Nicki Newman Tanner

b. 1936

As part of her lifelong devotion to Wellesley College, Nicki Newman Tanner chaired a record-breaking capital campaign for the college in 1993, raising $168 million from alumnae and disproving the assumption that women give less than men. Tanner graduated from Wellesley with a BA in English in 1957 and studied at UCLA before earning a master’s in Oral History from Columbia University in 1980. In 1981 she became founding director of the UJA–Federation of Jewish Philanthropies Oral History Project, which she ran for more than 20 years. In the early 1980s she also did interviews for oral histories both for Columbia’s Oral History Archive and as freelance projects, preserving the stories of Lives of a Cell author Lewis Thomas and Commissioner of Parks Gordon Davis, as well as the histories of the Salvation Army and Pace University. A founding board member of the Jewish Women’s Archive, she served as board chair from 2004–2007. As of 2016, she chairs the educational programs committee of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and the board of WNYC (New York Public Radio), and is a trustee of Auburn Theological Seminary and Hebrew Union College. In 2000 she established the annual Tanner Conference at Wellesley to celebrate student participation in the larger world.

Scope and Content Note

Tanner discusses various aspects of her life, starting with her upbringing in Chicago, the loss of her mother, her Jewish background, and her experiences in high school. She shares her experiences at Wellesley College, focusing on her English major, adjusting to life on the coast as a Midwesterner, and the presence of Jewish culture on campus. Tanner also mentions her dating life, marriage, and her early career in Los Angeles. She discussed her relocation to Scarsdale, New York, and how it influenced her Jewish identity. Additionally, Tanner talks about her involvement in organizations such as the Scarsdale Adult School, the American Jewish Committee, and various other oral history projects. Finally. she reflects on her leadership positions on the boards of Colonial Williamsburg, JWA, and HUC, among others.


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How to cite this page

Oral History of Nicki Newman Tanner. Interviewed by Gail Reimer. 24 August 2007. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 26, 2024) <>.

Oral History of Nicki Newman Tanner by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at