Just two years after Princeton graduated its first four-year coeducational class, the University had a female sweep of its top academic awards at Commencement — Cynthia Chase ’75 was valedictorian and Lisa Siegman ’75 was salutatorian. Despite resistance to coeducation from some alumni, Chase, now a professor of English and comparative literature at Cornell, remembers only positive reactions to her selection as numero uno. “There was surprise and excitement among my professors,” says Chase, who entered Princeton with the Class of 1974 but took a year off to complete her thesis (“a triumph over writer’s block — on Wordsworth and Holderlin,” she says) after studying at the University of Freiburg in Germany her junior year.
“I found it was not possible to write a thesis while being abroad,” she says. “I wanted to immerse myself in German.”
After Princeton, Chase moved on to Yale to pursue her Ph.D. and “very quickly” met and became engaged to Jonathan Culler, a visiting professor from Oxford. Not long after their marriage, the couple moved to Ithaca, N.Y., where both teach English and comparative literature. Their son is a student at Brown.