Dean of the Faculties.  William's wife, Gail, serves as Assistant Dean of Development and External Affairs in the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, where she coordinates fundraising, communication, and alumni programs.  She is also involved in strategic planning.  Plater formerly worked for the IU Foundation in the Indianapolis office.  For more information, see full sketch of Gail Plater in biographies section.

Dr. Sandra Petronio, Ph.D.

Charles Bantz became Chancellor in 2003.  He has worked to enhance the reputation of IUPUI's academic programs.  His wife, Sandra Petronio, is a professor in the department of Communication Studies.  She is also a CORE faculty member of the Indiana University Center for Bioethics at the School of Medicine and an adjunct professor in the Schools of Nursing and Informatics.  She is an avid researcher and award-winning author on topics including health communications, interpersonal relations, and family communication.  For more information, see Dr. Sandra Petronio's full sketch in the biographies section.

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Last updated by maeowen on 01/19/2013