Sarah Blanding was born on November 22, 1898 and attended public schools in Lexington, Kentucky. Her father passed away when she was only fourteen years old. Blanding was determined to go to college but knew that she could do it only if she worked her way through. She decided early on that physical education training would quickly make her self-supporting.
Blanding went to the New Haven Normal School of Gymnastics and graduated in 1919. She came back to Kentucky and studied for her A.B. at the University of Kentucky in the mornings and taught physical education in the afternoons.
|Dean's at the University of Kentucky, 1927|
At this time, Frances Jewell (later McVey) was dean of women and the two came to know and respect one another. After Frances Jewell married Frank McVey, Sarah Blanding was selected to become dean of women in her place. Blanding herself thought that she was too young and inexperienced but she agreed to become acting dean for six months. Despite Blanding’s hesitation she enjoyed being dean and served an entire year. Nonetheless, Blanding wanted to finish her graduate study so she left the University of Kentucky to go to Columbia where she received her A.M. in 1926.
Next, Blanding spent a year at the London School of Economics and in 1928 she returned to UK to be dean of women and associate professor of political science. In 1941 she was appointed head of the College of Home Economics at Cornell and seven months later she was made dean of the College – the first woman to become a dean at Cornell. In 1946, Blanding accomplished another first by becoming the first woman president of Vassar College.
President Albert Kirwan of the University of Kentucky and Sarah Blanding at the dedication of Blanding and Kirwan towers, 1968
Sarah Blanding was known for being direct, objective, frank, completely unpretentious, and for having a keen sense of humor. In 1968 Blanding Tower and its affiliated low-lying buildings of the Kirwan-Blanding Complex at UK was named in her honor.