Josephine Louise Newcomb established an undergraduate liberal-arts college in 1886 at Tulane in memory of her daughter. Her descendants are suing to have it reopened.

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Last October it was reported that a first effort to get Newcomb College reopened failed:

A state appeals court today narrowly turned down an attempt to resurrect Newcomb College, ruling that the plaintiffs had no right to file suit.

By a 2-1 vote, the judges sent the suit back to Civil District Court Judge Rosemary Ledet, telling her to dismiss it.

Ledet had ruled against the plaintiffs last year. The case was argued before Judges Charles Jones, Patricia Murray and Max Tobias. Tobias dissented, stating his reasons in a document that was one page longer than the opinion.

Newcomb College was established in 1886 by Josephine Louise Newcomb as a memorial to her daughter, Harriott Sophie Newcomb. It was the first degree-granting college for women within an established university in the United States. Her total gifts would amount to about $50 million today.

The college was closed July 1, 2006, as part of Tulane President Scott Cowen’s post-Hurricane Katrina restructuring.

The plaintiffs — two of Josephine Louise Newcomb’s great-great-nieces, who live in the Carolinas — argued that Tulane thwarted their relative’s intent by closing the college.

Tulane disagreed, citing a letter in which the college’s benefactor wrote that she was giving her money to the university “with entire confidence in your fidelity and wisdom.”

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports on a second suit here. The AP reported:

A great-great-great-niece of the founder of one of the nation’s oldest degree-granting colleges for women filed a new challenge Wednesday to Tulane University’s merger of H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College with its six other undergraduate colleges.

Susan Henderson Montgomery of Franklin, Mass., argues she has the legal right to file a challenge under an opinion handed down in July by the Louisiana Supreme Court.

The university merged all its undergraduate colleges into Newcomb-Tulane College about two years ago, as part of a reorganization after Hurricane Katrina. The university also cut 27 of its 45 doctoral programs, suspended eight athletic teams and laid off about 230 faculty members, mostly from the medical school.

Challenges have contended the merger was a way for the university to use Newcomb’s $41 million endowment for other purposes.

Two great-great-nieces of Josephine Newcomb, who founded the college as a memorial to her daughter, lost an attempt to keep Newcomb open but won a state Supreme Court ruling that “would-be heirs” may sue to enforce conditions of a will.

The 5-2 decision said Parma Howard of Greenville, N.C., and Jane Smith of Columbia, S.C., had to prove they were not just relatives, but heirs.

Howard and Smith weren’t “successors” under Louisiana law because their great-grandmother left everything she had to her fourth husband, said John Shreves, the lawyer representing Montgomery.

He said Montgomery meets the opinion’s definition of a successor because she is in a direct line of inheritance as well as blood.

The petition asks the Orleans Parish Civil District Court to rule that Montgomery can challenge Tulane’s actions, that Newcomb wanted the money left to Tulane used only for the women’s college, and to order it reopened. …

Via Al Brophy.

–Ann Bartow

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