|Women of Central College
Spawned in the wilderness of pre-Civil War Iowa, Central College is committed to the ideals of liberal education. Originally a Baptist institution, Central was founded in 1853 by a determined group of pioneer settlers who immigrated to Iowa to escape religious tyranny in the Netherlands. In 1916, Central was transferred from Baptist control to the Reformed Church in America. Central’s reputation as a liberal arts college began to attract students from many religious denominations and from all over the world. Currently 1,500 students select an area of study from 30 majors and interdisciplinary programs.
Women's contributions to Central have never been officially documented. A celebration honoring women held in March 1995 drew on institutional memory and College records. The celebration culminated with 100 women contributing $1 each to place the brick ''Central College Women'' in the Carrie Chapman Catt Plaza of Heroines at Iowa State University. A summary of the March tribute appears here.
The work of volunteers, such as the Central College Women's Auxiliary, has been significant. Mina Baker Roelofs, Professor Emerita of Home Economics, and former First Lady Shirely Weller have written the history of that group. Founded in 1904 by Mrs. E. H. Keables, women of the Auxiliary raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for buildings, furniture, sidewalks, musical instruments, and science equipment. Fundraising has come through cooking dinners, publishing cookbooks, rummage sales, Tulip Time, Dutch market sales of hand-work crafts and donated foods, and the International Food and Craft Festival. The famous Pella Collector's Cookbook, now in its 9th edition, has funded significant College projects. To date, 40 women have served as presidents of the Auxiliary.
Thanks to the Auxiliary, names of campus buildings and rooms identify influential Central women: Cox-Snow Music Building (Queen Snow Cox) Alice Lammers Archives, Cunera Van Emmerick Studio, Alice Carlson Biology Laboratory, Shirely Weller Room (President's wife 1969-1990), Elizabeth Graham Hall (Dean of women and English Professor 1905-1932), and Ruth Mount House (Member of Board of Trustees).
Women at Central have worked long and hard behind the scenes. Today 84% of Central’s support staff are women. Women are the secretaries to presidents, vice presidents, and faculty departments; many have served the College for up to 25 years; a few veterans are Louise Hallenbeck, Artie Sutphen, Elva Doorenbos, Reva Rydstrand, Evelyn Bandstra, and Trudy Van Zee. Women have done the cleaning, cooking, caring, nursing, and counseling for the Central community. Some dedicated colleagues have been: Gert DeVries (cleaning), Tilly van Roekel (kitchen), and Grace Vis (Snack Bar).
Keeping track of Central alums was never done until women collected their names and tracked their success. The Alumni Office was founded through the efforts of women like Cunera Van Emmerick, Barb Butler, and Jay Vermeer.
The pioneering spirit of women faculty is ever present. Dr. Harriet Heusinkveld, Professor Emerita of Geography, came to Central in the 1940's. She had a role in every aspect of the institution, including serving as treasurer of the College 1949. With Alice Carlson, Biologist, she took students to explore Pella's environs (Marion County, birds, Red Rock, South Falls). Eventually, their extended trips took students to Florida, the Caribbean, and Yucatan, Mexico. Heusinkveld founded the Iowa Partners for the Americas. She has documented the Des Moines Greenbelt project.
Cunera Van Emmerick, Professor of Speech and Rhetoric, established Central’s co-curricular forensic program. Van Emmerick led winning debate teams all over the country. The field of debate was considered a man's field. Cunera served at every level of the National Fraternity in Speech (Pi Kappa Delta). As Director of Alumni and Publicity 1950-1960's, she raised several hundred thousand dollars annually toward the memorial Union. She was founder of Central's Alumni Record.
Of Dr. Laura Nanes, Professor of History, one woman alumna said, ''She made us believe we could think; we followed an argument and presented our own; we learned women were capable and had worth.'' Nanes was the only faculty member who ever ran for state office, Iowa Secretary of Public Instruction. She was a Democrat through and through; she lost the election.
Women at Central have had significant presence in the sciences since around the 1940's. Names in biology include Dr. Maxine Huffman, Alice Carlson, Dr. Shirley Sparling, and Dr. Maureen Danks. In chemistry we have Dr. Louise Bleam Zaffiro and Dr. Catherine Hinga Haustein. In mathematics we have a real hen's tooth, Dr. Agnes Andriassian.
The 1960's Dr. Barbara Walvoord Fassler, Professor of English and founder of the Writing Across the Curriculum movement, began a Black Studies program. She and Dean of Women Marjorie Giles offered the first courses in Women Studies. Not until 1993 did Central dedicate a position to multicultural studies, when Central graduate, Ms. Pam Thomas, was hired. Dr. Kim Koza, Dr. Suzanne Wallace, and Dr. Peggy Fritch continue the tradition through their women's studies courses.
In 1968, the "first wave" of Central women's equity concerns were reported to the community. A Task Force Report focused on pay equity and student gender awareness programs. The "second wave" of concern found voice in the early 1990's. President William Wiebenga formed a Task Force on Status of Women. Their wide-ranging report to the community in 1994 focused on academic programs, employment equity, student life, governance, and leadership. Currently only 33% of Central's faculty are women, a lower rate than 20 years ago. "Guiding Principles for Gender Equity" were adopted in May 1995 by the faculty, student body, and Board of Trustees.
Women faculty have made contributions in nearly all fields. Examples are: women in business, Carol Vruwink (1979, CPA); Dr. Jann Freed (1981) in management; Dr. Suzanne Wallace (1991), neo-classical economist. In education, Professor Barbara Dieleman and Dr. Joyce Huizer were principals in public schools before contributing 25 years each to Central College. Dr. Lee Collins led the faculty in a full review of the general studies program. Using a broad-based, inclusive process, the entire faculty found themselves writing a new core curriculum. The first woman elected to Pella's School Board was Central alumna, Shirley Borgman. Lois Smith, Catalog Librarian (and Central alumna), became the second woman to be elected to Pella Community School Board and the first woman to serve as Board President.
Women have been significant in the arts and culture of Central's campus. Names like Helen Hackemack, Professor of Voice and Public School Music, are remembered; Ms. Mary Liggett; Joyce Hubrigste Kuyper, who composed "Hymn to Central Youth"; Edith LeCocq, Professor of Voice, who when art events were less accessible transported students and faculty to Des Moines and Iowa City, brought arts to campus. Dr. Paula Holcomb (1979) is one of a handful of band/jazz directors in the country who is female. Dr. Carol lei Post, early keyboard specialist (1978), is the first Central faculty member to make a commercial, classical recording. Joline De Jong (1978) is the first woman to be appointed to the visual arts faculty; she has won the Iowa Art Teacher of the Year Award. Treva Reimer (1983) heads the Theater Design and Technology program; Reimer is a rare woman in a man's world. Robin Martin, Library Director, was a member of and chaired the State of Iowa Arts Council from 1984 to 1994.
International programs in seven countries are the jewels in Central's crown, and women are largely responsible for their existence. Marianne Hayden, Professor of German, began the Vienna, Austria program 27 years ago. Harriet Heusinkveld established the Yucatan program 26 years ago. Dr. George Ann Huck became the first director in Yucatan and her work continues today. Dr. Heusinkveld went on to establish the London program. Barbara Butler built the Office of International Studies and added dozens of cooperating schools, greatly enhancing Central's national reputation. Inga Drapier, former Central College language assistant, has headed the Paris program for the last 20 years. Dr. Maxine Huffman made critical contacts with Zhejiang University in the People’s Republic of China and led the first group of Central students to study there in 1991.
Foreign Language programs on Central’s campus have been enriched by a series of native speakers who have been women faculty in the Spanish, German, French, and Chinese departments. We salute Elizabeth Pietenpol, Latin teacher, for her work. Additionally, Dr. Gerta Dippmann, Marianne Hayden, and Dr. Lilo Ritter have advanced German language; Denise Murray, French; Dr. Martha Chiarella, Spanish; and Dr. Chia Ning, Chinese.
First ladies to the presidents are often overlooked. In recent memory, Anna Vanderlugt led in AAUW accreditation for Central College; Eunice Lubbers Kuyper Folkerts (8 yrs) modeled the leadership potential that women can have; she was sensitive to women's roles and needs. Shirley Weller (21 yrs) was the gracious hostess to the entire Central family; she opened the Central's Women's Auxiliary history. Audrey Wiebenga, who came in 1990, has strengthened academic and cultural affairs on and off campus through her constant presence and support; through her being there, we understand community educational values.
Women have always been in administration, albeit in the early days as Deans of Women. Foremost have been Dean of Women and Professor of English Elizathet Graham, 1905-55; Dean of Women Lola Weir, 1932-34; Dean of Women Harriet Prins, 1954-55; Dean of Women Bette Brunsting, 1964-67; and Dean of Students Marjorie Giles, 1968 to present.
The first assistant Dean of College was a woman, Betty Brunsting, now Professor of Communications and Theatre. The current assistant dean is Virginia Rippentrop. In fall 1994, Central's first woman Vice President and Dean of the college was hired, Dr. Virginia Coombs. Coombs becomes the most influential woman in high level management; she is second in command only to the president.
Women have been Registars (Wilma Rempe); Controllers (Miss Ethel Brooks Bursar & comptroller in the 1950's; Barbara Bowzer 1970's); and Personnel Officers (Shirley Van Zee and Connie Bandstra).
The college did not have women Trustees until nearly 100 years after its founding. In 1949 Mrs. Robert (Martha) Lautenbach and Mrs. John DeKoster (who served on Faculty & Student Committee and worked on NCA accreditation) were appointed; Mrs. Harold Day served from 1950-1952; Mrs. Alfred Estes from 1950-56. Others have been Ruth Mount, Dr. Helen Hislop, Marlys de Wild (23 yrs), Joan Farver, Sue Brandl, and Mary Andringa. In the late 1970's faculty earned the right to serve on the Board. Bette Brunsting was one of the first. Currently 9 women serve as trustees.
Women have always been associated with the Central College Library. In the Archives, Martha Lautenbach served for 30 years; Alice Lammers was library director and archivist for 40 years; Madeline Vanderzyl was acquisitions librarian for 40 years and is now archivist; Diane Alt has been media coordinator for 27 years; Robin MArtin has been a Central librarian for 20 years, first in reference and now as director.
In religious life, Chaplain Fran De Jong, the first woman to be ordained by the Reformed Church of America in 1979, joined Central's staff in 1980. In the mid 1980's women were named to computer center staff: Carol Van Weelden and Kris Westman.
We celebrate women who have accompanied their husbands to Central College and Pella. They have found ways to contribute their unique interests and gifts to the larger community thereby strengthening Central and Pella. They founded a League of Women Voters chapter, Pella Day Care Center, Pella Community Center, Hospice, Work of our Hands, friends of the Carnegie Viersen Public Library and the Parent-Teacher Organization. They have served on boards, councils, and committees; they have raised children and cared for aging parents and friends.
Women have always been present in Central's student body. Before 1916 and through 1931, women made up 41% of graduates. Now women have grown to comprise nearly 60% of the student body. They are enrolled in majors across the spectrum of the entire curriculum.
The first history of Central College written by a woman, Josephine Thostenson, One Hundred Years of Service: a History of Central 1853-1953. We encourage other women to write the next college history.
Central College commissioned Iowa artist Katherine Crawford, ISU graduate from the School of Design, to create a banner celebrating Central Women. Her four-part designed features women learning, creating, serving and connecting. The complexities of a woman's life are symbolized in the blue and fuchsia banner permanently displayed in the Maytag Student Center.
Robin Martin, May 1995