Pioneer educator among 2 women killed after a car crash in Needham’s house; hospitalized driver

Of them 80-year-old women, one of whom was a pioneering educator who served in the college systems of the state of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Ohio, were killed Wednesday in a car crash on Central Avenue in Needham after the vehicle hit a house, police said.

The victims were identified by the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday evening as Ann Segal, 89, and Claire Van Ummersen, 86, both of Needham.

Van Ummersen had been Acting Chancellor of UMass Boston, Academic and Administrative Officer of the Massachusetts Board of Regents of Higher Education, and Chancellor of the University System of New Hampshire, and President of Cleveland State University in Ohio, among many other positions in a long career.

Police and firefighters responded to a report of a 2009 BMW traveling on North Hill Avenue when it crossed Central Avenue and crashed into a house at 860 Central Ave. around 10:20 a.m., according to the prosecutor’s office.

The two women, who were passengers in the car, were taken to hospital but “unfortunately did not survive the crash,” police said in a statement on the department’s Facebook page.

The driver, an 89-year-old man from Needham, was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries, police said.

No charges have been laid. The accident is being investigated by Needham Police, the District Attorney’s Office and State Police Accident Analysis and Reconstruction Experts.

Educators mourned Van Ummersen after learning of his sudden death.

The New Hampshire University System said in a statement that “Dr. Van Ummersen was the first woman to hold the office of Chancellor and was a staunch and ardent supporter of public higher education while she was Chancellor of the United Kingdom. ‘USNH from 1986 to 1992.

From 1993 to 2001, Van Ummersen was president of Cleveland State University in Ohio, where there is a scholarship in her name.

“Dr. Van Ummersen was an outstanding academic leader who played a pivotal role in the development and growth of Cleveland State University,” current university president Harlan Sands said in a statement. “We mourn his loss. loss and extend our sincere condolences to his family. ”

Van Ummersen began his half-century career as a teacher and researcher in biology in 1963 and held several positions with the American Council on Education from 2001 to 2016.

Board Chairman Ted Mitchell said the loss of Van Ummersen “is terribly sad news for all of us at ACE and for the entire American higher education community where Claire shone so brilliantly for decades as a pioneering scientist, educator and campus leader ”.

“At ACE, she continued her revolutionary path, focusing on issues such as expanding the pool of female leaders in higher education and improving work-life balance on campuses nationwide,” Mitchell said in a statement. “Claire was a friend, colleague and mentor to so many people, and she changed so many lives for the better. She will be dearly missed, but leaves a tremendous legacy of grace, wisdom and accomplishment. “

Mildred Garcia, president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, said in a statement that Van Ummersen was “a pioneer in higher education.”

“Claire … became the first woman to lead Cleveland State University in the early 1990s, when very few women held the office of university president,” Garcia said. “She was also a tireless advocate for women in post-secondary education nationally throughout her years at the American Council on Education. Claire stood among the giants of academia. It leaves a lasting legacy.

Patti Phillips, Executive Director of Women Leaders in College Sports, said that “Van Ummersen’s passionate advocacy for improving women’s leadership in athletics and higher education has changed the landscape for women in our industry.”

The organization has named a leadership award for Van Ummersen, which is awarded to a senior administrator who promotes opportunities for women in college sports, the statement said.

“We have lost a powerful pioneer and a beacon for the advancement of women in higher education”, said Phillips.

In an interview with The Globe in 1989, Van Ummersen spoke of being a mentor to other women trying to pursue careers in higher education.

“I serve as their arbiter, as a person they can talk to for advice and guidance,” she said. “I try to keep an eye out for jobs that might be available that might be of interest or interest to them. … This is a very important and very necessary role.

Van Ummersen was also candid about her take on the differences between the men and women who run colleges.

“I think men are a lot more concerned with gambling than with work,” she said. “Women are just more concerned with getting the job done. The men assign people to study the problem, and then everyone gets together to discuss it. Women tend to seek solutions more.


Martin Finucane can be reached at [email protected] Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @jeremycfox.


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