Thursday, July 07, 2011
Occasionally, members of the Executive Council share a message in this space. Today, we hear from Bernard Sundstedt, Vice President for Institutional Advancement.
Dear students, faculty and staff:
Around this time of year we hear words fashioned around the concepts of freedom and independence and their place in our lives. Independence is a wonderful thing, and yet it cuts two ways: it allows for great freedoms, but it requires vigilance, a commitment to others and a certain agility to secure and maintain those freedoms.
Rockford College is an independent college. From its founding in 1847, RC embarked on one of its primary missions that we still maintain to this day - offering an advanced education for women. Only now we let men read books, too.
Seriously - think about it. In 1847, women held a different place in our society than they do today. Along with their male counterparts, there were more stringent lines of "gender-expectations.” Large portions of our society believed that women did not need to further their studies – that this was something better left to men. And besides, such intense study might actually cause damage to their health. Wow!
So let’s talk about the importance of what happened in 1847. Simply put, many of the forward-thinking families of Rockford exercised their freedom. They didn’t want to exclude their daughters from the opportunities afforded men. Furthermore, they wanted to make this region an attractive place for those from outside the area to locate, raise families, and grow their own businesses.
In 1847, Rockford was still a village, not yet incorporated as a city. Its first non-native inhabitants had only arrived around 10 years earlier. Many of its 1,500 residents were still living in temporary structures, like lean-tos and tents. Collectively, the people of Rockford put up $10,000 (the equivalent of $260,000 in today’s economy) to secure a charter and establish the Rockford Female Seminary. At the time there were less than 10 such institutions exclusively for women, and only a handful that were co-ed, in a United States whose northwestern most point was East Dubuque, Ill.
Seems to me it was $10,000 well spent.
Just under 450 women graduated from the college during its first 50 years; hundreds of others attended. We know of 32 who went to 16 different foreign countries as missionaries. Reports tell of their tireless efforts in the missionary fields assisting countries like Turkey, India and China in the establishment of schools, religion, commerce and agricultural practices.
A majority of these women did exactly what was expected of them: they became wives and mothers and church leaders. Fully half of the early graduates had more than 600 children. These women became mothers and grandmothers - our great, great-great and three times great-grandmothers. In the words of Marion Sackett class of 1857, they occupied their time in "school teaching, domestic duties and in trying to rear a family that would be a credit to themselves, their parents and their country."
One-third of those first graduates actively taught in 32 of our United States. A third of those stayed here in Rockford, helping raise the academic standard in the public school system. These women were instrumental in laying the educational groundwork for thousands of children - passing on their moral compass and work-ethic to everyone with whom they came in contact.
Several graduates resisted those common expectations and became prominent professionals. Five women went on to become physicians, all before 1900. Annie Ellers, classmate of our most famous alumna, Jane Addams (won’t it be nice when her tollway is fixed), went to Korea after finishing additional training, to establish a school for nursing in Seoul.
Miss Mary E. Holmes was from Rockford. She went from here in 1868, received her Ph. D. at Ann Arbor and devoted her time to the mission work of the Presbyterian Church, giving special attention to her work with young African-American women. In 1892, she founded Mary Holmes Seminary in West Point, Miss., as a memorial to her mother. Mary Holmes College persisted for the next 123 years, closing in 2005.
Catharine Waugh McCulloch graduated in 1882, a year after our most "bedazzled” graduate. Mrs. McCulloch practiced law in Rockford and Chicago. She pleaded her first case before the Supreme Court in 1898 and was a prominent leader in Illinois for the cause of women's suffrage.
In writing about their mutual efforts to finalize a college curriculum (while still students at the Seminary) and ensure the granting of Bachelor degrees, Miss Waugh is referred to by Jane Addams, in her book, Twenty Years at Hull House in the following passage, "My companion in all these arduous labors has since accomplished more than any of us in the effort to procure the franchise for women. In the old-fashioned spirit of that cause, I might cite the career of this companion as an illustration of the efficacy of higher mathematics for women, for she possesses singular ability to convince even the densest legislators of their legal right to define their own electorate, even when they quote against her the dustiest of state constitutions or city charters.”
Without RC and colleges like ours in the mid-nineteenth century pushing the vanguard, driving the issue of women as equal contributors, the good work of many women leaders around the world and of those locally, might have been lost to us until much later in our country’s development.
Significant achievements for Rockford College did not start and stop with our early graduates. Responding to community need, in 1919 the college helped lead the advancement of Adult Education by establishing one of the first continuing education courses for working professionals in the country. Focused on Social Work, students (men and women) came from as far away as Chicago (most notably, Hull House) for this professional training. At the same time, afternoon classes were offered to working teachers so that they could advance their training. During the 1930s, 40s and 50s, under the direction of Dr. Mildred Berry, the college became a quiet leader in the preparatory training of speech therapists.
In post World War II, the college enrolled local men to complete their first two years of study at RC before going on to finish their education in engineering at IIT, the U of I, and others. Most of those men returned to Rockford to take positions with local manufacturing firms. A few hold patents for work that ranges from water softening to satellite systems, to temperature controls.
In 1952, Dr. Mary Wollner established the Rockford College Reading Clinic, dedicated to the reading and writing enrichment of young Rockford area students. The clinic still exists as the Rockford College Learning Center, serving our undergraduate students and more than 900 young clients from the Rockford area every year.
Subsequent to our evolution into a fully co-ed college in 1958, our graduates continued to carry on that independent spirit. Rockford native Dr. Charles McIntosh, class of 1960 was on the surgical team that tested the efficacy of the first artificial heart valves. His classmate, Dr. Vassilis Keramidas, a native of Greece, was on the Bell Lab team that created intellectual property for fiber optics and the Light Emitting Diode (LED). Air Force Lieutenant Colonel John Small (retired) from the class of 1968 became the chief test pilot for the B-2 (Stealth) Bomber. And although you may not be aware of Drs. Janice Sikorski Pfeffer (a Rockford native) and Marc Pfeffer from the class of 1969, their landmark research on ACE Inhibitors significantly decreases the likelihood that heart patients will have first or second heart attacks.
As you can tell, I love our story. I never tire of telling it, and I apologize (but just a very little) for the length of this. It was a fun way to spend more than a good part of my holiday weekend. But, it is more than a story. It is a living continuum.
Rockford College has been a tested citizen of this region and the world for good parts of the last three centuries. We will continue to help retain and educate for this and all regions of the world (as we have for 164 years) a citizenry that will work in multiple facets of our communities’ lives.
From the fields of education to law, from health care to banking to aerospace, from public service to information technology to small business owners to leaders of corporations and non-profits - mothers, fathers, uncles and aunts, ordinary and extraordinary individuals, who through their actions change the lives of those with whom they come in contact, and therefore make known the reputation and excellence of an independent Rockford College.
We have come to find that this is a story that has not been told often or perhaps not well enough. For that and other reasons, President Head will introduce next week the launching of Project 165, a year-long initiative that pays tribute to our 165 year legacy, while building awareness among current and potential stakeholders of our recent success, and addressing key elements of our strategic plan.
As you become more aware of it, I invite you to look for ways that you can become involved in Project 165 and hope that you will always be proud of the spirit of independence that is our nation, our College and the world they serve.
Vice President for Institutional Advancement
We are a College at War book talk and webinar
Dr. Mary Weaks-Baxter, Dr. Christine Bruun and Dr. Catherine Forslund will be hosting a book talk on their book, We are a College at War on Thursday, July 14, at the Pritzker Military Library in Chicago. The talk will be webcast live and is free and open to the public.
The program and live webcast begin at 6 p.m. For more information about the book talk, our special authors, and We are a College at War, visit:
Check out RC’s blog on the Rockford Register Star!
RC has a blog site on the Rockford Register Star’s website that needs visitors! A group of new bloggers from RC will be helping to contribute content each week on a wide variety of topics. This is a great way (and a free resource!) for the College to get the word about what’s going on at Rockford’s only 4-year liberal arts college. Please take a moment to bookmark the following link as one of your favorites and check out what’s being posted. The more you click – the more RC can get its name out there! Be watching this week for information about the Alternative Certification program and the value of our alumni volunteers.
The most recent issue of Catalyst is online
The Summer 2011 Catalyst is online and on its way to mailboxes this week. If you would like a sneak peak > Catalyst
Summer Shortz Change in Speaker for Session 2 on July 20
NICNE is excited to invite as guest speaker, Janet R. Holmgren, Chief Judge, 17th Circuit Court who was also chosen the 2009 Woman of the Year by Rockford Woman Magazine. Originally featured speaker Linda Grist Cunningham had to be changed due to a scheduling conflict.
August 17’s session features Bill Gorski, MD, President and CEO of SwedishAmerican Health System.
This program is offered at no charge to RC Faculty, Staff and Graduate Assistants. Registration is REQUIRED.
Download the Registration Form
RC Greeters Needed for City Market, July 22
Rockford College has a great opportunity on Friday, July 22 at Rockford’s popular City Market. RC has signed up to be "Market Greeters” for that evening. We are looking for 6-12 volunteers who, with help from the market staff, welcome guests at the gates, distribute directories, assist market staff/volunteers in the information tent (which will also serve as their booth for the evening to provide information about their organization) and monitor the gates. This opportunity gives RC with terrific exposure and ability to promote the College. Volunteers are needed from 2:40 p.m. -7:15 p.m. maximum and depending on the number of volunteers. If you are interested, email Bern Sundstedt at email@example.com for more information.
Professional Development Sessions starting this Fall
Beginning this fall, employees will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of professional development sessions. The exact dates and times are yet to be determined, but your input now is needed to help come up with topics you are interested in having presented. Several ideas for sessions were shared at last week’s staff meeting. Some of those included leadership, cross department team building, diversity training, conflict management, and change management. Everyone is encouraged to share their ideas for session topics. If you would like to include your idea, please email HR Director Jennifer O’Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay tuned to the weekly updates for more information about the professional development sessions.
Each week, we give you a glimpse of the important events on Dr. Head’s calendar. Here’s what’s on tap for this week.
July 5 Meeting with Michael Broski, Entré Computer Solutions
July 5 Kobe College Corporation Meeting
July 7 Meeting with Bob Kantner ’79 & Jane Poor, Professor Emeritus
July 7 Meeting with Jan Thompson, United Way
RC in the news
- Jean Harezlak, future professor of education, was interviewed in the Rockford Register Star last week.
- Alumna Marion Alfreda Nyboer's time as a student at Rockford College was celebrated in her obituary in The Holland Sentinal.