Pearl Bernstein Max First Administrative Director of Board of Higher Education Dies at 94

February 9, 1999 | The University

Pearl Bernstein Max, who was appointed by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in 1938 as the first Administrative Director of the Board of Higher Education, died in her Manhattan home of natural causes on February 4 at the age of 94.

“As the chief administrative officer, before there was a Chancellor, Pearl Max’s brilliant leadership and visionary thinking helped guide New York City’s municipal college system, which included City, Hunter, Brooklyn and Queens Colleges, to become The City University of New York in 1961,” Board of Trustees Chairwoman Anne A. Paolucci and Interim Chancellor Christoph M. Kimmich said in a joint statement. Among her many accomplishments in over three decades of exemplary service to the University until her retirement in 1969, she proposed the funding formula for CUNY, drafted the first Master plan and served as liaison to the Administrative Council of College Presidents. She founded and was first Coordinator in 1967 of the Office of Institutional Research where she conducted seminal studies of retention, teacher education, admissions procedures and other issues of vital importance to the growing university.

Mrs. Max came to Mayor LaGuardia’s attention as the first paid executive of the League of Women Voters of New York City. The League closely studied the procedures and policies of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment and as a result of Mrs. Max’s even-handed and factual analyses, Mayor LaGuardia appointed her Secretary of the Board. She was the first woman to hold that post. She also served as Secretary and administrative head of the New York City Employees Retirement System, at that time the fifth largest insurance company in the United States. During that time, she also taught courses on state and local government at Barnard College.

Mrs. Max was listed in Who’s Who in American Women. A graduate of Barnard College, she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She also had served on the Board of Directors and Education Committee of the Women’s City Club of New York; the Advisory Council Board of Governors, Ethical Culture Schools; the Executive Committee, New York Regional Board and National Program Committee, Anti-Defamation League of Bnai Brith; and Vice President of the New York Metropolitan Council of the American Society of Public Administrators, among many other civic and professional organizations.

Dr. Louis William Max, whom she married in 1927, died four years ago. She is survived by a daughter, Dr. Claire Max Arons, a physicist with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Berkeley, California; a grandson, Samuel Arons; sisters, Dr. Betty Bernstein of Manhattan and Hilda Morris of Huntington, L.I.; and two brothers Ira Bernstein of Fairfield, Conn., and Seymour Bernstein of Manhattan.