Toupin, Elizabeth Ahn
- Existence: 1930
Elizabeth Ahn Toupin was Assistant Dean of Jackson College and then Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education at Tufts University. During her tenure she oversaw drastic changes in the policies regarding privacy and parietals in the dorms, and was engaged in providing safe ways for students to demonstrate and express their opinions about political and social conflicts of the day. Throughout her career, Toupin worked for the integration and equality of women and minorities at Tufts. She has published on the academic performance of Asian American students and also several cookbooks, and was instrumental in introducing Asian art to the North East.
Elizabeth Ahn Toupin (1925-) served as Director of Student Affairs and Assistant Dean of Jackson College, and Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education at Tufts University.
Toupin was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii to South Korean immigrants Won Kiu and Chung Song Ahn, supporters of the Korean independence movement. As a child she was trained in Hawaiian and Korean dance, and her sister Florence became a renowned classical singer. Toupin graduated from Bennington College-- where she was a student of Peter Drucker-- with a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1948. She later received a master’s degree in industrial relations from the University of Hawaii and Cornell University in 1950. After graduation, Toupin worked as a media consultant for Senator Daniel Inouye (Hawaii), and authored numerous cookbooks. In 1950, she married Richard Toupin, a physics instructor she met at the University of Hawaii. They had three children, and divorced in 1967.
Toupin came to work at Tufts University in May of 1968 as Director of Student Affairs at Jackson College, and in 1969, became Assistant Dean of Jackson under Antonia Chayes, then Dean of Jackson College. During her tenure she oversaw drastic changes in the policies regarding privacy and parietals in the dorms at Jackson, which led to one of the first co-ed dorms in the United States (the Tufts Divinity School maintained a co-ed house in the 1890’s). As part of her responsibilities, she was engaged in providing safe ways for students to demonstrate and express their opinions about political and social conflicts of the day, including the Vietnam War, ROTC, and racial issues. In particular, this included the “construction crisis” of 1969, when students protested the lack of black and other minority workers involved in new construction projects on campus.
In 1979, Toupin was appointed Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education. Her new responsibilities included initiating and overseeing informal learning situations and extracurricular programs at Tufts. This included the SPIRIT program (Society for the Propagation of Internal Rejoicing at Tufts), the internship program, the “All That Jazz” series (which brought jazz greats to campus including, among others, BB King), the Re-Entry Committee (a group concerned with students returning after a leave for mental health reasons), and the Artist in Residence program (which brought Irene Worth, Yo-Yo Ma, and numerous Asian artists to campus). The Artist in Residence program was partially funded by the Toupin-Bolwell Fund for the Arts, established in 1986 to honor Suzanne Bolwell and Dean Toupin for their support of the arts. The fund still exists in 2014.
Throughout her career Toupin worked for the integration and equality of women and minorities at Tufts, and was an essential advocate for the Asian American and African American communities on campus. She taught courses and held conferences at Tufts relating to Asian American issues, and helped to bring Asian artists such as Yuan Yunsheng, Qui Deshu, and Wang Keping to campus.
Toupin also led an extensive professional life outside of Tufts. She lectured at other local colleges and universities including Brandeis, Harvard, Simmons, and Wellesley, especially surrounding issues relating to women, mental health, and the performing arts. She also consulted for various organizations, including the United States Department of Defense as part of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS). Toupin was also active on various committees and boards including the Baybanks Middlesex Regional Board, the Museum of Science Overseers, Oxfam, the Asian American Policy Review board, and the board of the Cambridge Adult Education Center. She published numerous articles, including the controversial study “Preliminary findings on Asian-Americans: ‘The model minority’ in a small private east coast college,” which challenged the stereotype of Asian Americans as a model minority. Toupin also worked on a memoir (incomplete as of 2014) that largely presents a critical detailed history of Tufts during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
Toupin was much renowned for her work, and received awards including the Zonta Club of Medford’s Woman of Achievement award in 1987. She retired from Tufts in 1991, and was appointed Acting Director of American Studies from 1992-1993. She received an emerita degree from Tufts in 1993.