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The Women’s Board of Olivet College has undergone several changes since it’s founding in 1859, but continues to support the college and students. 

Nearly as old as Olivet College itself, the Women’s Board of Olivet College has evolved with the mission and vision of the institution, and hugely contributed to the college’s rich history. While members, activities and even the name of the Women’s Board has changed, much has stayed constant. Today, the board focuses on providing scholarships to both male and female students, aiming to help these Comets fulfill their dreams. In honor of Women’s History Month, we honor and celebrate the Women’s Board of Olivet College for its work in helping to pave a path for strong female leadership on campus and beyond.

Women’s Board of Olivet College Evolution

Founded in 1859, the same year OC received its state charter, the then-named Ladies Board was comprised of members appointed by the Olivet College Board of Trustees. In the period, women were rarely involved with professional matters, but the board was already playing an important role at the college. The purpose of the Ladies Board was to advise female students, establishing rules of conduct and to provide items for comfort and enjoyment. As needs of the college shifted, so did the focus of the Ladies Board, renamed Women’s Auxiliary Board until 1977 when an official vote dropped auxiliary in the title.

“Every time I see the picture of the first three Olivet College graduates in 1863, I am in awe,” excl

aimed Karla Love, president of the board. “To think that in the wilderness of Michigan, a group of Olivet women formed the Ladies Board to support three students, Sophia A. Keyes, Mary N. Barber and Sara Benedict, is incredible. The philanthropic tradition continues uninterrupted today as the Women’s Board of Olivet College provides scholarship aid to students.”

Regardless of the changes, members of the Women’s Board always supported the best interests of OC, often raising money to support campus renovations, including sewing curtains, and even contributing to the college payroll. By 1911, membership had grown to 36 and women were no longer appointed by the board of trustees, but voted in by the membership. In spring of 1935, the Women’s Board began to consider funding scholarships, turning the page to begin a new legacy that still stands today.

Women’s Board Scholarships Pave New Path

In the more than 80 years since the first Women’s Board Scholarship was awarded in 1937, year to date funding has reached $500,000. Sources to fund the scholarships have included festivals, garden tours, book and bake sales, theater nights, game nights, membership dues, contributions from Michigan Congregational churches, and other donations and fundraisers. From 1972 until 2017, proceeds from the Oak Chest, a resale shop in downtown Olivet, primarily funded Women’s Board scholarships. As times changed, the Oak Chest became a less profitable venture, and the shop was closed.

Yet, the Women’s Board marched on.

The OC Women’s Board has never served as a prestigious or social group, but rather a working organization comprised of members who dedicate time and energy to accomplishing their goals. Instead of mourning the loss of the Oak Chest, members celebrated its contributions and shifted their efforts to propel Bunco and Trivia Night. The next fundraiser will be held on March 26 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Cutler Event Center, centered around fun, food and prizes. Admission for students is $5 and $10 for other attendees.

“I am very excited to be contributing to the future of the Women’s Board of Olivet College and especially the funding of scholarships,” said Love. “At our bunco and trivia fundraisers, we draw a nice mix of college students and community members – guys and gals – and we have a blast. The game is fast-paced and quick to learn, with laughter as a major takeaway from the night, along with prizes!”

The Women’s Board provides scholarships that impact students at Olivet College, like senior Dallie Flower (back row, right).

Impact on Today’s Comets

Since OC’s inception in 1844, college leaders believed an education should be available to anyone regardless of gender, race or financial means. Female students took coeducation classes with men, competed in athletic competitions and were even provided opportunities to lead, such as the Women’s Board. It’s that history that makes students like senior Dallie Flower proud to be a Comet.

Growing up on a farm, Dallie has loved animals for as long as she can remember – and especially caring for them. Now, she is just a few short months from graduating with a degree in biology, and will continue her studies at Michigan State University to become a veterinarian. Dallie is no stranger to hard work, but credits the Women’s Board for supporting her while chasing her biggest dream.

“I’ve received several Women’s Board scholarships,” Dallie explained. “But both the financial and emotional support from members of the board have helped me have a successful educational experience at Olivet College, and made it possible for me to attend graduate school. Every time I bump into a member of the board, like Karla or Joanne Williams, associate professor of journalism and mass communication, they are caring, considerate and want to help. I appreciate what they have done for me so much.”

Marching On

As the Women’s Board continues their mission, members are driven by success stories like Dallie’s. Currently, the board has around 40 members, but the women are excited to welcome others with a love for OC and its students to join them. Dues are $20 for working members and $30 for sustaining members. The board meets three times a year near Founders’ Day in the winter, Commencement in the spring and Homecoming in the fall. Other events such as bi-annual bunco and trivia fundraisers and membership socials are hosted throughout the year.

For more information about the Women’s Board of Olivet College, contact Karla Love at 269.753.9772 or 0499klove@gmail.com. Learn more about opportunities for female students found at Olivet College by visiting campus or contacting the Office of Admissions at 800.456.7189 or admissions@olivetcollege.edu.

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