Alumni Profile: Leslie Embs Bradford '77

Headshot of Leslie Embs Bradford

3 minute read

Charlotte Albright

Alumni Features Diversity and Inclusion

In 1972, the year Dartmouth began matriculating women students, a high school senior from San Antonio, Texas happened to visit Hanover with her parents. Leslie Embs took one look at the Green, and decided, on the spot, to apply to Dartmouth and nowhere else. She majored in religion, worked in campus radio, earned her MBA from New York University, and climbed a male-dominated corporate ladder to become managing director and senior advisor at Morgan Stanley. Juggling career and mothering—she and her husband, Charles Bradford, are the parents of Alexandra Bradford '12 and Tyler Bradford '14—Bradford has served as class agent, chair of the Parents and Grandparents Fund, and a founding member of the Centennial Circle of Alumnae, earning a membership in the Stephen F. Mandel '52 Society, which recognizes alumni volunteers who provide visionary leadership in raising gifts to Dartmouth through the Dartmouth College Fund. At first, she says, enrolling in a formerly men's school presented both academic and social challenges.

At that time, a lot of male students road-tripped on the weekend. They didn't want much to do with Dartmouth women. I remember sitting with a friend at a table at the Class of '53 Commons. There were some upperclassmen around, and one guy said, "The weirdest thing happen in class today." "What happened?" I asked. "A woman raised her hand and said something in class," he answered. "Well, what did she say?" I asked. "I don't know," he said. "I just couldn't believe she was asking a question in class." It was an interesting environment.

But I did make many male friends. You had to. It was a survival game. And from Dartmouth, I learned the pickup skills you need in business, being able to react quickly but thoughtfully. I've often said that when I ended up at Morgan Stanley, being a co-ed at Dartmouth in the early years was the best preparation I could have had for a career on Wall Street.

The first sorority started my senior year, and I was invited to join, but there didn't seem much point to it by then, for me. DeeDee [Diane Granzow] and I worked with Marilyn Baldwin, who was a dean at the time, to establish One Occom Ridge as a women's residence. It's gone now, but that was something I was very proud of.

Dartmouth changed my life. We early coeds survived with a sense of humor and a sense of sisterhood, just by working hard and saying, "We're going to get through it and take every advantage that we earn through this experience." We have so many women leaders in our class and in the class ahead of us and the class behind us, because we learned life lessons while we were here. And for that I am grateful.

As I see from my frequent visits to campus, the diversity of the current student body is striking and exciting and very different from the post-grad prep school vibe I remember. To the women undergraduates of today I would say, try new things. Meet people different from yourself and engage them. Take advantage of academic opportunities and your professors—you may never get such an exhilarating intellectual experience again. Build relationships with one another and with the institution that will sustain you for the rest of your lives.