Mildred W. Hollander

Honored by:Andrew L. Hollander
Brick location:B:25  map

Born in Rockford Illinois on March 13 1912 Mildred Hannah Willoughby was the only child of Ressie Jordan a teacher and Frank Ward Willoughby a farmer and businessman. Her early memories include radio "DXing" (long distance listening) in the 1920's when she could hear historic AM radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh from her Rockford home. She considered the rare opportunity to drive her father's tractor to be a high treat. She also enjoyed touring the American West with her parents by car in the 1930's.

Quietly resolute in her personal convictions Mildred Hannah Willoughby encountered women's issues as early as Rockford College (Illinois) where she decided to embark on scientific studies which was a controversial calling for women of the time. She completed her B.A. degree at Rockford in 1933 and went on to earn a Master of Science in Genetics in 1934 at the University of Wisconsin.

Mildred Willoughby taught zoology at Rockford High School for four years in the late 1930's. Her students included Barbara Hale (the actress who portrayed Della Street in the "Perry Mason" television series) and John Anderson (1980 independent candidate for the office of president of the United States). Zoology education of the period emphasized animal taxonomy and development of technical drawing skills. In the social climate of the time she would have been dismissed from her teaching job if the Rockford school administration learned that she was engaged to be married. Accordingly she kept her several-years engagement to Willard Hollander (Ph.D. 1937 University of Wisconsin) a secret and then resigned her teaching Position shortly before her marriage on Sept. 8 1940. True to her practical nature she had refused to marry Willard until he finished his degree and found gainful employment.

At their first home in South Carolina she assisted her husband on Wendel Levi’s "The Pigeon" a classic reference book for pigeon fanciers. During World War II they lived on Long Island where Willard worked at the Carnegie Institution Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. After the war a period in New Haven Connecticut was followed by their 1952 move to Ames Iowa where he joined the Iowa State College Genetics Department and she was active in the Nature Study Division of the Faculty Women's Club. A serious vegetable and flower gardener who spaded her large garden herself for years and an avid bird-watcher Mildred Hollander has perennially demonstrated a remarkable ability to identify the plants and birds of the American Midwest.

Mildred Willoughby Hollander had four sons the first in 1941 when childbirth was followed by mandatory three weeks in bed and the last in 1954 when new mothers were encouraged to be out of bed within hours after giving birth. She has survived breast cancer twice over a period of decades before this subject was openly discussed.

In the 1950's and 60's she was out with the boys looking for Sputnik Echo and other early satellites as well as constellations planets and comets in the night skies. She always encouraged the boys' interests in science technology sports and natural history. One of the few exceptions was astrict rule of "no poisonous snakes in the house."

Rearing four boys under the best of circumstances is a challenging mix of difficulties and joys. In this case it involved raising Jim with a polio handicap sending Ted and then Paul hundreds of miles to Rockford IL in their high school years to live with her mother after her father's death and discerning in Andy a surgically treatable eye condition that had been misdiagnosed as a learning disability.

Despite these trials she imparted to her children a love respect and desire for learning and education. Mildred did this through examples of her own education and the interest taken in the education of her children. She was an active volunteer in the Gilbert (Iowa) High School Library and was heavily involved in the Gilbert PTA and Cub Scouts. She even persuaded the high school administration to offer two years of Latin to one of her sons by correspondence from a university. The example she presented was well received by her children. All four boys hold bachelors degrees from Iowa State University. In addition their advanced degrees include two masters degrees one Ph.D. and one law degree from Harvard and all continue to be insatiable in their quest for knowledge and understanding.

After the two oldest boys graduated from high school in Rockford IL Mildred moved her mother to live with the family in Iowa. She felt strongly that a family should take care of its elders. She stayed true to her conviction even through years coping as exclusive care giver for her mother. Bessie Willoughby passed away at home in 1973 after spending her last nine years as an invalid in Mildred's watchful constant care.

Genealogy has been the avocational love of her life for over 60 years. She has researched the written extensive family trees for various parts of her family, using libraries and court house records from all over the country. In addition, she has effectively and gracefully assisted numerous other families in their genealogical work as a member of the Iowa Genealogical Society. Her meticulous efforts and excercise of mature research judgement have solved or substantially clarified most of the genealogical challenges she has tackled.

In the 1970's and 80's Mildred made time in her busy schedule for travel. In addition to trips around the USA, she visited the United Kingdom and Europe. Besides the regular tourist attractions, she visited areas of ancestral origins for her genealogy research and botanically interesting locales.

Mildred Willoughby Hollander is a hard working midwestern woman, as determined in will as she is thoughtfully aware of others' sensitivies. she still tends a large flower and vegtable garden and cans much of her produce. Her family has increased to includes five grandchildren and two great-granddaughters. Now in her 80s, Mildred continues to brighten the lives of her family and the Iowa community.

We, the children of Mildred Willoughby Hollander, commend her name to the Plaza of Heroines and Roll of Honor at Iowa State University.

Adran (Ted) Willoughby Hollander, ISU class of 1963; Paul Jordan Hollander, ISU class of 1965; James Fisher Hollander, ISU class of 1968; Andrew Lee Hollander, ISU class of 1977

June 1994