New Vassar president treasures her New Britain school days

Published on Saturday, 5 August 2017 20:54
Written by LISA BACKUS


POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. - The newly appointed president of Vassar College, Elizabeth Howe Bradley, can trace her love of education to her parents’ altruism and her experiences growing up in New Britain.

“I loved New Britain,” Bradley, 55, said. “Lincoln School had fabulous teachers.”

She went on to list every teacher she had during her years at the school on Steele Street.

“I completely fell in love with school,” she said.

A noted health scholar, Howe Bradley was appointed the 11th president of the prestigious liberal arts school in January after spending more than 20 years at Yale University, where she founded the Yale University Global Health Leadership Institute and served as the director of Yale’s Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy.

She started at Vassar on July 1 and will be formally installed in September.

The focus of her career has been improving health care delivery in the United States and throughout the world by heading projects and research in Africa, Asia and Europe. She has published three books and more than 300 papers on topics surrounding health care, according to the college.

She was an administrator at Massachusetts General Hospital before her time at Yale, where she earned her Ph.D. in health policy and health economics. She received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University and an MBA from the University of Chicago.

Howe Bradley’s father, Ralph “Ted” Howe, grew up on Corbin Avenue in New Britain. After Ted and Nancy Howe married, the family lived in the Steele Street area, where Howe Bradley can recall climbing the big hill each day to go to and from elementary school at lunchtime.

“That’s where I learned to be an athlete,” she said with a laugh.

Her parents knew the importance of contributing to the good of the community in which they lived and instilled that value in their children, Howe Bradley said.

Nancy Howe, with the help of her daughter and husband, helped start Pathways/Senderos, a teen pregnancy prevention program that carries on today.

“Nancy was integral in staring Pathways,” said co-Executive Director Heather Mills. “The former executive director worked very closely with Nancy. Her daughter helped produce a study that showed it was less expensive to fund the program than it was to deal with teenage pregnancies.”

The program serves 60 New Britain children who attend after-school activities that promote education and remaining pregnancy free until they have finished high school.

“She looked at the needs of New Britain and what needed to happen and made it happen,” Mills said. “This program is very important. We are here almost every day throughout the year. If we weren’t here, I don’t know where the kids would go.”

Howe Bradley also recalled a Scouting-type program called “Golden Stars” that her mother started at Benjamin Franklin School for girls who otherwise wouldn’t have a Scout troop.

“I remember being there and we would all types of activities,” Howe Bradley recalled. “My parents wanted their kids to know what it meant to work in the community and volunteer your time.”

After decades as an educator who has sought to improve health care for people around the world, Howe Bradley said she felt “called” to lead Vassar College when the opportunity became available last year.

“Education is something that contributes to human beings flourishing,” Howe Bradley said. “Being able to read the newspaper, being able to be educated, can make life better for people. Education is something that people can be inspired by.”

Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or

Posted in New Britain Herald, General News, New Britain on Saturday, 5 August 2017 20:54. Updated: Saturday, 5 August 2017 20:57.