The Columbus Wellesley Club - Since 1914
In 2014, the Columbus Wellesley Club celebrated its centennial. The 1914 fire that consumed College Hall motivated Wellesley alumnae across the country to establish local alumnae clubs, one of which was the CWC.
“At a gathering at the home of Mrs. J.E. Kinney, 319 West Ninth Avenue, on April the 29th, 1914, the Wellesley Club of Columbus was organized. Those present at the meeting were:
Mrs. William H. Moseley (Florence M. Chamberlain, ’79)
Mrs. C.C. Pavey (Eva M. Grove, ’85)
Mrs. William C. Deems (Cora Rhodes, ’87)
Mrs. Francis C. Caldwell (Louise Orton, ’99)
Mrs. Clarence V. Williams (Elizabeth MacCrellish, ’02)
Mrs. Hugh Means (Eleanor M. Hammond, ’04)
Mrs. Henry F. Walradt (Laura P. Thomas, ’05)
Miss Mary Stoddart, ’07 (Mrs. Joseph P. Eagleson)
Mrs. James E. Kinney (Bertha Rankin, ’09)
Mrs. Charles Replogle (Freda P. Haller, ’10)
Miss Gretchen Frantz, ’12 (Mrs. Harry M. Runkle)
Miss Helen Glenn, ’12 (Mrs. William G. Mixer)
“and the guest of honor, Miss Frances Taft, ’09, of Peking, China.”
So begin the minutes of the founding meeting of the Columbus Wellesley Club. Surprisingly enough, the classic phrase “after much discussion” does not make its debut until Paragraph 2, but it has rarely been absent from Wellesley Club minutes during the ensuing fifty years. On this occasion, discussion having been accomplished, officers were elected: Mrs. Means, president; Mrs. Walradt, vice-president; Miss Dages, recording secretary, and Miss Stoddart, corresponding secretary and treasurer. A committee was appointed to draw up a constitution, with Mrs. Caldwell as chairman. The guest of honor, Miss Taft, then gave a report of her work under the Wellesley YWCA extension in North China during the past three years.
Wellesley Club members of the present (or any other) day will be in no way surprised to learn that “the next business before the meeting was the discussion of plans for raising money for Wellesley.” The historic College Hall fire had occurred only a few days before, and money was indeed a desperate need. With true Wellesley spirit our founders set about to do their share. A second meeting was enthusiastically scheduled for the following week, and at this and later meetings during that spring the roster was increased by additional names which have since shone brightly in the club’s annals: Miss Dorothy Fieser, ’14 (Mrs. Gilbert H. Carmack); Miss Anita Firestone, ’12 (Mrs. Anita F. Balz); Mrs. Edward Darmron (Edith A. Mooar, ’99); Miss Anne Siebert, ’01; Mrs. Freeman T. Eagleson (Jessie Neely, ’10).
By the spring of 1916, the club had held two benefit dances, a “picture show” (with Tree Day pictures), and the first of an infinite procession of rummage sales; as a result, $500 had been sent to the Wellesley Restoration and Endowment Fund. This fund was to be short-lived, for the college became the beneficiary of the several magnificent endowments and bequests which made possible the construction of the Tower Hill group, Founders Hall and other major campus buildings, and which simultaneously cancelled—at least temporarily—the need for Wellesley’s devoted daughters to buy each other’s white elephants.
During the years of World War I, the club met monthly to sew “pinafores, chemises, gertrudes and drawers” for the Wellesley Relief Unit in France. After a year of this activity, the minutes record that “the club was asked to discontinue sewing for the Unit and instead to send money direct.” We shall leave it for future historians to puzzle over the motives behind this cryptic request; there is nothing cryptic, however, about the appointment of Katherine Timberman, the ink scarcely dry on her diploma, as chairman of this committee to raise said money. Thus began the illustrious career of Katherine Timberman Wright, ’18, whom today we proudly salute as a Trustee of the college.
During its first six years, the Columbus Wellesley Club had developed into a close-knit, smoothly functioning group, ready to handle whatever tasks might come its way. In the summer of 1920, the club presented to the college an oak tree, to be planted near Founders Hall, and signifying, perhaps, that we now considered ourselves to be a living, growing part of Wellesley, with our roots planted firmly on Norumbega Hill.
Scarcely had the new decade dawned when the college announced that a Semi-Centennial Fund was being launched with a goal of $10,000,000 to be raised by 1925. Bursting with youthful vigor and enthusiasm, the Columbus club (after much discussion) pledged itself to raise the heady sum of $10,000 as its club gift. There followed five years of financial activity so immense that it has never since been matched in the club’s history. Rummage sale followed rummage sale, with a food sale thrown in now and then for variety; members went about town selling stationery, place-mats, house-plants, knives, magazines and thousands upon thousands of bars of soap. (The soap project was bequeathed to us, for no recorded reason, by the Smith Club, and perhaps part of its great success was due to the notorious Columbus “coal smog” of the 1920s). Mme. Louise Homer was brought (at a fee of $2,500) for a dazzling and lucrative concert at Memorial Hall; performances at the Hartman Theatre were operated as Wellesley Benefit Nights (with candy, home-made and packaged by members, sold in the lobby); the Tony Sarg Marionettes came, and were so enthusiastically received by the paying public that they became an annual event for a number of years.
Nevertheless, our girls were not likely to let work interfere with pleasure. They entertained a steady procession of visiting representatives from the college, including President Pendleton herself; the Christmas luncheon for undergraduates became an established and cherished custom; teas were held for prospective students; “husband’s nights” and picnics were scheduled. On one notable occasion, a play was presented to seventy-five assembled guests and friends. Authored by Mrs. Charles St. John Chubb, its title was “Reductio ad Absurdum;” lamentably, no script survives, but the cast of characters included Hattie Lazarus as “Dr. Coué,” Dorothy Carmack as “Walter Camp,” and “Dorothy Mitchell, Helen Cary, Bertha Kinney, Jessie Eagleson, Alice Sells and Jo Vance in other roles. It should be noted also that the minutes of one mid-winter meeting read simply, “After a brief business session, the members adjourned for a delightful afternoon of bridge.” (Now, that’s what we mean by “the good old days”!).
Meanwhile, the club’s pile of “Liberty Bonds” grew, and in the spring of 1925, a check for $10,000 was sent to Wellesley. Imagine our members’ surprise and delight when they learned that this was the third largest of all club gifts to the Semi-Centennial Fund, exceeded only by those of Boston and New York! Less surprising was the news that the college was starting immediately upon another five-year fund drive. Carried away by its spectacular success, the Columbus club made a pledge of $5,500 to this new fund, the sum being carefully calculated to top by $100 the pledge of any other club, including Boston and New York. So, back to the rummage sales and theatre benefits trudged our heroines, panting slightly, no doubt, but still ready to give their all for Wellesley. As 1930 arrived, the pledge was fulfilled, and secretary Connie Reel’s annual report for that year states that “the old war-horses of the Columbus Wellesley Club smelled the smoke of battle and made a devastating onslaught on the peace-loving citizens of Columbus to collect tribute for the college endowment fund.” Thus, the Twenties ended in a triumphant burst of glory for the club, with well over $15,000 having been raised for the college. No less importantly, an esprit de corps had been established, and a warm comradeship, which would serve to carry the group unfalteringly through the lean years which lay ahead.
With the Thirties we found ourselves in the midst of the Great Depression, and money-raising on a grand scale was no longer possible. As one annual report explains, “the club wisely decided to abandon any idea of a money-raising project for the year as we felt that any additional demand placed on the public’s pocketbook would not be kindly and generously received.” One new and rewarding financial venture was, however, undertaken” in memory of Edith Mooar Damron, ’99, a devoted member whose death in 1935 was a deeply felt loss, the club established a Student Aid Scholarship award of $250 per year. Fittingly, the first recipient of this award was Mrs. Damron’s daughter, Charlotte, ’40, who held it during her four years at Wellesley. From that time until it was discontinued in 1961, the award was administered by the Student Aid Society and was made annually to qualifying Columbus students or at the discretion of the Society’s directors. Over a twenty-five year period, the Edith Mooar Damron Scholarship Awards contributed approximately $6,000 to the Student Aid program and helped many of our own girls, as well as others, to achieve a Wellesley education.
Meanwhile, the club was experiencing a refreshing change of pace in its activities. Turning again to the words of an annual report (1932-33), we read that “we again decreed that the year should be socially and intellectually, rather than financially, profitable. As a result, we have gathered together enthusiastically, if infrequently, and played with a gaiety which proves our originality when the rest of the world is stylishly depressed!” Indeed, no depression was noticeable at meetings of the Columbus Wellesley Club. Speakers were heard on topics ranging from art to politics to world affairs; club members presented musical programs, or told of their work with community groups; parties were held for the husbands, who dubbed themselves “The Wellesley Club Auxiliary;” monthly “Round Table” luncheons were a regular feature for many years, with members meeting at Lazarus Tea Room for chatting and relaxation. Socially and intellectually, much profit accrued.
Still, foremost in the club’s thinking, however, were the concerns and problems of Wellesley, and many they were during this difficult decade. Our members discussed at length the newly launched “Wellesley Summer Institute” on problems of the social order, supported it from their meager treasury, and were proud to hear a first-hand report from one of their own members, Frances Lucas Henderson, ’93, who was a delegate to the first session. They followed with interest the experiments of Wellesley and other colleges with new admission procedures for students at “progressive” schools. Their opinion was sought on the all-important question of a successor to President Pendleton at her retirement in 1936, and they subsequently rejoiced in the selection of Mildred McAfee as the new head of the college, and delighted in the breezy youthful freshness that she brought to the campus.
Probably the most important of the Columbus club’s contributions to the college during the Thirties was the part it played in the development of the Acquaintanceship program. With the depression, the college admission situation had changed from a seller’s to a buyer’s market, and Wellesley searched eagerly, along with her sister colleges, for prospective students. Columbus was selected as one of the cities where the new Acquaintanceship plan would be tried out, and as always our girls set to with a will, noting in the minutes that “this is really an advertising scheme.” The ad-women left no stone unturned; they gave talks, with undergraduates to describe the gay social life (one entranced prospect murmured, “I had no idea they had all that fun at Wellesley!”); and whenever possible, they brought representatives from the college to give the final turn to the screw. Inevitably, the early years of Acquaintanceship involved “learning by doing”; there was much to be learned as we groped toward a workable partnership between the alumnae and the Office of Admission. Today’s Acquaintanceship chairman will laugh hysterically to learn that, in 1938, “the suggestion came from the college that the best way for the clubs to function in this matter of selecting new students was to find out something about them before recommending them to Wellesley!” The years have, indeed, brought changes. Nevertheless, during the Thirties, the club was laying a firm groundwork for what today is surely one of the most important functions of any club—its help in selecting Wellesley’s outstanding student body.
Depression years successfully weathered, the club entered a new decade, only to be faced with the challenge of World War II. As always, the women of Wellesley were to be found in the front ranks of volunteer workers, this time encouraged by the shining example of President McAfee, who became Commander of the WAVES, while still managing to spend a part of her time administering the affairs of the college.
With its members busy with war work, and with transportation drastically curtailed by gas rationing, the club cut its meetings to a minimum. Still, the gathering, which did take place, showed no lack of the usual enthusiasm. A special war project was carried out: “The Knapsack Library,” whereby members clipped serial stories from magazines, bound them in manila covers and sent them off to servicemen’s centers; the club “adopted” two Chinese war orphans, and served as a team in Red Cross and War Chest drives. A plaintive note was sounded at Christmas luncheons, as undergraduates told of grave shortages of Harvard dates, while Wellesley dormitories were filled with Naval officers (all married); but these luncheons became one of the club’s chief sources of contact with the college during the years when Alumnae Council, Alumnae College, and class reunions were patriotically cancelled.
The brightest spot of the war years came when two Columbus members were elected to the high councils of Wellesley; Katherine Wright became president of the Alumnae Association, with Connie Reel as its secretary. When the Board of the Association met in Columbus, the club, bursting with pride in its “home town girls who made good,” entertained them at dinner, and felt its bonds with the college tighten perceptibly.
Peace came at last and we returned to normal pursuits. In the case of Wellesley and her daughters, the pursuit of new funds for the college headed the list; twenty years had gone by since the last major drive, and the need for new buildings, improved equipment and increased salaries was growing daily. The Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Fund was announced, and word came that the quota to be raised from all gifts in Central Ohio was $27,000. The dauntless members of the Columbus club gave scarcely a shudder before organizing themselves, under the valiant chairmanship of Hattie Lazarus, into committees for in-town and out-of-town, graduate and non-graduate gifts. Such a whirlwind campaign of persuasion, cajolery and arm-twisting did they conduct that by June of 1948—two years before the Fund deadline—they had raised $7,500 more than their quota! It may have been at this juncture that Katherine Wright made her famous comment that those who rest of their laurels must be wearing them in the wrong place. At any rate, the club, with time now hanging heavy on its hands, pledged a $2,000 gift of its own to the Fund. Little surprise will be occasioned by the news that, after saturating Columbus during the next two years with benefit lectures, Wellesley ash-trays, and, of course, their ever-lucrative rummage, the members delightedly increased their check to $3,000 before sending it to the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Celebration. The old esprit was still there; the Columbus Wellesley Club had not lost its knack of coping successfully with whatever the task at hand might be.
As the twentieth century passed the halfway mark, Wellesley, too, moved into a new era. With seventy-five years of growth and progress behind it, and a new president, Margaret Clapp, at the helm, the college looked toward the future and swung into high gear to meet the challenge of maintaining the highest level of academic excellence in a world beset by change and turmoil. The successfully completed Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Fund was merged with the Alumnae Fund of earlier years to become the Wellesley College Development Fund, with Katherine Wright as its first chairman. Plans were made for new dormitories and for the expansion and renovation of the library. To the latter project, the Columbus club pledged $1,500, joining with the other alumnae clubs of Ohio to raise the money for an “Ohio Room” in the new library. The “new look” of the campus soon became a gratifying reality.
But bricks and masonry were only the beginning of Wellesley’s needs; far more important in the continuing picture was the necessity for providing salaries adequate to attract and keep the best possible faculty. The Faculty Salary Advancement Fund was created as the top-priority division of the Development Fund, and with its usual flair for combining hard work with happy coincidence, the Columbus club simultaneously hit upon a project which, in the ensuing years, has enabled it to swell the Fund by a total of $8,600, and to establish its own “Columbus Wellesley Club Fund” as a part of the college’s faculty salary advancement program. “A Prevue of Christmas,” now in its eighth year, has proved not only a financial success, but a rewarding means of spreading the name of Wellesley throughout the community. Each year, just after Thanksgiving, a “tour of homes” is held, the homes gaily bedecked with Christmas decorations planned and installed by local florists. The number of “tourists” increases annually, being now well over one thousand; homes are commandeered not only from loyal alumnae, but from generous mothers-in-law, second cousins, and—it has been rumored—from people who once passed through Wellesley Hills on Route 9. Be that as it may, the success of the “Prevue” has established the Columbus club as one of the city’s leading alumnae groups.
Having solved its own money-raising problems for the time being, the club could turn to other aspects of Wellesley’s needs. The new emphasis on annual alumnae giving to the Development Fund led to the appointment of local Fund chairmen and to the Personal Call Program. Working closely with the Development Fund office, the members of the Columbus Fund Committee established a pattern of making personal contact with each alumna in the area each year. Results were gratifying. Not only did the total number and amount of gifts to the college increase, but “new” alumnae were discovered who needed only the slightest encouragement to become active and interested members of the club. And perhaps never before had an active and interested membership been such a necessity; with the Fifties came the great rush of eager students battering down the doors of Admission Offices throughout the land, and Wellesley’s Acquaintanceship program came into its own. Gone were the days when the college wistfully pled with alumnae to “find out something” about the girls. The Acquaintanceship chairman was now an official member of the highly organized admission system. But if she was Wellesley’s Ambassador in Columbus, the entire club membership considered itself a part of the embassy staff, ever on the alert for outstanding prospects, ready to answer (correctly, they hoped) any question about the college, to rejoice with accepted or to soothe the ruffled egos of the less fortunate.
As in former years, the club continued its regular sounds of business and pleasure. A new tradition was established with a September luncheon for undergraduates, where incoming freshmen could meet the upper-class girls and question them about clothes, classes, trains to Cambridge, and other important data. Club representatives attended Alumnae Council each year and brought back news of the college and of alumnae activities in our sister clubs. The college came to Columbus too, in the persons of Admission Office representatives, Alumnae Association presidents, and members of the ever-peripatetic Board of Trustees (in addition to Columbus’s own two Trustees-in-Residence, Katherine Wright and Mr. Preston Davis). President Clapp honored the club with a visit and spoke to a dinner gathering of one hundred alumnae and friends of the college, transmitting to all present the picture of Wellesley as a great center of learning with challenges to meet, and the vitality and vision to meet them courageously. That such a picture was being transmitted to the minds of the general public as well was proven by the Ford Foundation’s handsome grants to the college in recognition of past efforts and future plans for strengthening its program.
So, the busy years rolled by, the Fifties became the Sixties, and almost before we knew it, our Golden Anniversary approached.
As the Columbus Wellesley Club reaches its half-century mark, it seems fitting that we should pause to take stock of our past, our present, and our future.
As we trace our past through fifty eventful years, our foremost feeling is one of gratitude and thanks: thanks, first of all, to our own loyal alumnae who have given of themselves so devotedly and so unsparingly, who have truly embodied the Wellesley motto, “Non Ministrari, Sed Ministrare;” thanks, too to our Associate Members, the mothers of our undergraduates, who have rolled up their sleeves and gone to work with a zeal that has sometimes put the rest of us to shame (no laurel-resters they!); thanks to our “Wellesley Club Auxiliary,” the husbands and fathers who have stood patiently by, or turned themselves out in black ties, or reached for their checkbooks as the occasion demanded. And above all, thanks to our community and its many good people who for fifty years have not only bought our rummage, listened to our lectures, and trudged through our houses, but have entrusted us with the finest of their daughters, making us prouder each year to be a part of Wellesley.
When we look at the present, we are often tempted to feel that never before have society’s problems been so tremendous, never has the world been faced with such an array of obstacles—and the world of education is no exception. But as we review our own history of the past fifty years, we find that in every decade, grave problems have arisen—and have been met. Always, the future holds promises as well as problems, and the greatest lesson that we learn from our brief backward look is that the problems can be solved, the promises can be fulfilled, whenever each individual is willing to contribute one small share of thought and action toward the goal. In its own little corner of the world, the Columbus Wellesley Club has tried to add its contribution to the aims and purposes of Wellesley College. Our oak tree was planted on campus when the club was young; since then, Norumbega Hill, like the college and the world around it, has undergone many changes. Perhaps our tree is no longer there, but the spirit in which it was planted remains. We have not “gone out from the dreams and theories,” and we pledge ourselves now to another fifty years of loyal service to Wellesley.
1964 - 2015
Being an alumna of Wellesley College is a lifelong relationship. In central Ohio, the Columbus Wellesley Club is our network hub to share experience, encourage prospective students and continue to enrich our lives through lectures and meetings. The Club celebrated its centennial in 2014, prompting this retrospective look at accomplishments over the last 50 years. The first 50 are documented in the History of the Columbus Wellesley Club through 1964.
Partly because of Wellesley’s success in educating women for the opportunities and demands of their times, the history of the CWC can be divided into two eras. From its inception in 1914 through the mid-1990s, the Club’s focus was enthusiastic, highly successful fundraising for the college. For 35 years, starting in 1956, the club hosted a holiday tour of homes that raised thousands of dollars annually.
In the last decade of the twentieth century, the Wellesley College Alumnae Association decided that raising money was no longer the primary job of regional clubs. Instead, the overridingly important mission is to promote contacts among alumnae and enhance the image of Wellesley in the community.
For many decades, a continuingly renewing cadre of alumnae was able to find the time in their already busy lives to support their alma mater with consuming work. Gradually, relatively newly minted alumnae with demanding occupations as well as families simply could not fit in as much local service of any kind. This trend may be viewed as a victory for the college as well as the ongoing national and international drive towards women achieving economic and leadership parity with men in the wide world.
Up until the mid-90s, meeting minutes, correspondence and other documents were dutifully maintained in large cardboard boxes. Since the end of the tour of homes, there have been fewer records to maintain and they have become scattered. In consultation with the college, current club officers curated the boxes, and the important contents have been sent to the college for safekeeping in its archives and digital storage.
In the last few decades, the Club’s annual events included exciting lectures from college faculty at the forefront of their fields, festive holiday parties bringing together alumnae and current students, a book award for outstanding area high school students and funding the Katherine Timberman Wright scholarship. Board members frequently attend Alumnae Council meetings at the college. In addition, Club members come together for a variety of events, such as visits to the Columbus Museum of Art or the Center of Science and Industry.
The CWC of the 1960s through the early 1990s convened often and merrily. Lively, well-attended meetings often began with a “sandwich and salad” lunch at a member’s home. Sometimes sherry was served, and, at least once, May wine with strawberries. “After the very pleasant clatter of coffee cups had subsided” the business meeting would begin. One year, 1966, the president gave her annual report “in rhyming verse.” Unfortunately, that poetic review does not survive.
Board meetings included the president, vice president, recording secretary, corresponding secretary; the chairs of the committees on acquaintanceship, clippings, development fund, directory, hospitality and membership; and the chair (later co-chairs) of the annual tour of homes. The acquaintanceship chair would report on outreach to prospective students. The “clipper” would tell of any items in the local newspapers she had scissored out and sent to the college. It appears that someone from the club attended Alumnae Council almost every year and would report the news. Meetings always included a report from the treasurer, including results of the tour and sales of other items like college calendars and, at one point, aprons. A happy moment at many meetings was when it was moved, seconded and unanimously voted to send a check to the college. Sometimes a business meeting would include guests, primarily husbands. “Despite a relentless all-day snowstorm,” a dinner meeting at the Columbus Club in 1979 attracted “26 intrepid members and guests, all booted and bundled.” In quite a different season, one year there was a combination sailing party and business meeting at the Hoover Yacht Club.
The college centennial of 1975 brought a special fund raising drive, and an opportunity to confirm and amplify the presence of Wellesley alumnae in Columbus. On May 5, 1976, the CWC sponsored a symposium at the Center for Tomorrow with local college presidents as speakers. Jane Power Mykrantz (’56), Mary Kohn Lazarus (’50) and Babette Lazarus Sirak (’43) introduced the speakers, and Mrs. Lazarus moderated. The participants included Dr. Harold Enarson, President of the Ohio State University.
Annual dues enable basic Club activities and have kept pace with the costs of a restaurant dinner. Dues were $1 per resident member in 1916; $5 in 1973; $8 in 1979, $10 in 1983 and $15 in 1993. In 1980, 66 members paid their dues out of 143 alumnae in the Columbus area. Regular dues today are $30; young alumnae, $25; and graduates from the most recent two years, $10. Dues-paying members number in the high twenties.
In 1972 club officers signed papers incorporating the club as a 501(c)(3) organization at a cost of $25.
Officers today include a president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer, alumnae admissions representatives, decade chairs (alumnae representing their age cohort). There is no clipper, but there is a web mistress and social media chair. Board meetings are a chance to plan and evaluate Club programs, as well as a means of nurturing Wellesley ties. At a meeting in the fall of 2015, the board gathered at La Chatelaine restaurant in Upper Arlington, the Wellesley Avenue street sign practically over their heads and Hillary Clinton campaigning on television in the bar.
From 1956 through 1990, the Prevue of Christmas was the Columbus Wellesley Club’s premier money-raising effort for the college, typically generating enough annually to cover a year’s tuition. Up to seven homes would be festively decorated by local florists and opened to the public for viewing on a day soon after Thanksgiving.
“Homes were commandeered not only from loyal alumnae, but from generous mothers-in-law, second cousins and—it has been rumored—from people who once passed through Wellesley Hills on Route 9,” according to the history of the club from 1914-64. Visitors were delighted with the charm and beauty of grand houses, primarily in Bexley and Upper Arlington. The Governor’s Mansion was on the tour at least one year. At its height, more than a thousand visitors walked through the selected houses. They “oohed” and “aahed” and breathed in the heady holiday spirit of pine and poinsettias. In 1974, profits from the tour were over $6,034.52, of which $6,000 was sent to the college. Tour tickets cost at first $5 and were later raised to $10 to reduce the number of tourists, showing that club members remembered their supply and demand curves from Economics 101. The Club also sold wrapping paper and ribbons at the tours. While the CWC organized and managed the Prevue of Christmas and did the lionesses’ share of the labor, Goucher College and Smith College also participated. Goucher or Smith sponsored a pre-tour luncheon and Smith sold delicious salted, shelled pecans. At least once, the Vassar Club sponsored the luncheon.
In 1977, it was estimated that every woman hour volunteered for the tour resulted in $20 for the college. That was hard-earned money. Officers for the tour in 1975 included two co-chairmen, and the chairs for the committees on brochures, tickets, reservations, houses and florists, hostesses, and publicity. Club members did everything from lining up the houses to lining the houses’ floors with plastic runners. The plastic runners were a particular bane, requiring substantial woman-power to lay down and pick up. “No spike heels” was an important tour rule.
In 1990, the tour of homes grossed over $10,000, but it had become increasingly difficult to find houses and staff the preparation and visits. A strong, determined core of women had dedicated themselves to the tour’s success for decades. But classes from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, busy with jobs and young children, were not contributing their share. The paid membership of the CWC continued to be relatively high, but reaching younger alumnae was a problem everywhere in the United States, including Columbus. The lives of local Wellesley alumnae had changed from when Phyllis Harmon Greene (’41) summarized a survey of members in a talk on “Den Mothers in the Wide Wide World.”
The club voted unanimously to end the tour. A Committee on New Directions was formed to generate ideas for the focus of future activities.
New ways of strengthening alumnae ties to the college quickly blossomed. In 1993 the Club sponsored six events, including a lunch and tour of the Columbus Museum of Art and attendance at a philosophy lecture. In a sign of changing times, club members attended a video teleconference on “Who’s Minding the Store: Women as Entrepreneurs” at the Huntington Bank in 1994.
Events have tended to be more informal than in the past, and often include whole families. Picnics, sometimes including “competitive” croquet, and “happy hours” became the norm rather than lunches with clattering teacups. Other events included lunch and a tour of the Columbus Museum of Art led by docent Jane Steigerwald (’54) and dinner and attendance at a ballet performance at the Palace Theater. The Club has an unofficial connection with the Columbus All Ivy group, with members on the mailing list and occasionally attending events. The group includes graduates of the Ivy League schools, the Seven Sisters and several other colleges or universities.
The Club still sends makes annual contributions to the Wright Scholarship and the Wellesley Fund, and it supports local organizations through volunteer efforts. These include gifts of mittens and hats to Choices for Victims of Domestic Violence and volunteering at the Mid-Ohio Food Bank.
A highlight of the Club’s year from early in its history is the annual holiday luncheon that includes club members, current and prospective students and, formerly, their mothers (today, either parent is welcome). It is not clear when the annual tradition began, but perhaps it grew out of September luncheons in the 1950s where incoming freshmen could meet upper-level students and ask important questions like details of the train schedule to Cambridge. Traditionally the luncheons were held at country clubs like Rocky Fork Hunt and Country Club, the Scioto Country Club, the Columbus Country Club or Winding Hollow. The lunch gathering is an opportunity to hear from current students about schoolwork, social life and campus developments.
The students’ firsthand observations are always invaluable and frequently fun. One memorable presentation was Linda Krakoff Silverman’s (’67) take on what it was like to be a freshman in 1963. She had the audience in stitches about the required course “Fundamentals of Movement,” where freshmen were forced to relax, with varying degrees of success.
Perhaps at no point was it more enlightening to hear the facts of life on campus than in the difficult times of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Civil Rights movement, and then protests on the Vietnam War, roiled the campus and the nation. As recorded by club secretary Carolyn Marsh, at the 1969 luncheon, students “were very patient in trying to explain various new aspects of college life. The generation gap was rather obvious, but we tried to understand their concerns.”
Today’s holiday lunches are usually held up narrow steps to the second floor of Lindey’s in German Village, a suitably charming venue. The typical menu is soup, a light main course and a dessert. The highlight, as always, is the report from current students, who are more likely to be taking a first year seminar on “Science and the Bible” or a course on “Computing for the Socio-Technic Web” than anything like good old “comp and hygiene.”
Almost every year some of the brightest, most mature and hardest-working young women in central Ohio head east to our beautiful, secluded campus conveniently located near bustling Boston. In 1972, the Acquaintanceship chair reported nine acceptances, with seven choosing to attend. Seven out of 13 were accepted in 1976 and two wait-listed. The Columbus School for Girls was an important pipeline to the college, though there was success elsewhere as well. In 1967 five students from five different high schools were accepted.
There was, however, nothing like a pipeline, or even a slender straw, for black students. In the 1960s several prominent club members were active in the Civil Rights movement. The Club was a sponsor of a civil rights rally in Columbus in January 1964. Katherine Timberman Wright, Class of 1918, spoke to the unanimously adopted motion to participate in the rally, saying it was “in the Wellesley tradition to stand up and be counted.”
The college and her alumnae throughout the country were fully awakened to the need for a more diverse student body after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in January 1968. Supported widely by their peers, they demanded 20 girls in the incoming class, a black head of house and more blacks in the college office. Hunger strikes were threatened. Katherine Wright at the October 1968 board meeting reported to the Club that the college placed “colored girls in the Admissions Office to help find qualified girls.”
At the meeting Aug. 13, 1969, when the Club had been in existence for 55 years, Jane Mykrantz initiated a general discussion of the difficulty of presenting Wellesley to inner city prospects. She said guidance counselors had been no help. Mrs. Mykrantz, together with delegates from the other seven sisters colleges, joined forces to see Dr. Harold Eibling, Superintendent of Columbus City Schools, and talk to high school guidance counselors. They attempted to talk to each black local prospect personally.
By 1975, Paula Penn Nabrit (’76) of Columbus was elected president of student government at Wellesley, a victory for her, for the college and our Club. Her sisters Cheryl Penn (’80) and Courtney Penn Blevins (’93) followed in her trailblazing footsteps.
The 1960s marked the beginning of a process that took decades and is not over, but resulted in a Wellesley that today is far more diverse than in the first six decades of the Club.
In the fall of 2015, nine women from the Columbus area were attending Wellesley and two more had just been admitted by early decision. At any given time, about 10 central Ohioans are on campus. Recently represented high schools include Upper Arlington, Dublin Scioto, Bexley, CSG, Bishop Watterson and Pickerington.
Informative presentations and discussions by representatives of the college have always been a feature of Club meetings. In the 1960s through the 1980s, other talks included a discussion by the Rev. John Elder, husband of Ruth Roche (1920), Oct. 11, 1965. They were Presbyterian missionaries in Iran for forty-one years. Cecelia Stein Cullman (’36) and Mary Lazarus reported on their trip to the People’s Republic of China, Jan. 18, 1979, a time when almost no Americans were allowed into that country. Conversations with local alumnae authors included one with Paula Penn-Nabrit in 2008 about Morning by Morning: How We Home-Schooled Our African-American Sons to the Ivy League and, in the same year, Phyllis Green (’41) and daughter D.G. Fulford discussing Designated Daughter: The Bonus Years with Mom.
Once in a while, the Club turned to reflections on Wellesley’s history. In 1964, Hattie Weiler Lazarus (1914) talked about living through the fire that destroyed College Hall her senior year, precipitating the formation of numerous regional clubs, including the CWC.
By the early 1990s, as part of the shift away from fundraising as a primary club goal, the faculty presentations became a regular feature of club activities. The meeting is often held at a club member’s home. Rocky Fork and the living room at the Columbus School for Girls have served as lovely venues. The lectures are always fascinating, opening our minds to topics as diverse as “The Search for Extraterrestrial Life,” (Wendy Bauer, 2012), “”Biomaterials: Making the Bionic Woman” (Nolan Flynn, 2009) and “Intimacy and Repartee in Jane Austen and Her Romantic Heirs” (Tim Peltason, 2008).
The Club has grappled with topics that were not only intellectually challenging but highly controversial. Mary R. Lefkowitz (’57), professor of classics, and Tony Martin, founder and chair of the Department of Africana Studies, engaged in a nationally covered and often personal conflict with both racist and anti-Semitic elements. The dispute roiled the college. Lefkowitz talked to the Columbus Wellesley Club in 2000 about her book, Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History. In 2004, Martin spoke to the Club on his seminal work Race First: The Ideological and Organizational Struggles of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association. In thoughtful and informative discussions, both speakers addressed the challenges then facing the campus.
Two of the most exciting events, besides the visit of President Barbara Newell in 1979, took place when the Columbus Speech and Hearing Center featured Wellesley speakers back to back in 2004 and 2005. Madeleine Albright (’60), former Secretary of State, met with CWC members at our sponsored box at Nationwide Arena and autographed her book. In 2005, Cokie Roberts (’64) the noted journalist, and husband Steven Roberts took the stage at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. The CWC sponsored a table for that event.
Besides members of the college faculty and staff, other meetings and lectures in recent decades include a talk by executive director Nichole Dunn, Executive Director of the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, in May 2015 at the home of Judy Roth Garel (‘55).
The Columbus Wellesley Club takes great pride in our many college leaders and activists from central Ohio. Mary Lazarus and Paula Penn-Nabrit were presidents of college government. Connie Reel was secretary of the Alumnae Association. Katherine Wright stood out even among her outstanding peers for her drive and service. Those who “rest on their laurels must be wearing them in the wrong place,” she famously declared. Wright served as the college’s first president of student government, president of the CWC, president of the Alumnae Association and a member of the Wellesley College Board of Trustees. Mr. Preston Davis also served as a trustee of the college.
The Club established the Katherine Timberman Wright Scholarship in memory of her son in July 1983. Initial funding was from proceeds from the house tour of the preceding year. By 1993 the book value was $53,120 and estimated ’92-’93 income $3,417. As of 2015, the book value is $57,740, with a market value of $213,244 and estimated 2016 income of just over $10,000. The scholarship was at first given to a needy central Ohio student but is no longer restricted to the Club’s geographic area. The most recent president of the CWC, Alexis Black (’13), a graduate of Bishop Watterson High School, was a proud beneficiary of the scholarship.
The Wellesley Book Award honors young women in the junior class of local high schools who have demonstrated outstanding academic performance and character and contributed to extracurricular and/or community life. With the advice of local high schools, the CWC identifies young women to receive a navy pigskin copy of The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women emblazoned with the college seal. The book is a single volume collection of twentieth-century literature on women’s lives, including autobiographies, journals and memoirs. Organized alphabetically, it begins with a selection from Maya Angelou and ends with Virginia Woolf. Often, a club member is able to present the book in person at the high school’s award ceremony. The book award helps teachers, students and parents get to know Wellesley better. If the honored student decides to apply to Wellesley, all the better.
“You don’t go to Wellesley for four years,” remarked Barbara Muller (‘60) at a recent holiday luncheon. “You go for life.” The “grand alumnae…go out from their alma mater” as the college song has it, but Wellesley, probably as much as any college in the United States, is an identity and a commitment. The Columbus Wellesley Club, now and in the future, is a venue through which graduates recent and not at all recent actively nurture and stretch their vital relationships with the college in happy camaraderie.
Prepared by Vivian Witkind Davis (’67) with assistance from Alexis Black (’13), Paula Penn-Nabrit (’76), Karen Fryer (’79), Judy Clovis (’59) and Jane Mykrantz (’56).