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Emily H. Webster

Emily H. Webster Born: 1902
Death: 1985

The first woman in the country to achieve the rank of Assistant Vice President for Business Affairs at a major university, Emily Webster was a mostly self taught woman who with her insight and knowledge was said to "run the University".

Webster received her Bachelor of Arts in Latin from the University in 1923. Shortly after graduation she began working in a clerical position within the treasurer's office. She remained at UB in increasingly significant administrative posts until her retirement in 1974.

  • 1923-1930 -- Assistant to the Treasurer
  • 1930-1951 -- Assistant Treasurer
  • 1939-1962 -- Assistant Secretary of the University Council
  • 1940-1952 -- Alumni Representative to University Council
  • 1951-1962 -- Assistant Vice Chancellor/President for Business Affairs and Assistant Treasurer
  • 1955 -- Received the Samuel P. Capen Alumni Award and was the first woman to do so. The citation given at the time of her award noted: "Her devoted and distinguished service to the University and its alumni is a parallel chronology of development and growth in University and alumni affairs."
  • 1963-1968 -- Head of Office of Contract Administration
  • 1969-1974 -- Associate Director, UB Foundation

Emily Webster summed up the role of women as administrators in an article she wrote for a colleague:

These [...] are the handmaidens, so to speak, of the great educational enterprise. They do the necessary housekeeping, they manage the affairs outside the classroom, they keep the books and the records, they provide the necessary physical materials, they collect and disburse funds, they exercise the judgment and discretion in matters involving the entire institution--they perform all the ancillary services to leave the scholar and the student free to get on with the essential business of teaching and learning.

Their role is not so legendary as that of the scholar. But, if they perceive their positions rightly, they must be as much concerned with the search for truth and knowledge as the scholar. Many of them are, and with intense devotion and loyalty, dedicate their lives to the institutions they serve. In a very true sense, they 'lavish life's best oil' to ensure that the lamps of learning are kept burning [...]

(quoted from Webster's obituary in the Reporter, vol. 17, no. 4)

Outside the University, Webster was very active. She held positions of secretary-treasurer of the State division of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the Zonta Club of Buffalo and the Omicron chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. She was also Vice President of the Association of University and College Business Officers of the Eastern United States.

Emily Webster was interview on October 27, 1978 by Brenda Skelton for the University Archives' oral history project. Some of Skelton's observations on Webster at the time: "She is interested in contemporary events as well as in the past. Her eyes would light up as she talked about certain incidents, such as her participation in dividing up the Hochsetter property, and she obviously relished the humor or irony involved in some of her experiences."

Affiliation(s): Business Affairs, University Council, University Foundation
Record Group(s): 6, 2, 29
Biographical File Contains:
  • Obituary
  • Photographs